Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Our Last Views of Leh.

Main Bazaar in Leh.

Original Post Date: July 4, 2017.

After leaving his mom and home behind in Stok, Dorje drove us back to Leh. I had no idea where he was taking us and for whatever reason, I had completely forgotten about having him take us to visit those places that I had made a mental note that we had to go see.  Oh well.

This time, instead of heading back to the old city, Dorje veered off the main road and took us through the streets of what I would describe as the modern city of Leh.  It's here that most people live.


There's quite a bit of construction in town and not all the roads are paved.  Add a large volume of cars to that mix and in some sections of town, it's a very slow drive.  You definitely need to be very patient here!  Seems like people here are used to these road conditions.  You don't encounter road rage.



The road through town was an uphill ride and after a while, we left all the buildings behind.



From high above, we could see how the city is nestled in the valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains.  You really get spoiled by the views here!



The prayer flags were a sure sign that we were near a monastery.  Sankar Monastery to be exact.  I think Chantale recognized the place because she had spent time taking photos of it from Shanti stupa which is situated on a nearby hill.


Apparently, you can hike up to the monastery from town - it takes about half hour.  I was grateful for the ride.



As has been the routine, Dorje parked the car and set us off to explore the place on my own.  In all honesty, I had completely lost any interest in seeing any monastery - I've had my fill for this trip.  But, I felt obligated to at least check the place out....from the outside.  I didn't want to have Dorje feel like he brought us here for no reason.




We took the steps up to the monastery and followed the path to where ever it would take us.  That happened to be a temple with locked doors.  Turning around, with the doors behind me, I had a wonderful view of Leh and positioned on top of the next hill, Shanti stupa.


A pair of young American women showed up.  I broke the news to them that the doors were locked.  We then struck up a conversation and we continued to chat while Chantale went off on her own to explore more of Sankar.  The two girls were super friendly.  They are backpacking their way across parts of India.  One is definitely a very season, intrepid traveler.  Her friend was apparently quickly becoming one.  Both of them have had their share of travel adventures on this trip and they enjoying recounting them for me.  We were all enjoying our conversation so much that none of the three of us made any attempt to walk off.  In fact, I didn't stay good bye to them until Chantale reappeared.  As I had suspected, I didn't miss seeing anything that I hadn't already seen time and time again on our monastery visits here.




We bid the girls farewell and wished them a safe journey until the return to the US.  Chantale and I then retraced our steps to meet back up with Dorje.

Dorje then drove us back to the old city and dropped us off just outside the Ju-Leh office.  We quickly checked in with Tashi to make sure that he remembered to arrange for someone to take us back to the airport tomorrow morning.  Yes....we are sadly having to say goodbye to Leh.  Tashi confirmed that Dorje would be taking us back.

Next, Chantale and I just decided to wander about the old city.  Since we were in the Main Bazaar area, we popped inside a few places and did a bit of shopping. I actually bought a pair of Indian cotton pants at one place.  Then, we somehow made our way to a courtyard that fronts a small monastery - Jokhang monastery.  Built in 1957, it's relatively new but given its location, I would say it's easily accessible, making it a popular place for locals to come and pray.  The monastery is also home to the Ladakhi Buddhist Association, a conservative political organization.  Indeed, there were several flyers posted up reflecting not just the religious but also the political nature of this place.



From the monastery, we headed back to the Bazaar and continued our meandering.  Our next stop was at a place called the Brazil Cafe Leh which is owned and operated by a Brazilian expat who has his coffee beans sent over from Brazil.  No wonder the two young American women had recommended it as THE place in town serving a decent cup of coffee.  Well, neither Chantale nor I drink coffee all that much but we were hungry so we decided to stop here for a bite.

Now....the cafe itself is located on 2nd floor but that's only where you place your order.  We opted to try something different - chicken pot pie.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Chicken pot pie.  One slice and it's a very generous slice, to share.  We also ordered some tea to go with it.   After you place your order, you then have to climb a narrow, metal circular staircase that takes you up to the third floor to a very small dining room.  I think there were barely 6 or 8 tables.  We were lucky enough to get a table next to a window that gave us a wonderful view of Leh Palace.


It's dusty in Leh.

Soon enough, our food got brought up to our table.  I cannot believe it but I did not take a single food pic.  I think we were too eager to simply eat.  The pie was not like an American style chicken pot pie.  It was like soft cornbread chock full of chicken and corn.  It was surprisingly quite tasty and we were hungry enough to not leave a crumb behind.

After our snack, we headed back out to the Main Bazaar and decided to wander off into one of the back streets.  Here are some of the photos I took along our walk.




We happened upon several local bakeries.  The bread here is a flatbread cooked in tandoor ovens. 




We also stumbled onto a mosque.  Sadly, the doors were locked.  Otherwise, we would've definitely at least peeked inside had we not been allowed to enter for whatever reason.


We also walked past a small museum - the Central Asian Museum.  Apparently, the collection is very limited.  Neither one of us was interested in going inside so all I will ever remember of this place is the photo I took of the outside.  Considering the run down condition of most of the structures in Leh, this one looks remarkably new and in very decent condition.


Every where we went, I could smell the sweet scent of bread being baked.  The facial appearance of all the bakers we came across were not Ladakhi faces.  Kashmiri perhaps?











We also came upon a second mosque and again, we tried to enter but again, the doors were closed. 


By now, we were both ready to call it a day so we decided to just head back to the hotel where we had our last dinner.  At this point, we're both ready to say goodbye to India, though it will be a bittersweet goodbye.   I am so fortunate to have been able to come back to India and this time, be able to share priceless memories with both Chantale and Ayşe.  We all got along so well and we had so much fun on this trip that I know we'll be traveling together again one day.

This time tomorrow, Chantale and I will be in Kathmandu.  My return back after my first visit there in 2007 and I am excited!

So, I must now pack my suitcase and get ready for departure tomorrow.

One last time....goodnight from Leh!