ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Leh

DAY 7: LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi, India

After almost a week of Tibetan monasteries and arid Himalayan highlands, our brief Indian journey was almost coming to an end, and it was time to say goodbye to Lakadh.  It was a fine morning.  Tashi came to pick us up at around 6am.  It was only a short ride from Ladakh Greens Hotel to Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport.  At about 3200m above sea level, the airport is India’s highest commercial airport.  We waved goodbye to Tashi and entered the small highland airport.  It was chaotic at the Leh Airport.  The x-ray machine broke down for a bit and there were two long queues, one for men and the other women, at the security check.  After a bit of the hassle, at last we were off in the Ladakhi sky.  From above, Leh and its surrounding desert landscape looked spectacular.  Our plane flew south, passed over the mountains south of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Himachal Pradesh.  After about 1.5 hour, we returned to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport once more.

We stored our big backpacks at the airport, and took the airport express train out to the city.  From the airport the train took about half an hour to reach New Delhi.  At New Delhi, we switched to the metro and rode for two more stops until we reached the stop of Chandni Chowk.  Famous for its centuries-old business as Old Delhi’s high street, Chandni Chowk is close to Red Fort, the former residence of the Mughal royalty from the 17th to 19th century.  After exiting the metro station, we were immediately overwhelmed by the people, colours, odour and sounds of the street in Old Delhi.  It was awfully hot at about 40 degrees, and extremely crowded.  We followed a crowd of people exiting the station, tried to find our way to the Red Fort, but were soon followed by two bicycle ricksaw drivers.  We asked the first driver going to the Red Fort.  He tried to trick us by saying 10.  We asked him once more before we got on whether he meant rupees or not.  He then clarified it was 10 USD.  We decided to ignore him and continued to find our way.  The second driver, a young man in his early twenties, followed us and tried to convince us to get on his ricksaw by saying it was very dangerous in Old Delhi.  We kept on walking aimlessly on the street thinking he would eventually give up, but he didn’t.  On the hot and crowded street of Old Delhi, he followed us for over 20 minutes.  At the end, we didn’t bother to find where we actually were, and jumped onto an empty tuk-tuk.  The tuk-tuk driver was more than happy to take us to the Red Fort.  After some sweat we finally reached the iconic Lahori Gate of the mighty Red Fort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a morning flight back to Delhi. By the time we arrived at the airport, there was a long queue outside of the airport for security check.

dsc_6516At about 3200m above sea level, the airport is India’s highest commercial airport.

dsc_6517A Jet Airway plane landed on the runway. It reminds us of our landing one week ago.

dsc_6519View from the plane to down below.

dsc_6522Our plane flew south, passed over the mountains south of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Himachal Pradesh.

dsc_6531From above, Leh and its surrounding desert landscape looked spectacular.

dsc_6533Spectacular view over the mountain view from the plane.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was over 40 degree Celsius outside. We were overwhelmed by the heat and the crowd once we stepped out of the metro station of Chandni Chowk. Without a proper map, We found ourselves disorientated in this old city quarter. It was a great relief to have found a reliable tuk-tuk  to take us to our first destination, the Red Fort. Below are some snapshots that we took along the way to the Red Fort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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dsc_6740After some sweat we finally reached the iconic Lahori Gate of the mighty Red Fort.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 


DAY 6: SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh, India

We told Tashi to dropped us off at the town centre of Leh where we mailed out a pile of postcards to families and friends. Then we decided to spend the last bit of our last day in Ladakh at a high point.  We took a taxi up to Shanti Stupa, one of the most popular lookout over Leh.  Built by Japanese Buddhists as part of the Peace Pagoda Mission in 1991 and enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama, Shanti Stupa remains an important monument to promote world peace.  Atop a mountain over Leh, Shanti Stupa is also a great spot to enjoy the nearby scenery, and is particularly popular around the time of sunrise or sunset.

We looped around the monument once.  Then we stopped by the railing, took out our tripod and did a time-lapse video of Leh under the changing afternoon light.  The stupa was popular among local visitors, offering us plenty of people watching while we patiently waited for the camera for over an hour.  Standing under the perfectly blue sky over Leh, we witnessed the shadow of the mountain slowly blanketed over the city, green poplar trees row by row disappeared in the darkness, and distant mountains turned from golden to earth brown and then to blueish grey.  We silently say goodbye to the ancient town of Leh, to the mighty Stok Kangri Mountain at the horizon, to the monastic spirit of Ladakh, and to the boundless arid mountains of Northern India.  An early morning flight the next day would take us back to the bustling Indian capital Delhi, where we would have another day of exploration before flying home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Shanti Stupa under the warm afternoon sun.  Most visitors preferred to stay in the shade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Stok Mountain Range at a distance.

dsc_6405The view of Leh was dominated by the poplar trees.

dsc_6410The shadow of the mountain gradually expanded over the town.

dsc_6418The back of Leh Palace was fully swamped in the afternoon sun.

dsc_6419The arid landscape around Leh looked drier than ever under the afternoon sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe steps leading down from Shanti Stupa to Changspa Road into the town centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun almost disappeared behind the mountain and Shanti Stupa.

dsc_6431Visitors were still enjoying the late afternoon scenery of the Indus Valley and Stok Mountains despite evening was gradually creeping in.

dsc_6432Locals enjoying the view of Leh, with the white washed walls of Namgyal Tsemo Gompa stood out at the background.

dsc_6441Shanti Stupa was completely in shade by the time we were done with the time-lapse photography.

dsc_6445We circled the stupa for a second time before we left.

dsc_6459By the time we left, much of Leh was blanketed in mountain’s shadow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe slowly walked down the steps to the town below.

dsc_6498At the end of the stepped path, Changspa Road would lead us back to the centre of Leh, where we would have our last meal of Tibetan cuisine for the trip.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 

 


DAY 5: NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh, India

In the main bazaar of Leh, there were many stores selling pashmina goods but we were told that most of them were imported from China.  We wanted to find a store which sold genuine Ladakh pashmina so we went online to do some research until we found Nomadic Woollen Mills.  Different than other textile and souvenir stores that we found in town, the interior decor of Nomadic Woollen Mills was minimal and contemporary.  At the time of our visit, they were setting up a workshop right next to the retail store. We met Nawang, the founder of Nomadic Woollen Mills at the store.  After some leisure chat with Nawang, we were glad to learn more about the story of the store and the making of the Ladakh pashmina.  With a selection of hand woven and machine-made products from the region, Nomadic Woollen Mills may easily win the hearts of pashmina lovers who come to Ladakh to look for the traditional Kashmir woolen shawls.

Another great found of the day was Bon Appetit, a French restaurant and lounge recommended by our guidebooks.  The restaurant was hidden away in a lane south of the busy main street of Changspa Road.  We sat at a table in the patio under the setting sun. With a view to the surrounding mountains, the warm fire from the outdoor torches brought great ambience for the evening.  The restaurant’s menu was simple but we appreciate their dedication to using local and fresh ingredients.  We started with a bottle of local beer and Kashmir apple juice, then came the comforting savory herb chicken and chicken kabob.

dsc_5943Nomadic Woollen Mills was located on the first floor of a building with a window display facing the main bazaar.

dsc_5944The interior decor of Nomadic Woollen Mills was simple and modern.

dsc_5945The store has a selection of both hand-woven and machine-made products.

dsc_5948We were invited to visit the little workshop right next to the retail store.

dsc_5947The traditional weaving machine on display.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe outdoor patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5958View from the patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5962We spent a great evening at the patio of Bon Appetit.

dsc_5959Indian beer Kingfisher and Kashmir apple juice.

dsc_5966Chicken with herbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChicken kabob.

dsc_5968As the night fell, the torches lit up the patio.

dsc_5969The clay oven for tandoori chicken at the open kitchen.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 


DAY 4: FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh, India

Fort Road and Changspa Road are the two main thoroughfares in Central Leh where travelers can easily find places of accommodations, restaurants and souvenir shops.  For years, Changspa has long been the hub for backpackers, hippy visitors and motorcyclists.  Fort Road, on the other hand, is a busy dusty road lined with newly built hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.  During our stay in Leh, Fort Road was the only access route to the city centre from our hotel.  After a long day monastery visit, we would pick a restaurant at Fort Road to end the day.  Tibetan Kitchen was the restaurant that we returned to after a pleasant lunch experience.  At the restaurant, we had a chance to taste the complex local cuisine, which has diverse influences from Tibet, different regions of India, and even China.  The best thing of all was to wash down the dishes with sips of refreshing apple juice produced from the orchards in Kashmir.

After two days of monastery hopping, we were supposed to go for a two-day trip to the Nubra Valley over the Khardung La Pass (5600m) at the other side from Leh.  However, as we returned to Ladakh Greens Hotel after the long day of Lamayuru, Alchi and Likir then we realized that we had to change our travel plan at the last minute.

dsc_4753A meal of Tibetan dishes at Tibetan Kitchen.

dsc_4751A bottle of apple juice made with Kashmir apples.

dsc_4755The dusty Fort Road with Namgyal Tsemo Gompa on the hills at the background.

dsc_4757Souvenir shops along Fort Road.

dsc_4758Motorcycles and SUV were commonly seen on the dusty Fort Road.

dsc_4759Shops opened till late along Fort Road.

dsc_4760A few open spaces along Fort Road were used as market for Tibetan handicrafts.

dsc_4761Every night we stayed in Leh, we had to walk for 20 minutes on the bumpy Fort Road, including a section without any street lamps.

dsc_4763Beyond the last few souvenir shops, Fort Road would be in complete darkness unless a SUV or motorcycle drove by with their lights on.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 


DAY 2: SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh, India

After lunch at Tibetan Kitchen, we decided to do a short excursion to a nearby monastery.  At the taxi stand near the bazaar, we hired a taxi driver to do the 15-minute drive to Spituk Gompa just right by the airport.  Founded in the late 14th century, Spituk Gompa (literally translates as Exemplary Monastery) is a small lamasery belonged to the Yellow Hat sect under the order of Tsongkhapa.  Erected atop a hill by the end of airport runway, Spituk Gompa offered us another lookout of the magnificent scenery of the Indus River Valley and the city of Leh. Upon arrival, we were greeted by posters with quotes by the 14th Dalai Lama and a few dogs lying on the entry path in the shade of the gateway.

After the entry route of prayer wheels, we walked up a series of winding steps to the central courtyard where festivals and events were usually held.  The focal point of the courtyard was the gilt-roofed pavilion tower, and a main prayer hall in which a yellow-hatted statue of Tsongkhapa could be found.  Active in late 14th century and early 15th century, Tsongkhapa was a well known Tibetan Buddhist teacher who founded the Gelug School of Buddhism (also known as the Yellow Hat Sect).

Accessed via a flight of steps, at the top of the monastery mount stood a few stone carvings and Palden Lamo Temple, a small shrine dedicated to a group of Hindu deities.  The hill wasn’t really high, but it was still an effort for us to climb the stairs as our body was still acclimatizing to the high altitude.  The shrine was quite popular among domestic visitors who came from all over India.   Photography was not allowed inside the shrine.  We stayed for a few minutes looking at the wall paintings, religious statues, and praying worshipers.

DSC_3749Rising above the airport runway was the hill of Spituk Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutdoor cafe with magnificent views at the monastery entrance.

DSC_3805Main gateway of Spituk Gompa.

DSC_3807Dogs lying in the shade of the entry gateway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALarge prayer wheel near the main entrance.

DSC_3816Closeup of large prayer wheel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhite wash walls, wooden windows, and colourful awning are common at a Tibetan lamasery.

DSC_3829Above the main courtyard stood the gilded roof pavilion tower.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately some of the halls were locked.

DSC_3831Wall painting of one of the four Buddhist guardians.

DSC_3835Closeup of the gilded-roof.

DSC_3853Candle holders by a window sill.

DSC_3857Closeup of a window shade.

DSC_3871Stairs going up to a series of lama rooms and small prayer halls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWash basin with a decent view.

DSC_3890Stair going up to Palden Lamo Temple.

DSC_3892Entrance of the Palden Lamo Temple, a small shrine of Hindu deities.

DSC_3901Last look of Spituk Gompa from the parking lot before heading back to Leh.

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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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 2: LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh, India

After Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, the taxi dropped us off at the main bazaar.  From there, we walked into an alleyway next to the mosque Jama Masjid which led us to another part of the old city.  At a street corner we saw a two-story house with an interesting facade.  The sign “Lala’s cafe” was hung above the entrance.  We walked up the wood stairs  to the second floor where the cafe was located.  It was hot, dusty and dry outside but inside the cafe it was nice and cool.  We sat down at a cushioned area, ordered two cups of tea and checked out the postcards and handcrafts on display.  We were the only visitors in the cafe until another couple came in and joined our table.  They were Sunny and Ann, an Indian and Taiwanese couple who came to Ladakh for trekking.  We four had a pleasant chat.  An hour easily passed before we decided to move on for our day.  Outside the cafe, we took a few pictures of the small but interesting cafe building, which was once the old Sankar Monastery Labrang saved from demolition back in 2006.  Despite the heat, the street outside Lala’s Cafe was full of neighborhood life: barber shop, tailor shop, cloth dyeing shop, eateries, and of course souvenir shops as well as Buddhist stupas.

Off the busy Fort Road in a small alleyway there was a popular restaurant called Tibetan Kitchen.  Recommended by Sophia, fellow traveler that we met the day before at Gesmo Restaurant, we were keen to try out some authentic local food at Tibetan Kitchen.  Because of the noontime heat, instead of tables at the entrance courtyard we chose a table inside the restaurant close to a painting of Lhasa’s Potala Palace.  The staff were friendly, especially the owner who spoke perfect English with the British ascent.  He suggested us to try the bottom fried lamb momos and hot Tibetan soup.  It was a delightful and tasty meal.

DSC_3775The sun was strong at late morning, prompting us to seek for shelter at Lala’s Cafe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALala’s Cafe is located right below the Leh Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior decor of Lala’s cafe was simple but comfortable.  Customers could choose to either sit at the cushioned areas on the second floor or the rooftop.

DSC_3788Lala’s Cafe was once the old Sankar Monastery Labrang but saved from demolition back in 2006.  It stood alone at a street corner when the adjacent buildings had been demolished.

DSC_3793Beside Lala’s Cafe erected a few stupas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA local tailor was busy with sewing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeeking into the window of a barber shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA man dying fabric in front of his shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA snapshot of a passerby walking along the alleyway near Lala’s Cafe.

DSC_3799Tibetan Kitchen was not far from Gesmo Restaurant, where we met the Spanish traveler Sophia the day before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Tibetan Kitchen, we sat near a painting of Lhasa’s Potala Palace.

DSC_3802The interior of Tibetan Kitchen was decorated with photos of Tibetan landscapes and the Dali Lama, Tibetan flag and Oriental lanterns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATibetan soup thukpa with wontons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABottom fried momo (dumplings) served with chili sauce.

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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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 2: NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh, India

After a good sleep through the night, the next morning we started the day at somewhere high again.  Perched above the Leh Palace, the small Namgyal Tsemo Gompa (lamasery) offered us a slightly higher perspective of the city than the lookout at Leh Palace, and our first encounter of Tibetan Buddhism.  Too lazy to walk up, we hired a taxi to take us there.  It was a fine morning and hardly anyone was around at the lamasery except us.  Although the staff was not around, we were lucky to find that the door of the main hall was kept unlocked.

Founded in the 15th century, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa was two hundred years older than the Leh Palace.  Featuring beautiful paintings in the interior, inside the main hall stood a 3-storey tall Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future) painted in gold.  In another worship hall decorated with ancient wall paintings, we saw a number of statues and offering tables.  Many statues had their faces concealed under colourful cloths.  Their faces would be covered until the next major ceremonies took place.

Above Namgyal Tsemo Gompa stood Tsemo (Victory) Fort, a monumental whitewashed building overlooking Leh.  We climbed the stair up only to find that the fort was locked.  Three young tourists were sitting on the stair, chatting about traveling and their onward journey to the Nubra Valley.  After exchanging some causal greetings with them, we slowing headed back down to the entrance parking lot.

DSC_3665High up on the rocky hills, the red bricked Namgyal Tsemo Gompa (lower left) and the white washed Tsemo Fort are visible from almost anywhere in Leh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe thought we were the only visitors at the lamasery when we arrived.

DSC_3668The entrance terrace offered a wonderful panoramic view of Leh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the city stood another well-known lookout at Shanti Stupa (white monument at the centre of the photo).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADistant view of Leh and the Stok Mountains.

DSC_3697Inside one of the main halls were vivid wall paintings depicting Buddhist stories.

DSC_3702The face of the 8m Maitreya Buddha was covered in gold.

DSC_3713Entrance to the second worship hall.

DSC_3708Without recent restoration or repaint, the wall murals at the second main hall looked more ancient.

DSC_3710Offering tables and statues at the second worship hall.

DSC_3719The white Tsemo Fort above the lamasery.

DSC_3720The green Indus River valley was always visible.

DSC_3746Leh and the background Stok Mountains.

DSC_3759Prayer flags at Tsemo Fort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur friendly driver and his taxi.  This kind of hired vehicle is suitable to go around Leh and nearby monasteries.  For further destinations that involve extended traveling on mountain roads, 4×4 vehicles will be a more sensible choice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaxi heading back down to the city of Leh.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 1: HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh, India

In a quiet neighborhood, 15-minute walk from the town centre, Hotel Ladakh Greens  offered a delightful experience contrary to our routine urban life. We enjoyed sitting at the garden, having a cup of coffee under the morning sun, hearing the songs of birds and seeing the two cats chasing each other around the garden. From the moment we received the white welcoming khata to the last day we waved farewell to the hotel manager, Hotel Ladakh Greens was like our “home” and offered us peace of mind services. We didn’t spend much time on planning before this trip.  With the help of the host,we made a few day excursions and did some hiking in the surrounding region.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntry into the small cabin where the reception lobby was located.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hotel garden also doubled as the outdoor dining area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was a corner room at the upper floor ( top-right corner of the main building in this photo.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASolar panels were used at the hotel to heat up hot water. Hot water service was reliable and was much needed after a long day of activities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA large part of Leh was located in a river valley where trees could thrive in this desert dry landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis photo was taken from the the roof top of a building with a view to the garden under the shade of  a row of tall poplar trees.

DSC_3604The Stok Mountains viewed from the hotel rooftop.

DSC_3614Distant mountains and the moon taken from the rooftop.

DSC_3647We love the poplar trees. We love hearing the sound of leaves dancing in the wind over our heads. When we looked up, the tree felt tall and we felt connected to nature again.

DSC_3662Our first dinner in Leh. We didn’t have much appetite when our body was adjusting to the high altitude. We shared a bowl of vegetable soup and a dish of chicken kabobs with honey mustard sauce; and we had our first honey lemon ginger tea.

DSC_3657Hotel Ladakh Greens at night.

DSC_6505Starry sky as we took a short stroll outside the hotel after dinner.

DSC_6510Frequent traffic passed by the bumpy Fort Road near our hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimple and comfortable. Our airy room with a touch of local decorations.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 1: LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh, India

Towering over the main bazaar stands Leh Palace, the 9-storey restored complex was the former royal family of the Namgyal dynasty of Ladakh.  Modeled after Lhasa’s Potala Palace, the Leh Palace served as the royal residence for three centuries until Ladakh’s royalty was forced out of Leh by the Dogra forces.  Nowadays, the ruined palace has been restored by the Archaeological Survey of India and became the most prominent tourist attraction of the city.

Despite a little tired, we wouldn’t want to end the day without seeing the iconic Leh Palace.  Near the bazaar, we found a taxi to take us for the short uphill journey.  As we approached the palace, stunning panorama of Leh was right below us.  After paying the admission, we walked into the palace from the side entrance.  Through dark hallways and narrow stairs, we explored the labyrinth like complex one level at a time.  All rooms were long been emptied.  Occasional wall paintings and colourful timber carvings revealed the former glory of the once splendid palace.  Today, most visitors came to Leh Palace for the spectacular views from the balconies, terraces and rooftops, including us.  Yellowish sunlight and long shadows were cast on the small temple below the palace entrance.

DSC_3451Stone path leading to the side entrance of Leh Palace.

DSC_3584Beautiful wood carvings at the palace entrance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADark hallways and narrow stairs connect to all spaces of the palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABalconies and terraces existed on every level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors were delighted to reach the terraces at various levels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of the flat roofs were accessible for tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors having a good time in front of the dramatic backdrop of Leh and the Stok Mountain Range.

DSC_3505Interior of the former royal chamber.

DSC_3514The colourful timber carvings survived in the arid climate of Ladakh.

DSC_3530Finally we reached the topmost two levels of the roof and had a perfect view of the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery up the rocky hill.

DSC_3546With Stok Kangri (6153m) being the highest peak, the prominent Stok Range provided a dramatic backdrop for Leh.

DSC_3554Outside of Leh town centre, earthy houses scatter on the rocky slopes of the surrounding mountains.

DSC_3576View of the main bazaar of Leh.

DSC_3574Main building of Leh Palace with the former royal chamber at the top level.

DSC_3578Terraces at different levels of Leh Palace.

DSC_3581Fortress-like external walls of Leh Palace.

DSC_3586We exited the complex from the same entrance we entered the palace.

DSC_3592It was late afternoon by the time we left Leh Palace.  There was a small monastery, Chandazik Gompa, below the palace entrance.

DSC_3593The small gathering courtyard of Chandazik Gompa overlooking the city of Leh.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 

 

 


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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 1: ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh, India

After 5 hours and 50 minutes on a Jet Airways plane from Hong Kong, we arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at 16:30 local time.  The next connecting flight to our final destination Leh was scheduled to depart at 5:40 the next morning.  We decided to spend the night at Delhi Airport, where armed security guards were presence 24 hours. Dealing with money exchange, dropping by an eatery to taste our first chicken biryani, chilling out at Costa Coffee in the arrival hall, lounging on the chairs in the departure lounge among other local travelers, and reading magazines that we brought along, the 13-hour layover in Delhi Airport seemed passing quickly.  At around 2:30 in the morning, we joined the queue for domestic transfer check-in, hoping that the weather up on the mountains would be fine and our flight would depart on time.  The boarding gate of our flight was at the far end of a deserted waiting area.  It was a long walk but we had plenty of time.  As boarding time approached, more travelers arrived at the gate, most were local travelers except a few Western tourists.

This short-haul flight from New Delhi to Leh is considered by many one of the finest flights for mountain scenery.  Although we were seating on the side with windows facing the morning sun, the glare didn’t diminish our excitement over the views of the mountains and occasional glaciers passing below us. For about 15 minutes the plane cruised through the Indian Himalayas.  Before landing, the plane meandered through the Indus River Valley and made the final turn over the Tibetan monastery (Spituk Gompa) on a rocky mount at the end of the runway.

Our flight, Jet Airways 2368, landed on the runway of Leh Airport at around 7:05am, a little earlier than scheduled.  We stepped out of the aircraft, breathed in the crisp air and alighted the air-stairs with great excitement.  After roughly twenty hours from leaving Hong Kong, we finally made it to Leh, the central hub of Ladakh at the altitude of 3600m. On the runway, we could clearly see the distant mountains, different shades of brown in this arid world.  After picking up our backpacks from the luggage belt, we headed out of the small Leh Airport and immediately spotted a driver holding up a sign with our names.  Sooner than we thought our taxi had sped through the winding and bumpy roads of Leh and reached the poplar-lined driveway of our guesthouse Hotel Ladakh Greens.

DSC_3325Feature decorations at the passenger arrival hall in Delhi Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small eatery at the arrival hall of Delhi Airport where we had our first Indian meal.

DSC_334015 minutes of mountainous landscape before reaching Leh.

DSC_3342Not much snow was presence because of the summer season.

DSC_3362The sky wasn’t particularly clear when our plane approached Leh.

DSC_3373Mountain view from the runway of Leh Airport.

DSC_3375Outside Leh Airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoplar lined driveway into our guesthouse – Hotel Ladakh Greens .

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi

 

 

 


LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India

Another journey begins…

Bounded by Himalayas to the south and Karakorum/ Kunlun Mountains to the north, for 900 years Ladakh had been an independent kingdom deeply rooted with influences from neighboring Tibet.  On one hand, the jagged, mountainous Ladakh was a profound Tibetan Buddhist society where lamaseries flourished in almost every corner.  On the other hand, centuries of being a trading outpost along the Silk Road between Tibet, Xinjiang and Central Asia opened Ladakh to other Asian influences especially the Islamic culture.  It is the charm of such a unique melting pot of traditions and cultures of Central Asian highlands that led us to make a short trip to this high-altitude desert in Jammu and Kashmir State of Northern India.  Ladakh’s breathtaking scenery of arid moonscapes, snow-capped mountains and picture perfect blue sky was just another reason why we were so keen to reach this magical “Land of High Passes”, a remote snow county in India where thick snow and -40 temperature virtually close off the region for many months of a year.  After years of dreaming to visit India, we finally made up our mind to take Ladakh as our first taste of the Indian Subcontinent.  It was late June when much of India was baked in Pre-Monsoon heat of 40+ degrees, except high up in the Himalayas where even forces of the mighty South Asian Monsoon cannot reach.  For six full days, we stationed at Leh, the ancient capital of the Ladakh Kingdom, and explored the landscapes and nearby lamaseries in the Indus Valley.

mapLocation of Ladakh in Northern India.

6_DSC_3575Like many travelers, we took the ancient city of Leh as the base to explore the nearby villages and monasteries of Ladakh.

5_DSC_4771_01Throughout Ladakh, we saw how the traditional local culture cope with the modern age.

3_DSC_4484Outside Leh, Tibetan lamaseries rise above the Indus River Valley against the dramatic backdrop of Ladakh’s arid mountains.

4_DSC_3936_01Inside each lamasery, Tibetan Buddhist monks continue their century-old traditions to pursue for a simple way of life and spiritual enlightenment.

* * *

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 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
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 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi