Mustang: A Lost Tibetan Kingdom

by Michel Peissel

Michel Peissel, the explorer and anthropologist, travelled to the remote kingdom of Mustang in Nepal on the borders of Tibet. More Tibetan than Nepali the place is the last bastion of Tibetan Buddhist culture since Tibet was destroyed by the Chinese. He went there in the 1960s when there was no road  and the only access was by trails suitable only to trekkers and animals. Now there is a road only open since 2015 and I am hoping at last my 30 year old dream will be fulfilled and I will finally visit the city of Lo Manthang and the monastery of Lo Gekar one of the oldest in the world.

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Zanskar: The Hidden Kingdom

by Michel Peissel

To reach the hidden kingdom of Zanskar; Michel Peissel went by foot over the formidable mountain range which has preserved the country’s isolation. I was lazy when the road was opened (a misnomer to call it a road) I took the easy way out and hired a jeep. The mountains were spectacular.

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Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan

by Jamie Zeppa

BEYOND THE SKY AND THE SEA is a love story between a Canadian school teacher and a Bhutanese. Despite the disparity in their ages (he was younger) and the general disapproval they got married and had a child. However the marriage did not last because of cultural differences. Jamie Zeppa gives an enlightening account of the difficulties of living in remote eastern Bhutan.

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East of the sun and west of the moon

by Theodore Roosevelt and Kermit Roosevelt

EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON was written by Theodore Roosevelt and Kermit Roosevelt in 1926 about their journey from Kashmir through Ladakh over the mountains to Yarkand and Turkestan returning via Pakistan in search of big game.

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Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom

by Andrew Duff

The incredible true story of Sikkim, a fairy-tale kingdom in the Himalayas that survived the end of the British Empire in India only to be annexed by India in 1971. It tells the story of the handsome last King of Sikkim and his young and beautiful American wife Hope Cooke. Despite the couple’s struggle for their country’s independence it became a pawn in the Cold War and finally became another Indian state.

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Servant of Sahibs: The Rare 19th Century Travel Account as Told by a Native of Ladakh

by Rassul Galwan

There has never been another book remotely similar to “Servant of Sahibs”! It is the remarkable, but true, story of Rassul Galwan, a native of Ladakh who early on in life became a trusted assistant to various nineteenth century European explorers. Setting off at a young age, Galwan was soon to be found in the company of adventure travelers like Sir Francis Younghusband, who explored the Tibetan plateau, the Pamir mountains and the deserts of Central Asia. Quietly bringing up the rear of these now-famous caravans was Rassul Galwan. Having taught himself how to run the expedition, the intelligent mountaineer was soon turning his talents to acquiring languages, picking up a working knowledge of Chinese and English, among others. It was with this rudimentary English vocabulary that Rassul Galwan authored “Servants of Sahibs”, the only account of its kind. “Everywhere he like, there he go. From top hills to hills tops,” Galwan wrote about his life of journeying. The book is a first-hand account of the most famous Central Asian expedi­tions, as seen by Galwan, and the natives involved.

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No Purdah in Padam: The story of the women’s overland Himalayan expedition 1958

by Antonia Deacock

The story of the women's overland Himalayan expedition 1958 to Padam in the Eastern Zanskar. Not to be outdone by their husbands who were themselves mountaineers three intrepid ladies embarked on their journey which everyone said could not be done by women. Lady Hunt generously lent her name to the expedition also Dame Isobel Cripps and Mrs Pandit. After some sensational newspaper publicity and the support of the Rover Company. The expedition finally was on its way.

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Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh

by Dr Janet Rizvi

This intriguing account of Ladakhi trade is spiced with enough personal details of the traders at all levels, to demonstrate that trade is something more than a matter of routes and commodities, prices and rates of profit; it is an activity carried out by real human beings, profoundly colouring their entire way of life.

This book documents the extraordinarily complex pattern of trade upon which the pre-Independence economy of Ladakh largely depended. At the subsistence level, food-grains grown in the valleys were exchanged with wool and salt from the high-altitude plateaux of Tibet. Ladakh was also the conduit by which the luxury fibre pashmina (or cashmere) passed from Tibet's high-altitude plateaux down to Srinagar, to be worked into Kashmir's famous shawls. In addition, its capital, Leh, was the halfway stage on the route for the long-distance trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between the Punjab and eastern central Asia (Sinkiang), and also the entrepot for trade between central Asia and Lhasa.

The book is based mainly on oral evidence; this is related to documentary sources ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

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Peaks and Lamas: A Classic Book on Mountaineering, Buddhism and Tibet

by Marco Pallis

Several years ago, Wendell Berry recommended we read Marco Pallis’ Peaks and Lamas. He had obtained a copy of this out of print and elusive title, and upon reading it wrote saying, "I have a very high opinion of it." He praised the writing on travel and mountaineering, but he was specially drawn to the writing about Buddhism, the chapters on Tibetan Art, and went on "this is the best book, in my limited reading, in connecting a form of Buddhism with its sustaining culture. It would be useful to anybody interested in what a traditional culture is or might be, and how such a culture might preserve itself." He travelled to Ladakh and the Tibetan Himalayas.

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Seven Years in Tibet

by Heinrich Harrer

This is the incredible true story of Heinrich Harrer’s escape across the Himalayas to Tibet, set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

Heinrich Harrer, already one of the greatest mountaineers of his time, was climbing in the Himalayas when war broke out in Europe. He was imprisoned by the British in India but succeeded in escaping and fled to Tibet. Settling in Lhasa, the Forbidden City, where he became a friend and tutor to the Dalai Lama, Heinrich Harrer spent seven years gaining a more profound understanding of Tibet and the Tibetans than any Westerner before him.

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Forbidden Journey: The Life of Alexandra David-Neel

by Barbara M. Foster & Michael Foster

Recounts the life of the 20th century Frenchwoman who was the first European female to enter Lhasa. She was a prolific author, inveterate explorer, pioneer feminist, and world authority on Tibetan Buddhist tantric rites.

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Married to Bhutan

by Linda Leaming

Tucked away in the eastern end of the Himalayas lies Bhutan: a tiny, landlocked country bordering China, India, and Nepal. One of the most remote places in the world, Bhutan is rich in natural beauty, exotic landscapes, and ancient wisdom, where people are genuinely happy with very few material possessions and the government embraces “Gross National Happiness” instead of Gross National Product. The unforgettable story of a love affair between a country, an American and young man which does not end when the book finishes. It makes absorbing reading from start to finish.

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The Bon Monastery at Kewzing in Sikkim

The Bon Monastery at Kewzing in Sikkim

This Tibetan folk religion has many beliefs which predate Buddhism and encompasses indigenous beliefs and animism practices. These are primarily concerned with propitiation of the spirits and demons of Tibet, which are believed to inhabit all areas of the country. Folk religious practices rely heavily on magic and ritual and are generally intended to bring mundane benefits, such as protection from harm, good crops, healthy livestock, health, wealth, etc. I was fortunate to be allowed to photograph the interior of the monastery when I visited in May 2017. There are only two Bon monasteries in India the other is in the Himachal Pradesh.

Lunch at a farmhouse in Haa Bhutan

Lunch at a farmhouse in Haa Bhutan

I had the chance of visiting a farmhouse in the Haa district also known as Hidden-Land Rice Valley in the west of the country on the Tibetan border.

There is a large Indian military presence here because of the incursions by the Chinese. The farmhouse is also a homestay guest house.

I found many similarities with the houses in Ladakh India, but there were some surprises. I found a western bathroom and Tibetan-style bedrooms which looked comfortable with colourful mattresses and cushions laid out on the floor.

The lunch was delicious and I ate so much that I had to be helped down the ladder style staircase.

Lumbini Nepal 2016

Lumbini Nepal 2016

This intrepid traveller was in Lumbini in search of the birth place of Buddha in the south of the country. I am happy to say she succeeded in her aim.

The place was full of pilgrims from all over Asia queuing to venerate the actual birth place which is housed in a large building. I had hoped for a moment of enlightenment but nothing happened so I went back to the hotel for dinner

Swayambunath Monastery Kathmandu

Swayambunath Monastery Kathmandu

Prayer flags flutter in the breeze taking blessings into the universe. Tibetans sell trinkets and bric-a-brac at the many stalls. A few monkeys try to make a nuisance of themselves but the tourists and pilgrims just ignore them. It is pleasant to sit under the prayer flags and reflect on life and watch life go by.

The Road to Zanskar Kashmir 2013

The Road to Zanskar Kashmir 2013

Two day after leaving Leh I finally reach Padum. I stayed overnight at Kargil the guy who carried my luggage to the room who was shocked at how little I had. We change drivers here I say goodbye to my Buddhist Ladakhi and hello to the Moslem Kashmiri who speaks little English which suits me. The road is barely a track in places and often we forded streams. The icy mountain peaks follow us along the Zanskar river. I am aware of them watching me.

The Srinagar-Leh Highway 1978

The Srinagar-Leh Highway 1978

The Srinagar-Leh highway is open about four months of the year from May to September. In July 1978 as part of a group I travelled from Srinagar to Leh stopping overnight at Kargil. We were some of the earliest tourists to come to Ladakh since this remote region bordering of China and Pakistan had been open to foreigners since 1974. After about a week we were all due to return to Srinagar but in the meantime I had made friends with a young motor biker who promised me that he would come and pick me up from Alchi and take me back to Leh leaving the others to return to Kashmir. I did not really believe he would turn up but to my amazement he did and I had the most thrilling ride of my life riding pillion along one of the highest roads in Himalaya. This itinerary change altered my entire life because I made friends in Ladakh which have lasted nearly forty years.