Saturday, 10 November 2007

Leh

Leh, Ladakh.

After returning from Jaipur, Lasse and I took a scary but beautiful flight to the fairytale town of Leh, which is capital of the remote Himalayan district of Ladakh in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Despite being the capital of one of India's geographically largest districts, Leh is home to only about 10,000 people. This view is from Leh's polo grounds looking towards the now empty Royal Palace overlooking the town.

Unlike most of India, Hinduism has never made much headway into Ladakh. The majority religion here is Buddhism. On the picture above are some prayer stones (and again the Royal Palace in the distant background), carved with prayers in Ladakhi language, which is written with Tibetan script. In general Ladakh is very culturally close to Tibet and the Dalai Lama is deeply revered here.

Lasse trying out the prayer wheel surrounding a local stupa. As it is appropriate he is walking clock wise around it.

The other major religion of Ladakh is Islam, which is the majority religion in the rest of the state of J&K. In Ladakh the Muslims are however still a clear minority, which doesn't stop them from putting their mark on local architecture. Here is one of several mosques in town.

We stayed at this wonderful Guest House called Padma. It's a nice place which even has a view to the Palace. Only drawback is there are no TVs. It might sound wieird why we would go to Ladakh to watch tv, but the explanation is simple. Since Leh is situated in 3500 metres altitude one has to acclimatize oneself to avoid AMS (Acute Mountaineering Sickness or simply Altitude Sickness). This means staying in the room for a couple of days. A TV makes it infinitely easier to pass the time. Since we had no TV I ended up going out for exploration too early, which earned me a bad case of AMS later in the week.

The garden of Padma is really nice though. Thousands of colourful flowers and other plants abound. A beautiful contrast to the barren hillsides of the area.

I even loved the symphony of colours in the cabbage growing there.

Beneath the palace you'll find the labyranthine old town of Leh, which is comprised of tons of old houses made of mud and wood as well as the occasional stupa.

A wonderful wooden screen over the small entrance to one of Old Leh's houses.

I also liked these window plants which used old oil cans as pots.

In a walk around Delhi we were looking at Indian trucks, which tend to be very colourful. I was taking a picture of this truck unaware that the driver was sleeping inside. He heard us, stuck his head out and invited us to come see it from the inside:

Isn't this nice? I realise that Indian truck drivers do not live very glamorous lives, but at least they can feel like a King in his palace when their truck is so richly and colourfully decorated.

Finally I'll introduce a few of the locals. Beautiful faces:



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