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Monasteries

Pabongka

Pabongka Rock sculpture of Green Tara
The site of Pabongka has a long history, that even pre-dates the building of the Jokhang and the Ramoche temple. King Songtsen Gampo lived here together with his queens and studied the Tibetan script that was constructed by Sambhota in the same period and place. The original stone with the first Tibetan text - a carved out "Om mani padme hum" - can be seen at the Rigsum Gonpo Lhakang below the main palace.

Pabongka Pabongka Podrang, built on a rock
The main palace, the Pabongka Podrang, is built on a huge turtleshaped rock and is said to have been nine storeys high. Only the first floors remain and have been rebuilt in later times and have been recently under repair.
The site of Pabongka is spread with buildings, stupas, rock carvings and other relic places and it is a great place to wander around and meditate in order to escape the city of Lhasa.
Pabongka Pabongka - inside the Podrang
Pabongka Om mani padme hum - original stone carving
Pabongka View from Pabongka on Lhasa city

Tashi Chöling Hermitage

Tashi Chöling Tashi Chöling Hermitage
It is a relatively easy walk up to the Tashi Chöling hermitage on the slopes east of Pabongka. The path starts near the huge boulder above the ocre colored temple. If you start too low, like I did, than you are in for a steep climb up the mountain fields. Tashi Chöling houses seven monks and they will offer you yak tea (from a yak tea bag!).
Pabongka Pabongka site seen from the east
From Tashi Chöling you can walk further uphill eastward via the caves of Dadren Ritrö to the hermitage of Sera Utse, and from there to Sera Monastery. The road can be strenuous if you are not accustomed to the height yet and it will take at least 2 hours. You will be awarded with great hill views of Lhasa.

Chubzang Nunnery

Chubzang View on Chubzang monastery from above
If you want an easier path you can walk downhill from Tashi Chöling to the Chubzang nunnery, wich will take about 30 minutes. According to some notes at the Lhasa hostels the nuns offer a sleeping place for visitors who want to experience the monastic life for a few days.
If you are lucky you can find a hike from the village back to Lhasa. If not you can walk down the fields until you reach the main road and catch a bus from there.
To get to Pabongka you can either take a taxi (try to find a Tibetan taxidriver, the Chinese do not know the place) or you can take the bus to Sera (minibus 504) and get out at the end of the road near the Lhasa Military Hospital and turn left for a 30-40 minute walk along a dirt road. You can see the site from afar. There is no admission fee.

References:
[1] Keith Dowman. The Power-places of Central Tibet. Timeless Books, New Delhi. 1988.
[2] Gyurme Dorje. Tibet Handbook. Footprint, 2004.
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