Filled with curio shops with names such as Aladdin’s Cave, Leh felt ethereal and, without any notions of cultural appropriations, that it sprang to life right out of Arabian Nights. Walking in the main market (baazar) transported you back to the days of the old. Well, not really. We just felt that that’s what it would’ve felt like in the old days. The traditional clothes of the Ladakhi people are very nifty and in its own way, stylish.
There is a fusion of culture (Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism largely) that on the surface really complements one another. The antiquated impressions from the miniature Mughal art and jewelry, a familiar smell and taste of Tibetan food and the ever so famous pashminas shawls hung outside the shops means you never run out of things to do while walking in the small market square.
The Mosque is your first point of contact when you enter the market though. It is right in your view and while the Leh Palace looms majestically above the Mosque, it will most probably be the Mosque that you’ll remember long after you’ve left.
The panoramic view of Leh from the Palace shows the uniformity of the streets and the houses, whether it be through colour or style. Neither Debbie nor Sarju nor I have stepped foot into Afghanistan but from what we saw through photographs and on the news, the view of Leh that was laid out in front of us immediately made us think of Kabul.
the old part of Leh town which you will encounter while making your way to the Palace or in our case, making our way down (because we were so done climbing uphill) was very medieval. The lanes and paths were narrows with semi ruined buildings which were very charming. It was very neat as well, completely devout of any form of trash (or smell) which is a prominent feature in the streets of India. No matter how wonderful the old Blue City (Jodhpur) was, it was just dirty. Leh, on the other hand, has none of that.
I don't feel fit to write about Leh. We used it as out point of entry for our trip and while we walked around in the evenings and at night, those few hours weren't enough for me to give you a narrative. We did have one of the best meals in a tiny little Tibetan restaurant. In fact we enjoyed it so much that two backpackers peeped in and seeing us enjoy the food, entered and ordered exactly the same things as us. We decided to have our last meal together there once we got back from Pangong Tso but unfortunately, it was shut. I don't even remember the name of it because it was so unassuming from the exterior but I remember the location well in my mind. I should also add that for two continuous days, we ate at an amazing Punjabi dhaba which served typical north Indian food. We sat there and ordered on top of our order. I think that was more ME than we but nevertheless, bottomline was this: it was as good and as authentic as it could get and we named the owner 'Sunny' because he just seemed like a really nice and jolly chap.
Leh didn't fall short in terms of food. Just don't expect the wifi to work. That's just the way it is. And a word of warning: unless you have a BSNL postpaid simcard, there's no chance that you are going to get a cell connection so be prepared for that. We were disconnected through the trip and personally, I was alright with it. But I was struck by one thing: I don't know if its because times have changed so much that its caught up to the concept of PCO's but we didn't see a single one in sight even in Leh.
I met an old friend who calls Leh home on my last day and he took me cycling around the villages surrounding Leh. Our first stop was the Spituk Gompa (Monastery) followed by cycling in the trailsand backroads, also stopping near an old wooden bridge by the banks of the Indus river. It was fairly cool day but cycling for six hours did nothing for my skin. So yeah, that's a warning. Do load up on sunscreen.
So without having too much to write about, I am just going to present Leh in photographs.
JULY 03 - 09, 2016