This is 2nd Part of the series Budget Trip To Ladakh. To reiterate again, we are on our 15 Day trip to Ladakh following the below itinerary (roughly).

28th July : Day 1 : Kolkata – Srinagar / Sonmarg
29th July : Day 2 : Srinagar / Sonmarg – Drass – Kargil / Lamayuru
30th July : Day 3 : Kargil / Lamayuru – Sham Valley Sightseeing – Alchi / Uleytokpo
31st July : Day 4 : Alchi / Uleytokpo – Dha and Hanu Villages – Leh
1st Aug : Day 5 : Leh Local Sight Seeing + Arrange Inner Line Permits
2nd Aug : Day 6 : Leh – Khardung La – Diskit (Nubra Valley) – Hunder / Diskit
3rd Aug : Day 7 : Hunder / Diskit – Turtuk – Hunder / Diskit
4th Aug : Day 8 : Hunder / Diskit – Agham – Wari La – Shakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso / Nubra Valley – Agham – Shyok Village – Durbuk – Tangste – Pangong Tso
5th Aug : Day 9 : Buffer Day
6th Aug : Day 10 : Pangong Tso – Man – Merak – Kakstet – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle
7th Aug : Day 11 : Hanle – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Tso Moriri (Karzok) / Hanle – Salsal La – Charchagan La – Tso Moriri (via Chummur)
8th Aug : Day 12 : Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Moore Plains – Pang – Sarchu – Baralacha La – Darcha – Jispa
9th Aug : Day 13 : Jispa – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
10th Aug : Day 14 : Manali Sightseeing. Manali – Delhi (Evening Volvo)
11th Aug : Day 15 : Delhi – Kolkata

NOTE : (1) For Permits, you’d need to mention the exact name of all the places, and not only the destinations. Thus it’s very important to make a note of the possible routes too. (2) In case of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri, you may see that I have used or sign (/) as there were two possible routes, and accordingly based on various parameters we had to opt for one.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

30th July : Day 3 : Kargil – Batalik – Dha / Hanu Village – Lamayuru – Leh : B

Today we woke up at around 5 O’ Clock in the morning. Although we took our own sweet time to get ready as there was not much of a hurry. From Today onwards we had planned to survive on the breakfast that we brought ourselves and thus we quickly prepared Tea and Maggie accordingly. Whereas Ayan and Piu decided to survive on puffed rice with water (Jol diye Muri) due to some digestion issues occurred because of some fried chicken that we bought from outside last night!!

As per discussion with Rigzin Ji, Ibrahim (vendor / boss of Karim Ji) came up to collect a part of amount for the vehicle. From today onwards, Rigzin Ji was about to drive us for the whole tour. However he decided to send Bakir (a young chap) instead for our tour. From the very beginning, I was insisting on that Rigzin should be there for us because of all the amazing reviews I read about him. Thus I felt a bit upset and worried.

Although Rigzin assured that, Karim Ji was about to drive us to Leh and from there he had plans to take up the trip onwards. However, as he got busy with another guest, he decided to send Bakir for a trial. He assured that Bakir is a very good person and driver and that we’d definitely like him. If not, he’d definitely fix it up.

Way To Batalik

Well, all these changes in plans bought us some time and finally we loaded our luggage and embarked on our journey at around 8:00 AM.

Well frankly speaking, Bakir reminded us of Raj – our driver in Bhutan. It took us no time get friendly with him. He told us stories about his Girlfriend, who’s still studying while he decided to leave school and instead took up driving. Well, every moment, Me and Suparna thought “Isn’t he exact carbon copy of Raj?“. His way of talking and tone was exactly same as Raj. Bakir seemed to be very simple in terms of the peoples we often come across in cities. Whenever we cracked some adult jokes or sort of that, he had a hard time understanding the same. Although previously we thought it might be because of the language barrier issues, but later gradually we realized that’s not the case though.

Well within no time, we were glad that Bakir is going to stay with us for the rest of the trip!! Even we started calling him Achu (Brother in Ladakhi Language). Rigzin would be more than happy to hear the same from us!!

Way To Batalik

Our first stop was Batalik which is known for it’s Indo – Pakistani War because of its strategic location between Kargil, Leh and Baltistan. Although there’s nothing much to see here, but one needs to stop to register at the Army Base Camp in order to proceed further. This is required for paying a visit to Dah Hanu Villages. I must inform you that, this is not the usual Srinagar – Leh highway. Instead we took a de-tour, as we had plans to visit Dah – Hanu villages, as we heard a lot about these villages – because of their Indo-European appearances amongst the womens of Dard people (Indo – Aryan). Also one must note that, tourists are allowed to visit only these two villages out of other villages in Brokpa district. Well, you must be surprised to know that, Polyandry (a women can have multiple husband) is common amongst the people of these villages, grooms pays dowry to brides and womens have the right to divorce.

View From Dah Village

We reached Dah village by around 11:20 AM. Dah Hanu villages being situated at lower altitude than Leh, a lot of cultivation of wine-grapes and cherries as well as apricots and walnuts can be found here. Well unfortunately, as Achu informed, it seemed to be holiday season there, thus most houses of the village were locked and we hardly spotted 2-3 peoples there.

However we couldn’t control our desires of having those reddish apples and appricots. Achu gave us a green signal that we can go ahead and pluck those from the trees ourselves without getting into any issues. The road through the village is itself very beautiful. We took our own sweet time to walk through the villages before Achu joined us with his vehicle again.

Appricots at Dah Village

This part of the road is in a devastating state unlike the the usual Srinagar – Leh Highway and thus the whole ride was very bumpy. However riding by the side of Indus River kept us engaged throughout the route. Finally after driving through the challenging route we came to the intersection where it meets the usual Srinagar – Leh highway!! What a sigh of relief it was. It was like “Smooth drive ke liye man taras gaya tha”!! 😛

Our next halt was a brief stopover at Lamayuru which is commonly referred as Moonland.

Lamayuru Moonland

It was already 2:45 by then and we were really hungry. So we decided to have our lunch first before proceeding to Lamayuru Monastery. Although due to the scorching heat of sun, we mostly stayed under a shade whereas Ayan & Piu explored most of it alone.

Although as per our draft itinerary, we had plans to stay at Lamayuru / Alchi / Uleytokpo today, but most of the team members wished to move to Leh instead, which would buy us another day to stay at Tso Moriri. Although Ayan wished to stay at Lamayuru instead, because he being very passionate about Photography, spotted a place from where he wished to click a shot with entire Lamayuru Monastery and the Moonland. However a walk to that place and back would have required around 2 hours.

Lamayuru

It was already being 4:30 PM, and we had to took a quick decission based on voting, as the drive to Leh is another 3 hours with sightseeings in between. Although Ayan was very upset to miss the shot. However a brief stopover at “The Road That Leads to Heaven” made him smiling again!!

The Road That Leads To Heaven

Next, we took a breif halt at a viewpoint from where one can experience Indus – Zanskar Confluence.

Indus - Zanskar Confluence

Next stop was Magnetic Hill. Here if you park your car, it’d seem to move uphill on it’s own due to defiance of gravity. And thus the name “Magnetic Hill“. Although we experienced it ourselves, but in internet there are various articles including Wikipedia which states it to be an optical illusion. It states that, the road is actually a downhill road however due to optical illusion it seems to be uphill. Well I don’t want to go into any technical or scientific argument, but it’s really fun watching the cars and bikes moving on it’s own.

Magnetic Hill

P.C. Avik Manna

Next was Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, but we choosed to skip the same as we were not much interested and most importantly it was already around 7:00 PM and we had only more or less an hour of daylight left to reach and find a hotel at Leh.

Well when you are travelling with a flexible plan, that have it’s own advantage and disadvantage both. If you can’t make it within daylight, your options starts dwindling and so your bargaining capabilities. Thus it’s very important to reach with few hours of daylight left to explore all possible options.

Finally by around 7:45 PM we reached Leh. Achu drove us to a hotel according to our budget. A few rounds of oiling and buttering and we got it within our budget!! Me, Suparna, Avik & Sushmita decided to manage in a single room whereas Ayan and Piu decided to have a seperate room for themselves.

Right after settling in our rooms, I spoke to a hotel staff regarding the permits. He took me to a tour operator nearby where he quoted Rs. 1500/- per person for all the destinations. Though I negotiated it down to Rs. 1100/- per pax, however I thought of checking with Rigzin once. Unfortunately Rigzin got very offended that I approached a 3rd Party when I’m travelling with him and assured that he’d do it at much lesser price than that I have been quoted. I felt sorry for this of my behaviour, as I should have asked him first.

Later we choosed to explore the market. The market is just 2 mins away from the hotel but we didn’t had much time left today. So instead we decided to have our dinner first. Well, we tried guessing the tariffs by the appearence of restaurants. Finally one of them seemed to be within our budget and we thought to pay a visit and check the rates.

The rates were perfectly fine. We were glad to find an option without much lookaround!! And the best part was, the food itself. It was simply fingerlicking and heavenly. Although the restaurant specializes in Chinese and Thai Cuisine. However you can also trust their Indian Cuisine too. We decided to visit the same place tomorrow again as no one was in mood to explore in terms of fooding considering our previous experiences at Kargil and Srinagar.

Happy World Restaurant

Later after coming back to our hotel, we kept gossiping and chit-chatting till late night, as tomorrow was planned as a rest and acclimatization day with Leh Sightseeing for which we could start late.

31st July : Day 4 : Leh Local Sight Seeing + Arrange Inner Line Permits :

Today we were really happy to stay in bed till 9AM and took our own sweet time to get ready and prepare breakfast. Avik was affected with cough and cold which resulted in a slight fever. This is when we learned the hard way about constant changing climate of Ladakh. The days are warm and it feels very irritating throughout the day as you’d feel like the sun is burning a hole in your skin. However from around 4:30 – 5:00 PM onwards, climate changes drastically and if you are not covered specially your head and ears, you’d be affected easily. Once the sun is down by 8:00 – 8:30 PM, it starts becoming chilly specially at high altitude regions. Definitely along with that, the thin layer of oxygen at high altitude plays it’s own game.

At around 10 AM, Rigzin payed us a visit. Although in his late 40’s, but still jovial and humorous. He was really happy that our trial went well with Achu and he confirmed that Achu would be staying with us for the rest of the trip. Although he previously informed us that Achu might not come today, as he’d need to fix his power steering and some regular maintainence needs to be performed before he begins on a long journey. But unfortunately, he couldn’t manage some other vehicle for the day, as today being a religious festival for the Buddhists, most of the people were on leaves. We were glad to have achu back!! But Rigzin requested us to co-operate with him and possibly release him by 3:00 PM so that he can go back and do required maintainance before embarking on our journey through the land of high passes.

We with Rigzi

After chit-chatting for a while, Rigzin collected the documents from us and noted down all the points that we are planning to visit (which is actually all the possible points where one can get permits :P) and left. We payed him Rs. 700/- per head for the permits. Although the amount would have been much lesser if we were returning to Leh after each point which would have allowed him to make specific permits for 1-2 Days respectively. However, in our case, we were asking for a long 7 day permit which is the upper limit and thus the charges were anyway higher.

Well, soon achu arrived and we decked ourselves and started for our first point of the day – Shey Monastery. However before heading to Shey Monastery, we asked achu to take us to a medical shop where we can consult a doctor regarding the fever of Avik. However after reaching there, we couldn’t find any consulting physician there and we were asked to visit during the evening when physicians were generally available. However several Army officers and the pharmacist himself suggested that this is due to change in altitude and because of we kept window open post afternoon when the cold breeze is most effective. Co-incidentally, even Rigzin was there!! They all advised that each one of us should start drinking 3-4 lts of water every day which is the solution of 90% of the problems at high altitude.

Anyway, finally we drove to Shey Monastery by around 12 noon. Personally, I have seen a lot of monasteries while on my tours to Sikkim and Bhutan, such that I really lost interest to explore them further. Thus, Me, Suparna, Avik and Piu choosed to remain downstairs in a shade due to scorching heat of sun, whereas Ayan and Sushmita went ahed to explore.

View From Shey Monastery

Later we moved ahead to Rancho’s School – the 3 Idiots School. One is not allowed to enter the school premises without an official accompany. However as achu informed, the school was closed due to summer holidays and thus we couldn’t find anyone to accompany us. Instead we spent sometime at the cafeteria nearby for a while and left.

Rancho's School

Our next stopover was Thiksey Monastery. Again, Ayan and Piu choosed to went upstairs, Sushmita and Suparna waited in the car itself chit-chatting and gossiping with achu, whereas Me and Avik choose to take a walk to get some good aerial shots of the monastery.

Thiksey Monastery

Next we went ahead to Hall of Fame. Here one needs to buy a ticket of Rs. 100/- per head. It was already 2:30 PM by then, and frankly speaking, we couldn’t survive the heat anymore and thus we decided to move to Shanti Stupa instead. However on our way, we thought that, there’s no point to go to Shanti Stupa now in this scorching heat of sun and we were anyway feeling hungry. So we asked achu to drop us to the same restaurant we found last night, instead and that after that we’d instead go to hotel and take rest and during the evening we’d try to find some cab and go to Shanti Stupa.

After having our lunch, we went to hotel and went for a small afternoon nap (Bhat Ghum) of which Bengali’s are infamous for. Later we woke up by calls from Ayan and Piu. We were surprised to find out that there’s no public transport in Leh. After discussing with the hotel staffs we managed a vehicle for Rs. 500/- for a round trip to Shanti Stupa.

Shanti Stupa

Later in the evening, we explored around the market and bought necessary medicines that we felt would be short (as we were anyway carrying a lot of necessary medicines from our hometown itself). We also thought of keeping an Oxygen Can handy which can be quite helpful in case of emergency.

Later after hopping through some shops in the market, we decided to move to same restaurant for dinner. Although we got ourselves late today while hopping through market, such that our hotel got closed!! Anyway, without much delay, we thought of calling off the day as we had to start very early tomorrow.

We with Achu

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :

Important Points To Stay Safe :

  1. In Jammu & Kashmir, only postpaid connection works. So get yourself a postpaid connection before hailing to Kashmir. Also throughout most part of Ladakh, BSNL is known to work best and then Airtel.
  2. Even with BSNL, you would be out of network at most regions. So inform your family beforehand about the situation. Although at places, you’d get local options to call your home and inform. Most hotels offers that service for free or for a premium for their guests. In case it’s free, use it wisely and make room for next one. Your amazing travel stories can wait.
  3. Ladakh is a land of Cold Desert, and thus during the day, it too hot. Unlike Kolkata, the humidity is very low, thus you won’t be sweating, but the heat feels like burning a hole on your skin. Use Sunscreen, Body Lotions, Lip Balms etc. daily.
  4. However the nights are cold and depending on the region nights can be really chilly.
  5. Most importantly, whatever it be, whether starts changing post 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM, and one shouldn’t be without a basic winter garments like pull over / windcheaters / thermals etc. As that’s the time when the weather changes and if you are not protected / covered, it easily affects you. Believe me, we are the sufferers.
  6. In this part of the country, sun sets late, during 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM. However don’t be misguided that sun rise late too. Unfortunately that’s not the case and thus you get a lot of daylight to travel and explore.
  7. Most regions in Ladakh is situated at very high altitude and thus Acclimatization should be given top priority if you really want to enjoy Ladakh and stay safe.
  8. Ladakh can be approached in various ways – (1) Starting from Srinagar i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway, (2) Flying to Leh, (3) Starting from Manali i.e. travelling through Manali – Leh highway. Considering the Acclimatization, the options are given in order i.e. 1 is best, second best is 2 and worst option is 3.
  9. Unless you are travelling with very less number of days in hand, I’d always recommend Option 1 i.e. travelling through Srinagar – Leh Highway
  10. Well Ladakh is known for harsh weather i.e. too hot during the day and too cold during the night. Also the thin level of oxygen plays an important role for your dissatisfaction. Unless you are acclimatizing properly, it’s really hard to enjoy the trip. Instead you’d always think of going back. During first few days, we felt same. But when we had a first glimpse of Pangong Tso, everything changed!!
  11. There are lots of guides available in internet regarding AMS. So I’ll refrain from writing a story about the same again. In short, AMS depends and varies from person to person depending on their health, age and various other factors. However below are few important and helpful tips which would help you enjoy Ladakh safely.
  12. Never rush it. Better do it some other time with more number of days in hand and properly acclimatize at every 3000 ft gain. Although you don’t need to follow this rule hard and fast, however don’t change altitudes everyday. The idea is to acclimatize every other day with every possible altitude gain.
  13. Don’t compete. Don’t be a superhero / superheroine. Well as I said, every person is different. So is their health. So don’t compete and take your own sweet time and instead enjoy the beautiful landscape.
  14. While at high altitude, you’d feel exhausted even by going to toilet or loo. It happens because of the thin layer in oxygen. Steady and Slow wins the race. Don’t walk faster or run as you’d do in your hometown. Keep it slow.
  15. Communication is a key point. Never feel ashamed and hide it when you are having issues. AMS can strike anyone. Thus if you are having any kind of problem, communicate with your Team Members. May be you are affected with low level however if not communicated and treated in time it can turn into severe. And in that case everyone have to leave and descend.
  16. At all points you’ll come across Army Hospitals / Base Camps which can come to your rescue in case things turns worse. So there’s nothing to fear.
  17. Keep AMS Medications handy like Coca 30 / Coca 6X / Diamox. We started taking Coca 6X twice daily (5-6 drops) from Kargil onwards. Remember these medicines prepares you for the high altitude, i.e. these are considered as preventive medicine. Once AMS had striked, these might not come to resue depending on the condition. Don’t be a doctor yourself, instead in case of any issues contact the locals and go to Army Hospital / Base Camp nearby.
  18. Drink lots of water. Yes hell lot of water i.e. 3-4 lts. minimum per day. This is very important to keep yourself safe. If possible mix ORS to it, which is even better. We carried 2 packet ORS per person per day.
  19. You might be a foodie. But to stay safe the myntra is to eat light. Avoid spicy foods and avoid over eating. Infact eat a bit less than what you generally eat. When your body is getting low oxygen, most of it is driven to your brain to function properly and thus indigestion is a common issue if you are eating heavily.
  20. Very importantly, avoid Smoking, drinking Coffee (or any kind of Caffine) and Alcohol. This single point will keep you fit and fine. People have even died due to drinking alcohol. You might not face issues while drinking alcohol, however your body might get collapsed after you sleep. This has happened to a lot of people already. You might notice foreigners drinking and smoking, however again as I said don’t compete. Their upbringing and yours might not be same.
  21. Most importantly, be positive. Yes there’s no medication or nothing than being positive and believing in yourself.
  22. Last but not the least, your god’s sake keep your plan flexible and don’t be a stubborn to stick to an specific itinerary even if your health is not permitting it. You are the best person to know if your health is permitting or not. And if not, descend. Because, if you don’t, it can be a life risk and a lot more risk for other team members. And Ladakh is not a top priority than your life.

Reviews :

Tongspon Guest House : Situated right 2 mins away from the market, we just loved our stay at Tsongspon. The staffs are very friendly and smiling always there for your needs. The entrance of the property is well decorated with various flowers which bring in a charm of Ladakhi Homes. The whole property, rooms and the washrooms were really well maintained and very clean. Although they don’t have a in-house restaurant, so you have to eat outside, however they can provide basic Tea & Coffee.

Tongspon Guest House

Tongspon Guest House Room

Tongspon Guest House Washroom

Costing :

Tongspon Guest House : Rs. 4400/- (1 x Double Bed Room @ Rs. 1000/- x 2 Days & 1 x Double Bed Room + Extra Mat (for 4 Pax) @ Rs. 1200/- x 2 Days)
Rigzin (The driver who drove us to Shanti Stupa) : Rs. 500/-
ILP (Inner Line Permits) : Rs. 700 x 6 = Rs. 4200/-

We were travelling with flexible plan and had a budget of Rs. 60k per couple + Rs. 10k as buffer (i.e. Total 70k with Buffer per Couple) which we were carrying in cash accordingly, excluding Flights & Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus which we booked in advance. Finally we made it within Rs. 70k per couple for the whole tour Kolkata to Kolkata including the Fights and Manali Delhi Volvo Bus. That means we made it within 54k per couple excluding the flights and Manali – Delhi Volvo Bus.

CCU – DEL – SXR : 7334/- (For Me & Suparna)
Manali – Delhi HPTDC Volvo Bus : 2840/- (For Me & Suparna)
DEL – CCU : 5126/- (For Me & Suparna)
Vehicle : 64000/- (For the whole tour)

NOTE : I have omitted the costs of personal in nature and meals to keep things simple but informative.

Contacts :

Tongspon Guest House : 01982-253196 / +91-97975-74481 / +91-94198-00933 / nwrigzin@gmail.com

Bakir (Our Achu, The Driver, Very friendly young chap, Works for Rigzin) : +91-94696-66401 / +91-70514-45539. He drove a white Aria which belonged to Rigzin, under registration number JK 10A 4036.

Mr. Rigzin (The driver who took us to Stanti Stupa) : +91-94697-31211. He drives a white Maruti Suzuki Eeco under registration number JK 10 6530.

Mr. Rigzin (Driver, The single point of contact, The Showstopper) : +91-96229-54779 / +91-94694-72772.

The Budget Trip To Ladakh Series :