Its about 4pm here and we're driving along by the Bhramaputra river after coming back from the Samye monastery. I haven't been able to blog so far because I haven't been able to find the right words, but here we are after a fantastic day and I thought I would tell u about the perfect scenery and the wonderful monastery. If you look up Samye monastery I'm sure you'll find lots about its significance that I can't write here as a refuge and also as the oldest monastery in Tibet. A lot of the original building remains including a huge mural depicting Padmabhamsava (Guru Rinpoche) when he brought Buddhism to Tibet. To get to the monastery you have to cross the Bhramaputra on these little wooden boats with a dodgy petrol engine. When we arrived one of the skippers was emptying the water out of the boat with a pot. It was very encouraging. The river is quite shallow, full of sandbanks and currents. The skipper let me take the tiller and drive the boat most of the way there. We tried to race the other boat, and in the end we won (thanks to my wonderful navigation - honest! The skipper was on his mobile phone not paying the slightest bit of attention to me or the direction of the boat!)
Its very dry here, we woke to snow of the tops of the hills (mountains as they're higher than anything in Europe I can assure u). The ground is sandy dust which gets everywhere, some of this area looks like desert its so arid, there are patches of just sand. This morning it was quite chilly so I got to wear my warm jacket for the first time on this trip (thanks Mum!) And getting on that boat to cross to Samye was such a joy. After a bumpy shuttle the other side and saying bye to my new skipper friend we got to Samye in time to hear the monks chanting their prayers. I was totally transfixed. It was the first time I'd seen it in Tibet, and it is totally awesome.
I forgot to mention on my way in I bought a caddy of hot butter to top up the butter lamps on my way round the monastery. I love monks with big grins, and one of the monks let me past the cordon in front of the gold statue of Shakyamuni Buddha to top up the lamps there. Everything has an amazing smell in the temple. Some find the soot coming off the butter lamps a bit overwhelming but I love it all. We went to the room of 1000 Padmasanbava, then the room of 1000 Amitayus (Buddha of longevity) then up to the Tara temple at the top covered in 1000 of the 21 Tara but it was shut - the top levels were worst damaged. In another room there were a lot of old artefacts saved from destruction, and in yet another room a bed where HHDL slept with a 1000 year old painting of what Samye once looked like. After finishing off my canister of hot butter and chatting to some pilgrims including a Khampa man with 3 wives we went to have lunch (noodles and veg as don't fancy yak much and still going veggie) then I ran back to the temple to do a kora and spin all the prayer wheels.
We got the boat back and now we're heading off to Lhasa! Soon I will see the great Potala palace! Can't wait! Although everything here is sad and happy too. Wide roads, sign posts, "China life" "China mobile" "air china" ads along the a road. I guess ill stop now and write more later.
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