By Surela Chakraborthy
My trip to Ladakh was a life time experience. Why you may ask. There was a cloudburst followed by a landslide near Nubra valley, as a result almost three hundred tourists got stranded there. Two amongst them were we- my husband and I. Crossing the landslide and two furious streams with the help of the Indian army was an adventure for us. It became an interesting anecdote to relate to amazed relatives and friends once we were back to the safety of our home. Fear not! Ladakh is not a dangerous place to visit at all, barring the fact that you are not going there during the monsoons. The best time to visit Ladakh is from April to June. Though sightseeing is of prime importance, there are many more things you can do there to make your visit really memorable.
Chat With Locals:
During our stay at Ladakh we met with the dhabawala at T-More. I still remember his name- Gyaltsen. He along with two of his assistants cooked dinner for us when we were stranded. He also supplied lunch to more than three hundred tourists who were stranded near the junction. He and many like him were warm and friendly to the tourists and also to each other. These brave souls fight odds daily and survive in a harsh climate, yet their gentleness and camaraderie will melt your heart. Our guide Sangdup was also very friendly and he went out of his way to help us when we needed it most.
Salute the Martyrs:
After a visit to the museum at the Hall of Fame and watching the documentary on Kargil War our hearts were filled with patriotic fervor. It will take you aback to think that the Indian army actually managed climbed the barren and lofty mountains and fought the enemy. While roaming around the museum we found flower wreaths kept on a stand. You can take a wreath and place it under the memorial pillar and salute the real heroes. You can go through the list of the names of soldiers who gave up their life during the war.
Eat Kebabs at Leh Market:
You must not miss eating the street-side kebabs once you are at Leh. Most kebabwalas will serve you the kebabs with coleslaw but the man selling kebabs near the taxi stand served it with a red coloured chutney that simply tasted out of the world. The kebabs are served on a bed of chapati with the chutney on top. Other than kebabs there were Kashmiri fare like Rista and Goshtabas. You can also enjoy some momos along with the famous Kashmiri kahwa at restaurants lining the market. Try the local Ladakhi food like Thupka (noodle-soup), Skyu (meat broth with wheat dumplings) and Khambir (special type of Ladakhi bread).
Take the Iconic Selfie at Khardung La:
If you are travelling to Nubra Valley you have to cross the famous Khardung La Pass. It is the highest motor able pass located at the height of 18,379 ft. Here you can take the best selfie or groupie while shivering in the cold. The mountains are snow capped and the prayer flags silently flutter in the wind. From here you will get the panoramic view of mountains. Remember not to stand here for too long since you might feel a little dizzy or light headed afterwards.
Try to see the Stars and Moon at Night:
The best thing about Ladakh that you will get clear blue skies during the day making all your photographs look like posters. At night it is filled with stars and the moon. You must look up to the sky and make the most of the view, this is something you will not get once you are back home.
Boat ride at the confluence of Zanskar and Indus Confluence:
So long I had read about the Indus Valley Civilization in history books. I was super excited to go for a boat ride on the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. There are other options like kayaking and white water rafting as well. Being a little faint-hearted I chose the safest way to enjoy. You can actually spot the two rivers meeting from a height. The Indus river has silt so it appears brown while the Zanskar appear green.
Drink Butter Tea and have Local Food:
The steaming cup of butter tea will instantly warm you up and revive you in a jiffy. You might become tired climbing all the steep monastery steps, so it is a good idea to sip some butter tea after each visit. The slight salty taste of butter blends really well with the milk tea. Special leaf tea is used in its preparation. Butter tea is special to this region that has a strong Tibetan influence.
Watch the Reflection of the Mountains in the Pristine Lakes (Pangong Tso):
The film ‘Three Idiots’ have made Pangong Tso the must visit place when you are in Ladakh. You should visit it in the morning and stay there till evening to watch the colour of the lake change as the time passes. Watching the sunrise and sunset on this lake is like a dream come true! There are other lakes too like Tsomoriri lake, Tso Kar Lake and Yarab Tso Lake are equally beautiful. Watch the clear skies reflect on it still waters. The surrounding scenery will make you go snap crazy!
Take the Car Ride at the Magnetic Hill:
Magnetic Hill is a part of the Srinagar-Leh highway and it is located about 30 kms from Leh towards Kargil. Here you will see the road ahead going uphill. If you turn off the engine of your car and let it stand in the neutral you will actually notice the car moving and can travel up to 20kms. on its own. Intrigued? Is this an act of God? Maybe yes because it is believed the magnetic force here is so strong that it can pull the cars uphill. When planes fly over this area it increases its altitude to avoid the magnetic interference. Strange are the ways of Nature!
Visit the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib:
This sacred sight for the Sikh Community gets its name from the event happened here once upon a time. The folklore says, there lived a demon in a village who used to frighten the villagers who came to get water from a pond. His reign of terror continued until Guru Nanak intervened and came to the rescue of the villagers. When the demon saw Guru Nanak bathing in a pond he threw down a stone from the opposite mountain. It came rolling down and touched Guru Nanak. No sooner the stone turned into wax and the impression of the great saint’s body was left on it.
This place has become a pilgrimage center. Once you come out of the worship center you will served with prasad straight out of the langaar or community kitchen. The other humbling sight we caught here was that of army servicemen cleaning shoes of the visitors and arranging them in order. To them everyone is equal in the eyes of God. The visit to this Gurudwara is a must to get the complete feel of Ladakh. You can take a selfie outside the Gurudwara wearing the yellow headgear mandatory for going inside the inner chamber.
If you love trekking and mountain biking Ladakh is the ultimate place for you. If you are lucky enough you can get a rare sighting of the snow leopard, a very shy animal. If you are an adventure junkie or a bohemian at heart the tented camp accommodation is meant for you. Many hotels with tented camps light bonfires at night to give you the feel of the mountains. Mix with these polite locals and get to know more about their lives. You will get an inspiration from their struggle. The mountains though stark and barren has its own beauty. The ancient monasteries are nestled in these mountains are an abode of peace. The architecture, woodwork and history will take you back to those times. You can get a breathtaking view of the mountains and valley from these monasteries. Visiting Ladakh once is not enough, the place and its people will beckon you again and again.