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22:25 Sep 29 2011

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Dominic's Diary 5-- Visiting the Potala Palace (2)
15:51, July 19, 2010  

CRI's Dominic Swire and one of the many monks strolling around the Potala Palace in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo taken July 3, 2010. [Photo:]

Entering the building means climbing the zigzag steps on the outside of the palace that can be seen from street level. Doing so one is exposed to the eternal dilemmas of Tibet - that of economic development and religious preservation. As you progress up the steps the experience of entering one of the world's most religious buildings is slightly affected by blaring advertisements from a huge video screen close to the bottom of the hill. But once entering the building the sound of the city is lost and it's as if you have entered another world.

The tour begins by entering a huge ornate doorway with colourful tassels the size of a horse's tail attached to the large brass knockers. As your pupils dilate after being exposed to the strong Tibetan sunlight you slowly see formidable faces with white eyes staring down at you from the murals on the walls. After climbing yet more stairs and traversing a couple of narrow walkways one emerges in a courtyard outside the White Palace. This square white building used to be the living quarters of the Dali Lama. Entering one has to climb a wooden staircase divided into three sections, but only one was being used. The middle section, which is roped off, is reserved for the Dali Lama, and the other is for people exiting the building.

The wooden floor of the White Palace creaks as people pass through the small, dark, meticulously decorated rooms. Not one part of the interior of this building is left unadorned by murals, wall hangings or statues. There are many ornate carpets and rugs draped across furniture with what looks like white beanbags placed on a couple of seats. Looking out of the small windows that are not hidden by curtains one can see tourists walking across the main square of Lhasa. It's a strange feeling to think that you are in the same room that the Dali Lama would entertain guests and drink tea.

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