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September 18, 2005
At dawn and dusk, the square is even more crowded as pilgrims circumambulate the 20-minute circuit clockwise around Jokhang Temple. For a glimpse of real Tibet, walk past the narrow lanes in between the stalls and shops into the back alleys. Here, time seemed to stand still as locals go about their business. There are many smaller temples, shrines and even mosques to stumble across; quaint shared quarters of the locals sharing one central water pump in the courtyard, grocery shops, Tibetan tea houses where locals congregate to catch the latest drama or news on a small television, children playing outside their houses; a slice of real Tibet.
Admission Fee: None
Opening hours: Stalls open early but most close by 7pm.
How to get there: If you take a taxi, it would only allow you to alight at the side lane (after Youth street), from here, it is a leisurely 5-minute walk to the square.If you take the trishaw, it will bring you right to the square itself.
From journal Tibet: Almost Heaven or Hell?
September 16, 2005
Songtsen Gampo built this temple during his reign in the 7th century. Located in the heart of old Lhasa, the site of the Temple was once a lake. It houses one of the 2 rare Buddha statues Princess Wenchang had brought over from China, the latter credited for introducing Buddhism into Tibet. The temple was further expanded under the rule of the 5th Dalai Lama. Today, the temple houses other precious and sacred relics. This website explains more.
We visited the temple in the late morning. Walking across Barkhor square, we joined the pilgrims and other tourists making their way to the temple. The heavy scent of burning cypress by pilgrims to convey their prayers and wishes permeated the air. We were greeted with chaos as pilgrims performed prostration outside the gate and tourists jostled alongside to enter the temple. There were 2 queues, one for pilgrims and one for tourists with an official controlling who and how many enter at each time. While the line for tourists seemed to be moving smoothly, the same cannot be said for the pilgrims carrying heavy thermos flasks filled with yak oil and spinning hand held prayer wheels while chanting Buddhist scriptures.
The dimly lit temple was packed inside with guides competing to relate the history of the temple to the respective tourists, visitors shouting for each other in the dark and pilgrims chanting. We could hardly see or hear due to the crowd and the scent of butter oil and incense was overwhelming. I felt claustrophobic and left halfway in disgust, clearly the guides and visitors had little respect for this holy place.
I headed for the roof (as instructed by my guide) taking the stairs located just next to the ticket booth. There, the crowd has thinned out and I was able to explore the place at leisure. From the roof, we could see the Potala palace glimmering in the sun and in the immediate vicinity, Barkhor square with pilgrims slowly circling the temple while spinning hand held prayer wheels.
Admission Fee: 70RMB
Opening Hours: 9 to 4pm
How to get there: Take a taxi or trishaw to Barkhor square, follow the pilgrims from there.
by Heather F
Heywood, Victoria, Australia
December 19, 2000
From journal Mysterious tibet