Saturday, March 29, 2008

Leh(Ladakh)-Drass(Kashmir),India: 24July2007

Heavily Militarised Paradise, Kashmir

We hugged said good bye early in the morning. i don't know taking a two days bus will be a good choice or not, since obviously there is no cost different and the longer time. However, if compare with the tourist packed jeep, this option was definitely let me meeting and interacting with more local people.

The bus ride was surprisingly comfortable. The pus back seat and the nice weather. But may be my standard or expectations get lower as well. i was sleeping most of the time in the morning until noon. (Later, some people in the bus said, they were really amazed and envious that i could actually sleep through out the journey.:) Unfortunately, i slept so soundly that i missed one toilet stop and had to just bear with my natural call for 6 hours!

The secnery changed from the dried brown of Leh into the greenery of Kashmiri. The border between Kashmir and Ladakh was a mixture of gompa and mosque and it looked kind of harmony with the brown and dry mountain as backdrops, yet green patches of plans by the road side.

There was only a German-Holland couple in the bus, no other foreigner. So i have no companionship. They actually kind enough to offer to let me share their room at Drass, but i was a bit shy to do so, so i rejected.

The bus stopped at Drass, said to be the second coldest inhabitant in the world after Siberia. Winter temperature is -45 degree celcius. Two Indian ladies offered to share a two-bed room with me. They requested me to pay for half of the room and take one bed while two of them paid the other half and share another bed. i said fine, since obviously paying 150RS is better than 300Rs for a small and dirty room like that. The next journey would start at 4.30am tomorrow.

After the Zoji La, the barren and dry of Ladakh turned into the Kashmiri reen and lush.

The bus stopped at Gumry Camp at Ladakh, which regulates the convoys coming from/to Kargil.

The road clings precariously to the side of the mountain, with sheer drop to river below. Wide enough for only one vehicle.

"If there is paradise on earth then it is here, it is here, it is here in Kashmir." -- Mughal Emperor Jehangir.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leh, Ladakh, India: 23July08

White Water Rafting ... Halo to the Queen!

We woke up early in the morning and went rafting. There was an Isreali father-son in our van. When the an stopped at town for breakfast, they boiled their 'home-made' coffee by the road side. So we got a taste of authentic Isreali coffee.

The rafting was not as exciting as i expected, especially with a man told me that "i am very scared!" As Robert refused to take the front seat, so i took the front and Angela at behind. Well... Our strategy to "protect" the "fearful" man. There were another 3 young Isreali with us.

The water was very cold. i think it might be less than 15 Degree celcius. So it was chilling. Then when the sun came out, it was scorching hot. So we got both extreme. The rapid was not much, so the 2.5 hours on the river was bored.

The lunch by the camp was delicious though may be we were just hungry.

By the time we got back to Leh, we were all exhausted. i used my greatest determination to get to the bus station for getting my bus ticket to Srinagar on the next day.i was so tired by then, however i still managed to get to the restaurant and ate the famous desert (recommended by Katherina) -- Hallo to the Queen. It is basically crushed cookies cum ice cream cum banana and chocolate sauce. It was very sweet and in fact, it is so filling that i would say, it could just be a main course.

i packed my stuff and bid farewell to Angela as my taxi will be here at 5a tomorrow, to send me to the bus station. Soon, i am on the road alone again. i will miss her.

Brewing Isreali coffee by the road in Leh Town.

Safety briefing before the rafting.

we rafted on the river in the valley. Some how, i think this one looked like a scene of The Lord of The Ring, the twin tower.

One of the rapids.

The dessert, Halo to the Queen.
They ran out of ice cream at that time and it was the second time i went to that restaurant for this dessert. So they asked me to wait for 30 minutes while they went to get ice cream for me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Stok,Ladakh,India: 22July2008

Lost in Switzerland??

Angela and me decided to walk around on our own. Early in the morning, we bought cookies and Ladakhi bread as breakfast and took the public minibus to Stok.
Stok is a small village around 40 minutes bus ride from Leh. Obviously the people here grow a kind of yellow flowers. So the town was surrounded by the beautiful flowers.
We climbed up to the hill to get to the gompa on the mountain. A few kids following us and we ended up shared fruits with each other. They plucked fresh apricots from the tree and gave us some while i had a few apples with me. Compare with the commercialism in Leh, Stok is just a laid back village surrounded by dried looking mountain.
We visited to Stok Palace too. It was quite a modest building but impressive in a way with its 1000 years old gompa. We wanted to do meditation at the quiet and serene shrine hall, but the guard didn't allow us to. They only open the locked shrine hall when visitors come.
We couldn't find a public transport to go back to Leh from Stok and in the end, we just hitch-hiked some body's motorbike. Like usual, the Indian young man is rather irresistible to two young foreign women. :) Well, he insisted to give us his phone number and wanted us to call him when we got back to Leh. Why does he think that we would call a stranger man we met on the road? Even though he had showed us kindness. Further more, he showed too much interest in Japanese women (i told him that i am not and i am married!)and Angela teased me for that.
By the rest of the afternoon, we got back to Leh and went to Leh Palace. We kind of lost our way to the palace and ended up did "rock climbing" by the cliff (it was a REAL cliff and i was terrified!), trying to find a way to the palace! Why they just couldn't post a proper sign? The gompa by the mountain was far too steep for my sandal or slipper to climb up to. So i just gave it a pass.
We then had a delicious tibetan meal and after that a good chat with tea under the star at the garden of our guesthouse.

The small town is surrounded by the flowers.

Beautiful flower farm. Feel like in Switzerland rather than in India.

The kids in Stok. They don't really look 'Indian' as in our perception. :)

Stok Palace built in 1825 and there are more than 80 rooms, but only 5 opens to the public.
The museum displays rare royal ornaments, thangkas, traditional clothing and jewellery.

The way to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, from the Leh Palace.
It is so steep that you do really need a proper trekking shoes to walk all the way up.