Day 12: Ramoche Temple

For breakfast we went to the same place as dinner last night.  I could claim that the magical view of Jokhang drew us back,  but really is was the menu’s promise of pancakes that did us in.  Honey pancakes, maybe?  Or apple?  Anyway, this battle was over last night when we saw it on the menu.  We didn’t have a chance.

We sat next to this beautiful little girl and her family.  She was entranced with Sam’s unique and confusing combination of her vaguely ethnic Chinese appearance and her western clothing and obviously foreign counterparts.  The girl really could not take her eyes off  Sam.  Affording me the opportunity to steal some surreptitious just-gonna-set-this-camera-on-the-table-with-the-telephoto-lens-pointed-at-your-face-don’t-mind-me candid shots.

She was eating with an elderly person about whom we debated for several minutes – it was amazing how gender-ly ambiguous this person was.  I think it was a man.  The old cowboy hat (s)he was wearing, the dusty clothing, the deep lines on his(?) face, all made me think of a Mexican vaquero out in the campo, and it made me realize that there is a lot about the ancient, crooked-backed women walking the streets and the loud, blur of happy schoolchildren the really remind me of Central America.


Dark Temple Corridors

We finally went to an actual touristy destination with our tour guide today.  Amazing that we’ve been paying her for two days and this is the first actual tour.  We went to Ramoche Temple.  Tsering told us it the second most important Buddhist temple after Jokhang, which we’ll see tomorrow.  But she didn’t really tell us anything else about it.  She may have instructed us to walk clockwise through the temple, always keeping the central Buddha to our right, but we already knew that.  I guess being on tour isn’t actually all that different than us just walking around.  Although I doubt we would have had the moxy to climb up to the second floor, through dark corridors, out onto the roof, and then up some rickety stairs onto a higher roof where Tsering took us.  So I suppose she was good for something after all, but the only thing we gained up there, other than a view, was walking through a precarious, muddy, construction area.  I’m not at all sure we were supposed to go up there in the first place.

Rooftop Construction

In the end, I used our altitudinous position to take a hip-shot of some Chinese soldiers on the ground.  Here is why this is blog-worthy news (as much as any of this self-indulgent rambling is blog-worthy news): it is strictly forbidden to take photographs of the Chinese military in Tibet.  Soldiers with automatic weaponry will scream at you and wave their arms wildly like they’re trying to kill gnats if you point a camera at them.  On rooftop corners strategically chosen for maximum visibility of the streets and open squares you will invariably spot a Coca-cola umbrella under which sit two soldiers.  These soldiers will spot you with their superhuman eagle vision from hundreds of meters away when you venture to take a picture of one of their comrades, and they will blow whistles and yell and get the attention of other soldiers and you will have a panicky clairvoyant flash-forward of yourself spending some time in a Chinese prison.  So it’s best to keep the camera pointed down.

But while on the roof of the temple, taking advantage of the conveniently large temple structure hiding me from the previously spotted corner guards, I fired wildly from my hip at a line of soldiers walking in an alley below, satisfying my desperate desire to capture the forbidden shot.  Eat that, Chinese government.

Decorations on the temple roof.

Tiny temple kitten.  This little guy looked like he was about twenty minutes and a rain shower away from death.  Cute, though.

Tsering on the temple roof.  Some sort of priceless, ancient Buddhist copper smelter or something, I’m sure, just laying willy nilly on the ground at her feet.

Temple Roof View

Twenty minutes later!  He made it!  But now he’s in a gutter, so that rain shower is looking doubly dangerous.  Still cute, though.

Quick-fix prayer wheel.  You can’t walk down the street here without seeing a person, usually about ninety years old, trudging along with one hand on a walking stick and the other on a prayer wheel.  The cylindrical part can spin around the base and there is a little weighted ball on a string attached to it.  So people walk around with prayer wheels of all sizes, some so large that they can be used as another walking stick, and rotate their hand to spin the ball and make the cylinder rotate.  Inside of it there is a little rolled up piece of paper with a Buddhist prayer written on it, and the theory is that every time it spins the prayer gets prayed.  Here, rather than buy a new one when their handle broke, a person cemented their wheel into a coke can.  Buddhism.  Open Happiness.

A market street near the temple.

Shoe shopping.  Ladies, maybe look for a little color in your footwear please?  You’re looking a little drab.

These are the school uniforms.  You can’t really tell here, but they wear little red bandanas around their necks.  It’s like tiny little extras from South Pacific running around.  There must have been a soldier somewhere within two hundred meters of this 180 degree field of vision, because as soon as I brought the camera down a soldier was in my face and telling Sam (people here assume she’s our tour guide – it’s kind of hilarious) that he needed to check my photos.  Rather than informing him of my intellectual property rights in the photos and getting into a whole academic debate on international conflicts of law, I clicked on the review function and showed him (an unprocessed version) of this shot of the little sailor boys (a gem of a capture, I might add.)  He seemed to want to see more, so I verrrrry sloooowly scrolled back to previous pictures, praying to Buddha that he would lose interest before we got to my hip shot of the soldiers in the alley.  Thank goodness I’ve been taking so many pictures today, because he stalked off before the shot came up.  Keep eating that, Chinese government!


1 Response to “Day 12: Ramoche Temple”

  1. March 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    The adventure continues! Thoroughly enjoyed the tale today. The pics are lovely as well, tho, I feel a bit worried about that adorable kitten? I hope it has a loving home?? Well, in my mind it DOES. When I was reading about your brazen photo taking of the Chinese army, I got worried for you! I hope the Chinese government doesn’t stumble upon your blog and make a stop at your door! 🙂

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