carte jour 12
Abstract= We visit the monasteries of Chitishö, Rame and Gongkar, cross the Brahmaputra river,take the road to Lhasa and visit Nyetang G before entering the Holy City.

Dranang . After having taken breakfast in our room, we have time to visit the inside of the monastery and see the very old XIth century paintings behind the altars. Happily, as Dzinchi and many others, it was used as military equipment storage and survived the Tibetan temple destruction by the Red Guards. On each side of the entrance a red stele informs the visitor that the monastery was restored with the help of the Chinese!!! We go back to the valley of Dranang up to the Brahmaputra and take again the road to Lhasa.

The next lateral valley contains several monasteries such as Chitishöl gompa. We follow the village, to the E of a valley.

The monastery path is announced by a chorten on the main road.

Some 300m further, an enclosure hides two temples.

We visit the Dukhang which is on the right entering the courtyard.

At the interior a relic protected by a single grid.

The second building opposite the entry is as large as the first, but the interior is completely empty.

Here too the Chineses have stopped any restoration. We continue on the road to Lhasa. The next stage is the Chinese prefecture of Gongkar. The Chineses, all over Tibet, have given to the new prefectures the names which were used formerly to indicate a fortress which was the "official" residence of the governor of the area. The old area was formerly held by the fort of Gongkar located 30 kilometers further.

By leaving the main road we travel on a rectilinear road in a north-westerly direction, which crosses the Tibetan city of Kyishong, then the Chinese city of Gongkar before finishing at the entry to the monastery of Rame gompa.

The original Dukhang was destroyed and the new one is still being restored. Great quantities of building materials are stored in the front courtyard. It belongs to the Sakyapas.

It contains behind the Dukhang a chapel with a large statue of Cakyamouni, the 4 Protective Buddhas of the Law as well as several statues of Sakya Pandhita and Songtsen gampo.

There are several small chapels and two large prayer wheels in the courtyard. We leave and take the main road again, pass the entry of Gongkar (Lhasa) Airport and continue towards the valley of Gongkar. We visit Gongkar chöde gompa.
The Dukhang is fairly large with approximately 36 pillars.

Inside, there was a very old chapel containing quantities of relics and a Buddha nearly 15m high. We embrace its feet and are blessed by the lama. The corridor which enclosed this chapel was narrow, rather dark, had a high ceiling and was covered with paintings as old as the building (15th century) which were half cleared. There were always many Tibetan pilgrims and this religious enthusiasm expressed around us influenced us a little more every day. Interestingly after we had finished the visit and I was taking pictures of the front, a European woman left the Dukhang and she rushed towards me exclaiming in English, "those people have nothing and they give all!". I answered her stupidly, "Yes, but they have a soul." We continue along the road westerly by going up the Brahmaputra River.

We pass the ruins of the old citadel of Gongkar which dominates the valley. Facing us lies the Chuwo Mountain which we circumvent from the N while going along the river. The old road crosses a pass at the S of the mountain. There is no visible trace of this one but at half way up the slope of the mountain there is a new monastery which seemed under construction (or finished). I am inclined to visit it but we do not find any trace of road or track, on our left, likely to take us to there. The place is a desert and without any dwellings.
After having circumvented Chuwo Mountain, we arrive at the new bridge which crosses the Brahmaputra at the junction with the Lhasa-Nepalese border Highway.
No trace of the old bridge nor of the old strengthened monastery of Chakpori which stood on southern bank of the Brahmaputra. We cross the river and pass several villages before arriving at the new Prefecture of Chuchur. The Chinese city is an avenue with 2 separate ways 300m long and on each side modern administrative buildings. The place is cold and looks completely uninhabited. We carry on our road to the village of Nyetang.

The monastery was on the road side with a small car park in front and thus could not be missed. The courtyard is full of flowers. There are chortens containing relics of Atisha and three chapels with many others relics protected in cabinets. Atisha was an Indian master who came to bring buddhists texts and fight the influance of shamans. He died there in 1024 when he was on the way back to India. This was the last monastery of the day.

We lunch along the river Kyi chu near a rock where Buddhas are engraved. These sculpures in relief were formerly very common in Tibet, in particular near the monasteries. They were destroyed by Chinese gunfire. If this one remains, it is for tourist reasons.

We arrive at nearly14h00 at Lhasa. The traffic becomes significant heavier as we are approaching the capital.

At the western entrance of the city I am surprised to discover that the municipality has rebuilt a reduced cement copy of the old chorten-gate!

After a brief halt at the foot of the Potala which Olivier sees for the first time, we continue directly towards the hotel.

We are pleased to discover our hotel is downtown, in the lane located between the Yak Hotel and the Barkhor. The rooms are very pleasant and decorated with Tibetan pieces of furniture. The personnel are Tibetan and the reception hold by Nepaleses. It is unhoped-for. We start by taking a short walk. Then, while Olivier tackles the laundry, I turn round the Barkhor and visit shortly the Jokhang.
The agency invites us for the evening. At 19h00, Tensing and Lobsang await us at the reception desk. They take us along to a Tibetan restaurant located at the foot of the Potala. I go into the kitchen to prepare a yak steak rare. In fact, I cut small pieces of meat which I throw in the yok, 3 minutes each side over a brisk fire. The middle is raw, the outside well roasted and they are delicious. My Tibetan friends seemed appreciative. After the restaurant, we attended a show of Tibetan dancing involving 5 or 6 dancers. There were also single singers who followed on stage and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The day had been full and we fell asleep without a problem.

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