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Day 59: Xangmu to Tingri

Michael Palin - HimalayaXangmu High Street, quiet as the grave when we arrived, erupts into life at night. Sounds of shouting, drilling, thumping and banging drift, unhampered, through tightly closed windows and into my head. I pull all the blankets off the unoccupied bed next to me, curl up in a foetal ball and hope it will all just go away. It doesn't. It gets worse. The hissing, clunking, industrial sounds seem to be augmented by flashes and crackles. Can someone really be spot-welding out there at 12.15? The prospect of how exhausted I'll feel in the morning keeps me awake for at least another hour.

Wake at eight, but it's still pitch dark. In fact, it doesn't begin to get light for another half-hour. The government of China, in their wisdom, decreed that the whole country, wider than the United States, should have only one time zone. The further west you are the later daybreak comes.

The street outside, apart from the frequent clearing of throats and whistling of spittle, is quiet again this morning. I can find no satisfactory explanation for the nocturnal activity other than that Xangmu is a frontier town and frontier towns have a life of their own. We walk down the hill to resume the customs procedures.

A truck marked 'Four Friends Transport. Live Long Friendship Nepal, India, China, Bhutan' is at the head of a long queue of vehicles heading towards Nepal. There isn't much room at the customs, and trucks, individuals, a bewildered looking tour group and a flock of sheep are all trying to get through at the same time. Young, officious border guards in slack uniforms either push people around or ignore them completely. High up on the wall, and conveniently inaccessible, is a small box marked 'Complaints about Immigration'.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 59: Xangmu to Tingri
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Xangmu
  • Book page no: 139

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