Day 15 part 2: The Road to Everest – Pelkhor Chode Monastery

More hours and minutes in the 4Runner, winding through the Himalayas, laden with the uncomfortable knowledge that when we get to Gyantse there could be another tour guide waiting for us.  And there aren’t any more seats in the car, so someone is going to have to go back to Lhasa.

But before we reached that apex of awkwardness, we made our final tourist stop of the day at Pelkhor Chode Monastery.

Flowers outside of the main monastery.

Pelkhor Chode is famous for its tall, tiered stupa structure, also called a Kumbum.  (And before I get any further, let me get this out of my system: hehehehhehehehehheeh…chode.  And thank you to Cody for this comment, the pinnacle of maturity: “Pelkhor Chode?  I’ll poke her chode.”  And finally, to eliminate any further comments, it’s pronounced Koomboom.)  The stupa has a main temple containing paintings of ten thousand buddhas (which we didn’t see), and hundreds of other, small temples.

Kumbum, Full View

Tier Detail.  Fantastic shade of blue, in my opinion.

Gotta love when the sun is low in the sky.

Stupa b/w abstract.  (Helpful caption.)

Before exploring the stupa temples, we spun around on our heels a couple of times.  It is so important for me to take a breath and spend the couple of minutes just looking around.  Especially when there is something spectacular like the Kumbum towering overhead with its hundreds of rooms, it is disastrously easy for me to put my head down and soldier through in the attempt to look at it all.  Look at, but not actually see.  So here is what we saw, just taking a moment to look around: monks draped in dark red fabric, gorgeous old brick walls, and an ancient fortress.

Peeking Hand

Boy howdy, do I love a nice decaying wall.

Sorry about the duplicate, but I really couldn’t decide which I like better – the contrast in the wall is awesome in the b/w, but I love the monochrome red.

*sigh* these walls… And charismatic monks.

Fantastic fortress just outside the city.  The Tibetan guide that I eavesdropped on was particularly proud that there are cannon balls fired from British cannons in 1904 that exploded through the walls that are still lying around in the fortress.

Each of the small temples in the stupa is really just a tiny room with a statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva or someone and murals painted on the walls; most have prayer scarfs and money left by tourists and pilgrims.  The wall paintings range from the informative and beautiful to the gruesome and gory.  At Drepung there was an entire black room devoted to paintings of sanguine scenes of disembowelment and other similar gore.  And there were demonic women with blood dripping from their nipples and other hanging um…sexual…er…parts.

Some sort of demon protector, I think.

I you look closely, you can see a four-armed guy, with someone below him eating his … hindness, and below that two monkeys catching what looks like the middle guy’s … waste … in a cup.  Making this what I have to assume is the original version of Two Girls One Cup.  And if you don’t know what any of this means, please don’t ask me to explain, because you really don’t want to know.

As we wandered around the monastery, we came upon a group of men working on the hillside behind the buildings.  They were all chanting and singing together, their voices rising and falling in magical harmony as the low sun shone on their backs.

Monastery Worker

I think this is the building the men were working on.

View from the top of the stupa.  This is Gyantse town at the foot of the hill.

Blue and orange.  My dream color combo.

View from the other side of the stupa.  Prayer flags at the crest of a mountain.

This little boy was very entertained by us as we left.  He pulled a lot of faces while we walked by.

Girl walking by a line of prayer wheels.

After a very long day we got to a hotel to find a replacement tour guide waiting.  And indeed our fears of an awkward confrontation were well-founded.  We ended up having an intervention-style meeting in James’ room, where we endured Tsering’s tears and anger and accusations of betrayal even though all we told the company we wanted was a partial refund, and even though we would have been totally warranted in demanding a new tour guide once we found out she was not certified.  The new guide seems pretty good and he speaks much better english, so I think it is a change for the better.  Also, he looks a lot like Lou Diamond Phillips.

Tsering pulled herself together and we went to dinner.  On the way we saw James coming back into the hotel with his arms full of buckets of noodles.  Since, obviously, his meal was taken care of, he declined to go to a restaurant.  This dinner had probably my favorite Tsering moment when she was talking about the tents that we would be staying in at Everest base camp and where people would be sleeping (on some benches or something…it sounds weird) but she didn’t say where James would be.  So I asked “What about James?”  And she said, laughing, “Oh!  I always forget The James!”  There is no love lost between them.

At dinner Tsering told me she thinks I look a lot like Indian superstar actor Salman Khan.  Obviously she is right.

Salman Khan



4 Responses to “Day 15 part 2: The Road to Everest – Pelkhor Chode Monastery”

  1. 1 Kristy
    April 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I think the only way I can tell you apart from Salman is he has the fancy earring. You should probably get one. and omg i can’t believe you went there with two girls one cup hahahahah

    • April 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

      you havent seen me in a while, but i feel like this would be a good time to tell you that i now have a fancy earring. in an effort to look more like salman khan.

      and of course i went there! it was a highlight of that stop!

  2. April 28, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Firstly….ewwwwwwwwwww…..I didn’t need to know what ‘2 girls 1 cup’ was . I only read a description and, again, ewwwwwwwww. Can’t believe all that disgusting depictions are in a temple!! Gross!

    Aside from that, the images that stand out the most to me are: the monk at the wall (and I agree, both options are wonderful – can’t decide), the monk in the window (amazing lighting and texture), the building with the blue sky and clouds, prayer flags peeking up over the mountain, and the litle girl running her hand along the the wall (precious!).

    • April 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

      while i am sorry to have exposed you in some way to that nasty bit of information, i did warn you. being there and seeing the weird paintings our reaction was “…interesting?” but remembering it now, and being removed from experience, i share your sentiment: “gross.”

      thanks for telling me your favorites shots – i like knowing that! i think the monk in the window is definitely a favorite. even though i love the monk in front of the wall, it was such a random, lucky image that somehow i give it less credit. i really had to work hard with the window monk to salvage the original photo and get something usable, so it means a little more to me.

      thanks tracy!

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