Monday, January 18, 2016

Pangong Tso to Leh via Hemis Monastery, Shey and Stok Palace

Day 8 was our journey from Pangong Tso to Leh via Hemis Monastery, Shey and Stok Palace. We had planned to see the sunrise in the morning from Pangong lake but we were so deep in sleep that we completely forgot about the sunrise. Usually it happens quite early in Ladakh. It was around 4:00 to 4:30 AM that day and we woke up only after 5:30 AM. The view from the tent outside was extremely beautiful. The lake looked bluish-green again and it certainly was wonderful. We had roughly estimated the time to reach Leh so we had another hour to have breakfast and leave from Pangong Tso. It was an extremely lazed out morning for us because there weren't any major tourist attractions for that day, which we wanted to see, so we decided to keep our plans ad-hoc. We sat together outside our tent sipping hot tea and enjoyed the warmth of the morning sun. The chilling breeze and the calm view of the ethereal Pangong lake was like a balm on our tired souls. We felt extremely rejuvenated and relaxed after waking up on one such morning when we were going to be driven around again. All we had to do was to have a heavy brunch, pack our luggage and leave.

After making our good luck symbol at Spangmik we left, bidding happy good bye to the calm and the beautiful Pangong Tso. This process includes, stacking up stones in odd numbers.

The good luck symbol
The route was the same which we took while coming to Pangong. On our way back we stopped for a while to admire the cute Himalayan Marmots, who were seen either scurrying across from one burrow to the other or basking in the sun. They are quite commonly seen in the Himalayan and the Tibetan plateau region but very shy creatures.

The Himalayan Marmots

We travelled continuously for 3-4 hours and slept most of the time during the journey. After having delicious and warm breakfast one couldn't stay awake. The next stop was at Hemis Monastery at around lunch time.

Pangong Tso to Leh route

Pangong Tso to Hemis route

Pangong Tso to Hemis route

Hemis Monastery , is the largest monastic institution in Ladakh, founded in 1630 by the 1st Taktsang Repa, a great yogi of the Drukpa Lineage, under the patronage of King Sengge Namgyal. Hemis houses a great number of invaluable and historical cultural and religious artifacts, including images, scriptures and artwork. Every few years, a small and selected fraction of this priceless collection is put on display in the Hemis Museum, which was envisaged, designed and commissioned by the His Holiness the present Gyawang Drukpa, spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage. ( Courtesy : Going to every complex in the Hemis Monastery took time although we were quick to move around the place. There are 12 complexes inside the Monastery which are open for visitors.

After the Hemis Monastery visit we went to Shey Palace which is closer to Leh. It was around 3:00 PM, when we were at Shey Palace. After an exhausting ascend to the top of the palace through narrow and winding steps we realized that Shey Palace had nothing much left to be explored by tourists. The palace/monastery/gompa is all ruins now, which was once the King's palace. Not much had been done to maintain the palace and we did not find anything interesting to see except for the view. There is only a small Buddhist temple inside the complex on top. Initially, the monastery was noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha.

Near Shey palace and on the opposite side of the road is the Thiksey Monastery which looks majestic, old and beautiful but we were so disappointed after going to Shey Palace that we did not want to repeat the same experience. If you have time , you should visit Thiksey Monastery.

We couldn't go to Thiksey Monastery so I am posting some of the pictures which Yd took during his visit to Thiskey Monastery in 2012.

Thiksey Monastery

                                                             Thiksey Monastery
En route Leh - Taken in 2012

So, based on our driver's suggestion we went to Stok Palace, in stead which was our last place of visit for the day.

Stok Palace is the place where the the King and the Queen of Ladakh, that is the Royal family currently live. There is a part of the palace/monastery which is left for tourists to explore and a part where no one is allowed. The quest to know about the ancient life of the royal families in Ladakh brought us here and it was an informative tour. The tour guide was one of the staff from the palace who worked for the royal family living there. We enjoyed our evening cup of tea/coffee at the open terrace restaurant in the palace. While we were heading towards Leh, we finally got a call from Apoorv and Tom saying that they would meet us in Leh, in our hotel after they got Tom's bike repaired. We were relieved to hear a positive response from them after a long time. Having been out of contact and not knowing anything about them for days together, had left us very anxious. We wanted to meet them before we left for Bangalore. We reached our hotel in Leh at around 6:00 PM. It was quite late for us to visit the Leh Palace so we had to skip that visit but it is a must visit in Leh.  I would prefer travellers to include Leh Palace in Day 1 of their travel itinerary when they visit Leh, Ladakh.

While we waited for Apoorv and Tom we packed our bags and kept them ready for the next day. We would have to leave for the airport by 7:00 AM, the next day. Finally, we got to meet Apoorv and Tom and were able to listen to their travel adventure which was more tiring and extensive that ours. We decided to have dinner La Piazzetta, which apparently was a good joint for dinner. Meanwhile, the guys returned the bikes to Apex Adventures and joined us for dinner.

We walked to the restaurant chit-chatting on a cold evening through the same lanes which seemed strange to us eight days back. In just eight days the place seemed just like ours. Fort road, Leh was just like the lane leading to our house and Hotel Druk was like a home-stay we owned in Ladakh. We had become so used it that it was difficult to say good bye to this magical land. Dinner wasn't that great but it was an evening well spent in good company of friends and a cozy ambiance.

A hazy but a memorable picture 

The morning after was a beautiful see-you- soon good bye to Ladakh.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My mantra for turning good mornings to gold ones

My morning became gold when I used the Colgate 360° Charcoal Gold toothbrush gifted as a beautiful hamper from Colgate for the #Colgate360GoldMornings contest. Thanks a lot Colgate for sending us such a wonderful hamper.


My good mornings always begin with a cup of piping hot coffee. But before I let this exercise begin I need to brush because I am not someone who prefers to have coffee or tea without brushing. So a good brush like the Colgate 360° Charcoal Gold helped me is starting my day with a better oral hygiene. That doesn't mean all this while the toothbrush that I have been using it not good. I have always been choosy in picking up a good toothbrush because I sometime brush with my eyes closed and also doze off for seconds while brushing. If the brush is not soft, my gums get hurt accidentally and I end up with bleeding gums or with mouth ulcers. After that episode even an aromatic coffee doesn't taste good. So I have always stuck to Sensodyne toothbrush. But when I tried the Colgate 360° Charcoal Gold brush it solved most of my problems. The toothbrush is light and sleek to handle. It comes in two colours- Blue and Pink. It is easy to differentiate from my husband’s who prefers to use the same brand as mine. The brush works strongly on the teeth and is delicate on the gums. Just feels like it is massaging the gums, which is really helpful for proper blood circulation. For a change, it helped me clean the corners of my mouth and inner side of cheeks without getting hurt and also without mouth ulcers. It goes to all corners and works softly on the delicate zones in the mouth. The best part of all this is that I don’t get hurt while I am doing this exercise in the midst of a slumber.

Once I brush, my good morning has already turned into gold. It helps me stay fresh for the entire day. I have at least one liter of water every day after brushing and before having my coffee. It helps in cleansing my whole system. Post that, I spend at least ten minutes to think about the proceedings for the day. It helps me plan my day better. It can be even what I need to cook for the entire day. Once my day is planned I sit down in the balcony, breathe in fresh air and have a warm cup of coffee with my husband. That’s how my day begins and this routine makes me feel calm the entire day and has helped me in turning my good morning into gold mornings.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Ugly Indian- Painting UFO's and #SpreadingTheVibe

When I read all the stories in Youth Ki Awaaz, I couldn't help but share the journey of this organization  - The Ugly IndianTheir work started even before the Swachch Bharath abhiyan had been flagged off by our Honourable Prime Minister. They are an anonymous group of  Indian citizens who work their way in maintaining the cleanliness of the namma city ;Bengaluru'  in different ways. They clear up garbage, they clean areas and all this is done as a voluntary work. Their motto is :  Kaam chalu mooh bandh, which means - Stop Talking, Start Doing. 

The dirty pillars of the flyover.    Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian
Any citizen interested to contribute to the maintenance of the city is invited to join their group. Once they accept our request, we would get updates from them to volunteer for the work they have at hand. They have been doing a lot of cleaning around work but the most interesting part of their work started in the year 2015. 

They were successful in their mission of painting 250 pillars of the flyovers in Bangalore from being dirty and neglected places into beautiful models. 

You can find the news link here : TOI- The Ugly Indian. This was their UFO/ Under the Flover Project which they undertook and turned the pillars under these flyovers into beautiful places. The government has built many flyovers in the city but they are the most neglected. The pillars merely turn out to be places where posters are stuck layer after layer. They get torn and tattered and no one bothers about them. The area around these pillars had become a garbage dumping ground and shelter for those who were homeless. The ugliness of the flyovers were making it difficult for pedestrians to even go across them. There were many uncouth citizens found urinating on these pillars which had just been the most neglected part of the majestic flyovers. Even the BBMP authorities have appreciated this move well. Many flyovers like the one in Domlur have been given a fresh look. You can find the news here : DNA- Domlur Flyover gets a makeover

The Ugly Indian Team at work - Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian.

Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian.

Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian

Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian

Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian

Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian
Their work started by scraping out all the posters that had been put up on the wall and then repainting them. The design, choice of colour has been made with a lot of care and anyone who visits Bangalore now will really feel this change in Namma Bengaluru's flyovers. They were in the news in 2015 for this major project that they had undertaken and successfully completed. By the end of 2015 the beautiful, picturesque flyovers had been dedicated to the citizens of Bangalore. Now the wait at traffic signals will not be that much of a pain when one looks at the colourful and extremely creatively done pillars of these flyovers. You can read more about them here : The Third Metric.  Along with the Ugly Indian this project was initiated by Jaaga and they named it UFO. You can read more about their work here : Deccan Herald.

TOI- Jaaga, The Ugly Indian has rightly documented the response of the citizens to this major project. Everyone is happy and the best part of these organizations is that they involve citizens of Bangalore. The people living here are more than happy to preserve the look of the city and prevent it from turning into the neglected one. 

Based on their previous projects, few more projects have been taken up with support from BBMP( Bruhat Bengaluru Mananagarapalike). 

When organizations like these come up such innovative ideas that can help in changing a city, it must be known to all and I am sure there will be much more done to preserve the beauty of my city Bengaluru. 

The change- Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian- Published in Jan 2016

Before and After- Published in Jan 2016, Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian
Picture Courtesy : The Ugly Indian- Published in Jan 2016

Leh to Pangong Tso- The last and the most relaxed part of our trip in 2015

Travelling to Pangong Tso( Lake) and back was the last leg of our Ladakh trip. After riding for six days continuously in tough terrains and post the Tso Moriri experience we all wanted to relax and enjoy our last part of the trip. We were not ready for any more adventures in our trip. If you are wondering what adventures I am talking about then do read the following links which describe in detail about my Leh-Ladakh travelogue. 

In reverse order : 

I was planning to write about this trip in 2015 but kept postponing it for some reason or the other. Well.... there cannot be a better beginning to the New Year 2016!!!!

Travelling to Pangong Tso and back was the most relaxed part of our trip. Day 7 was the journey from Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La. After returning from Khardung La on Day 6 we spent an entire evening discussing about the options to go to Pangong Tso. Finally, at midnight it was confirmed by Dawa that the six of us would be going in an Innova to Pangong Tso. There was no tension of taking the bikes on a camper or worrying about any untoward bike breakdowns. Yd was looking forward to this trip because he wasn’t able to visit Pangong Tso during his last visit to Ladakh in 2012. Our accommodation was booked by Dawa in Camp RedStart, Spangmik, Pangong Tso area. You can find my Review in TripAdvisor about CampRedStart

Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La pass

We left from Leh in the morning, at around 7:00 AM as we wanted to have breakfast in the same Punjabi dhaba before leaving for Pangong Tso. For a change, there was someone else driving us around and we could have a power nap during the journey. We were sleepy and drowsy till we were getting close to Chang La. The car was also comfortable and so was our driver. We had to cross Shey and Thiksey monastery to reach Pangong and a deviation from Karu to reach there after submitting the permit form to reach Chang La. It is at a height of 17,590 ft and one of the highest motorable roads. Chang La pass is the gateway to the Changthang plateau of the Himalayas. 

The route was similar to Khardung La but did not seem so difficulty because we were in a car and our driver was an expert. Slowly, as we ascended we started feeling a little nauseated. Our head felt heavy but we managed to overcome the symptoms by taking short naps. It also started getting colder and colder as we ascended. We couldn’t stop there for more than 10-15 minutes. There were snow clad mountains around and the breeze was cool. We warmed ourselves with a cup of tea and immediately moved ahead. Bouts of headache had already started making us feel uneasy. It was bound to happen at that height. As we slowly descended down we started feeling normal. I slept through the journey for some more time until the picturesque scenery around started. The route was good and the vivid colours of nature which we saw made us stay awake till we reached Pangong Tso. The azure blue sky, the reddish-golden-brown soil and the mountains, patches of green meadows with wild and domestic horses grazing around, pristine blue-white flowing water, gushing and making its way past the stones and rocks was a sight to behold. The sun was shining bright yet there was a whiff of cold air that hit our face. We couldn't just pass this location without clicking pictures. 

Yd was too eager to go and put his feet in the ice cold water. I was obviously pulled along :-P  The water was too cold and our feet froze for seconds but slowly it felt wonderful.It was such a romantic location that we felt like spending hours together sitting hand in hand there, holding hands with our feet dipped in ice cold water. But. we had to move ahead as we had to reach Pangong Tso by afternoon. The surroundings were similar throughout the next part of our journey, till we reached Pangong Tso. We had to pay an entry fee for the Drikung Kagyut Shargon Phuntsok Chosling ( Shachukul Monastery) which is located in the Changthang plateau near Pangong Tso and has taken an initiative to preserve the lake and maintain cleanliness of the Pangong Lake. 

As we moved further and were nearing Pangong lake, the terrain started changing. The mountains started opening up and from a narrow hilly region  it became more like a wide plateau. The roads were narrow and the path a little uneven. The soil around was now whitish grey in colour and had more pebbles. It looked as if the river bed/snow water bed had dried and left only cement colour silt around and it was dry everywhere with sparse vegetation.  We could see a bluish coloured water body between two huge mountains. At one point we got confused whether it was the sky or the Pnagong lake whose colour merged with each other. We entered the Spangmik village area with the Pangong lake spread along the left. Before we went to our camp we stopped over to just absorb the colours around and looked at the majestic Pangong lake. It was guarded by colourful mountains on the opposite side.Our eyes scanned the vastness of the lake, although only 25% of which is in India. The rest 75% extends into China. It is around 130 km in length and at a height of 13,940 ft. It is a salt water endoheric lake and just like Tso Moriri, it freezes during winters. Despite the salty water, we could see vegetation around. There were wild rose plants growing in tall thick bushes. They were single layered 5 petal roses. The light-dark pink roses added to the beauty of the otherwise barren land. 

It was a little more commercial and attracted more tourists when compared to Tso Moriri. Mainly because of the movies and the Bollywood songs that have been filmed here. You can find the list here : Pangong Tso.

We had lunch at one of the camp restaurants there and to our surprise, we found that many of the restaurants there, were named as the 3 Idiots restaurant or Punsukh Wangdu restaurant. We manged to have noodles, Thugpa, bread omelette, fried rice for lunch but nothing tasted good. Although lunch was putting off, we weren't put off by the view of Pangong Tso. As we sat in the restaurant having lunch, we could see that the lake was changing colour every minute. When we were outside it looked brown, at times it looked blue, from the tent it looked greenish blue or brownish at times. We were confused with the kind of colours that the lake was reflecting into our eyes. It seemed so magical, just to look at those amazing colours. It reflected the colours of the mountain, at times the blue colour of the sky, at times it showed a greenish blue tinge because of the flora-fauna in it. We spent close to two hours walking along the lake. The surprise element was the soft sand around the lake. Yd forced me again to get into the water barefoot and try walking in the cold water. I was initially hesitant looking at his expressions but later joined him. My feet froze and the lake bed was not smooth. It was full of pebbles. They were pricking my feet but the water was so cold that it masked the pricking sensation because of the pebbles. It took us ten minutes to feel normal and once we  adapted to the temperature of the water we felt so comfortable that we walked to another corner wading through the water, hand in hand. It was the best walk I had taken with Yd. 

We made Deepa and Spiti also remove their slippers and get into the water to experience the same. The rest of the time we just spent in clicking pictures like any tourist would do. The trip was turning out to be the perfect and relaxing part of our holiday. We walked at leisure to the our car and went to Camp RedStart, where our accommodation had been booked. The best part of this camp was that it was very close to the lake. We could just walk across to the lake and sit by in the evening. It was around 4:00 PM when we settled in our respective tents, The tents were extremely well kept and had also provided thick quilts to keep us warm. It was one of the best tents I had been to. The breeze was getting colder and colder. Warm tea and snacks like sandwich and pakoras for the evening were very welcoming for us. We rested for a while and went to the lake again to enjoy its beauty in the evening. The weather had changed completely by then, from a bright sunny morning to a chilly evening. We returned to our tents when it became dark. After taking out some time to relax and clear our head from all the adventures of the previous days we headed for dinner. Food which was served by them was warm, tasty, freshly cooked and helped in keeping us warm. They had also arranged bonfire for us after dinner. It was a wonderful time we had, discussing about our travel so far and slowly the realization had also sunk in that we had to leave for Bangalore, the day after. We had a cosy and relaxed sleep, thanks to the bonfire and the thick quilts. What more could have one asked for? You wake up in the morning to the view of the surreal Pangong lake.