A perfect cocoon of nature and man residing in peaceful harmony, Ladakh has much to offer as long as one remains flexible and adjusting to some of its other not so pleasant factors.
My journey began early. 5 am to be exact. I left from the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport and landed in a completely different environment at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport. The temperatures had dropped to a chilly 4 degrees and I was in the center of a 360-degree view of snowcapped mountains. Greeted with friendly smiles and a short car ride later I reached my hotel. To acclimatize to the sudden change in temperatures tourists are asked to not baths or even change clothes for at least 24 hours, not following instructions could lead to a bad headache and hangover. I rested in my room and decided to explore the local markets; The Moti market and the Tibetan market.
A picturesque vision, the markets sell everything from the freshest of vegetables to the famous pashminas of Ladakh. Buddhist masks, prayer beads, woven rugs, carpets and dresses and even handmade jewellery. All at amazing prices open to bargaining! The roadside cafes are a blend of old and new catering to the locals and the very often European tourists. They sell everything from the classic Maggi to ladakhi lemonades and of course some smashing momos! Evening had set and as the skies turned a majestic blue i headed back to hotel. Word of caution. Hotels in Ladakh are very basic. The constant power cuts make it nearly impossible to have a continuous Wi-Fi let alone a signal to even call home. Many hotels, including mine did not have a heater to help the person living adjust to the cold temperatures. Hot water is a luxury and food is a bare necessity. So enjoying the nature and the views is the next best thing for us tourists
The next day began with a light breakfast and a sense of adventure. My first stop for the day: Namgyal Monastery, a place for mediation and inner peace. Hat an excellent way to start the day. Later we went on towards the shanti stupa one of the largest stupas of Ladakh. Lunch was a traditional one with local favorites like ba ba bread and Tibetan stew. After a fairly relaxed evening we had a long and extremely bumpy ride to the khardungla pass. A complete opposite to the previous experiences this pass is not for the faint hearted. The khardungla pass is the world’s highest pass accessible by motors. Surrounded by snow and mountains. On can choose to take a stroll or sit i the cozy cafes with a hot cuppa. After an hour or so of picture taking and taking in the sights e headed back.
Distance of from lace to another is a major reason why visiting many places in one day becomes a challenge.
Day 3 had me feeling fully detoxed as i had had no signal, Wi-Fi or even a newspaper to feast my eyes on. Living in Ladakh allowed me to return to nature and reflect on many things, including life. A good thing once in a while to see where one’s heading. Nonetheless the day i was soon out of the meditative zone as today was the day i had been waiting for. I have one word. Pangong! Pangong Lake is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Leh Ladakh. Fondly remembered as the place where the “3 idiots” movie was shot. We had to start early as the lake is a long drive away and would take up a full day to visit. Caution: the ride is a very bumpy one. Be sure to take regular breaks to stretch and eat and carry neck pillows. But was it worth it? 100% yes. The lake was a magnificent view. A million shades of blue all at once. One can just walk along it, take pictures or participate in the various fun activities like archery or riding a quad bike. It is even more beautiful when seen in person and the history behind it is equally enchanting. Be prepared to be blown away.
Luckily for us, we camped overnight near Pangong lake itself. I would definitely recommend the experience.
Next morning we left to head back to civilization on the way we stopped at some more cafes and stupas before being dropped to our airport.
overall the journey was a wonderful one. it can be enjoyed even more if you come better prepared, with appropriate woolen clothes, some snacks and maybe some friends also. the clear skies and endless road makes one really relax and think about life. the stupas make for some great meditation and of course the wonderful mountains and lakes along with the “3 idiot’s cafe” also bring back some fond memories and stories of Ladakh everytime I remember Ladakh.
I have one tip for you dear reader: once in your lifetime visit this magical place.