We visited the Potala Palace today, and everything went well. The picture shows the Potala Palace from outside the outer wall, on a path used by pilgrims to walk around the Palace clockwise to gain karma. Potala Palace is breath-taking. We lucked out with the sunny skies. Yesterday was overcast, and the weather forecast was more of the same.
We hiked to the top of the Palace, an elevation gain of 130 meters. We took it easy and did not get out of breathe. We saw the major rooms: assembly room, receiving room, and tombs of most of the Dalai Lamas. Seeing Drepung Monastery first helped lay the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism.
Some tips for people traveling to Tibet. We planned only the hotel. We lucked out with the Tibetan guide. The rest was adapting to the situation as it unfolded.
- After experiencing altitude sickness, we changed our itinerary to visit Potala Palace on our last day in Lhasa, to gain time to acclimate and get a morning start time. I doubt we would have made it earlier. A 130-meter elevation gain from 12,000 feet is non-trivial.
- Every day in Lhasa we made time for naps.
- We skipped dinner every night, due to loss of appetite.
- The Sheraton Four Points Hotel is clean, well-run, and within walking distance of the Barkhor Circuit and Jokhang Temple.
- Get a Tibetan guide. Our Tibetan guide knows and explains Tibetan Buddhism and customs. So much of the Tibetan culture revolves around their religion, that you’d miss a lot with a Chinese guide. Our guide worked with us as we modified the itinerary to rest and acclimatize.
- Finally, take diamox. It’s a diuretic, which has issues when you’re out of your hotel room all day, especially given Chinese toilets. But anything to get an edge of altitude sickness is worthwhile. You can’t do much with a bad headache. We learned the hard way.