The next morning we visited the Palcho Monastery in Gyantse on the way to Lhasa. We drove though very beautiful green mountain scenery.
The monastery precinct is a complex of structures, which, apart from the Tsuklakhang Monastery, also includes its Kumbum, believed to be the largest such structure in Tibet, that is most notable for its 108 chapels in its several floors and the old Dzong or fort surrounding the monastery.
Gyantse Fort or Gyantse Dzong (Jiangzi Dzong) built on the rugged hills surrounding the Gyantze town (once the third largest town in Tibet) has an arresting presence behind the town. The fortress is dated to 1268 and a castle was also built in side by local Prince Phakpa Pelzangpo (1318–1370) who was influential with the Sakyapa overlords.
We stopped for a quick picture at the Yandruk Dam. We quickly got surrounded by kids selling prayer flags while shouting “cheapy cheapy cheapy YAAAAA!!”. It got really annoying as they did not understand what “no” means.
Our next stop was the Kharola Glacier. The glacier is at about 7000 meter elevation and the view point is at 5200 meter elevation. There is a little platform that takes you closer to the glacier for amazing photo opportunities. According to our guide, the glacier has been showing considerable melting since 2006 thanks to global warming.
Yamdrok lake was the next stop in the amazing scenic day. Yamdrok is a freshwater lake it is over 72 km (45 mi) long and surrounded by snowy mountains all year around.
Like mountains, lakes are considered sacred by Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. Yamdrok Lake is one of four particularly holy lakes, thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to local villagers makes pilgrimages there. It is considered sacred as one of the four “Great Wrathful Lakes” guarded by the goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso. The others such lakes are Lhamo La-tso, Namtso and Manasarovar.
We couldn’t wait to take photos with the Yaks, they charge you 10 yuan for a couple minutes riding this beast to pose for a photo. At the beginning only Eitan wanted to take the photos but at the end almost everybody was riding yaks. You could tell the disappointment in the face of our guide as we showed excessive white tourist traits during the lake visit.
Have you seen a Tibetan Mastiff dog? These guys are massive and very loyal dogs. There are a few places where you find them and obviously we stopped for a photo with them. The bad part of this is that the dogs are obviously sad to be there. Their eyes are damaged for excessive exposure to the sun, but this guy got his own raybans.
For lunch we stopped at a Chinese restaurant instead of a Tibetan tea-house (finally). You can tell the hate our guide has towards Chinese as he would never take us to a Chinese owned restaurant, but in this town I don’t think there is any other option. The food was actually great but according to our guide this place didn’t have very good food (because it was Chinese)
More beautiful scenery on the drive to Lhasa.
We had dinner at a Tibetan restaurant (more touristy one), Everybody heard about the butter tea being a delicasy here in Tibet so everybody agreed to get one to try it. Well, it was one of the most disgusting things I have ever tried. Everybody gave it a little sip and and agreed it was horrendous. But at least we tried!
Bonus Pic Of The Day: In Tibet the currency is the Chinese Yuan or Renminbi which literally means “people’s currency”. The distinction between the terms renminbi and yuan is similar to that between sterling and pound, which respectively refer to the British currency and its primary unit.
When used in Tibet and other Tibetan autonomies, a yuan is called a gor, but they use the same banknotes. The new series shows has the portrait of Mao Zedong on all banknotes, in place of the various leaders and workers which had been featured previously.