7 Surprising Things I Discovered About Ladakh
Ladakh hits you with a force. The impact of which makes travellers forget all travel advice, and leaves them chanting just one thing, ‘Ladakh is beautiful, you have to go there’. But when you travel 11,500 feet above sea level, you discover that Ladakh is more than just beautiful. Here are eight obvious and very important things no one tells you about Ladakh. First hand, by Sarah Merchant
#1 Ladakh Leaves You Breathless, Literally!
As soon as you step off the plane and enter the airport, a pre-recorded voice instructs you to rest for at least 24 hours, eat well and not indulge in any physical activity on the first day. No, they don’t fancy keeping you indoors, it just makes acclimatisation easier. But it’s not just on day 1 that you feel breathless. The entire time you are in Ladakh, the rarefied air makes minor activities like jumping, dancing or excess talking (I tried that) make you feel as if you have just run a marathon.
But don’t you worry, everything can be fixed with water. Just remember to carry a bottle around EVERYWHERE!
#2 Leh City Is Crowded
You come to Ladakh looking for peace and mountains, instead you get a scene similar to home. Traffic, bustling markets, blaring horns and crowded eating places greet you in Leh city. It’s just like home but with less oxygen.
Solution? Book your accommodation away from the city. Thiksey is a great place to stay with uninterrupted peace and gorgeous views of the mountains and the monastery. And just in case you have impromptu city cravings, you can always hop into a car and you’ll be at the main market in 3o minutes.
#3 It’s Okay To Not Visit Pangong
Ladakh does not start and end with Pangong. Every place here is gorgeous. There are secret lakes and spots that are waiting to be discovered. All I’m saying is that Pangong is beautiful, but don’t centre your trip around the lake. Venture out, explore and discover spots that you can call your own…places without tourists, and photo bombing visitors who interrupt your peace. Pure bliss!
#4 Ladakh is Hot
When Katy Perry sang, “You are hot and you are cold” to a scrawny teenager, she might as well have sung it to Ladakh because this place has serious issues with the weather! It’s one place where you can get frost-bitten and sun- burnt at the same time. And no one ever tells you that! What they do tell you is about how cold Ladakh can get, and how you should carry your thermals. But what about the scorching heat that usually accompanies the cold winds? Nada!
Here’s my advice, stuff all your sun hats, sun glasses and sunscreens (minimum SPF 50) in your suitcase.
#5 Prepaid Phones Don’t Work In Ladakh
You recharge your net pack, refill your balance, all in the hope of staying in contact with your family and loved ones. You start dreaming about your social media status updates and check-ins even before you’ve landed in Ladakh. But stop right there! Prepaid phones don’t work in Ladakh. Even the postpaid phones lose connectivity after you leave Leh city. Only BSNL works here. Your only savior is the hotel Wi-Fi.
#6 “Julley” Is The Magic Word
People say, visit Ladakh for the dramatic sky, the terrain and the landscape. I say, visit Ladakh for the locals. Not only do they have beautiful facial features, but they have beautiful hearts too. I mean where else will a person hand over their bike keys to a random stranger who promises to return it within an hour? Just say the magic word “Julley” and the whole of Ladakh will become your best friend! The smile that accompanies the word is enough to warm you on a chilly day.
FYI: “Julley” roughly translates into Hello, Thank You, You Are Welcome and I Don’t Know Ladakhi, among other things.
#7 Ladakh Is Traditional And Modern
The network here may be slow, but the people aren’t! While age-old culture and tradition is still very prominent, there are traces of modern changes here and there. The new generation has wholeheartedly accepted change, and they follow all the latest fashion trends, listen to all your favourite musicians and the markets house all the famous brands. So, if you come here expecting a scene out of a Bollywood movie where you’re the clued-in superstar to the locals, prepare to be disappointed!
That’s Ladakh for you! If you’re looking for some peace and quiet away from the city, Thiksey and Diskit are great places to head to.
Words: Sarah Merchant
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