Kham (ཁམས་) is the face you never knew Tibet had: a land of raging rivers and deep gorges, immense pine forests and azalea-filled meadows, outspoken monks and rebel nomads. It is here, in eastern Tibet, that the plateau begins its descent towards the subtropical Sìchuān basin, and the landscapes represent both extremes: you can drive over a scrubby high mountain pass dusted with snow and a few hours later be sliding your way through rainforest on a mud-bath road. And chances are you’ll be the only foreigner in sight.
Most of Kham is off limits these days but, fortunately, the traditional territory of Kongpo, a cradle of early Tibetan civilisation, is open. In this lush, fairy-tale-like land there are intriguing distinctions in architecture, dress, food, worship (the area has a high number of Bönpo) and quirky legends regarding some of the towering figures of Tibetan history.