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"A one-time highly flourishing trade center along the historic Silk Route, Leh has forever been romancing with awe and mystery. With enough fantasmical elements to conjure up a swashbuckling story by someone like Robert E. Howard, this city spins a web of attractions that you would seldom find anywhere else. With colorful prayer flags fluttering on rooftops, lofty mountains walling the city (as if) from foreign winds, sprawling valleys cradling opulent meadows of green, mud brick houses that seem to emerge right off the face of the mountains, a silence broken only occasionally by somber ritualistic chants – Leh is your earthly ground for a cosmic experience. It is here that you will break your shackles from the outside world and become a wanderlust meanderer. "

History

Much of Leh’s history came to light only after the Tibetan prince Skyid lde nyima gon (Nyima gon) established the kingdom during the late 10th century. However, it’s also certain that the region had been a trade route for the Tang dynasty and even ostensibly known to have been active as early as the Kushan period. One of the grandsons of the anti-Buddhist Tibetan king Langdarma, Nyima gon contributed to the growth of the city by setting up various castles and towns, including Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakhi royalty. He described this move, which was in complete contrast to his grandfather’s beliefs, as his efforts to provide religious mileage to his ancestral dynasty, the Tsanpo.

Interestingly, religious coexistence, especially between Buddhism and Islam, existed even before that during the prevalence of the Namgyal dynasty in the eight century. During this period a harmonious Ladakhi society thrived with both the communities displaying a deep religious tolerance for each other. It was only when political considerations crept in that harmony gave way to differences. Several social efforts to subdue this unwanted change pursued for long and the most recent and influencing one came in the form of the Dalai Lama’s appeal for religious pluralism in 2003.

The Islamic character of Leh, a region in the Mughal province of Kashmir, took shape in the later half of the 17th century when the Kashmir Nawab demanded the construction of a big Sunni mosque in exchange for helping Delegs Namgyal, the then ruler, in averting a Mongol invasion. Thus began a compromised harmony of two religions, which was easily evident through an unusual blend of both Tibetan and Islamic forms of architecture used in the mosque for one. This mosque was built below the Leh Palace, which was constructed by King Sengge Namgyal around the first quarter of the 17th century. However, even this discernable courting wasn’t destined to last for long because Kashmiri forces stormed the palace in the mid 19th century and forced the royal family to abandon it. The family moved south and set up their residence in Stok Palace in the Indus Valley, which still continues to be the official royal residence even though the royal family is no more there.

Getting Around

Leh isn’t a place that’s big enough to make you dependent on transport facilities. You can easily trek your way around most of the attractions at a leisurely pace. In fact, people enjoy trekking rather than hopping on any possible transport vehicle, which is why taxis are available only for the purpose of traveling to the airport.
Tourist Traps in the City

Leh has its fair share of tourist traps and it owes its prevalence to the growing influx of visitors every year.

Kashmiri shops and shopkeepers are the ones you need to be careful about. You are likely to be quoted steep prices for any commodity that you see there, including Pashmina shawls and blankets. Don’t hesitate to bargain aggressively. Beware of fake Thangkas as well. For antique and original ones, try the Tibetan art centers.

When hiring taxis to nearby places of attraction like Nubra Valley, Sumur, Panamik and Diskit, make yourself very clear about what you want. Some drivers would promise a comfortable ride with a maximum of five people but would cram up about 10 in the vehicle. Talk to the taxi stand operator and reach a mutual agreement before starting.


Local Custom

People in Leh are a very peaceful lot and sensitive to cultural and religious issues. Try not to hurt their sentiments by doing something that they disapprove of. Always take prior permission before you click pictures of people, especially monks and lamas.
Ladakhi people are known for their hospitality. Acceeelings.

Shey Thiksey and Hemis Monasteries

Shey Thiksey and Hemis Monasteries - BindaasTravel.com

Just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away towards the south of Leh, the Shey Palace sits silently atop a hillock at an elevation of 3,415 meters (11,204 feet). Located in the upper Indus Valley, the Shey Palace was built by King Deldan Namgyal (aka Lhachen Palgyigon) in 1655 to serve as a summer retreat for the Ladakhi kings. He added the Shey Monastery within the palace complex in the same year to honor his departed father, Singay Namgyal. The monastery houses a 12 meters (39 feet) high gilded copper statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in a seated posture, which is presumably the second largest in Ladakh. Although the palace is mostly in ruins today, one can still visit the monastery with the permission of the lone lama who resides here. The statue is flanked by wall paintings of all the 16 Arhats on both sides of it and occupies three levels of the monastery. The palace complex witnesses the celebration of two festivals every year. The festival of Shey Doo Lhoo, representing the opening of the sowing season is held on the 26th and 27th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar (July-August), with monastic rituals including prophecy revelations. The festival of Shey Rupa on the other hand signifies the harvest season and witnesses the performance of the Rhupla Dance among others

Spituk Phyang

Spituk Phyang - BindaasTravel.com

How far do you think you have to go to be cut off from your usual life for a while and plug in a constant wave of tranquil thoughts? How difficult is it to embrace spiritual peace when you have your hands full with all kinds of earthly responsibilities? Not very difficult if you could have heard the eminent translator Rinchen Zangpo forecast the development of an exemplary monastic community in an 11th century monastery, thus spawning the name Spituk, which literally means exemplary. The very first feeling that will overcome you when you behold the Spituk Monastery is an overwhelming calmness that you had longed for all your life. And that’s because monastic life here is an example for others to follow if only to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Located about 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) away from Leh, the Spituk Monastery was established by Od-de, the older brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od, and was administered under the Kadampa sect initially. With time and the supervision of Dharmaraja Takspa Bum, the monastery’s administration soon converted into the Gelugpa order and still continues to do so. This tri-chapel designed monastery has a huge collection of antique thangkas, masks of deities, weapons and images of Lord Buddha and Amitayus, besides a high throne for the Dalai Lama in the Dukhang (main temple). A special attraction of the monastery is the Gustor Festival, which is celebrated from the 27th to 29th day of the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar and witnesses various dance performances by the monks

Surface

Leh can be reached either through Manali in the south or Srinagar in the west, both of which are uniquely adventurous. The road from Srinagar to Leh is around 434 kilometers (270 miles) and smoother because of the lower (safer) altitude. State transport operated ordinary and deluxe buses ply through this route, stopping overnight at Kargil and charge anywhere between rupees 370 to rupees 470. The ride from Manali to Leh, which also takes two days, stopping overnight at Keylong for a tent stay is more adventurous. With tent stay, dinner and breakfast included in the cost, HPTDC operated deluxe buses will charge you around rupees 1800, stopping momentarily at various passes so you can enjoy the scintillating views.

Alternatively, shared taxis and jeeps can also be hired from Manali and will cost you around rupees 1000, although the continuous ride of almost 24 hours will wear you out. From Srinagar taxis/jeeps will take you till Kargil for rupees 500 and you will have to stay overnight there. From Kargil you can take another jeep/taxi to Leh for rupees 400.

For the more adventurous travelers, bikes are available on rent and will cost you anywhere between rupees 500 a day for an Enfield to rupees 350 for others like Yamaha and Bajaj Pulsar. Check out the garages and around the main bazaar for these bikes.

Train

The nearest railhead from Leh is at Udhampur. Jammu and Pathankot are other options. Regular train services from Delhi and many other cities to these stations are easily available. However, it will easily take more than a couple of days to reach Leh from any of the two stations by road.

Air

Air India, Kingfisher and Jet Airways connect the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport with Delhi and most cities of India. Although the flight services are regular, the unpredictable weather conditions, especially around winters can give way to delayed and cancelled flights.

Hotel Dragon

Hotel Dragon - BindaasTravel.com

The hotel is centrally located in Ladakh offering all basic amenities to its guests. Accommodation at the Hotel is available in the spacious 32 rooms with attach bath offering hot and cold running water facility. The restaurant serves some mouth watering delectable Indian, Chinese, Continental and Mughlai dishes. 24 hrs coffee shop, well equipped bar, 24 hrs room service, swimming pool and much more is offered at the Hotel Dragon

Hotel Shambha-la

Hotel Shambha-la - BindaasTravel.com

Situated in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir, the Shambha-la hotel is a mere 3 kms away from the airport and one kilometer away from the town. The 106 rooms including Superior, Deluxe, Suite rooms at the hotel offers comfortable and luxurious accommodation to all its guests. Amenities such as heated rooms, Ladakhi, Chinese, Western, and Indian cuisine. Library.ISD / STD all together make your stay at the hotel a unique experience. The Hotel also does complete arrangement for sightseeing/trekking. All rooms have attached bath, with running hot and cold water. The hotel is open from 1st May to October end.

Hotel Laser Mo

Hotel Laser Mo - BindaasTravel.com

The hotel is centrally located at a walking distance from main market, tourist centre, Airlines office, Taxi Stand, General Post Office. Accommodation is available in the 21 well-appointed double rooms with wall-to-wall carpets. All the rooms offer Attach Bath with shower running hot & cold water. Laundry Service. Pool Table & Central Heating add to your comfortable stay at the hotel. The Luxurious Ladakhi style Dinning hall/Restaurant offers some mouth-watering dishes from its multi cuisine menu. Doctor on call, Parking Facility, Beautiful Garden/Lawn, Money Exchange facilities are some other services offered by the resort.

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