Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To a Mountain in Tibet

This is one of the best--and shortest--travel books I have ever read. Author Colin Thubron's writing is exceptionally fine, which made the book a real pleasure to read. Thubron details his arduous journey by Land Cruiser, packhorse, and on foot to the bottom of Mount Kailas, one of Tibetan Buddhism's holiest mountains. Pilgrims make the journey up and up to this spot in order to circle the mountain as many times as they can, thus earning credit for themselves and making expiation for their sins. Mount Kailas itself has never been climbed. No Tibetan would dream of such sacrilege. The journey to the mere foot of the mountain is so difficult that people regularly die on it, especially those from other countries and lower altitudes. What makes the book especially fascinating is Thubron's obvious knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, and his descriptive and personal coverage of the holy sites he passes and the people he meets along the way. I came away knowing a lot more about both Tibet and its religion than when I started the book.

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