11 nights in Ladakh: Places to visit

What’s the magic word? Julley! Ladakhis say ‘Julley’ to express ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Thank you’ and it’s that one word that helps create a bond between two strangers in this mysterious land. A paradise on earth for mountain lovers, Ladakh is located at the crossroads of many civilizations mainly inhabited by Indo-aryans and Tibetans. Due to its fragile location in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military has a prominent presence and maintains a symbiotic relationship with the locals.

Ladakh is surrounded by the majestic snow-capped Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges amidst several sightings of melting glacier water flowing into streams and beautiful monasteries.

  • Hotel Dragon

Pangong Tso

Super windy, Pangong Tso is a beautiful lake, only a part of which is situated in Ladakh. The lake is at a height of 14,270 ft and is 134 km long, 60% of which extends to China. Enroute to Pangong, we crossed Chang la, a high mountain Pass situated at 17,590 feet. People crossing this area are expected to experience shortness of breathe and are therefore advised to take diamox before the onset of their journey to Ladakh. Thankfully, a small army unit located here readily helps passersby by checking their vitals.

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    Enroute Pangong Lake, just the most beautiful view of wild horses in the valley.

Finally, we reached Pangong Tso after 6 hours of tough terrain, low oxygen levels leading to two stops at army camps and constant headache. Was it worth it? I’ve always believed we’re on the planet to appreciate nature. And to be in the presence of the majestic mountains around Pangong Tso was only possible after nature tested our bodies and patience.

Tso Moriri

This was one of the most memorable road trips in Ladakh. A truly amazing, picturesque view after view, mountain after mountain. Landscapes change with every turn, we were able to see Ladakhi wildlife. The list included Kiang (Tibetan wild ass), Marmot (large squirrels), Yaks, herds of sheep and even wild fox. Don’t forget to take a ton of sunscreen for Tso Moriri is at a height of 14,836 feet.

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    The most picturesque view enroute Tso Moriri aka Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve

Khardung La Pass, Nubra Valley, Siachin Glacier

To reach Nubra Valley, travelers have to cross Khardung la pass which is at a height of 17,582 feet. Similar health problems to that felt in Chang la pass can be seen in travelers here. Like the rest of Ladakhi area, Nubra is known as a high altitude cold desert.

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    Khardungla Top!

I was fortunate enough to see the Siachin Base Camp. This is the second largest glacier and is manned by the Indian Army. Infamous for its territorial dispute, Pakistan has previously tried to take advantage of the ambiguity. Through operation Meghdoot, the Indian army took charge of the key bases around this area in 1984. This move has been the most courageous act by the Indian army in the highest battlefield of the world.

Have a look at a few snippets of my trip.

Side note: On 20th May, we headed to Nubra Valley, Ladakh, one of the stops on our trip. In Hunder, we witnessed the double humped camels being abused by their “caretakers”. This was done by: Using the camels to make money from tourists. Camels were controlled through ropes piercing their nose. These ropes were tugged on… Read more, view the video of the camels, and PLEASE sign the petition. These animals DO NOT have a voice, please give 2 minutes of your time to bring this inhumane treatment of these camels to light.

Dunagiri – The Land of Mysterious Mountains

On a recent trip we went to Dunagiri  (also called Drongiri and Doonagiri) to a place called Dunagiri Retreat which is at an astounding height of 8,000 feet surrounded by lush forest overlooking scenic snow peaks. Its situated 400 km North of Delhi,  and it takes about 10-11 hours to reach.

The retreat offers organic vegetarian food, fireside dining, inspiring walks and treks to the nearby mountains, and modern bathroom facilities in the middle of nowhere. It truly is an amazing location, with a beautiful view.

When we met the owner of the retreat, it was revealed to us that the place was famous for its temple of Shakti known there as Dunagiri Devi. Apparently, this location is where “Bharat”,  the son of Shakuntala, was born. The mountains were said to have special energy.

In one of our conversations with the owner, we shared that almost every night we randomly woke up between 3 and 4 AM, which he found to be normal since that was the time “Mata ki chowki” landed on the adjacent mountains.  On one of two days I spent there, I even stumbled upon a medium-sized snake, and when we shared this with the owner, to my surprise he found it rather odd. Why? Because he has been living there for years and never once saw a snake in his campus. Weird, right?

Here are a few pictures from my trip. (all self clicked, some edited via snapseed app)

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I got really tired after a trek
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Dunagiri retreat
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A common sight, clouds envelope the mountains

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China: All Work No Play?

I’m not going to lie. I’m biased towards China. The country where I learnt my first foreign language is truly my second home. It’s no surprise that China is one of the top most frequently visited destinations among travelers either for work or pleasure. The country offers everything- exotic locations to never-heard-before delicious cuisine.

Studying in China I assumed there were more Russians but according to the latest Expat Insider 2014 – the InterNations Survey, you’ll find more Americans, Germans and British people as compared to any other nationality.

While the language remains a huge barrier, except some of the locations where the number of expats is high, the rest of China is either reluctant to accept foreigners or it simply does not want anything to do with them. I don’t entirely blame them, there have been a number of cases where rowdy expats have upset the locals or when, in contrast, fanatic Chinese natives find it extremely hard to adjust to “aliens”. So, it’s not shocking that China falls in 52nd place out of 60 when it comes to judging it on the basis of “Ease of settling” into the country.

When it comes to cost of living, China isn’t so bad. This fact in itself is reason enough as to why many expats decide to move here in the first place. But because of factors like “family life” and “quality of life”, China finds itself on the 38th position out of 61 in the overall index ranking. Not everyone has a fairytale love story like Sara Jaaksola.

To be able to find love in China, get married, gel with the in-laws seems tough- all thanks to respective cultures which stand poles apart. My best friend from Beijing, a Hungarian who recently married a Chinese, is proof enough to conclude- your nationality or not, a mother-in-law stays a mother-in-law.

If you find the numbers I mentioned in this article interesting, do find time to check out the rest of the InterNation Survey 2014.

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image source: flickr/sunlightfoundation

Take A Seat: China Is Bringing The Future To You

Although according to the economist China says 2014 trade growth may lag last year’s rate, there is so much the Chinese are looking forward to adding to their wow list in 2014.
As part of an ambitious development plan, a new district is being constructed in the city China’s Hunan Province, and its focal point will be a sinuous, Mobius strip-style pedestrian bridge that arcs over Meixi Lake. With a span of 490ft (150metres) and a height of 79ft (24metres), the undulating bridge incorporates a variety of routes at different levels and its looped design also references traditional Chinese knots, which are used in decorative Chinese folk art. Conceived by Amsterdam-based firm Next Architects, the Changsha bridge is one of a number of confirmed and proposed distinctive bridges this year.

 

More Shopping

SkyMall is mostly a catalog of the utterly useless and completely extravagant that we may pull out of the seat pocket in front of us when we’re cruising at 36,000 feet, out of sheer boredom. And it just so happens that the Chinese are adding fairly low priced cars, at around 100,000 yuan ($16,000) to that list. Although there is a small percentage that does, it’s still rare to buy a car without first taking it for a test drive.
For Chinese consumers, who are just becoming accustomed to the thought of owning personal vehicles, the percentage may be significantly higher.
Particularly interesting is the fact that flight attendants will be educated about the details of each model. Passengers may even qualify for discounts, just for buying in the sky, all to encourage passengers to purchase.