To A Mountain In Tibet – Colin Thubron

“In the minutes before sleep, a shadowy melancholy descends: the bewilderment when something long awaited has gone.”

A very personal account of Colin Thubron’s pilgrimage to Mount Kailas; a slighter, but deeper, volume than usual.

Read it if you’re going to do the kora: you’ll gain an understanding not simply of the physical demands, but also the spiritual significance of this mountain for Buddhists, Hindus, Jain and Bon. I wish I had.

It’s also made me want to reread A Stranger in Tibet: The Adventures of a Zen Monk, Scott Berry’s account of the life and travels of Kawaguchi Ekai, a Japanese zen monk who travelled to Tibet in the opening years of the 20th century. Kawaguchi is mentioned a lot in Colin Thubron’s account, and he (Kawaguchi) also lived in Marpha, Nepal, for a while – we passed his house on the Annapurna Circuit. link: To A Mountain In Tibet – Colin Thubron

Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron

I loved this book. Colin Thubron’s reflections on his trip from China to Turkey bring to life the places through which he travels, the people that he meets, and gives well written, well researched context to both. Unlike accounts by some other travel writers, there nothing to cringe at or be embarrassed by, just page after page of observation and analysis that fascinates and enlightens.

An excellent, excellent book.

I’m definitely doing a Silk Road trip next year…. link: Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron

In Siberia – Colin Thubron

Finished this off this morning, after starting it last weekend – it’s been sitting on the bookshelf in the Gyford Family caravan ever since I’ve had the joy to go there. A gem of a travel book – partly because I’d not appreciated how inhabited Siberia is, partly because the region is so vast, partly because of the heavy-handed impact relatively recent history has had on the long-standing cultures and societies that had developed there, and partly because Colin Thubron makes the effort to engage and to be engaging as he travels through Siberia eastwards from Russia to the Pacific, mostly by train, but also by bus and car, boat and aeroplane.

Having been busy satisfying my desire to visit Central Asia via litery stand-ins, these tales from the lands to the north of the ‘Stans, Mongolia and China show just how artifical political borders are for the societies that have always lived there, and yet how intrusive, restrictive and destructive the political and powerful can be. The book is full of fascinating facts, and a cast of characters whose lifestories post-Thubron I’d love to learn.

Buy it: Amazon link

Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China – Colin Thubron

09 Jan: Just started this travelogue of Colin Thubron’s visit to China in 1986 – after China had re-opened its doors to the West, but before Tiannamen Square. Good so far…..

… and finally finished it in March. Not that it wasn’t a good read, I just hit one of those patches where you don’t really get into anything. Still, with The Mapmakers having snuck in and revived my reading appetite, I rattled through this during commutes, and moved on to John Simpson.

Buy it: Amazon link