Ep 1 Leh, Ladakh | Leh Palace | Phyang Gompa | Sindhu Ghat | Ladakhi food | Ladakh Tourism

Ep 1 Leh, Ladakh | Leh Palace | Phyang Gompa | Sindhu Ghat | Ladakhi food | Ladakh Tourism

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Namaskar friends! Welcome to Visa2explore. This is your host, Harish Bali. We are in Ladakh right now. I reached Leh two days ago. We spent the first two days acclimatizing ourselves. Instead of exploring Leh, we spent most of the time resting indoors.

Today, we will begin our day with a visit to the historic Leh Palace. This is the view of the houses from where I am standing and recording this introduction. These all are houses in Leh. I see snow on the mountains in front of me. See, there is so much snow even today - when it is July. There is a lot of snow on this mountain as well.

It is a very different environment, with low level of oxygen generally in the air. Which is the case in overall Ladakh. That is why, it is suggested that you acclimatize yourself for two days at least. Just relax and don't do anything hectic. Let us go there and buy ticket for ourselves.

Then we will go and visit the Leh Palace. Once we entered the palace, we read a lot of information about it at several places. That told us about this palace's history. Like this, we kept climbing the palace floors and now I am on the top floor, which is the 8th floor. Actually this palace has nine floors.

We've climbed up to the 8th floor but the way to the 9th floor is closed. There is a room on the 9th floor and it is closed for the tourists. I read it downstairs that there are 100 rooms in this palace. While passing through the palace, it didn't seem there are that many rooms... ...but I am sure the number is well accounted for. Now let me explain what I see from the top floor of this palace. On this side, you can see the rooftops of the houses in Leh.

And on that side, there is a small lake named 'Karzu.' 'Karzu' means lake in local language. I will now tell you a little history of this palace. The Namgyal dynasty ruled Ladakh for a long time. One of its more famous rulers was Senge Namgyal.

His reign lasted from 1590 to 1635 A.D. It was during this time period that this palace was built within just 3 years' time. Three years is obviously very little for building such a palace. Despite that, at that time, this palace was believed to be the world's highest building.

As we already know, there was no concept of building a foundation during that time, Moreover, how could they build a foundation on this mountain! So, this palace stands without a foundation underneath it. When the Dogra rulers reached here between 1834 and 1840... ...the royal family was shifted to the Stoke Palace. I noticed a few special features of the palace interiors. This palace has been built using stones, sun-dried bricks, and clay. The wood used in this building was sourced from trees like willow and juniper. Poplar is also a very popular tree whose wood is used locally.

So, this palace was built with a mix of wood and stone. The view from this height is good. Let's check the view from there. The view from top of the palace is quite good. We can see the Leh city till its boundaries. You must visit this palace whenever you visit Leh. Though it may seem you have to climb a lot of stairs to reach the 8th floor but here...

...each floor is separated by just 8-10 steps. That way, climbing up to the 8th floor is very difficult. I had noticed two galleries when I entered the palace. These galleries contained a lot of information about the palace.

There was also history of Ladakh. And there were many photographs related to the palace. Nice! Good! We will stay here for another 5-10 minutes and click some good photographs. Then we will go back downstairs. We will do sightseeing in Leh all day today.

Something like a day in Leh! So, we will try our best to visit as many locations as possible. And along with us, you will also get to visit Leh. We've reached the Phyang Monastery after travelling for 20 KM from Leh. This is a huge parking space here. The monastery is that building hidden behind those trees.

We need to walk about 300 meters to reach the monastery. Come, let us enter the monastery. Once there, we will also find out some information about the monastery and... ...there is also a two-day festival going on here currently. So, we will also attend that festival.

The prayer hall that we just visited has a statue of Lord Buddha in the centre. Along with the statues of his two disciples. The walls are adorned with numerous paintings.

These paintings depict the life and times of Lord Buddha. Now, if you want more details, you need a guide with you. Right now, we don't see any Lama around. Nor is any guide from whom we can learn more details. However, I've learnt that this prayer hall was recently constructed, about 20 years back.

The old monastery is on that side. Now, let us go down there. I visited this prayer hall. Inside, I saw fresco paintings that were 500-years old.

The highlight of these paintings is that no improvements have been done to them. It means the paintings are the same as they were 500 years ago. Artificial lighting hasn't been used inside. So videography is also not allowed inside. When you see these paintings, you'll realize that it is Lord Buddha's life's depiction.

Prayers are conducted here during the mornings and evenings. You can participate in these prayers if you happen to visit around these timings. There was a king named Tashi Namgyal. His reign lasted from 1500-1532 A.D. This monastery was built during his period, in 1515 A.D. So, since then, you can imagine how old this monastery is.

This is one of the prayer halls., in front of the red building. There is another prayer hall behind it, which is a few more years older. Both are built during the same period but a few years apart. So, let's go and visit that prayer hall as well.

Videography & photography is not allowed inside this temple as well. This hall, a little smaller in size, also has fresco paintings on its walls. Inside this hall, there is a statue installed of a deity with multiple heads. I read the information written below, which wasn't clear, but I could read "Mahakal" under it. As I've told you already, this is the oldest monastery of the Kagyuk sect.

Buddhism has four sects. So, in this region, we are visiting the oldest monastery of the Kagyuk sect. The prayer hall that we visited earlier was built just few years later. There is a dance festival going on downstairs. I had told you about this two-day festival going on here.

Now, we'll go down there and watch the dance performances. I have been watching these dances for the past one hour. For a while, I was watching these dances from up there. There is a hall meant for V.I.P.s but when I requested, they allowed me to watch from there. Then I came down to see it.

A lot of tourists were sitting around the arena where the performances were taking place. I sat there for some time. From there, I saw a closer view of the performances. I found out from the locals here that these 2-day dance performances take place twice annually. I asked them on which days? They told me these were 28th and 29th days of the 5th month in the Tibetan calendar. These are the fixed dates.

And today is 15th July. Right! Anyways, we spent a good time watching these performances for an hour or so. We also saw a glimpse of the changing room at the back. Now it is almost 1 PM. Now we will leave here. We have two choices.

We could either visit the Hall of Fame! I mean we could go straight to the Hall of Fame. Or we could eat lunch first. That I will decide on the way. I am talking of lunch first because I am hungry now. So, we'll decide once we are on our way. For lunch, we've come to the Namza restaurant.

I was told we would get to eat the local, traditional food here. So here we are. So, it is hot outside, so we are sitting indoors. Let's see what to order.

I have ordered 3 dishes for myself. This is Drapu. It is more famous in the western region of Ladakh. This texture looks different and gives the feel that I haven't eaten it before.

I was told this pasty gravy is made of two ingredients. One is akhrot (walnut) and the other is apricot, as is shown here - apricot kernels & akhrot. So, the Drapu is made using these two ingredients.

This is 'Khambir' and with it is 'Kabra.' It is basically 'Capers.' If one were asked to guess, a natural guess could be that this gravy has akhrot in it. But apricot would be difficult to guess. Capers is a new taste for me. It is a mix of two flavours. One is that of subtle garlic.

And another taste is that of tomatoes. It has a juicy taste! It has freshness. Now I am not aware whether they use it fresh or in dried form but... ...its taste is robust. This is an interesting dish. It is served with a soup on the side. And I was not expecting momos to be served with this pulao.

And its name is 'Yarkhandi pulao.' I asked them for more details on it. This dish is inspired by a place called 'Yarkhand' in modern-day China.

It originated there. During ancient times, traders from Yarkhand used to visit Ladakh for business. That is how this recipe ended up here. It has onions and peas on top and the bottom layer is of rice. And, of course, paneer (cottage cheese).

What flavours! These aren't the flavours of any spice. This flavour comes from certain herbs in it. Completely unexpected (experience)! When I ordered it, I expected a normal pulao with a few special ingredients thrown in. But this taste is simply amazing! Nice! Now, I am going to relish this food while finishing my meal. Then we'll continue sightseeing as we have the whole day, I mean, the whole second-half of the day with us. I have reached the 'Sindhu Ghat' now.

This is the Ghat with a lovely seating space built above it. This is a neat and clean Ghat. This board has information about when this Ghat was built.

Besides, it also has information about the holy river and the people who came here to pray. I can see two water streams here. This is one stream and the other one is across this span of land. We generally know this river by the name of Indus.

But the locals call it 'Sindhu' river. Let us walk up to there. We will watch the view and try to cross to the other side.

Look at how clean this river water is. There is a glacier at the Mansarovar lake called Bokhar Chu. I am talking of Tibet, from where this river originates. On its way here, we all know, how glaciers melt into streams and join the river.... ...before it enters Ladakh at Demchok. After that, this river continues to flow between the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges. But, it is closer to the Ladakh range geographically.

As the river is joined by more streams on its way, its grows in size. It proceeds towards Nimmoo where the Zanskar river joins it. From there, it enters Baltistan. Skardu is the name of the place where the Indus enters PoK. After that, this river flows through different parts of Pakistan's Punjab before entering Karachi.

In Karachi, this river drains into the Arabian Sea. Before draining into the sea, the Indus river also forms a very large delta. The total length of the Indus river is 2880 KM. 2..8..8..0! Out of this length, the Indus river flows in India for 1114 KM. Right now, we are standing at a place where the annual Sindhu Darshan Mela (fair) is organized.

The event attracts visitors from far-flung corners of the country as well as the world. Visitors come here mainly to worship this river. Visitors come here throughout the year but this special event was started in 1997.

It takes place every year in June. You all must know the Bollywood film, Dil Se, starring Shahrukh Khan. One of its sequences, I mean a scene, was recorded here.

And a song sequence of that movie was also recorded at another place, a little further from here. So nice! But I have to say this, I don't see any other tourist here right now. We've been here for 30 minutes now and I've seen just a couple more tourists. Didn't see many others. It may be because of lack of awareness, otherwise who wouldn't want to visit water bodies.

And this place is even better with this special Ghat built here. Good! We will leave here in another 10 minutes or so. Most of you may not be aware that the 'Pashmina' of Ladakh is quite famous. Since morning, I was trying to find out where we can check out good Pashmina.

And also understand the story behind this Pashmina. We got referred to a place on Library Road, which is where we are right now. This is Library Road. Right in the front, I can see a library called "Tashi Rabgais Library."

And there is a shop close to it called 'Lena'. L...E...N...A! Up there is written "Handicrafts Ladakh Pashmina." So, this is where, I was told, I would get all the information about Pashmina. Let's go in now.

Once I entered the shop, I came to know that LENA isn't the name of this shop. Pashmina is called 'Lena' in Ladakhi language. Now, we have with us here Chosdum. We met just 5-10 minutes ago. So, tell us a little bit about Pashmina.

As per our knowledge, the wool called Pashmina is mainly sourced from Ladakh. When I visited Kashmir recently, I came to know that the Pashmina sold there... ...is made from the raw material sourced from Ladakh. Now we are in Ladakh. So, can you help us understand the whole process.

How does it start and how it reaches the final product stage? So, Lena means Pashmina, as you said already. We have been doing this work for the past 7 years. All the products that you see here are made by hand. There are about 20-25 steps in which these handmade products are made. Really! The first step you see here in the photograph is called 'combing.' Combing is when the nomads extract wool from the goats.

So, the first thing would be that Pashmina is not coming from sheep, it is coming from goat. No, no, it is a special type of goat called 'Changra' goat. This goat is found in the Eastern part of Ladakh, called 'Changpa.' So, the goat hair isn't cut but combed.

Yes, it is combed. The second step is 'carding', which means cleaning. The third step is 'spinning', in which the thread is made. The thread is made from the wool.

The next step is 'twisting.' Twisting because in a garment, double thread is used. For that, the thread is hand-twisted to make it a double thread. Next step is 'warping', which means arranging the thread. The thread is arranged because it goes into the loom. This is the loom, it is called 'Flash Hitting Loom."

We have with us about 40 women artisans who work on different steps of this process. These artisans complete different steps. The last step is finishing. It involves cleaning the final product by hand. Because we don't use machines at any step.

Cleaning is done after the final product is made. Yes, that needs to be done. Do you wash it too? Yes, the cleaning is also done by hand, using Soapnut or 'reetha.'

It is also used to clean hair. Everything from cleaning, washing, packaging is done by us by hand. It is a wool display. It isn't Pashmina. In this shop, all the colours that you see are natural colours.

We use only plant-based dyes. Pashmina is a very expensive, very rare fibre. Pashmina is considered to be the best fibre in the world. It is considered to be a very good insulator. Yes! It is the best insulator! Yes! Yes! So, in these products, we use all natural dyes like indigo, madder, walnut, lac, etc.

Here, you see the final products in natural colors as well as dyed. There will be no difference in quality. Natural Pashmina comes in three colours. This is white, here is beige and on the border, you see grey. So these three coloured wool is sourced from three different types of goats.

Depending up on the wool colour! Yes! But everything is same quality-wise! Alright! Yes! Is this a shawl or a stole? This is the size of a shawl. You can try it. Except for the indigo border, all of it is in natural colour. Can I wrap it around? Yes, you can try it! What is its weight? Since these products are handmade, each one is of a unique weight! You can call this one 350 or 400 gms though it isn't mentioned here. 300 gms, 350 gms! That could be the average weight of a shawl. Its price is Rs 39,800. Yes! Quite expensive! Yes, because it is a very rare fibre in the world.

And its wool is very expensive! Last year, we bought this wool for Rs 16,000 a kilo. After that, you saw it is such an elaborate process. So, it is an art! It isn't like you are buying just a product.

You are buying art, you know! Do you also sell caps? Yes! We sell woven as well as knitted products. So, this is natural, knitted Pashmina product. This is dyed. So we also make neck-warmers. We make caps. We also make blankets, gloves, socks.

All this... These are the prices? Yes! Rs 3900 for this cap? Yes! This one is woolen and this is Pashmina. So, these are different products. These are neck-warmers. Yes! Show me the Pashmina cap. Yes, these are Pashmina caps.

When you touch it... You know the difference! When you touch wool and Pashmina at the same time, you get to know the difference. Yes, yes! This is in marigold colour.

What is its price? It is Rs 7000. Pretty expensive that way! Okay, again, it means Pashmina has been used in it. Yes, you can check its weight, it is hand-spun, and everything is done by hand. Yes! That is so nice! Sure! See, I am not going to buy anything yet.

Yes, sure! For now, we just wanted to learn about it out of curiosity. You told us about these goats found in Eastern Ladakh. Yes! Nomads do this job. Yes! So, we are going to visit the Pangong side.

Alright. So, there is a possibility that we can meet nomads there? Yes, yes! They can show us how they do this job practically! Yes, of course! Is there any way in which we can test Pashmina's purity? Like, one obvious method is lab test. Hmm! Some people even take a thread out of a final product, then burn it and check. Hmm! So, is that the right way? No Sir. Burning or anything like that isn't an authentic method to check its purity.

Only a lab test would show how pure or impure your product is. Alright. This means, we could mistake another natural product for Pashmina. Yes, yes! That happens! It was nice to be here and gain some knowledge. And, of course, the Ladakh Pashmina is famous.

And you got a GI tag recently? Yes, this year, Ladakh Pashmina received a GI tag. So, now everyone knows that Pashmina comes from Ladakh. And those who don't know will eventually learn. Yes! Nice to meet you! Thank you Sir! You gave us a lot of information about Pashmina in such a short duration.

Thank you! We are now going to watch the light and sound show. So, it should take us 15-20 minutes to reach the Hall of Fame. Yes! To reach there! Yes! That is right.

Great! We will now join you back in a short while. Thank you! Thanks a lot! Thank you! Thanks again! You say 'Juley' here? Juley is for hello, bye, everything. Hello, bye, all is Juley! Juley! Thank you! Thank you! I have come back after watching the light & sound show. The show was about 45 minutes long.

The show began with 1947 Partition! From partition to 2021, all the major events that have taken place.... ...either on the Jammu-Kashmir border or on the Ladakh side.... ...or towards the Northeast of the country, in Arunachal Pradesh... ...this show depicts how those events unfolded. How Pakistan army occupied certain border posts. How the Indian army retaliated. And also who were the bravehearts who went and reclaimed those posts. Like the '62 war, '71 war.

This show has information about all the wars fought by India. The show also tells about the recipients of Mahaveer Chakra, Paramvir Chakra. So, when you will visit Leh, I am sure you would come to the show as well. You can also visit the Hall of Fame, if you reach here early.

I wanted to visit here but I came to know only later that this show is only till 6 PM. So, the Hall of Fame is open till 6 PM. And the light & sound show is from 8 PM to 8.45 PM.

Its ticket counter opens at 7.30 PM. I had told you about this earlier. So, we are ending today's programme here. We'll end our day at the homestay because tomorrow we leave for Nubra valley.

The only thing we need to take care of is that our driver.... ...has been complaining of headache since this afternoon. So, I am going to discuss it and see what course of action to take. Even I won't want to travel with our driver especially if he has a headache. In this situation, we will spend one more day in Leh. Now, I am going to talk to the driver of our car. We will decide the rest of the tour based on what our driver feels.

Rest, we want to go to Nubra Valley. But still... That is what we would do if any one of us would fall sick.

Obviously, we would have stopped in Leh for one more day. So, in my opinion, same is the case with driver, etc too. Right! So, I am now saying bye-bye to you here.

We will meet again soon. Jai Hind! Thanks for your time! This is the best scene of today's journey. To watch this Sangam (meeting point) of rivers in between the mountains.

You can see the Indus river in front of you post the Sangam. It is an experience in itself.

2023-09-06 01:27

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