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Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe road from Gyantse to Lhasa runs through lonely and very wild landscape, first of all beside a rocky, steep-sided reservoir, then curling round the sinuous shoreline of Yamdrok Tso (Turquoise Lake), the biggest single stretch of water in land-locked Tibet.

Night falls and we're still hugging the lake. Eventually the road rises steeply and winds slowly over what seem interminable passes over interminable switchbacks. I must confess to being fast asleep as we roll across the Yarlung Tsangpo (the mighty Tibetan river that U-turns round the end of the Himalaya and enters India as the Brahmaputra) and when I wake we're on a fast dual carriageway that is the long, western approach into the world's highest capital. We've reached Lhasa, the Forbidden City where, judging from the rows of shining, gaudy, neon-encrusted buildings on either side of us, it doesn't look as if much is forbidden any longer.

I want Lhasa to be as dark and different as I'd long imagined it, a remote place of romance and possible menace, but the drive up the long approach road along West Dekyl Yam dispels illusions. The buildings we pass are more Las Vegas than Lhasa and to be welcomed into the world's highest capital by flashing neon palm trees suggests the Chinese have well and truly won aesthetic control of this ancient city.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Gyantse
  • Book page no: 157

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