The drive from Shangri-la to Markam was as beautiful as it was long. We passed through green forest, bare mountains and snow capped peaks all in one day. Of course, the changes in topography were accompanied by a constant fluctuation in temperature. By the time we reached Markam, temperature wise, we had come full circle from 5° to 25° and back down to 5° around nightfall.
Markam was located in interior Tibet and the difference between Tibet and the rest of China was stark, the latter being considerably less developed.
Markam was a run down town that had only recently been opened to tourists. For us, it was nothing but a stop along the way towards Lhasa.
Previously an army and to police stronghold, Markham is very strict. There are laws preventing foreigners from staying wherever they please. We had to pick from a pre approved list of three hotels. One was full, one had no heating and one was ¥400 per room for a night. Our pockets grew considerably lighter that night.
It’s no surprise that tourism isn’t picking up in Tibet. It’s natural beauty hardly makes up for the feeling of being unwelcome, a feeling that Markam radiates.