After lunch in a big roadside place called "Yu Long Friendship Store" where we had lunch in the restaurant and some people went shopping in the huge store where you could buy pretty much anything from various souvenirs and clothing to rugs.
Great Wall of China
We are informed that one of the group members, Vicki, has been denied her Tibet permit because of a technical difficulty. She takes it in stride, and opts for a group-of-one trip to the Kokonor, to visit the birthplaces of Tsongkhapa, the Dalai Lama and the previous Panchen Lama, as well as Qinghai Lake and Labrang Tashi Khyil. Thus her itinerary from here on follow a path less traveled. But she will rendezvous with us in a few weeks in Mongolia, where she entrances us with tales of her many adventures.
Flight to Tibet via Chengdu. Because there is only one time zone in China, Tibet remains on Beijing time. Thus one arrives rather late. But because it is five hours west, the sun remains high in the sky until late in the evening.
The drive from the airport to Tsetang follows the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo (aka Brahmaputra River) all the way, and offers magnificent vistas. On arrival we checked into the Yulung Hotel
We began the morning with a visit to the Yambhu Lagang, where we offered a smoke ritual and wind horses on the ridge behind the temple. This building originally was a castle, purportedly Tibet’s first, built sometime between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC. It was converted into a temple in the mid 7th century AD, when Emperor Songtsen Gampo – a predecessor of the soul who became the Dalai Lamas – made Buddhism the national religion of his newly established empire, and moved his capital from Tsetang to Lhasa. He was the 33rd king of Tibet’s Yarlung Dynasty; the Yambhu Lagang had been created by the first monarch in this dynasty. Some folks rode horses and yaks up the mountain to the temple.
Afternoon visit to the Dradruk Temple, one of the twelve inner circle temples built by Songtsen Gampo in the mid-7th century. (He built 108 throughout his empire, as a geomancy method of establishing harmony with nature. ) The town was engaged in a one week practice of the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra, so was filled with laypeople engaged in the practice. We had the pleasure of being allowed to sit for meditation in the Chapel of the Pearled Chenrezig, a tangka of Avalokiteshvara with thousands of pearls sewn into it.
Sunset visit to Sang Ngak Choling Nunnery (Secret Mantra Dharma Hermitage). We sat with the nuns, led by the abbot, and were offered yak butter tea. We made offerings to the nuns and requested a ritual for a safe pilgrimage.