Introduction to Kham

Envision a land of sharp, snowdusted summits, glaciers spilling downwards in tubularly jumbled masses of eternally moving ice, spilling farther into waterfalls and streams and torrents and creeks and finally massive raging rivers of powerful water rumbling powerfully through the depths of impossibly deep gorges, carving their valleys ever deeper and more precipitous. Himalayan upthrusts pushing higher and higher through forest and grassland and bare rock and glacial ice and snow and up into the sharply blue air, separated by relentlessly steep valleys and canyons of impossible grandeur: this is Kham, a landscape of physical and seemingly emotional extremes.

The feeling of drama extends to the inhabitants of the region, who are known for their  intense religious devotion as much as their wild and often violently volatile mood swings. The Khampa have a reputation for being combative, angry, quick to hold grudges and pick fights; but also have a reputation for extreme friendliness and deep, overwhelming generosity. Like in other regions of the plateau, the majority of Khampa are farmers or semi-nomadic herders (or both), though there is also a moderately large population of tradespeople, an ever-increasing number of which are in the business of the incredibly valuable yartsa gunbu (虫草), or medicinal caterpillar fungus.

Your journey in Kham may be quite rough. Roads are bumpy, passes are high, and distances are often extremely long. However, if you make it out here, you’ll find yourself in some unbelievably remote and beautiful places, and with some of the most genuine people you could ever hope to meet. I just hope that the difficulties of coming out here (not to mention the cold, and the dogs, the filthy hotels, the trash, the dangerously frightening roads, the political uncertainties, the frequent lack of electricity and water, etc.) will keep this place beautifully empty and quiet for the rest of us.

Below, please click the appropriate geographic area to find travel information on the regions of Kham.

Yushu (Yulshul) Prefecture

Ganzi (Garnze) Prefecture

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