UBC Day 22 : A Memorable Trip to Ladakh

Ambi Pur Perfect Road Trip - Runner-up

Holiday means going to some place, where one can relax and rejuvenate, spend quality time with family and discover a new place, its culture and history and enjoy its beauty.

The Plan

Jammu & Kashmir offers amazing tourist destinations. Hence, it was apt and wise to discover the beauty of this land while we were stationed there! And Ladakh was the unanimous choice.


KG, AG and me along with good friends RT, AP and ST went for a 10 day excursion to Leh at Ladakh

Route Map

While we took a flight from Jammu to Srinagar, we explored the valley by road in our Innova.

ladakh-map After a day’s rest at Srinagar (Alas, we couldn’t revisit some of the places again at Srinagar, because it was a ‘Bandh’ that day! ), our Innovas, started the next day, and via Sonmarg (it’s actually Sona Marg) we reached the Zoji La Pass (which is at 11,578 feet). Most of the Zoji La Pass has NO road. So, you have mountains of rock and rubble on one side and a deep valley on the other side, with a river or stream gushing with water and flowing unevenly through rocky stretch of the river. While it was exhilarating to explore such terrains, there were times when we wondered, if we were sane to undertake this trip. The traffic rules were followed to the hilt by the truck drivers, which was a relief and heartening.


Next, came the Drass. This place has a large military camp. It is said that Drass is the second coldest inhabited place in the world after Siberia, with a minimum recorded winter temperature of -40 degrees C. Many log and rope bridges lead to Kargil.

Kargil was our first break journey point, as we had travelled 204 kms from Srinagar to reach here. A nice sumptuous meal at the hotel and we retired early for an early start, the next morning. It’s kind of an amazing feeling to be at a place, which has been on our minds for more than 10 years now!

Day 3 saw us seeing the villages of Shergol, Mulbekh, Gel, Lamayuru, Khalsi and finally Uletokpo.

At 13,432 feet, we reached the Fatu La Pass which is always cool and windy and is the highest pass on the Srinagar-Leh road.

Lamayuru has an old Tibetan monastery of Yungdrung on a crumbling mountain. Throughout the journey fascinating different colored and types of mountains (stone, sand, rocky, granite, soil, black, grey, green, red , purple and orange, one can see them all.) and clear watered lakes or rivers were a constant feature.

After travelling 160 kms from Kargil, we settled for the day at West Ladakh’s Tent Camps at Uletokpo.DSC_0519

Staying in a camping tent was one exhilarating moment! The Indus River flowed wildly between our camp and the big rocky mountain! It was some view!! Behind our tent, a stream of water was flowing and one morning, we (the women, of course!) couldn’t resist the temptation of washing clothes by the stream, despite having clothes which could last us for a month!!

A small trek, meeting a Jompa (it’s a cross between an Ox and a Yak) and eating apricots and apples fresh and ripe from the trees, tasting a new Laddakhi dish Thenthup, reading in the serene environment and in general having a great wonderful time, were the highlights of the 2 days camping at Uletokpo.

An accident made us a bit reflective and sad! Near our camping site a tourist cab fell in the raging Indus River killing 3 Malaysian tourists and seriously injuring the driver and another tourist, while one of the tourist went missing, probably the water torrent must have engulfed her!

Day 5, we traveled 70 kms to reach Leh via Alchi, Lekir, Basgo, and Nimmu. Just before Leh, there is this mysterious ‘Magnetic Hill’. It’s a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill!!


Shopping in the Leh market is fun. The market is flooded with clothes for the winter season and of course for the summers too, gems and jewelry, brass artifacts, Ladakhi, Tibetan and Chinese traditional decorative and curios, Kashmiri carpets and pashmina shawls. And all are exorbitantly priced. Even the road side sellers have artefacts for which they’d quote amount (in Indian Rupees!) in 5 digits!! And the key word is BARGAINING!! I guess, I honed my bargaining skills some more, in Leh!

Day 6 saw us exploring the Tiksey monastery. DSC_0333It is some 500-year old monastery, perched on a hill high above the Indus River. The main attraction here is the 15 metre high seated Buddha. This monastery also has a rich and beautiful library with many handwritten and painted books. The highlight of a trip to Tiksey is the view from its lofty roof terrace. A patchwork of barley fields stretches across the floor of the valley, fringed by rippling snow flecked desert mountains and string of Tolkien-esque monasteries, palaces, and Ladakhi villages.


The souvenir shop at the monastery offers some very attractive articles and of course T-shirts with interesting designs, trekking map to Leh and quotes embroidered on them! The best T-shirt quote I liked… ‘Yak…Yak…Yak…Ladakh’, with embroidered Yaks!

Day 7…woke up at 5 am (!!) to start for the amazing Pangong Lake. Pangong Lake can be reached in a five-six hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. And enroute, we passed through the Chang La Pass which is at 17,586 feet and is the third highest mountain pass in India. Here the Indian Army serves the amazing complimentary tea!!

Pangong Lake is a closed drainage basin lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 13,900 ft. It is 134 km long and extends from India to China. DSC_0655 Two thirds of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. During winter, the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. Nature has showered its best colors on Pangong Lake. With the movement of the sun the water shows off various shades of blue in layers which is truly mesmerizing.

And this 12 hour journey had tired us immensely, so we decided to stay put in Leh for 2 more days and relax the remainder of the holidays. Of course, we shopped some more and returned back to Jammu via flight.

Travel Tips

Some tips for you, in case you decide to explore this part of the world some time:

1. You must travel one way by road to experience the scenic beauty of Ladakh.

2. Travelling by road sufficiently acclimatizes you to the low oxygen conditions there.

3. You MUST fly back, coz, so much of travelling on the treacherous mountain roads does take a toll on you!

4. You must stay in a camping site.

5. You must shop!

6. Apply loads of Sun block cream (Minimum SPF-35!), to avoid getting sun burnt or tanned!

We had some amazing time exploring Ladakh! And you must do so too!! So ready, with the packed bags!!

This post is written for Indiblogger’s “The Perfect Road Trip” contest in association with “AmbiPur“.

To keep your car smelling fresh as new, check out this page facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia

Map Courtesy : Google Images

Live from the Train

I was in Alwar Bagh for a 2 day training workshop. Alwar Bagh is some 15 kms away from Alwar.My datacard was not working and Blackberry’s Edge was having problems too, so was not able to get the schedule of trains from Alwar to Jaipur. Had asked KG to check the details for me and as expected he forgot soon after the call. A colleague offered to help as he had the Indian Railways application on his Nokia Phone. Promptly, he gave me the schedule of 3 trains which were to leave from Alwar post lunch.

The 2 trains which suited me were scheduled to leave Alwar station at ‘4.20’ and ‘4.38’. I reached the station at 3.45 pm and asked for the ticket to Jaipur for the above mentioned train timings. The booking clerk looked at me with a funny smile and informed me that no train is scheduled at these hours. The only train that would now leave for Jaipur was at 6 pm. I was devastated. Took the ticket and moved towards the station, with a heavy heart. Checked the network on my phone and finally the internet on phone was working. And it was not a FacePalm moment but a HeadWall moment!!

How could I not remember that the train timings are in 24 hour format and not 12 hour format!!

Anyways, finally boarded the 6 pm train and got a seat in the AC compartment. For the uninitiated, for small journeys, one can buy the general ticket from the platform and then board the AC compartment, as getting a confirmed ticket a day or 2 before the journey is a bit difficult. So, once in the train, TTI can upgrade your  ticket to the AC one, and get a confirmed seat for the journey. For a person, who would travel only on a confirmed ticket, a few years ago, this style of travelling was a bit of a shocker and full of stress and anxiety pangs. But, then you need to practice what you preach. So, here I am practicing “Adapting in adverse situations”, “Stretching out of comfort zones”, “Busting self espoused limits”…

The journey is pretty eventful inside the train too….

The seat (lower side berth) which I am occupying now was occupied by somebody else just before me and all the blanket, sheets and pillow are lying in a messy way. I push all these towards the other end of the seat and I see a wallet!! I am in two minds, whether to touch the wallet or let it lie as it is! While I am debating with myself, the TTI comes and I immediately inform him about the wallet. He checks the contents, mutters something and keeps it in his pocket! Hope it reaches its owner, because it contained a PAN card and a driving licence along with some papers and Rs 1000!

My co-passengers are a father and a son duo. Father is helping the child revise his study material. So, the 5 year old is learning the various parts of the body, animals, people who help us etc etc. The father is even making him recite the poems. I am impressed. Usually, this role is performed by the mothers. These days, you rarely see a father taking so much time and pains for a child’s studies.

The father is asking about the various rooms in a house
Father : Where do you cook food? Son : Kitchen
Father : Where do you sleep? Son : Bedroom
Father : Where do you entertain guests? Son : Painting Room!!

Next, the father gets a phone call. The child tells him, “I know you were talking to Dimple Aunty.” The spelling of Dimple Aunty is DIMPLE (he reads from the phone). And asks his Dad. “But you haven’t written Aunty after her name. It’s just Dimple”.
The Dad explained, “She is your Aunty and not mine!”
I am curious about this Dimple Aunty now!! 😉

An elderly gentleman, as he walked past my seat, crushed my feet with his shoes and while I was doing “Ooohs and Aaahs!” he moved ahead, without a backward glance! I have forgiven him!!

A handsome guy is sitting nearby. I didn’t had much time to admire him, as very soon his phone started buzzing. He answered the call immediately and a few words from him and I am stunned! He has such a harsh voice and a crude accent!! Looks are sure deceptive!

A group of 5 elderly ladies have entered our compartment and it’s clear that they do not have tickets for the AC compartment. They are coming back from some religious function somewhere and are in the age group of 50-60. The father of the 5 yr old child has allowed them to sit near his seats. They are thanking him and a minute later the train attendant is asking them to leave the compartment! Poor women are pleading and requesting. But they are shooed away! I feel sad for them, but…!

An uncouth man is sitting in the next row of seats and he blew his nose right in the aisle. Am I DISGUSTED!?! I feel like abandoning this train right away! Gosh! How uncivilized  people can be!!

The TTI passed by and gave me Rs 3! I never expected him to give the change back, and he gave it with a smile. Nice to see honesty at work!

Hope, the datacard works and I am able to post this on the blog, live from the train!!

Live From The Train


  1. Am on my way to Sariska. So, travelling from Jaipur to Alwar by Garib Nawaz Train. It’s a 2 hour journey. I am wondering, who comes up with such names for the trains. Then there is another one, Garib Rath… Do you know that this GARIB Rath has ONLY 3rd AC Coaches! So, why the name Garib Rath, because I am sure the “Garibs” as per the Government’s definition, still can’t afford to travel by this train!
  2. A couple with a 2 year old daughter are sitting opposite to me. The lady ‘checked’ the diaper of the kid and changed it as soon as they settled their luggage. In the meantime, the hubby came back with a tub of ice-cream. The lady hands him over the diaper and tells him to do “THOO THOO”. The husband, dutifully brings the diaper close to his mouth (EEEEEEEEKKKKKKKSSSSSS) and does THOO THOO and then out he goes to discard it!! Comes back, without washing his hands and the whole family is  now enjoying the ice cream!!
  3. A young mother, sitting next to me is travelling with a 6 month old daughter.  A Railway official passes by and recognizes her as daughter of Mr. X. She answers in affirmative and he is now sitting here and asking all the questions about her family, in-laws, husband, his job etc etc. Looks like that the families lost touch and were friends many years ago. Now all this is fine, but what I am finding a bit odd is that the lady is sharing so much with this ‘Uncle Ji’! I mean it’s not sharing of facts but plain gossip!!
  4. A teenage daughter and mother duo are occupying the side berths. They have drawn curtains and talking so animatedly. Good to see such camaraderie!
  5. A guy is sitting with a bit fat book (Competitive Exam Book), but has not studied a word. since the last half an hour. He is busy chatting with friends on his phone. There is a difference in his body language when he is talking to different set of friends… with lady friends (3 uptill now), he is smiling a lot, laughing a bit hesitatingly and looks all coy and shy! And is all typical boyish talk with ‘Abe yaar’ etc with boys!
  6. The third guy on our seat has no manners, he is getting up again and again from the seat… once he needed a water bottle, then he needed to take out his wallet, then he had to check his bag! And when he sits back, he sits with a big thud!!
  7. Somebody far away is very busy on the phone and has a ringtone of some bhajan. And he likes to pick up the call after the first ring, so, all I am getting to hear is some music and the word B or Bha and rarely Bhajo. Reminds me of the ringing phone of Gotya (Sachin Khedekar) in the movie Singham.
  8. The two year old daughter of the couple sitting opposite to me is very naughty. She wants to move around the compartment, she wants to sit on the upper berth, but the strict parents are not letting her to be the Dora the Explorer. Incidentally, she is wearing a T-shirt which has picture of Dora the Explorer.
  9. It’s lunch time and looks like people in the compartment have opened up their packed lunch boxes. The different smells aromas emanating from the different kinds of food are wafting in the air. I am not liking it though!
  10. The competitive exam guy is all curious to know what I am typing on my laptop since the beginning of the journey! Well, I am not telling him, even if he asks!! LOL 😀

Back to Basics

Nearly a fortnight back, had the opportunity to be a part of some very basic living.
Basic meaning absolutely basic. Yeah, stayed in a base camp on the river Ganga at Shivpuri, near Rishikesh.Have stayed in camps earlier too at Uletokpo, Laddakh and at Shoghi, near Shimla, but staying at this camp site was absolutely an experience of a different kind.

First, have a look at the tents…
…rows of tents, on the river bank with white sandy beach. And this one below, was my home for a week. It had 2 beds, a small table, a very small mirror and 2 bamboo chairs. The table had 2 candles and a match box. Yes, you got it right, no electricity!!
The sounds of the gushing river, 2 very warm blankets and a hot water bottle, helped you to sleep comfortably and snugly in the cold of the night!

Our camp also had 4 small tents, which were placed a lil’ away from the living tents.
And guess, what these 4 tents are for??

Well, they give you a very very unique experience!

They are the dry-pit toilets… basic yet functional toilets. These dry pit toilets are the only toilets that have been permitted by the Forest Department on beach camps. They are eco-friendly, no fuss toilets. There is a hole in the ground with a western style wooden “thunder box” placed over the hole. No squatting required!! You’d like to thank the inventor for this one!! The back of this “thunder box” is open so that it is easy to scoop in sand and lime from the back for covering up. A scoop is provided for this purpose. Toilet paper is provided too!! (Thank God for small mercies!)
And the shower…. the picture says it all…
The kitchen and staff tents…
The dining area…
The best place for the guys (and some girls too) in the evening… the bar!
No, electricity, so no TV and music. The camp staff and the guests, spend some time to play volley ball.
The food was simple yet delicious.

The bestest part of the camp was white water rafting. It was truly an exhilarating experience. Rafting as you know, is done on rapids formed by the river. Rapids are a white patch of foam on a flowing river caused by sudden gradient or by the river breadth getting constricted while flowing through a gorge between rocks or by a sudden increase or decrease in the volume of the water. This is the picture of the rafts on a calm river, as clicking while on a rapid is just impossible!!
The camp also offers kayaking, rappelling, rock climbing as adventure activities to give you that rush of adrenaline. Of course, reading by the river side or counting the stars (literally) on a clear night or singing with the group as the bonfire lights bright and high, give you that happy, satisfied feeling too!

I truly loved the experience… a bit tough, a bit challenging, but surely rejuvenating and gives that feeling of happiness and achievement and the knowledge that life can be lived simply too!

Live from the Train

I am in a train… going home from Delhi. No, I was not in Delhi but in transit after a 3 day workshop at Jim Corbett National Park.Boarded the train and found my seat. For a good half an hour, not a single soul had occupied any seat near me, which gave me mild panic attacks despite knowing that I was in the right train and right coach and of course on the right seat! I know, I could have gone a bit ahead of my seat and checked with some other passengers, but I vetoed that idea and continued to feel anxious and confident at the same time. Thankfully, the TTI came and I was back to my normal self.

Since, my farm had been neglected for good 3 days, so, I immediately restored order on my virtual farm, answered a few mails and read few blog posts and scanned my system to post a pic for Wordless Wednesday. And soon, Delhi Cantt arrived and then came a barrage of passengers, of course all around me! And one word that describes all my co-passengers is Tech Savvy!! Coz immediately after settling in, all are busy with their electronic gadgets!

A young guy sitting next to me is chatting on his Blackberry. Some interesting conversation he is having because he is trying hard to not laugh out loud!

An elderly uncle is playing some game on his mobile and it seems, either he is levelling up very fast in the game or failing miserably as the game music is being played every few seconds!

His wife sitting across me (and looks like an elderly housewife!), is listening to music on an i-pod with her eyes closed and her sandals are continuously touching my legs. A patient me has shifted into one deep corner to avoid the contact!

Yet another guy is typing furiously on his laptop! Is he a blogger, I wonder!

And another one on the side berth is checking the pictures on his Nikon camera!! Ah, it’s the same gadget which is on my wish list!!

And I can listen to a business conversation of somebody in the adjacent section.

Though, all tech savvy people around me in this train, sadly all the four electric charging points are non-functional. Hope the battery of my laptop lasts for a while! Ah, it’s showing 34%. I guess, I should post this before the battery conks off!

Have a great time guys, as I keep myself busy to know and understand why “The Devil Wears Prada”, because the train will reach Jaipur at midnight!!

Reporting from The Train!!

Oh Yes! This post is taking its shape and form in the Jammu Rajdhani.

Aaryan and me are making a flying visit to the Pink City via Delhi.

  • The train is spotlessly clean. And am I glad??!!
  • The dog squad just passed by and I got a start as the dogs tip toed and I was engrossed. And this brought an uncontrollable laughter from my baby.
  • 2 gentlemen have changed into their night wear!! I find this very amusing.
  • From my seat which is a side lower, I can see 8 people talking into their phones. Some business for Telecom companies!!
  • The train started at the right time…7:45 pm! Wow!
  • One kid from the adjoining seat is curiously looking at the screen of my laptop and I can sense a lot of questions in his eyes. I guess, they will come a bit later.
  • Another tech savvy guy is viewing IPL match live on his laptop courtesy Tata Photon. And his neighbors are straining their necks to have a look too!
  • A pantry guy served the complimentary Mineral Water to all. In his tray, bottles are neatly arranged, with paper cups placed on top of each bottle. A paper cup fell near the shoe of a passenger. He picked it up and placed it again on the bottle. So, somebody will use a dirty cup! And I am certainly not gonna use mine!!
  • The bed sheets and pillow covers are clean. But just picking the blankets to place them from the upper berth to the lower one has triggered an allergic response in me! It’s gonna subside only after using the medication.
  • Dinner is getting served and a variety of aromas are wafting in the compartment.
  • A guy is talking on the phone since ages. A lot of office gossip is being shared with the person on the other end. And they say, women gossip a lot!!
  • Two gentlemen have initiated a conversation. “A” is asking “B” some personal questions…like his place of work, his state, his current city and even his age!! When “B” repeated the process, “A” successfully dodged all the questions and did not give a single straight answer. Smart chap!
  • Another lady has got blankets and sheets from home. Like me! Only women can do this!
  • Lights are getting dim and people are getting into the sleep mode.
  • Time to wrap up this post and move to other interesting pastures ie blogs of my virtual friends!!

See you soon! 🙂

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