The Potala Palace images from this last trip have one big difference - the Chinese flag now flies from the central spot on the roof. While monasteries have some limited control, both palaces and temples in Tibet are now under the control of the Chinese government. One might conclude that China considers these buildings simply as tourist attractions that produce income. The Potala Palace was built in the 7th century and was the winter home of the Dalai Lama. It size and history make it the most popular place in Lhasa for both tourists and pilgrims. It is at an altitude of about 3,700 meters (12,140 feet.) While it is said there are about 350 steps from the entrance to near the top, if one is a bit obsessive, one can count them and the number is much higher. (Of course, that's counting small steps and thresholds and the like!) The main buildings are the Red and White Palaces. There are also many ancillary building in the complex. The entrance to the Potala Palace grounds features a Snow Lion guard. The lower White Palace is obvious in the image and the later Red Palace sits atop it. The entire complex rests on Red Mountain. Although photos make it seem isolated and ancient, there is actually a significant boulevard in front, a huge Chinese park across the street, and modern shopping and business to each side.

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