When the valley of Nyang-chu opened itself before our eyes on approach from the east, I was immediately struck by the building on top of a steep hill towering above the plains. It seemed to lie right on top of the rocks like a sleeping snake, on the obvious place to build a fortification. In fact, I was looking at the Gyantse Dzong, or fortress, built in the 14th century. At that time, Gyantse was a major node in the trade routes between Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim and China. The famous Kumbum and the Pelkor Chöde monastery also date from that era.
As we got closer, the fortress was attracting me like a magnet and it was my first destination of the town. Fortunately, the altitude - some 4,000 metres - was no problem after having spent weeks at this altitude. The ticket office at street level was closed and apparently not in use, but when I arrived at the entrance to the fortress proper, a very unfriendly Tibetan tried to make me pay to enter without wanting to give a ticket, then offered a "discounted" entrance fee without ticket, or the official entrance fee with a ticket. I can only hope that buying the ticket will some day contribute to restoration works on the fortress. Highly necessary: after the fortress was partly destroyed during the Younghusband expedition in 1904, it was further damaged by the Chinese and now is in a sorry state.
I walked around the hill and then up to the top - and everywhere, I had amazing views of the surrouding area. With clouds floating in the sky, sunlight was working like a random spotlight, highlighting the Gyantse Kumbum, the surrounding mountains, the water in the fields below, the town itself. The view of the monastery below was especially good, and I could easily plan walking the kora around it by looking at the route from above. One of the reasons I wanted to visit the fortress was the Anti-British Imperialists Museum, but unfortunately, that had been closed, or was in the process of being renovated. I could only see the an old board with some introductory texts in a storage room.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Gyantse fortress (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Gyantse fortress.
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