Lhasa, Tibet. Even the name evokes images of somewhere mythical. This was a trip we'd always talked about taking and we jumped at the opportunity, even though we were only able to spend a few days there. Even flying into Lhasa was exciting. The majestic mountains seemed everywhere and at 3490m above sea level breathing was slightly laboured - even walking up to our 3rd floor hotel room felt like we were scaling a peak. The city thrummed with religious fervour as so many people had undertaken a pilgrimage to the city. Even on the way from the airport I spotted a lone Japanese man prostrating himself with every step he'd travelled.
Lhasa felt very old, almost medieval in some ways. Pilgrims in traditional dress, yaks transporting their heavy loads, Buddhist monks in their saffron robes, all converged on the central Barkor market. In the temples like the Jokhang Palace, where people had arrived on the pilgrimage of a lifetime, the intensity of their devotion left me feeling very moved. The chanting of the mantras, the circumambulation of the pilgrims, the acrid smell of the yak butter candles, all contributed to the unforgettable feel of the place.
Potala Palace, the home of previous Lhamas, and though majestic it had lost it's mystical feel and instead felt like a museum with tons of tourists. We visited other Buddhist temples too and watched while the monks prayed and debated, before popping into a traditional teahouse where tradesmen and pilgrims in traditional dress chatted and drank yak butter tea (imagine very chewy english breakfast tea mixed with stilton).