Gallery Ladakh, Kashmir & Punjab

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Kashmir

Ladakh

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20.07.2013

Who Remembers This Carpet?

Don’t even think that this dull furnishing of square kilometers of yellowish floor covering reflects on the rest of the airport. Oh no! So many other odds things catch your eye. A check-in (not for) but with men only, to Riyadh… Around the corner, again men only… This time 120 blue-turbaned UN soldiers marching in single file towards departure gates. Countless soldiers hanging around, cleaning staff with nothing to clean- all at 02:30 in the morning. Also shops, bars, food stalls, all open with enthusiastic employees. By now...[more]

Category: Ladakh

20.07.2013

Amritsar: First Night Gone Wrong

Luckily Gilles saw the small handwritten sign “bell” on the wall. Our taxi from the airport had dropped us in a rural area at around 04:00 am, in front of a locked iron wrought door. Two young men with tousled hair appeared buttoning up their shirts. So it was only mildly surprising that there was not much greeting. Still it didn’t feel right. The small, extremely hot room added to that feeling. The roaring AC cooled it down soon and a fast WiFi connection lifted our spirits. Yes, it felt good being online at 04:00 am. But the noise...[more]

Category: Ladakh

20.07.2013

The Golden Temple Embraces Us

Our expectations were very high and as we all know, such are usually not met. But Amritsar proved this theory wrong. The Golden Temple, and the entire complex surrounding it, is breathtakingly beautiful. But what makes the visit so very unforgettable and enjoyable is the relaxed atmosphere. Many of the pilgrims come from villages or cities where foreigners are hardly ever seen and they loved having photos taken with us or simply dared a quick hello. None of the consistent stares like in Ajmer at the Dargah Sharif Tomb, or the...[more]

Category: Ladakh

21.07.2013

Flag Business - Patriotism Running High

You want to learn a lesson in crowd control? You think nothing, no matter how crazy, can surprise you? Then you must see the flag ceremony at the Pakistani-Indian border at Wagah, between Amritsar and Lahore! Every evening the flags of the two countries are taken down in a ceremony that has no parallel - a choreography of music, chanting political slogans, trumpets and whistle blowing (the latter to control the crowd) on part of the organizer. Cheering, dancing, clapping, waving the Indian flag is what the approx. 40.000 Indian...[more]

Category: Ladakh

21.07.2013

The Golden Temple - Reloaded

We could not wait to get back to the temple, so intrigued we were by the beauty of the sacred place, so captivated we were by the friendly smiles, the eagerness to talk to us, to have our photo taken with the family... It was like bathing in good vibes. Everything was the same when we returned, except the temperatures - it was cooking and to make matters worse, very humid. We never realized how much the heavy rain the previous day had cooled down the city. Then streets were flooded, and the on-and-off rain that followed was...[more]

Category: Ladakh

22.07.2013

House Boating in the Indian Alps

When the plane dove below the thin layer of clouds, we spotted snowcapped mountains in the background and dark green land below. We instantly knew we would like Kashmir. For the uninitiated Kashmir traveller, the location of the houseboats is a bit confusing, even after arriving. A trip up the hill to the Temple of Shankaraya gives some perspective. The great view over Srinagar and Lake Dal helps understand that houseboats are only allowed in a small section of Lake Dal, in a kind of wide inlet called Golden Dal. The approx. 1.000...[more]

Category: Ladakh

23.07.2013

Floating Vegetable Market

It was still dark when our Shikara dove into the labyrinth of Golden Dal. The lake was absolutely quiet and temperatures bone-chilling at around 05:00 am. We hoped so much that this trip was worth the effort of leaving our warm bed. Oh yes, it was! We found a place squirming with small boats selling squash, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, green beans, fish and flowers. Men only, squatting on their boats haggling with people they have probably known all their lives. Bargaining could be quite long and elaborate. Two vendors would end up...[more]

Category: Ladakh

23.07.2013

Lake Maze

Gliding through absolute tranquility in a Shikara, only the quiet slapping of the paddle to be heard, is the ultimate experience. Where? At the Golden Dal, a labyrinth of small canals, large fields with lotus plants, houses built on stilts and others made of bricks that are perched on little islands. In between - floating vegetable gardens with gigantic green squash dangling from the bushes. Some houses form little villages with stores and other businesses. The calm waters of Lake Dal allow making amazing photos - reflecting the...[more]

Category: Ladakh

23.07.2013

Srinagar’s Other Attractions

Mughal Emperors loved Srinagar and retreated to these cool altitudes in the summer. The Mughals are long gone, but the terraced gardens they had built still bear witness of their sense for refined architecture. In Nishat Bagh, once twelve of those terraces cascaded all the way to the lake. Now it’s only eleven - the terrace closest to the lake had to make room for a road running along the shore. Nishat Bagh is the most impressive of the three gardens we visited, beautifully maintained. To keep up the garden seems a desperate attempt...[more]

Category: Ladakh

24.07.2013

Srinagar - Kargil: The Best Guarded Road

One of those trips you could rave about and rave about without finding the proper words. Spectacular? Breathtaking? Amazing? Whatever … The windy road was hewn right into the steep mountain slopes and has many faces: from a super narrow, bumpy one-lane track to a brand new smooth asphalt road. It snakes its way up high passes, down into narrow valley and follows the milky-blue river faithfully like a good companion. We cannot remember ever, ever, a nine-hour road trip passing like the blink of an eye: snow-capped mountains, green...[more]

Category: Ladakh

24.07.2013

Kargil War Memorial

If the Kargil War Memorial doesn’t ring a bell immediately, don’t be embarrassed. We were as clueless… About 60 kilometers before we reached Kargil, we saw a lot of commotion going on in the middle of nowhere. Soon we got another taste of Indian patriotism. In June 1999, Pakistan managed to intrude and conquer Tiger Hill, a big mountain range about 50 kilometers from Kargil. The Indian army managed to drive them back. Lots of blurred photos praise the Indian heroes in the small museum. The business that caught our attention in the...[more]

Category: Ladakh

25.07.2013

Small Town Kargil - Our New Favorite

We fell in love with small town Kargil. Not that is particularly attractive, but it was the first city in India where you are not blown off the street by honking drivers and can leisurely walk along the shop lined streets. Balti people dominate the second largest town in Ladakh, though Kargil is a fascinating wild mix of people. Women, no matter what age, still wear the traditional Pashwamra with a colorful headscarf. Small girls also do. Nevertheless, we never saw women wearing an Abaya or completely covered like we did see in...[more]

Category: Ladakh

25.07.2013

Kargil to Leh Highway

Canyons so narrow that you wonder how a street would possible fit in and valleys bright green with vegetable gardens and wheat fields. This was our most pleasant diet after leaving Kargil. The closer we got to Leh, the more the term “high altitude desert” - took on a real meaning: mountains, rocks, sandy slopes, no vegetation. Only the gushing milky blue Indus provided a contrast to the light brown cascades of mountain ranges, once in a while a snow capped summit peeks from behind. In Mulbekh, we had our first sampling of an ancient...[more]

Category: Ladakh

26.07.2013

Leh - A Mess of a Hub

Friends had recommended the Oriental Hotel, which was a 20 minute walk from the center, at the very end of Changspar Road, the touristic epicenter of Leh. Luckily, they had room for us. And what a room! On the top floor with a view that was worth every of the 1.800 Rupees / 24 Euro! We were so happy to be there… To be away from the center of Leh was a priority. This place - jam-packed with honking cars, hotels, guesthouses, tour operators, souvenir shops, restaurants offering Chinese - Indian - Italian - Israeli - Korean cuisine and...[more]

Category: Ladakh

27.07.2013

Monastery Hopping

Our initial plan was to take it easy the first two days in Leh and get our bodies used to the 3.500 meters. But we simply could not resist. We rented a semi-automatic 125cc motorbike (Gilles has some experience with those) and off we went to see the monasteries around Leh. Another plan that failed was to leave so early that we would be able to attend the Puja (religious ceremony) at Thiksey Monastery at 06:00 am. By the time we reached Thiksey the ceremony was almost over and the steep climb up to the monastery added another...[more]

Category: Ladakh

28.07.2013

Dalai Lama Is Coming

On our third day in Leh, the city was buzzing and eventually came to a standstill. The Dalai Lama is coming! Everybody was running down to the big roundabout near the petrol station - this is where the convoy had to pass through on the way from the airport to the Dalai Lama’s retreat Buddha Garden. The place was packed. Locals in their best attire were holding flowers and incent sticks, tourists flashing their cameras and soldiers their rifles. The sun was blazing hot already in the morning and luckily it didn’t take long for the...[more]

Category: Ladakh

28.07.2013

Adding Another Hospital

Vietnam… Cuba… Cambodia… China… Uganda… And now Ladakh! On our third day in Leh, Gilles had difficulties breathing and a splitting headache. At Leh hospital, the large crowd in front of the office for registration was frightening - we would never get admitted. It was the taxi driver who took us to the hospital who took action. He dove into the mass of people and returned with a piece of paper: Our registration, but in HIS name, of course he did not know ours and was only helpful. He then took us to a very small door that was...[more]

Category: Ladakh

29.07.2013

On the Way to the Top of the World

The minute we left Leh the road started climbing, zigzagging endlessly to the highest point we both have ever been: Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world at 5.602 meters / 18.380 feet. At the foot of the mountain we passed Gangla Village, a wide ribbon of grass and fields that spreads over the semi-flat terrain. Not the last bit of green on the way to the top, but the largest one. Even in this high altitude desert, once in a while small patches of grass run down a slope, nourished by tiny streams gushing straight from...[more]

Category: Ladakh

29.07.2013

Siachen Glacier - The New Cold War

After about two hours of meandering uphill through dramatic mountain scenery, Siachen Glacier came into view. This is not just a glacier but a place of national pride and Indian martyrdom. In 1984, Indian and Pakistani troops fought over this area. The heroic courage and dedication of the Indian soldiers defending and conquering this pass is praised on a big plague at the pass. In the text the name Pakistan is reduced to Pak, a way to belittle the unloved neighbor? Back in Delhi we had another encounter with Siachen Glacier....[more]

Category: Ladakh

29.07.2013

At the Very Top - Khardung La

At the very top of Khardung La, a few makeshift buildings thwart the military glory. You think being at 5.600 meters is a peaceful moment, a unique instant of quietness and contemplation? So very wrong! From a temple uphill, recorded prayers are sent down. Even louder music (and what sounded like political slogans) escapes speakers attached to the world’s highest restaurant. Its unspectacular specialty? Tea and instant Maggi noodle soup! The small souvenir shop displays dusty T-shirts and a few barracks fill the limited space. The...[more]

Category: Ladakh

30.07.2013

Blocked at the Very Top - Road Constructions

All along the roads in Ladakh, groups of construction workers are slaving away for 300 rupees a day, bundled up, cheering and waving when we passed by. It is heartbreaking to watch these people building roads with their bare hands, working under these conditions for next to nothing. Once we stopped to chat to a group of Ladakhi workers, who are rarely seen on construction sites. Quite a few women were among them - they even get less: only 250 rupees per day… When they told us they did not even look at us, that’s how embarrassed they...[more]

Category: Ladakh

30.07.2013

Nubra Valley and Shyok Valley

Descending from Khardung La (5.602 meters) towards Nubra Valley, we passed through Ladakh’s second highest village, Khardung, at 4.400 meters! Its lush green beauty brings every traveller to a halt. Given the spectacular scenery we allowed numerous photo-stops and hence five hours for travelling the 115 kilometers between Leh to Khalsar. This small town is the entry point into the Nubra Valley, one of the most popular excursions from Leh. We had read raving reports about Nubra Valley in various forums and nothing could have stopped...[more]

Category: Ladakh

30.07.2013

Asylum Seekers - Hundar’s Double Humped Camels

Bacterian double - humped camels are Hundar’s only attraction. Non-natives to Ladkah, these camels were used on the trade route to Central Asia. In the 1940s, after the borders closed in this area of the world, the creatures got stranded in Baltistan. Now they are at the mercy of Indian tourists. Camel rides around the small dunes are the big hype among Indian families. For us the big attraction was to watch the spectacle: getting on the camels, coping with the animals and filming each other is accompanied with a lot of shouting and...[more]

Category: Ladakh

31.07.2013

Middle School in Bodgang

The unexpected is always the best. Our travel companion Luc suggested to stop in the small village of Bodgang, There was not really anything to see, a few shops along the road, fields running towards the river. Then someone pointed uphill and so we climbed that way to find a lovely village surrounded by fields and apricots trees. The locals were surprised about our visit and interest in their village. Taking our time and doing nothing in particular but wandering around did the trick. Even without a common language we managed to...[more]

Category: Ladakh

31.07.2013

Turtuk - As Far As You Can Go

Who would expect an oasis at 3.000 meters? Turtuk village, like the few other villages in the Shyok valley, sits on a plateau about 200 meters uphill from the small road that runs along the Shyok River. Completely out of sight from the road, only the fields down at the riverbank give away human activity. A steep ten-minute climb brings you to a place of incredible beauty, a display of immense fertility. Plots - neatly fenced in by small stonewalls - glow in different shades of green or golden with wheat sheaf swaying heavy on the...[more]

Category: Ladakh

31.07.2013

Turtuk - Slowing Down

Where we stayed? At Maha Guesthouse. Surrounded by a sea of flowers and greenery it was the first guesthouse that opened, in 2010. But the season was ruined by the horrible mudslide in Leh that year and serious flooding in the Shyok Valley. The super friendly and most helpful owner speaks English really well and cooks delicious food. No wonder his 10 rooms (800 to 1.000 Rupees) are full every day. The increasing number of tourists has tempted several of his neighbors to open a guesthouse as well and we spotted several homestays. The...[more]

Category: Ladakh

01.08.2013

Exchanging with Fellow Travelers

Like during all our trips we met so very interesting people. In Turtuk we befriended Anne & Yann, a French couple who was travelling on public transport through Ladakh. On the particular day we met them, Yann had traveled on the roof of a bus carrying 60 people. Why he was on the roof? The bus had only 23 seats! We soon started exchanging travel stories and decided to travel the Tso Kar & Tso Moriri together. Apart from enjoying our company, the other reason why Anne & Yann opted for private transport in this area of Ladakh was that...[more]

Category: Ladakh

03.08.2013

Another Monastery Loop West - Likir, Alchi & Lamayuru

During our three weeks in Ladakh, not one single festival was held in a monastery. None! Dates of the festivals are linked both to the moon calendar and to complex astrological considerations, thus their dates can vary widely. We simply did not check carefully enough! So when we heard that a “Domchot” was being celebrated in Likir Monastery (1,5 hour drive from Leh), we went for it - Needless to say we had no idea what it was. Now we do: a lot of chanting, praying and a few instruments were played, that’s as close as we got to a...[more]

Category: Ladakh

05.08.2013

Another Loop, Down South This Time

At the police check point in Upshi, the super correct police officer found out that our permit for Tso Moriri started the following day. Big excitement! Gilles having a loud and angry telephone conversation with the agency who made the mistake, the mobile phone of the policemen playing music at full volume and all the drivers discussing the situation. Heidi took a look at the map and everything was solved. Instead of doing the loop west to east we would start with Tso Kar, which does not require a permit. The trip along the narrow...[more]

Category: Ladakh

06.08.2013

Tso Kar - On Top of the World or At the End?

Once we turned east off the Mandali Road, the landscape turned even more spectacular. Soon we spotted a nomad camp right along the tracks. We had hoped for so much to meet Changpa Nomads… A few kids, barely able to walk, were playing in the dust next to the road. Our stop made the rest of the family leave their tent or whatever chores they were doing. Their burned and frost bitten faces mirrored their harsh life. Living in tents through a winter at 5.000 meters with those extreme temperatures was beyond our imagination. An elderly...[more]

Category: Ladakh

06.08.2013

A Bad Surprise in Thukje…

When we drove in the “village” of Thukje, at a first glance it looked like a heap of rubble. we kept looking for an intact building. And there it was, quite nice, actually. In the adjacent tent a large Ladakhi family was gathering and yes, they had two rooms in their home for us to stay. We were uncertain about whether all these people were staying in the small house or if some was just visiting. Hassan, our driver, noticed our concerns and pointed at another intact building in the distance - a guesthouse: two concrete blocks on a...[more]

Category: Ladakh

07.08.2013

Tsomo Riri

The drive from Tso Kar to Tsomoriri was nothing to write home about - we had such high expectations! Only a small geyser was a surprise and the last stretch of the road that leads down to the lake is kind of scenic. The highlight was a large herd of yaks that passed, some gigantic. Finally Tso Moriri! The lake is quite a sight although we must confess that we preferred small Tso Kar. Large parts of the lake are fenced in because it is a Conservation Area. The most scenic part is around the small village of Korzok, where a large area...[more]

Category: Ladakh

07.08.2013

Korzok - And Soon Gone!

The evening in Korzok turned out to be really bizarre… Walking around in the dark without streetlights, the tiny village did not come across as particularly picturesque: cubic houses thrown together from stones; bags and other stuff on their flat roofs; lots of rubble all over the village. Herdsmen were driving their Pashmina sheep home and construction workers still slaving away in the dark. The village is where former nomads came to settle. Some have turned to tourism. There were two guesthouses to choose from in summer 2013: a...[more]

Category: Ladakh

09.08.2013

Farewell Ladakh, Farewell India on the Chennai Express!

Air India took us back to Delhi, across the mighty Himalayas. An experience itself! It is literally breathtaking to climb up amidst all these snowcapped summits and then pass right over them, so close you feel you can touch them... The other real thrill are the numerous and wide glaciers running in between. Looking at them, nobody can escape the thought: how much longer are they going to exist? They feed so many rivers in Southeast Asia, lifelines for billions of people! “Sitting in a airplane certainly doesn’t help” was the guilty...[more]

Category: Ladakh

10.08.2013

Kashmir & Ladakh - Budget

India is a very cheap place to travel, and Kashmir & Ladakh are not different - Making a good level of comfort affordable, while rock bottom backpacking costs next to nothing. Once again we opted for a reasonable level of comfort, however avoiding pricey hotels that are usually deadly boring. The only real treat we allowed ourselves was renting a private car. It allowed maximum flexibility and above all, we could stop for photos whenever and wherever we wanted. To keep costs down and to have company, we always looked for fellow...[more]

Category: Budget, Ladakh

29.04.2014

Kashmir & Ladakh - Many Highlights Without Trekking!

If you are looking for information on trekking Ladakh, stop right here! You won’t find any. The day we arrived we decided against it - too hot, no shade, too expensive... Given these conditions, our already meager motivation made a trek never happen. Our three-week trip in July & August 2013 started in Amritsar / Punjab where we explored the amazing Golden Temple. An equal amount of time - three days - we spent in Srinagar. It’s the lake and the breathtaking scenario surrounding it you come for. Of course we stayed on a...[more]

Category: Summaries, Ladakh