This post was originally published on 2014 and updated on 2018.
Tibet was a tough trip. With only 60% to 70% available oxygen at these high altitudes, especially the nights were more like a nightmare. Four hours sleep and the rest of the night struggling to find oxygen. The Tibetan high altitude pills didn’t help too much. The highest point reached was at 5, 248 m.
I arrived in Lhasa with a small Air China plane coming from Kathmandu. The view from the plane was impressive. The entire chain of Himalayas covered in snow can be seen. Mt. Everest was on the left side of the airplane.
All the passengers from the right side of the plane moved and even jumped over the passengers from the left side, to have a better view of the highest peak of the world (8,848 m). The shift in weight repartition, made the plane to tilt to its left side!
You cannot bring in Tibet any book about Dalai Lama, no photos or Tibetan flags. You have to join a tour in order to visit Tibet (for me was Gap Adventures) . The Chinese army is very strict and have a strong presence. The old times when the monks and the people were happy are long gone. Becoming a monk in Tibet is discouraged.
At an altitude of 3,490 meters, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world.
Places of interest in Lhasa are the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Sera Monastery.
The Potala Palace is the former residence of the Dalai Lama. With more than 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues the palace is really impressive.
“The first time I stepped onto the rooftop of the Potala Palace in Lhasa in 1985, I felt, as never before or since, as if I was stepping onto the rooftop of my being: onto some dimension of consciousness that I’d never visited before.” – Pico Iyer
“Sand Mandalas represent the universe and act as an architectural blueprint of the enlightened mind.”
The monks create mandalas from coloured sand using small tubes.
The Jokhang Temple is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.
The pilgrims in Tibet are very, very devoted. Old or young, some carrying small children on their backs, the pilgrims are doing “kora” (circle a temple clockwise) while spinning their “prayer wheels” clockwise as well.
Some are coming from far away in the buses. Others walk kilometers, alongside the roads, always with the “prayer wheels”.
The pilgrims prostrate themselves by lying face down on the ground while extending their arms and “sliding” with wooden pallets attached to their palms until the body is perfectly extended. The prostration can be repeated up to 108 times.
Sera Monastery is one of the “great three” university monasteries of Tibet.
The highlight of Sera Monastery was attending the monks debate. In a courtyard, dozens of monks meet to have free discussions.
One monk stands up and one to four or more monks sit on the ground in front of him. The standing monk starts the ritual with a karate like movement. His left hand holds the “rosary” around his upper arm, he lifts the right foot and with the right hand stretched in front of him, the monk jumps over to the sitting monk. If the palm of his right hand faces downward, he is agreeing with the topic of discussion. If the palm faces upward, he disagrees or he insists his point of view is the correct one. Quite a spectacular show to watch!
The Ganden Monastery lies in a natural amphitheater. The views are spectacular form the top of nearby mountains. Same as Sera Monastery, Ganden is an university monastery.
The traditional way of burial for Tibetans is through air or water burials.
Gyantse fortress, the Palcho Monastery and the Kumbum – the largest such structure in Tibet, are the main attractions of Gyantse.
Sakya Monastery in Shigatse is known for its collection of Tibetan murals, sacred Buddhist scrolls and books.
Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world at 5,000 meters (north side of Mount Everest).
Rongbuk was the last stop before ascending to the Everest Base Camp and the highest place to sleep. The feeling being without enough oxygen was horrible, especially at night. It was like the devil was taking out my soul…
The accommodation was in a mountain guesthouse, the Thingri Snow Land Hotel. Very basic with a room temperature of +5 degrees Celsius.
Next morning everything was fine and after 8 km of trekking I was able to reach the Everest Base Camp with a clear view of Mount Everest. Very impressive and it feels so close and easy to climb.
“The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The route I used in Tibet: Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse – Sakya – Rongbuk – Everest Base Camp – Zhangmu – Kathmandu.
“Tashi Delek!” (All the best)