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Posts tagged ‘Ladakh’

Unusual is an understatement: Unearthly landscapes of Ladakh

Nellie of Wild Junket recently wrote a post about World’s most unearthly landscapes. As I read through the post, I was itching to see if there was mention of any places from India. The name I half-expected to see, looking out for with eager excitement, was of the amazing terrain of Ladakh.

I got a glimpse of this beautiful province of India when last year I went on a trip to Kashmir and Ladakh, in the northernmost part of the country. Kashmir is full of greenery, peppered with lakes and snow-capped peaks. In perfect contrast, Ladakh is a semi-arid desert, just that most of it is at heights of 10,000 feet and above! Cold wind blows here all year long, causing continuous erosion resulting in some truly impressive landscapes.

Some of the landscapes could be called strange. Some are definitely stranger. And some are so unearthly, that locals actually call it ‘the moon-land’!! See for yourself..

The strange.

The stranger.

Moon Land!

How I chose my latest travel destination : Simple logic!

This June, I went on what I (used to?) call ‘the trip of a lifetime’ – a trip to the dreamy deserted land of Ladakh. Ladakh is a part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the northernmost state of India.

What this entailed was a flight to Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. And then a road-trip from Srinagar to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, via National Highway NH-1D. The road went through beautiful green hills and valleys, 13000 feet high passes and weird sandstone landscape, war memorials and Buddhist monasteries.. but in the context of this post, what is more important is – I passed through the northernmost point of India reachable by a public road. Look at the map below (map courtesy Wikipedia):

Well, it was an amazing trip, and I’ll most likely be harping about it for months to come..
You might question – how is all this relevant to choosing a travel destination? It’s quiet simple. I travelled to the northernmost point of India (atleast one I could reach). What’s next?

Obviously – The southernmost point of India! Kanyakumari!


So I went to Kanyakumari – at he the confluence of the three mighty seas – the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea – the southernmost point of mainland India.

I don’t know how people define a ‘traveler’ or why anyone likes to travel? But for me, it’s pretty simple. I just love to see new places, it’s the journey, it’s the thrill to reach a new destination that gives me the motivation to travel. The choice of going to Kanyakumari – for some it might defy logic, but it makes perfect sense to me. Doesn’t it? :-)

After all, now I can claim with pride – I have traveled from tip to tip of India! :-D

A rough guide to Ladakhi names

(Disclaimer: This article is in no way a complete or a true description of Ladakhi names – It is based on my naive observations from a week-long trip to Ladakh. Still, I think you might find it helpful if you intend to make a lot of local friends like I did! Since most Ladakhi traditions have their origin in Tibet, this guide also applies to Tibetan names)

On first encounter, Ladakhi names can be very confusing. Not just by the vocabulary, but also by their origin, design and variety. So, here’s my rough guide to Ladakhi names:

1. The Surname Riddle

Ladakhis do not have a fixed family-based surname. They just have a first name and a second name. First name being the more common choice when used to address the person. Also, a first name for one person can be second name for another.
Example: My driver’s name was Tsering Nurugu and my gusest-house manager’s name was Dawa Tsering.

2. Origin?

Names in Ladakh are not chosen by the the child’s parents, but by Lamas (the Tibetan priests) in the gompas (monasteries). This is in interesting contrast with most Indian names where the parents either choose their children’s name themselves or take the guidance of astrological charts.

3. Male or Female?

It can be very difficult to identify by a part of the name of a Ladakhi person if it’s a guy’s name or a girl’s name. For example, the guesthouse-manager’s wife’s name was Stanzin and her nephew’s name was also Stanzin.
But no reason to worry! They make sure that the other part of the name is always able to tell the sex of the person addressed. So, the nephew’s full name was Stanzin Namdan and the lady’s full name Stanzin Dolma. (Oh, by the way, Dolma is a very popular second name for girls in Ladakh).

4. What’s with the ‘Stanzin’s?

By my observations, ‘Stanzin‘ is the most popular name in Ladakhis (followed by ‘Tsering‘ and ‘Tenzin‘). Naturally curious, I asked one of the Stanzins I met (this one being different from the two I’ve mentioned above) for an explanation. He told that the current Dalai Lama‘s Tibetan name is  Stanzin and hence is a very popular name. After returning home, I checked this on Google and found it to be untrue (it’s actually Tenzin), so the mystery still remains unsolved.
(Late edit: Apparently, Stanzin is the Ladakhi pronunciation of the Tibetan name Tenzin. This explains it all!)

Me with Stanzin Namgyal, my tour operator, guide and a great friend.

Pangong Tso!

Tso‘ means a ‘lake’ in Ladakhi (the language spoken in Ladakh, which is located in northern most region of India in the lap of the Himalayas). Pangong Lake is located at a height of around 14,300 feet and extends from India to China with more than 60% of its length in China.

I will not bore you anymore. You can wiki for more details. Just watch the video I took when I was there 3 weeks back. And yes, feel free to comment that you feel envious of me.. :P :)

Oh, by the way, this lake is famous for changing it colors according to the time of the day and the weather. Imagine these dark blue waters turning light blue or murky shades of purple. Amazing, isn’t it?

And the countdown gets closer..

16 more hours.. before I embark on my much awaited trip to Ladakh! :-)

Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in another blogpost before that..

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