In the early 1980s, Vikram Seth was a student at Nanjing University, China. On a trip to Northwestern China, he received permission to enter Tibet and decided to hitchhike all the way to his family home in New Delhi, India. From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang And Tibet is the story of the journey that Vikram Seth undertook from Turfan in China, through Urumqi, Xian, Lanzhou and Dunhuang, cutting through Qinghai to Tibet and onto Lhasa and from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi.
From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang And Tibet was born out of the journal that Vikram Seth maintained throughout his journey. He faced numerous problems as a penniless foreign student travelling through Post Mao China. He had to manage in spite of the heavy restrictions placed on foreigners, the strange bureaucratic laws of a chaotic country, the difficult terrain and the really bad weather.
The fact that Vikram Seth was fluent in Mandarin helped him manage this extremely arduous journey. He could get permissions when he required them. His account exhibits the helpful ways of the locals in the places where he went. The description of the journey offers a valuable insight into the lives and local cultures of the places he visited.
The highlight of the book is the account of the journey through Lhasa. In spite of the stringent government laws of 1980s Tibet, Vikram Seth could stay in and pass through Lhasa because of the hospitality of the locals of the area.
Vikram Seth’s writing style is as vivid as the landscape he traversed in his journey. His words are selected with great care, conveying each emotion felt with extreme accuracy. The language flows smoothly, is humorous and easy to read.
From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang And Tibet won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award