I always thought that if I spent a long time in a small new city, it would be really hard for the place to meet my ever curious demands. Seems like Leh is (very) different and I am still loving Getting Leh’d (I think I am the first one to coin that term!). For it is probably my 6th day in the city, and I still have a lot to find out about it…for starters, I have yet to venture into Changspa and Changi and then I have to go to the German bakeries all around (Penguin, Dolphin) and just catch up with people.
I meet my old friend Luisa in the marketplace. She is with Ming, a guy I chatted up for like 5 minutes a couple of days back while searching for airfares. And with them is a big group of people, Canadians, Americans and Italians. Seems like a nice group and I join them for a lunch at the most authentic Tibetan place in Leh (I forget its name now, but if you are in the city, this place is next tothe Chokhang Vihara and bang opposite the Leh View Cafe and the Leh Bookstore). I recommend that you give it a try. I have a veg Thukpa and it tastes pretty good.
It is a clear day and I am still excited about the Pangong Tso from yesterday. I can’t help but sell it to my fellow travelers, who seem to enjoy the pictures. It is already afternoon, and we go to visit the Tsemo gompa, the highest in the city. It is picturesque out there and the Shanti Stupa can be seen very clearly, sitting on a lone hilltop, attracting quiet attention. The Tsemo itself is quite in shambles, and a young monk comes running to collect the entrance fee. I shoot a photographer shooting me (see above) in a very serendipitous shot. I promise to send him the image.
We climb down from the Tsemo and hit the Ladakhi womens festival in Changspa. There is singing and dancing. I am surprised at the presence of a large number of NGOs. Some are engaged in teaching English to the local community, whereas others are concerned with maintaining the delicate ecological balance in Ladakh. For one, it does not rain in Ladakh and some houses are still made of mud. Last year, it did rain there quite heavily and if it continues in a pattern, most of the inhabitation may be in clear danger.
I meet up with more people later at dinner at KC’s garden cafe. there is a huge party with outdoor campfires and we are having a good time. I meet an expedition team on a bike ride from Manali to KhardungLa. Before embarking on the trip, I had seen their footage on the Aaj Tak news channel. Now I was having dinner with the guys, very cool people. They plan to hoist the Indian flag at the KhardungLa on the 15th. I wish I could be with them, but I leave for a trek tomorrow morning. I shoot some pictures and bid adieu to some folks. I promise to catch up with some other folks when I return.