The small village in the Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu has a three-tier cemetery dating back to the Early Iron Age
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In October 2016, Singapore-based Shivaji Das (he is Asia- Pacific Managing Director at Frost & Sullivan) and his wife Yolanda Yu—fondly called Lobo—overcame their fear of dirty toilets, which China has a reputation for, and headed off into the remoter parts of Sichuan, to its Wild West, where the plains of the province meld into the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and Tibetan and Han cultures overlap.
The travel-struck couple started their journey at Chengdu, heading towards Kangding. The pretty town is famous all over China for the ‘Kangding Love Song’ and extremely popular with domestic tourists.
From Kangding, they proceeded to Tagong, where they encountered Tibetan nomads, followed by Litang (the ‘World’s Highest Town’), on to Daocheng in the south, where lies the Yading Nature Reserve (named by the local government as Shangri-La). From here they returned north, passing by Chengdu on their way to Sertar and Larung. Larung is home to Larung Gar—the world’s largest monastery— and possibly an illegal settlement.
The journey ended at Danba, the valley of the beautiful women and the tall towers. The itinerary could perhaps be described as ‘touristy’ if it were not uplifted by Das’s sharp observations and empathetic outlook on the people and places he encounters. Here’s a quietly humorous take on Kangding: “The town of love was naturally the town of babies. Soon I realised that nowhere else in China—a country of exceptionally low fertility rates—had I seen such a proliferation of babies.
The mountain weather gave these babies bulging red cheeks, just like the oversized red radishes on display in the roadside stalls in Kangding.”
The journey is through one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet, and the few photographs in the book confirm that. Here is a lucid window into a fascinating place, gently peppered with history. Das’s wry and perceptive travelogue on a region that is ‘not-quite Tibet’ shows that things are never black and white. The style remains chatty and approachable, making the book a pleasure to read.
The ‘Other’ Shangri-La by Shivaji Das
Publisher Konark Rs299
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