Paperback: 270 pages

Publisher: Eye Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Sept. 2011)

ISBN-13: 978-1903070673

Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm

Touching Tibet

Niema Ash

£7.99

“Mesmerising.” The Sunday Times

Niema Ash was one of the first Westerners to enter Tibet when its borders were briefly opened in 1986. Visiting at a time when tourists were few and far between allowed her to encounter people for whom traditional life had been unchanged for generations. Their humour, spirituality, and sheer enthusiasm for life had carried them through years of oppression. Niema relates her experiences in this absorbing personal tale with wit, compassion and sensitivity. Despite the determined efforts of the Dalai Lama to publicise the Tibetan cause, to this day the people, culture and traditions remain mysterious to many. Touching Tibet gives an insight into the heart and soul of this magnificent and enigmatic country.

Extracts

On death and burial:

Burying a loved one in a special place where he can be visited, communed with, paid respect to, is vital. We chisel his name so deeply that several lifetimes cannot obliterate it: ‘In loving memory’. We compose careful epitaphs, sometimes coy, sometimes profound, like WB Yeats’s “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by”; or humorous like WC Fields’s: “I’d rather be in Philadelphia”.

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Extracts

On death and burial:

Burying a loved one in a special place where he can be visited, communed with, paid respect to, is vital. We chisel his name so deeply that several lifetimes cannot obliterate it: ‘In loving memory’. We compose careful epitaphs, sometimes coy, sometimes profound, like WB Yeats’s “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by”; or humorous like WC Fields’s: “I’d rather be in Philadelphia”.

On leaving Lhasa:

Some moments release a lifetime. My fingers reach for the mani stone filled with blessing. As I see the Potala for the last time, my eyes fill with tears as they did the first time. But between those tears and these exists the journey into Tibet. I have touched Tibet; Tibet has touched me.

On farewells:

Tucked into the box was a note from Pascal:

To say farewell

Is to be sad

Be not sad, my love

For after every parting

Comes another meeting

Tsangyang Gyatso, The Sixth Dalai Lama

On a hair-raising mountain bus ride:

We can see the Himalayas covered in snow, their frozen peaks almost within reach, and still we climb. The front seat changes from blessing to curse. I am on the cliff side. When a truck approaches we pull over to let it pass, my fingers grip the seat and I feel grey with terror, shuddering with the engine on the edge of a looming void, waiting to suck us into eternity. No road is visible under the wheels.

 “He’s a good driver,” Pascal reassures me…

quotes

“Excellent – Niema Ash really understands the situation facing Tibet and conveys it with remarkable perception.”

Tenzin Choegyal, brother of the Dalai Lama

“Thought-provoking and enjoyable … it will evoke a deep desire to go to Tibet.”

Geographical Magazine

“Almost surreal in its assemblage of improbably colliding facts – a marriage of the bizarre and the beautiful that chills the spine as often as it warms the heart.”

The Times

I had always longed to go to Tibet, a yearning fired by the allure of the unattainable. The mysteries of the remote mountain kingdom were kept jealously intact. For over a century no foreigner was allowed to enter the city of Lhasa’s holy domain. Now I am on my way there…” 

Niema Ash

reviews

A captivating account of a journey I wish I'd been on.

(5* review)

This is one of my top 5 books. I read this book when it was 'Flight of the Windhorse' and I made a point of buying it in its new format.There are only a few books I've read that have pulled me along with them but this one did much more - it changed my outlook and my aspirations.I would like to thank the author for a story I will never forget.

Beguiling and thought provoking

Niemaen route to a hot destination. Sludging through thick Scandinavian snow in open-toed sandals and thin trousers was no fun, but I had the last laugh when a sweaty Santa decanted into Bangkok's 80% humidity! I have also demonstrated disco dancing to the Chinese.Also like Niema, I have wept in Lhasa. I entered on one of the few organised tours allowed into Tibet after the Chinese clamped down on border crossings and made Niema's style of independent travel in Tibet a thing of the past. When she went, there had only been a handful of tourists before her. When I went, there was even a Lonely Planet Guide. Much of what I found was a result of the bastardization of the Tibetan people, their home and their culture. There was little of Tibet left. This is far removed from what Niema witnessed as the clinging vestiges of an oppressed country. I recognised that Tibet had lost against overwhelming might. And this is why I wept.Niema's writing comes in three quite different styles; narrator, storyteller and political activist. As narrator, Niema's recollections resound with the day-to-day trivia and props familiar to the global traveller; guidebooks, guest-houses and market-place bartering.

extras

ABOUT

Niema Ash

Niema was born and brought up in Montreal. At the age of 14 Niema embarked on a trip to New York; from then on she knew that travel was a driving passion fundamental to her existence. Leaving home an adolescent, she returned an adult, with a husband, baby and a career.

She has travelled extensively throughout the world punctuated by periods spent in her native Canada. In the early sixties she had a daughter, Ronit, whom she raised while living and working with some of the most influential musicians and poets of our time.

In her first book ‘Touching Tibet’ Niema Ash was described as ‘the ideal author of a travel book: passionate, curious, self-critical, and with a rare ability to describe not just the outward appearances of a foreign land but to penetrate and evoke in splendidly vivid prose, its very essence’.

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