We landed in Leh at around 6:30 in the morning of 2nd July. I had never in my life flown over snow mountains, and be it roadways or airways, the way to Leh is tremendously beautiful. As for the well known breathing problems that people who go via flight especially face because they don’t get the time to adapt to the thin air, surprisingly, I had no problems at all. I say “surprisingly” because I was almost quite sure back at home that I’d have either a migraine attack or something as soon as I’d reach Leh, but my health was better than ever during the entire Ladakh trip, and oh dear Ladakh, this place tried it’s best to show me everything possible, from Dalai Lama’s birthday to migratory birds and wild animals to snowfall to sand storms to rainbows to Sonam Wangchuk… As a matter of fact, I felt so good there that when I returned to Kolkata the air felt so warm so heavy, almost suffocating and uncomfortable!
We were welcomed at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Leh, by Mr. Dorje, who would be our local travel guide for the rest of the tour. Our hotel at Leh was Sangaylay Palace, where we were welcomed with a Health Advisory that’s distributed to every hotel by the Tourism department of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. In the advisory the main topic of interest that I myself have seen quite many tourists suffer with, is the Acute Mountain Sickness, which basically happens due to the huge altitude and lack of oxygen in the air. The advisory even provides emergency numbers, so I’d advice everyone to carry one all the time. We had breakfast and the hotel’s manager himself asked us to take rest for a day, just drink water and sleep. However we were just in Ladakh, how do you expect me to not be excited! I freshened up and walked around in the lobby and lawn of the hotel for a few 2-3 hours, then decided to go to the Leh main market road as there were no other plans for the day. Whenever you are organising for a trip to Ladakh, everyone will recommend you to keep 2 whole days in hand for rest and adjustment to the altitude, but it didn’t seem necessary for me, I already felt fine, so a 5 minute walk to the mall road was fine too. Leh’s mall road is a very busy spot. During a small conversation with some workers at the hotel, I had come to know that the tourist footprint in Ladakh has reduced by almost 60% this year. The 4 main reasons being, Elections, Pulwama bombing in Kashmir, World Cup, and the sudden cancellation and increasing costs of airlines. However, the mall road was busy with not just tourists, a lot of locals inhabit the main market. There are a large number of dustbins almost every 5 seconds to remind tourists to not litter around the road. I believe that closely observing the market road of a city gives me an idea about the lives of the natives, their culture, religion and colour, and so did Leh main market. From Aryans sitting down along the sidewalks to the millennials walking around with a softie in hand to the old wrinkled women sitting down to sell their sacks of dry fruits, Ladakh’s mall road has so many stories to tell. 2nd July was soon over and another fact is that, the sun sets at around 8 pm, which gives Ladakh a very long day.