The city of Shangri-La has a lot more to offer than just its old town. Not only is the surrounding area beautiful, there is also a huge monastery. The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is actually in the city, you can easily go there by public transport. We of course had our driver from the Timeless Inn. The tickets you buy are not for the monastery but for the bus to go up. Walking up takes about 30 minutes. As good Western tourists we bought tickets and then left the bus after a third of the distance. The walk is definitely preferable to the crowded bus, plus it gives you the chance to view the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery from the lake (which was almost dried up when we were there).
It was an interesting time to arrive because the ‘living Buddha’ (the highest ranking monk of the monastery or the area or so) had died a couple of days ago, more precisely 9 days ago; because for ten days he would lay in state and then they burn him on the hill above the monastery.
Of course we walked up the hill above the Garden Sumtseling Monastery to get close to the action. While we were there everyone worked together to bring up the fire wood, drinks, and food or were painting the funeral pyre to make everything ready for the big day. It seemed more like a festival.
Within the monastery the monks were chanting and drumming but the room was so cold that I couldn’t stay inside for long. Naturally there were no pictures allowed inside. The monastery itself was a huge complex, not as big as the Potala, but still impressive.
After getting back down into the city we drove to a Tibetan village near a lake Napahai. This natural reserve area is beautiful at all times. In summer it is a lake filled by the melting water of the surrounding glacier while in the dry season it is a huge marshland. Luckily for us we saw that lake.
At a Tibetan village we stopped and had lunch cooked by a local family; we shared our meal only with Asso. He would show us again how to make Tsampa, which was still not interesting even though he added yak cheese and sugar. Mixed with butter tea, which tastes salty, it was overall a bland food. That is one experience that I don’t have to repeat. The rest of the lunch didn’t fare better. We had scrambled eggs with tomatoes, bacon fat without the bacon and cheese with sprinkled sugar on top. All of this could be washed down with butter tea, which didn’t small but tasted strongly of salt. Overall that was not my kind of meal. Why we didn’t get any of these nice little pigs that were running around, I am still wondering. Yours, Pollybert