We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.
We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.
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.
The Shanti Stupa under the warm afternoon sun. Most visitors preferred to stay in the shade.
The Stok Mountain Range at a distance.
The view of Leh was dominated by the poplar trees.
The shadow of the mountain gradually expanded over the town.
The back of Leh Palace was fully swamped in the afternoon sun.
The arid landscape around Leh looked drier than ever under the afternoon sun.
The steps leading down from Shanti Stupa to Changspa Road into the town centre.
The sun almost disappeared behind the mountain and Shanti Stupa.
Visitors were still enjoying the late afternoon scenery of the Indus Valley and Stok Mountains despite evening was gradually creeping in.
Locals enjoying the view of Leh, with the white washed walls of Namgyal Tsemo Gompa stood out at the background.
Shanti Stupa was completely in shade by the time we were done with the time-lapse photography.
We circled the stupa for a second time before we left.
By the time we left, much of Leh was blanketed in mountain’s shadow.
We slowly walked down the steps to the town below.
At 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.