Pat & Teresa in Tibet 天路之旅


Pat & Teresa traveled to 西藏 Tibet with their Travel Buddies

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
Their first stop was in 青海西寧 Xining, Qinghai, China where they spent two days
acclimatizing in the nearby 青海 Qinghai Lake which is the largest saltwater lake
in China and is 3,000m (9,800 feet) above sea level.

A member of the group who walked a little too fast had experienced shortness
of breath, headache, and nausea common to high elevation sickness. The person
had since recovered but needed to be careful with high altitude on this trip.

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
The next day they boarded the newly opened 青藏鐵路 Qinghai-Tibet Railway
on a 2,000km (1,215 miles) train journey to 西藏拉薩 Lhasa, Tibet

Photo courtesy of 譚祎波-沿着青藏鐵路去旅行
Many books have been written about the challenges and accomplishments
in the building of this railroad which required tunnelling through many
mountains in high elevations and laying tracks on permafrost.

The construction first started in 1958 and completed in 2006.

It was the first railroad connecting Qinghai with Tibet
and was known as 天路 Tianlu (Road to Heaven)

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong
青海 Qinghai province is the headwaters for three major rivers in Asia:
長江 Yangtze River, 黃河 Yellow River and 瀾滄江 Mekong River.

The train crossed over 沱沱河 at elevation 4,547m, the headwaters of 通天河,
金沙江, and 長江 Yangtze River before draining into the Pacific 3,915 miles away.

The 青藏鐵路 Qinghai-Tibet Railroad
connected 30 stations in Qinghai and Tibet.
The Lhasa train stopped at three stations

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
The train continued to climb to the highest point 唐古拉站 Tanggula Pass at 5,068m
(16,627ft) before descending to 西藏拉薩 Lhasa, Tibet province.   For Pat & Teresa,
it was the highest elevation they had ever reached in their lives while on ground.

Photo courtesy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 641AD Tang Dynasty, 文成公主 Princess Wencheng from China was married to King Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire. She traveled 2,000 miles from central China on foot on high terrain with a large group of servants, maids, tool makers, artists, and craftsmen. The dowry she brought included medications, fabrics, Buddhist Holy Books, food, gold, and seeds for planting.

Below is a video of the rough terrain and the harsh environments
where 文成公主 Princess Wencheng had to endure in her journey.

2007-10-17 Tibet 2 (Excerpted)
Music 青藏高原 by 李娜 Li Na
Video by Pat

Photo courtesy of Barry Eng
Today, travel to Tibet in an oxygenated, air conditioned,
and pressurized train in a dining car is a reality

After 22 hours, Pat & Teresa arrived 拉薩 Lhasa at night

They received a warm Tibetan welcome at the hotel and received Tibetan traditional ceremonial scarves known as khatas symbolizing purity, goodwill, compassion and sincerity of one's offering

They took pictures with a welcoming musician playing a Tibetan musical instrument

The next morning, they visited Lhasa 八廓街
Barkhor/Pargor Street, a popular place for pilgrims and locals

八廓街 had four large incense burners with incense burning constantly

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
The burners were there to please the gods protecting the 大昭寺 Jokhang at the center

Pilgrims were to walk in a clockwise direction around Jokhang Temple to bring them blessings

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
Pilgrims came to 大昭寺 Jokhang Temple to pray, the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism

They embarked on the most sublime journey of their lives ..

and performed prostrations for hundreds of miles

Families of several generations came together

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong

Photo courtesy of Ron Poon

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua

Tibetans consider 大昭寺 Jokhang as the most sacred and important temple in Tibet

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong
The oldest part of the temple was built in 652AD for Princess Wencheng
文成公主 who brought important Buddhist statues and images from China

This was the entrance to 大昭寺 Jokhang

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
Visitors and pilgrims lined up to enter 大昭寺 Jokhang

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
They were prohibited to take pictures or videos inside the temple, but ..

Photo courtesy By I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5,
This interior picture of 大昭寺 Jokhang was found on the Internet

Photo courtesy By User:Dr. Blofeld -,
Public Domain,
King Songtsen Gampo was the first king of a unified Tibet. When Princess Wencheng 文成公主 went to Tibet in 641 as the Chinese wife of the king, she brought an image of Sakyamuni Buddha as a young prince. King Songtsen Gampo then built the 大昭寺 Jokhang temple to deify the image which became the most-revered statue in the holiest shrine in Tibet.

Exterior architecture of 大昭寺 Jokhang

Photo courtesy of Kevin Chan
The golden roof

The golden roof

Photo courtesy of Kevin Chan
On top of 八廓街 Barkhor/Pargor Street next to 大昭寺 Jokhang

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
One mile away was the iconic 布達拉宮 Potala Palace

They traveled to the base of Potala Palace

to see the Red Palace and the White Palace

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
They walked closer to the base of Potala Palace ..

and prepared to climb 432 steps to the top

It was a fairly steep 400-foot ascent

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
The White Palace was for secular use. It had seven story containing the living quarters of successive Dalai Lamas and their tutors. It also had a Buddhist official seminary and a print room.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Chan
The courtyard and the entrance to the White Palace

Wall paintings in the palace

More wall paintings in the palace

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
The wall of Potala Palace was 9 feet thick while the wall at the base was 16 feet.
Molten copper was poured into the foundations to defend the building against earthquakes.

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
This was a bathroom used by the tourist on the ground level but it was
said there was a bathroom at the top with a drop of hundreds of feet

The backside of the Potala Palace where one could speculate
the whereabouts of the highest and the tallest bathroom

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
The backside of the Red Palace

Potala Palace is a museum and a World Heritage Site

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
The next day, Pat & Teresa went to 色拉寺 Sera Monastery in Lhasa

色拉寺 Sera Monastery was one of the six main monasteries
of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism

The monastery was first built in 1419 and was about 4 miles from the Potala Palace

The Sera Monastery not only had exquisite architecture, precious
cultural relics, and the most famous statue of Ma Tau Ming King

At the peak, the monastery had 8,000 monks

Photo courtesy of Chin Wong
One of the highlights of the Tibet visit was to experience a debate of
Buddhist knowledge in Sera Monastery between the monks who
would lash out and speak fiercely with exaggerated body gestures

They either high-fived and urged the other party to answer questions
as soon as possible, or pulled the prayer beads to enlist the help of
the power of the Buddha to come to defeat the opponent

Questions are asked and responded in Tibetan. The topics of debate
involved all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. The respondents who sat
on the ground must reply without thinking, refute or answer it.

Below were the actions ..

Debates in 色拉寺 Sera Monastery in Lhasa
Video by Pat

On their 3rd day in Tibet, Pat & Teresa traveled to 羊卓雍錯湖 Yamdrok
Lake, about 70 miles south of Lhasa where they reached their second
highest ground elevation at 15,689 feet, recorded by Pat's GPS.

羊卓雍錯湖 Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet
and is named after its turquoise color.  In the distance is the snow-capped
mountain 宁金抗沙峰 Noijin Kangsang at 23,642 feet.

Photo courtesy of Fook Wong
氂牛 Yak is a long-haired domesticated cattle found throughout the Himalayan region.
It has long shaggy hair with a dense woolly undercoat forming a long "skirt" that can
reach the ground to insulate them from the cold. There is some suggestion that yak
may be more closely related to bison and can weigh more than 1,000 lbs.

Without fear, Teresa jumped onto a yak and rode away

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
Pat got nervous and gave a "Giddy-Yak" chase in Indiana Jones style

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
While the two city slickers were yakking away, a 藏獒 Tibetan mastiff was watching. The dog, also known as the Himalayan mountain dog was a disciplined guardian dog which had the hardiness to survive the harsh Tibetan environments in the high-altitude Himalayan range.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Chan
After a 4-hour drive along 雅魯藏布江 Tsangpo Yarlung River,
Pat & Teresa arrived 雍布拉康 Yumbu Lakhang Palace.

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
According to legend, this was the first building and the palace
of the first Tibetan king built 2,100 years ago in Tibet

When 文成公主 Princess Wencheng traveled from China to Tibet to marry
King Songtsen Gampo, she stayed here with the Buddhist Holy Books she brought.

Photo courtesy of Joe Kua
The palace was small and had only three stories. It probably could house a dozen
people in today's standard. Butter lamps 酥油燈 were used for lighting and for meditation
which burned yak butter and produced a typical Tibetan scent common in most monasteries.

On the fourth day they took the flight out of Tibet.
Below is a recap of the trip.

Four Days in Tibet
Video by Pat Wong
Music "Seven Years in Tibet" composed by John Williams
Performed by Yo-Yo Ma