From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet Info

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After two years as a postgraduate student at Nanjing University
in China, Vikram Seth hitch-hiked back to his home in New Delhi, via
Tibet.  From Heaven Lake is the story of his remarkable
journey and his encounters with nomadic Muslims, Chinese officials,
Buddhists and others.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.15

1651 Ratings

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Reviews for From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet:

5

Nov 16, 2007

Vikram Seth's From Heaven Lake: travels in Sinkiang and Tibet is an unusual travel book. Steering clear of all Lonely Planet Guides and regular travel routes, Seth manages to sketch a picture of China, Tibet, and Nepal from a hungry (quite literally) student travellers perspective. He was at that time a student at the Nanjing University. Taking time and money off from the Standford University, Seth stays in China for 2 years. When the time comes for him to return home, he decides on a mega Vikram Seth's “From Heaven Lake: travels in Sinkiang and Tibet” is an unusual travel book. Steering clear of all Lonely Planet Guides and regular travel routes, Seth manages to sketch a picture of China, Tibet, and Nepal from a hungry (quite literally) student traveller’s perspective. He was at that time a student at the Nanjing University. Taking time and money off from the Standford University, Seth stays in China for 2 years. When the time comes for him to return home, he decides on a mega unconventional route. Abandoning all idea of taking a flight out of Xian or Chengdu (cities other than Beijing and Shanghai that we are not familiar with). He decides to take a rather long, hungry, cold rounadabout hitchhiking trip that takes him into the world’s least known areas. The time is the 80s. Seth knows Chinese so well that at one point in time during the trip he had to speak it badly with effort so that people come to his aid.

Seth has been called the “pin-up boy” of Indian Writing in English partly because of his rugged good looks and partly because of “A Suitable Boy.” But in this lesser known work, he shines through both as a writer and a humourist. Unlike other travellers, Seth concentrates on the inner journey as much as the outer.

Seth writes like a song. The flow in uninterrupted and he has amazing control over his words. Each word has been chosen in keeping with what precise emotion he wants to convey. As a friend of mine says, he is a classical writer, no gimmicks.

A litany of places with sing song names like Turfan, Tarim, Changau, Antioch, Yarkhand, Khotan, Urumqui, Kashgar, Kuche, Xian, Liuyuan, Dunhuang, Sichuan, Qinghai, Nanhu, Chengde, Germu, Lanzhou, Xining, Chaidam, Naqu, Anduo, Liaoning, Jokhang, Drepung, Norbulingka, Chengdu, Zhang mu, Dingri, Chamdo, Shigatse, Nilamn, Zhangmu pepper the travelogue but the writescape starts to get less exotic and more familiar by the time Seth reaches Lhasa and then Kathmandu.

Reading Seth is always a pleasure: like sipping iced tea in hot weather. It refreshed my city-weary mind. It’s all the travelling that I can do without getting bee-stung, flea-bitten, and frozen-toed not to mention altitude sickness. There is one phrase that I can’t get out of my head: “delicious calm.” It makes me taste “calm” like some specific dish. Salud to the delicious calm of reading Vikram Seth!

...more
4

Jul 18, 2018

Vikram Seth took nearly 2 months from China to India hitchhiking all the way across and finally giving go to temptation only in Kathmandu when he took a flight to Delhi. He passed through rural China, Tibet and Nepal ..enjoying most of the time and even the frequent inconveniences caused by natural disasters and human rules and regulations, met many interesting people and finally reached home tired, but jubilant.
I too travelled with him, experienced all this with him, albeit in the comfort of Vikram Seth took nearly 2 months from China to India hitchhiking all the way across and finally giving go to temptation only in Kathmandu when he took a flight to Delhi. He passed through rural China, Tibet and Nepal ..enjoying most of the time and even the frequent inconveniences caused by natural disasters and human rules and regulations, met many interesting people and finally reached home tired, but jubilant.
I too travelled with him, experienced all this with him, albeit in the comfort of my home. I took only a week to accomplish this.
Read this as a part of weekend theme in IR challenges, and am happy thst I did.
It also fulfils another of my IR challenges - Armchair travel.

Would recommend his book to all those who like to know about new places and are not fortunate enough to travel in person, and who don't mind slow to medium, meandering pace of the book. ...more
5

Oct 18, 2014

What an incredible book and an even more incredible journey! Vikram Seth, while studying at Nanjing University in China, decided to take a rather unorthodox route on his return to India during his break. His journey starts at Turfan, buried in the Uighur region of western China. And from there, he proceeds further west on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau till he reaches Lhasa, and from there onto Kathmandu and finally Delhi. Remarkable journey, narrated with wit and humour. There are some pages where What an incredible book and an even more incredible journey! Vikram Seth, while studying at Nanjing University in China, decided to take a rather unorthodox route on his return to India during his break. His journey starts at Turfan, buried in the Uighur region of western China. And from there, he proceeds further west on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau till he reaches Lhasa, and from there onto Kathmandu and finally Delhi. Remarkable journey, narrated with wit and humour. There are some pages where the writing makes you stop and ponder. For example, he compares India and China, the two Asian giants, and how they both have succeeded and failed in their different ways. He writes about an ugly encounter with a wealthy tourist in Lhasa, and has this to say about it- It is curious how wealth makes some people pleasant, by doing away with worry and petty frustration; and how it makes others abominable.

I loved reading about his travel companions- Sui, always puffing his cigarettes and reading during his breaks, Gyanseng who would burst into a very out-of-tune song every now and then, the sulky Xiao San, and his friend Norbu whom he met at Lhasa. I really liked the fact that the book had a very objective view; not once did I detect an ounce of being judgemental or prejudiced. Qinghai, Turfan, Dunhuang, Germu, Lhasa - these are all vague places on the map, but through the book I felt as if I was visiting these very places, and learning about their people. I especially liked reading about Seth's stay in Lhasa, where he visited the Norbulingka, the Potala Palace,and witnessed a blood curdling ceremony at the Sera monastery. Reading about how he crossed the border from Tibet into Nepal left me astounded. Just walk across the bridge over the Bhotakoshi and that's it. It made me ponder about boundaries and maps and borders and how nature disregards all of them. The book is studded with bits of poetry, very characteristic of Seth, and this makes the book even more special. My favorite is the verse he wrote when they were stuck on the lonely Qinghai-Tibet plateau:


Here we three, cooped, alone,
Tibetan, Indian, Han,
Against a common dawn
Catch what poor sleep we can,
And sleeping drag the same
Sparse air into our lungs,
And dreaming each of home
Sleeptalk in different tongues.

Very highly recommended! ...more
5

Jun 08, 2012

Excellent travelogue. Unfortunately, I had to abandon this book mid-way as the cafe I was reading it in was closed on the last day of my trip in Himachal Pradesh.
If you have an ebook, please let me know. I'd really appreciate.
3

May 30, 2019

★★★½☆

This one never felt like reading a Vikram Seth book. The poetic prose was very little. Still quite an enjoyable read for a super adventurous travelogue.
Learnt a few things about the Chinese culture, and their strict documentation requirement. Not sure if the strict guidelines are still in practice after a quarter century.
If a picture could speak thousand words, then the cover speaks up for the beauty of the place.
Would have been better had the inset photo plates were colored and glossy ★★★½☆

This one never felt like reading a Vikram Seth book. The poetic prose was very little. Still quite an enjoyable read for a super adventurous travelogue.
Learnt a few things about the Chinese culture, and their strict documentation requirement. Not sure if the strict guidelines are still in practice after a quarter century.
If a picture could speak thousand words, then the cover speaks up for the beauty of the place.
Would have been better had the inset photo plates were colored and glossy instead of black and white regular print.

This one has seeded the curiosity to read more travelogues around Tibet and explore more about Dalai Lama :) ...more
4

Sep 11, 2019

After having lost all faith in humanity by reading A Fine Balance, I asked my boyfriend to recommend a book that would restore that faith. Feigning concern and goodwill, he recommended From Heaven Lake; however, I knew that his ulterior motive was to get me to renounce the obnoxious levels of planning I do before a trip, and adopt more of his laid back and serendipitous (aka lazy) style of travel. Begrudgingly, I started reading the book.

The book describes Seths two month trip from the desert in After having lost all faith in humanity by reading A Fine Balance, I asked my boyfriend to recommend a book that would restore that faith. Feigning concern and goodwill, he recommended From Heaven Lake; however, I knew that his ulterior motive was to get me to renounce the “obnoxious” levels of planning I do before a trip, and adopt more of his “laid back” and “serendipitous” (aka lazy) style of travel. Begrudgingly, I started reading the book.

The book describes Seth’s two month trip from the desert in Northwestern China through Tibet, and eventually to Delhi in India. This is the first book I’ve read in the travel writing genre, and it is undoubtedly an excellent introduction to this genre. It is an ideal travelogue in every sense: plenty of adventure, excellent descriptions of places that paint detailed mental pictures, necessary background on history and politics, and several glimpses into the lives and stories of China’s diverse citizens, from the Muslim Uighurs of Turfan to the Buddhist Tibeteans of Lhasa. Moreover, these ingredients are combined in perfect quantities, and what ensues is a travelogue that flows like a clear and unperturbed mountain stream.

To pull off this impressive travelogue, Seth must have been both an amazing traveler and an amazing writer. One gets a taste of his curiosity, sense of adventure, people skills, and his knowledge of history, politics, and economics from the book. Seth’s writing is simple, yet deeply observational and descriptive: I experienced seeing the mountain’s pink sunset, hearing the buzz of files in the desert heat, feeling the alpine valley’s moody drizzle, smelling the incense of lamps in the Potala palace, and tasting yak butter tea. (Alas, I had to settle for store-bought chamomile to quench the ensuing craving.)

The hand-drawn map on the book was immensely useful to the map-nerd that I am. Drafts of a few of Seth's photos would've amplified the effects of the book a hundredfold!

For the less traveled, I am certain that this book would spark your wanderlust and get you packing for your next trip. For more seasoned travelers, this book would force you ask yourself why you travel. Is it a means to accumulate more nostalgia for your own self indulgence? Is it a way to listen to peoples’ stories and tell your own? In the end, my reading this book was a win-win: my faith in humanity restored and my boyfriend’s ulterior motive accomplished. 🙄

Rating: 4/5 stars! ...more
2

Nov 29, 2017

This fairly short account started me thinking about what makes a good travel book. The author was studying in China and finagled permission to travel home to India via Tibet. He comes across as curious, observant, and resourceful, and his account is well written, but somehow the book (and trip) were disappointing. The authors time in Tibet was relatively brief and involved only limited interaction with anyone besides the Tibetan truck driver who took him most of the way. I kept thinking it would This fairly short account started me thinking about what makes a good travel book. The author was studying in China and finagled permission to travel home to India via Tibet. He comes across as curious, observant, and resourceful, and his account is well written, but somehow the book (and trip) were disappointing. The author’s time in Tibet was relatively brief and involved only limited interaction with anyone besides the Tibetan truck driver who took him most of the way. I kept thinking it would make a better magazine article than a book.

“Nevertheless, by mid-morning, the river is littered with trucks, wallowing like hippopotami in various stages of submersion; and yet more trucks try to make it through. The crowd enjoys this. When a truck gets stuck, they cheer. When a truck gets through, they cheer."

“In this desert night the Milky Way is brilliantly clear. It strikes me how descriptive of its meandering course is its Chinese name, the Silver River.” ...more
4

Feb 25, 2017

This is a short but very enjoyable travel book chronicling the authors route home from Nanjing in China to Delhi in India. Being a 'poor' student, Seth decides to save some money and also visit some fascinating areas of China on the way home over the summer vacation. Seth travels through the provinces of Gansu, then Qinghai, and on to Tibet before crossing the land border to Nepal.

The travel aspects are great - speaking good Chinese, Seth as a foreigner is able to converse well with most of the This is a short but very enjoyable travel book chronicling the authors route home from Nanjing in China to Delhi in India. Being a 'poor' student, Seth decides to save some money and also visit some fascinating areas of China on the way home over the summer vacation. Seth travels through the provinces of Gansu, then Qinghai, and on to Tibet before crossing the land border to Nepal.

The travel aspects are great - speaking good Chinese, Seth as a foreigner is able to converse well with most of the locals, and in areas where other languages were required he ended up travelling with those who could translate - this makes this book a little different to many similar books by Westerners, who I don't think always get the same level of cooperation or communication with the Chinese.

What really makes this book though is the beautifully descriptive writing . Seth is really very talented. In a book of 178 pages he tells a thorough and in depth story, he doesn't waste any pages, and almost every page contains a sentence or paragraph to be admired.

I have read A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - and although immensely long, I enjoyed the descriptive writing. This book really is different - as it is so short - and nothing is wasted.

Four Stars. ...more
4

May 01, 2012

What is the best way to experience another culture? Learn their language and then promptly hitch hike your way across. This is precisely what Vikram Seth has chances upon. It is a gem of a travelogue, and what has won my admiration is that he is a Hindu pilgrim. Vikram captures the emotions of his friendship with the Chinese people, especially the tension between the majority Han and minority Uighars, mogols and the Tibetans. The travel abroad a truck as it crisscrosses across Sinkiang and Tibet What is the best way to experience another culture? Learn their language and then promptly hitch hike your way across. This is precisely what Vikram Seth has chances upon. It is a gem of a travelogue, and what has won my admiration is that he is a Hindu pilgrim. Vikram captures the emotions of his friendship with the Chinese people, especially the tension between the majority Han and minority Uighars, mogols and the Tibetans. The travel abroad a truck as it crisscrosses across Sinkiang and Tibet brings about a constant stream of challenges, from police checks, bartering to frequent unwarranted stops when the truck gets stuck in mud. These occurrences produce the best phrases out of the author like....
'A mind clouded with rage is fearsome even to itself.' I agree with Vikram's analysis in the end though when he compares India with China and the way both have progressed under different system of governance. According to his observation if you are dirt poor than you are better off born in China as compared to India. On the other hand if you are on the upper end of the poverty scale, than India offers a better prospect for future. ...more
5

Jun 26, 2009

A real gem of a travel book that I somehow overlooked until now.

My own trip to Tibet in 1998 was nowhere near as ambitious or arduous as this. Makes me a little jealous that I never learned Mandarin well enough to ride as a passenger in these Chinese trucks that Seth takes throughout the journey.

Lyrical and fast moving - I loved this one.
5

Mar 17, 2010

The best book on travelling in china. I love it particularly because its an Indian view on china which is so different to any other take on travelling there. Beautifully written too as you'd expect from Vikram Seth.
4

Mar 19, 2019

Got a chance to undertake a leisure read after a really long time and this one turned out to be a good choice for this opportunity. The book is a reflective travelogue of a student travelling from China to India through Tibet and Nepal, and while it will not teach you in detail about the historical contexts of these areas it will expose you to some very human relationships between people from different cultures, within communities who have been at war for decades, and between people who need not Got a chance to undertake a leisure read after a really long time and this one turned out to be a good choice for this opportunity. The book is a reflective travelogue of a student travelling from China to India through Tibet and Nepal, and while it will not teach you in detail about the historical contexts of these areas it will expose you to some very human relationships between people from different cultures, within communities who have been at war for decades, and between people who need not help each other. You will smile at how movies permeate language barriers and just how knowing an obscure reference to a song can sometimes help create bonds between people who do not understand each other. As someone who has undertaken a few uncomfortable journeys I can resonate with the sense of adventure and "gotta find a way" attitude that Seth displays in the book. Highly recommended for anyone looking for that extra kick up the butt to leave their scheduled lives for a short adventure. ...more
5

Mar 19, 2017

Books have this capacity to surprise me. I had fairly low expectations of this book, and it was surprisingly good. Surprisingly because it had been languishing on my bookshelf for a long time and I only picked it up because it was a thin volume and I was going on a train; didn't want to carry much. Surprisingly also because I know what most travel books are like: they tell you where the author has been and what he/she has seen. And I've been to Xinjiang (variant of Sinkiang and this spelling Books have this capacity to surprise me. I had fairly low expectations of this book, and it was surprisingly good. Surprisingly because it had been languishing on my bookshelf for a long time and I only picked it up because it was a thin volume and I was going on a train; didn't want to carry much. Surprisingly also because I know what most travel books are like: they tell you where the author has been and what he/she has seen. And I've been to Xinjiang (variant of Sinkiang and this spelling also appears in the book), so what was Vikram Seth going to tell me that I didn't know? Admittedly, I haven't been to Tibet.
However, From Heaven Lake is not your usual travelogue; it deals with much more than just one specific journey; it provides a picture of China in 1981. If you think this dates it, think again. History and knowing how things used to be is important for understanding what happens today.
Vikram Seth writes beautifully; he has an observant eye and a feeling heart. And he is Indian, a foreigner in China. ...more
5

Dec 17, 2014

One of the best books I have read in 2014. Vikram Seth is such an amazing writer yet one of the most under-read writers of today. This book is a beautiful account of his hitchhiking experience through China on his way back home to India. One of my favorite persons from the book is a Chinese truck driver named Sui, he was a delight throughout and so was his other companion in the truck, Ginseng, who for the most part is forgotten because he rarely utters a word except for his occasional singing.

One of the best books I have read in 2014. Vikram Seth is such an amazing writer yet one of the most under-read writers of today. This book is a beautiful account of his hitchhiking experience through China on his way back home to India. One of my favorite persons from the book is a Chinese truck driver named Sui, he was a delight throughout and so was his other companion in the truck, Ginseng, who for the most part is forgotten because he rarely utters a word except for his occasional singing.

It's a rare experience to read a beautiful travelogue and experience the length and breadth of traveling through China. It has exquisite descriptions of the Turfan underground water system, the deserts of Nunhan, Heaven lake and it's surreal surroundings, the yaks near the Tangula Range (they were so pretty), the black and silver landscapes of Tibet turning into green and blue. Be sure to look up images of every place mentioned in the book while reading because that helps complete the experience. ...more
4

Dec 14, 2011

As a graduate student in Nanjing University, Seth used his vacation to hitchhike home to Delhi via Tibet. The result is a wonderful book, full of witty observations, good, clear prose and profound meditations on India and China. Its a fresh and interesting perspective to this American reader: there is very little comment on the lack of cleanliness or crowded conditions, as travelers in the West often harp about. Also, Seth is happy to give the Chinese political system the benefit of the doubt: As a graduate student in Nanjing University, Seth used his vacation to hitchhike home to Delhi via Tibet. The result is a wonderful book, full of witty observations, good, clear prose and profound meditations on India and China. It’s a fresh and interesting perspective to this American reader: there is very little comment on the lack of cleanliness or crowded conditions, as travelers in the West often harp about. Also, Seth is happy to give the Chinese political system the benefit of the doubt: where an American traveler assumes the flaws and reports the good, Seth assumes that China works and treats the flaws as unavoidable as with any system. He is as angered by the bureaucracy as Western travelers are, but at least he made it to Tibet. His descriptions of that region are revealing and hopeful: the people seem happy when he talk to them, but great evils are in the very recent past, and they have not forgotten. A rich, fascinating book. ...more
5

Jan 29, 2014

From Heaven Lake was an impulsive pick.

From Heaven Lake is different from page one. Very few travelog'ers can take you along like Seth does, on his impulsive, stubborn and ambitious journey as he hitch-hikes his way from Heaven lake (in China) to Tibet, then Nepal and finally home, Delhi. The fast paced narrative (I say this because there are often twists in the plot which could have made for a good piece of fiction) is rich with metaphors, taking you on a cultural tour through rural China, From Heaven Lake was an impulsive pick.

From Heaven Lake is different from page one. Very few travelog'ers can take you along like Seth does, on his impulsive, stubborn and ambitious journey as he hitch-hikes his way from Heaven lake (in China) to Tibet, then Nepal and finally home, Delhi. The fast paced narrative (I say this because there are often twists in the plot which could have made for a good piece of fiction) is rich with metaphors, taking you on a cultural tour through rural China, often leaving you with a feeling of surrealism, as you stand by the road-side when his truck breaks down in the middle of a road that barely exists or as you hold your breath, guessing how he would get to Nepal with all the rains and washed away roads.

And whats the best part about the book? While he expresses his opinion on various things Chinese, both political and cultural, at no point of time does it turn preachy or philosophical! ...more
3

Mar 03, 2011

Flute music always does this to me: it is at once the most universal and most particular of sounds. There is no culture that does not have its flute -- the reed neh, the recorder, the Japanese shakuhachi, the deep bansuri of Hindustani classical music, the clear or breathy flutes of South America, the high-pitched Chinese flutes. Each has its specific fingering and compass. It weaves its own associations. Yet to hear any flute is, its seems to be, to be drawn into the commonalty of all mankind, Flute music always does this to me: it is at once the most universal and most particular of sounds. There is no culture that does not have its flute -- the reed neh, the recorder, the Japanese shakuhachi, the deep bansuri of Hindustani classical music, the clear or breathy flutes of South America, the high-pitched Chinese flutes. Each has its specific fingering and compass. It weaves its own associations. Yet to hear any flute is, its seems to be, to be drawn into the commonalty of all mankind, to be moved by music closest in its phrases and sentences to the human voice. Its motive force too is living breath: it too needs to pause and breathe before it can go on.
(p 176)

'It is a misunderstanding, I am afraid. The Chinese people and the Japanese people are very friendly towards each other' from Everday Language for Hotel Personnel - 1000 English Sentences
(p 134-135) ...more
4

Dec 19, 2012

One of my favourite authors writes about one of the most interesting regions I've ever been to: Tibet. Based on a travel journal, this is a very personal account of Seth's hitchhiking journey from China, where he was an exchange student, through Tibet to reach Nepal to eventually fly home to his parents in Delhi. In the 80s, it was still difficult to get a visa for Tibet, and there wwre virtually no strangers there. Seth describes not only the beautiful landscape he his travelling through, but One of my favourite authors writes about one of the most interesting regions I've ever been to: Tibet. Based on a travel journal, this is a very personal account of Seth's hitchhiking journey from China, where he was an exchange student, through Tibet to reach Nepal to eventually fly home to his parents in Delhi. In the 80s, it was still difficult to get a visa for Tibet, and there wwre virtually no strangers there. Seth describes not only the beautiful landscape he his travelling through, but also the people he encounters -- many of them friendly and helpful -- and the often stupid and random bureaucratic hurdles set up by the Chinese government, some of which are still in place today. It certainly helped that he spoke Chinese! A nice little book. ...more
3

Sep 11, 2007

This is the first in the long list of travel accounts that I want to read before heading off on my trip. I enjoyed Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' and fully expected to enjoy this account of his travels through Xinjiang and Tibet in the early 1980s. His account was fairly dry in places but it was interspersed with delightful humour and interesting insights. I especially enjoyed Seth's description of the people he met and the warmth and hospitality he received on his journey. He does spend an This is the first in the long list of travel accounts that I want to read before heading off on my trip. I enjoyed Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' and fully expected to enjoy this account of his travels through Xinjiang and Tibet in the early 1980s. His account was fairly dry in places but it was interspersed with delightful humour and interesting insights. I especially enjoyed Seth's description of the people he met and the warmth and hospitality he received on his journey. He does spend an inordinate amount of time on mundane aspects of his journey: his dietry habits, where he slept and trucks breaking down etc but it provides an interesting insight into the difficulties he and those living in Xinjiang and Tibet faced on a day to day basis. ...more
4

Oct 08, 2013

I have read this book last december. I got the book quite some time back and was lying in a corner of my bookshelf, because I thought i would not find it interesting.

However last december I forcefully started reading and after going through initial pages i got deeply absorbed. The narrative of desert lake and surrounding barren land is nicely put and vividly visualized. Also one would certainly like the long train journey across China. In a short span the author has narrated the land, the I have read this book last december. I got the book quite some time back and was lying in a corner of my bookshelf, because I thought i would not find it interesting.

However last december I forcefully started reading and after going through initial pages i got deeply absorbed. The narrative of desert lake and surrounding barren land is nicely put and vividly visualized. Also one would certainly like the long train journey across China. In a short span the author has narrated the land, the floods, the flood plain and the people.

Finally the description of central and southern Tibet, the mountains, the high passes, the valleys and the people takes one in a good tour of the mind.
...more
5

May 13, 2011

I read the book before leaving for my trip to China. Like travel books by Bruce Chatwin, this is a classic. My travel was tame in comparison to Mr. Seth's. However, I could imagine about the travel he described through his incomparable language and wit as I was making my progress through southern China. A must read
4

Jan 22, 2008

Made me want to go on a long and aimless roadtrip, get in trouble with the police, and make strange friends. Either that, or I wanted to go make friends with Vikram Seth and bring him a big pot of vegetarian spaghetti or something. He's great on an aesthetic level, too.
5

May 31, 2015

Made for one o the most delicious reads, the travellogue was an exhilerating experience.
5

Mar 02, 2018

We live in a generation with no dearth of travelogues and guides through places and cultures. There is however a persistent lack of books as charming as this one. Mr. Seth is wonderfully observant in both his perceptions of the places he visits as well as his own minds comprehensions of what they trigger in him emotionally. This book is not one of a journey written with passivity. It is an active account that makes the reader a companion on the journey.

While Seth does not appear to be a fan of We live in a generation with no dearth of travelogues and guides through places and cultures. There is however a persistent lack of books as charming as this one. Mr. Seth is wonderfully observant in both his perceptions of the places he visits as well as his own mind’s comprehensions of what they trigger in him emotionally. This book is not one of a journey written with passivity. It is an active account that makes the reader a companion on the journey.

While Seth does not appear to be a fan of China, in terms of their socio-economic structures and regulations (guiding as they are called), he is very much intrigued by their way of life, literature and languages. Like a good story-teller, he covers the breadth of things by not leaving out the associated histories. This is important for average readers like yours truly to learn along the way, rather than having to do extensive research in parallel.

Seth also highlights his own inability to comprehend much of his own ‘Tibet’ experience, partly because of unfamiliarity of language and mostly because of the uniqueness of their culture. While we can appreciate the peace of a Buddhist monastery anywhere in the Indian subcontinent, the intricacies of the culture and the historical significance of Lhasa cannot be completely deciphered without basic knowledge of its origin, customs and traditions and more importantly, the mutations it has gone through in the years following the Cultural Revolution.

While Vikram is not thoroughly impressed by some parts of his journey through western China, he writes of his travel-mates lovingly. The relationships he builds on his way through China, Tibet and Nepal are the only things that could sustain a difficult travel. Through all of this, Vikram cannot contain the poetry in his heart which flows out in bits and pieces and adds a warmth to the otherwise lonely ride. ...more
5

Apr 30, 2018

After so long I got to read a book that deserves 5 stars.

It is my first book by Vikram Seth and it is one of the most recommended travel books. I picked this up to know about Tibet - the roof of the world that is still a secret kept away from the world. Though I did not get much to know about Tibet as Vikram traveled straight to Lhasa in Tibet from China and then to Nepal to reach Delhi, still I loved this book to the core. It is a well written travelogue where you will not be able to put the After so long I got to read a book that deserves 5 stars.

It is my first book by Vikram Seth and it is one of the most recommended travel books. I picked this up to know about Tibet - the roof of the world that is still a secret kept away from the world. Though I did not get much to know about Tibet as Vikram traveled straight to Lhasa in Tibet from China and then to Nepal to reach Delhi, still I loved this book to the core. It is a well written travelogue where you will not be able to put the book down at any moment. It is amazing how he got the courage to hitch hike his way from China to Delhi via Tibet in the year of 1981 when he was a student studying at Nanjing University, China.

The only thing that is wrong with a good book is that it ends quickly when you want it to be never ending. I felt Vikram just ran through the last chapters when he left Lhasa for Tibet-Nepal border. I would have loved it more if he had slowed down with the details.

Also, It would have been great if Vikram had added more of the beautiful surroundings while he was in Tibet. He wrote all about his feeling, the treacherous paths and the people he met but sometimes less about the place. Or may be it is just about my craving to know more about Tibet and writings of Vikram.

Do I recommend it - Of course! From all my heart. ...more

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