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Day 68: Lhasa

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe mighty edifice that swallows up the mountain top today was built on the foundations of the 7th-century original. The White Palace was completed by 1653, and the central block of upper storeys, known as the Red Palace, was added some 50 years later. The entire complex has 1000 rooms. Despite that, it wasn't considered sufficient for the Dalai Lama of the time and within 50 years another palace, Norbulingka, was constructed on a 40-hectare site, a couple of miles to the west, in which His Holiness could spend the summer months.

A series of perilous staircases, as thin as firemen's ladders, lead remorselessly up from level to level, through dim and dusty apartments, until we're on the roof of the White Palace next to a room with deep red walls labelled 'Eastern Sunshine Apartment'. This was the Dalai Lama's bedroom and a more magnificent position could hardly be imagined. If you want to feel the monarch of all you survey, then this is the place to be, and I can imagine the young Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama, making his early prayers as the first rays of the sun reached these gold-tipped rooftops, well before they reached anywhere else in Lhasa.

It must be 45 years since he last looked out from here over his capital and his country.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 68: Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Lhasa
  • Book page no: 164

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  • Sightseeing
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 18 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 16 
  • Pole to Pole