I have always wanted to come to Tibet and see the Potala palace (the winter palace of the Dalai Lama). I had seen pictures and I had pictured it in my head. The palace is as I thought, but the city was a city. I imagined dusty streets with worn down houses surrounding the palace. However, it is generally modern. There are 2 parts to the city, the Chinese side and the Tibetan side. It is generally accepted that the Chinese are trying to “colonise out” the Tibetans. There has been a large influx of Chinese to Tibet and they tend to be the bosses of companies. The Tibetian’s the workers. It is sad.
There was some great experiences in Lhasa.
Potala palace: Winter home to the Dalai Lamas, it is the centrepiece of the city. The current exiled dalai lama lived here when he was young. Inside you see the various chapels, study areas and living quarters for the Dalai Lamas. Also a number of the Dalai lamas have there remains in stupas here. Originally the Dalai Lamas had no political power, there was a king and also a dalai lama. It wasn’t until the 5th dalai Lama in the 1600s, that the political and religious powers were given to the Dalai Lamas. The current and 14th Dalai Lama is still loved by the locals however they are unable to express or show this devotion publicly. Also there is a lot of concern over what will happen when the current Dalai Lama dies. Traditionally senior members of the court search Tibet for the reincarnation of the dalai lama. In some cases children were identified and shown different possessions of the dalai lama mixed with other possessions of the other people. The children have picked out “their” possessions because they are the reincarnations of him.
The Chinese have tried to choose a new religious leader for the Tibetans. This is not being accepted by the people. It is unclear whether the current Dalai Lama will decide to reincarnate and if he does, how he will be found. He has said he will not reincarnate in the country which is under control of the Chinese.
As for the palace. It is pretty cool, however you need to book a time to start a quick tour and you have exactly 1 hours to complete it. It is a real rush to see the main parts.
Barkhor square: is one of the holiest kora (clockwise holy walk). People walk around clockwise all day and all night. The very dedicated prostrate themselves around the kora. They stand and pray, then bend and prostrate themselves on the ground, then move one body length forward. The old people wander around with their pray wheels. Through the middle of them all the police and military walk through with some very big guns. They also have positions up high looking down on the square.
Sera monastery: one of the oldest. There are 4 different orders. This is for the yellow hats (gelupha). Most afternoons they have debates between the monks. All the young monks are much more vocal and excitable, while the older monks are much more relaxed and in control. They discuss philosophical issues. You can’t understand a word they say, but is interesting to see.