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Himalaya

Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa

Yamdrok Tso, Tibet 
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On the shores of the largest freshwater lake in Tibet - Yamdrok Tso, 'The Turquoise Lake'. The Chinese have had mixed success in tapping itís hydro-electric potential.
Michael Palin - HimalayaWhereas the Chinese seem to have invaded Tibet many times, the British largely left it alone, though in the mid 19th century they did train up Indian spies, known as pundits, to infiltrate this secretive land. In 1903, however, on a trumped-up pretext, an army, under Colonel Francis Younghusband, crossed over from India, fought a bloody battle not far from Gyantse in which some 3000 Tibetans died, before storming the fort from which we're looking out and going on, unopposed, as far as Lhasa. The British left four years later, leaving behind in Gyantse a post office and a public school. All that remains now is the Anti-British Museum, housed in the dzong.

A smiling lady attendant gestures to me to go inside. She makes sure all the lights are switched on in the 'Memorial Hall of Anti-British', where murals depict the ghastly acts of Younghusband's army and the heroic resistance of the Tibetans. This is echoed on a TV screen on which runs a recently made Chinese epic called Red River Valley, which also deals with the British invasion. There is nothing here, of course, that deals with their own invasion of Tibet.

We have a cup of tea (black tea this time, not yak butter) in front of the ruins of a walled monastery that contains an enormous and very ancient chorten. According to Migmar, there were many such monasteries here. Now they have been cleared and in their place are wider roads, high-rise buildings of tinted blue glass, and, as we drive down from the fort, a concrete pleasure garden, half completed, with ragged grass, fountains that don't spout and twee, concrete bridges running over a stagnant pond.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Gyantse
  • Book page no: 156

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