The next day, today, (the fourth day here?) was spent visiting the Potala palace. It is absolutely an incredible place, absolutely swamped by Tibetans from all over Tibet. They visit yearly during the winter when they don't have to take care of their crops. They are one hell of an aggressive people, with no regard for anyone else or each other, and especially me, as they push and shove through each of the various temple rooms, all with the primary purpose of giving money to the Buddha statues, and bowing to touch their heads to the same. They also carry around chunks of yak butter, with which they put little slabs into each of these large bowls, that have wicks that burn the butter. The stench is pretty bad after awhile, and I seemed to notice that the stairs and floor were more slippery where there was an abundance of these lamps. I couldn't get any pictures from the inside, as photos weren't allowed. But I did get a CD rom that does these computerized guided tours, complete with pictures and history. The shots from outside were all I could get, and I really didn't find those interesting.

Lhasa is basically split into two parts, the Chinese newer part, and the Tibetan older part. One of the pictures shows lots of new buildings and construction, this is the Chinese part. The views from the roof of the palace show the Tibetan side. The square that I took the pictures from, in front of the Potala Palace, is a small mimic of Tiannenmen square. It so tastefully has a Chinese disco situated on it, and, at the far end, a MIG jet. People say that the Tibetans have a much better life now that the Chinese are here, but I still see nothing but Tibetans coming up to me to beg for money (no doubt to run right into the palace and put the dollars on the Buddha's). But one thing is obvious to me; the Chinese are here to stay, and they have really altered at least the city life of the Tibetans, and even, to a large degree, depending upon how you look at it, the small village life. Much like American culture has invaded China, (and the Shaolin Temple), China has invaded and changed Tibetan culture. Irreparably.

This yak butter shit is used everywhere. They make a tea out of it, whereby the tea is almost entirely yak butter, with some tea leaves and a bit of salt. Drinking it is like drinking hot lard. It offers a fairly apparent explanation for the fact that atherosclerotic heart and vessel disease runs rampant throughout the Tibetans. (An "elderly" Tibetan woman lay dying in one of the rooms of the Potala Palace as I walked by. No, I opted not to play doctor...) God knows how old these people are, as the brutal sunlight ages and darkens their skin terribly. A forty year old man could look over than 60. Cataracts are rampant, as it is a rare Tibetan that wears sunglasses. Thyroid goiters were the other common ailment that I noticed. I don't think that iodine is in their diet. Basal cell skin cancers, and melanomas, were the other common diseases that I saw. I saw no evidence for surgical treatment of any of these disorders on any Tibetan that I saw. And today, I saw hundreds, if not more.

The Potala Palace is high up on a hill (the Tibetans believe that their government, regardless of who it is, king or dalai lama, should live higher than them. The Chinese live in the valleys...) An extraordinarily huge amount of stairs are in front, which lead up to the entrance. The Tibetans enter this way. By some huge act of genius, someone decided that it would be bad for appearances (the Chinese are always concerned about "appearances" and "saving face"), if there were a lot of dead foreigners on the stairs, so the foreigners are driven up the back way, and are let off on top, to go through the palace backwards, and therefore, eventually walk down the stairs. Going against the flow of hundreds of Tibetans through these little rooms and up these very steep stairs (made for very little feet, and covered in the remnants of slippery yak butter smoke) make for an extremely interesting visit. It really is a fantastic place to visit, as is Tibet in general.

I met a "group" of people who came here to see what I have seen so far, but leave for the base camp of Mt Everest on Wednesday, when I leave to start heading home. They are from England and Canada. I kind of hooked up with these two older men, who have a younger girl following on their coattails. We met as we froze on that leaky wooden boat (yes, I actually had a sneaker over one leaky spot. We all had a good laugh as multiple other leaks developed, all with people hysterically laughing as they froze and put their feet over the leaks) They are touring as a group, I am alone, so I really don't spend much time with them. The girl is English, as is both the older guys, but the guys are very outgoing, and extremely funny. Mix English humor with sardonic NY sarcasm, and, well, the boat ride was one many a Tibetan will never forget. The girl, whose name is Karin, pretty much kept to herself. I sensed that she either had problems, or was in man hating mode. And to think, I wasn't responsible....

Dinner last night was fascinating, as we ate in the hotel's "Hard Yak Cafe", replete with fifties and sixties pop music, and pictures of Marilyn Monroe and the such. We travel twenty thousand miles to Tibet, only to be reminded of America. Brian, is an investment banker, trader, and the such, in his sixties, here to fulfill a life's dream: he has traveled all over the world, but he has always yearned to see Mt Everest. His wife decided not to come, as she got a little disgusted with his mode of travel, when the last time they were in Thailand, the bamboo raft they were on fell apart, and they almost drowned. "Why don't we take the air conditioned bus like all the other old people?". He is very outgoing, and has many interesting friends. Eight years ago, he was neighbors with Elton John; he knows him well. He is best friends with the Duke of Edinborough, whoever that is, knows Prince Charles, and was business partners with that Brian something guy, the manager of the Beatles, in the pre-Beatles days. He had some great stories.

His best buddy who came with him, and I can't remember his name, is in his late fifties, is Czech living in England, and specializes in the import export business with the previous iron curtain countries. He lost his entire family, save his mother and father, to the Holocaust. His mother survived four years in multiple camps. The conversations, especially with both of these guys being Jewish, was just incredible.

But the high point was Karin. She is half east German, half English (her mother lived in Leipzig during WWII; interesting, a "German" girl hooked up with these two Jewish guys) She had many stories to tell about her mother and grandmother during the war. I kind of blew her off on the boat when I tried to make conversation with her; she was pretty distant. And when I had found out that she was a make up artist, all I could think about were these girls at Dillard's selling make up behind counters. I initially didn't bother trying to include her in our conversations on the boat. She was in man hating mode anyway.

But during dinner she opened up, and she became the most fascinating of them all. You see, she is the make up artist for the Spice Girls. Imagine, traveling twenty thousand miles and meeting the make up artist for the Spice Girls. I found some sort of perverse humor in that. She has also done much make up stuff for a lot of the European super models, Schiffer, Iman, that black one, the real skinny one Kate Moss. She never did Lady Diana, but she did paint some of the outer limits of the royal family. She was here to get away from her boyfriend, who wanted to get married, as he was disgusted with her being away all the time traveling with the Spice Girls. I tried to get some dirt out of her, but she was pretty careful. She's used to having her phone tapped and people trying to get information (the British tabloids work similarly to the secret service over there; amazing what they do and get away with).

I'm talking to these two very intelligent and upper class British guys about all sorts of things, in Tibet, and the Spice Girls come forth. God did I get the giggles out of that for some strange reason. I haven't bothered with her much, as she is still in man hating mode (and you know how well I get along with women when they're in that mode...),so I spent more time talking to the Brits. And the most fascinating story was the one about Princess Diana. This guy Brian had lots of ins with the in crowd in Britain, and like many older Jewish well to do men, he was very well educated, and very learned. He had lots to say about the Diana scam. All three of them did. Apparently, one of the reasons why there was such a huge outpouring of love for her after her death, was not that they missed her. It was more a guilt trip. We're not told everything in the US.