(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
11-09-2014 - Thursday
Today we awoke to 6ºc and rain. Glad it was a hotel night as camping would have been miserable. Also glad not to be riding: a leisurely breakfast, Monastery tour and sightseeing were the only things on the agenda.
The hotel breakfast was very Chinese, hot food with fried eggs and toast the only western'ish alternative. I had a bit of both cuisines but not being big on cooked breakfast didn’t fill the plate. Really missed the muesli, fruit and yoghurt most the other hotels have had or the camp porridge!
We toured the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, six largest founded in 1447, which has the largest bronze Buddha in the world. At 26m high it was an impressive sight although I declined the ¥175 Yuan (nz$36) fee requested to take photos. Was also glad the rain had cleared although it was still overcast and quite cold.
The monasteries are littered with money, offerings from worshippers, and use an interesting ‘money laundering’ system. All the notes are the old, now un-used, Tibetan currency which you exchange on the way in. Monks then gather this faux money and resell it again. I presume the proceeds fund the monastery but wonder if it is all retained by them.
As we were leaving there was much excitement and a whole lot of flustered looking security guards forming a vehicle path to the entrance. Turns out the 11th Panchen Lama—the one 'found and appointed’ by the Chinese Govt—was in the Monastery and about to leave. A fleet of white Toyota LandCruisers went past containing Monks, Police, Officials and one with the Lama himself.
Interesting to see the mix of respect from some, indifference from others, to this imposition from China.
Back at the hotel while looking for info on the Monastery I first found this page:
- http://www.tashilhunpo.org — the same Monastery but set up in exile in India by monks who fled with the Dalai Lama. Their page about the missing Panchen Lama was interesting reading after the days sights…
”A reward is being offered for information which results in outside contact with Gedun Choekyi Nyima, The Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese government in 1995 and his wherabouts remain unknown.” http://tashilhunpo.org/amber-alert
Was surprised these results showed up, not filtered by the firewall, and the page loaded given the content they had was anti-government.
For more about the Monastery see wikipedia.org/Tashilhunpo_Monastery
The afternoon was spent looking at the market (where I resisted buying anything including the whole beast carcases on offer), an outdoor store, cycle shop and a very western style combined upmarket department store/supermarket in the city centre. What appears to be a strange mix was chosen largely by us to stock up with gear & supplies for the balance of the trip which would involve a lot more camping. I didn’t need much but stocked up on snacks, sunblock and lip balm.
I waited in the bus while some of the others were in the bank. I was fascinated watching a women (with a young child) spinning wool on the pavement. Amazing dexterity and skill.
In the bike shop I was curious to see a Giant mountain bike similar spec to mine priced at about us$600, not a lot cheaper than NZ. Good quality outdoors wear was also about the same price or dearer than back home. Given the income of the people here thought it was expensive, perhaps only aimed at tourists?
I got another mudguard as they were only ¥20, stupid me paid ¥50 (mind you that’s only about $10) in Lhasa!, as not sure my superglue repaired one will hold on the rough roads ahead.
Got back to the hotel to find my washing waiting but was a bit concerned to see the hand written total on the bill came to ¥11432 (nz$2,281.65)! After they added a missing decimal point it was an entirely reasonable ¥114.32 (nz$22.75). Nice to pack the bag full, and full it is with sleeping bag/therm-a-rest/mountain jacket also stuffed in, of nice clean dry slightly lemon scented clothes!
They had room rates listed in the hotel lobby, at us$100/night or more it wasn’t exactly cheap! The lobby had an ‘interesting’ diorama scene, a startled looking white Yak on a field of artificial grass. Also noticed they had aerosol cans of oxygen, considered sneaking a few into my cycle pack for a turbo boost on the passes!
The guides carried oxygen, and comprehensive medical supplies, sadly to be needed for real later in the trip.
Quote of the Day:
After comments regarding the scales in all our hotel rooms showing curious amount of weight loss (I was -3 kg) heard:
Bas, to Eric: "With what you eat how have you lost weight?”
Eric: “I shit a lot!"
Turned out by the time I got home I was really was 4 kg lighter than when I left (68 kg down to 64!) so maybe those scales weren’t wrong! When I started training for this trip I weighed 72 kg!