Leh is a small city at 11,500 feet about 50 miles from the Indian borders with China and Afghanistan to the north and Pakistan to the west. It is in the region of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas. Though small, it is biggest city in the Ladakh region, which is also called "Little Tibet."  We are on the outskirts of town in a hotel owned by a Ladakhi family charging us $60 a night. as part of  the package with the trekking company that will guide us through the Marka Valley trek. The $60 includes breakfast and dinner. Our room is spacious with a view of the vegetable garden and snow-capped mountains in the distance. We frequently see the wizened grandmother in traditional colorful Tibetan garb tending the garden or harvesting vegetables for the evening meal. The food is simple and nutritious, mostly Inidan recipes.

We have electricity in the morning and the evening only, powered by a large generator.  There is usually wifi, but there has been an unusual internet blackout for all of Leh. There are quite a few internet cafes in Leh that have had to shut theri doors temporarily. When I tried to call my family from one of the places in town, I was unable to dial out. I was told that this was linked to the internet black out. The proprietor of our hotel says that it is security-related. Hmmmm.


There are a multitude of walking paths winding throughout the town, including some leading in to town from our hotel. The paths have the definite feel of walking a labyrynth. There are 8-10 foot rock walls on either side of the path, and most paths have a parallel  stream created by runoff from the mountain .  One frequenlty encounters locals doing their laundry in the stream. Most everyone is friendly, calling out the Ladakhi greeting "Julee!" I have found the people here in Ladakh much more genuine than in New Delhi.Their smiles are matched by their eyes, a good sign.


Once in town, one enters the crowded one lane streets lined with small shops and restaurants.  Tourists, locals, young neophyte hippies with dreadlocks, stray dogs, and a few cows compete with speeding "tatas" (cars) and the occasional military jeep. Horns are sounded frequently. I think if seen from above, the movement of the streets would look like ants, moving, bumping, careening around one another in a disorganized fashion, the lack of real collisions coming from some sort of invisible antennae rather than from the kind of traffic rules we are used to in the US.


Most of the vendors are from Kashmir. They call out to you as you pass by "Julee!" It is not theri language; they speak Urdu, and they know it is not the language of the tourists, who come from all over the world. But they hope to bridge the gap and meet your eye with "Julee" and get you to come into their shops. Much more effective to me are their colorful rugs and silk scarves lining the streets, swaying gently in the breeze, as do the colorful, Tibetan prayer flags throughout the town, sending their good wishes with each the movement of the wind.  


Throughout the town there are mosques, Tibetan temples, mani walls, giant prayer wheels, Hindu shrines, Tibetan chortens, red-painted Shiva lingams, and at least one ancient Moravian Christian church. There are no synagogues, but there is a Hebrew restaurant that serves delicious falafels and holds Jewish services. In the foothills surrounding the town, there are Tibetan gompas, an ancient palace, and the Dalai Lama blessed ornate shanti stupa alongside a more modest Tibetan gompa.


I have not heard people arguing about religion. There is a strong military presence in Leh because of partly successful attempts by the Chinese and Pakistanis in the past to conquer and absorb Ladakh. But these were not religious wars.  Leh seems to thrive oblvious to this.  The diffferent religious sects co-exist in a compementary fashion. Perhaps the polytheism of Hinduism has made this more possible. But the spirit of the Ladakhi people seems to be a primary ground for the mutual good will in Leh.  "Julee!" Said with a meeting of the eyes that conveys a joyful willingness to connect and relate.

EvesHarvest EvesHarvest
56-60, F
6 Responses Jul 12, 2010

Hi, Arundhatikakati! I never made it to Lake Pangong. Are you going to be trekking?

the journey from Leh to lake Pangong was perilous and amazing!!

Tata, Mizz. :)

These disputes often are about territory and tribalism, rather than religion, per se. I hope you can sort out the diet, it is, as you say, a case of elimination, and look out for those tata's! <br />
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Tata! xx

The connection is up and down. There will be lots more at some point. I have been facing some challenges, the main one being pretty severe digestive problems(you don't want to have this with the state of India bathrooms, trust me). I have basically done an elimination diet, finding out which foods I don't have a problem with, not a big list at this point.<br />
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But I have seen a lot of beautiful things, have done some trekking, did a home stay at a remote village. There has been trouble in Kashmir (Ledakh is part of the state Jamu and Kashmir) but it is safe in Leh. Some of the more wealthy in Kasmir are coming here for safety. It has been a little strange having this go on the other side of the state, but the squabble is between Muslims and Hindus, and there is no reasosn to believe it will come here. These are not about religion, from what I know, these are about disputed territory and a sort of tribalism.<br />
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The most dangerous thing is being on the roadI found out that "tata" means truck, not car. There are a lot of them. We were being taxied on a very windy single lane mountain road, and it felt like a perpetual game of chicken!<br />
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I will have lots of stories, and lots of photos. In two days, we start the ten day trek, which I am very glad we trained so hard for!

Eve, you provide a brilliant snapshot of Ladakh, and what it's like to be a visitor. The vendors, the buildings, temples, the restaurants and those windy lanes!! It's whetted my appetite for more, if that internet connection is up to it! <br />
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