A friend of mine recently made her first and solo trip to Ladakh and was kind enough to pen down her experience; which I am posting here on her behalf. She traveled using public transport services including both bus and shared taxis. Thank you Komal for sharing this information with us which I am sure will be of help to several people.
The travelogue below in my opinion answers two major questions. First one is that whether or not Ladakh is safe for a lady to travel alone. I have been getting asked this question a lot off late. With recent boost in tourism in Ladakh; a lot of women will either travel alone or with a group of other women. At times likes these, the first doubt that pops up is would it be safe to travel without a man accompanying them. Ladakh is afterall a remote area where you may not come across a living soul for miles and miles. The travelogue below I believe answers the question that as long as you do not put yourself in a difficult situation; Ladakh is perfectly safe for a Lady to be traveling all on her own.
Second question is of how to make a trip to Ladakh by public transport services. I have never done it myself and though I provided all the required information on this blog; like bus schedule, budget hotels, details on shared taxis etc; it is always great to read through a first hand experience. If you too are planning a trip to Ladakh by public transport, then I am sure that this travelogue will be able to provide some vital information that will be of help.
I have broken the travelogue down in 4 pages, links to which are provided below.
My Solo Trip to Ladakh
A trip to Ladakh needs to be taken by all people who need to restore their faith in humanity.The main protagonists of my trip to Ladakh is not the place but the Ladakhis. This experience would not have been created without their benign presence in the exotic land of Ladakh.
Day 1– Flew to Leh and rested the whole day
Stayed at Zangsti Road close to the main market. Walked around the main market. My stay in Leh was subsidized generously by the guest house owners as the organization I work with is their regular customer. There are many guest houses like Peace guest house or Paul guest house just opposite the Main Market to get reasonable accommodation.
That evening I visited Tibetan Refugee market and ChokhangVihara in the main market.Had nice Pizza at Il Forno directly opposite Main Market. For two people it was priced at Rs.440.
Day 2 – Leh Local Sightseeing
I had gone for one day work. Therefore visited Central Asian Museum and walked to SankarGompa in the evening.
Visited Central Asian Museum located in one of the bylanes from the Main Market. It is a must visit as it gives a good perspective about the history of Ladakh.
The entrance fees is Rs.50. It opened recently in 2015 and is open in summer months only. The caretaker, an old fellow, is really amiable and will tell you more if you ask him. He also showed the locked-up Ladakhi kitchen. The museum also houses old Mosque in its premises. It is good to start your trip to Ladakh with the visit to Museum. This principle I follow generally to any place I visit. It helps in understanding the history and culture of the people much better.
Then walked on the Sankar Road till the Gompa which was closed as I reached by 6.30 pm. It closes by 6 pm. The younger monk of the Gompa had a good political sense of humour as he remarked How Indian Prime Minister needs to send plane full of vegetables and groceries since Ladakh is has Pakistan on one end and China on the other!
Then the monks showed me a shortcut route to the main market which ran almost parallel to the main Sankar road. It is a nice walk on a small kachcha road behind the houses. The dinner was atGesmo Restaurant. The salt was too much for my taste. You can order food ranging Rs. 100 to 300.
Day 3 (Sunday) – Leh – Tsemo Gompa, Tsemo Fort, Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa
The Apple Tree Restaurant square (Rs.100 – 200) had appetising breakfast. Then walked up to the Leh Palace via the Main Market, the Mosque which is under construction and the old part of the town. One can ask people for the direction as you walk up. A nice climb. The entrance fee is Rs. 10.It is a nine-storeyed palace – three storeys are locked up and rest are open to visitors.Most of the rooms are past their old glory. Some of them have been converted into gallery of photographs which has nothing to do with its history or even Ladakh.
I basically enjoyed the climb up and going into rooms and figuring out inter-connections within the palace. Also the perspective of the town as one climbs higher. One can see the Main Market square from the Palace Top too. The Main market square is the hub of all activities in Leh.
From the Palace there is a climb up to Tsemo Gompa and Fort which is more rigorous. I finished it in 40 minutes with many stopovers. There is also a road which makes it accessible by vehicle. Later I discovered a pucca staircase which starts from a little village on Sankar Gompa road. You have to go slightly up the village and then only the stairs are visible.The Gompa and the Fort are closed on Sundays as I discovered by climbing up!! I met some local Muslim women who had come for ‘timepass’ during the month of Ramzan. They shared there is hardly any serious crime heard of in the city of Leh.Then had an ordinary late lunch at Namo Buddha Café (Rs. 130).
In the evening walked up to Shanti Stupa on the other end of the city. The walk goes through Changspa Road and leads directly to Shanti Stupa stairs. It is a steep climb. Also it was rather very tiring as I did two climbs the same day. It gives a nice top view of the city from the other end of lush fields and tall trees. I befriended a local young boy while climbing up. He pointed out the way to Khardung La and Stok village from the Stupa.
Had an ordinary late lunch at Namo Buddha Cafe (Rs. 130).
Day 4 – Leh – Walk to Zorawar fort
I started late as I was still very tired from the hangover of two climbs the previous day. I had leisurely breakfast at Gesmo restaurant (Rs.130 -150 – too much salt again) in hope of some Internet connectivity. During my entire stay in Leh, the whole town was down with the net connectivity as they were digging up the city for laying pipes for water. I heard few fellow travellers saying that it worked intermittently in some Internet cafes, though I never tried them myself.
Then I walked from Fort road where the Gesmo Restaurant is located to the Zorawar Fort which at the end of that road. It is actually one external wall and a moat which you can access from the road side. There is construction going on inside the fort and it is not accessible to people. The walk from Fort Road on to Yurthung Road to reach Tseru was a foolhardy decision. I tired myself unnecessarily as I reached till Shanti Stupa footsteps and hitched a ride back to the town.
If you want to try going Tseru by walking, start from Sankar Road and ask people for shortcuts. I will try this in my next visit.
Then applied for permit to Nubra Valley including Panamik, Turtuk and Pangong for six days through a travel agent. I paid Rs.600 to him which included the permit cost of Rs.520. I applied for it in late afternoon and received it by evening. Do make multiple photocopies as you would need to submit it later at crossing check posts. It is good to keep few extra days on permit especially when travelling by local transport as you may sometime like a place and stay more days or don’t get a connecting bus service.
The lunch was special thukpa (Rs.130) at Tenzin Dickey Kitchen. It was too rich for my taste. The potato Momos (Rs.150) for dinner were completely worthless.
I am sure the information above will be very useful for anyone planning a trip to Ladakh on a budget or by Public transport. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum and I will be glad to answer.