Tibet 2016 - Potala palace

2016-10-11 Lhasa, Potala palace, elevation 3658m

I was rather disappointed to find that we ended up doing only half of the kora of the Potala. I would like to have done the entire circuit. The rushing through the Potala that is now mandatory provides the reasons I dislike the current tourist setup. It means that explanations from your guides are gabbled; they find it difficult to repeat stuff that for those that haven't heard; and there's a pressure to move on, move on, move on, the whole time. I was surprised that we did not go up to the roof. Previously, I remember going up to the roof. Just as well I I've got pictures from there many years ago.. This time, it was just through the main Potala rooms and then back down to kora or sighting spots. We did go to a little lake at the back of the Potala with some very good views of it which I haven't seen before.

Jompa is a fantastic guide. She helped me with what portion of the kora we did. Of course, the fact that I, a foreigner, and obviously a tourist, with caucasian hair colour, western dress, but having a mala and doing mantras was an instant passport to family groups, particularly those headed by a matriarch, as most were. They asked me what I was doing; asked Jampa what I was doing; and the general reaction was 'oh he's a foreigner, how can  he know about this stuff'.  It wass quite fascinating, and it happened five or six times. One notable encounter was where the woman of the family, while carrying a balloon and toy in one hand, and her mala in the other, showed me how to use a mala, and how to do mantras, properly. Using the mala involves rolling the bead inwards over the finger with the thumb. This is its use, whichever hand is used. The woman was very insistant, and would not leave it until I had demonstrated that my mastery was complete. All in all a quite wonderful time. I just wish it had been complete.

So far this time I've done kora round Johang, kora round Sera monastery, and half kora round Potala. I did feel I was starting to get into the mantra a little in the third and last of these koras.

Picture of the day

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Girona

View over Girona from the city walls
Two and a half weeks before Easter, I found out about an event that was being held over the Easter weekend, in Santa Coloma de Farners, Girona, Spain. After deciding I wanted to go to it, I consulted the excellent site at http://www.seat61.com/. This is very reliable source of information about train travel. He suggested a train journey that allowed one to breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, and dine in Barcelona. This looked pretty good, so I booked up all the tickets. 

The journey was made up of three rail journeys: from Milton Keynes to London by Virgin Pendelino train; Eurostar from London to Paris; and then TGV from Paris to Girona. A bit unusual to have Virgin the slowest, and shortest train. The journey was planned to be 11 1/2 hours, but was delayed in the south of France, and into Spain. As a result it was was about 12 1/4 hours, plus one hour change in time zone. Still the original idea of breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, and dinner in Girona held.

I had planned my journey so that I had most of the day after travelling in Girona. This is a city with a history stretching back to roman times, and a substantial surviving medieval area. The old town is surrounded by city walls. These provide a very interesting walk, with quite a lot of up. This was my main activity for the Thursday, apart from getting from Girona to Santa Coloma de Farners in the late afternoon.  Girona is a very pleasant place, with friendly people, and relaxed traffic. Throw in good weather while I was there - both before and after the retreat - meant it was a very relaxing and enjoyable place to be in.


I am now in the hills above Sils, about half an hours train ride from Girona, plus half an hours taxi ride. I am at the Kagyu Sayme Deshi Ling monastry for a short retreat.

This area is outstandingly beautiful. Flowers, trees, shrubs of all sorts all buzzing with life. This life ranges from bees the size of my thumb, to butterflies smaller than the nail on my little finger. And ants. And ants. And ants.....

The monastery itself is an exact equivalent of the UK version of the big house plus home farm (buildings, not (much) land), all repurposed now of course.