ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Ladakh

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

 

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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 6: ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh, India

Before the trip, we thought of doing the Markha Valley Trek, but then gave up the idea because of the lack of time.  On our last day at Ladakh, the hotel manager suggested us to make a short hike to Zingchen Gorge, where many travelers started their Markha Valley Trek.  Tashi again was our driver of the day.  We left the hotel at around 7am.  Our car headed south, passed the Spituk Gompa and continued our journey until Tashi pulled over on a country road where a lady sat below a tree.  Tashi told us to get a ticket from the lady for the admission of Hemis National Park, where Zingchen Gorge was located.  Soon our car drove into a desert valley of the gorge.  Tashi dropped us off at the end of the road.  We then crossed a bridge and entered a natural portal flanked by majestic stone cliffs to begin our half-day hike through the Zingchen Gorge.

We had no particular destination in mind, but aiming to walk as far as we could in a few hours of time.  We walked leisurely on a stony road at the bottom of a rocky valley for about half an hour until reaching a local home where two donkeys were resting under a tree.  From then on we walked for another hour or so on a mountain trail in the Zingchen Gorge towards the Village of Rumbak.  During the hike, we crossed the river a few times via wooden bridges.  After about two hours on the trail, we finally had a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains beyond the gorge.  After we exited the gorge, we reached a small pile of stones and goat skulls that signified the gorge’s mouth.  Further down the trail at an open area we sat by a large round pile of mani stones where we had our lunch break.  After the break, we decided to head back into Zingchen Gorge to meet up with our driver Tashi.  We took our time to hike back to the entrance of the gorge, and walked further down the main road until we saw Tashi and his car at Zingchen Village.

Despite short, at the last two days of our stay we had a good taste of hiking in the mountains near Leh.  Hopefully in the future we would have an opportunity to do a multi-day trek in Ladakh to really experience the natural beauty of this region.

DSC_5983.JPGThe natural rock portal formed a perfect entrance to the Zingchen Gorge.

dsc_5993For the first half hour we were walking on a valley road.

dsc_6004The arid landscape and the greenery down at the river valley.

dsc_6013The surrounding landscape was extremely dry.

dsc_6024We met two donkey at the end of the road.

DSC_6028.JPGThe path get narrower beyond the end of road.

dsc_6058Just like the other days we experienced in Ladakh, the weather in the morning and early afternoon was always sunny.

dsc_6077White khatas, prayer flags and mani stones were common at rest stops.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter two hours of hike, we had our first glimpse of the snow-capped mountains beyond the gorge.

dsc_6137At the end of the gorge.

dsc_6141The pile of stones and goat skull.

dsc_6149The round pile of mani stones where we had our lunch break by the river.

dsc_6175Heading back into the gorge for our return journey.

dsc_6180Impressive rock formations and wild flowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocals and their donkeys.

dsc_6278Wild flowers close to the gorge entrance.

dsc_6287We planned to stay for only half day in Hemis National Park. We walked as far as we could and then returned to the gorge entrance on the same route.  Despite the same route, the views and experience were never the same at different times of the day.  On our return, we were attracted by the rock patterns of a mountain near the gorge entrance, something that we didn’t take notice when we entered the gorge earlier in the morning.

dsc_6331We were attracted by interesting rock formations during the hike.

dsc_6342The landscape was always dry and rocky.

dsc_6357After 5 hours of hiking in Hemis National Park, we returned to the park entrance to meet up with our driver Tashi.

* * *

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 4: ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

We had high expectations for Alchi Gompa, which has long been famous for its wall paintings dated back to the 12th century.  It was already past noontime when we were done with Lamayuru.  By the time we reached our next destination Alchi, we couldn’t wait to sit down at the outdoor restaurant of Zimskhang Holiday Home for a quick bite.  Under the shades of trees and fabric canopies, Tachi and we had a relaxing lunch of local dishes.  After the meal, we entered a winding passageway and through a lane full of souvenir stalls until reaching the monastery compound.   A number of centuries-old stupas decorated with colourful prayer flags flanked the monastery forecourt.  There were three ancient shrines that visitors could enter and admire the wall paintings, along with the huge statues of Buddha.    It was not allowed to take photographs inside the shrines.  We could only admire the richly decorated halls while we were there.  The Buddhist statues and interior architectural details dated back to almost a thousand years were amazing.  However, many of the wall paintings were either darken over the years or were partially ruined by brutal restorations painted over the originals.  There wasn’t as much to see at Alchi as we imagined before our visit.  After visits of the three halls among the crowds of local tourists we decided to move on to Likir Gompa.

Situated at an relatively isolated about 10km away from the Leh-Srinigar Highway, Likir Gompa is a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Gelug sect founded in the 11th century.  As we approach the monastery, we could see the 23m golden statue of Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of Future) from a distance.  Tashi didn’t join us for our tour of the monastery as he wanted to wash the car.  On our own, we first walked to the platform where the 23m Maitreya Buddha sat.  Opposite from the golden plated statue stood a lama school complex.  Several young lamas were playing and chasing each other at the school courtyard.  Their laughter certainly lifted our spirit a little in the grey and cool afternoon.  Inside Likir Gompa,  we visited two assembly halls: an older hall with rolls of seating flanked by wall shelving full of ancient texts and a newer hall decorated with glossy wall thangka depicting Mahakala (a fierce looking protector deity) in various gestures.  We took our time to admire the wall paintings and walk around the monastery from its rooftop to exterior platforms.  By the time we returned to the entrance plaza, Tachi was done cleaning the car and ready for our return journey to Leh.

dsc_5175The winding passage that led into Alchi Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe twin trees marked the location of the original spot where Lama Rinchen Zangpo put his walking stick down and founded the monastery in the 10th century, so as the legend said.

dsc_5144Old timber entrance structure of Alchi’s Sumtseg (three storey building) survived to the present day.

dsc_5140The ornate woodwork of the columns and the interior decorations at Alchi were created by Kashmir artists.

dsc_5148Details of the entrance woodwork.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntrance into one of the two shrines at a garden near the Dukhang of Alchi.

dsc_5166The oldest stupas (chorten) at Alchi dated back as far as the 13th century.

dsc_5173A mother and daughter at a prayer wheel at the entrance of Alchi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Likir in late afternoon.

dsc_5233The Buddhist school complex across from the statue of Maitreya Buddha.

dsc_5239The 23m Maitreya Buddha could be seen from far away.

dsc_5262Entrance to one of the two main assembly hall at Likir.

dsc_5269Inside the assembly hall, yellow ropes of each lama were folded neatly on the rows of seating.

dsc_5274Hundreds of ancient Buddhist texts were stored in glass cabinets against the wall of the assembly hall.

dsc_5286Detail of an old wall painting.

dsc_5328Detail of a new and glossy Mahakala wall painting at the other assembly hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto of Likir Gompa from distance.

dsc_5335The lush green Indus River Valley below Likir.

dsc_5346The main courtyard of Likir as seen from rooftop.

dsc_5377Likir wasn’t a popular destination comparing to Alchi or Lamayuru.  We could hardly see any visitors in the monastery and the entrance plaza was also empty.

* * *

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: LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Our first monastery of the day along the Srinagar-Leh highway was Lamayuru Gompa.  Lamayuru is one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh.  Apart from Thiksey Gompa, Lamayuru was the monastery in Ladakh that we enjoyed visiting the most.  Affiliated with Drikung Kagyu, Lamayuru Gompa is founded in the 11th century.  We spent half of our time indoor checking out various prayer and assembly halls, and the other half walking around the exterior of the compound along a prayer route lined with prayer wheels and stupas.

Our driver Tachi was kind enough to accompany us at Lamayuru.  In simple English, Tachi told us stories about the monastery and the statues in the prayer halls, and taught us about the six Tibetan Buddhist syllable mantra “om mani padme hum” (ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པདྨེ་ཧཱུྃ) while we examined the inscriptions on the prayer wheels.  Each time we turned a prayer wheel one cycle we were actually reading the six syllable mantra once.  The six syllable mantra is often associated with Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.  Under the crisp air of Ladakh highland and the shadows of ancient stupas, Tachi gave us a brief lesson of scattered information on Tibetan Buddhism.  As we chatted and laughed, a few elderly pilgrims passed by, nodded and smiled to us.

dsc_5086Lamayuru Gompa from a distance.

dsc_5085Ticket office at the entrance of Lamayuru.

dsc_4951The first prayer hall that we entered at Lamayuru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA window lama seat near the front altar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAButter sculpture is a common handcraft for Tibetan lamas.

dsc_4952The prayer hall was vividly decorated with Tibetan textiles and furniture.

dsc_4986Ancient Buddhist statues at the back of the Prayer Hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Cave of Meditation where Naropa, the founder of Lamayuru meditated in the 11th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient stupas of jewels, gold and silver at the altar of a prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrayer oil lamps in a glass chamber is a common sight at a Tibetan lamasery.

dsc_4996One of the 150 monks residing at Lamayuru.

dsc_5001A cluster of vernacular dwellings below the Lamayuru Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoute of prayer wheels, stupas and a pilgrim.

dsc_5024Route of prayer wheels, stupas and a pilgrim.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the main buildings of Lamayuru Gompa.

dsc_5031 Stupas of various sizes mushroomed around the lamasery compound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPilgrim and the old prayer wheels.

dsc_5041The Snow Lion is the emblem of Tibet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany mani stones were placed around the ancient stupas.

dsc_5043River valley and arid mountains dominate the surrounding landscape at Lamayuru.

* * *

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