Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lhasa in June

Last week I returned from the still-esoteric, long-sought-after travel destination of Lhasa, Tibet. One hundred years ago, Lhasa was near impossible to enter because it was a fiercely closed kingdom. Many of the great explorers never made it, with a good example being the Cossack Nikolai Przhevalsky, who tried and failed three times to penetrate as far as Lhasa.

These days, however, it is difficult for outsiders to reach Lhasa and even harder to travel in other regions of Tibet province due to the restrictions of the Chinese central government. Guides are required, a private vehicle must be paid for, and a detailed travel itinerary must be submitted, among other restrictions. The good news is that with a little time and patience (and money!) it is well within the realm of the possible to visit Lhasa.

Here are a few shots of Lhasa in the early morning.

A few dozen of the thousand rooms in the Potala Palace.

The wall paintings in the Potala may be the best preserved in Lhasa. This is one of the guardian kings, looking less fierce than usual.

The Potala Palace is an essential stop for Chinese tourists, and the smaller contingent of non-Chinese tourists. Scenes like this are the norm. There is also a one hour maximum tour time allowance for guides (though clever guides can maneuver around this problem!).

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