Leh-Ladakh – Where to stay?

Recommendations on accommodation based on our experience, including a couple places which you should avoid.

Guesthouse and Hotel Recommendations:

Jamspal Guest House at Leh
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Located in the Fort Road, Jamspal Guest had been like our home for every alternate day. Ishey, the owner is very down to earth and is ready to offer his help anytime. Anytime you come out, he is ready offering a cup of Qahwa (Kashmiri Tea) and lots of stories about the region. His wife has maintained a wonderful garden of both flowers and vegetables, also provides delicious breakfast every morning, especially Khambir (Local Bread).

Breakfast provided at an additional  cost
Rooms: There are rooms within the building which is average and at lower rates and in the annex building which are new rooms with higher cost.
While going to visit other places, in case you require the room when you come back, reserve the room with the owners. He arranged for a room in the nearby guest house Ajantha Guest House, which you can avoid.
WiFi is available – not too good, signal mostly good when you come out.
No heater, solar hot water provided. At times, hot water is a constraint but Ishey arranges for hot water.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL worked here.

Royal Inn – Kargil
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Located beside the beautiful Suru River, and a bit away from the main roads. Beautiful place to relax and unwind until you begin the next days journey. Rooms are average, better than the other places which we checked out on the main road. Negotiate on the room rent and they provide food at an additional cost. The food was really good. The Manager of the Mehraj has done a commendable job in maintaining this Inn, we had a good chat with Mehraj for hours on different subjects and he gave us lots of inputs and his knowledge is vast.

Breakfast and Dinner provided at an additional  cost
Rooms: There are rooms in different floors with different tariff.
WiFi is available .
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL worked here.

Habib Guest House, Nubra Valley
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Our transportation was arranged by Rigzin and he had clearly told us to blindly go to this place and he will take responsibility that the home stay, food, everything will be good. When he said that, we were sceptical should we stay here? But when we reached Nubra, there were hell a lot of billboards at one junction with the list of home stays. We decided to go with Habib Guest House no matter what, when we entered the Habib Guest House locality, we just fell in love with this place. The rooms were average, we had hot water wall the time. The Dinner and Breakfast was included in the room rent, food was awesome. The Butter Tea, I got to taste here for the first time in Leh. Lovely home cooked food. Only drawback with this place was the flies, which we found in all other places later on.

Breakfast and Dinner provided and included in the room cost.
Rooms: There are rooms in different two buildings.
WiFi is not available, BSNL works without internet.
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Only BSNL worked here.

Himalayan Wooden Cottage, Pangong
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Pangong in a way, still gives me shivers. The weather was breezy when we reached Pangong and being on a higher altitude it was not easy breathing. Inside the cottage it was a bit suffocating until we settled down.

Himalayan Wooden Cottage was the best we could get in that place, including food and services. I really salute the caretakers and the people staying there. We reached Pangong late in the afternoon and we could not have food en-route as most of the hotels were shut down due to a Buddhist festival.  The caretaker, I really forgot his name, was very helpful and prepared Dal and Rice, very basic but tasty at that time. The dinner and Breakfast is provided and it’s really good, especially the soup when the temperature is below 5 degree.

Comfort: You might feel, the wooden cabin is compact and suffocating, but trust me this place is better than the other tents and cabins available in that area. We witnessed a couple of people coming and enquiring if they had accommodation here, where as they had a booking in the other place which they did not like.
Accessibility from Pangong Lake: The cottage is a bit far from the lake, but you get the better view and it’s safe and comfortable. We got to see a lovely rainbow which lifted our enthusiasm.
Acclimatisation: Take precautions before reaching Pangong, despite of more than a weeks acclimatisation at Leh, we did feel little uneasiness. We did drink garlic water which made us feel better.
Chilling Cold: It’s really really cold in Pangong lake, you may not experience this at Nubra Valley. Go prepared with the thermals and warm clothes. They provide thick blankets which is really cosy.
Star Gazing: For Sky gazers, you may not want to miss this. The cold was unbearable and we were a bit scared about the Snow Leopards or wild animals so we did not step out of our cottage but you get to witness the Stars and Galaxy so marvellous.

Breakfast and Dinner provided and included in the room cost.
Rooms: There are independent cabins.
WiFi is not available, BSNL works intermittently without internet.
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Only BSNL worked here.

Nezer Guest House, Leh
We had an impromptu stay at Nezer Guest House on our last day. The stay was okay and comfortable, the guest house is located at old road near the Leh market. You could call this place a hotel and not a guest house.

Breakfast and Dinner not provided. In house restaurant available – cannot comment on this as we did not use the services.
Room service provided.
Rooms: Multiple rooms in first and second floor.
WiFi is available.
Solar hot water provided. Heater available during winter.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL works here.

 

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Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

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Ranganathittu is one of the popular weekend getaways from Bangalore. Usually, when I think of Ranganathittu, only image that captures my mind is the White Ibis, Open billed storks, Painted storks that are in large number and somehow this fact did not fascinate me. Off late birding became my newfound hobby and this is why I made up my mind to visit Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. Not for the large number of birds present there, but for the other birds like Pied Kingfisher, Grey and Purple Herons. Here is my travelogue on my first visit to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary and of course Mysore.

Majestic to Srirangapatna: Our journey began at 8:00 in the morning from Majestic bus stop. Our luck was not in our favor that day and we reached Srirangapatna at 12:45 in the noon. We travelled in the Rajahamsa bus which did not have a good pick-up. As we got down at Srirangapatna, we had to show our bargaining skills with the Auto walas who started their bid from 250 rupees onwards for less than 5 kms travel! We were amazed and thought of finding alternate ways to reach the bird sanctuary. We crossed the road and past the fruit market and we found a private bus stop. There was a mini bus, which goes en route Ranganathittu. We got into the crowded mini bus, the conductor charged Rs. 5 each. We got down at Ranganathittu bus stop from where we had to walk around 2 kms.

P.S: They are renovating the Majestic bus stop and none of the Mysore, Madikeri, and Kerala bus operates from Majestic. Nevertheless, there are plenty of shuttle services from Majestic to Satellite bus stop. Refer: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article2378028.ece.

Srirangapatna to Ranganathittu: As we got down the bus and crossed the road, Grey Heron welcomed us. I was so delighted to see this bird flying so close to me. I was dying to see this bird so close for a long time. On the left side of the road there was a stream flowing, it is such a delight to walk in such a peaceful environment. Away from the hustle-bustle of city life. Walking little further, we spotted White throated kingfisher sitting on a tree enjoying the cool shades.

Entry to the bird sanctuary: We walked little further and reached the forest department gates. You need to pay Rs. 50 each as entry fee to enter the bird sanctuary. We asked the forest officer there whether there is variety of birds at this time. He said this is not the season (October) – you need to be here during January to July. At that time variety of colorful birds, migrate to Ranganathittu bird sanctuary.

Café: Before heading towards the sanctuary, we hopped into the restaurant there and had lunch. It’s a simple restaurant with simple but good food. This is the only restaurant available within the sanctuary and you do not have any other option otherwise.

The Sanctuary: As I entered, I did not like it much. Since its October, lot of families had come with their children and the tourists were making lot of noise. I pitied the state of birds. I did not like the aura, because in every corner you find couples sitting, hugging each other etc. :P. In a way, it is not a good sign when families with children visit here.

If you are a birding enthusiast, better avoid weekends and holiday season or try to be there as early as possible. I guess the Sanctuary is open for public entry from 8.30AM to 6.00PM.

We walked around the park finding only Ibis and Cormorants in large. Later, we thought of going on a boat ride, which is essential to spot different variety of birds and to watch closely. Sometimes, you also get a chance to view the bird nests with their offspring’s. Mainly, we wanted to spot the King/Queen of the Sanctuary or the Supermodel of this sanctuary as most of the bloggers have termed – “The Pied Kingfisher”.

Boating: It was around  4:00 in the evening we planned to take a boat ride. The boating fee is Rs. 50 per person. We got into a boat where we got a good boatman as well a guide. Initially, we could only spot White Ibis, Crocodiles, Cormorants, Little Egrets and bats. As we rowed little further, we could find a couple of River Terns on the rocks. The boatman was happy to show us the White throated kingfisher. That is it. We could not find the Pied kingfisher, Darter or even the Herons.

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Disappointed, we were getting off the boat and another boatman contacted us and said he can show us few more variety of birds and half an hour ride at an additional cost. What more did we want, we agreed for another ride. This time we were taken to other side of the river. Here, we get to site the Pied Kingfisher, Pelican, Open Billed Stork, Great Thick Knee, Darter, Wagtails, Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher and so on. We also, got to site male and female Pied Kingfisher and learnt how to differentiate between male and female Pied Kingfisher from the boatman. The boatman stilled the boat nearer to the spot of Pied Kingfisher and we could do any number of photo-shoots of these birds. However, they fly off soon when it gets to know of the human presence around. They are very shy birds. I just love watching the action of this bird. In addition, the boat riders here know the bird habitat, where exactly they can site them at that time interval. It is always best to ask them in advance. Birds too have their timing. We also saw the offspring’s of Open Billed Stork in the nest.

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P.S: All the images here are copyright protected to Prashant Bhandare. Anyone who wants to publish or use these images for any purpose, please contact the concerned for permission.

Way back from Ranganathittu: It was time for us to leave; we had to find transportation to Srirangapatna. We spotted an auto and went on to try our luck. He started with Rs. 200, meanwhile the boatman who took us for half an hour ride helped us in reducing the fare and we managed share the auto with another couple and we were dropped back to Srirangapatna for 40Rs.

Srirangapatna to Mysore: We hopped into the Mysore bus from Srirangapatna bus stop. We reached Mysore around 7:30PM. We witnessed the Mysore Amba Vilas palace illuminated with nearly 100,000 40-watt bulbs. What a magnificent site! The palace lightings are on from 7PM to 8PM on Sundays, Public Holidays and State holidays. During Dussera, the light illumination timing is from 7PM to 9PM. Also, free entry and no camera charges. However, at this time you will not get to enter the palace. Entry time to Mysore palace is from 10:00Am to 5.30PM and they charge you an entry fee, I guess its Rs.20. There is no light illumination on Saturdays.

The light illumination at night is a glory for Photographers. We clicked as much as photos until the cops could chase us during the closing time. Sharp at 8:00PM the lights will be turned off.

En route to Mysore bus stop, we saw the Mysore Dussera exhibition and decided to get in. The exhibition starts during Dussera and lasts for over three months. The place was crowded, we walked through the grounds, had some junk food inside, around midnight we headed back to the Mysore bus stop.

Mysore to Bangalore: Mysore-Bangalore buses shuttle 24 hours a day. We reached Bangalore (Mysore road Satellite bus stop) at 3:00AM and took the shuttle bus to Majestic bus stop.

It was a nice satisfying trip.