I spent a relatively large amount of time in Leh. I met a lot of people – and that’s still the easiest thing to do it there. And I had wonderful accommodation with Sonam at the Jig Gyas. She is a very caring dear woman, though she also has a job where she spends many hours every day. Many years ago she started the guesthouse – the name is from her two sons Jigmet and Gyatso. Gyatso is now grown up and studying in Jammu. She also has a dear husband, Nawang, who also works, and her old father, called Meme-le by everyone. He can’t do so well anymore, but tries very hard to be useful, sweeping the street and doing here and there. And often he just sits in the sun.
They have renovated and added on to their own old house. Now there are 2 rooms, 1 kitchen and an unfinished big room. Eva and I used to live in one of the rooms. It was very comfortable and nice with carpet, wooden panelling and a stove that was always well heated. At night there were hot water bottles and thick blankets, so I was always cosy and warm. Only the local dry toilet was across the courtyard, so I often had to get out of the blanket mountain into the cold at night. From a guesthouse room we brushed our teeth in the bathroom and sometimes had a bucket of hot water for washing.
We had breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening. Sonam’s cooking is super tasty and varied. And there are a lot of vegetables in winter. It’s often twice as expensive as in summer, but of course it makes my stomach happy.
In the meantime, Sonam has realised that all this is a bit beyond her strength and leases out the guesthouse. A Ladakhi is the manager and a Nepali couple takes care of cleaning, food, etc. It is always fully booked. During Corona, Indians were also more confined to travelling in their own country – and Ladakh has boomed! It’s crazy what new hotels have been built and are still being built. Many are very fancy and high-priced. But accommodations like Sonam’s guesthouse are also full.
Walking around, I was amazed at how chic many things have become. There are also many modern cafés for young people and fine restaurants. And next to them are still some old remnants from the times when rather slightly freaky backpackers came to Ladakh and hardly anyone had heard of that place. But these are dwindling more and more. Here, for example, is a large gap where the Gesmo Restaurant used to be – an extremely popular, simple restaurant run by Nepalese.
I often met people in the cafés etc.. For example, here with Lobzang Dolma and Stanzin Kunsal from Zanskar from my now finished project Kamerakidz. One of them is studying medicine at the college in Leh (not to become a doctor, but for various other professions), the other one is already finished with the same studies outside and has a one-year contract with the Health Department. They find temporary contracts quite annoying, but better than nothing. The health sector is very popular and there are many job seekers and few vacancies. One wonders if she should switch to teaching. In any case, neither of them plans to return to Zanskar permanently – despite the imminent development of new road connections. But who knows?
They went to a class at that time and told us that maybe half of them were married by now – mostly the boys. A few had gone to Zanskar and one had become a policewoman in Leh. I have forgotten about the rest. On the street I met an ex-Kamerakidz. He is learning to be a carpenter and makes, among other things, the magnificent pieces that are draped over the windows on the outside of the house. A lot of emphasis is placed on these in very very many new buildings. Some are finished by hand, some by machine.
I also went to the Men-Tse-Kang in Leh, which is an institute for Tibetan medicine. I have been suffering from relatively severe sleep disorders for some time and hope to get better. Compared to at home, I actually sleep more. But it seems to me that the one pill has an interesting other effect: I am fitter and more active than usual. Rarely have I managed the climbs with such relative ease.
A trip took Eva and me to Shey. There is also a lot of construction going on, a gilded Buddha statue (I think Guru Rinpoche, but I’m not sure) is being built next to the old palace.
We wandered around the old palace with prayer room – like many others.
I was feeling active thanks to Tibetan pill-doping and finally got to the old ruins above the palace. That was totally fun to climb around there!
Further up there were more old ancient things, but that was too far away.
In front of the palace were the holy fishponds with interesting ducks.
We walked to Thikse, from where a very nice man took us back to Leh in his private car. But I didn’t take any interesting pictures there.
This is now the penultimate blog entry from Ladakh – there is still a kind of résumé to come.😃