Suitcase and World: Tibet. Gyantse.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tibet. Gyantse.

Welcome to Gyantse, Tibet, China! Gyantse is the third largest city in Tibet and was our first destination after Lhasa. We arrived the night before - after a long 10 hour ride.

The main tourist attraction in Gyantse is the monastery and its Kumbum. I'm standing in front of the Kumbum in the photo above.

Gyantse Monastery - complex of brown buildings on the right; Gyantse Kumbum (white building on left).

By the time we got to Gyantse, we were all pretty much reaching overload on visiting monasteries and so none of us were really too keen on touring the monastery along with the local Tibetans who flock to this place to pay their respects.

However, the Kumbum was something we had not encounter so exploring it was interesting.....for the first few minutes. If you could look down on the Kumbum from above, you would essentially see a mandala or more simply put, a tiered, multipointed star where the upper tiers are smaller in size than the lower tiers. Each tier houses a number of chapels. If I remember correctly, there are about 6 (?) tiers and a total of about 70 chapels. Each chapel is very small and is devoted to a particular deity. Th chapels on the ground level tier were all dedicated to protector deities - a particularly fierce looking set of deities. After a few chapels, you get the idea and quickly move on. As with walking a kora, walking the tiers was accomplished in a clockwise direction.

To get from one tier to another, you had to climb either a steep, narrow set of stone steps or a crickety ladder. The "stairwells" are lit only by the wee bit of sunlight that peeks in through a narrow doorway so you had to really be careful climbing up and down the stairs to avoid slipping and falling.

By the time I hit the third tier, I had completely lost interest in seeing the chapels and focused my sights on the architecture of the Kumbum itself and its surroundings. There were great views of Gyantse from the upper tiers.

Looking up at the eaves of the Kumbum. The ibrant colors and designs caught my eye.

Standing on the very top tier and looking up, you see the eyes of Buddha looking down at you.

A view of Gyantse with the Tibetan plateau beyond.

A view of downtown Gyantse. The trees demarcate the "main drag".

Looking up at the surrounding hills you see the walls of the dzong or fortress that surrounds the monastery and Kumbum.

A short while after we entered the grounds of the monastery and Kumbum, we left. We then did what I love best - wander the streets! Here are a few of the photos from the walk.

Tibetan kids are not shy! One little girl decided to give Jo a big hug while her friend gave her headphones to Bec to fix. Apparently, sound was only coming out of one earphone and I guess she figured that Bec would know how to solve the problem!

Running parallel to the main street was a neighborhood street which we decided to stroll down.

Horse or donkey drawn carts are a common form of transportation for Tibetans.
With rare exception, we saw either cows or calves "parked" outside each home. They didn't look like dairy cows to me so I'm not sure what purpose they served.

Animal dung is commonly used for fuel. Tibetans will collect throughout the year to ensure a constant supply - especially for heating homes during the cold harsh winters. The pile/wall you see behind me in the photo below is dried or drying dung.
.....and if you can't build a wall of dung, just pile it up on the overhang above your front door!

As I noted above, Tibetan kids are NOT shy. The little boy in the orange jacket literally latched on to Claire's handbag and wouldn't let go until she gave him something which turned out to be a pen.
Then his playmate decided to try the same approach with Margaret and if I remember correctly, she too ended up with a pen.
I think credit for the idea goes to Bec but she took all the free toiletries from her hotel bathroom and gave them out to the children who seemed to be happy to be getting a "gift" even though I don't think that they had any idea what they were getting! From that point onwards, we all followed Bec's lead and armed ourselves with the free handouts to give out to the needy kids.

After our walk through the neighborhood streets, we headed for a local restaurant for lunch. After that, we stocked up on munchies and water, piled back into the LandCruisers and headed down the road for Shigatse.