Sunday 27 March 2016
Time to slow down the things a bit. Time to take a breather.
With no fixed itinerary and no annoying travelling companions to look out for, solo travel gives you an opportunity to travel the way you want. That's exactly the reason why my #BombayToLeh trip lasted for 43 days. I traveled at my own pace, and a number of times I changed my plans during this trip. It happened once again on day 14. My earlier plan was to head to the Nubra Valley but since I had slept the night before, thanks in part to no electricity and partying with Israeli friends, I decided to skip Nubra Valley and stay back in Leh.
I woke up late at around 9 am and decided to do some more local sightseeeing after a nice leisurely breakfast. I bumped into an Israeli couple whom I had met the night before at the Zen Garden restaurant. We had breakfast together and I shared tips with them about travelling to Manali, Pangong, etc.
What is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
The above excerpt is from a William Henry Davies' poem titled 'Leisure'; I had learnt it in school and these lines have stuck with me forever. What's mentioned in the above lins is the exact thing that I'd set out to do on the 14th day of my #BombayToLeh trip, more so than on any other day. To stand and stare. To notice squirrels and see the woods I pass.
After a nice breakfast I spent time taking a fool around the market. A while later, I headed to the Pumpernickel German Bakery for lunch. This one's a highly recommended place and I was looking forward to my meal. As it turns out, the food was fairly average. I'd give them a benefit of doubt and return back to give them another chance.
Hey look, I'm a biker!
Something interesting happened while I was waiting for my meal at Pumpernickel. The morning peace was broken by annoyingly loud sounds of after-market air filters stuck to a single cylinder engine. A bunch of so-called 'bikers' stopped their bikes next to the tiny bakery, repeatedly opening-closing their throttle with the 'N' gear being engaged only to attract the attention of the crowd and to proclaim to the world, who doesn't give a shit about their existence, that 'they've arrived'.
This particular breed of living creature wants to be called a biker. This species tries its best to copy the big burly American cross-country bikers in every sense of the way. From donning leather jackets in a country as hot as India to drinking beer during rides just to prove their machoism. The group, named after one of the biggest cafe chains in India, that arrived in front of me were no different. They were loud. They were obnoxious. And they wanted to be noticed. They had donned biker-esque giant moustaches, side burns and hair-dos just for the trip. To look like they're a product of Sturgis. Just because they had a bike and they rode to Ladakh, they thought it was mandatory put on an articifical tattoo sleeves which shouted 'Hey look, I'm a biker. Please look at me. Please?'
I decided to finish my meal and leave the imposters to their shenanigans while I check out the Shey Monastery.
The village of Shey is situated 15 km from Leh. And it's biggest attraction is the Shey Monastery. The Shey Palace was once the royal residence of the King of Ladakh and subsequently it got moved to the village of Stok where it remains till date.
The monastery steps are some of the steppest steps you're ever likely to encounter. And even the fittest of us would run out of breath by the time we complete a single flight of stair. The main attraction of the Shey Palace/Monastery is the 39 ft tall Shakyamuni Buddha statue made out of copper. The monastery also features wall paintings from 18th(?) century. The paintings are in precarious condition and hence photography in the inner sanctum is strictly prohibited.
|Pro tip: Carry sunscreen
|Shakyamuni Buddha at Shey Monastery
|Shey Monastery overlooks the Holy Fish Pond and lush meadows
|The Holy Fish Pond
"No," I replied.
|Druk White Lotus School
|Saw this 'lion king' chilling in the Druk White Lotus School's campus. I tried petting him but he was shy, ran away
India can be quite amusing if you're not from here
I returned back to the hotel from Druk Lotus School. At the hotel, I caught up with two of my Israeli friends. We decided head out for drinks. After a couple of beers, we decided to order food. For one of the two, this was his fourth visit to India while the other guy was visiting India for the first time. The newbie wanted to try some Indian food and since I was with them, he decided to rely on my recommendation. The more experienced fellow wanted to eat his favourite comfort food - Pizza.
The Pizza guy ate his food and wiped off his hands with a tissue paper. As we got done with our India food (roti & sabzi), I asked for a finger bowl. Both were truly amused. They had no clue what it was. Once I explained them the concept of finger bowl (curry sticks to the fingers and hence you need hot water and lime to cut the stickiness and wipe it off), they too wanted to try it. To the extent, even the guy who ate Pizza and didn't really need it (though he had been to India thrice before, he had never experienced this) asked for a finger bowl just to try it out.
It's amazing how the simplest of things - the things which we take for a routine - can be totally fascinating for an outsider; may it be a simple finger bowl or homegrown beer.
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