LITANG, 300km west of Kangding, is a lively, gruff place with a large Tibetan population and an obvious Han presence in its businesses, army barracks, and expanding spread of concrete-and-tile architecture. Wild West comparisons are inevitable: you’ll have to get used to sharing the pavement with livestock, and watching monks and dreadlocked Khampa toughs tearing around the windy, dusty streets on motorbikes. Litang is also inescapably high – at 4014m above sea level, it actually beats Lhasa by over 300m – so don’t be surprised if you find even gentle slopes strangely exhausting. As usual, the main distraction here is people-watching: the shops are packed with Tibetans bargaining for temple accessories, solar-power systems for tents and practical paraphernalia for daily use, while Muslim smiths are busy in workshops along the main street, turning out the town’s renowned knives and jewellery.

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