Jan 2018 - The Hotel on the Roof of the World

The Hotel on the Roof of the World; Five Years in Tibet

By Alec Le Sueur











Alec Le Sueur depicts his time in Tibet from 1988 till 1993 in this travelogue. He was sent to Lhasa as a sales manager for the Holiday Inn, which was in those days the only hotel of international standing in the Tibetan capital. Therefore, it is not astonishing that part of the book gives the reader good insight into the challenges of managing a Western hotel in a remote part of the world. There are some amusing stories about sourcing food supplies necessary for offering delicious buffet style lunches and dinners or how to keep up cleanliness and hygiene in an environment lacking modern technologies. The author also deals with the differences coming to light when local hotel employees and the expatriate group have to collaborate.

In his five years in Tibet, Alec Le Sueur had some opportunities to travel to different parts of the country and he shares his awesome impressions of sublime nature with us. During his stay in Lhasa he met many Tibetans and Chinese, either as part of his job or as a tourist. Despite his heart being on the Tibetan side he tries to find a neutral ground between the suppressors and the oppressed.

Definitely some of the strongest parts of the book are the historical retrospections in which the author excavated some very interesting side stories related to Tibet during the British colonial times in India.
The book was first published in 1998 and was a big success, highly praised as “a rip-roaring comedy” and has seen many editions since then.
Our book group unanimously could not join in this chorus of praise. We found it a very easy read and in no way “horribly funny” or inspiring. Nevertheless, to do justice to the book, we have to state clearly that we are not the right target group of readers. Maybe twenty years ago, when it was first published, it might have been appealing to many Westerners to get a firsthand inside view into this closed part of the world. Nowadays with all the travel blogs on the Internet a traditional travel writing book isn’t that exciting anymore nor are travelers barred from visiting Tibet.  



Birgit Groh