September 18, 2005
Both the temple and the Kumbum were dimly lit. Outside was another cold and wet morning. We took refuge in the main temple and observed in reverent silence, a monk performing his morning prayer punctuated by the deafening sound of the drum. The temple dates back to the 15th century and had survived intact through the years. We could barely make out the murals in the dark and wished we had brought flashlights with us. At times, we had to feel our way around blindly as we toured the chapels.
At the Kumbum, an ugly scene ensued between the monk guarding the entrance and our guide. He had wanted to search our bags for cameras and charge us for each camera found, whether we would or would not use them. Though shaken, it made us wary. Inside the Kumbum was even more dimly lit. Fortunately, there were not many tourists and pilgrims at that time. We made our way slowly to the topmost floor via the steep and narrow stairs, bypassing most of the chapels, feeling our way with our hands and feet almost like a blind person. The view from the uppermost floor was worth every bump in the head and the weather cooperated finally. Before us, the old town of Gyantse stood as if in a time warp, circling to the back, the fortress wall built in the 13th century to keep invaders and, later, the British from entering Gyantse loomed over the temple complex. Rounding back to the front, the Gyantse Dzong, the main fortress stood proudly atop a hill overlooking the town.
We stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Gyantse. Despite the rain, the streets were beginning to come alive with souvenir shops setting up shop outside the temple. Further down, sundry shops, and restaurants were already opened for business; farmers were toting their produce on donkey-pulled carts to the wet market and the odd cow minding its own business.
Admission Fee: 40RMB
Opening Hours: 9am-1pm and 3-6pm
From journal Tibet: Almost Heaven or Hell?