Leh Splendor and Grandeur

Anita Raina

Leh is one of those destinations which has always managed to intrigue the traveler in me. There is a rustic charm about the topography here. Stretches of virgin roads romancing the potent Himalayas make you marvel at the extent of exuberance the place has to offer. The calmness and stability the Indus brings, compliments the barren and harsh deserts.  It is the ultimate balancing act nature can possibly portray. Leh has the coveted ability of bringing out ostentation out of monotony.
With my personal experience, Leh is best travelled on bikes. It is actually fascinating to see the way bikers are equipped to withstand the adversities of weather and the extremely challenging terrain. Nothing can match up with the adrenaline rush one experiences while hitting the road and letting the breeze purify your body and soul .The maverick bikers with their stylish biker’s gear and  aviators add a hint of glamour and flamboyance to an already attractive destination.
There are numerous places to visit. PanGong Tso (Tso Means Lake) where the beauty of blues merging seamlessly into various shades of greens will leave you spellbound. The beautiful tents pitched right on its bank give a postcard view of the lake .The quintessential bonfire and  impromptu guitar strumming make the entire experience exquisite.
The iconic Khardungla pass (The highest motor able pass in the world)   which is the ultimate dream destination of a biker will transport you into a world of The Man and Machine. There are Bullets and Harleys leaving trails of life changing experiences the riders encounter while they surmount the rough and rugged. The Glorious Indian army has a strong presence all through but what comes to your rescue here is the aromatic Kehwa (A very popular hot beverage infused with strands of saffron) which they serve to help combat the shivers down your spine not because of fear but due to the chill in the air.
A completely contrasting destination is the serene and pristine Shanti Stupa.  An all white monument, manages to bring a calming effect on you which is imperative considering the fact that Leh can drain you off your energy and leave you exhausted.  One feels liberated and devoid of all negativity and acrimony here.
Then there is Druk White Lotus School popularly known as Rancho School after it featured in the most inspirational movie the Hindi film industry has possibly ever produced-Three Idiots. The school is particularly popular among kids for reasons obvious. There is the famous Pee wall which has got the posteriors of the three protagonists from the film painted on a huge brick wall and offers a great photo booth to capture pictures straight from the sets of a Bollywood Blockbuster.
The Influx of tourists to a great extent can also be credited to the presence of various Monasteries which impart a unique flavor and beauty to Leh. Hemis Monastery and Thiksay Monastery are the most prominent ones which give you a sense that they are there to guard the vicinity and ward off the evil. All the monasteries have a striking resemblance to each other. Gigantic idols of Buddha in glorious gold enveloped in thick clouds of smoke emerging from the scented incense sticks craft an aura of euphoria. One feels spiritually soaked. A long spell of meditation gets you closer to your inner self, sets you in a self discovery mode and lets your spirit free.
Sangam Point… a spectacular sight where you witness the confluence of two diverse Rivers The Indus and The Zanskar. There is a make shift restaurant from where you can grab a bowl of masala Maggie, sit on the pavement and just watch the mighty waters flow while your imagination runs riot.
Leh is a shopper’s paradise too. Souvenirs like fridge magnets, water bottles, prayer wheels and flags, T-shits (can be customized) and various other knickknacks are ideal for gifting purposes and markets are flooded with them. Your shopping experience will most definitely be incomplete if you don’t invest in a piece of royalty and elegance- A Pashmina Shawl or Stole. The quality and price is truly genuine.   And what you must also add to your collection is intricately designed and crafted silver jewelry, few strands of pearls and vibrant gem stones.
Since travelers from across the globe visit Leh, so one can find an array of dining options here. On one hand there are high- end restaurants making you experience the most exotic gourmet delights and on the other hand there are road side vendors serving the most delicious street food. Local Ladakhi cuisine is very popular and the dish which tops the popularity charts is steaming hot Dumplings (referred to as MOMOS). Momos are served with a fiery red sauce which cuts though the cold in your body and is accompanied by a clear soup which is nothing short of comfort food.
A journey… that springs hope and optimism; brings stability and tranquility.  Leh …….  A land which needs to be traveled yet again…to explore, experience and breathe.