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Posts tagged “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.

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

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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 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: SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh, India

Originally our last two full days in Ladakh was planned for a two-day tour to the Nubra Valley on the opposite side of Khardung La Pass, one of the world’s highest pass that can be reached by car at 5,359m.  Unfortunately, in the evening before our departure, we were told by the manager of Ladakh Greens Hotel that out trip to the Nubra was no longer possible.  In order to visit the region near the disputed border between India and China, all travelers are required to apply for a permit.  Since we were born in Hong Kong, our application was rejected by the local authorities.  As a result, we had no choice but to figure something else to do for the two days.  The hotel manager made a few suggested alternatives, and we picked two short hikes near Leh.  Trekking is big in Ladakh but we didn’t have enough time to do a decent trek.  Day hikes around Leh at least gave us a brief taste of hiking in Ladakh.

In the morning, Tashi picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Phyang, a village about 15km west of Leh.  The hotel manager suggested us to start our hike at a village called Dokla, but Tashi had trouble finding the way.  Instead he drove us further uphill from Phyang and stopped at a village where a few houses stood and a series of farming terraces were constructed overlooking the Stok Mountain Range.  Leaving Tashi behind, we get off the car, walked through a gateway of prayer flags, and headed up a small path towards the mountains behind Phyang.  We were told that the path would ultimately reach Nubra Valley in a few days’ time, where we were denied access to in the first place.  We hiked past a white stupa and followed a man-made irrigation channel uphill until we saw the clear running water of a mountain stream of melted water from mountain glaciers.  On a rocky mount dotted with wild flowers we sat down and had some quick snacks that the hotel chef prepared for us.  Across from where we sat a few tiny singing birds flew around piles of small pebbles.  After a brief stop we continued to walk uphill in the highlands near Phyang until we saw a small herd of grazing cattle from a distance upstream.

On our way back to Phyang we once again passed by the point where stream water was diverted for the irrigation system downstream.  Before reaching Tashi’s car, we passed by the white stupa once again.  A few people were putting fresh white paint on the stupa.  We exchanged some smiles and greetings with the friendly locals before heading back to Tashi’s car.  After a fine morning of hiking, Tashi suggested us to take a little break in the car while he drove us downhill to Phyang, where we could walk around the village and visit Phyang Gompa.  We gladly took his suggestion.

dsc_5521A tiny village uphill from Phyang where we started our hike.  The majestic Stok Kangri and the Stok Range offered a magnificent backdrop.

dsc_5517Gateway of prayer flags marked the exit of the village.

dsc_5522Many farming fields in the area were enclosed with low stone walls.

dsc_5530The white stupa overlooking the village.

dsc_5542The Stok Range in a distance.

dsc_5544Local agriculture is well organized by stone walls and irrigation channels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the rocky mount where we had a quick snack time.

dsc_5602Wild highland flowers stay low near the ground to avoid strong wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe kept walking uphill to follow the stream.

dsc_5603The river valley continued winding through the mountains uphill.

dsc_5640We reached a point where stream water was diverted into a small channel that fed the irrigation system downhill.

dsc_5608Further uphill we saw a small herd of grazing cattle.

dsc_5664Pile of stones left by perhaps hikers or local shepherd.

dsc_5680Strange earth formation beyond the stone walls

dsc_5709Cheerful locals doing maintenance work at the white stupa.

dsc_5719Once again we passed by the gateway of prayer flags on our return.

dsc_5726Close up of a prayer flag.

dsc_5731On a low wall someone left a book of local text.

dsc_5507Not all farmlands were planted with crops, but for the ones that had they looked healthy and green despite the arid climate.

dsc_5748Tashi drove us downhill to Phyang and dropped us off at a bridge.  We planned to wander around the village and met Tashi at the Phyang 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 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.

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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 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


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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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