XINLONG – GANZIBy
Ahhhhh! You know that euphoric feeling you get when you fall back onto a soft, comfortable bed after a marathon! I had that today! Running? Nope! But over the last two days, the driving was the marathon and the hotel here in Ganzi is the prize for finishing. And if some of you are concerned about where Su is staying, not to worry! He too is probably relaxing in his room and feeling the same.
Today’s leg of the last two days’ marathon was a shorter drive, arriving in town here at about 2 p.m. Who knew traffic in this dusty, isolated place could be worse than the Los Angeles freeway! Once we hit the main street in Ganzi, traffic came to a dusty and hot stop. Half the road is being paved and that means all the traffic must shunt over to one side. After sitting in the traffic for about an hour, not moving more than a few feet really, it was apparent that there was only one police officer and I’m sure he must have slept through the police academy lecture on traffic management. Traffic was allowed to go forward a few feet, then, and for no apparent reason, had to reverse a few feet. I
leave it to you to imagine this dance for the next hour while I move on to the comfy bed in the hotel!
Once a hotel was located in a quiet part of Ganzi, we checked in and had to walk the thin air to our fourth floor room. They have an elevator here, but despite the hotel only being a year old, it was down for service. OK – The bed! As you can see from the photo – it’s pretty nice! No $10/night hovel here! This is about $40! And it has internet – sort of!
Ganzi, as I mentioned is a fairly large town. After unpacking and relaxing a bit, we set off for the temple. No ordinary temple as I was about to find out! The temple is huge! There are of course no
signs to be seen anywhere, so it took a little asking to find it. There must have been a school near the temple because the streets were crawling with red and white school uniforms.
We had to stop the van outside the temple gate due to a landslide at the temple. Monks were pitching in to clear the debris but seemed to have more fun tossing the rocks at each other in a playful game of hit the monk & run! Stopping briefly, we passed and the game resumed while we purchased a few tickets, were given a map and the temple was ours!
After roaming around the temple and admiring it’s grandeur, Su found an older monk and asked if he would give us a personal tour! Good thing, since closing time was nearing. And boy! Did we get a tour! The temple was impressive. Not only were we shown a room filled with weapons (I still can’t figure that one out – but they were old and ranged from what looked to be machine guns, to throwing axes), but we were shown into a gallery filled with ancient Thanka paintings. These paintings are amazingly detailed and painted on silk. Some of the brushes used must only have had one hair since even the tiniest eye lashes were painted beautifully. I am including a small image of a Thanka painting, but it is not from the temple, as photography was not allowed.
Several years ago, some visitors to the temple stole one of the paintings and spirited it away to Lhasa to sell. Pretty stupid move on their part, trying to sell a priceless Buddhist painting in a very Buddhist place. They were identified and arrested and the painting is safe.
On the tour was also a look at the security office. Perhaps not needed before the brazen theft of the painting. The security office was a large room with a few monks sipping butter tea and watching a large-screen TV of various camera feeds. I checked it out. Nothing nefarious going down, so we were good to go!
After passing through a room with two monks
cutting yak butter into sections for later consumption, we headed off to what truly was one of the trip’s highlights to date – monks debating! The monks sat in groups of 10 or so and their ages seemed to be the same in each grouping. Each group has a leader to throw out questions or ideas to challenge the group. Scores were kept for quick mental acrobatics and speed. All the monks were involved, even the very young monks were honing their critical thinking, albeit, with some innocent 9-year old, robe-pulling and jokes!
Being there to wander among the debates was a thrill. I got the distinct feeling that this was something very special indeed.
Tomorrow takes us to Dege and over a mountain pass of 5,050 metres. Better dig out the oxygen for this cold crossing!