Sunday, September 19, 2010

18th September
9:30, after breakfast, I took my foot pump, filled in air and drove to a puncture shop with Bian Ba  hoping the air would stay till we reached. On reaching found the tyre was fine, we checked the pressure and gave it 10 minutes. Got some greasing cleaning done as we waited. Checked the tyre pressure…it was still the same… so it was some prankster who had let the air out! An unnecessary delay by an hour, but todays was a short ride only a 100 Kms.
First stop was the Shalu Monastery, built in 1027. It has an earthy Grey front hall with green glazed roof tiles. The interiors have incredible murals and racks and racks full of old manuscripts.
 Most of the architectural details even in the cities and villages that we passed as also the furniture are hand  painted with exquisite patterns, I wanted to see a workshop where such work was done, I was lucky as an extension to the monastery was being built and there were painters working on the façade. Some of the murals are still in good condition considering the monastery is a living institution with monks living, learning and carrying out daily rituals uninterrupted for the past 10 centuries.
The Next Stop was at Gyntse where we will spend the night. We checked in, had lunch and went to see another important Monastery the Palkor Monastery (20 minute walk from the hotel). On the way passed the monument to the people of Gyanste who were slaughtered by the British army in 1904 for gaining control of trade in Tibet. Behind it perched on a jagged hill of oblique sedimentary rock was the Gyantse Castle. The Palkor Monastery and a Stupa on the side (with 77 shrines), both had most exquisite paintings and wooden sculptures.
All the three Monasteries I have been to since yesterday are important places frequented daily by scores of worshipers and tourists, yet they seem unchanged from the time of their inception.  They have been restored, but have not been turned into marketplaces that sell religion or exotica.
In the evening the driver knocked on my room door and told me in sign language, the only way we could communicate; that the back tyre was once again flat. We took the bike to a mechanic just out side the hotel gate. After much effort he did find two tiny pin pricks, and fixed them. I am not very happy with the job, but hope it lasts.
One of the waiters of the place we went for dinner, a young chap, came up and started talking to me in pidgin Hindi, He had been in India ( near Bangalore) for 5 years (1995-2000). He Joined our table with a tray of glasses which he wiped as we spoke about the Dalai Lama and Hindi films. He got up and played songs from Hindi films. He told me how much he loved watching them as he struggled to keep up- humming the lyrics. I offered to send him a parcel of some Hindi films and took his address as I left.


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