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May 22, 2008

Back in India, holiday withdrawal

Thank god that Delhi has rains, though was much surprised as we flew into the capital on Tuesday night to find clouds hovering and lightning outside. While we had been telling all and sundry that Delhi was boiling at 42 degrees -- the temperature when we left for Malaysia-Melbourne on May 8th and given that Malaysia was not more than 28 degrees while Melbourne was 10 degrees -- it was quite a pleasant change to find Delhi much, much cooler. And to think that Victoria, Melbourne almost has it's third consecutive year of drought (it rained a bit, but nothing like what we get here). Now it's been two days since I've been back and it's taking me some time to get used to. NOT because of any time difference or such but just because I STILL want to holiday... So am moping.

<--- first look at the Himalayas from the plane
Till as such time as I get the Delhi-Malaysia-Melbourne-St Arnaud posts ready, you guys have a look at the rest of the pics from Leh. For those who didn't know or missed, was in Leh-Ladakh for the weekend of April 18-21, 2008. For those who look at the picture and think they want to get to Leh, PLEASE DO SO. The tickets are bloody cheap as we paid Rs 12,000 return for two people and without any prior booking. We flew Jet Airways and came back on Deccan.

<--- Atop the Leh Palace, even today, most constructions are made of sun-dried, mud bricks
Since we were there for the last of the off-season weekends, we got a discount on the hotel room. We paid Rs 1,990 a night for the hotel room and stayed at Omasila Hotel, one of the best in Leh and apparently the one where Brad Pitt stayed during the shooting of Seven Years in Tibet. Amitabh Bachchan has also stayed there and well, now there's me on the list. Bwahahaha.
For those who might decide to stay at Omasila, be sure to ask for the ground floor rooms as those are centrally heated and the upper floors are not. The hotel however has these LPG heaters and you should ask for one if you plan your trip in the colder season. In the tourist season -- which is now to about end October -- accommodation is available starting from Rs 500.
Food is not an issue as there are restaurants and smaller hotels that sell everything from croissants, dal-roti to thukpa and manchurian. However, in the season when it snows, you might not get meat and chicken products -- as was the case with us for a day -- because land slides and snowing might block the road ways.
<-- Etched on stones by the lamas, these messages are either prayers or directions
The most money we spent in Leh was on transport. You can hire a jeep, Innova, Sumo or Qualis, or two wheels are more your style, you can hire an Enfield. However, from the view of fuel consumption and comfort, go for a four-wheeler.
The best way to go around Leh and to chalk out what you want to see would be either a good guide book or asking someone at your hotel. However, it would be better still to ask someone who's been there. Like another day and we would have managed to see the Nubra Valley too, which we missed out.
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<--- shot at the Hemis monastery
We visited: The monasteries of Shey, Thiksay, Hemis and Alchi; walked up to the Leh Palace that's in the city, drove up to Pangogtso Lake, which is in a valley after you cross the second-highest motorable pass in the world. Don't be fooled by the monasteries, i.e. don't think that if you have seen one, you've seen all because pretty much all the monasteries have something unique to offer.
One of the smaller monasteries located right below the Leh Palace--->
If you can catch a prayer session, it would be great -- more monks (lamas), the merrier -- it's a simple ceremony but the drums, incense and chanting have a way of entrancing you. Shoes are not allowed inside the monastery, so it's a good idea not to wear footwear with intricate laces etc. While a head-covering is not required, hot pants, backless tops etc are not appreciated. If you're wearing those -- can get warm in the sun during summers -- it's advisable to carry a shawl you can cover up with.

And yes, please carry extra camera battery, an extra storage card (or laptop), don't forget the camera transfer cable, lenses AND the camera charger. It would be absolutely criminal to go there and NOT take pictures or forget some vital camera part at home.
Pangongtso lake, frozen-->
Camera apart, aclimatisation is very important: With far less amounts of oxygen up there, it would be silly to run around without proper rest, particularly if you are flying up. Usually, bedrest is not needed for those who drive up. We crashed out for 6 hours before venturing out.
Confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers --->
Have heard horror stories about army officers' wives who go to Leh to shop -- known for cultured pearls -- dont take adequate bed rest and drop dead in two hours due to pulmonary edema (lungs flood with fluid). So for those who decide to fly up there, please take rest. You really can't enjoy the place if dead. And again, DO give Leh a visit. "Starkly beautiful" will make perfect sense...

3 comments:

Maxine said...

That confluence pic is so beautiful.
Monks n monastries..hmm..I should have born somewhere there.And glad that your Jaipur trip was timed well and not a week back.
Takecare traveller.

Eve* aka jb said...

Hmm. It was weird... we had been listening to BBC constantly in our hotel room -- Beiruit and Hezbollah, Burma and the aid refusal, China and the earthquake... And the one night we didnt listen to the news, the next day almost everyone asked, "What about the six bombs in Jaipur?" Partner and me were in shock. We had just been there, casually roaming around. WHY do they do this? WHAT does it achieve??! :|

Mystique said...

urgh....yeah, I missed that in the news too....shish...

Anyway, Leh, wow.....I went to Himachal on this trek last year (going to manali in a week) and what struck me most was the silence, it wraps around you like......like a pair of very snug earmuffs...and the only sounds you hear are birds and water.....it was horrendous, after that, to come to Bombay, where the traffic rattles my windows even at 3 in the morning. I couldn't sleep that first night.
I love the pics.