promises an entirely different way to experience the great variety of cultures
which are collectively called 'Tibetan'. The natural splendor of the route is
unrivalled in terms of the diversity of landforms encountered. We follow four
of Asia's major rivers: the Yangtze, Salween, Mekong and Brhamaputra, and experience
the imposing mountain ranges that separate one from the other. The whole area
has never really been open to foreigners, and as permits for the region are hard
to come by it is not unusual for our groups to raise a few eyebrows amongst the
locals. From Kunming we travel to Dali where the ancestors of the Bai people made
their home over three thousand years ago. There is enough time to see something
of the peaceful lakeside villages before heading north into the Tibetan tablelands
and the fascinating Naxi people who live in the shadow of Jade Dragon mountain.
We follow the upper Yangtse past Gyelthang and then cross over to the spectacular
valleys of the Mekong where picturesque villages cling to the steep mountainside.
We stop for a day in Chamdo, the capital of eastern Tibet, and then hop from the
valleys of the Mekong to the Salween, and finally the upper Brahmaputra and the
old districts of Pome and Kongpo. Roughly half of our time is spent on the road
and we'll be able to make frequent stops at the temples, markets, high mountain
passes, and alpine lakes along the way; while in Lhasa we have left enough time
to see the city's most important sites.