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Heaven On Earth

The mesmerizing region of Leh Ladakh and Kashmir.

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The Himalayan region of Ladakh and Kashmir is a showcase of spectacular, largely unexplored, landscapes, cultures and traditions. Visitors are welcomed to this divine land with open hearts and smiles. Sandwiched between the Kulun mountain range in the north and Himalayas in the south in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Leh Ladakh and Kashmir are part of a picture-perfect arid valley surrounded by high peaks.

I crossed the high mountain passes along the Manali Leh highway — a breathtaking two day road experience that made it one of my most adventurous trips — on my motorcycle, which was draped in Buddhist prayer flags, seeking purity and a safe journey on one of the world’s highest motorable roads. One cannot but fall in love with the azure sky and mighty mountains that touch the heavens. Every breath of the mild air lifts the stress and tensions of life to savor the true flavors of nature’s paradise.

Descending into the valley, one discovers the cold deserts, perched high in the Himalayas, which are cut off from the rest of the world more than half of the year, and Ladakhis, the ethnic tribe of Leh Ladakh who toil on their small farmlands. Buddhist monasteries punctuate the isolated hillocks in the vicinity of villages.

Prayer wheels and chortens (the local Buddhist devotional towers) are dotted everywhere. The local bazaar in Leh is teeming at noon with people dressed in traditional clothes, as they shop for vegetables, offer warm welcoming gestures of “Jule – Hello” and flash broad smiles. The Ladakhis are incredibly hospitable and love to interact with outsiders.

Even Indians are like Westerners for them. Life in Ladakh is dictated by the seasons — more so, perhaps, than almost any other inhabited place on earth — but the smiles are sure to warm anyone’s heart.

The age-old monasteries, quaint lanes, tiny colorful markets and stunning views of the Himalayas make Leh and the Ladakh region a veritable kaleidoscope of sights and sounds and an authentic mosaic of culture a Shikara on the beautiful Dal Lake, which sits in the wilderness alongside of snowy trees on mountain slopes. The changing seasons throughout the year bring forth colorful flowers and the majestic beauty to the valley. But alas, I must I bid goodbye to the beautiful sunrise and sunset along the tranquil waters of Dal Lake set against the surrounding mountains.


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Arts & Entertainment | Travel | Magazine | December 2010

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