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Pelkor Chode Monastery and Kumbum & The Acropolis of Gyangze

1. At the northeast corner of Gyangze (an option for your China travel deals) is one of China's most beautiful temples. The Kumbum inside Pelkor Chode Monastery (Bai Ju Si) is a unique attraction with its octagon pyramid-like shape. It is 107 feet tall and has 108 doors, most of which lead to small shrines. You can go up to the top level by level using the inside stairs and ladders.

There are literally thousands of different Buddhist images inside the Kumbum, including both murals and statues. I would say that basically the higher you go, the more interesting images you'll find. (See additional photos)

From the top you can get close to the pretty eyes that look out from each of the four directions (north, south, east, and west). You will also enjoy spectacular views of Gyangze.

I spent nearly an hour at the top, just relaxing and enjoying the surrounding scenery after taking several photos. This was one of the main reasons I came to Gyangze, and I think it's definitely worth the tedious trip from Lhasa (top destination for top China tours).

There seems to be a nice kinship among tourists and pilgrims who make it all the way to the top. Since few people make the effort to go up all those stairs, the highest terrace becomes a kind of "Kumbum Club". Only three other folks joined me up top during my visit, so it felt sort of like an exclusive membership.

There is a fee for taking photos inside the Kumbum, (10 yuan in September 2006) and you will definitely take more than 10 photos so I consider it a bargain. Go inside the shrine behind the ticket gate and you will see pictures of the previous and current Panchen Lamas.

Pelkor Chode is a small active monastery located to the right of the Kumbum. You will see some monks chanting sutras and it may be possible to watch a few of them working on sand mandala art. On the ridge at the back of the compound is what looks like a red Great Wall which surrounds the monastery's perimeter.

2. When you arrive in Gyangze, one of the first sights you'll notice is this big old fortress on a hill at the east side of town. The foundations date back to the mid 14th century but the fort sustained considerable damage in 1904 when the British military demonstrated the use of advanced artillery on it during the Younghusband mission to Lhasa from India for your popular China tours in Tibet. Prior to 1904 the fort served as the area's adminstrative center and housed the governor of Gyangze.

After negotiating a treaty in Lhasa, Younghusband returned to England and received an honorary doctorate from Cambridge while Tibet was finally opened up to international tourism. Gyangze remained a British trading post for 40 years and a small garrison of Indian troops was stationed at the fort.

There are some historical displays regarding 1904 near the main entrance showing Tibetan soldiers in heroic poses with their primitive weapons. The fortress is a set of stacked buildings connected by a winding path. You can climb the steep steps to the top of the fortress for splendid views of Tibet's third largest city (Gyangze is really not very big) and the surrounding countryside. When finished, you will be standing at an altitude of approximately 4200 meters.

Admission: 30 yuan (unit for China money )

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