13th. Lo Manthang 3, Capital of Mustang
The town is noted for its tall whitewashed mud-brick walls, gompas and the Raja’s or King’s Palace, a nine-cornered, five-story structure built around 1400. There are four major temples: Jampa Lhakhang or Jampa Gompa, the oldest, built in the early 15th century and also known as the “God house”; Thubchen Gompa, a huge, red assembly hall and gompa built in the late 15th century and located just southwest of Jampa Gompa; Choedhe Gompa, now the main city gompa and school; and the Choprang Gompa, which is popularly known as the “New Gompa”.
This was our last day in Lo Manthang and we visited the main sights within the walled town, which are of course the monasteries. One was a monastic school where at the time of our visit the boys were having to sweep the courtyard rather than play football as in Tsarang. The other 2 which we visited were quite spectacular being of great height with very elaborate Buddha statues and lavishly decorated walls. The huge supporting pillars are made from juniper trees of a size that no longer exists today in the region. Unfortunately it is so dark inside the temples that one cannot really see the murals very well, even the ones which are supposed to have been restored.
The palace building in the old town is not open to the public because of the danger of possible collapse following earthquake damage. It is now uninhabited because the King of Mustang was deposed as a consequence of the deposal of the King of Nepal, since he had been a vassal to him. He was very old and has since died. His son who would have been the heir has had a luxury hotel built just outside the town and now lives there himself. We went with our guide to visit him in the afternoon and had a conversation with him, mostly translated by the guide from Nepali into German, although the ‘King’ spoke good English. He still takes part in some ceremonies as if he still were king. The locals cannot become used to being without their king. Afterwards we had coffee in the hotel bar where we were the only guests.
In the evening there was fresh goat meat prepared with the help of my Sherpa on the dinner menu. The following day we would have a long drive with all of us in the jeeps back down to Kagbeni and then up to Muktinath for just one night before returning to civilisation in Pokara.