April 19, 2018. Lhasa

We begin our discovery.  If you have any knowledge of Tibet, then your most visual cue is the Potala Palace.  Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site which is leased from China and acts primarily as a museum for Tibetan culture.  Resting on top of “Red Hill” overlooking Lhasa, it was first the site of the king in the mid-seventh century.  It actually was the 5th Dalai Lama who decided to move the seat of his Gelugpa government to this site and work began on the White Palace in 1645.  It was completed in 3 years with 9 stories.  The accompanying Red Palace was not completed for 12 more years and the 5th Dali Lama’s death was concealed until it was completed and he was buried there.

Since construction the Potala has been the home of each of the successive Dali Lamas.  The opening of the Norbulingka summer place in the late 18th century, changed the Potala’s occupancy to only a winter residence.  It was the seat of the Tibetan government as well as its religious functions – self contained.

It suffered both in the 1959 uprising and the Cultural Revolution although Zhou Enlai, the Chines premier, is said to have protected it during the Revolution.  It reopened in 1980 and completed with US $4 Million in 1995.

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It is 13 stories, housing 1000 rooms, numerous chapels, and tombs of previous Dali Lamas. Since the public opening of the Potala,  areas have been systematically shut down for repair and/or safety reasons.  There are about 20 rooms currently open for viewing.  The monks are given a stipend to watch over the building, there is a fire division on-site, and the police.

We had tickets for a 10:40 but spent over an hour in line following our appointed time.  Many pilgrims, country people, Chinese visitors and other foreigners were waiting.  The upper levels of the building have some very narrow passages and with the number of people moving through the darkened halls it is a challenge for navigation.  Still it is amazing to see the sheer wealth in the number of statutes, holy elements, clothing, and written teachings used by the monks for study, chanting, etc.

Leaving the grounds, we moved on to the Sera Monastery, founded in 1419. It originally consisted of an Assembly Hall, 3 colleges and 33 houses.  At its peak, 5000 monks were in residence here, now several hundred remain.  It is thought to be the 2nd largest monastery in Tibet, although in much disrepair.

We had lunch in the monk’s cafeteria and then walked its grounds.

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The monks regularly practice their learning in a form of open debate on the monastery grounds.  It is part drama with shouting and slapping of the hands and part serious digging for the appropriate questions for answers.

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April 18, 2018. Chengdu to Lhasa

The title says it all.  We spent the day at the airport waiting for our flight to Lhasa to depart.  We made it into Tibet around 4:30 PM  and it was a shock to our systems since we walked out at 12,500 ft elevation.  We took it easy and moved more slowly until we had a chance to acclimate.  We drove 90 minutes following the Kyi Chu River valley, a wide wash with water moving in channels along side of the road.  After our first road check point to review our Tibetan visas, we cross over the river into the main part of the city and our hotel.   Our room at the Shangri-la faces the eastern edge of the Potola Temple so we have a view morning and evening.

Dinner at the hotel was Chinese and surprisingly delicious.

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April 17, 2018. Dujiangyan Panda Valley

We start at 7:30 AM for an hour and one-half drive to the panda center.  As volunteers for the day,  we may have a more intimate view of the park and animals.

We are outfitted in a blue one-piece jumper with gloves. Lockers are provided for our personal stuff. Although we cant take pictures while working, our guide, Bruce, was there to capture all the exciting moments.

Our first job is to clean up the play yard of one giant panda- just like at home, cleaning up after our dogs. The giant pandas are solitary so they each have their own space. Then we clean the interior cages and replenish their bamboo ration

All this so that we have the opportunity to feed them carrots and specially made panda bars.

The park is built on a hill with the panda areas scattered on the hill side. Tour trolleys run up and down the hill taking groups of people to different areas for viewing. The morning is cool and quiet until the hoards of school children descend on the park. Although there are signs for quiet throughout the area, they screaming non-stop once the school buses arrive.

We spend the morning viewing all the giant panda play areas. By lunch time, the bears retreated into their shelters to get cooler.  Our lunch is in the park cafeteria with the staff, the visiting kids and other volunteers. The food was not fancy but tasty and plentiful- including ubiquitous watermelon.

In the afternoon, we view a movie on the history of the Center and its work in panda husbandry. There are 4 panda centers in the Sichuan area. Chengdu has a center dedicated to giant panda breeding.  Since it is in the city,  it is the most convenient for the majority of tourists to visit it. The Dujiangyan site is  a retreat for bears that will never be released back to the wild.  Here we see a number of bears that were born in international locations as Washington DC. The Chinese government requires that the pandas return back to China after 3 years.  The other 2 locations are used for scientific study and preparation for return to the wild.  Each one is more remote than the other and not set up for human interaction.

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There are red pandas that look like foxes or raccoons only red  and weigh significantly less than the giant ones.

We finished a few more clean up projects and participated in the 2 PM feeding of the giants before sharing in making a few panda bars (soy milk dried, beans, sugar).

Heading back to Chengdu, we stopped for a few minutes in the ancient town of Jiezi,although we did not have time to view the old Guangyan Buddhist Temple.

Traffic was  challenge so we went straight to dinner when we arrived in Chengdu.  Our meal was less spicy this evening.  We finished dinner and went to a Chinese Vaudeville show, Changing Faces, with puppetry, music, slight of hand mask changes, etc.  Trying to stay awake we drank lots of tea and ate sunflower seeds.

To bed.

 

 

 

 

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April 16, 2018 Chengdu, China

 

We arrived Chengdu on Monday after 14 plus hours. Since it was 5:30 AM we went to our hotel, The Temple House, to check in, catch a bite to eat and then explore the area on our own.

The Temple House, part of a group of hotels one of which we stayed in previously in Hong Kong, is a Qing dynastic era fusion of old and new.

Situated adjacent to a high-end shopping area, we strolled around to find Starbucks that we knew would be close by.

But first a picture at the Nike store and a peek at the Apple digs.

In the rear area is the old Daci Temple with its attached tea house. Chengdu is known for its peaceful environment in which there are hundreds of tea houses and parks for relaxation any time of day. With retirement age of 50/55, the city has a heavy population of older people, often accompanied by grandchildren whose parents may be employed in other cities.

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Maui, Hawaii Feb 10-17, 2018

Our break away from winter was a week in Maui since we have only spent one day there in previous travels.  IMG_3518

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Aug 31 – Sept 1, 2017, Thur – Fri, Bronnoysund – Svolvaer

Source: Aug 31 – Sept 1, 2017, Thur – Fri, Bronnoysund – Svolvaer

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Aug 29-30, 2017, Tues-Wed, Floro – Rorvik

imageSome of the  Hurtigruten ships, such as ours, double as cruise lines and ferries along the Norwegian coast.  Throughout the day and night the ship stops to let travelers get on and off.  When there is enough time in port,  the cruise passengers escape for a few minutes or hours to stretch their land legs.  While we pass up Floro (2 AM), Maloy (4:15 AM), and Torvik (7:15 AM), we are awake when we dock in Alesund.   This town is distinguished by its renown Art Nouveau Architecture used when the city was rebuilt after its 1904 devastating fire.  It is a busy fishing port and entry point for reaching the Geirangerfjord by land.

Our afternoon was marked by the 10-mile ride into the Geirangerfjord, known as the Pearl of the fjords, with its pristine water and panoramic mountain views of water falls and houses tittering on the narrow banks at water’s edge.   This UNESCO World Hertitage site is breathtaking from every vantage point.   We return again to Alesund to pick up those who chose to bus over to the fjord.

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Wednesday,  we are motivated to get an early start since Jon is scheduled to take a local bike ride in Trondheim and I want to see the town.  Unfortunately, wires were crossed and Jon was left standing on the pier forgotten by his excursion leader.  Since Care had remained on the ship until his intended departure, she included him in her walk around the town.   Taking off, we had a misfire on our starting location and wound up back tracking to correct our course for the city center.

Trondheim, founded in 997 AD by Viking King Olar Tryggvason, it was Norway’s original capital and named “Nidaros”.  The River Nid wanders around the city with colorful wooden buildings sited on its banks and bridges for pedestrians and bikers adding to the intimate scale.  We explored the Nidarosdomen, a national shrine, built  over the burial place of St Olav,  a patron saint of Norway.  It supports a mixture of Norman, Romanesque and Gothic styles and is highlighted by the Chartres-like stained-glass rose window.   Following Munkegata, we walk through the heart of Tronheim passing several museums including the Museum of Applied Art, the royal residence – an old timber mansion completed in 1778 in Rococo with Baroque details, and the operating fish market.

Back on the ship, we complete our stops for today at Rorvik while fast asleep.

 

 

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