I hiked to a small monastery that lies on the hills overlooking Lhasa. The monastery, Pabonka, is said to predate the Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace, having been constructed in the 7th century. It was destroyed by Langdharma in the 9th century, and rebuilt, only to be partially destroyed and rebuilt yet again in the 20th century during the Cultural Revolution.
The monastery is quiet. Few monks live there, and few tourists venture up the hill to view the cave where Dharma King Songtsen Gampo meditated, and where Thonmi Sambhota was said to have first penned the Tibetan alphabet. The famous mantra om mani padme hum is encased in glass, carved into a rock that has been painted a brilliant blue with gold lettering.
Above the monastery lies a shallow ravine adorned with prayer flags strung from one side to the other. Further up from there, lie a nunnery and hermitages. Once a large monastery, the nunnery is now comprised of only a few buildings, and the remains of its greatness can be seen in the crumbling stone walls that barely blend in with the dry mountains beside it.
Turning your back to the nunnery, you can view the suburban sprawl that is Lhasa, a city that seems to grow by the second.