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Posts tagged “Ladakh

DAY 4: ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Another day of fine weather, another day of lamasery visit in the Indus Valley.  This time, we headed northwest along Indus River towards Kargil and Kashmir.  With limited time, we could only reach as far as Lamayuru Gompa, and stopped by Alchi and Likir on our way back to Leh.  We would have to wait till next time to see the lush green Alpine scenery of Kashmir near the border with Pakistan.  Unlike the day before when we spent the day to hop from one monastery to another, this time around we would spend considerably more time on the road traveling greater distances between the three monasteries.  Therefore, the hotel manager suggested us to hire a decent SUV for the day.  We took his advice and hired an experienced driver and a comfortable SUV from our hotel.  Tashi, a designated driver employed by Ladakh Greens Hotel, turned out to be a good guide and excellent driver who mastered great driving skills necessary for the treacherous mountainous roads. Apart from the time spent at the three monasteries, we were pretty much on the road for most of the day, speeding through the arid landscapes west of Leh.

dsc_4769_01Our SUV left Leh at about 7:30 in the morning and headed west along Indus River.

dsc_4774Soon after leaving Leh behind, we were completely surrounded by desert like landscape.

dsc_4786The confluence of Indus and Zanskar River at Nimo is a famous spot for white water rafting.

dsc_4797Students waiting for transportation at a small mountain village.

dsc_4833The mountain roads in Ladakh are popular for motorcyclists.

dsc_4909Road maintenance staff taking a break by the curb.

dsc_4925Before reaching Lamayuru Gompa, we reached a famous area with unique earth formation called the Lamayuru Moonland.

dsc_4941Peaceful landscape of wild flowers and scattered vegetation near Lamayuru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching Lamayuru.

dsc_5183Series of white stupas along mountain foot.

dsc_5191Crossing a bridge of prayer flags.

dsc_5193A group of students leaving a school building in a small mountain town.

dsc_5207A group of road maintenance staff resting beside the road.

dsc_5423Locals getting off a public bus at a small village.

dsc_5384Dramatic moon-like landscape and prominent gateway on our way back to Leh from Likir.

dsc_5408Basgo Gompa is another famous monastery west of Leh.

dsc_5449Magnetic Hill of Ladakh: an optical illusion of what looks like a downhill road is actually an uphill road.

dsc_5445Lots of colourful trucks were on the road with us during the day.

dsc_5483After seeing Lamayuru, Alchi and Likir, we headed back to Leh under the yellow sunlight in the late afternoon.

* * *

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 3: MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

The last two destinations of our day at the Indus River Valley were Matho Gompa and Shey Palace.  Situated on a mount directly opposite from Thiksey Gompa, Matho offered us a fantastic view of Thiksey beyond the lush green river valley.  The late afternoon sun and moving clouds cast a series of dark blue shadows on the the yellow mountain slopes.  We wandered around Matho on our own but didn’t stay for long.  The Buddhist prayer halls were colourful and parts of the monastery were relatively new, but we were more more interested in the surrounding landscapes.  Matho is the only Sakyapa monastery in Ladakh.

On our way back to Leh, we dropped by our last stop of the day, Shey Palace.  Shey was the summer palace of the Leh royal family in the past.  A sloped path led us to the main entrance of the former palace, which stood mostly in ruins nowadays.  A beggar woman dressed in dark shawl was gaining attention of passing tourists.  Most of the palace was empty and free for explore, except the hall where a 12m statue of golden Shakyamuni Buddha stood that we needed to purchase admission tickets.  At almost three storey tall, we could only see the top third of the Buddha statue.  On the roof and around the palace compound, there were white stupa, colourful prayer flags and mani stone pebbles at every corner we turned.  The little marsh across the street and the distant mountains glowed in the golden afternoon sun.  By the time we returned to Leh, it was already over 6:30pm.  We were tired and hungry and decided to go for Tibetan food before returning to our hotel.

DSC_4484Thiksey Gompa and distant mountains viewed from Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntry stairway into the main compound of Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMain courtyard of Matho Gompa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASupreme scenery was everywhere at Matho Gompa.

DSC_4499Some of the prayer halls were quite new and richly decorated.

DSC_4505Some parts of the building still maintained the centuries-old atmosphere.

DSC_4516View from the rooftop of Matho.

DSC_4545The golden Wheel of Dharma and deer sculpture on the roof of Matho.

DSC_4553_01Two local women rested near a stupa at the entrance of Matho Gompa.

DSC_4559Prayer flags and distant mountains at Matho Gompa.

DSC_4577Entry pathway up to the Shey Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFront view of Shey Palace.  Much of the former royal palace was much in ruins today.

DSC_4610The three-storey tall golden Shakyamuni Buddha at Shey Palace.

DSC_4630Some of the crumbling buildings above the palace mount were poorly maintained.

DSC_4653Prominent stupa, distant mountains and the lush green Indus River Valley.

DSC_4665Large stupa back lighted by the afternoon sun.

DSC_4678Some parts of Shey Palace was really crumbling down.

DSC_4695White stupa and colourful prayer flags against the blue sky were quite photogenic.

DSC_4697Mani stones of various sizes with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara were common at Shey Palace and many other monasteries in Ladakh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe nearby marsh across from the Shey Palace under the late afternoon sun.

* * *

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 3: HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

Famous for its annual festival celebrating the birth of Padmasambhava (8th-century Buddhist master who built the first monastery in Tibet), splendid architecture, and rich collections, Hemis Gompa is the biggest Tibetan monastery in Ladakh.  We arrived at the wrong time as the monastery was almost closed for lunchtime.  We had no choice but to skip the museum, and had a quick peek of the golden statues in the two main halls before wandering around the complex’s exterior and rooftop areas.  As the most well known monastery in the region, Hemis certainly was the most popular destination in Ladakh in terms of number of tourists.  Other than tourists, there were also local pilgrims who came for worship.  There was an old couple with their children walked around the gompa, lay prostrate on the ground and prayed in front of different prayer halls.  We found our way up to the rooftop of Hemis.  On the roof, we followed a black dog wandering around from one flat roof to another.  It was a pity that most rooms were locked while we wandered around the building.  Situated in a rocky valley, the rooftop of Hemis offered good views of the surrounding rocky mountains.  After a leisure stroll around the compound, we returned to the main courtyard where tourists were waiting for the museum and prayer halls to reopen their doors after lunch break.  We, however, decided to move on to our next destination of the day.

DSC_4286All visitors including us arrived at a short staircase in front of Hemis.

DSC_4290The worshiping couple and their children at the main courtyard of Hemis.

DSC_4295The old couple took their time to pay respect at various locations at Hemis despite most doors were locked for lunchtime.

DSC_4307The rooftop of Hemis contained a series of walkways and sunken courts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimilar to other Tibetan Buddhist buildings, high windows above the main prayer hall provide a source of natural light shining into the hall interior below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlags were flying high by the time we reached the top.

DSC_4309Birdeye view of the main courtyard from the rooftop.

DSC_4314Stupa and rock mountains across the valley from Hemis.

DSC_4318The female worshiper appeared on the roof paying respect to some of the residing monks.

DSC_4333We followed this dog while touring the rooftop of Hemis Gompa.

DSC_4356Tourists were hanging out at the main courtyard of Hemis, waiting for the doors to reopen.

***

After Hemis, our next stop was Stakna Gompa, another monastery of the Drukpa Buddhist sect.  Atop a mount overlooking Indus River, Stakna is another Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Ladakh famous for its views.  Around 30 monks reside at the gompa, but we hardly saw anyone there except a lama who unlocked some of the doors for us.  Many murals and architectural decorations at Stakna were covered in a layer of fresh paint.  The paint colours were vivid and glossy and we could hardly see the original religious art work, except at some of the back halls behind altars where old manuscripts, murals and timber statues could be found.  After getting up at 6 and visiting four monasteries, we were already a little tired by the time we reached Stakna.  Still we enjoyed our brief time at this small monastery, especially the open mountain views from its terraces.

DSC_4367Approaching Stakna Gompa from the parking lot.

DSC_4390Walls and timber structures were coloured with a coat of fresh paint at Stakna.

DSC_4396The fresh paint touch ups found its way onto the walls of the main prayer hall.

DSC_4400Old golden statues at a back room of the main prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the back rooms of the main prayer hall was swamped with natural light from a timber window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOlder murals appear at some of the back rooms.

DSC_4412Looking from Indus River, Stakna Gompa looked handsome standing proudly atop a rocky mount.

DSC_4382Prayer flags flew high at a terrace of Stakna with Indus River as backdrop.

DSC_4387Stupa and layers of arid mountains as seen from a terrace at Stakna Gompa.

* * *

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 3: CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

After Thikse Gompa, we continued our “monastic journey” in the Indus Valley.  Next we came to Chemrey, another monastery erected atop a rocky mount in a picturesque setting.  Built in 1664, Chemrey Gompa belongs to the Drukpa Lineage (Red Hat Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism.  We were the only visitors at the monastery.  We wandered around the complex for a bit, reached the top level and saw an entrance door with a sign that said “museum”.  Prayers could be heard from inside.  A little lama aged about ten sat by the door stared at us curiously.  We removed our shoes at the entrance and entered the small museum.  Inside, there was another lama, probably in his twenties, reading out loud from a book of Buddhist prayers.  The prayer that led us to the museum probably came from him.  He stopped and greeted us, and sold us admission tickets for the museum.  Although small, the museum contained a decent collection of Buddhist artifacts such as thangka, musical instruments, ceremonial items, ropes, etc.  After the museum visit, we looked down to the courtyard below the museum and saw a lama sweeping the floor.  Stood beside him was the little lama whom we met at the museum.  He waved and signaled us to follow him and we did.  He unlocked the door at one end of the courtyard and invited us to enter a dukhang (assembly hall).  The hall covered with fine timber flooring was richly decorated with murals and statues.  We took our time to check out the murals, while the little lama curiously kept an eye on us.  The little lama was a delightful child.  He grinned and giggled all the time and always turned his head to peek at us as we followed him from behind.  We tried to communicate with him in simple English and hand gestures.  Next he led us to a prayer hall.  At the window, he pointed down towards a school complex downhill that he attended.  We had a good time following the little lama around Chemrey.  His curious looks and innocent giggles left us fond memories of Chemrey.

Next we arrived at another lamasery about 46km east of Leh.  Founded in the 16 century, Takthok Monastery is the only Nyingma monastery (the oldest school of Red Hat Sect Tibetan Buddhism) in Ladakh.  Takthok contains two parts, the old and the new.  Our driver dropped us off at the new part, where we walked down a stepped pathway trying to find our way into the buildings.  Unfortunately all buildings we passed by were locked.  We then walked to the old part of Takthok.  Our driver was also there and he led us into a number of dark temple rooms against a rock cliff that resembled natural caves.  Much of the ceiling and wall murals were darken by centuries of candle smoke.  Other than murals, ancient scriptures were kept inside the prayer halls, on old wooden shelves by the altar.  They looked old and fragile.  Before we left Takthok, we went in to a new and richly decorated assembly hall with rows of seating.  No one was in the hall.  On the low prayer tables, there were musical and ceremonial instruments.  At the centre of the room we noticed an alcohol like odour coming from a bottle that seemed belonged to certain rituals.  It was already midday when we finished touring Takthok.  Then our next stop was Hemis Gompa, the largest monastery in Ladakh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we arrived at Chemrey Gompa, we saw a little lama stood by a lookout who would later become our private guide at monastery.

DSC_4133After we went through the monastery gate, we arrived at a small courtyard with prayer wheels and typical whitewash walls and vividly decorated shading device.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the top level of the monastery we arrived at the small museum.

DSC_4160The courtyard below the museum, where the older lama was swiping the floor in front of the prayer candles.

DSC_4148Inside the assembly hall, we could find several well preserved statues.

DSC_4163The assembly hall was colourful and richly decorated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur guide, the little lama, stood in front of a window.

DSC_4177Our delightful local guide of the monastery.

DSC_4191A unique structure at another courtyard was erected to serve as a source of natural light for the prayer hall below.

DSC_4206The fields were lush green down at the Indus River Valley.

DSC_4207We bid farewell to the little lama and exited Chemrey through the entry gateway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through a covered walkway of prayer wheels near the monastery entrance.

DSC_4214The magnificent view of Chemrey Gompa was behind us as we left for our next destination.

DSC_4239At Takthok we followed our driver into the old prayer halls.

DSC_4243Many murals at Takthok were not in good conditions.

DSC_4244One of the cave-like prayer hall filled with statues and ancient scriptures.

DSC_4249Main courtyard of Takthok against the rock cliff.

DSC_4253The stair leading up to one of the cave-like prayer hall.

DSC_4265Brass trumpets on table in a new assembly hall.

DSC_4268The new assembly hall at Takthok.

* * *

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 3: THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh, India

We left Hotel Ladakh Greens at around 5:45am to embark on our day-long exploration of Tibetan monasteries in the Indus River Valley southeast of Leh.  Our first stop was Thiksey Gompa, the only lamasery in the area allowing visitors to attend their morning prayers.  We arrived at Thiksey slightly after 7am, and hastily walked up the exterior terraces to look for the main prayer hall.  The session had already started as we could hear Buddhist chanting and the sounds of drum.  We followed the sound of prayers up various stairs until finally reaching the entry of the main prayer hall at a covered terrace overlooking Thiksey village.

Inside the hall, about two dozens of lamas sat in several rows of carpeted platforms.  An European couple with their guide arrived before us were sitting in the back row against the wall of Buddhist murals.  We entered the hall and followed suit.  The rhythmical chanting of the lamas sounded like a soothing song reverberating under the old timber structure and suspended thangka banners.  The stress of our hasty arrival was soon calmed down.  A few more tourists soon arrived and joined us at the back row.  We sat quietly and witnessed the lamas chanted, drank butter tea, and had their breakfast porridge.  Lamas of different age groups seemed playing different roles.  Some younger lamas were drummers while others helped serving butter tea.  We were also offered butter tea during the session.

The prayer session lasted till about 8am.  By the time the last chant stopped, we were the only tourists left in the hall.  One by one the lama exited the prayer hall except one lama.  He was kind enough to show us around the hall, and led us to the back chamber where a number of Buddhist statues stood behind offering tables.  Outside the prayer hall, the land was warming up as the sun was already quite high up in the sky.  We walked back down to the main assembly courtyard where workers were repainting the colourful external walls.  At one end of the courtyard there was a building with its doors opened.  Peeking through the door we could see the side profile of Maitreya Buddha statue.  The 2-storey tall golden Maitreya Buddha was a well known feature of Thiksey.  The Maitreya Temple and its statue were erected in 1970 to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama.

The visit of this famous Gelug sect (Yellow Hat sect) lamasery was a delightful start for our long day of monasteries hopping in the Indus River Valley.  The morning prayers was definitely one of the most memorable moments of our Ladakh trip.  Before leaving Thiksey, we stopped by a decent eatery at the monastery entrance for breakfast.

DSC_3914Approaching Thiksey Gompa from the main road.  Thiksey Gompa was sometimes referred to as the Little Potala Palace.

DSC_3918Thiksey Gompa against a beautiful backdrop in early morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe didn’t know how we could find our way to the main prayer hall. We followed the chanting and climbed up numerous stairs and terraces. Half way through, we met three senior monks who were also making their way up.  They took their time and walked leisurely.  At one point, they stopped at a terrace to admire the amazing view.

DSC_3946They chanted, stopped, then chanted, then stopped again for a break of butter tea, or a bowl of simple breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe younger monks served butter tea at regular intervals to everyone, including us, between chanting sessions.

DSC_3961Lamas of various age groups were present at the morning prayers.

DSC_3975After morning prayers, almost everyone left the hall except a caretaker lama and us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were the only tourists who stayed till the end.  We stayed behind and the kind caretaker lama let us wander around the prayer hall before locking up the doors.

DSC_3978Buddhist murals at the prayer hall.

DSC_3982Some of the murals were in need of restoration.

DSC_3986The statues in the inner chamber of the prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was quite high up after the morning prayers.  We walked up to the roof terraces for great views of surrounding landscape.

DSC_4005Looking down towards the main road and the group of stupas downhill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALama at the main assembly courtyard.

DSC_4044Causal chat between two lamas.

DSC_4045The assembly courtyard and assembly hall of Thiksey.

DSC_4065We entered the temple which housed a giant statue of Maitreya (future Buddha).

DSC_4072Every room we visited at Thiksey was very well maintained.

DSC_4081Worker painting the exterior wall of the monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe prayer wheel along the entry stair.

DSC_4103The dramatic view of Thiksey Gompa has become an iconic image of Ladakh, appearing on various marketing mediums for tourism in the 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 3: MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh, India

After the first two days of leisure in Leh, on Day 3 and 4 we embarked upon our brief spiritual journey to visit a number of Tibetan monasteries along Indus River Valley.  For both days Hotel Ladakh Greens helped us to organize the itinerary and hire a driver.  With six monasteries and one palace in a single day, Day One turned out to be a busy but rewarding day of exploration at the Indus River Valley southeast of Leh.  We started early in the morning at around 5:30am in order to arrive on time to watch the morning prayer session at Thiksey Gompa.  After Thiksey, we continued to visit Chemrey and Takthok Gompa, the furthest lamaseries of the day.  Then we stopped for lunch at Hemis, the largest monasteries in Ladakh.  At around 2pm, we left Hemis and headed toward Stakna and Matho, two monasteries atop the rocky hills that perched above the Indus River Valley.  Before returning to Leh,  we had about an hour to wander around the ruins of Shey Palace, the former summer palace of Ladakh’s royal family.  It was already 7pm by the time we arrived back in Leh.  In the next four posts we would share our Day One monastery experience with you.

map indus valley_EDITEDFor two full days we ventured out of Leh to explore the monasteries in the Indus River Valley.  On the first day, we headed southeast to check out the monastery cluster closer to Leh (places highlighted in orange on the map above).  The next day we went further away from Leh at the opposite direction to complete our brief monasterial encounter (places in green on the map above).

DSC_3909Early morning view of Stok Mountain Range on our way to the Thiksey Gompa.

DSC_4122On the road, we encountered many colorfully decorated Tata trucks.

DSC_4280.JPGConstruction site near Hemis Gompa.  Apart from military establishments and Buddhist stupas, construction of buildings with a traditional touch could be found occasionally upon the desert landscape in the middle of nowhere.

DSC_4455Newly built mosques revealed the growth of Islamic population in the region.

DSC_4459We passed by the dramatic Thiksey Gompa in distant a few times throughout the day.

DSC_4566Our driver and vehicle of the day.

DSC_4576Crossing a river bridge full of prayer flags on our way to the Shey Palace.

DSC_4733Returning to Leh with the Stok Mountains glowing in the late afternoon sun.

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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: 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