All About Ladakh

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#1 May 25th, 2004, 13:56
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  • mountaingirl is offline
#1
Hi all! I guess a lot of people are travelling there this summer. I thought of putting my views together so whatever I am writing below are based on my own somewhat limited experience and personal views. Please use your own discretion to do what you please.

How to get there?
By Air: Flights operate from Delhi/ Chandigarh/ Jammu and Srinagar.
There are two airline companies operating here. Jet Airways and Indian Airlines

Except for the festival dates, it is not such a big problem to get a seat these days.

If you are below 30 years on the date of travel, you will get a 25% discount on the flight ticket. The last week of June and July are an exception – with no apparent reason.

By Land : The best option (my favourite) is the road from Manali to Leh.
The State transport buses will start plying from June 15th to Sept. 15 (around 15th).

Condition of the road : Always the same – (think of it as a pothole with road and not the other way) the jeeps are running successfully as on date, without any problems.

A little piece of advise : DO NOT RUSH IT! Most of you will probably be travelling to Ladakh only once (though I will bet that you WILL RETURN ONE DAY!) – so, don’t try to be a miser and try to travel a bit luxurious on this route. You can hire jeeps (a good option especially if you are four in number), find a share cab Or take a bus.

DRIVING UP FROM MANALI : You will be driving through some of the highest mountain passes in the world through some really breath taking sceneries. Most people take a break in Sarchu – making it a two days journey. I advise people to take three days to travel – making it nicer and more enjoyable: stopping at Keylong and Sarchu.

A lot of the travel companies stop in Jispa instead of Keylong, which is a small village with one modern hotel that stands out completely amidst that tiny village. Keylong is the district HQ. The lower bazaar is quite interesting to walk around. It is also the last place from where you can call your near/ dear ones and check your HOTmail! :-)

Instead of Sarchu, some people go on to Pang – which is also another summer settlement with only tents and the army checkpost. I personally don’t like the location so I avoid it. Sarchu camp must be the coldest place on Earth! And also be prepared for a headache/ some minor acclimatisation problem.

Tented camps : The accommodation in Sarchu and Pang is restricted to the tented camps that are advertised as ‘Swiss Cottage Deluxe tents” – Don’t expect anything like that! These are basically large tent houses the size of a small room with a folding bed that can creak everytime you turn – which will be a lot due to the change going on in your body. The toilets with WC are located in one end of the camps. They usually have a ‘Hamam’ – a tin boiler for hot water. Just put your bucket below the tap and fill the boiler with cold water while it dispenses hot water in to the bucket – it is a pretty cool mechanism!

I would avoid staying in the government tents that stink of ……..yuck! They are normally canvass tents so they smell.

If you have a good sleeping bag – you can also spend the night in one of those tent restaurants. The tent restaurants are basically parachutes that are used by the army to drop ration. A small stone base is constructed and then the place is covered by this parachute – making it a small home for the business people. Most of these people are Nepalese, Tibetans and Biharis – who come here every summer in search of food and some earnings.

There is always a road construction going on in some part of the road and you will see the faces of people covered with black soot from the tar that they burn. If you feel bad for them, carry packs of bindi’s (local cigarette) and distribute it personally. It also helps clear up a jam quickly!

Leh : Paradise – period! :-)
Use Leh as a base for further activities.

Popular guidebooks : Charlie Loram (trailblazer) remains the favourite, Rejse know-how (in German), and the local ‘Reach Ladakh’ guide has a comprehensive bus timings listed along with a map.

Eating out : Leh is a small town with few bars and lots of restaurants. La Terrace, Penquin bar, Summer Harvest, Tibetan Kitchen (for ‘tourist’ momo’s), Kokonoor (better momo’s than Tibetan Kitchen), Badshah, Mentokling bar, Zen restaurant are popular hangouts.

Life revolves around the main street and the fort road. These days it is becoming a nuisance with the Kashmiri traders with their usual ‘hello my friend, come in to me shop’ routine. The local organisations were trying to control it.

Staying: Guesthouses in Changspa are popular. Karzoo and further up Shankar gompa area is also good. Changspa area is actually a misoner in the sense that it covers far too much area and you can actually end up very far from the centre like the Oriental guesthouse below the Shanti Stupa. Ols guesthouses have room from Rs.150.00 to Rs.400.00. Modern (recently built) guesthouses have attached toilets for Rs.400 – 800.00. Padma guesthouse, Ti-Sei, Delux and Padma near fort road are every popular. Rainbow, Oriental, Greenland and wisdom are also popular.

Most of the guesthouses are basically extension of a house with the family staying in part of the house. They normally prepare breakfast and tea/ coffee for people – making it a very nice and homely experience. There is usually a garden to enjoy the sun. Most of them have common toilets. There is also a separate tap for washing in the open. All together it is a good experience!

The best hotels are Spic & Span, Omasila, Lotus. Lharimo is also popular but the standard has definitely deteriorated now.

The Lamayuru monastery has its own guesthouse – if you want to stay in one.

Getting around: The Taxi Union office is located in the taxi stand near the Ibex bar and hotel. You don’t have to bargain here as the taxi-union has a fixed rate chart. Therefore you can also order the taxi through the hotel/ travel agent who will charge you the same. You can also utilise the Local buses for travelling to nearby monasteries (see Reach Ladakh guide for timings).

Remember you need an innerline permit to visit Pangong, Tsomoriri and Nubra valley etc. Theoretically, you need to be 4 people to get a permit. However, you can approach a local travel agent/ your own agent who can organise one for you even if there’s only two of you. Four people need to apply together but they need not travel together (as interpreted - which is wrong but still works!).

Money: Take traveller’s cheque. There is now and ATM at the State bank of India (SBI). However there are mixed response to it so don’t rely too much on it and keep some ‘safe’ money (around USD200.00 or so) with you at all times – so that in case you run out of money then you can atleast buy your flight ticket back.

Some OTHER things besides the monasteries: Polo match on 15th August – is really exciting. Leh has the highest golf course in the world! Local archery, visit to the oracle and local Amchi (doctor – NO, NOT a witch doctor) are interesting besides learning everything from Reiki to Zen meditation and the usual tourist traps! Ladakh festival from 01 – 15 September every year – is getting more and more popular every year.

That is all I can think of right now, questions are welcome – if I don’t know the answer, I will try to do some research and try to give an appropriate reply.


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#2 May 25th, 2004, 13:57
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  • mountaingirl is offline
#2
Those who have been there - please add to it and correct me where I am wrong.
'm learning to fly
#3 May 25th, 2004, 14:04
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  • maree is offline
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Thanks a bunch, mountaingirl. Have printed this off to use this summer.
#4 May 25th, 2004, 14:08
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  • AvidTrekker is offline
#4
Quote:
If you feel bad for them, carry packs of bindi’s (local cigarette) and distribute it personally. It also helps clear up a jam quickly!
It's a genuine mistake... but not your mistake.

Bindi's are the red vermillion dots that Indian women put on their eyebrow centre to indicate that she is married and that her husband is alive.

beedis are the local ciggies, what you mean above.

For that matter, there are women labourers in plenty... distributing bindi's may also help. Someone pls try it out.
The Universe is an ellipsoid?... or a Spheroid?? If the sphere smiles... it becomes an ellipse. This IS Creation.
#5 May 25th, 2004, 14:42
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#5
Thanks for a fantastic description!!! I'm going!!!!! Summer 2005, here I come!!!! I'm already mentally packed...with the backpack info I got on another thread!!
Diane
#6 May 25th, 2004, 15:35
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#6
MG, now you`ve ruined my day ...

Now I`ll sulk all afternoon at my regular cafe for the lack of buttered tea and go to bed longing for the tent camp at Pang.
#7 May 27th, 2004, 13:14
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Very comprehensive and informative post MT!
I really want to go back now!!! Momos, butter tea. Friends! Mmm...
#8 May 27th, 2004, 17:30
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Well done Mountaingirl, really good thread.
#9 May 27th, 2004, 17:44
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#9

thank you

Hi mountaingirl,
I happened on your post just when I was thinking of going to ladakh.....for those of you who are in the area, I beleive there is a special buddhist festival which occurs only once every 12 yrs and this year its happening at the end of June, check the link below to get more info....
http://www.e-holidaysindia.com/hemis...tival-2004.php

I'm goin for it...hope to see some of the indiamikers around....

MadnoMad
One world, One man, One plan....Travel...unfortunately just one life!
#10 May 27th, 2004, 18:05
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Thanks for all the information mountaingirl. We've also printed it off for our visit in August/September.

I have just a few questions to ask for people who may want to hire a jeep - how do people go about arranging a jeep from Manali if they want to do a 2 or 3 day journey to Leh, rather than a quick dash?

I imagine they would have to go to one of the travel agencies rather than hire a casual jeep from the stand and roughly how much would it cost? I've seen prices of from 6000 - 12000 rupees quoted.

Also what's the most comfortable make of vehicle with the best all round vision? We hired a Gypsy in Leh last time to visit some monasteries but only the person in the front had a good view and the journey was pretty bumpy. I certainly couldn't handle one of those for 500 K's!
#11 May 28th, 2004, 12:45
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#11
Hi Avidtrekker, Sorry that was a ‘typo’ error. Sometimes when you think faster than you can type , it is bound to happen :-)

Come on Vistet and Dakota – you can add so much more to it. Please do…..

MadnoMad: The Hemis festival is held every year but this year’s festival is special as being a year of the monkey, they will unfurl that BIG THANGKHA from the rooftop. I have not seen it myself so I don’t know how it is.
There is more info on the website about this festival. Lot of foreigners complain that over the years the Hemis festival has become very commercialised. So you will be seeing more Tourists than locals. It should have been the other way round – with the locals celebrating the festival. So, you miss the real gaiety and the spirit of the festival. So, one can be disappointed unless you are happy only to watch the monks do the mask dance.

Alan,

In Manali – you should enquire at the taxi stand. You should also visit the phone booths that double as the travel agent/ unpaid reporters! They can help you locate a jeep or, they can have people looking for others to join them. Sometimes they have posters up for the same. In Leh, you will definitely find posters of people looking for companions etc.

The rate for the car: The taxi union in Leh is quite strong – so there you will be more or less paying the printed rate. In Manali, the union has problems and quite often, it is disbanded. So there is always a great fluctuation of rates there. If you are lucky to find a car owner driving the car himself – he will go very cheap. But 12000.00 – 17000.00 is the price range per car – divded by the total number of people.

Gypsy is good only for a photographer (also for Tsomoriri trips) – that too with a soft top so that the three sides can be folded up. The bad thing about a Gypsy is that the rear seats are above the wheels – so it is extremely bumpy.

These days, Mahindra Bolero and Mahindra Scorpio are ruling. You will also be paying 15-20% more than the union fare chart for these cars.

A 4WD is good for drives to Tsomoriri and Nubra but there isn’t much option there. Armada is a 4WD but it is too low – and you can guess how the roads are!

Inspite of such good cars, the front view is always blocked so you can take some measures like removing the headrest of the people in front, seating short people in the front :-) Barring Toyota Qualis (6 people can sit comfortably), you should not be more than 4 people in one car – giving you more space.

Trips to Nubra, Alchi and Tsomoriri (the best) are very interesting for those who don’t want to go on a trek and would rather take short day hikes. I am totally against going to Pangong as you don’t get to spend much time near the lake and have to camp far away.

A last piece of advise, if you want to travel budget class – have a lot of time in hand. In fact throw your calender away :-)

Inshah Allah May Buddha Bless You!
#12 May 28th, 2004, 13:10
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Transport: I have experience with bumpy jeep rides. I haven't taken many though (maybe two). For people who enjoy & want to experience the local feel I advice a bus. I took it last year from Leh to Keylong (overnight stay), then to Manali and straight to Dharamsala. It was fantastic. The scenery is breathtaking!!! Bus tends to be more "stable" on a road, as it is heavier (at least that's how I see it). I got to travel with locals. And it was only locals, and my friend and I. The bus was not even half full. It is true we did not stop a lot, but from what I read and heard jeeps don't do that much either. I enjoy buses as I want to do as many things as possible as the locals do.

Hemis Festival: yes, there tend to be lots of foreigners. But even Indians/Hindus/Sikhs stand out. I enjoyed the Festival, for their masks, dance. I think the important thing is (at least for me) not to expect to much - you are bound to get disappointed.
#13 May 28th, 2004, 13:58
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  • volga_volga is offline
#13

interesting link

just found this:

wedding in Ladakh
#14 May 28th, 2004, 17:02
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#14
Volga volga,

Thank you for the link!

AMAZING photos!!!
Makes me wanna go back right now!
#15 May 28th, 2004, 17:21
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#15
Great post Mountaingirl. Unfortunately I can only get to India in December and January and Ladakh is a bit inaccessible then.

I met some Ladakhis at Ajanta in 2002 and they were the most delightful people you could imagine.
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