Ladakh – Heaven on Earth
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!”
– Dr. Seuss
I was planning to visit the beautiful mountains of Ladakh for ages but every time there is something that came up which interrupts my plan. But it was July of 2017 when I finally fulfilled my dream. My friend was planning to visit Ladakh and asked me to joined him. The next moment, we were planning our trip.
On 22 July, we left our house at 5.15 am to go to the airport. At 6:14 am, we reached the airport as there is not much traffic on the road during the morning hours, and by 6:40 am we also had our boarding pass with us. Our flight was scheduled at 8:40 am which means we have full two hours to spend. We had light South Indian breakfast before heading towards the boarding gate. Boarding started at 8:00 am according to its fixed time. The first thing which was easily noticeable that the flight was quite empty. Only 2 of us were sitting on the three-seat block. There was no one sitting on the front and rear seat blocks. I brought the book ‘The Curse Of Brahma’ to spend time as there is no entertainment on domestic flights. I bought a coffee from the air hostess. Looked out of the window and after that, I got absorbed in reading the book. Coffee… Book … and a pack of clouds out of the window. The atmosphere was perfect for spending time in peace. After about 45 minutes of flight, Ladakh hills started appearing across the clouds. It was a very beautiful scene. Wanted to keep flying like this and keep staring at the beautiful view of the hills. After 1:15 hours of flight, we had landed at Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Terminal, Leh Airport but even then, we had to wait for 30 minutes to get the luggage. One reason for this is that Leh is a small airport. There are only as many employees as there should be at least to operate an airport. This airport is one of the beautiful airports in the world. The airport was surrounded by mountains from all sides. As soon as we left the airport after collecting the luggage, we saw our tour manager who came to take us to our hotel. We had reached our hotel ‘Wisdom Retreat’ after a 25-minute drive.
The hotel was filled with trees all around, including poplar, fras, and even apple trees. The hotel was beautified with different kinds of flowers and even most of the vegetables grown within the hotel premise only. After we checked in, our tour manager gave us all the required information related to our Itinerary. According to the itinerary, we had to have acclimatized with the weather on the first day so that due to scarcity of oxygen at high altitudes we do not have to face AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) issue during our stay. This is a mandatory requirement for travelers to adjust their bodies to the low content of oxygen in the air.
We reached our room and the best feature of this room was that we had only our room on the floor….and an open terrace. From here we could see all around without any hindrance. On one side we could see Leh Monastery and on the other, Shanti Stupa was in front of the eyes. Looking far and wide, only trees were visible, and there were some buildings in the middle of it. Around 80% of the area was full of trees and there was greenery everywhere, due to which the eyes get the necessary relief.
The next day, after having breakfast in the morning, we left Hemis Monastery at 9.15 as our first goal. The whole way was filled with beautiful views. The entire route was covered with mountain ranges on both sides and the Indus River was flowing along the road. We reached Hemis Monastery after a 40-minute car drives through beautiful and smooth roads.
Hemis Monastery was built in the 16th century. It is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh and belongs to the Drukpa lineage. It is an important living monument and heritage of Himalayas and it’s people. It has a beautiful view all around it.
It has a Prayer Hall, the main temple and a temple dedicated to the second Buddha Guru Padmasambhava. He was the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Apart from this, there is also a museum in which the biography of all Buddhist Guru is kept. Along with this, the mask of the protector is also kept in the museum and the weapons which were dedicated to the protectors.
After spending a good amount of time at the Hemis Monastery, we went to the Thiksay monastery. Thiksay monastery was built in the 14th century. The monastery is located at an altitude of 11,800 ft in the Indus Valley and is a twelve-storey complex that houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, and swords.
The main temple, protector temple, Maitreya temple, Tara Temple, and a silver stupa are the main attractions in this monastery. There is also an eatery in Thiksay Monastery to provide food and drink to visitors. We spent a good amount of time in the monastery and by now it was already noon. We chose the Chamba restaurant for lunch. The food was good but got the chance to eat hot custard for the first time in life. Yes, Hot Custard… because they didn’t bother to cool the custard before serving it. Well after lunch, we came to the hotel as the weather was very hot and some of the group members were tired too. We rested for 1.5 hours before leaving for Shanti Stupa.
In the evening, we left for Shanti Stupa and from our good luck, it starts raining which make the weather pleasant. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa on a hilltop in Chanspa. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base. There is a meditation hall in the Shanti Stupa, in which the meditation music continuously plays and where you can sit and relax for hours. Going up from the meditation hall, a ruddy white-colored stupa is built, which one just wants to gaze at.
The sky was now cloudy due to which the stupa seemed to be very relaxing to the eyes. The stupa is built at a height, due to which you can see the whole city. You should circle around the stupa in a clockwise direction only. Three monks were worshiping and doing evening Buddhist prayers in front of the stupa. Viewing from the stupa, one can see the range of hills on one side and the city of Leh on the other side which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It was a quiet place and a cold breeze was blowing by touching your face.
After spending a few hours there, we went back to our hotel. The evening was setting, and the night was spreading. We also had to take the necessary rest as we had to leave for Nubra Valley the next day as per itinerary.
Read about rest of the journey at Ladakh – Trip to Nubra Valley