Lhasa was a super chilled out reprieve from the previous days anticipation and racing. Having rolled into the city late at night, everyone was dying to curl up in bed and zonk out. After a full breakfast we set out to explore the city. Most everyone decided to take the tour of the fabled Potala Palace: home to 10 of the 14 dalai lamas. The place was insanely beautiful and aromatic. Rich in history and crowded with tourists it was easy to get lost in the simple beauty of the palace. Light filtered into the cool spaces of its interior giving it an otherworldly spiritual vibe. Cats played in the rafters. The décor was heavy with all kinds of vibrant natural colors and an obscene amount of gold and other gems: relics of over a millennium of practitioners donations. Our guide gave us a rough break down of the customs and traditions of Tibetan people while we discussed the very basics of the Buddhist faith.
Afterwards we had plenty of daylight. Larry, who’d opted out of visiting the Potala Palace in favor of exploring the streets met up with us for a lunch at a place in the heart of old town, located by the Johkang temple. Our guide was pretty pumped when we opted to just walk around and explore on our own in lieu of having him walk us through the temple. We then went about exploring the small touristy shops wrapped around the temple. Here we also observed hundreds of folks walking the customary clockwise circle that circumnavigates Johkang. After picking up a few souvenirs we took ourselves to a rooftop cafe and hung out with a few cold beers, tea and snacks.
We wrapped up the evening with a traditional Tibetan dinner at a local hangout. After we walked to a nearby park and sat watching a group of Tibetan teens cutting loose, participating in a circular form of line dance to the beat of some funky Tibetan techno. From there we meandered back to old town where we sniffed around for a bar to throw back a couple more celebratory beers. The bar we found was this tiny little hole-in-the-wall located down a narrow side-street. Even the proprietor seemed stunned we’d managed to find the place.
From there we regaled each other with in-jokes and other bad stories that had come from our trip. The bar owner came over and chatted a bit with Larry and Jeff, divulging them in how he’d ended up in Lhasa: 16 years ago he packed it all in, got on a horse in Yunnan and rode to Lhasa.
We then meandered home, stopping for a midnight snack before crashing out at the hotel. The ride to the airport the following morning was quick and easy as most caught up on sleep. On the plane we had an insane view of the immensity of the mountains of the Tibetan plateau. We took it all in in it’s insane glory, ready for our return to normality.