Just outside Lhasa, the major monasteries of Sera, Drepung, Nechung and Ganden are easily accessible from the city as half-day or day-trips. Indeed, Sera and Drepung have virtually been gobbled up in the urban sprawl that now characterizes Lhasa, while the trip to Ganden or to Samye – the latter slightly further out to the southeast – is a good chance to get out into the countryside. Morning visits to any of them are likely to be in the company of parties of devout pilgrims who’ll scurry around the temples making their offerings before heading on to the next target. Follow on behind them and you’ll visit all the main buildings; don’t worry too much if you aren’t sure what you are looking at – most of the pilgrims haven’t a clue either. The monasteries are generally peaceful and atmospheric places where nobody minds you ambling at will, and sooner or later you’re bound to come across some monks who want to practise their English.

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