June 2009. Litang, China.
Litang is located in the Chinese province of Sichuan, but culturally, ethnically and historically it is 100% Tibetan. It was supposed to be the highlight of my trip to the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, but it rained pretty much non stop during my stay in town. So I didn’t get the see as much as I would like to. But what I saw was very Tibetan. The people looked Tibetan, the houses were built in Tibetan style, the food was Tibetan, the clothing was Tibetan and the monastery was Tibetan.
There was just one ‘but’. Because Litang has been the centre of Tibetan secessionist activities, the place is full of police and military. It is really hard not to notice them as you walk through the town. It didn’t look like they were disturbing anyone, they looked like they were just keeping eye on things. But it just felt really unnatural to see those uniformed men in such a place.
Despite the police and the military, this part of China is truly stunning. If you always wanted to see Tibet, but going through the red tape to get the permit to go there is too much for you, then Litang and the rest of Sichuan could be the solution.