(Post in progress! More to come!)
I awoke to the green mountain, the stars extinguished for the day. Sleep was peaceful, though I rolled over into the hard wooden back of the bed a few times. I must find where I can buy this Tibetan-style furniture, with its bright colors of predominant scarlet and gold; it would look great in my living room. Plus the ample seat is perfect for my preference of cross-legged sitting; the seating is deep and the couches are more like daybeds in their dual-functionality of couch and bed. Breakfast is cheese “baozhe” (sp?? pronounced bow-dzuh), my standard boiled “zhide” (sp? Prob.: jeedah-egg), a steamed bun, and some kind of hot milk tea (“cha”-tea), accompanied by the Tibetan cook’s lovely singing voice. I feel like she was blessing my meal. Within the steamed baozhu is some kind of local cheese; both sour and sweet simultaneously. Again, I am grateful for Google Translate for interpreting the menu and allowing me choice and knowledge. Also, I am grateful to my kiddos, with whom I eat breakfast a few days a week, and who taught me the putonghua for egg “zhide”, tomato “hong something” (“hong” means red), and fruit (that day’s fruit was a “piba”, never seen it before.
I ordered cafe’ afterward, and I don’t know what kind of cream was served, but OMG it was amazing; sweet and rich and served steaming hot! I poured the whole portion into my coffee!
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And because I veered from the common man’s route (allegorically and literally), I discovered horses, tea flowers, burial mounds, architecture, windows, doorways, buildings in-process, sacred Buddhist symbols layered into glass, farmers, women picking tea flowers and picnicking, builder’s scaffolds five stories high composed of both bamboo and metal, the top of the mountain getting closer, more contrasts, moments of stillness shared with flowers, and The Yellow Buddhist Brick Road! Twice I came upon two women sitting on a small grassed terrace along the ridge; first they invited me to join them and share their meal (I politely declined, just having finished lunch), and second offered to share the field of flowers with me, motioning that they were picking them for tea. They asked the question that seems to be standard on my travels: igo? Igo? “Are you alone?” So similar to the common Korean questions: “How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children? What does your husband do?” I wonder if the Chinese questions places you in the proper social strata, as the Korean questions are meant to do.
A bit over an hour-and-a-half later, I am nearing a plateau and see that the prayer-flag marked path continues on around the mountain for who-knows-how-long. I have been telling myself I would stop for an hour now, turn around, and head back down toward the temple. But each time I think this, I see something enticing ahead, though I am wishing I had brought that extra bottle of water now. Within a hundred yards of the hotel, I have shed a layer and both my hat and neck warmer. I am dripping in sweat as I reach the end of my hike, despite a temp of only mid-50s. Around lunchtime, I hear the temple gongs. If I had walked directly there, I might have been able to join for lunch. Yet during my Hike of Distractions (“squirrel!”), I find side paths calling to me. They lead to small terraces along the mountainside, perhaps grottos for meditation, resting spots, or a grassy space with absolutely no significance at all.
Let me tell you, the temple circumambulation was well worth it. When I step off the last part of the path, the temple is the sole star on stage; backlit by a mountain crowned in clouds! I keep seeing “the best sight ever” these past two days!
I FINALLY reached the temple around 1:30, having departed the hotel just past 11:30! Between hiking uphill and pausing for so much photogenic life, the few kilometers ran me 2 hours! I sojourned in the first temple I came upon, as the area seemed free of tourists, and thus, quiet. This was one of many sacred rooms (temples?) within the monastery grounds; some were used for storage, but no less well-kept or lovely, others were simply places to revere and worship life and the Buddha Within (god is not outside of you, nor do you need a male priest to send your message, YOU are god, and Life.) I removed my shoes as requested (and required) and first explored the small space; the lights were off, and much of the statuary was darkened, but still awe-inspiring. Satisfied, I sat down and meditated in the quiet space—quiet until some Chinese tourists came squawking, and continued squawking the whole time they did their bows and gave their offerings. I was happy when they twittered away elsewhere, and continued sitting. Their departure allowed me to go all Depeche Mode, and “enjoy the silence”. Becoming restless, I moved on to explore further, after taking multitudinous (one of my favorite words!) photos. It had begun to rain, so I took my time putting my shoes back on, then meandered under the multi-hued rafters, passing an ancient female monk, who gave me a piece of candy. Looking around nearby, she walked to me again to offer me a handful of nuts, which turned out to be sweet and delicious! When I found the main hall, “Oh my god” escaped my lips. The Buddha had to be 30 meters high! I couldn’t stop looking upward, just like my eyes keep seeking the cloud-topped mountain peaks! Either wall was covered with hundreds of miniature Buddhas, each ensconced in their own miniature pavilion. To gain an idea of how large this statue reached, the two vases on either side were at least twice as tall as my, if not three times. The main hall is surrounded by a three-facing, three-tiered building where it seems hundreds of monks dwell. Considering how many monks I have seen wandering the streets of Dardo, and considering this is one of four or more monasteries in Dardo alone, I can see each room being full.
4pm - Himalayan Cafe
I’m sitting in a warm and cozy, carved-wood filled, Tibetan-styled coffee shop and they are playing country music... like that pop-ish current country that’s really not authentic country music because it has incorporated rap rhythms and inane lyrics. It’s vaguely country because of the overreached, too syrupy southern twang of some whiny guy trying too hard, blech.
After struggling for an hour to concentrate on writing, and having an impossible time because of loud music, I departed and walked around town. Returned to the cafe I visited yesterday, only to be driven to other seating because of a damn smoker. Sat there 5 minutes and gave up, I was under another damn speaker! Although it was pleasant music, it still reverts me from composing a sentence when it’s directly overhead or too loud. Aargh. Now I am outside with the sounds of traffic