|Stolen from "Don't get Shanghai'ed", a great blog|
The Potala Palace is one of those places that pictures and postcards simply cannot capture. Like a mountain, its enormity can only be truly appreciated when one stands at its foot and gazes up at the maroon and white face. As one ascends the long staircase past the lower ranking monk quarters, the immense thickness of the walls becomes more apparent. And it hit me, this was not just a palace. This was a fortress.
|Under the fortress|
Finally we reached the Red Palace. I didn't know what to expect really, but I didn't have high hopes. I'd been to too many other castles and tombs around the world, and they almost always disappoint. The riches have been stolen by thieves or museums, and the insides usually feel faded, lifeless, and gutted. So when we stumbled into the first greeting hall, my jaw nearly hit the floor.
Walking through the rooms, the place oozed more atmosphere than Indiana Jones in a lost jungle temple. Everything about the Potala feels authentic, the old wooden beams, the stone floors worn from the uncountable steps of the monks, the natural dyes used in the paint, the black yak hair knitted into huge sun screens, the colorful old textiles hanging from the ceilings, the huge gilded gods and demons, a bit dingy from the years of incense, peering out from each corner.
It is almost too much to take in ... and in fact it is. Chinese wisdom has proclaimed that each tourist gets exactly 60 minutes to race through the entire length. So, in each fascinating hall and bedroom and tomb, we frantically tried to soak in the scene before being herded off to the next room.
|The unlucky 13th died in 1933|
I sat there and wondered about what his life had been like. A divine king, living in such isolation from the rest of the earth that it probably seemed Tibet was the world.
And then, I thought of the huge Chinese flag planted squarely on the roof just a few feet above.