Lhasa Things to Do

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    by blueskyjohn
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Most Recent Things to Do in Lhasa

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    Visit the Muslim Quarter

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 28, 2013

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    Within the old town section of Lhasa is the Muslim quarter. This is a small section that has a mosque and food vendor carts. This is some of the best street food you will find in Lhasa. This is also an open vegetable market. I have to say the vegetables looked delicious and seemed more abundant compared to the other vegetable market.

    Here is a map of the area: Old Town Section

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    Vegetable Market

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 28, 2013

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    In the old section of Lhasa, between Jokhang Monastery and Beijing East Rd, is a wonderful outdoor vegetable market. Fresh vegetables are displayed along with fruits and a few tables with Yak meat. If you have some type of efficiency hotel room and the opportunity to cook, this is the place to buy your produce.

    Here is a map of the area: Old Town Section

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    Jokhang Kora

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 28, 2013

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    One of the highlights of visiting Lhasa is going to the Jokhang and seeing all the vendors lining both sides of the Kora. There would be hundreds of local Tibetan vendors. To my surprise they are all gone! I never thought I would see that happen. According to my guide, Tibet has a new governor and this is something he directed. They are also building a large shopping mall. When this is complete there will be no more sidewalk vendors. The vendors have moved below Barkor Square.

    Although the vendors are gone it is still a worthwhile thing to do. The Kora is mostly Tibetans walking or prostrating around Jokhang Temple. There are several restaurants and more than a few stores selling Tibetan souvenirs.

    As with all Kora start in front of the temple and walk left (clockwise).

    Here is a map of the area: Old Town Section

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    Jokhang Monastery

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 28, 2013

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    Many locals, pilgrims and tourist come to Jokhang everyday. For tourists, it is best to visit the temple in the afternoon. Many Tibetans will go to Jokhang in the morning for blessings. Construction on the monastery began in 642 AD. It is a beautiful monastery and one of the most important in the Tibetan Buddhist faith. Security within the temple is tight. Police and Military personnel are everywhere. More than any other temple I've been to. They mainly stay out of the way but you can't help noticing them. You just have to be careful not to take pictures of them.

    Here is a map of the area: Old Town Section

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    Sera - Chanting Monks

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 24, 2013

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    As it turns out, my guide tells me that the Monks do not have debating class on the weekends. He does have a relative that is a Monk at Sera and gave him a call. He told my guide that there would a chanting session we should come see. I'm glade we did. It was another amazing experience. Some Monks were preparing food in front of the main hall as others prepared for the chanting. There were several locals present prostrating inside the temple as the Monks began to chanting with the occasional beating of a special drum and cymbals. I was the only foreigner present. The chanting is beautiful. You can take pictures and video record everything for 30 rmb. I was happy to do so.

    The chanting takes place in the main temple. This is done daily, even on weekends around 3pm. Not all the Monks at Sera would be present for this.

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    Drepung Monastery

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Drepung is a very large monastery located in the western part of Lhasa. It is bigger than Sera but does not have the same attraction as Sera. This may be in part to the debating Monks at Sera or that Sera is closer to the center of Lhasa.

    Still, Drepung is a wonderful monastery with lots to explore. On occasion, the monks will gather on the roof of one of the temples for chanting and reciting of Buddhist scriptures. A ceremony is usually involved that is impressive to watch. These type of activities tend to take place mid afternoons.

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    Sera Printing Room

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    This is often overlooked as it is not well defined of what this building is. This is where all the Buddhist scrolls, text and books are printed. While everything is for sale, unfortunately for tourist, everything is in Tibetan. There are small scrolls of different Buddhist prayers you can purchase for 20rmb and it comes in a nice yellow wrap. I purchased one for compassion. Although I cannot read it, it has more meaning knowing what it represents.

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    Yamdrok-tso

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Tso means lake in Tibetan. Yamdrok is one of the 4 holy lakes in Tibet. It is about 1 hour from Lhasa and usually viewed from Kampa La pass. Being that it is a holy lake, many pilgrims will visit, making a Kora around the lake. The lake is huge and takes about 7 days to circumnavigate. No need to make a special trip to Yamdrok if your plans include driving to Gyantse. Yamdrok is the closest holy lake to Lhasa.

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    Kampa La Pass

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Every pass in Tibet is a big deal. You will always find many prayer flags across the road. The idea is that the wind blowing through the flags will carry the prayers out to the universe. Sometimes it is a very beautiful site, sometimes it looks like a big mess. Kampa La is one of the closest to Lhasa and overlooks Yamdrok Lake. There are many photo opportunities with locals that have ornately decorated Yaks or Tibetan Mastiffs.

    Don't get caught taking a picture without their permission. They get very angry as the only reason they are there is to charge money for taking a photo. I think it is worth it. You can sit on a Yak and take a few photos for 5rmb. Some want 10rmb but can easily be talked down.

    Kampa La is a typical stop when leaving Lhasa enroute to Gyantse or Shigatse. If your plan is to visit one of these two cities then no need to make a special trip here. You will pass this as well as several others.

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    Potala by night

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Take some time in the evening to walk past the Potala a night time. The front is lit up and looks beautiful. If you view from across the street, there is a small pond and you can see the reflection of the Potala in it.

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    Ganden Monestary

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    Ganden Monestary
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    Ganden Monastery sits on top of a mountain to the east of Lhasa. There are only a few buses one of which you can get just down the street from the Yak Hotel. The monastery is beautiful. It is a steep windy road to the top where the monastery is located. You pass many Yak grazing along the side of the road.

    Once at the monastery, walk towards the main assembly hall. Around lunch time is a good time to go. The monks go through their chants and rituals and welcome people to observe, however they do not like you taking pictures inside the hall. You can take picture inside the hall afterwards but there is a fee.

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    Potala

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    The Potala is a beautiful monastery in the center of Lhasa. It cost 100rmb to enter, which is the most expensive to enter in Tibet. The walk up is very steep. It is a good idea to try this after you have been in Lhasa for several days if you are not use to the altitude.

    Although the monastery in beautiful and is one of the most important monasteries in Tibet, I wasn't that happy with the visit. I happen to enjoy the more remote monasteries.

    I would not recommend paying the 100rmb to go in.

    Update 2013: As mentioned, now you cannot enter the Potala or any other monastery without a guide. However, when you hire a guide, it will usually include the cost of entering the monastery. Now there are only set times groups can enter the Potala. You will also see a strong police and military presence within the Potala. I was instructed by my guide not to take any pictures of the police or military. This is a very strict policy.

    Photos are permitted until you enter the living and prayer quarters of the Dali Lama. You can't even pay to take pictures. The other rule that is strictly enforced is that the guides only have one hour to get their clients through this section or they would have to pay a fine and can lose there ability to take people through in the future.

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    Rock Art!

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    If you walk the Kora at Sera Monastery, make sure to take note of the beautiful Buddhas carved and painted into the large boulders along the Kora route.

    Update 2013: I see that some of the Buddhas have been repainted, probably several times since my last visit. But I also notice some additional carvings that are beautiful. The updated ones can be seen here: Update Rock Art!

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    Sera Kora

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    The Kora is a pilgrimage of circling the monastery clock wise. The route can be difficult at times. Try and follow the Tibetan pilgrims. If you ask anyone by saying "Kora Lam" they will point you in the right direction.

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    Sera - Debating Monks!

    by blueskyjohn Updated Jun 18, 2013

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    When visiting Sera Monastery, be sure to find the debating court yard. This is not well mark, but the monks are very friendly and will point you in the right direction.

    The debating starts at about 3pm so time your trip accordingly so you don't miss this intriguing part of the Monks life. The monks welcome you to take photo and video if you like and there is no charge.

    The way it works is that the monks team up, one sits on the ground and the other stands. The standing monk asks question of the seated monk concerning certain Buddhist text. A correct answer receives an animated slap of the hand thrusting one hand downward. A wrong answer and the standing monk will cross his hands. This should not be missed!

    Update 2013: The Monks do not debate on Saturday and Sunday typically. Check with your guide service and plan accordingly if you want to see this.

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Lhasa Things to Do

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There is so much to do in Lhasa.  Some things that should not be missed are the monasteries.  Sera Monastery usually has the most going on with debating monks every day at around 3pm...

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