Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nubra Valley. Lunch in Sumur & Samstaling Monastery.

With young boys (monks perhaps?) at Samstaling Monastery.

Original Post Date: June 29, 2017.

Technically speaking the Nubra Valley actually comprises two valleys: Nubra and Shyok, each sharing the name of the river that flows through the valley.  Hundur and Diskit Monastery are in the Shyok Valley. The two valleys and the two rivers join in the region’s heart near Diskit before flowing westwards into Pakistan to eventually join the mighty Indus.

So, from a tourist perspective, we covered the Shyok Valley and now it was time to see the Nubra Valley.  We started with lunch in the small, and I mean small village of Sumur.  We would return to Sumur later in the day as we are spending the night here.

We arrived into Sumur just around 2pm.  When Dorje parked the car and I got out and looked around, I thought we were on the outskirts of Sumur but no, this was it.  Downtown.  The green archway marks a roundabout.   I don't know why it's needed because you can either straight or turn left. Perhaps, it's the marker that you have arrived into the heart of the village.

Looking around, I counted exactly one restaurant and was mentally prepared that that would be where we would be eating but no.  See that white building in the photo above?  See the big window on the right on the 2nd floor?  That's where Dorje took us for lunch.  The Larjey Restaurant.  Don't bother Googling it for reviews.  You won't find it 😁

Indeed it was a restaurant and there were two local people eating at a table.  We took our spots and then with Dorje's help ordered lunch.

Not exactly a crowded restaurant.

The really funny thing is that apparently we arrived I guess after lunch hour because the kitchen was pretty much out of everything we wanted so it was down to veg rice or veg ramen.  Even funnier was when the kitchen staff told us that they had run out of cooking fuel.  I thought we had to leave but apparently not.  They took our order and then went away somewhere (.....maybe to that other restaurant??) to cook up our meal.

The view of Sumur from our restaurant window.

By now, the gals (and I) had grown weary of veg fried any sort of carb.  So even though I know they were hungry, when the plate of rice came.....there was zero interest.  Chantale would rather be working on cleaning her glasses.  Hilarious photo for me. 😂

Yes, even more conversation was preferable to eating.  Even funnier photo to me. 😂

Dorje and I had to wait quite a while for our plate of veg ramen which we shared.  By the time our plate arrived,the gals were already pretty much done eating their few grains of rice.  😂

Right below the restaurant was a small convenience shop. Before returning to the car, Chantale and I indulged in some chocolate candies which we did not get to eat.  They went to a much more needed place than our tummies.

After lunch, it was off to visit Samstaling Monastery.  Compared to the other monasteries we've visited so far, Samstaling is relatively new - found in 1841 by Lama Tsultim Nima.  In addition to being one of the newer monasteries we've been to, it's also one of the smallest.

Dorje parked the car and waved us off towards the entrance.  Not hard to figure out where that was!

Before entering, we checked out the grounds around the entrance.  Good place for some photo ops.

Camera issues so she had to take photos with her iPhone.  I think she's missing her wide angle lens. Just saying.

Words lost in translation?

Leave it up to Chantale to find the monks.   I think she heard the voices of young boys and decided to check them out.

None were dressed in robes which made me wonder if these were monks or just orphaned boys.  Either way, Chantale had to engage with them.  She has a very soft heart, especially for kids.

It dawned on her to treat them to the candy that we had bought in Samstaling but knowing that she did not have enough whole bars to pass around, she broke off pieces.

They patiently waited their turn to get a piece.

Children are always happy to get candy but for these young boys, probably more so.  I think this is a real treat for them.  I handed my bars to Chantale as well.  Might as well give it away to these poor children to enjoy.

If you look closely at their shorn heads, you can see patches of white.  I suspected that was lice powder.  I cannot imagine that the living conditions here are all that hygienic.  Of course, we had to do the obligatory group photos.  The boys were very shy but they graciously posed for me and one even flashed a smile.

Ayşe is also very tender hearted when it comes to kids and these boys especially tugged at her heart strings.  Unlike some people who would have refrained from touching these boys simply because of how unkempt they look, she had absolutely no reservations about touching them.  There should never be any fear to touch a fellow human being unless doing so will cause danger to you.  These boys were harmless.

Our being with the young boys caused enough commotion for a pair of monks to appear.  When they realized what we were up to, they relaxed.  Sadly though, we had already run out of candy and there was none to share with them.....though I don't think they were wanting candy.  I think they were just there to check on the boys.  I just hope they didn't mind that we had handed out candy or that the boys had accepted candy from strangers.  Though in this part of the world, people don't live with the fear of strangers as the do in the US or other parts of the world.

Next, it was time to visit the monastery proper.  We made our way through the entrance gate.

There was a hubbub of activity going on.  Turns out that the Dalai Lama will also be visiting Samstanling to do some teaching so the monks are fixing up the place and some of them are also getting new robes.  That's all very exciting for them.

We watched the monks at work for a few minutes and then headed inside the prayer hall. The only photo I took was of the carved wooden doors and windows....something I had not seen in any of the other monasteries we've been to.

There are only about 150 monks living here so it is a relatively small  monastery.

Samstaling is not perched up on a really high hill but it does have nice views of its surroundings.  The photo below was taken from the front steps of the prayer hall.

A monk spotted us walking back towards the car and waved us towards him. So we went.  He then pointed down to the garden below where he was standing.  A monk was milking a cow.  I don't know why he thought we should see or be interested in watching a cow being milked but he was right!  We were!

I stayed where I was but Chantale decided she had to stalk the cow milking monk so she clamored over the retaining wall to get down to where the activity was taking place.  I told her to not spook the cow!

Of course, the calf wanted the milk so it kept getting in the monk's way until the monk let it have one of its mother's teats to suckle on.  Happy calf, happy monk!

After Chantale had her photo op, we left Samstaling behind, heading back to Sumur village.  We arrived at what I had described as the entrance arch in the center of town.  From there, Dorje made a left hand turn and soon, we were in the heart of a very lush area - filled with trees and farm land.  The road was narrow and winding and often flanked with adobe walls, behind which were residences many of which were small guesthouses and hotels.  There were even a few tent camps here for the really intrepid travelers to spend the night it. 

Dorje had to stop a few times to ask for directions so it very quickly obvious to me that he didn't know where he was going.  I just hoped it would be a decent place. We're all okay as long as the bed and bathroom are clean so the place can be pretty *rustic* as my cousin Yim would describe many of the places I have stayed at on my trips.

Soon enough, he found the gate to the Nyamgal Guest House.  Someone opened the gate from the other side and we drove through.  I was happy to see a very nice looking but small guesthouse with a garden out front.  We parked alongside a retaining wall that had been planted with roses that were still in bloom.

The side garden was a big vegetable patch.

The guest house is owned by a Tibetan Ladakhi family and managed by a Nepali man who comes to work here during the summer months aka tourist season.  His English was decent enough to have a conversation with him.  He leaves his family behind for the summer months and he's been working with this family for several years now.  It seems like they have a good working relationship.  Incredible to think that he comes here, from Nepal, to make enough money to send home. 

There was a group of five Indian men, all friends, traveling together - on motorbikes.  We chatted a bit with them as we waited for our rooms.  It seems that the guesthouse is divided into two wings.  The three of us got two rooms in one of the wings - apparently intended for foreign tourists.  I suspect these are the rooms with Western style bathrooms and toilets.  The four men were shown to rooms in a different wing.

The rooms we were given were really spacious.  This time, Chantale got her own room which overlooked the front of the building.  Ayşe and I shared the smaller room right across the hall from Chantale.  Simple but clean digs; we were all comfy.  I noticed Dorje carrying his sleeping bag into the room below us so he's staying here for the night as well.

WiFi was pretty much a no go as has been the case for pretty much our entire time in Ladakh so far.  Electricity was also pretty unreliable - cutting in and out quite frequently.  That's also been true of the other places we've stayed at.  Luckily, we all have external battery packs with us and they have come into handy use more than once on this trip!

Dinner was a simple buffet affair in the dining room.  The Nepali manager took great pride in his food and proudly walked us through each dish as we made our way down the buffet line.  Before eating, the owner showed up - a very lovely and friendly woman.  I had everyone pose for a quick photo before dinner service really picked up.

Notice how the man and woman are dressed in lightweight clothing versus the gals in their down jackets. It may be summer on the calendar but it's definitely chilly here.  Ever since we've left Leh, we've not eaten a single meal without our jackets on!  Too funny!

At one point, I walked by the kitchen and I noticed Dorje eating in there. That didn't sit well with me so I told the owner that I wanted Dorje to join us and that I would pay for his meal.  She agreed so we welcomed him to join us.  There was no push back from him so I hope it was because he appreciated our gesture.  Later on, the owner refused to accept payment for his meal.  That was really kind of her as well.

After dinner, there was not anything else to do other than to go back to our room and relax.  Tomorrow, we are heading back to Leh!  Another long road trip so Dorje better get a good night's rest!

Goodnight from Sumur!