We start a little earlier for a day away from Lhasa and travel northeast along the Kyi Chu Valley to visit the Ganden Monastery. Founded in 1409, it was the first monastery of Gelugpa teachings by Tsongkhapa, and is the seat of this order. Of his students, one founded Sera Monastery and the other Drepung. The monastery has been a target of the Red Guards since 1959 when there were 2000 monks there. There has been rebuilding particularly for the police/government quarters. Another round of violent protests took place here in 1996 when the government banned Dalai Lama photos. The tomb of Tsongkhapa is in the red fortress structure. Besides the Sukyamuni chapel, there is a protector chapel of the deity Chogyel where women are not allowed to enter. Unusual for a Buddhist facility. The Assembly Hall houses a Golden Throne Room tomb for Tsongkhapa.
It is the amazing views of the valley that capture the site and beauty of the area. Yaks owned by the monastary are found throughout the grounds. We head down the mountain and reverse our direction on the opposite side of the Kyi Chu Valley on our way to the Drak Yerba caves. Our plan is to picnic beside the mountain stream coming down the valley as we head up to the cave. However, there has not been enough melting or rain yet and it is still shy of full spring blooms. So we head on up the mountain to site of the destroyed 11th century Kadampa monastary, situated below the dark caves and grottos on the cliffs. This sacred site is where Guru Rinpoche and Atisha, the Bengali Buddhist who spent 12 years proselytizing in Tibet visited. Hiking up was a challenge with rewards of great views at the top.
It is said that the prayer flags displayed on this pass demonstrate the enduring power of Buddhism and prayer in Tibet.
This evening we adventure out to a local dinner. Our first obstacle is that there are no taxis or alternative ride vehicles because of the traffic blocking the road in front of the hotel. We decide to try to catch a taxi going toward Barkhor area but we must walk several blocks and cross over the boulevard. This we do and manage to hail a cab. We give him directions to the Dunya Restaurant. When he pulls up to the spot we don’t see the restaurant so he kicks us out since we aren’t communicating well with him. We walk to the nearest main intersection where we think (Google says) is exists. However we fail to find it or any other restaurant in which we might like to dine. So failing after an hour, we try for a cab and settle for a rickshaw. We get half way down the first block and spy the restaurant. We jumped out, paid for the overpriced ride, and went in for dinner. A nice backpacker’s kitchen with nothing special. Returning to the hotel was easy to get a cab – it was following the Tibetan rush.