Just before my travel to Ladakh this August, I had read so many travel blogs in my quest to discover more about the place, the weather, important stuff to carry and what not. However much I read about the place, I didn’t feel prepared enough. Some articles spoke in details about the extreme temperatures, some about the altitude sickness and some spoke of the dangerous curves of the roads. Now back from Ladakh, here are some tips and suggestions from my personal experience; tips that I did not find in many articles but thought would be worth reading for anyone traveling to Ladakh:
1) Altitude sickness is for real, but don’t panic – The moment we arrived in Ladakh, there were announcements at the airport cautioning us to rest for the first 48 hours before we starting exploring the place. Everyone was telling us to have lots of water. Everyone was asking us to take complete rest the first day.
We did not rest the first day but were so exhausted by the end of it that we almost spent our second complete day at the hotel.
Yes, altitude and pressure related sickness is for real. But don’t panic. Keep having enough water. And rest adequately. The first day of rest goes a long way to keep the rest of the trip smooth.
2) Don’t try to tick mark everything in Leh – In Leh, there is something for everyone. Be it monasteries, shopping market, palaces or even military museums; Leh has it all. You would want to see almost all monasteries, do almost all the treks, roam around the market and do a lot of stuff.
But choose carefully on what are your places of interest. Avoid visiting 10 places and not soaking in either of them. Rather, be at one place and just be there. If you don’t understand Buddhism, visit a monastery or two. (In fact, guided tour of monastery would have been much better). Beyond that, you would feel bored. If you do not like shopping, do not go there only for the sake of it. Rather take a day out for a short trek.
You can skip Tsomoriri if you have been to Pangong – I found both mostly similar. Skip Tsomoriri and do Kargil-Drass instead. ( P.S. – This is a personal opinion. )
3) Food is overrated at some of the most popular places – During our week long stay, we tried almost all the happening eating joints at Leh. None really awed our taste buds. Food is really overrated at most eating joints. Even the hotels and camps serve exactly same food everyday. Towards the end of our trip, food was the most missed part of the trip. Even a good maggi was hard to come by.
Try Thukpa though!
P.S. – Try as many local foods as possible. Try Thukpa, stew and other local foods. Those should be good.
Also check your bills thoroughly when eating out. We had 2-3 instances where we were wrongly billed, from extra items in the bill to wrong calculations.
4) Focus less on technology and more on the nature – Capture as much as you can within your heart. Don’t focus too much on photography. No camera can capture the beauty of this place enough. On the network side, there would not be much connectivity. Stop worrying about being connected. Enjoy the solitude away from everything.
5) Paschima is a must buy . But how to choose – So many varieties of Paschima that it is impossible for someone to really know the difference. Each shopkeeper promises to be better than the earlier ones. Buy Paschima if you can find a local/guide to get you to an authentic shop.
6) Buy water bottles instead of drinking the camp water – Frequent change of water can cause stomach issues. Buy bottled water for the entire trip.
7) Carry full sleeves T-shirts as well, especially if traveling in August – Days get extremely hot. Wear clothes in layers. Carry a few full sleeves T-shirts as well, so you could remove the sweaters when needed. Sun-glasses, sun-screens are must.
8) Rafting cannot be skipped. It is the best part of the trip, especially when going with friends.
9) Airport is little chaotic – Take enough time at hand. The procedures at Leh airport are not well organized.
10) Choose your stays well – In Leh, prefer to stay in a hotel closest to the market. In other places, choose camps with attached washroom facilities.
Last, but not the least – Don’t rush on the roads, especially if on bikes. Drive carefully. Take spare hours as roads are unpredictable.
Must visit places – Hall of Fame (Leh), Dunes of Nubra, Pangong Lake, Khardungla pass.
Must eat – Thukpa
Most used word – Jullay (virtually everything in local language – hi/hello/thank you. Locals love it.)