LEH, a gorgeous historical Himalayan town in northern India, is one of the most spectacular destinations I’ve had the good fortune of visiting. If I had to bestow the title of heaven on earth to a place, Leh would certainly be a STRONG contender. And if it wasn’t so cold in Leh, I’d revel in the opportunity to sleep outside amidst the beauty of nature with a clear panoramic view of the stars. But considering the negative temperatures of Leh, especially in the winter months, a warm hotel is a must. I visited Leh in late February/early March with a group of friends and we didn’t plan a thing for our trip beforehand, hoping to keep the adventure quotient as high as possible. A man by the name of Sanju was standing outside the airport, waiting to reel in some travelers to his cozy little guest house. It was bone-chilling cold outside and we were exhausted from our early morning flight, so it didn’t take much to convince us. From the onset, he made us feel like family and during our three-day stay with him, we felt more like personal guests than paying customers. Even though it was almost spring, we felt like we were in the Arctic, and rightly so–our water bottles turned into solid ice overnight! While the hospitality of the place was unparalleled, the hotel itself could have used some revamping, including central heating and cleaner rooms/bathrooms. Sanju guided us throughout the entire area, shared personal anecdotes and historical tidbits about the region, made sure our choice of meals were ready at the time requested, hired our taxis, took us to the airport, treated us like family…so we could definitely overlook the shanty condition of the place. This time around for us, local culture trumped luxury travel.
HIGHLIGHTS from the trip: dancing flamenco atop the mountain; water bottles turning into solid ice overnight; feeling altitude sickness for the first time; watching the plane barely descend because of the high altitude, learning basic phrases and words in Ladakhi such as Julley (hello, goodbye, and sometimes can mean thank you); sampling all the local delicacies of the Tibetan cuisine; and sitting around the firepit sipping on chai and nibbling on momos
Here’s a small sample of photos from the trip…