Archive | September 2015

9/25/15: The Long Road Home

We were up early to meet in the lobby at 7:00 for the shuttle bus to the airport. We actually had three alarms set so we didn’t miss the bus. My watch, my iPad & Joyce’s phone. It worked and we were ready to go and all of us were loaded on the bus & ready to go on time.  All of us except for Mike & Halsey that is. Apparently they missed their wakeup call and didn’t get up until 10 minutes to 7. They claimed they didn’t get a call but the desk claimed they made the call but whoever answered hung up on them. Who was right? We may never know. Since we had to leave early Tashi had the hotel to prepare boxed breakfasts for us since we couldn’t hit up the buffet. It consisted of some kind of meat in a tube that smelled like Spam, a hard boiled egg, a couple of pieces of bread, an apple and some kind of boxed milk. I picked a few that seemed ok & donated the rest to the driver.

We ended up getting on the road about 7:20. With our flight leaving at 9:20 and an hourlong trip to the airport it would be cutting it close for us. The driver exceeded the speed limit on the way so we made up some time. He claimed there was no police on the route so it was ok. We got checked in and when our checked bags went through the scanner I was asked to send it through again. I passed but Joyce got asked to open her bag due to something that looked suspicious.It turned out to be her headlamp but we said it only had AA batteries & not lithium so it was allowed to stay in her checked luggage. Once done there we went through security and got to our gate just in time to board. The flight was about 1/2 late getting going which would make getting to our connecting flight in Chengdu in time. Once on the plane things went fine and we landed in Chengdu without issue.

Our flight to Chengdu was on Sichuan Airlines and our flights for the rest of the trip were on China Southern so we needed to get our bags and re-check them in on the new carrier. We grabbed our bags and found that our check-in place for the new flight was in a different terminal which involved leaving the airport and walking u the street to Terminal 2. It wasn’t a long walk but odd that we would need to exit and ten go through security yet again. We got to China Southern to check in and found out that only one seat was confirmed for some reason on the flight to Guangzhou so Joyce & I would need to sit separately on that leg. The Guangzhou to LA leg was fine. While we were going through security I was about through when Joyce called out to me & said she needed to go back to open her checked bag for security. Since I was through I told her I’d wait at the gate for her. I grabbed some Gatorade at a store near the gate and when I got to our gate our flight was boarding. Most of the passengers were through when Joyce came running up. Just in time! Turns out that it was her headlight that was the issue again. This time she added it to her carry-on bag. We boarded a bus that took us to our plane and survived the Chinese stampede to board up the stairs to the plane. Once onboard we got into our seats separately and, after a bit, a stewardess came by to talk to the guy next to me in Mandarin. I didn’t know what she was saying but he ended up picking up his stuff and moving. A minute or two later Joyce came & sat next to me. She had asked the stewardess to see if she could trade seats and the guy agreed so we were able to sit next to each other on this leg as well. While we were taxiing out to the runway the gut in front of me put this seat back. After traveling so much lately and dealing with the pushing & shoving all over I was fed up & just shoved it back up before he even got it fully reclined. He gave a puzzled look through the crack in the seats but left it up until we were at cruising altitude. The flight left a bit late but we had 5 hours in Guangzhou to kill so it wasn’t an issue. We were given a box of random snacks to munch on but otherwise the flight was uneventful.

Once in Guangzhou we exited the plane and while we were following the signs to our international connecting flight I spotted a lounge for China Southern that was for people with long layovers so we showed our boarding passes to prove our layover met the criteria & we were in. We had some tea and grazed on some snacks they had on the counter and tried their free wifi but we coldn’t get any pages to load despite being connected. After about an hour we grabbed the same indoor shuttle car we caught when we passed through this airport a couple of weeks ago and were in the right terminal. They had some restaurants there so we grabbed dinner at a fairly upscale place that ended up having decent food. Joyce had some shaved noodle soup that was pretty tasty & I ordered some pork with peppers that ended up being pork belly which required me to pick out each piece of pork & pick off the fat. The price I pay for being a picky eater. We also ordered a couple of types of tea which ended up coming in small pots. These were refilled once so we drank a crapload of tea. Total for dinner was 188 yuan which was about $31.

I didn’t order the pork intestines and fungus.

No meal is to be had without a roll of TP at the ready.

Dwarfed by the big-boy table.

After dinner we went through security check along with customs and ended up boarding the plane around 8:50 pm. Boarding went surprisingly well and we took off basically on time. Before we took off the people in front of me tried reclining again so I did what worked so well last time & shoved the seat back where it started. Some kind of beef was served for dinner about 1 1/2 hours after takeoff along with some other random items that I ate about half of. After dinner I slapped on the headphones and started writing blog entries for the days we were on the road to Everest. There wasn’t time to do it then so I just made highlight entries that I fleshed out today on the plane and added pictures to. About 2:30 am LA time I put away the iPad and slept for a bit. It wasn’t good sleep but it helped. Once awake I continued along with the blog and then they brought breakfast which was much better than dinner was. About an hour and a half after that we landed at LAX. It was about 7:30 LA time when we landed.

We got through customs fairly quickly and our baggage made it to LA although it seemed we had some of the last bags to come out. Once we were out of the airport we tested the parking garage people (405 Parking) and waited in the red shuttle zone for them to show up. Within five minutes or so the shuttle arrived and we were on the way. Once at the garage we took the elevator to the sixth floor and found our car right away. The car started fine and we began the drive back to San Diego. Along the way we stopped to get me a soda for the caffeine and decided to eat since it was In N Out Burger we stopped at. A nice way to adjust to being back in the US. Traffic was light and we made good time on the way home and arrived somewhere around 11:00 at night. After about 24 hours straight of traveling it felt good to be home!


9/24/15: Shigatse to Llasa

We got up a bit late due to the late dinner last night and went down to try the Chinese breakfast. It was ok but not much different than the western menu. Mike & Halsey were there already and we joined them. They both seemed lo like this breakfast better.

After breakfast we went up to the room and packed our bags and met the bus for the trip back to Llasa. Today’s drive took us on a different route than we took on the way out so we did not go back past the glacier. instead we followed the Yarlung Tsangpo River back to Llasa. This was also a scenic route with lots of mountain and river views along the way. I forgot to pack a spare camera battery in the bag I tok on this outing so my camera died yesterday pretty much after I took all of the Everest pictures I wanted to take so any shots today were taken on Joyce’s phone. Outside of bathroom/picture breaks there were no stops on today’s drive.

On the road to Llasa.

The Yarlung Tsangpo River

Goats & sheep crossing the road.

We did stop for lunch at a place that served good Tibetan food. Joyce saw some people eating noodle soup and asked for that and I got the same. Turns out it is an off-menu item and ended up costing only 5 yuan each so less than $1 per bowl. And it was good! Tibetan yak noodle soup.

We got back to the hotel around 4:30 and made plans to meet with some of the group in the lobby at 7:00 so that we could go to the Llasa Kitchen again for our last dinner together. We rested for a bit and then headed out around 6:00 to walk the Barkhor Street area one last time. We picked up some more veggie buns from the same place we got them before and got some fresh out of the steamer. We then ran into Francesco & Frederica who mentioned a nice farmer’s market a bit further down a side street so we went and checked it out. It was large and there were plenty of vendors selling various fruits and vegetables. Joyce tried to buy dates from one vendor who had a full cart of them and he aggressively told he to go away & that he wouldn’t sell to her. He was wearing a white cap so he was likely Muslim. We later heard from Jeff that a lot of Muslims in China hate the Han people and that it is best not to argue since there have been knifings in the past. We bought some tangerines from a different vendor and then set off for the hotel since it was about 20 minutes to 7 and we needed to meet in the lobby for dinner. On the way back to the hotel we ran into a school that was letting out so there were a ton of kids in yellow caps clogging the streets. They were popping into shops for candy & whatnot and seemed to have a good time yelling “hello” at me.

The kids are following us.

We got back to the hotel right at 7:00 and some of the group were in the lobby waiting for us so we hurried upstairs, dropped off our stuff and came back down to walk to dinner. We had Jeff, Sherry, Mike, Halsey, Shetzu, Joyce & I altogether. We each ordered food and shared everything. The food was excellent again and Shetzu and I each got some more Llasa beer. After 2 other failed attempts I was able to get potato momo and they were great. Very much like a pierogi. After dinner we said goodbye to Jeff & Sherry who wanted to walk around and the rest of us headed back to the hotel along the usual route. Along the way we window shopped and found some prayer flags that Halsey wanted to buy. This seemed like  good souvenir so Mike & I also got some. I may hang mine on the van when camping. Joyce found some pants she liked at the same store so she got those and Mike picked up a skirt for his wife. Joyce saw a skirt she liked so she got that as well. After that we picked up some pastries and some water and it was off to bed. We would see everyone again in the morning since we were all on the same shuttle.

Final dinner together with plenty of momo.


9/23/15: Everest to Shigatse

I didn’t sleep well during the night since I was anxious to catch the sunrise. It ends up I shouldn’t have bothered. I awakened every hour or so and finally got out of bed around 6:00. Joyce got up with me and we walked to the bathroom together. The stars  that were visible were amazing. I haven’t seen stars like that since switching drivers in the middle of the night down in the middle of Baja California. At this time the view of Mt. Everest was clear with no clouds. It was still dark though since sunrise was about 8:00 here. We could see the outline of the mountain and could see the snow (glacier?) in the early morning darkness. We got dressed and the tent lady made us the breakfast we had pre-ordered the night before. She actually flipped on the tent lights around 6:45 and got the sheep poop fire going at that time as well. Our breakfast was basically a flat bread with a plain omelette laid over it. We ended up rolling it up like a burrito and eating it that way. During one of the times I woke up during the night I noticed my heartbeat was racing. I counted roughly 120 bpm despite my breathing being normal. Not sure if this was due to the altitude but I’ll check on this when we get home.

Mt. Everest in the pre-dawn light.

I kept checking outside to make sure I didn’t miss sunrise but as sunrise got closer the clouds moved in & blocked the entire view mountain which was a true bummer. Around 8:30 or so we started the hike to the base camp. I put on my red converse that have gone on every trip I’ve taken since 1989 and we hiked the short flat trail from tent town to the Everest base camp. The hike was only about 2.5 miles long but Joyce was feeling the altitude so we took it slow and let the group go a head. We checked out the area which was a large flat plain near the base of Everest and took some pictures. The clouds still blocked the entirety of the mountain so we had no views on the hike or while we were at base camp.

The gang at Base Camp.

We grabbed a shuttle bus back to tent town and when we arrived I went to the bathroom. While I was walking there I noticed the clouds lifting. Part of mountain became visible and within 1/2 hour we had fantastic views of Mt. Everest which made going through all of the effort to get there worth while. Pretty much all of the mountain became visible except for the lower portion that still had a bit of clouds hanging around it. We went out to the area just past the tents to take pictures and a decent crowd had gathered there to do the same. Some jackass had a drone there that they were flying which I wanted to take out with a rock.

Mt. Everest comes out to play.

Mt. Everest from tent town.

Once everyone had gotten all of the pictures they wanted to take we left on the long drive back to Shigatse. I recorded the route from the base camp to the Everest road entrance so that I can look at it on Google Earth when we get home. I also recorded the base camp hike route. Along the drive we passed through many checkpoints and speed checks and dealt with many bad passes on the roads that our driver had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid getting into an accident. We stopped at a place for lunch and they gave us menus but then told us we could only order from just three options since the cook was gone. Lunch wasn’t that good.

As we neared Shigatse Joyce decided she wanted hot pot & asked Tashi where in town we could get it. He showed us on bus when we passed it but there were lots of turns taken before reaching our hotel so there was no way for us to remember how to get there. Mike invited himself along to dinner and Halsey & Setzu joined as well. We pulled into Shigatse at 8 and we got our bags in our rooms and then came downstairs to meet Tashi since he said he’d take us to the restaurant. It was far enough away that it required a cab so Mike, Setzu, Joyce & I got into  cab while Tashi, Halsey and the policeman got into a separate cab. Tashi told our driver where to go and both cabs met at that spot. It was only a 10 yuan cab fare.

Once we were at the restaurant Tashi & the policeman took off in their cab somewhere else. It took some effort on Joyce’s part to get the hot pot ordered since the staff didn’t really understand their own menu and weren’t fluent in Mandarin. We ordered some momo as well as fried rice to go along with the hot pot. The momo & fried rice came out quickly and were pretty good. We finished those and ended up waiting for the hot pot to arrive for a long time. Once it did arrive they told us we needed to wait five minutes to eat it. Then came back & told us to wait another 5 minutes. We had raw steak and some vegetables & noodles on the table to add in as well when the time was right. The butane on our stove ran out before we had started to eat the hot pot so we had to wait while they got another one which took them a while. We dug into the hot pot before they said it was ready since we were tired of waiting and it was pretty good but it was way too much food for the 5 of us. Especially after eating the fried rice & momo we had already ordered. The hot pot came with side dishes as well which didn’t help. We ate as much as we dared and Setzu & I each had three cans of Llasa beer each since the service was so slow. This was likely the most expensive dinner we had on our trip and it came out somewhere around 380 yuan. The restaurant itself was really nice inside but we spotted at least one rat and one mouse running around the floor right near our table. Mike also spotted one running along the back of the couch Joyce & I were sitting on. We ended dinner sometime past 11 and then hailed a cab back to the hotel. Since we had five with us Joyce had to sit on my lap on the ride home.

The hot pot before we tore it a new one.


9/22/15: Shigatse to Everest

We got up and had breakfast in the hotel. We went to go into the room that had a buffet but the lady looked at our breakfast coupons & said we were in the wrong place. We were in the Chinese breakfast area & our coupons were for the western breakfast. She led us to this area which was in a room out the back door and across a bit of parking lot. They had a small stove set up where they cooked eggs and there was a small buffet with pretty bad food. Mike & Halsey were there & none too pleased with the food. After breakfast we hit the road and stopped at another Monastery that wasn’t too far away. The monastery was nice but everyone had Everest on the mind so we weren’t too into it.

Another monastery?

The section of road we travelled today wound through lots of mountains and included three passes with two of them topping out  bit over 17,000 feet. My altimeter recorded a max elevation of 17,070 feet. We stopped for lunch at a place along the way where Joyce & I both got some noodles & I got a Llasa beer. Lunch was ok but when Joyce was mostly finished with hers she found what looked like a rivet on her plate which is never a good thing to find. During the drive after lunch the policeman offered me a white wad of something that looked like cheese. Tashi had told us that they sell hard cheese along the route we were on and I did see some ladies selling some so I assumed that was what it was. At any rate I popped it in and gave it a shot. It was more than hard it was like gritty plastic. I could see breaking a tooth on it. It had a mild taste that wasn’t pleasant but wasn’t that bad either. It isn’t something I’d seek out in the future. I don’t recall if it was supposed to be yak or goat cheese.

One of the 17,000 foot passes.

We sat behind the driver most days and Tashi sat in a seat across from us. When he wasn’t BS’ing with the policeman or the driver or taking care of guide duties we would talk. At one point we were talking when he spaced out & had a feeling he had done this before. We explained the concept of deja vu and he said he gets it so that he loses touch with what’s going on currently & goes into the other memory. When this happens he needs to sleep and/or put some cold towels over his head & neck.

The policeman by this point has become pretty much another member of the group. Everyone seems t like him even though we don’t share a language. He sits next to the driver so he is close to us and we share food, gum, etc. along the ride. At one point in the road we came across an Army checkpoint that involved passport checks and the we tuned onto the final road that takes us to the base camp. This road was only recently paved & was a dirt road before. I believe it was just opened in August and they were still finishing sections as we rolled through. The ascent & descent over the pass on this section involved an unbelievable number of switchbacks. It makes Alpe D’uez looks like a straight road. Near the top of the pass we had a view of the Himalayas that should have given us views of five of the tallest mountains in the world including Everest. Clouds were surrounding them though which blocked Everest and many of the peaks but it was still an impressive view.

Hidden peaks.

As we dropped down the other side of the pass it was approaching nightfall. We rounded a curve around 8:30 and we saw what we came to see. The clouds had mostly lifted and we saw Everest in all its glory. I expected a range of peaks with Everest sitting a bit above the rest but when you see Mt. Everest it just dominates everything around it. It is a very impressive sight! The driver quickly pulled over blocking a lane of traffic so we could get out and take pictures and soak up the view which we all did. We were sitting at about 16,000 feet with Mt. Everest in front of us topping out at over 29,000 feet. That’s almost like sitting on the beach looking up at Pike’s Peak.

Mt. Everest decided to make an appearance.

Once we were done ogling Everest it was a short dive to the tents. The tents ended up being very nice & cozy. They hold 13 people each but since this wasn’t the busy season they limit it to seven people per tent. This means that 2 of us needed to go to another tent. The tent with open spaces had Japanese people in it so Shetzu was nominated and Mike went with him. I’m not sure if this was voluntary or not. Each tent has someone who runs it & cooks for the people staying in it. We arrived around 9:30 and placed our order for dinner since we hadn’t eaten yet. I ordered yak with peppers which was both tasty as well as spicy.

Tent people.

Night view of Mt. Everest from tent town.

The tents were arranged with couches/beds around the perimeter and had a stove in the middle. The stove was fed with pellets that kept the fire going and the stove was used for heat as well as heating water for tea. We determined that the pellets used were actually sheep poop. The toilets at the camp were supposed to be across the street but nobody could find them. Tashi told us that it’s best to just go outside so that is what we did. Joyce and I went out about 10:00 and found a secluded place for her to pee. There were tons of people walking around though so it wasn’t long before someone’s headlamp caught her mid-act. The other girls found that a spot between two parked cars worked pretty well. Around 10:30 we went out again and did find the toilets. They were behind the tents on the other side and were accessed via a small path between two tents. The toilets were pretty bad so outside seemed like a better place to go. This is what I did later and was caught mid-whiz by one of the tent ladies who didn’t seem too pleased I was peeing where i was. Later on I tried the spot between the two parked cars ad found it to be pretty good place to go. I’m sure whoever owned those two cars need to do some tip-toeing to get into their cars the next day. Tashi, the policeman & the driver hung out in our tent for a while and then went out to find out where they were supposed to stay for the night. I think I saw the driver making a bed in the back of the bus.

We went to bed hoping for a clear view of Everest in the morning. My plan is to get up early enough to catch the sunrise over Mt. Everest.


9/21/15: Llasa to Shigatse

We got up & ate breakfast and the went back to the room to finish packing since we’re checking out today. Since we’ll be back in Llasa on Thursday night I packed whatever I’ll need for the next three days in my messenger bag and had the hotel hold my suitcase. About 9:15 we rolled out on the road to Everest. We retraced our route back to the airport & then headed towards Everest. The scenery was mountainous the whole way and we had many great views. Mountains, rivers, lakes & glaciers were all included. One interesting thing was that a police officer was required to ride with any vehicle that carries more than a certain number of people so we got one. He was a nice guy but I’m not sure what he actually does. He actually fell asleep for a bit which kind of defeats the purpose of having him on board since the goal is to make sure the drivers are safe.

Working hard.

We went over a couple of passes and one topped out at 15,925 feet per my watch which is a new high for us. There were stops at most passes to take in the views and at most stops there were vendors selling stuff as well as people with Tibetan Mastiff dogs & other animals that would charge you to take their picture. Great stops for us along the way were to take in views of the Yamtso Tso Lake which had glacial blue water and the Karola Glacier which was impressive.

Wanted an SUP for this lake.

Joyce & I at the Karola Glacier.

We had a lunch stop at a place that had decent food but was super busy with bus customers who were also heading to Everest. Poor Shetzu didn’t get his lunch and we had to remind the staff four times before he got it. After lunch we visited the Pelkor Monastery which was being refurbished so we went through it fast. Our bus had a flat tire en route so we had to kill time by walking the old town of the city which was actually pretty interesting. There were lots of cows tied up on the streets and when I went to pet one he gave me a good shove. It would have been worse if it didn’t run out of rope. We saw that the residents collected the cow crap and put it on the sidewalk & walls to dry. I believe they burn it for fuel.

Our rig breaks down.

This cow was mean to me.

Re-use & recycle.

Once done there we basically hauled to Shigatse since we lost time with the flat repair. We did stop once to take pictures of a dam but we went pretty much non-stop outside of that. We drove past sundown and it was pretty crazy after that. There were people, animals,, herders, tractors with no lights and and other things on the road that weren’t easy to spot so we had to drive pretty slowly. We didn’t get to Shigatse until 9:30 so we opted to hit up dinner before going to the hotel. I think they opened the restaurant for us but service was fast and the food was good. We ordered some Indian food that was excellent. After that we got to the hotel which was just around the corner, got our room keys, showered and went to bed. It was a long day.

9/20/15: Drepung & Sera Monasteries

We were up early so we took advantage of the sudden reliability of the hotel wifi and uploaded posts & did anything else that required a connection. Wifi has been spotty here at best and China has blocked Google (along with Gmail) and Facebook so we had to download VPN apps to get around the blockages. We went down to breakfast around 8:00 and the place was packed but there is plenty of seating in this dining room & we found a place to sit easily. After breakfast we relaxed before we had to go downstairs to meet the group & at 9:30 we all met in the lobby.

At 9:30 we all loaded onto the bus and headed out to visit the two monasteries on today’s agenda. Along the drive we talked to Mike about Mongolia since we’re considering changing plans for the Taiwan trip in March. We’re thinking of visiting Mongolia instead of circling the island of Taiwan. The first up was the Drepung Monastery which was about 9 kilometers outside of town. Once there we went through the obligatory security checks and headed in. This one, like most, has a bunch of stairs to climb to get to the monastery itself but we’re all pretty much acclimated to the altitude by now so it was no problem. The monastery was cool but it was like most others we have seen already so nothing too special. After we were done with this we walked down the hill a bit and ate lunch at a small local spot. Both Joyce and I opted for some soup that had Momo in it so it was basically yak dumpling soup, Very good especially with the hot pepper oil in it. Our lunch was 40 yuan so about $6.50. Someone at our table got Tibetan noodle soup which was only 5 yuan which is less than a dollar!

Drepung Monastery

Our guide gives us the scoop.

Some of the gang at the Drepung Monastery.

After lunch we got back into the bus and drove to the Sera Monastery which was a fairly short drive away. Like the last monastery we  had seen most of it before so we did a fairly fast tour of it. This monastery has the distinction of having the most disgusting bathrooms we’ve seen yet here in China. Once we were done we headed back to the hotel and arrived there about 3:30 so it was a short day. We made plans to meet others in the lobby at 7:30 for dinner and went to our rooms to rest.

Pictures aren’t allowed inside so you gotta sneak ’em when you can.

Inside the Sera Monastery.

Our rig for our time in Tibet.

At 7:30 we went downstairs and we walked to a place near the temple on Barkhor Street. It was eight of us in total (Mike, Halsey, Setsu, Angela, Francesco, Frederica, Joyce & I). We ordered separately but shared all of the dishes. They served a variety of food including Tibetan, Chinese & Indian so we had a variety and the food was excellent. A Llasa beer was had as well. We had a grea time together & the bill came out to only 277 yaun for the eight of us. So about 35 each ($6). Quite a deal! Tomorrow we check out and hit the road for a few days and will return to Llasa on Friday. I’ll leave my suitcase at the hotel and will take the clothes I’ll need in my messenger bag.

The weather for our time in Llasa has been far warmer than I had expected. We are sitting right at 12,000 feet and the days have been warm and the night have been extremely mild. We go out in the day in short sleeves and tons of sunscreen and nights require only a thin long-sleeve shirt. If this means we’ll have clear views of Everest I’ll be happy but I was hoping for some cooler weather here after a sweltering San Diego summer.

9/19/15: Barkhor Street/Johkang Temple/Potala Palace

We got up at 8 which was a bit late and we got ready & headed down to breakfast. This hotel caters to more westerners so it had a more varied buffet. They even had muesli. I accidentally dropped a spoon & the handle broke so they nailed me for 5 yuan. Cheap bastards! Our table had what sounded like Dutch people eating but I couldn’t quite place the language they were using. After breakfast we went back to the room & got ready to go.

We met the group downstairs at 9:30 and it looks like we’ll have a decent group of people to tour Tibet with. Two older men are from SoCal (LA & San Juan Capistrano areas), one girl is from Memphis, one girl from just outside Belfast Northern Ireland, one older man from Japan and we have couples from Malaysia, Beijing and Italy. All seem very nice and mellow. I don’t see a problem person in the bunch. Our first stop was to visit Barkhor street and the Johkang Temple that sits just off that street. We had already visited this street but this time we did the full circle at once which is what Buddhists do. After we completed the circle we entered the Temple and toured. It was pretty impressive and we learned a lot about the Temple and Buddhism in general fro the guide. Once done with the temple we did lunch at a place near the temple. This was on us so we all ordered & split the bill. Lunch gave us time to get to know the other members of the group better and doing so confirmed my original impression that it will be a good group.

Joyce at the Johkang Temple.

Group shot at the Johkang Temple.

View from the Johkang Temple.

Joyce & I at the Johkang Temple.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel where we boarded a bus to visit the Potala Palace which is the home of the Dalai Lama. We started by walking a complete circle around the palace as is the Buddhist custom & then got in lines to actually get in. We had to go through a couple of security check areas that involved scanners and show passports a couple of times in order to get in. The Palace is huge and we only had an hour inside so we were a bit rushed but it is an impressive place. Inside are the tombs of many of the prior Dalai Lama’s & some of them were pretty impressive. Unfortunately, like other temples here, photos are prohibited inside so I wasn’t able to snap any pictures. Once we were done with the Palace we boarded the bus for the short drive back to the hotel.

Joyce & I outside the Potala Palace.

Joyce & I at the Potala Palace looking out over Llasa.

Tonight we were told that we would have a group dinner paid for by the travel company so we met downstairs again at 7:30 and we walked back dow towards the Barkhor Street area to a restaurant that served traditional Tibetan food. I must be getting adventurous because I sampled most of everything they put out and most of it was very good. They did serve some odd things. One was something made out of barley that looked like a root of some kind. It tasted fine but was super dry so your mouth kind of clammed up while eating it. Another was some flame grilled peppers that were great & just a bit on the hot side. One of these nailed me though when one must have had one super hot seed in it that decided to make it’s presence known in the back of my throat.  Before I could say “aye caramba!” my nose was furiously running and my eyes were watering. We had 9 of the 13 members of the group with us and we had a great time together which bodes well for the rest of the week. Setzyl, the older guy from Japan, told us he summited Mt. Kilimanjaro last year. He was 70 then. Hope I have that in me when I’m that age.

Pass the Momo please.

After dinner we walked home together and Mike, Setzyl and Joyce & I picked up some water at a store along the way. We decided at dinner that we’d stay in tents on one of the days after we leave Llasa and that we would like to hike to Everest Base Camp from the Rongpuk Monastery if possible. There may be road situations that prevent this but I’m hoping it will happen. The group was unanimous on these decisions which is another good sign that we’re going to get along fine.