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.

 

Experiencing Ladakh

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Ladakh – like everyone says it’s not a holiday but an experience, an adventure. We experienced lovely 15 days on a journey to the land of passes – Ladakh. Here’s my first post on my Itinerary, I’ll be posting more and more details regarding my trip in the coming days.

When you plan to experience Ladakh – I would say refer Devil on Wheels, this has been a bible to me during my entire trip. Dheeraj Sharma and his team has not left behind any information pertaining your trip to the Himalayans.  Hats off to you and the thankless job you do in helping the vagabonds.

How will I be thankful to the BRO – the Border Roads Organisation for the great roads, yes the great roads in such a terrain, we witnessed people working all throughout during all weather conditions. GREF – General Reserve Engineer Force was there anytime anywhere to clear the roads during landslides, shooting stones, anytime.

To the people of Ladakh who made our journey a wonderful journey to remember forever. To our sarathi’s who were our companions, happy companions, to drive us through such risky roads, with ease you drive and with safety. To Abdul and Rigzin!

Day 01 – Delhi – Leh (05 August 2016)

  • Travelled by air
  • Stay at Jamspal/Ajantha Guest House in Fort road
  • Take rest, acclimatize to the high altitude, Leh is in the altitude of 3500m which is around 11500ft
  • Visit Leh palace in the evening strolling around the main market and fort road on the way back
  • Wind up with the dinner at Amdo’s at the main market
  • Slight dizziness, even little activities would strain us and get us tired. Climbing the Leh palace was a big task!

Note: Stayed at Fort road: recommended vehicle to commute, the roads are sloppy and walking upwards to reach main market is so so difficult for first day.

Few things to remember:

  • Stay Calm
  • Take rest
  • Don’t sleep much
  • Involve in less physical activity
  • Drink water
  • Eat light food
  • Sleep early

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Day 2 – Leh – Dras – Kargil (06 August 2016)

  • Dizziness had vanished, felt relieved from the fear of AMS.
  • Started for Kargil, option was to either acclimatize with Leh or visit Kargil. I had to visit Dras for the love of nation.:)
  • Very good roads, less traffic as no one preferred travelling to Kargil from Leh and no one dared travel from Srinagar as unrest and turmoil was going on with curfew laid all over Srinagar.
  • Experienced Magnetic pull at Magnetic Hill point, watched the Moon land spot.
  • Reached Kargil around 3 to 4PM and started hunting for rooms. Avoided the rooms on main road and headed towards Hotel Royal Inn which was beside the Suru River. Checked in and headed towards the destination of the day – Dras War Memorial where the Kargil war was fought and won by India.
  • Spent some time learning about the history of the war and talking to the soldiers. Learned what patriotism is, paid respect to the martyred soldiers.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Fotu La -4,108 m (13,478 ft)
Namika La – 3,700 m (12,139 ft)

Day 3 – Kargil – Batalik – Dah Hanu – Khaltsi – Alchi – Leh (07 August 2016)

  • We had scheduled entire site seeing on the way to Kargil for day 3 when we returned. We had tweaked our itinerary based on the suggestion to visit Aryan Villages from our Kargil hotel manager.
  • Travelled from the alternate route to Leh via Batalik crossing all the Aryan Villages.
  • Visited the first Aryan village out of four – Darchik. Our bad, it started breezing and in few seconds it started raining, we rushed back to the car and started towards other village and rain started pouring heavily. Considering other couple along with us and our time schedule we planned to head back to Leh.

Caution – In few minutes’ rain, the roads were damaged with the landslides, shooting stones and at one stretch it was really difficult to pass the muddy patch. It was an experience, all were dumbstruck and quite for some time. But then this is Ladakh, adventure is part of Ladakh travel.

The taxi union is very united and they communicate among the fellow drivers en-route so well. The roads were not good ahead, so all planned to turn back and take another route and travel together. The alternate route joined the Khaltse junction. Skipped Lamayuru Monastery – still regret for not making it to Lamayuru.

Places en-route:

  • Indus-Zanskar Confluence point, both were muddy water, so we went during wrong time, could not witness green colour of Zanskar River.
  • Alchi Monastery – Old and the monastery with broad history.
  • Gurudwara Pathar Sahib – Good vibes, along with nice people around. Paid respects to the deity and on our way back had a chat with one of the soldier pulling us for a Tea and Jalebi and then for the Langar (Dinner)

Mountain Pass en-route:
Hamboting La – 4,024 m (13,202 ft)
Fotu La – 4,108 m (13,478 ft)

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Day 4 – Rest Day (Leh Sightseeing) (08 August 2016)

Our travelling partners were not ready for the adventures ahead and planned to return back. We planned to go on with the existing plan, though we took a break this day to adjust with the taxi and other plans.

Hired taxi from our host:

  • Visited Spituk Monastery (Kali Mandir for the Army troop) – It’s on a high and have to climb steps. Still not used to physical activities even after 4 days of acclimatization.
  • Hall of Fame – Not to be missed. Don’t plan this on your first day at Leh, because of less ventilation inside you might feel more uneasy.
  • Shanthi Stupa – This Stupa is built by a Japanese Buddhist along with the help of local Buddhist to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. Our host was delighted to tell us about their contributions in building this place. A very beautiful Stupa with beautiful views within and around, not to be missed.
  • Back to Guest house – Exploring from other guests at the Guest house. Happen to meet a Solo traveler, who enlightened us more about traveling around.

Day 5 – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder – Nubra Valley – (09 August 2016)

  • We had enough time to acclimatize, so we did not worry about reaching the Khardung La top, but the roads were crazy. But hats off to BRO, they were there fixing and maintaining each and every nook.
  • We reached Khardung La top by 10AM, clicked few pictures, and had Maggi at Richen Café there. We could stay there for around 45 minutes without any uneasiness and we were glad for that. We ascended down where the roads were not good for few stretch and the vehicles from the opposite side started. The taxi union has an understanding even here with the traffic. Until 12 you would not see the vehicles on the other side.
  • Buffet lunch at River Side Restaurant – Delicious Veg buffet with beautiful landscapes outside. They have setup umbrellas and chairs outside too. They even offer River Rafting.
  • On the way visited Diskit Monastery, the Monastery has a good view overlooking a big Maitreya Buddha Statue.
  • Stay at Habib Guest house – Suggested by our driver Rigzin. We were a bit hesitant about this place but then we gave it a chance. The Dinner and Breakfast was included in the room rent, food was awesome. Lovely home cooked food. Only drawback with this place was the flies, which we found in all other places later on.
  • After check in we came to the sand dunes. Beautiful landscape, amazing views, sunset and camel ride is a must. Try to reach early in the evening and enjoy what Hunder Sand Dunes have got to offer.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Khardung La – 5,359 m (17,582 ft) and 5,602 m (18,379 ft) elevation is in the vicinity

Day 6 –Nubra Valley – Leh (10 August 2016)

  • Travelled back to Leh enjoying beautiful landscapes, stopping wherever we felt like, and reached early to the Guest House
  • Spent the evening speaking to the travelers at the guest house

Note: There’s an alternate way to reach Pangong Lake on the way back from Nubra Valley. But we had an alternate arrangement from Rigzin for our Nubra trip so we couldn’t make it through that way. We could save a day here.

Day 7 – Leh – Pangong Tso (11 August 2016)

*Road to Pangong Tso was closed for couple of days as it was blocked by the landslide happened on 07 August.

Today was a big day for Buddhists, his holiness Dalai Lama’s teachings was scheduled at Thikshey monastery and all the Buddhist around Leh city were visiting Thikshey monastery to take blessings. We too wanted to join, but the route to monastery was so crowded with vehicles and we thought it’s take long time and we also had to reach Pangong by noon.

  • We went through the scenic routes crossing the Chang La pass
  • Encountered slight snow fall at Chang La pass
  • Did some photo shoot among the Yak’s, Marmots and wildflowers
  • Spotted the Himalayan Griffon Vulture widespread its wings flying peaceful in the clear skies
  • Surprised by the wild horses who climbed half the mountains and tricking us for we thought they were a group of Ibex
  • Experienced the terrific weather conditions by the Pangong Lake. So windy, the wind was pushing us back!
  • It rained for few minutes making us feel sad for not able to see the reflection of cloud, but Ladakh is full of surprises, the rain left behind the beautiful RAINBOW I’ve ever seen in my life. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L
  • Stay at Himalayan Wooden Cottages – Nice place with wonderful caretakers.
  • Felt a little uneasy inside the cottage, it’s on the altitude of 4,350 m (14,270 ft) and because of the windy weather. Drank water with garlic, felt better.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Chang La – 5,360 m (17,590 ft)

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Day 8 Pangong Tso – Leh (12 August 2016)

  • Checkout from the Cottage spent some time at the Pangong Lake. Clouds were still there, no clear sky. Bad luck! They say at least we were lucky we could visit the Pangong Lake – last couple of day’s people who had planned could not even visit the majestic Pangong Lake.
  • On the way, visited Thikshey Monastery, Shey Palace and 3 Idiots School (Druk White Lotus School)
  • Avoid lunch at Karu on the way back from Pangong – especially Druk Restaurant
  • Bid Farewell to Abdul – our Sarathi for few days in Ladakh

Day 9 Leh – Shopping Shopping (13 August 2016)

  • Abdul had recommended we shop at Tibetan market, there are plenty but he showed us one at Old road with gate numbers.
  • Visited Women’s Alliance of Ladakh – Spoke to the team handling different workshops on global warming, fighting climate change, corporate globalization, traditional knowledge and skills and many more. They also screen a movie at 2PM in the afternoon related to Ladakh region and all the above topics. We did not get a chance to watch any of them, but the workshop was going on when we went. We also watched how they make the woolen shawls using the authentic pashmina wools. We got some postcards to post to our friends and relatives.
  • We went in search of a specific handicraft item to Women’s Alliance of Ladakh but came back with lot of information from there. We also got the details of the handicraft and where to get that from.
  • So we were at one of the Handicrafts shops to buy the handicrafts. A lady manages this shop, we were not privileged to meet that Lady but we encountered with the Lady’s husband and what a great man he was. We spoke and spoke and spoke all the afternoon no sure for how many hours. It was so nice speaking to Sonam, this man, gem of a person.
  • It’s a routine for us to hang around the main market area during the evenings, distributing chocolates to the kids and close for the day. Localities come to main market area to sell home grown vegetables, apples and apricots. Most of them come from Dah-Hanu region to sell their produce, from so far. They stay near the main bus stand area, because this is the only season they can make some money and main market is the place where tourists flock. A request to be a responsible tourist – Not to bargain hard on them for just a quarter kg of apricots or apples. I’ve seen a lady yelling at an old women (I would say yelling not bargaining, by the way she was speaking) and I really felt very very bad for how an educated lady behaving to the helpless vendor.
  • Found Kashmiri food joint – New Wazwan Planet – It was good, mutton was good, place is crowded and the cuisines get over early by 9 or 9.30.

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Day 10 Leh – More Shopping (14 August 2016)

  • From the last couple of days we were looking for options to reach Delhi.
  • HPTDC was totally booked and it leaves on every alternate days.
  • Did not want to opt for shared taxi or Tempo traveler as they travel at night
  • Flights were like out of reach starting with 22000 fare per person from Leh to Delhi – for an hour flight! [Aren’t they taking advantage of the situation?]
  • Finally we plan to take out our trump card – airlines miles and shattered to see that the award miles can’t be claimed for the entire week [They have been sold out]
  • Calls begin with the airlines – So a waitlist option is recommended and they say keep calling the support and we will update you on the status.
  • We call the airlines every hour with no luck!
  • Do more and more shopping at Tibetan Market, Moti Market, Main Market, roam around Leh Market, and talk to people and distribute chocolates to kids. Their priceless smile when they receive unexpected bounty.

Day 11 Leh – More Shopping (15 August 2016)

  • It’s Independence Day; we had lot of plans but also worry about our return.
  • We had planned to be in Delhi on 15th but that did not happen. We thought our waitlisted PNR would be confirmed by morning but that did not happen.
  • Run to HPTDC office to book ticket for 17 August, the person says there was a cancellation and we should be placed against that – but the system wasn’t working.
  • Called after few minutes to know someone had taken those tickets online. How bad!
  • Calls begin with the airless again the same story!
  • More and more shopping in the day
  • Visited Chokang Vihara, a small and peaceful monastery in the main market area. Spent hours inside this monastery sitting peacefully and talking to the monks.
  • Call hour after hour to the airlines asking for our waitlist status and we are asked to keep waiting. We decide to head over to the airport in the morning.

Day 12 Leh – More Shopping (16 August 2016)

  • We checkout and drive towards the Airport.
  • Surprised that our waitlist has been cancelled
  • Call airlines call support and bang bang bang
  • Get to know the mistake of airline and somehow we get our award ticket confirmed for next day. [Redeeming award miles was like literally begging with the airlines. This is what we get after being loyal to a particular airline?]
  • Hurray – one more day at Leh.
  • Post office was closed for few days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Independence Day.
  • Excited to write letters and post them to our dear ones. It was a nostalgic feeling, remembering our childhood days.

Day 13 Leh – Delhi (17 August 2016)

  • Finally, here we are with the confirmed ticket travelling to Delhi.
  • On reaching Delhi, we planned to stay there for a day.
  • Checked in to Hyatt Regency, relaxed – felt great soaking in the luxury after all the adventures and hard work and stress.

Day 14 Delhi sightseeing – Bangalore (18 August 2016)

Started with Connaught place, India Gate, Rastrapathi Bhavan, Red Fort and then little time at Sarojini Nagar Market. That sums up for our 15 days out from the rat race.