Namtso, Tibet

Kindly Contributed by Canyon Sam, author of Sky Train, Tibetan Women on the Edge of History.

"If you have slack in your schedule on a visit to Tibet, be sure to take the opportunity to see some of the countryside surrounding Lhasa.  This high desert plateau is some of the most beautiful landscape in the world.  One close access point is Lake Namtso, Heavenly Lake, north of the city — which can be visited in as little as a half day. The two vast jewel-like, deep blue lakes lie in a setting which, like all of central Tibet, shows that the region was an ocean, millions of years ago.

It's a place where land stretches out to the horizon. An unusual free standing, 30-foot tall rock with a lens-shaped opening in the middle shades a small, ancient temple lakeside. During the summer you’ll see magnificent wildflowers, cormorants, gulls (this is a flyway), jackrabbits, pikas, and if you’re lucky, antelope. If you have time and the confidence to handle the 15,000-foot altitude, scramble up to the top of the hill for a view of the stunning Nyenchen Tang mountain range to the southeast. Colored prayer flags flutter at the summit to honor the gods, which Tibetans believe inhabit all of nature."

A third-generation Chinese American, activist and performer, Canyon Sam writes with warmth and surprising subtlety in her compelling account of Tibet and her travels.  Sky Train mixes the stories of four remarkable women with the author's first visit to Tibet, just after it opened to the outside world in 1986, and her return in early 2007, just after the train from Beijing to Lhasa (or Lasa; as she notes, the Chinese willfully misspell the holy city's name) was inaugurated. The Dalai Lama provides the foreword. Sky Train won the Pen American Center 2010 Open Book Award.