Staying like a hippy, living without mobile network for days, being amidst the barren beauty without a sign of human existence is what defines Ladakh. Such is the aura of this place that even a fire-grilled pizza wouldn’t match the joy of digging into a bowl of Maggi.
I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to challenge my potential as a traveler until I explored this beautiful city of Leh Ladakh. The body goes through such extremities that despite all the instructions and precautions, you just don’t know how it would react at such heights. This place helped me discover myself and was a lesson in tackling challenges we often face in life.
It’s a place where a mile speaks a thousand pictures and zillion words. If you like to bite your ice-cream rather than licking it, pack your bags and get ready to explore.
It was 10:00 AM on the 20th September, 2014 when we had arrived to the Leh Airport, albeit, it was a bright sunny day, we could feel the chill. It was 14 degrees Celsius but with accompanying strong winds, it felt a lot colder. We 6 of us got busy cladding ourselves in layers of clothes to begin our journey.
We had full 6 days to take a local tour to Leh city, Pangong Lake and Nubra Valley including a day rest to acclimatize. As can be expected at a place where we had our accommodation that rested on an average altitude of 6,000 m one wasn’t expecting an easy day, and there wasn’t any. Two people fell prey to high-altitude sickness.Our accommodation, Depsangla Mess (Maintained by Indo- Tibetan Border Force) had the best of the city’s view.
Counting the stars is the thing of the past in the cities; however, during the night stays around Ladakh, you can actually see them.
Cuisine in Ladakh: Ladakh doesn’t spoil you with a great selection of food. It’s mostly basic- Rogan Josh, Momos, Thukpa, cabbage and dum aloo. We had a nice evening devouring on a sumptuous meal of noodles and tea. No, it’s not the ladakh tea but our very own Milk tea.
I had a tough time struggling with the Ladakh tea (Popularly known as Butter tea) as you need a taste to gulp it down and warm down your nerves. It originated somewhere along the freezing Himalayan mountains; most likely Tibet. The Defining factor is that, it has butter (churned from yak’s milk), butter tea is salty. You read that right, it’s made with salt as opposed to sugar.
Ladakh- Land of Passes: Ladakh got its name from the high altitude mountain passes. “La” means Passes and “Dhak” means many, in short, Ladakh literally means land of many passes.
That Proud feeling when you reach the world’s highest motorable road: Khardungla Top:
Ladakh trip is incomplete without conquering KhardungLa Top. Lying north of Leh Town, KhardungLa top is situated at an elevation of 5602 meters (18,379 ft) according to the local summit sign of Border Road Organization (BRO) who are in charge of the road maintenance.
Visiting Leh Ladakh can be a great experience as these places have a lot of natural beauty. There are a number of attractions in Leh Ladakh that are filled with extreme pristine beauty, the list is inclusive of well- known ancient monasteries, other religious sites, palaces of the royalty, various gompas, mountain peaks, wildlife safaris, adventure activity spots and much more.
Let’s take a tour of some of the places that remains embedded in my memory:
Pangong Tso Lake: Do you remember the last scene of 3 idiots? For those who are besotted by the background that acted as a catalyst for Kareena Kapoor’s love confession, the place is Pangong Lake. The crystal clear blue lake sprawls over an area of 100 kilometers across the borders of two countries in India and China.
Pangong Lake is also known by the name of Hollow Lake and appears as a clear symbol of nature craftsmanship. The first glimpse of the tranquil blue waters, shaky lakeshore and the beauty of the surrounded mountains remains etched in the memory of tourists.
Thikse Monastery: Thikse Monastery, this 12-storey building complex consists of a number of things related to Buddhist art such as Thangka paintings, statues, stupas, swords, and so on. One of the major tourist attraction is the statue of future Lord Buddha in this temple of 49 feet high, which is also the largest in the region.
Diksit Monastery: Located on the periphery of a desert in the Shok Valley, Diksit Village is an administrative center of the Nubra Valley, comprising of various government offices in it. The Diskit monastery is around 350 years old and houses a Maitreya Buddha statue, drums, paintings and Tibetan colored-patterned silk.
Hall of Fame: The Hall of Fame, located near the Leh Airfiled, is a museum constructed as well as maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the soldiers who had lost their lives during the Indo-Pak wars. It is also termed as a memorial for the war heroes. This building consists of two floors. While on the ground floor, there is information about the brave soldiers as and a souvenir shop but on the first floor, there are artifacts of various wars (mainly Kargil war) such as the weapons used during the war and some important documents, related to the same. There is another section dedicated to the Siachen glacier.
Leh Palace: The roof of this palace offers an excellent view of the valley. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is restoring some of the ruined portions of this nine-storey palace.
Sangam: Sangam means Confluence (where two rivers meet each other). Zanskar is the river formed from the junction of two streams; At Nimo Zanskar joins Indus River which the much beautiful view.
Magnetic Hill: Located on the Leh-Kargil-Batalik national highway, and bordered by the sindhu river, the magnetic hill is a gravity hill.
Camel Safari in Ladakh: Bactrian camel: The most distinctive feature of the Bactrian camel is its two humps. These humps, contrary to popular belief, are designed to store fat and not water. Bactrian camels are classified as herbivores.
Camel Traveling is predominantly evident in Nubra Area from Hundar up to the Diskit .Bactrian camels, along with dual humps, are basically also recognized as the ‘Real Camel’.
Some hidden things luckily explored:
Dine-out the Ladakhi way: Experienced the amazing hospitality of the people
Some creativity with the amazing artists:
Sea buckthorn: Considered to be the healthiest drink, Ladakh is the highest producer of sea buckthorn in the country. This product has become an export item for the state as it is valued for beverage and jam, herbal tea, cosmetic products, nutrient composition and anti-oxidant potential for pharmaceutical companies.
Prayer Flags: Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras. Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. Prayer flags are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity to the flag planter and those in the vicinity.
And here I conclude on Ladakh. So, if you wanna feel how it is to be left without a gadget, drive continuously for Kilometers and experience simplicity with serenity, pack your bags and get ready to explore Ladakh!!