Monday, June 26, 2017

First Views of Lamayuru Monastery.


It was about 5:30p when we left our hotel to head out to check out Lamayuru Monastery.  I had tried to Google for the monastery visiting hours but the speed of the link was so slow (too many people using it), I could not pull up the information which I just found on line.

It's summer now and the days are long so I figured that as long as there was daylight, we had time.   If the place was closed when we arrived, it would just mean that the temples and prayer halls would not be open to visitors but we could at least still walk around the grounds. We still have time tomorrow morning to come back and check out the temples and prayer halls if we wanted to.

With the gate of the Hotel Moonland behind us, we put foot to ground on the only road leading out of the hotel towards the monastery.  It's not like Lamayuru is such a big place that you can't figure out which way to go 😁


The road meandered its way up the hill.  Oddly, it was a busy road, with not only cars and motorcycles rumbling down towards us but also large trucks and buses.   As it turns out, this first section of road is a continuation of the Srinagar-Leh highway.  We had to be careful as we walked.  I made sure to keep an eye out on Chantale.  She's so preoccupied with taking photos, she can forget where she's walking!  Of course, this is coming from the person who also walks in those same shoes.


The monastery looms over the landscape here with the small village nestled in the valley.




Adobe homes on the *outskirts* of the village are a reminder of how poor the people in this region are.  While some of the homes and establishments have electricity and running water, I doubt that the people living in these dwellings enjoy those same creature comforts.  It must be tremendously challenging living here in the winter time.




We passed a small group of young monks playing with village boys.  Boys will be boys and the monk was scurrying down the hill, very sure footed, chasing a ball.



We also passed a family that was outside their very humble home, doing some household chores.  Both Chantale and I were captivated by this very cute little girl.  Chantale took a few photos and with every snap of the shutter, the girl got a little more annoyed by the stranger showing interest in her.  By the time I reached her and snapped this photo, she was pretty much a reluctant poser.  She's still cute to me....the grumpier the cuter.



I quickly snapped the photo of this woman, with the baby strapped to her back, as I walked by - not missing a beat in my step.  My zoom lens is a bit slow so it tends to produce photos with a softer focus.  Not that that is a bad thing. 


The road to the monastery seemed to go on forever.


The monastery is situated at an elevation of 3,510 meters (11,520 ft)  and indeed you can get wonderful views of the surrounding areas from its ground.


When we made it to the complex, we did cross paths with a monk who told us the place was closed and so never collected an entry fee from us.  He didn't stop us from wandering around either so we decided to just the place out as best we could.

Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident. It has, in the past, housed up to 400 monks, many of which are now based in monasteries in surrounding villages.


We entered inside the first open door to the sight and sounds of a young monk who was attempting to throw a broom up to a monk on the second floor.  





The doors to the prayer hall were open.  I just peeked inside - didn't even take a photo.


Another young monk was seated just on the other side of the open door.  He was there to make sure that you were shoeless when you enter and that you don't take any photos even though there was a sign clearly indicating that photography was prohibited.

Indeed it was closing time because minutes after we arrived, the young monk locked the doors.  Chantale took the opportunity to take a selfie with the young monk who seemed to really enjoy the moment. She snapped at least a couple of shots.


Here's one of her selfies.

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The very friendly boy then posed for me.....one last shot before we waved goodbye to each other.


The main part of the monastery I think is where the monks congregate to pray and study.  On a nearby hill was another set of buildings which I think are their living quarters.


As we walked out of the temple, I spotted a very cool looking monk walking on the path below us.  His man bun was what caught my attention.  I just quickly snapped this photo but Chantale was determined to get a better one so she quickly put on her hiking shoes and ran off in search of him.  Hopefully, there is no law against monk stalking cause that's what she was doing 😁


While Chantale was off to who knows where, Ayşe and I continued our walk around the complex, heading in the same direction that Chantale had dashed off in.




Just as we reached a set of prayer wheels, we met back up with you know who and lo and behold, she was with the monk.....with the man bun!  On first look at his face, he immediately struck me as a a friendly and kind.




We were eager to chat with him and even though his English was not all that great, he was willing to try and communicate with us.  He told us he was the yogi at Lamayuru.  Sheepishly I must admit that as often as I have heard the term used in my lifetime, I still really don't know what a yogi is so I had to look it up and do a bit of self learning.


I found this definition in a comment to a YouTube video about yogis.
"A yogi is someone who is travelling on the path of enlightenment , as yoga is the union with self . On the path, one requires to withdraw from society, a regular life , so as to be able to focus inwards . Physical postures are the external and preliminary aspect of yoga. The internal , secondary , and more important part of yoga is mental , psychic and supra-mental , meta- mental, i.e., beyond the mind."

I then proceeded to watch this YouTube video to learn a bit more. Fascinating stuff and just goes to show, how sometimes you think you know something but you really don't. Better to think you are ignorant and strive to learn than believe you already know it all.


In the course of our brief conversation with the yogi, he invited us to come back tomorrow to experience the monks meditating.  With absolute delight, we told him we would be back.  In hindsight, it would have been smart to ask him where we had to go to witness the meditation 😁


At this point, we pretty much found ourselves back where we started.


We decided to head back to the hotel and retraced our steps down the hill.


I paused to take one last photo of Lamayuru in the fading light of day.  It's an awe inspiring view.  I still pinch myself these days when I reflect on just how lucky I am to be able to come to a place like Ladakh and see sights like this.  Not everyone is as fortunate as I am in this respect.


Back at the hotel, I kept myself busy at a table in the dining room while the other two were out on the balcony chatting it up with a pair of older (I would say in their  mid-60's at least) Belgian tourists who were motorbiking their way across Ladakh.  They are indeed an adventurous twosome and I think secretly, we all wished we had the courage to travel the same way - seemingly very unfettered though I am certain they have encountered many challenges along the way.

That's Jango.  He belongs to the hotel.  Once he warms up to you, he doesm't leave you alone 😁


Dinner was served promptly at 8a.  The meal was served family style and for me, the most delicious tasting Indian meal I've had since I've been in India.  In particular, I loved the veggie soup.   It didn't take long for the room to be filled up with diners - there was one big group that came in shortly we started eating.



We didn't linger long over our food.  After we ate, we headed back to our rooms but we didn't stay inside for long.  Chantale and I came up with the idea to do a night star shoot - perfect place as there are barely any lights to cloud the view.  So, Chantale got all her gear ready.  You do need a tripod for this and since I didn't have one, I just enjoyed watching Chantale take the shots.


All three of us congregated on the balcony outside our room and she took a few shots.  It was hard to a good shot so we kept trying.  Our hotel neighbor, on the other side of us, stopped on the way to his room to see we were up to.  He then got into the act.  Looking at the shots in Chantale's view finder, I thought she had managed to capture a few nice shots but later she said, they had quite a bit of noise in them so I never did get to see a larger image than what was on her viewfinder.  I will have to remember to ask her to show me the set when we get home.

Dorje is picking us up at 9a tomorrow so we've decided to get up early at 6a and head back up to Lamayuru to check out the monks meditating.  Hopefully, it will be interesting.

I had a very enjoyable day today - saw a lot of interesting sights and really soaked in the beauty of the landscape of Ladakh.  This time tomorrow night we'll be back in Leh but Dorje has said more monasteries tomorrow so I am expecting another full day.

Time for bed.

Goodnight from Lamayuru!