LHASA "One of the most featured and dreamt-about cities in the world.. And it’s not just its remoteness or its high altitude that makes it so. It is the Tibetan way of life – a life of quiet contemplation and an easygoing attitude. It is its spiritual quotient – among the highest in the world. It is its aura of incense sticks, butter tea, monks resplendent in robes and its fortitude.

Barkhor is the oldest street in Lhasa as well as the centre of Old Lhasa and remains very traditional. It is ancient Tibet as I imagined it - spiritual corners, interspersed with Tibetans going about their daily life - and it filled me with a desire to delve into Tibet’s past as much as possible.

It was time to pay homage to Tibet’s monasteries. I began with the Sera Monastery - one of the ‘great three’ Gelugpa University monasteries of Tibet. It now houses a few hundred Buddhist monks and its name means ‘rose’ owing to the wild roses growing around it – a fact I stored away as a souvenir on my trip.

The Drepung Monastery is one of the world’s largest monasteries and is known as the most important monastery of Gelugpa in Tibetan Buddhism. Its name literally means ‘rice heap’ owing to the profusion of buildings scattered all over. Once destroyed, this monastery has been rebuilt with fervour and now retains its former glory.

The Jokhang Temple or Jokhang Monastery was my next stop. Built in the mid 7th century A.D., it has now become a gigantic architectural delight with its four storeys and splendid golden roofs. My evening walk (Kora) around Jokhang with the Tibetan pilgrims was an experience few will have in their lifetime.”

SHIGATSE “My journey to Shigatse meant living at an altitude of 3,840 metres at the confluence of the Yarlung Zangbo (aka Brahmaputra) and Nianchuhe (Nyang Chu) rivers in West Tibet.

This is the second largest city in Tibet and was the ancient capital of the U-Tsang province. Shigatse may be a dusty, crowded province for some. But it is where the ambitious traveller seeks to conquer the great enigma – and that is Mount Everest.

Shigatse’s beauty lies in the fact that it is not for everybody. Certainly, the charm of Everest is for a tiny cluster of mankind. I realized that Everest is Shigatse’s crown and that no one can be so resplendently dressed.”


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