Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Once accommodation was sorted (hot water!) and the nightmare that was 17 hours on a jeep was overcome, the town of Leh awaited exploration. Set at 3400m or so above sea level, I was really suprised by how hot it was and how burnt I managed to get on the first day. Note to self, wear sun cream, I have three bottles after all. Nothing like travelling light.

The main town consists of the old town where a lot of the population of Leh live, spreading from Leh Palace down and around the polo field (yes, they like polo here) and then further down the valley. Up around the top end of town there are many schools and again housing. Inbetween these areas is the Main Bazaar and its surrounding roads which basically cater to every need of the tourists who flock here between June and August for trekking in the Lakahi and Zanskar ranges.

Had to take it easy the first day so as to get used to the altitude but ended up wandering all over town and seeing most of the sights on offer in Leh, only Shanti Stupa was saved for the following day.

If you're not trekking in the region, the town of Leh has a few things to see. From afar, it is possibe to see some of the attractions: the Shanti Stupa which was built by Japanese monks to promote world peace is on a hill to the west of town, to the north on an even higher crest lies the Tsemo Fort and just below that is the Leh Palace which is modelled after the Potola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

There are a couple options to get to the Tsemo Fort: hire a car to drive you or just walk up the various paths that lead that way. Figured I'd get some walking practice in so headed up the man made path which didn't take too long at all. Very soon you were afforded great views of the town and the surrounding mountains and valley. With the sun at its zenith it was a perfect time for sightseeing and it was easy to just sit down and appreciate the views with the wind in your face.

Heading down from here towards the old town, you walk past Leh Palace. It was getting late so didn't bother going in, just walked around the ouhouses and admired the design. With a lick of paint it really would be a miniature version of the Potola Palace. One day I'll get there.

Not to be outdone by these is the Shanti Stupa on the other side of town, a much more gruelling walk up to the top. Even though they're manmade steps, in the heat and with nowhere to hide you had to stop occasionally to catch your breathe. Although seeing the young local children tearing up it and counting the steps was more than a little depessing, especially as I was still catching my breathe and they hardly seemed fazed by the fact they had run up it. Kids.

Stupa Forest

View of Leh

Another view of Leh and its surroundings

More of the city

Arid landscape with flags

Leh valley region

Tsemo Fort through flags

Overlooking the city

Main viewpoint

Leh Palace

Leh's old town
When not checking out the local sights, there are plenty of places to relax and actually hang out in Leh which is a nice change from the usual frantic pace of India. Usually you are more than hinted at to leave an establishment if they see you as loitering around when in fact you are people watching or just plain chilling out, regardles of whether you ordered another chai or not.

Here, sitting in the roof top restaurants for as long as you like is okay, which helps to soak up the atmosphere of this pleasant mountain based town. From here it will be another nightmarish ride down through the mountains to get to lower ground to start touring India's famous forts and palaces.

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