Lǐtáng is famed as the birthplace of the 7th and 10th Dalai Lamas and the area around the town has strong connections to the epic warrior Gesar of Ling.
However, you won’t notice this at first. Lǐtáng lies at a wheeze-inducing altitude of 4014m, but the thin air isn’t the only thing taking your breath away. Your rear is pounded mercilessly by the awful roads, yet you may not even notice, so intoxicated are you by the visual majesty – ice-capped peaks every which way and epic grasslands. On arrival, you’ll know you’re in Kham, China’s ‘Develop the West’ campaign having hardly dented the Tibetan culture here. Yaks, sheep skins, yak-butter tea, nomads, khampas (people from Kham, in Tibet), all set in a town that time has for the nonce left unbothered.
Lǐtáng has a fantastically relaxed and friendly atmosphere. While there may not be much in the way of sights, you can easily fill your days hanging out with the local people under a blazing sun and starry night skies or exploring the spectacular walks into the surrounding hills. Advice on where to go (ie where isn’t currently being used as grazing pastures or for sky burials) should be sought from locals. Be sure to allow yourself time to acclimatise to the altitude before you set out.
If you do find yourself suffering from altitude sickness and can’t get out of town, there is a local treatment consisting of medicated pills and re-hydration drinks. The woman running Crane Guesthouse may be able to help you out; however, this shouldn’t be considered a remedy and you should still descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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