Our journey starts in Chengdu as we start to make our way to Tibet.
We stayed at the Chengdu Flipflop Lounge Hostel which was conveniently located within various city landmarks and transport. Highly recommended and you can peruse more about it on their site.
Chengdu is synonym of fiery spices! My friend Val and I embark on a journey to try the local delicacies and still be able to write or narrate it later ... and of course we start with the hot pot experience.
Just to provide an intro, note that we chose the less touristic place and went where we could only find locals. Once there, we knew we wanted hot pot but to our surprise (at least on my part), we had to choose our own ingredients ... to which there was not a single label as what meat or vegetable it was. Nonetheless, I do have to say that it all tasted so well.
On our next eatery numbed our palate as we chose spicy shrimp without expecting them to be served on a one-inch bed of hot peppers, yikes! ... but then again, our mission was accomplished and we ate it all, at our own pace with the help of several bowls of egg-fried rice and noodles. Hey, at least we made the restaurant workers chuckle with every bite we took!
Looking for a fun night out? Head out to Lan Kwai Fong area to experience local bars and pubs.
Lhasa, Tibet at 3,650 m.
With our next big goal in mind which was to get to the base camp of Mount Everest, we departed Chengdu and flew into Lhasa as to start our acclimatization before we started ascending to 5,200 m. Our entire itinerary, permits and others were greatly arranged by Bella at China Discovery.
We chose their 8 Days Lhasa & Everest Base Camp Tour and the itinerary was as detailed on it!
As per the above photo and after a day of acclimatization at 3, 650 m. above sea level in the capital of the Autonomous Region of Tibet, we visited the Dalai Lama's residence - the Potala Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It's quite a climb of various sets of stairs that comprise the 14 stories-tall residential palace, but well worth it as you encounter rare Buddhist relics and antiquities.
Please note that within this palace, photos are only allowed after paying a specific, but small monetary donation! - especially around the area surrounding the golden throne.
My journey to the Mt. Everest Base Camp starts here ...
Jokhang Temple & Barkhor Sq.
Once you head to Barkhor Square, you will encounter many pilgrims prostrated worshipping and walking clockwise around one of the most revered temples in Buddhism, the Jokhang Temple. This temple houses its most sacred and venerated original Buddha that one of the two foreign princesses of former King Songtsan Gampo brought as a gift for her future husband.
I personally made my kora or meditative circumambulation walk clockwise around this temple and was fascinated at the serenity and fervent display of belief as many pilgrims worshipped using their century-old practice of using turning prayer-wheels.
My photos above show great views from atop the 4-floor temple into Barker Square (and beyond) where the surrounding markets carry almost any and every souvenir you may want to buy.
Drepung and Sera Monasteries
Nowadays, it's still well known for the debating that takes place at its courtyard where senior (in rank) monks test the newbies in the holy scriptures.
Check out my Instagram video of this afternoon debate at the Debating Courtyard.
Yamdrok Lake & Palkhor Monastery
On this next leg of our trip, we came across the famous yak. Little did I know that for the rest of the journey, I would come across this word, over and over again for every meal and accompanying beverage of choice!
The Yamdrok Lake is considered by Tibetans to be the home of wrathful deities. Our tour guide Lhotse (yep, as the mountain) warned us not to touch, come too close or drink from the water in the lake mainly due to many rituals that take place in it; not to forget, that this holy sapphire-looking lake is also part of one of the three most holy lakes in Tibet.
As we made our way to Shigatse, we came across sooooo many prayer flags and thus my opportunity to start searching for a place to hang my prayer flags dedicated to my family.
This monastery is famous amongst other things due to the fact that three Tibetan Buddhist sects (Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Kahdampa) host their monks here in complete harmony.
The spiraling stupa below called Kumbum (meaning hall of 10,000 Buddhist figures) is well-worth a visit as you spiral into over 100 chapels layered in four floors with a different image of deities and that of Buddha as the main figure.
I am here sharing just a small representation of the total of 77+ Buddhas that are hosted within this stupa, as well as offering a view from the fourth floor of the stupa.
Tashilumpo Monastery at 3, 880 m.
After leaving Shigatse, we drive to this monastery on the way to EBC (Everest Base Camp). The Tashilumpo Monastery is home to the statute of the Future Buddha, the largest and most impressive gold-gilded bronze statue of Buddha in Tibet. It is said that it took them four years to build and it is pressed with lots of bling as it contains coral, pearls, amber and many other precious stones.
While on my unintentional kora, I came across some lamas who had just finished their prayers and was impressed to see them in their whole regalia.
As the current seat of Panchen Lamas, this monastery is one of six Gelug monasteries. As I made my tour of the premises with so many halls, dorms, and chapels ... somehow, I was able to reach the Panchen Lama's stupa and palace.
The Panchen Lama stupas are the burial sites of past Lamas which you can trace between the 4th and the 10th Panchen Lamas. These stupas are also well decorated and well preserved for future generations of pilgrims and tourist to admire, worship or pay their most pious respect.
As the second to last monastery on our tour, it is worth mentioning that this monastery host the Thangka Exhibit Platform which during this celebration, they place this huge thangka wall painting representing Buddha. More info better described here.