August 30, 2012
Woke up in the morning at around 7:00 AM, and rushed to the taxi stand. For some reason, I had a fear that the taxi fellow would leave us and go (cheat us), but I was totally wrong. Most of the locals here survive on tourism, and it’s their bread and butter. So for that reason, everyone (almost everyone) here is honest, friendly and usually don’t cheat tourists. My bad.
We started off a little late from Kargil, it was almost 9:00 by the time we got out. I struggled in the back seat of the Scorpio as my legs wouldn’t fit, but I had no option. The ride was a little bumpy initially, but got better as we traveled. The scenery around was awesome. A little after we started off, we stopped at a small town, which was pretty much the start of Tibetan region.
And then two hours later, we reached Lamayuru monastery. The taxi guy had told us that we have 10 minutes to look at it, but I convinced him for 30 minutes. I was hoping to see a lot at the monastery, this being the first I’ve visited, but there really wasn’t anything much. People who are interested in Buddhism or Buddhist culture might find the place interesting. I roamed about, clicked some pictures and got out in 15 minutes. 😀
There was a landslide on the road from Lamayuru, so we had to take an alternate mud road, 30 kms longer than the regular road. Though this part of the journey was a little tiring, the view from here was breath-taking. The roads were like snakes on hills. Stunningly beautiful.
We stopped for lunch in a small town about 60 kms from Leh. I was hungry, but skeptical about eating. After contemplating about it for a while, I had Aloo Mattar, Roti and rice at a Punjabi Dhaba. The food was decent, nothing great.
The ride got better once we left this town. The roads were newly laid, and the surroundings just got better. We passed through the point where the Zanskar and Indus merged, then passed through a straight road surrounded by mountains on either side, and the magnetic hill, before we finally reached Leh at around 4:00 PM. I thought the place was quite hot. It was very dry, and there was this uneasy feeling once we stopped. It took a while to get adjusted.
The German couple wanted to stay at this place called Indus Guest House at Malpak, near the main market. Lonely Planet said that they have rooms starting from Rs. 300//-, so I decided to give it a try. I did try to look for a couch here as well, but it didn’t work out. We walked quite a distance before we finally found it. They had rooms starting from 400, but this room was already occupied. The best he could offer was at 700. The guest house was very good, rooms neat and spacious, they had free wi-fi too, but 700 was a lot for me. I was planning to stay in Leh for a week, so it really didn’t work out. They suggested I try in the guest house adjacent to theirs (I don’t remember the name), and I did. They showed me a room for 400, and I checked in. The room was alright, but was very dusty, and seemed unused for a long time. Hoping to find something better, I walked out and tried looking a little more. (The German couple took a room at Indus for Rs. 1200/-)
I walked into a couple of nearby guest houses and none had a room for less than 600. I then walked into this place called Lung-Se-Jung a little off Fort Road, right next to Rafica Guest House. These guys offered me a better room with a TV for 400 bucks. So I went to the other place, took my bag, told them I had found something else and moved out. I had already checked in here, but since I didn’t use the room, they let me go without any issues.
I settled down in my room at Lung-Se-Jung, and after a while set off on a stroll in the town. It was time for sunset and there was nice chill in the air. Probably because I took the route from Kargil, I really didn’t feel sick or anything, but I was breathing a little heavy, atleast for the first hour or so. I was also tired from the ride.
Before I started on the trip, I planned which cities to go to, but I didn’t do any homework on what all to see at these places. So I walked into one of the tourist operators, and informed them of my ignorance about Leh. The guy explained to me on what all there is to be done in and around the town. He first asked me how long I was gonna be thee, and I said a week. So the trekking trips were out, for they usually last for atleast 10 days. He suggested that I visit the monasteries on one day, visit Pangong Tso on another, head to Nubra Valley for a two days-one night trip, and go rafting another day. This sounded awesome. I was told that I would need to obtain an Inner Line Permit to visit Pangong or Nubra Valley. I assumed this permit was only foreigners, but it turned out that even Indians need it, and it costs Rs. 500/-. You will need an ID proof, and it takes a day.
PS: A single foreign tourist cannot obtain a permit by himself. He/she will have to group with someone in order to get one. So, make friends, not enemies. 😛
So I decided to start with the monasteries the next day. I dropped into another tourist center and found out how to go about it. They suggested I take a taxi to visit the four monasteries nearby – Shey, Thiksey, Hemis and Spituk. I was informed that a taxi would cost me Rs. 2400/- irrespective of the number of people travelling. I was hoping to convince the German couple to join me on the same, so that it would bring my expense down to 800. They weren’t sure on what they wanted to do yet, and said that they would inform me in the morning. The other alternative I had in mind, in case these guys wouldn’t join me, was to take the bus (there’s no direct bus to the monasteries though).
On the way back to the room, I found this Tibetan vegetarian kitchen called Tenzin Dickey. The fact that it was all vegetarian pulled me in. The joint was packed, with just one empty table in the corner, where I sat. There was only one waitress, and she was running all around the place. It took close to 15 minutes before she came upto me and told me that Momos were all that were available. I’ve had Momos a couple of times in Hyderabad, but never really liked them. Since there was no other alternate, decided to try them, fried. The same girl who told me that only Momos were available, took orders for Noodle Soups from other tables, which pissed me off a bit. Anyways, while I was waiting, an elderly foreign gentleman walked in and asked if he could share the table with me. We made small talk, and he told me he was from Ireland and has been visiting Leh for the last 22 years, every year, for atleast a month (with the exception of 1 year in between). I thought that was just awesome!! He was a very nice guy, and helped me understand the place a little better. The Momos arrived in the mean time., and were alright. I wasn’t too happy with them for they were bland, so I added a lot of chilli sauce to make them taste better. After a so so meal, it was time to head back to the room.
Once again, there was no fan in the room. I watched some TV, and slowly drifted off into sleep.
PS: I’ve listed a few places to stay at on the Experience page 🙂