I know that Lhasa is a spiritual center. I have only been a tourist – albeit an official one. You cannot visit Lhasa without a permit. When I asked why, they said: “well, you know….” I think it was because Lhasa is a spiritual center. But for me, it was a short collection of images and textures that somehow portray Tibet spirituality to me.
Above all, it is the temples and monks and prayer wheels.
And also the pilgrims and rituals. In the center of Lhasa, there is a square where the faithful buy some herbs and burn them. My eyes and nose burn too.
Many carry portable prayer wheels. There’s sometimes a spot to “park” it when you want to eat.
And the food was delicious. Dumplings of course.
I had arrived by train from Shanghai – 48 hours in a sleeper cabin. So I treated myself to the best hotel in Lhasa – the St. Regis – with a view to the Potala Palace. Beautiful art throughout. Tempting pool and gardens. Supplemental air tanks if you found the mountain air too thin.
Of course, the Tibetans want you to spend money there and the downtown shopping street offers enticements. IF there had been room in my luggage, I would have bought the car seat covers for my Jeep in Oman!
But the side streets are every bit as interesting.
I wasn’t surprised to find Western influences – standard world-class coffee, standard world-class touring Land Cruisers, standard mobile phones and selfie-takers.
As always, the people are fascinating. Open and friendly to me. “Where are you from? Are you alone? How old are you?” Canada – yes- how old do you think I am?
But I have to say, it was the fine textures and details that I appreciated the most: old stone, carved doorways, plush carpets. The vivid royal reds and marigolds.
For me, they are the spiritual texture of Tibet – at least in Lhasa.