What a day! Visited Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple today. Fantastic.
But I'm jumping the gun. Yesterday, after arrival in Lhasa, I had a headache and was a bit light headed. Christine (our tour escort who has done this trip 8 times previously) warned us that the effects of altitude sickness would be worse on the first night. She was right. Didn't get much (if any) sleep last night as my heart was pounding, my head ached, and I was going to the toilet frequently because of all the bottled water I've been drinking to try and avoid the affects of altitude sickness. Fortunately, at some stage in the early morning, the effects dissapeared. One of our fellow travellers wasn't so lucky, as the tour escort had to arrange a visit during the night by a local doctor as her symptons were so severe. After an injection and 3 hours of IV solution, she was fine this morning.
Left the hotel at 10:00am to drive to Potala Palace. Had to pass through a couple of xray scans by the chinese authorities to get into the site. Out group was booked in for 12:00pm to 1:00pm as the Chinese authorities set a strict time limit on tourists within the palace (wandering the grounds and climbing the steps are not included in the 1 hour time limit. Given the heat (Lhasa is very hot at the moment) and altitude, the climb to the entrance was slow going, and we were all struggling for breath. No photography is allowed within the palace, but it is an incredible place and well worth the effort. The size of the place is amazing, and the interior is incredible.
After the palace, we had a late lunch at a tibetan restaurant in the old town, before walking to the Jokhana Temple.This is also an incredible experience, and the views from the roof are amazing. Photography is allowed in the temple, with the exception of the Inner Temple. Although both the Potala Palace and the Jokhana Temple are open to the public, both are still used by monks, and extremely popular with pilgrims. The number of pilgrims making donations and prostrating themselves around both sites is amazing, and many people walk around the Potala Palace 3 time (clockwise) daily.
Had half an hour to walk around the shops and markets of the old town before heading straight to the Himalayan Hotel for dinner and a cultural show. We were not impressed at having to sit around for almost an hour before the meal was provided (Tibetan buffet), and the show didn't start until 7:00pm, but the show was definately worth it and our earlier complaints were forgotten. Only an hour, but the costumes, singing and dancing were incredible.
The only discocerting issue about Tibet and Lhasa is the large police and military presence. They are stationed on most street corners, and outside parks and attractions such as the Palace and the temple, and are even located on the roofs of some buildings. Photos of police and military are forbidden. Checkpoints exist throughout Tibet, and driving from the airport to Lhasa yesterday we had to stop at a checkpoint. Passports were needed to enter the Potala Palace.
Today was a highlight of the tour.