13th June 2016
Our head of group tour operations, Jane, has dipped back into her tour leading days and is off leading our tour Across the Tibetan Steppe.
Reaching Lhasa has always been challenging. Back at the end of the 19th century many foreigners tried in vain to reach the fabled city but were thwarted by the inhospitable terrain, bitter winters, illness, and altitude. Ultimately if they reached anywhere near the city they were attacked by suspicious locals or turned away by officials. Many of the 'foreign devils' during the 'Great Game' era failed miserably to achieve their goal. It was the 'Britishers', under the leadership of Francis Younghusband who finally made it into the city in 1903.
Today’s visitors have a different set of challenges. A degree of patience and determination is required to overcome the Chinese bureaucracy and red tape in order to be granted the ability to enter the Tibetan autonomous region with a Tibetan permit in hand. Arrival in Lhasa, which sits majestically at 3650m altitude, can stop you in your tracks and slow the pace of any proposed sightseeing. However despite this Lhasa is a must see.
Climbing your way to the top of the Potala Palace, the crowning glory of the city, is a must. But for me the heart of the city lies in Barkhor square and the Jokhang temple. Hundreds of Tibetan travel huge distances to make a pilgrimage to Lhasa and pay their respects at the temple. Taking a kora or circuit around the temple with the Tibetan you can feel a sense of energy and power in the devotion of these people. Although the head of their Buddhist world, the beloved Dalai Lama has been exiled for over 50 years, his presence and leadership still remains firmly in their hearts and minds. The spirituality in this city cannot be destroyed by the ethnic flooding of the Han Chinese and the suppression of the Tibetan people to 2nd class citizens. It is both a privilege and an honour to be able to visit Lhasa - the ‘Land of the Gods'.