First published in 1983, it describes his hitchhiking travels in the summer of 1981. Seth was a student at Nanjing University on leave of absence from Stanford.
The starting point is in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang on an organised tour for foreign students. He is soon frustrated by the limitations imposed by the trip's 'minders' and makes plans of his own. A mixture of guile, doggedness and luck land him a visa that allows him to hitch through Tibet to Lhasa and on through Nepal to Kathmandu.
We get descriptions of the terrain, the towns and small settlements, the physical and beaurocratic impediments to travel; but most fascinating is the picture of a society in a state of flux, built up from the stories of the people he meets.
Quoting Seth '...to learn about another great culture is to enrich one's own life, to understand one's own country better, to feel more at home in the world, and indirectly to add to that reservoir of individual goodwill that may, generations from now, temper the cynical use of national power.' He was bold enough to learn by direct experience: others may do so vicariously by reading this absorbing and illuminating book.
These comments are based on a reading of the 5th impression of the book, 1999, that includes Seth's foreword of 1989.