Once again we apologize for not getting back sooner. We heard there was email in Tibet, but the cafe was not anywhere we would want to go. Full of young men and lots of smoke. Decided to wait until we arrived back in Chengdu. Just to let you know, we are all mixed up on what we did when, so if things don't make sense, just write it up to loss of brain function.
Left cruise ship at Fengdu. We were not able to cruise to Chongquing as planned because the river upstream was too shallow. This meant we had to travel by bus to Chongqing and then onto Chengdu. Took fourteen hours to get there. One hour off the bus for lunch, one hour to visit Dazu, a couple pee stops, leaving 12 hours on the bus riding. A very long day!! The stop at Dazu was nice. There are many stone Buddhist sculptures carved into the walls. The most famous one is the giant sleeping Buddha. By the way, May 1-7 is one of three national holidays in China. This means everywhere we go it is totally crowded with Chinese people on vacation. What an experience. We Americans are somewhat of an attraction ourselves. Sometimes the Chinese people will come up and ask to have their picture taken with you. One of our group members is Raj. He and his wife are from India orginally. He is a regular guy, (no turban) with dark skin and a grey beard. Anyway, the chinese really like him. He had at least 8 or 9 people approach him at the Great Wall for pictures and it continues most everywhere we go.
Along the way to Chengdu we saw such beautiful scenery! It would not be an exaggeration to say that every usable inch of soil is planted with some crop. The fields are laid out in rows with such precision. We saw people working in their fields clear up until dark. We know this because we were still on the bus way after dark. Arrived in Chengdu about 9:30 p.m. Our room in the Tibet Hotel is very luxurious. The best yet! Had a very late dinner and straight to bed.
This morning we had some spare time so we were taken to a local park. Lots of people because of the holiday. Once again we found ourselves the attraction. By the way, our guide told us the Chinese call all foreigners "Big Noses"! No mystery there.
Off to the airport to catch an afternoon flight to Lhasa, Tibet. Arrived about 3 p.m. and then a bus trip of 1 hour 45 minutes to the town. We all started to feel the altitude pretty quickly. Headaches and naseau. Lhasa is around 12,000 feet. Oh, what we would give for our coca tea that we had when we were in Cusco,Peru. No such luck, they don't offer anything but oxygen in case of severe problems. Had an early dinner and to bed.
This morning we toured the Potola Palace. The Potola was the residence of the successive Dalai Lamas and the local government Gadan Prodang. It is just magnificient. There were hundreds of steps to conquer (Ollie says thousands) and we did them all! Quite a feat when you can't breathe. Got lots of pictures outside of the Potola as well as pictures of the locals and some Monks. We were not allowed to take pictures inside. Lot of small rooms and statues. Lots of Tibetans praying, leaving money, yak butter, and oil,at each spot. Also lots of incense burning throughout. In each room there is a tub filled with yak butter and several candles burning in it. The Tibetans spoon a small amount of yak butter or oil into it as they pray for good luck. When you already don't feel well, the smells sure don't help. Our local guide was very through in explaining each and every aspect of each and every statue. This took a long time! Very interesting but we were very glad when this tour was over. We learned more than we will ever be able to remember about the Buddhist beliefs.
This day, Ollie came down to breakfast,ate very little, and retired back to our room. She gave it her all yesterday, and had no more energy and generally felt crappy. She was not alone, there were several others who bowed out of today's tour. I,however, trudged on. We went about 20 minutes drive to the Zhaibung Monastery. Very beautiful. Hundred more steps, lots of small rooms, etc. In this monastery you were allowed to take pictures, but you had to pay in each room if you wanted to take a picture in it. Some rooms charged 10 juan and in some rooms it was 20 juan, but there were lots and lots of rooms. ($1.00 U.S. = 8.20 juan) I bought a pack of postcards instead (20 juan). When we got back to the hotel, Ollie was still out of commission and even though I felt like crap, I went shopping with Raj and Uma (his wife). That night we were told we would have a short 10 minute walk to a restaurant for a special Tibetan dinner and traditional dancers. The walk took us weary travellers 20 minutes and it was raining. The food was not to our liking but the entertainment was outstanding. We did not get back to our rooms until 10:30 p.m.
After breakfast, Ollie and I went shopping for a while. Lisa, I bought the thangkas you wanted and also 2 prayer wheels. It seems nearly all the Tibetan people carry prayer wheels with them as they walk chanting while spinning the wheels in a clockwise motion.
Shana, I bought you a teapot. They said it was antique, but who knows. Anyway it's pretty. Ollie bought a round box made of yak bone with scrimshaw pictures all around it. Dad, I know you'll like seeing that. In the afternoon, Ollie rested while those of us still on our feet walked a short distance to yet another small monastery. More of the same and I found myself wishing I had opted to stay in our room.Later, in the early evening, Ollie and I joined some of our group on a walking tour around the outside of the Potola Palace. All around the oustside there are large prayer wheels that the Tibetans spin as they walk and chant. There were hundreds of these all along the way. Also along the way are lots of small tables set up with people selling everything imaginable. We were invited into a rug factory where we were shown all the steps in making handloomed silk rugs. using all natural vegatable dyes. We got to see ladies sitting at their looms singing as they worked. We didn't buy anything as everything was very expensive, but we did take lots of pictures.. Early to bed as we had a 7:30 flight back to Chengdu and our wonderful Tibet Hotel. We are sooo glad to be at a lower elevation. Like magic our headaches and nausea are gone!! Tomorrow we go to a Panda Research Center. We will get to learn all about giant pandas and see them up close as well. Then we are off to Xian in the afternoon. Terra Cotta Warriors here we come!
Love to All, Jean And Ollie. Kiss Lily for us!!