Chamdo (ཆམ་མདོ་, 昌都, Chāngdū), at the strategic river junction of the Dza-chu and the Ngon-chu, is a surprisingly pleasant town. It is dominated by the hilltop Galden Jampaling Monastery, while below huddles the tiny Tibetan old town and a much larger, sprawling Chinese new town. Over 1000km from Lhasa and 1250km from Chéngdū, the town is the major transport, administrative and trade centre of the Kham region. Make sure you have your permits in order, otherwise the PSB here are likely track you down, fine you and kick you out.
Chamdo has had a troubled relationship with nearby China. The Chinese warlord Zhao Erfeng (the ‘Butcher of Kham’) captured Chamdo in 1909 and ruled the region until the Tibetans recaptured it in 1917. Chamdo fell to communist troops in 1950, marking the beginning of the end for independent Tibet.