Tashi’s town of Zhidoi was very near a monastery, and a large once, that we were eager to see. Tashi taught some of the monks up there, including the young boy who was reincarnated Lama of this particular Buhdist sect and arranged for us all to go up there and have a look around. In return he wanted us to cook him his favourite western dish from his time abroad: mashed potatoes.
Mashed potatoes made with yak butter is an unusual but tasty alternative, and Tashi seemed quite pleased with the meal. After lunch we borrowed his uncles car and drove out to the monastery.
The Gongsa Monastery is huge, though not the biggest by a long shot. Tashis monk friend met us at the entrance and showed us around. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any photos inside the buildings. We saw first the prayer hall, lit by yak butter lamps the pungent smell of which you quickly learn to associate with Buddhist monasteries. Ere were a dozen or so monks in there chanting their sutras, and along one wall a shelf with that held all the monastery’s texts.
We then went to see two large halls that held, first a large statue of the founder of the yellow hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism that held a Guinness World Record of some category. The second a large stupa, a shrine to one of the Lamas of the monastery. I’m not sure if the stupa held any record, but judging by its size I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Finally we visited a third hall that was in the decoration phase of its construction, about five young guys had been brought in from Tibet proper to paint the detailed iconographic imagery on the walls.
Afterwards our monk guide had to go off and teach, so we thanked him and said goodbye. The young novices of the monastery were playing in field at the bottom of a hill and Tashi suggested we go over and say hello to them, most of them hadn’t seen a westerner before and were very excited to see us.
We planned to leave Zhidoi the next day but a snowstorm blew in overnight and continued throughout the morning and then all day the next day, so we stayed an extra day taking shelter in Tashi’s place. We helped Tashi write application letters for scholarships to London Film School, where he had been accepted but couldn’t afford the tuition. Hopefully he gets the funding.