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The road goes ever on and on Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So...Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

A week in Ladakh...

INDIA | Wednesday, 10 September 2008 | Views [1226]

is just not long enough!  Ladakh, is my favourite place in India so far, although it is nothing like anywhere else in India at all, so maybe it is unfair to compare it.  In fact the Ladakhis themselves don't consider themselves Indian at all.

The whole Ladakh experience begins with arguably the toughest bus ride in the world on the Leh-Manali road.  The bus leaves at stupid o'clock (or 2 am) and goes over passes as high as 5300m.  They say the first thing that most people do on reaching Leh is book an airfare back to Delhi so they don't have to face the road again.  As this was not within my budget or really the direction I wanted to head, I faced the road down on the way back again too.

The first part of the journey is in the dark, but when the sun rises, you are in a the middle of a high altitude desert, above the treeline but below the snowline.  There are endless mountainess rock formations and I never realised dirt and rock could reflect in so many different colours, just amazing.  The scenery is so incredible it even takes your mind off the discomfort of the trip.  One piece of advice -DO NOT, whatever you do, book the back seats of the minibus, unless you enjoy being thrown bodily into the air every 5 minutes or so.

Leh itself is a beautiful little oasis in the middle of this desert.  I met a Chinese girl (Dada) and Spanish guy (Oriel) in Manali and we travelle upto Leg together.  We found excellent accomodation at the Auspicious hotel, the owner and staff where fanatastic in helping us out with anything we wanted.

The town itself is overlooked by the 500 year old Leh palace.  Walking through it's dusty old rooms you really feel something of what life was like all those years ago, you also get that feeling in alot of parts of Old Leh itself which feel like they havem't changed for 1000's of years.

There is some excellent trekking around Leh, but as I had really just gotten over my chest infection from my last trekking expedition I decvided to leave the trekking for next time (and yes, there will be a next time).  Instead, I spent my time doing a 2 day introduction to Buddhism course, visiting Pangong lake - from where you can see China, exploring the centuries old monasteries around Leh and having tea with the local Kashmiri shop owners while they tried to sell me beautiful Pashminas and Rugs, which I valiantly resisted buying.

The Ladakh festival was also on while we where there, which meant many cultural groups from all over Ladakh where in Leh giving cultural performances.  The highlight of the festival for me was the polo match, apparently polo is quite popular here and it was really easy to get into the match, they where really quite skillful.

I have also become a little obsessed with eating Korma curries and cottage cheese naan, which I really need to curtail a little or I will come back from India twice my original size!  But they are just sooo good.

I really can't say enough about how beautiful and relaxing Leh is.  Everyone visiting India should make the effort to get up here, and everyone not visiting India should, so they can visit here.

Tags: india, ladakh, leh


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