Leh is simply awesome! It has been a couple of days of getting Leh’d and I am now getting into the groove here. It is a very laid back city. People seem to have all the modern comforts, and still life is very unlike that of a big city. People seem happy and so are we.
We decide to head to the Shanti Stupa. It is perched on the top of a small hill just west of Leh. the hill is actually over at around 11000 ft, but looks tiny when compared to the rest of the surroundings. It affords a panoramic view of the city. The stupa was built in 1980s through Japanese contributions and is a beautiful monument decorated with colourful paintings and enshrines large statues of Buddha, depicting various stages of his life: birth, enlightenment, meditation and death.
The view of the Leh valley from the Shanti Stupa is beautiful. The desert looks like a scene straight of the middle east rather than of a place in hte Himalayas. I guess, thats the stark and naked beauty of Ladakh that cannot be appreciated without a visit. A patch of greenland coexists with a patch of the most barren land that I would have ever seen. On the right is such a desert picture as seen from the Shanti Stupa.
We return to the city for lunch at the World Garden Cafe. It serves great Margharitas. Since the weather is very good, we decide to rent some bikes and move into Shey, the ancient capital of Leh, visit the Thiksey monastery and cool off our heels at the banks of the Indus.
Shey is located about 15 kms south of Leh. It was once the former summer capital of the kings of Ladakh. Thiksey monastery is a stone’s throw from the Shey palace. The monastery was built in the 14th century, and consists of about 12 floors. The incarnate lama’s private abode lies at the top of the monastery. There are about 100 monks of the yellow- hat sect of Buddhism. A new temple was constructed recently in the main courtyard, and contains a large statue of a compassionate Buddha. The H.H. Dalai Lama constructed this Buddha, 15 meters tall, in 1980 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey. The statue is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh and it took four years to construct. It is made up of clay and covered with gold paint.
I am informed that traditionally, Ladakhi families donated one son to become a lama in a monastery, but this practise is gradually disappearing. I did encounter a young Lama at the Gompa.