ultramarinus – beyond the sea

DAY 1:WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh, India

At the hotel driveway, we were welcomed by the host of Hotel Ladakh Greens with white khata scarfs.  After many hours of traveling, we were more than happy to check in our hotel room, our temporary home for the next six consecutive nights.  After a cup of refreshment tea, we decided to take some rest at the hotel.  At about 10:30, the sky cleared up and the sun had long been up.  WiFi Internet wasn’t working at the hotel.  We put on our shoes and couldn’t wait any longer but to go out and explore Leh.  Heading out the hotel’s poplar-lined driveway, our aim was to walk to the town centre to visit its main bazaar.  At the high altitude, the sun was bright and strong.  The temperature was warmer than we thought.  We walked slowly along Fort Road towards town centre.  Under the brutal late morning sun, we felt dry and tired, partly because of the red-eye flight, partly because of a slight reaction from the high altitude, and partly because of the arid and dusty environment of Leh.

For about 15 minutes we passed by many souvenir shops and hotels along Fort Road, until reaching a crowded restaurant near town centre then we realized that we were a little hungry.  We stepped in the popular Gesmo Restaurant and decided to grab a bite before continuing our walk to the bazaar.  The restaurant was fully packed.  Fortunately at the first table by the entrance sat Sophia, a Spanish tourist who invited us to share the table  by the window with her.  A young lawyer from Spain, Sophia came to India for volunteer work at Dharamsala.  She had already volunteering and traveling alone in the country for two months.  While she was almost done with Leh and almost ready to move on to somewhere else, we two newcomers were delighted to gain some travel tips from Sophia.  We had a good time chatting about traveling in India and Spain.  At the same time, we had our first thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup).

After lunch, we came across Dzomsa, an interesting shop near the main bazaar.  Right by the entrance stood two water containers for tourists to refill their water bottles.  Local treats like apricot and seabuck berry juices were particularly popular.  Other than drinks, dried fruits, tea leaves, spices, nuts, apricot kernel oil, and other handcrafts were also on the shelves.  From Dzomsa it was only a short walk to the main bazaar, the lively commercial centre of Leh.  Popular with locals and tourists alike, the main bazaar offers everything from souvenirs to local produce.  Unfortunately much of the market street was under extensive road paving work when we were there.  At some spots, walking in the main bazaar was like wandering in a dusty construction site.  It was just our first day in Leh.  We were in no rush to check out every single shop in the bazaar.  We took our time wandering in the town centre, absorbing the atmosphere of the busy market scene.

DSC_3382Outside of our hotel gate, Lower Tukcha Road was a sleepy lane with local homes and hotel complexes.

DSC_3384Intersection at Lower Tukcha Road and Fort Road which connects to the town centre of Leh. There is no proper street sign so the little grocery store with a distinguishable wooden storefront became the landmark for us for direction.

DSC_3387From our hotel to the town centre, it was about 15-minute walk. Under the bright afternoon sun, the unpaved road turned golden. It was soft and pleasant to walk on until a cloud of swirling dust rose from the dirt road when motorcycles and cars drove by. Under the harsh sun, every pedestrian preferred to walk under the shade.

DSC_3388As approaching the town centre, we had a better view of the earth-tone Leh Palace and the red and white Namgyal Tsemo Gompa prominently standing on the rocky hill.

DSC_3393Before arriving at the main bazaar, we stopped by Gesmo Restaurant for lunch.  According to the guidebooks, Gesmo Restaurant had always been a local favorite. When we arrived there, the restaurant was fully packed with locals and travelers. We met a Spanish traveler, Sophia, who invited us to share a table by the window with her. Sophia had been traveling in this country for over a month. She shared stories of the travel and we shared our upcoming travel plan. We were happy to start off the day with a pleasant chat with like-mind people sharing the same passion and curiosity for traveling the world.

DSC_6398Near the main bazaar, small food and drink shop Dzomsa is a delightful stop for  juices of local fruits, organic snacks and spices, and souvenirs. Right by the entrance of the store were two larger water urns filled with portable water. With less than 8 rupees, visitors could refill their water bottle. It was a great environmental alternative to bottled water. There were also two large buckets collecting plastic bottles and used batteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was hot and dry outside. We took a little rest in the store and tried the most popular juice in town, apricot juice (left) and seabuck berry juice (right). For unknown reasons, we always presumed that the orange, thicker one would be the apricot juice and the one with the grape juice colour would be the seabuck berries juice. When we asked the storekeeper, we were told that it was actually the other way around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe store was simple with wooden shelves along the wall displaying the store staples such as mint tea, home-made jam, dried fruits, crunchy roasted apricot kernels, the precious saffron spice etc. We were happy to have found this store.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar were getting a facelift. Paving work and renovation of different scale were underway everywhere, especially the area near the main mosque Jama Masjid. Winter in Leh is extremely cold with heavy snow, so construction work can only be done in the short summer months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists and locals walking by one of the buildings along the main bazaar.

DSC_3398Colourful prayer flags could be seen all over the market area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking at Jama Masjid’s end of the main bazaar with Leh Palace at the background.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal shopkeeper under the shade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal farmers took various kinds of seasonal vegetables for sell in the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA passerby in the main bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main bazaar was a great place for people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany buildings around the bazaar were under construction or renovation.

DSC_3418The young street performer walked by and caught many people’s attention.

DSC_3436The Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.

DSC_3444Leh is like an oasis in a desert. Looking beyond cars and houses are bare mountains surrounding the city, reminding us of the harsh climate of this arid region.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

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