Yesterday we had a full day of walking and checking out Lhasa. We started the morning visiting Potala Palace. As you enter Lhasa this huge palace captures your eye and stands prominently over the city. The sheer size is hard to express. The palace is literally a mountain with walls. For a bit of history, the initial palace is the red section in the center. Later the white palace was built around it. The red area is the religious palace and the white is for government use. The palace is also known as the Winter Palace and is where the past Dalai Lama’s tombs are held. We spent about 2 hours walking through and around it.
Daily hundreds of Tibetans walk (clockwise) around the palace and spin the hundreds of prayer wheels around the palace. While very touristy, the locals still out number the foreigners.
After a break for lunch we headed out of town for the Drepung Monastery. This place was much less touristy and was really cool. The Monastery is still in use and we had the great privilege to see a monk debate on our visit. The debates are a chance for the training monks to ask questions about their teachings and test their fellow classmates. We were not allowed to take pictures, so to paint you an image, it reminded me of images of the Socrates debates. Think of 20 to 30 people paired in twos taking turns asking life / spiritual questions. One of the coolest cultural things I have seen on the trip so far.