||The Himalaya were never easy to penetrate, but once in there, the chances of meeting the unusual, unexpected and downright bizarre were greatly increased. Remote monasteries, isolated religious sites, magic rituals, lives lived virtually cut off from the rest of the world were a series of rare treats, a reward for putting ourselves in awkward and frequently uncomfortable situations. Situations that any sensible person would probably have avoided.
The high Himalaya may seem a monochrome world of shades of grey, but my memory of almost everywhere we went is of bold and vibrant colour, from the robes of the monks, the elaborate thangkas and the vivid decoration of houses in Tibet and Bhutan, to the bright saris and the golden temples of India, the liveries of the bull racers in Pakistan and the multitude of shades of green in the fields of Bangladesh. Almost every view had something eye-catching in it, and Basil's problem when compiling this book was the same as ours when compiling the film - there was just too much good material.
It's never easy taking photographs with a crew at work. Already laden down with gear, the stills man has to choose his moment carefully, squeezing his shots in between those moments when film camera and sound are turning. Basil's pretty used to that now, but I'm sure he'd be the first to agree that things don't get any easier. The fact that Inside Himalaya is yet another eye-opener of a book, a glimpse of the raw life and rich beauty we all saw, says much for Basil's tenacity and the sharpness of his eye. I think he was helped by the fact that much of this trip was on his patch, as it were. His work with Bertolucci on the movie Little Buddha gave him rare insights into the Buddhist religion, and, having been born in Hong Kong, he has a good eye for China and the Chinese.
The only thing Basil is no good at is taking a photograph that someone else might have taken, so you won't find any of those in here. What you will find is fresh, inventive and unique. One of the world's most extraordinary places matched by someone who will go to the most extraordinary lengths to make sure he gets the best. And that's just when it comes to choosing a tent.
The title of this collection, Inside Himalaya, neatly sums up the privilege we all had of being somewhere special, of seeing things that few outsiders had seen before. Neither Basil or I are getting any younger and Himalaya was undoubtedly the toughest travelling we've done together. But this collection proves beyond doubt that we were right to aim high.
Michael Palin, London, April 2004