After a night of sleep interrupted by jack hammers and beeping horns, I am up at 8 am for breakfast and my first shower in over three days.
Refreshed, I am still exhausted after climbing a set of stairs to the roof top restaurant. The lack of adjustment to the higher altitude in Lhasa becomes pronounced for me when I do any hint of activity that can be perceived as extraneous. Even a brisk walk can make you oxygen deprived at these altitudes.
With breakfast complete we meet in the hotel lobby for our first tour of a monastery in Tibet. It is an important one as Polata Palace is the former winter home of the Dali Lama who now lives in exile in India.
After clearing an airport type security check, we approach Polata Palace from the right front side and find ourselves going against the grain of traffic. In a clock wise direction the faithful as a part of their daily ritual are circling this holy shrine.
I watch up close something I had seen along the highway from the train a few days ago.
A ritual is performed by a young man along the sidewalk and he is given money, I guess for prayers and blessings.
Entrance to Polata Palace is not free and visitors are given an allotted entrance time. Entering the palace we are scanned through another security check point and reminded that photography is limited in certain areas.
The massive structure with its distinctive red and white colors seem to glow in the morning sun.
Our tour will be a bit of a challenge as we will have to climb about thirteen stories of stairs. I am sure that not many of the locals here do this on a regular basis.
Knowing that this maybe a challenge for visitors there are rest benches along the steep set of stairs we must climb. We are encouraged to take our time and to make small baby steps as we begin our ascent. With a few stops to take in great views of Lhasa below us the walk uphill becomes manageable.
Unfortunately, we reach the area of the palace where pictures are not allowed but it is still cool to walk through and see all of the neat exhibits and Buddhist artwork. We do get to visit the area where the Dali Lama lived and see various tombs of the past Dali Lamas but not without climbing a lot more set of steep stairs and navigating narrow passages.
As with many Buddhist monuments the amount of gold used to build them is phenomenal. What is also surprising to me is the amount of money that is donated as offerings inside the monastery. While all of this is amazing to look at it gives me a different perspective of the life of monks and the operation of monasteries.
However, we are encouraged to buy books that have pictures of everything we are looking at.
After about two hours of touring we begin our descent down thirteen stories which is certainly less painful than going up. Again the views of Lhasa below us is stunning with clear blue skies and towering snow capped mountains surrounding us.
For me, we pass an interesting item on the way downhill, a tree with money attached to it. Now I know that despite what my parents told me, money does grow on trees, at least in Lhasa. It is time for lunch then more touring around Lhasa.