Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Road Trip Back to Leh. Likir Monastery.

We reached Likir Monastery shortly after 1p; it was barely a 20 minute drive from Saspol village.  By now I've realized just how much there is to see, in terms of monasteries, on the relatively short stretch of road between Leh and Lamayuru.  Aside from the Indian tourists that have ventured into this region, it is predominantly if not wholly occupied by Tibetans.  My friend Shaz told me that Ladakh would remind me more of Tibet than India and indeed it does.

We spotted Likir Monastery from the Srinagar-Leh highway.  Dorje turned off on to a smaller road that wound its way up to the monastery. 

I didn't notice the large gold Buddha at first but it was hard to miss once I spotted it.

The road ended in a parking lot.  There weren't many cars parked but there was a good sized motorcycle gang - all men and all from Germany.  They were on a bike trip through Ladakh and were getting ready to hit the road just as we arrived.  Even though I've only been here for two days, I would say that going on motorbike is a great way to explore this region....presuming you know how to ride a motorbike.

Situated alongside the parking lot were a few small restaurants.  We picked the first one we happened upon.  There was a group of young tourists enjoying a meal and well, it looked good enough for us. 

Behind the counters and working the kitchen looked to be a few Kashmiri men.  The menu was a mix of Ladakhi (aka Tibetan) and Kashmiri (aka Indian) cuisine.  I wasn't here to eat Indian food so I ordered up a plate of noodles.

We kicked off our meal with some fresh juices.  If it's not watermelon, then it's lime juice for me.  I like the salty/sweet mix.  I have gotten addicted to this drink since I've arrived in India.  I am going to find out how to make it when I get home.  We can get sweet limes at home now which would be perfect for making this very refreshing drink.

Dorje was able to join us for lunch.  He ordered up a plate of noodles too. Here, you just ask for ramen because that's what it is.  It's simply stir fried with veggies.  Tibetans, who are devout Buddhists like Dorje, are basically vegetarians.  While it looked like an enormous plate of food to me, Dorje was hungry because there was not a strand of noodle left after he took his last bite.

After lunch, Dorje left us on our own to explore the monastery.  Off we went!  As with all the other monasteries we've been to so far, we have absolutely no idea where to go so we just pick a path and walk, checking out nooks and crannies for possible places of interest as we go along.

Likir was established in 1065 by Lama Duwang Chosje under the command of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo so it's a very old monastery. 

Like Basgo and Lamayuru, Likir offers wonderful views of the surrounding landscape, especially those snow capped mountains which I will never ever tire of seeing!

We made our way inside one temple when we heard the sound of the monk chanting.  I didn't want to be overtly obvious that I was curious about what he was up to so I kind of just slowly meandered my way towards him.  Standing discreetly near a pillar, I shot a snippet of video.  There was another tourist standing just two feet from the monk.  My best guess is that the monk was blessing the man's prayer beads aka malas.  Like prayer beads used in other religions, malas are used for counting purposes.

We always have time for some campy moments.  I don't know what it was about Ayşe today but she was all about covering her head with her scarf and then topping it off with her baseball cap.  Hmmm.....interesting.  Surprisingly, she also did not mind posing for photo.  Typically, by this point in a trip, she's shooing my camera away.  I have broken her 😁

Chantale had long wandered off on her own.  So Ayşe and I walked around together.  We eventually found ourselves standing at the foot of the big Maitreya Buddha.  I don't recognize the mudras off hand.  I think left hand is in the vitarka aka teaching mudra?

Since we had arrived just after we had eaten our lunch, it was also about when the monks had finished their meal.  I paused for a few minutes to watch a pair of monks doing the dishes.

We made our way down some steps and crossed paths with an elderly woman who didn't look like a nun, perhaps a local villager.  We didn't realize it at the time but somewhere around this spot, just below the Buddha, Ayşe lost her headscarf.  It wasn't until minutes later that it dawned on Ayşe that the scarf was no longer draped around her neck.  We retraced our steps and looked everywhere and didn't spot it.  Then....we saw the same woman walking by and she had the scarf around her neck.  I was about to go after her when Ayşe stopped me.  While she was sad to lose the scarf, she was okay knowing it was going to someone who probably needed it more than she did.  That's the compassionate side of Ayşe that I admire and that's one of the big reasons I consider her one of my dearest friends!  I still felt bad and told her that we would go shopping for a replacement but she said she had an identical one at home so no need for a replacement.  I had no idea if that was true or not but I took her for her word. As long as she was not upset, I was not upset.

Then we came upon the monastery's school.  We could hear the voices of young boys but didn't see them so we presumed they were still in class.  The posted sign indicated that free tea was provided so to kill our curiosity and quench our thirst at the same time, we entered the school compound.  In the far end were some picnic tables, situated under an corrugated tin roof overhang.   A monk spotted us and approached us.   A pot and cups were already on the table.  A few brochures had been laid out on the table as well.  The monk served us some tea and then proceeded to answer some of our questions.  Chantale wanted to know when school would be let out.  She is on the hunt for some young monks to capture images of 😏  The monk replied that it would be soon and then he proceed, as diplomatically as he could, to essentially ask us for a donation for the school.  We did not immediately dig into our pockets for cash but before leaving Likir, we did make a donation, not specifically to the school, but to the monastery itself. 

As soon as classes were over, Chantale was hoping the young monks would be coming out to play but it was time for lunch.  We saw two men and a woman sitting at another picnic table and joined them.  They were the teachers.  Chantale, still keen on photographing a young monk, asked if she could peek inside their dining hall but was politely told no.  Lucky for her, one of young monks came over to pour cups of tea for the teachers.  This was her one and only chance.

While this young monk was serving us, his classmates were scurrying to and from the kitchen and dining hall.....serving themselves.  It's not easy being a monk!

With no chance of seeing any monks at play....at least not unless we wanted to wait for them to finish eating and doing their clean up chores, we decided it was time to bid Likir goodbye.  We made our way back to our car and Dorje.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving back to Leh. 

We arrived back in the late afternoon.  It was nice to be back at the Hotel Kidar.  The girls also wanted to reconnect with their families so after we got resettled in to our room, the very same one we spent our first night in Leh in,  we walked back up to the old town and headed to the Ladakh cafe where we knew there was decent WiFi.  We ended up staying long enough to have dinner there which was a very, very, very delicious roasted eggplant hummus sandwich.  So delicious that I pretty much want to have this for dinner every night that I am in Leh.  I am done with Indian food....for now.

We headed back to the hotel before night fell.  I was sitting on the bed, relaxing when the phone rang.  It was Stanzin.  He was in the lobby.  So Chantale and I headed down to meet him.  When we checked in, we asked him if he could find someone to repair the broken zipper on one of Chantale's pants.  He took them and said it would be no problem to do.  Tonight, he handed her the pants back and the zipper was working perfectly.  He also told us we would be doing another road trip but this time we would be gone for two nights.  This I knew from the itinerary so it was just a matter of making sure that we were all properly packed up for our two three day, two night road trip.  I have no idea what the road trip holds for us except that we will be seeing bactrian camels soon!  I have told the girls I am putting them on camels.  So far, no enthusiastic response from either.  I don't think either of them has ridden on a camel so perhaps their silence is a sign of trepidation.  They will be fine and hopefully, will enjoy the experience in the end!

But.... I now need to take a shower to get cleaned up and pack.  Chantale and I are also having some laundry done so we need to sort out our clothes as well.  Lots to do before I can call it a night so signing off!

Goodnight from Leh!