Painting The Potala Palace Walls

Previous page - We visit the Potala Palace


My book doesn’t even come out of my bag

I never got to read even one page of my book because there was too much going on around me to be bored. Simply watching the comings and goings was entertainment enough for me.


Painting the outer side of the walls of the Potala

The walls leading up to the Potala were being painted. I realized that as soon as I sat down on the bench. I could see the painters slowly edging towards me from an area higher up the steps. The walls were being painted but not by any spray gun, paint brush or roller. These painters had their own way of doing the job. Let me add that I could see upwards of 50 painters from where I sat.

Painting the Potala involves using a funnel and a hose Painting the walls from above




The whole procedure starts with lots of painters carrying large and very heavy-looking cans of paint. These were not the sort of paint cans you buy from a hardware shop. They looked more like the old-fashioned metal urns that once used to carry milk. Imagine a high wall thick enough for people to stand on the top.  Two people stand on the top of the wall. One has a large funnel with the lower end of the funnel held such that the paint went straight down from the funnel into a hose pipe. The other person on top of the wall would be handed the paint tin and he/she would tip it up and empty it into the funnel. Down the hose it would go and at the bottom of the wall would be the man holding the other end of the hose whose job was to paint the wall. He would simply put his thumb over the end of the hose and squirt the paint onto the wall as best he could. The whole scene was farcical. Paint was going everywhere. I realized I could no longer safely sit on the bench. I moved further down the steps to another bench.

When the painter got to the end of the wall he was quite close to the public. To ensure they moved away from him he firmly held the end of the hose towards them in a threatening stance. The public saw the menacing look on his face and they literally ran!


Painting the inner side of the walls of the Potala

The inner side of the walls was not as high as the outer side so that demanded a different skill. Paint throwing was the aim here. Someone would lift up the heavy can, tip some of the paint into a metal bowl and then the master (or mistress) of the bowl would hurl the paint onto the wall.

The art of throwing paint at a wall The lower walls are painted by throwing the paint

As you can imagine paint went everywhere. The steps copped paint all over them.

The public were walking up these steps to enter the Palace building. No care was given by the painters to ensure the public didn’t get paint on them.

Members of the public could have slipped up in the wet paint. Visitors to the Potala had to scatter left, right and centre when the paint was getting hurled. It was really entertaining to watch both the painters and the horrified public.



I get chance to play the good Samaritan

Whilst waiting for the others, I even did my good deed for the day and helped an elderly man. He had a young child on his back in a harness-frame contraption. He sat down on one of the steps (no, not a painted wet one) and was struggling to get the contraption off his back.  It was obvious he was having problems so I helped him get it off. He did whatever he had to do and then wanted to put it back on again so I helped him re-load himself. This elderly man was so grateful and he held and shook my hands for ages afterwards. It gives you a nice feeling inside when you have helped someone.


The wind starts picking up

Group of Tibetan visitors being phtographed Tibetans visiting the Potala Palace

Suddenly a cold wind came in. I had taken my jacket off earlier as it was warm on the bench sitting in the sunshine but now I had to put it back on and zip it up to my neck. I pulled my hat down as far as it would go. I was quite worried about Jeremy as he took his jacket off and left it with me before we parted. He would now be freezing cold and jacket-less way up in the Palace.

Eventually Tiki and the men came back. They had taken lots of photos looking down from the outside of the Potala but they weren’t allowed to take any inside the building. This disappointed me seeing as I wasn’t able to go in there myself. The men reckoned there were absolutely tonnes of gold in there.

We collected Jeremy’s can of Sprite and exited the Potala grounds.


Next page - Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple




Search over 25,000 hostels.

Map of Bhutan
Lonely Planet's map of Bhutan

Trip Advisor Forum Bhutan
The place to find information about Bhutan when you can't find it elsewhere.

Tourism Council, Bhutan
Official tourism web site.

Hiking to Tigers Nest
Follow the hike yourself with this You Tube video.

Tsunami in Bhutan
Interesting You Tube video
telling of potential floods.

Bhutan capital: Thimphu
Wikipedia page all about Thimphu.

An internet guide to Nepal

Trip Advisor Forum Nepal
Learn from others who have been to Nepal.

Learn To Speak Nepali
Learn the language of Nepal.

Volunteering in Nepal
Find out how you can volunteer your services.

Learn from the Lonely Planet Online Guide.

Map of Nepal
Lonely Planet's map of Nepal

Where is Tibet?
Learn about the Tibet Autonomous Region

Learn to speak Tibetan
Email, text chat & voice chat

Map of Tibet
Large map

Tibet oral history
Learn from Tibetan elders

Trip Advisor Forum Tibet
If you have an un answered question about Tibet you can ask it here.