My tour of Tibet started in Lhasa which has an elevation of 12,140 feet and it was all up from there. Arriving by train proved to be a good idea as those who flew in suffered far more with altitude sickness than those of us who came by train. I was so surprised there was no snow – I expected lots of snow, but it is a very dry climate – so no snow. Travel in Tibet is closely monitored. I needed a visa and three copies of my permit. They were checked endlessly, and they would always check all three copies – they were COPIES – all identical. I had wanted to arrive a couple of days early to acclimatise but I would have had to hire a guide for those days. All eleven people on our tour were very experienced travellers so it was a perfect group. Day one started with a visit to Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama and 1000 monks. Our bus parked in the back and there was a huge crowd exercising. It was just like our line dancing – and all ages were taking part. We were all encouraged to join in, but we saved our energy to climb the + 600 steps to the top. Here we saw the first Koras – religious circling. Faithfull walk circles around sacred sites reciting their prayer beads, or spinning their prayer wheels.
At our next stop, Jokhang Temple, we saw pilgrims doing prostrations, very interesting. Our guide told us his Mother had done over 1300 prostrations in one day. This involves standing and putting your hands over your head, then kneeling down, then laying flat and extending your arms over your head, getting up and doing it all again. The next day we visited Sera Monastery to watch the famous debates. Half of the monks are seated on the ground, and the other half challenge them with questions, accompanied by loud, straight arm, hand clapping. Before the Revolution in 1959 there were over 6000 monks there. It is also famous for its sand mandala (sand art). We also visited Drepung Monastery. Next stop – Mount Everest!!