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Duration :- 07 Nights / 08 Days
Drive to Kodari, the Nepal/Tibet border crossing point situated 114 km from Kathmandu. After going through customs and immigration formalities, trek for approximately two hours (8 km) to Zhangmu. After completion of immigration formalities, check in at Hotel Zhangmu for overnight stay.
Zhangmu (7,000 ft/2,134 m), better known by its Tibetan name of Khasa is a small settlement clinging to a hillside 10 km inland from the Frindship Bridge across the Bhote Kosi. After the closure of the Indo-Chinese route from Gangtok, Zhangmu has become the major trading route between Tibet and Nepal. The climate is quite different from the hinderland. The hills around Zhangmu are heavily wooded with innumerable waterfaulls in the summer and frozen icicles in the winter. Zhangmu has a bank, a post office, a government store and is presently undergoing a construction boom to meet the demands of increasing trade and tourism.
Day 02 : Drive 257 km from Zhangmu to Xegar
Shegar Dzong, literally the White Crystal Castle was traditionally the provincial capital for the wider area of Tingri. The governor lived in the castle on the summit of the steep hill that rises above the old Tibetan part of town. It has now become the Chinese administrative centre for this part of Tibet and is sometimes referred to as New Tingri. This is a new Chinese commune built at the foot of the ruins of Xegar Dzong and is 7 km from the main road. With a population of 3,000, its importance lies in the fact that it is the centre of this large and remote country and is also the base from where expditions to Mt Everest and other peaks are launched. Shegar Chode or monastery which lies at the base of a hill was founded in 1266 by a Sakya lama called Sindeu Rinchen. It was completely destroyed during the cultural revolution and only recently has construction work begun. Overnight Hotel Shegar.
Day 03 : Drive 245 km from Xegar to Xigatse
The route is over the Thong La (5220 mts) and the Cho La. Shigatse has long been the commercial and political centre of Tsang province. It stands near the confluence of the Yarlong Tsangpo and Nyangchu rivers and is one of Tibet's richest farming areas. Famous for the Tashihunpo monastery, this is the seat of the Panchen Lama, who is regarded as the reincarnation of the Buddha of Endless Enlightenment. Built in 1447 by the First Dalai Lama, the monastery houses the relics of Sakyamuni, the great Hall of Maitreya and a vast collection of thankas, frescoes and statues. There is a bustling 'free' market at the foot of the ruins of the Xigatse fortress where one can buy local handicrafts embedded with coral and turquoise, Tibetan daggers, Chinese porcelain and yak butter. Overnight Hotel Shigatse.
Day 04 : Drive 93 km from Xigatse to Gyantse
Gyantse is a small agricultural town on the eastern side of the province of Tsang, famous for its wool carpets. It is situated on the northern bank of the Nyang River which flows into the Brahmaputra at Shigatse. The Palkhor Chiode and the famous Kumbum monastery is situated amongst the ruins of the lamasery and the fort, this unique structure, built in 1414, consists of five storeys representing the five steps to enlightenment. It is topped by thirteen rings which symbolise the stages of advancement towards Buddhahood. There are 108 halls inside, each with frescoes and Buddha shrines, the frescoes showing a strong Indian influence. Before 1959, traders coming from Kalimpong and Gangtok in India used to enter Tibet through Yadong and then from Gyantse to Lhasa. Overnight at Hotel Gyantse.
Day 05 : Drive 359 km from Gyangtse to Lhasa.
The route is over the Karo La (5200 mts) 75 kms from Gyangtse. Continue along the barren windswept terrain to the beautiful Yumdrok Tso (Turquoise Lake). It is about 240 kms in circumference and is more like an inland sea. There are yak - herders around, and the lake itself supports a population of scaleless fish in its non saline waters. Cross the Khamba La (4900 mts) and drive to Lhasa. Situated at an altitude of 11,850 feet (3,613 m), Lhasa lies on the north bank of the Kyichu river in the province of U (Central Tibet). It was and still is the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet. It became a centre of national power when King Songtsen Gampo moved his capital there from the Yarlung Valley during the 6th century AD. After the assissination of King Langdarma in 842, Lhasa lost its political influence but later became the religious centre of Tibet. From the 17th century onwards it again became the seat of government until the Chinese occupation in 1951 which was followed by the final imposition of direct Chinese administration after the uprising in 1959.
Two high hills stand up in isolation from the valley floor. One, Red Hill, is topped by the Potala Palace and the other, Chokpori or Iron Hill, is crowned by a tall antenna. Lhasa consists of two distinct parts consisting of different architecture, population and lifestyle. Old Lhasa, the Tibeten section, centres around the Jokahnag Temple. Its streets are narrow, between whitewashed stone houses whose walls slope inwards as they rise. Windows are framed in black trapezoids with protruding fan shaped eaves above. Many houses have brightly painted woodwork. New Lhasa, the Chinese section, was built in the last 30 years aound the base of the Potala Palace. It is characterized by straight, broad streets and utilitarian buildings that house Chinesestyle department stores and all kinds of government houses.
Places of interest include the Potala, the 13-storey palace of the Dalai Lama with over 1,000 rooms; the legendary monasteries of Drepung and Sera; Norbulingka the summer palace of the Dalai Lama and the Jokhang, the holiest shrine of Tibet. The circular Barkhor Street with its innumerable shops and wayside peddlars intermingling with the devotees walking clockwise around the Jokhang enfuses the magic and experience of Tibet. Overnight Hotel Holiday Inn.
Day 06 : In Lhasa
The Jokhang is without doubt the most sacred temple in Tibet. It was established in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo in order to house the image of Akshobhya Buddha offered to him by his Nepalese wife, Trisun (Bhrkuti). At this time it was called the Truinnang temple. Only later, when the Jowo Sakyamuni statue given to the king by Wen Cheng, his Chinese wife, was moved here from the Ramoche Temple, was it given its present name Jokhang, the shrine of the Jowo. The Akshobhya statue changed places with the Jowo and was installed in the Ramoche.
Legend says that Songtsen Gampo threw his ring into the air, promising to build a temple wherever it landed. The ring fell into a lake and struck a rock where a white stupa miraculously appeared under the Jokhang's main courtyard. From morning to night an astounding display of chanting, prostrating pilgrims revolve around the Barkhor Bazaar and the Jokhang. Hundreds of faces, dialects, ornaments, clothes and colours swirl round in a gigantic whirlpool of religious fervour. Since its founding, the Jokhang has been considerably enlarged and embellished, in particular during the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Some of the worn wooden carving around the doorways to the chapels, on the capitals of several pillars and on the ends of some beams may date back to the 7th century, but apart from the Jowo itself, very few statues are that old. Most of the images are modern, remade to replace those destroyed during the cultural revolution.
In the afternoon visit Drepung which lies 8 kms west of Lhasa on a main road, then three kms north on a steep, unpaved road at the foot of a mountain with fine views across the Lhasa valley. It literally means rice-heap, a name that well describes the first visual impression one receives of the monastery when approaching it from the main road below. But this aptly descriptive name is the Tibetan translation of Dhanyakataka, the Sanskrit name of the magnificent stupa in South India where the Buddha is said to have taught the Kalachakra tantra. This Gelukpa monastery, was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Choje Tashi Pelden, adisciple of Tsong Khapa. It housed over 7000 monks and could well claim to have been the largest monastery in the world.
It soon became a major centre of Gelukpa religious power, as evidenced by the fact that the Second, Third and Fourth Dalai Lamas lived and were entombed here. The Fifth Dalai Lama ruled from here until the Potala was finished. The monastery was particularly renowned for its scholastic learning. It produced many great lamas including Jamyang Zhepa, the founder of Labrang monastery in Amdo. The Gomang College of Drepung was the main place to which monks coming from Mongolia to Tibet to be trained would go. Of all the Gelukpa monasteries around Lhasa, Drepung suffered least during the cultural revolution. although several buildings at the rear of the complex were destroyed, the main colleges and assembly hall were left fairly intact. Since 1982 over 400 monks have joined the monastery, most of them young men, and an attempt is now being made to begin thecourses of study again.
Visit the Ganden Palace built by the Second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso. It was the homeof the Third, Fourth and Fifth Dalai Lamas, and was where the sunsequent Dalai Lamas and their entourage of monks would stay when they visited Drepung. Various paths lead up from the road past store rooms and monk's quarters. Above these quarters are large Dukhang (assembly halls) with courtyards in front. I the Great Sutra Chanting Hall is a white conch with a counter-clockwise spiral, believed to have been discovered by Tsong Khapa, and agold statue of Buddha. A Vajra statue in the Ngabazhacang temple has the remains of the great translator Duojita.
Overnight Hotel Holiday Inn.
Day 07 : In Lhasa
In the morning visit the The Potala Palace, perched high above Lhasa on the Marpori (red mountain), is a place of spiritual pilgrimage and a mammoth tribute to Tibetan architectural skills. It is named afetr Mt.Potala in South India, dervived from the Sanskrit Boadala meaning Buddha's Mountain. It is one of the holy mountains of the Hindu god Shiva. The Buddhists, however, dedicated this mountain to Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattava of compassion, and gave the name Potala. Built of wood, earth and stone, the Potala has 13 storeys rising over 117 metres high. The whole structure is a maze of rooms, over 1000 of them, with 10,000 shrines and some 200,000 statues. The storeys are not continuous and access to particular halls may be hidden behind pillars. The walls, varying in thickness between two and five metres were strenghtened against earthquakes by pouring in molten copper. No steel frame was used, and no nails were used in the woodwork.
In the 7th century King Songtsen Gampo first built a small meditation pavilion on this site, followed later by a palace. During the 9th century these buildings were destroyed after lightning set them on fire. On the orders of the 5th Dalai Lama construction was started in 1645, but he died before the Red Palace was started. Seen from the front, the Poatla consists of the Red Palace in the centre, flanked on both sides by the White palace which was completed in 1653, and construction on the Red Palace started in 1690 and was completed in 1694.
The Potala has served as the home of successive Dalai Lamas and their monastic staff from the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama to that of the present Dalai Lama, the Fourteenth. The Dalai Lamas lived and worked in the Red Palace, the central structure that rises out of the mass of the surrounding White Palace. In the Dalai Lama's Quarters, the Official Reception Hall is theonly room on the roof level that is permanently open. A set of the Dalai Lama's private quarters are also open to tourists.
On the way back to the hotel visit the Norbulingka, the "jewel park", a large open area about four kilometres to the west of Lhasa. It is sometimes referred to as the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama because since the time of the Eighth Dalai Lama, the park has been used as a summer residence, retreat and recreation area for the successive Dalai Lamas. Most of the main buildings were constructed during this century by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dalai Lamas. It was from here that the present Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet in March 1959. The palaces suffered considerable damage from Chinese artillery fire during the popular uprising that followed his departure.
The New Summer Palace (Tagtu Migyur Potrang) was built as the official summer residence of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. It was completed in 1956. An ornate and opulent building, it contains examples of exquisite Tibetan craftsmanship, several very ols images, and a number of incongruous twentieth century objects imported from the west. All the rooms on the first floor are open to the public. These include the main throne hall, an audience hall, the Dalai Lama's private apartment and his mother's apartment.
In the afternoon visit Sera monastery. Sera monastery lies about 5 kms to the north of Lhasa along the base of the mountains at the edge of the valley. It is one of the three great Gelukpa monasteries near Lhasa, the other two being Drepung and Ganden. Sera monastery was built by a leading disciple of Tsong Khapa, Shakya Yeshe in 1419, the year of his teacher's death. It was built below a small hermitage where Tsong Khapa had spent several years in retreat both meditating on and writing commentarieson the Buddhist scriptures.
Sera means "hail" - a name said to derive from the fact that Sera was in continual competition with Drepung (which means "rice-heap"). The hail of Sera scattered the rice of Drepung. At one time it was fmous for its fighting monks who spent years prefecting the martial arts. Until the Chinese occupation it served, like its two sister monasteries, as a centre of learning and monastic training to which monks from all corners of Tibet would come to spend as long as fifteen to twenty years methodically studying and debating the meaning of the Buddhist scriptures. Thus for centuries it existed as a small monastic township housing over five thousand fully ordained monks, novices, workers and other functionaries. Like all other Tibetan monasteries of similar size Sera is divided into colleges dratsang and houses khangtsen. The colleges are the main units of the monastery, distinguished from each other by the kind of studies the monks follow there. There are four main temples with numerous chapels dedicated to Tsong Khapa, Sakyamuni, Dharmapada, Amitabha, Yamantaka and other deities. One of the temples, constructed with 108 pillars has an imposing statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Overnight Hotel Holiday Inn.
Day 08 : Departure Lhasa
Transfer to the Gonggar airport situated 96 kms away from Lhasa. It is a spectacular one and a half hour drive along the banks of the Brahmaputra, past a large rock - sculpture of Buddha and through Tibetan villages. Boad the China Southwest Airlines flight to Kathmandu.