Dismiss Sorry, that person's shelf is private.

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet” as Want to Read:
From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
After two years as a postgraduate student at Nanjing University in China, Vikram Seth hitch-hiked back to his home in New Delhi, via Tibet.  From Heaven Lake is the story of his remarkable journey and his encounters with nomadic Muslims, Chinese officials, Buddhists and others.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 12th 1987 by Vintage (first published 1983)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about From Heaven Lake, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about From Heaven Lake

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Moushumi Ghosh
Nov 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vikram Seth's “From Heaven Lake: travels in Sinkiang and Tibet” is an unusual travel book. Steering clear of all Lonely Planet Guides and regular travel routes, Seth manages to sketch a picture of China, Tibet, and Nepal from a hungry (quite literally) student traveller’s perspective. He was at that time a student at the Nanjing University. Taking time and money off from the Standford University, Seth stays in China for 2 years. When the time comes for him to return home, he decides on a mega un ...more
Mohit Parikh
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent travelogue. Unfortunately, I had to abandon this book mid-way as the cafe I was reading it in was closed on the last day of my trip in Himachal Pradesh.
If you have an ebook, please let me know. I'd really appreciate.
Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book and an even more incredible journey! Vikram Seth, while studying at Nanjing University in China, decided to take a rather unorthodox route on his return to India during his break. His journey starts at Turfan, buried in the Uighur region of western China. And from there, he proceeds further west on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau till he reaches Lhasa, and from there onto Kathmandu and finally Delhi. Remarkable journey, narrated with wit and humour. There are some pages where t ...more
This is a short but very enjoyable travel book chronicling the authors route home from Nanjing in China to Delhi in India. Being a 'poor' student, Seth decides to save some money and also visit some fascinating areas of China on the way home over the summer vacation. Seth travels through the provinces of Gansu, then Qinghai, and on to Tibet before crossing the land border to Nepal.

The travel aspects are great - speaking good Chinese, Seth as a foreigner is able to converse well with most of the
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This fairly short account started me thinking about what makes a good travel book. The author was studying in China and finagled permission to travel home to India via Tibet. He comes across as curious, observant, and resourceful, and his account is well written, but somehow the book (and trip) were disappointing. The author’s time in Tibet was relatively brief and involved only limited interaction with anyone besides the Tibetan truck driver who took him most of the way. I kept thinking it woul ...more

E' il racconto del viaggio in autostop che Vikram Seth intraprende per andare dalla Cina in India attraversando il Tibet e il Nepal.
Non avendo abbastanza soldi per un biglietto aereo e dopo aver ricevuto il visto per andare in Tibet (rarissimo da ottenere negli anni '80) decide di fare un viaggio più avventuroso.
Dalla Cina orientale alla Cina occidentale viaggia in treno ma poi inizia a cercare passaggi in camion che trasportano merci in Tibet. Deve affrontare la burocrazia cinese, torrenti c
Tariq Mahmood
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
What is the best way to experience another culture? Learn their language and then promptly hitch hike your way across. This is precisely what Vikram Seth has chances upon. It is a gem of a travelogue, and what has won my admiration is that he is a Hindu pilgrim. Vikram captures the emotions of his friendship with the Chinese people, especially the tension between the majority Han and minority Uighars, mogols and the Tibetans. The travel abroad a truck as it crisscrosses across Sinkiang and Tibet ...more
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
A real gem of a travel book that I somehow overlooked until now.

My own trip to Tibet in 1998 was nowhere near as ambitious or arduous as this. Makes me a little jealous that I never learned Mandarin well enough to ride as a passenger in these Chinese trucks that Seth takes throughout the journey.

Lyrical and fast moving - I loved this one.
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The best book on travelling in china. I love it particularly because its an Indian view on china which is so different to any other take on travelling there. Beautifully written too as you'd expect from Vikram Seth.
Tina Tamman
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Books have this capacity to surprise me. I had fairly low expectations of this book, and it was surprisingly good. Surprisingly because it had been languishing on my bookshelf for a long time and I only picked it up because it was a thin volume and I was going on a train; didn't want to carry much. Surprisingly also because I know what most travel books are like: they tell you where the author has been and what he/she has seen. And I've been to Xinjiang (variant of Sinkiang and this spelling als ...more
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read in 2014. Vikram Seth is such an amazing writer yet one of the most under-read writers of today. This book is a beautiful account of his hitchhiking experience through China on his way back home to India. One of my favorite persons from the book is a Chinese truck driver named Sui, he was a delight throughout and so was his other companion in the truck, Ginseng, who for the most part is forgotten because he rarely utters a word except for his occasional singing.

Pradeep Chandkiran
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
From Heaven Lake was an impulsive pick.

From Heaven Lake is different from page one. Very few travelog'ers can take you along like Seth does, on his impulsive, stubborn and ambitious journey as he hitch-hikes his way from Heaven lake (in China) to Tibet, then Nepal and finally home, Delhi. The fast paced narrative (I say this because there are often twists in the plot which could have made for a good piece of fiction) is rich with metaphors, taking you on a cultural tour through rural China, ofte
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel, china
As a graduate student in Nanjing University, Seth used his vacation to hitchhike home to Delhi via Tibet. The result is a wonderful book, full of witty observations, good, clear prose and profound meditations on India and China. It’s a fresh and interesting perspective to this American reader: there is very little comment on the lack of cleanliness or crowded conditions, as travelers in the West often harp about. Also, Seth is happy to give the Chinese political system the benefit of the doubt: ...more
Flute music always does this to me: it is at once the most universal and most particular of sounds. There is no culture that does not have its flute -- the reed neh, the recorder, the Japanese shakuhachi, the deep bansuri of Hindustani classical music, the clear or breathy flutes of South America, the high-pitched Chinese flutes. Each has its specific fingering and compass. It weaves its own associations. Yet to hear any flute is, its seems to be, to be drawn into the commonalty of all mankind, ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Novela que describe un viaje desde China hasta India haciendo autostop. Describe con un asombroso nivel de profundidad y detalle todas las vivencias de su viaje, ofreciéndonos una vista única hacia el interior de culturas milenarias como la china y la tibetana. Vikram Seth nos invita a viajar con él y descubrir las maravillas naturales que se encuentran en cada esquina de China y el Tíbet y la vida de los pobladores después de los revoltosos tiempos de la Revolución Cultural.

Sin dudas, una lectu
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favourite authors writes about one of the most interesting regions I've ever been to: Tibet. Based on a travel journal, this is a very personal account of Seth's hitchhiking journey from China, where he was an exchange student, through Tibet to reach Nepal to eventually fly home to his parents in Delhi. In the 80s, it was still difficult to get a visa for Tibet, and there wwre virtually no strangers there. Seth describes not only the beautiful landscape he his travelling through, but a ...more
Santanu Dutta
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book last december. I got the book quite some time back and was lying in a corner of my bookshelf, because I thought i would not find it interesting.

However last december I forcefully started reading and after going through initial pages i got deeply absorbed. The narrative of desert lake and surrounding barren land is nicely put and vividly visualized. Also one would certainly like the long train journey across China. In a short span the author has narrated the land, the flood
May 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read the book before leaving for my trip to China. Like travel books by Bruce Chatwin, this is a classic. My travel was tame in comparison to Mr. Seth's. However, I could imagine about the travel he described through his incomparable language and wit as I was making my progress through southern China. A must read
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Made me want to go on a long and aimless roadtrip, get in trouble with the police, and make strange friends. Either that, or I wanted to go make friends with Vikram Seth and bring him a big pot of vegetarian spaghetti or something. He's great on an aesthetic level, too.
Purvi Petal
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Made for one o the most delicious reads, the travellogue was an exhilerating experience.
Aishwarya Tiwari
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We live in a generation with no dearth of travelogues and guides through places and cultures. There is however a persistent lack of books as charming as this one. Mr. Seth is wonderfully observant in both his perceptions of the places he visits as well as his own mind’s comprehensions of what they trigger in him emotionally. This book is not one of a journey written with passivity. It is an active account that makes the reader a companion on the journey.

While Seth does not appear to be a fan of
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a bit of difficulty finding this book. I finally found it at the Chicago Public Library. None of the suburban libraries had it (SWAN.) I have read a couple of books about travel in various parts of China: by Chinese and by foreigners. His personal experiences with hitch-hiking, the people he met, the difficulties with bureaucracy made this a fascinating tale. It was not all about the sights to see, but about the getting there too. Most satisfying. Too bad it's out of print and hard to find ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, viaggi
Il viaggio di Seth studente in Cina fino a Llhasa nel Tibet in autostop. Il viaggio di un alieno, un viaggio proibito, in una Cina di venti anni fa. Seth e' gia' allora un ottimo scrittore e rende il racconto del viaggio in modo affascinante. Tra i libri di viaggio, tra i migliori da me letti.Da qualche anno esiste la traduzione in italiano (Autostop per l'Himalaya, chissa' perche' non mantenere il titolo originale)
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A quixotic, often self-flagellating, trek criss-crossing China in the early 80's returning to India overland through Tibet and Nepal made astonishing by the exquisite language and wry but deep observations.
Tamara Covacevich
Lo compre en una tienda de segunda mano en Girona. Una agradable lectura! Simple y humilde no da ni más ni menos de lo que promete. Un interesante acercamiento a la sociedad china y su política respecto a extranjeros, más un diario de viaje que de aventuras.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic account of Seth's unique journey back home to Delhi from Northwestern China. He doesn't give in to romanticizing or exaggeration, which makes this a wonderful read.
Martha Klein
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating personal account of a journey Vikram Seth made from China to Tibet when he was a student. Brings back my old hitchhiking days from the 70s.
Mountain Girl
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy, quick read. Very interesting.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mar 14, 2012 rated it liked it
From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth

Ostensibly From Heaven Lake is a travel book. The description is both apt and limiting. It is worth musing on the idea that travel may be merely a way of collecting a pool of nostalgia for future regurgitation. But this particular description of the author’s journey through China – initially west-east and then north-south in the early 1980s – does not seem to have added very much potential fuel to future’s recollected fires.

At the time it was hardly common for an i
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China
  • Danziger's Travels: Beyond Forbidden Frontiers (Paladin Books)
  • Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East
  • The River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong
  • Forbidden Journey
  • The Sindbad Voyage
  • Chasing the Monsoon
  • Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land
  • Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet (Kodansha Globe)
  • A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism
  • Slowly Down the Ganges
  • News From Tartary
  • Across China
  • Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah
  • Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America
  • In Xanadu: A Quest
  • Magic and Mystery in Tibet
  • The Marsh Arabs
Vikram Seth is an Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children's writer, biographer and memoirist.

During the course of his doctorate studies at Stanford, he did his field work in China and translated Hindi and Chinese poetry into English. He returned to Delhi via Xinjiang and Tibet which led to a travel narrative From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983) which won
More about Vikram Seth...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
    $13.99 $3.99
  • The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Your Erroneous Zones
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
“Romantic retrospect aside, the night spent in the truck is distinctly unpleasant. We are cramped and cold. The much-vaunted heating of the truck is ineffectual. The wind prises through the cracks in the sides of the windows, and penetrates us to the bone. My feet are moist in my shoes, yet to take my socks off is to chill my feet even further. We take every warm item of clothing out of our bags and swaddle ourselves into immobility. The sheepskin on the seat cuts out a bit of the cold rising from below. We share a blanket and Sui, before he goes off to sleep, makes sure I get a generous part of this. He then drops off to sleep, and tugs it away. He jockeys for space, and I am forced to lean forward. He begins to snore. To make it all worse, both he and Gyanseng sleeptalk. They have told me before tat I do, too, but I've never noticed it. What I do notice, however, late at night, with my two territorially acquisitive companions wedging me forwards, is that I have started talking to myself: naming the constellations I can see move across the mud-stained windscreen, interviewing myself, reciting odd snatches of poetry. I also notice that I am hungry, which is curious, because during the day I was not; and itchy, which is to be expected after so much unwashed travel; and sleepy, though I cannot sleep for cold and headache and discomfort; and alas, bored out of my mind.
When things get really bad, I imagine myself in a darkened room, up to my shoulders in a tub of hot water, with a glass of Grand Marnier beside me and the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet sounding gently in my ears. This voluptuous vision, rather than making my present condition seem even more insupportable, actually enables me to escape for a while from the complaints of my suffering body.”
More quotes…