Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2017

Leh, India: August 2016 Part 2


Luckily, the symptoms subside after 24 hours and we had the chance to explore Leh the day before we start our hike. Everything is in walk-able distance in Leh so it was really easy to get around. We went to the Leh Palace first.

The palace is the most prominent structure in town set on a hill so we were actually itching to go there. We had to pay a small amount of fee to enter; I don't remember how much but it was not that expensive. The palace was built back in the 15th Century and it's actually a miniature version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It is 9-storey high and when we were there all sections were already opened (during my research some bloggers mentioned about some sections being closed for renovation). There were  balconies on each level that overlooks the town and there were prayer flags hung there whose colours added beauty to the background.

 The topmost balcony gives a 360 view of Leh so we were actually surprised to see the green side of the town.

The inside of this palace was not well lit because it was purposely constructed in such a way that there is no need for artificial lighting so I have no clear pictures to show how it looked like. The halls were basically not furnished, just one or two halls with boards with pictures and infos. There was one room for a short video show. The part I remember is when the narrator mentioned that the materials to build this palace was actually passed by hand by men forming a looooooong line.

Then we went strolling around the town and see what can be useful to bring along for our hike. We went to a pharmacy to get more Dexamethasone and was again surprised to see the price of medicines and health and beauty products were like 3 times cheaper than Malaysia! Dan tiba-tiba aku memborong facial cleanser di sana. A few shops from it was a bookshop and the books were twice cheaper there! Harry Potter and The Cursed Child just came out that time and the pre=order price in Malaysia was RM 100+ and I got it for only RM53 in India!

It started to drizzle later that afternoon. Before coming to Leh, we didn't really searched for Halal food in particular because we normally go to Indian restaurant when traveling to other countries since we can always order vegetarian food there. That evening, we decided to randomly pick any of the restaurant in town for dinner. As it was drizzling and the pavement was not roofed, we had to run from one shop to another to get to the end of the shop lot where we saw a lot of restaurants there on our way to the pharmacy.

And when we reached this small opening that has narrow stairs that leads to some souvenir shops, a man suddenly appeared from behind the stairs. He promoted his souvenir shop at first. And when I said we just arrived and not searching for souvenirs yet, he went on asking where we were from and what are our plans in Leh. When I told him that we are actually looking for a good restaurant, preferably Muslim's, he told us there is a Muslim Restaurant just a few meters away called Mazwan Planet. "It might be one of the best around here!" 

As he was giving us the direction, he saw the owner of the restaurant passed just across the street. He yelled the owner's name and they spoke in Ladakhi. 
"He is going to the restaurant. You can follow him."

Well, we end up eating there for lunch and dinner in most days since the food was very good and the price was reasonable. 

Leh has been a popular destination for European for many years, so I guess that what makes it easy to find good food around Leh and the menu is variable. Below is one of my English breakfast set. This place is actually a square with 4 or 5 restaurants. We had breakfast here almost everyday and tried them all. The set usually come with coffee or tea and juice and you get to choose 3 or even 4 dishes in one set and it was really really cheap; like about RM5 per set.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Leh, India; August 2016


Whenever one of my travel mates mentioned about going to India, I will quickly displayed my reluctance. I was very influenced by the 'Slumdog Millionaire' movie. I don't think I can stand what filth shown in the movie; especially that earlier part where there was a guy wading inside a river full of garbage. And whenever we meet another traveler, they never come up with a convincing story that attract me to India. It was always about severe diarrhea (like they almost die there) or overcrowded attractions and scams. I'm the scam-magnet in our pact so it's logical for me to feel intimidated and scared.

I had a change of heart when a friend of mine who is also an outdoor enthusiast showed me a picture of Ladakh; a picture of a huge electric blue lake surrounded by brownish mountains and there were two horses grazing nearby. It was a rare sight to me; you don't always get to see dry barren mountains as beautiful as what I saw. And I told my friends; if we are going to India it's going to be Ladakh.

That was somewhere in 2013 or 2014. At that time I did some research of how to get there. I remember it was not yet readily accessible to tourists and I've put the idea off because of that. It was at the end of 2015 that the idea of going there popped out again. I was triggered by a documentary that I was watching during one of my insomniac night. It was about a lady journalist who spent weeks moving about the Changtang plateau with the nomads. I was mesmerized by the change of landscape as they shift from one grazing site to another. It was surreal and from experience I then knew, that it would be better be seen by the naked eyes rather than just on TV.

I'm the kind who needs this kind of trigger to have this unwavering determination to get the tickets. So, after that I start monitoring cheap tickets to India and I got RM 399 for KL-Delhi. From Delhi, you can actually choose to go by land or by air to Ladakh. There are two routes by land which will equally take at least 3 days and the cost are more or less the same. But your journey can be further delayed due to road condition such as land slide or due to safety because you will have to go through some parts of Kashmir that are occasionally in tension. We were lucky to have opted to by air because there was an insurgence in Kashmir at that time. We met another group of girls who were in Kashmir before they got to Ladakh and they have to sneak out of Kashmir in the middle of the night to avoid the clash.

The ticket is quite pricey for a domestic flight. And mind you, we picked the high season which is during summer because Ladakh's weather can be unpleasant during winter. From what I saw, it ranges from RM 900-RM 2000 for GoAir, Air India and Jet Airways. I didn't get the cheapest price because there were only two seats left in that flight whereas I needed four. I got RM 1300 return ticket and MR who bought the tickets two weeks before the trip got RM 2000 plus return ticket.

We spent a night in Delhi and took the first flight to Leh the next morning. To my surprise when I arrive in Delhi, the immigration officer insisted to speak Urdu to me. He only stopped after I told him "Sorry, I don't speak Urdu. I'm Malaysian." And then a few days later I learned that there are people in parts of India that has Sabahan features and one of them is Ladakh.

I studied a bit about the Indian side of Himalaya and was impressed with the different sight offered by it from air. The Nepali side of Himalaya is filled with lush greenery, but there from above, they look like sand dunes with patches of snow in some peaks. "Beautiful ey" said the man who sat by the window in our row. He was a Canadian who is going for a hike in another trail. The flight was smooth until we were about to land. As the aircraft descend, it started to vibrate due to the swift moving wind in between the mountains. The Canadian joked, "I hope there is somewhere flat for this thing to land". That something flat was nowhere to be seen. Then the aircraft made a left turn around a huge mountain, the nose continue tilting down and it was slightly shaking. Despite all that, the captain made a smooth landing on the runway. I turned to RA and said, "Patutlah ticket mahal.. Pilot terer ni!"

I was immediately spell bound by what surrounded me. We went to many mountain range in the world but what Ladakh has is of its own. We never seen anything like it! They were so close and colossal, covered with sand and rocks and has delicate ridges whose features change during different sun-phase throughout the day.

The airport was very basic yet efficient. Foreigners were given a special form to fill and to my surprise again it was not handed to me upon arrival. I had to go the immigration desk to ask for it. The lady there spoke something in Ladakhi to me and without understanding what she said I just responded, "I'm Malaysian". It was a relief to find a toilet spray in the toilet. On my way back from the toilet I saw the huge signboard about how to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS) and only then I realized that the repeated announcement that I wasn't paying attention to was actually about AMS.

Yangphel Guesthouse; we paid INR 6800 for 2 rooms for 2 nights. I gave a good review for this place and highly recommend it. You can ask the staffs  to cook breakfast and dinner and the price is quite reasonable. Trust me, when you have AMS, no matter how close the town is from this guesthouse, you will be too disoriented to walk there.

We went straight to our guesthouse. To my dismay, although they have wifi there, there was a power cut that afternoon. It was hard to stay awake when you are suppose to rest while you have nothing to distract you from falling asleep. Since I've felt AMS when we were in Nepal, I took some Dexamethasone as prophylaxis. I've expected it would be worst there in Leh, because we flew from sea level to about 3500m above sea level. I prepared my water and just lay down on the bed. RA was busy cleaning her bag because something spilled. Later that evening she had a very bad AMS and turned pale that we had to cancel our plan to go around Leh town. As we waited for dinner, MR actually fell asleep in her room and later had a severe headache during dinner. I've never seen her in so much pain. She was literally rolling on the sofa and keep saying she feels like knocking her head on the wall. Although I think she wasn't going to do it, I was scared anyway.