The Himalayas of India:  Ladakh and Srinagar, Summer 2013
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Sunday 16 June - first full day in Leh, continued:
Upon waking up from a very sound long sleep, I looked out the window at the beautiful snow-capped mountains, farm land, and tall trees that surround Leh, and was immediately filled with a happiness that surprised me. I immediately found myself smiling. I love Ladakh, and I feel really at ease and peaceful here, but didn't realize how much so until I got here.

Then added to that was when I walked back down Fort Road to where Tom and I hung out in our trip to Ladakh in 2008, several people immediately recognized me and said hello. This includes the travel agency, and although unfortunately my friend Dorjai is not working there (he's in Boston), but two other people I know from before are still there.

Later, trying to ignore the bruises on my left forearm and elbow, I wandered down from Upper Karzoo to Changspa to get a bit to eat. Would it be at Amigo Korean Restaurant, a fun name for a Korean restaurant?

I got one of my favorite breakfasts, muesli, curd (yogurt), honey, and fruit, at a restaurant that I cannot remember the name of (Mantiklang?), one of the pleasant garden restaurants in Changspa, where I sat under the umbrella to avoid the rain but still get some fresh mountain air.

I found that my cellphone that I just purchased in Manali did not receive signals. This is because the Jammu and Kashmir region requires a separate SIM card due to heightened security measures. Great. Further, it requires that a local resident to vouch for me to get a SIM card for my cellphone in Jammu and Kashmir state by obtaining a copy of a local resident's identification card. I told the hotel owner, who immediately pulled out his wallet, handed me his identification card, and said, "Just bring it back to me when you're finished."Almost as miraculous were that the Airtel offices were open on a Sunday, with someone also named Ken helping me out.


Monday 17 June - Leh Palace:
Monday, I woke up, visited some people I knew from the previous trip, and walked through Old Leh, exploring the maze of alleyways, before heading up to Leh Palace, which towers over the city.

A small window of a house in Old Leh, Ladakh.

Wandering up through the alleyways of Old Leh, I was fortunate to catch a break in the rain.

I walked up through the winding back alleys of Old Leh up to Leh Palace, which to my surprise had been renovated greatly, and has filled those large dark rooms with interesting photos for a picture exhibit.


The interior of Leh Palace.


Leh Palace is a forbidding place, and particularly at night, spooky. But the renovation of the interior has done away with some of the eeriness, while keeping to the 17th Century architecture. This is a view of Old Leh from the inside of Leh Palace.

After my visit to Leh Palace, I walked along the road that leads to the Palace instead of walking back down through Old Leh, and hiked up to the large Buddha that is painted on the mountainside along the road. I don't believe I have ever done this on my two previous visit, usually going up to the Fort instead. There were unfortunately a lot of broken beer bottles en route to the Buddha, so I was extra careful, and made sure not to use my hands. The views of Leh city were amazing.

This is the large Buddha painted on the mountainside on the road leading up to Leh Palace.

I walked back through the Polo Grounds, where they were apparently having the Ladakh Festival, which consisted of lots of people sitting around while music was playing. I did, however, come across this pilgrim who was on his way to a monastery.

I tried to see if anything on the other side of the polo ground looked familiar, as I think we may have stayed over that way in 1997, or at least spent time over there, but I didn't see anything familiar. There were a lot of dark, grubby dhabas with wooden fronts which looked like very cheap places to eat, but I didn't see any tourists eating there.

Then continued walking through Old Leh, and then to Amdo Tibetan Restaurant, where I had vegetable thanthuk (a soup just like thukpa, but with large flat noodles instead of spaghetti noodles) and a vegetable spring roll, continuing my largely vegetarian eating on this trip. I wasn't doing this consciously. It was only after 7-10 days that I realized I had been eating completely vegetarian up to that point.

WAHOOOOOOO!!!!! This evening was the first evening that wasn't raining so far on the trip, so I ran out after 11:00 pm and took night photos of Leh Palace and its chorten from different angles. I even got a few stars, although this disappeared behind the clouds in a hurry.

Near the beginning of my efforts, there seemed to be a giant power outage ("load shedding", as it is euphemistically called here sometimes), so the lights illuminating Leh Palace and many of the lights around Old Leh went out. This was fine with me because it gave me the opportunity to control the light more by doing some light painting. I busted out a 600-lumen flashlight and my trusty headlamp. With the 600-lumen flashlight, I was able to illuminate the entire Palace with ease while still keeping the light diffused through a plastic bag!!

Light painting is a photographic technique in which one moves a light source while keeping the shutter open for longer periods of time, and is really a performance of sorts. The light can be used to selectively illuminate parts of the subject, or to "paint" a picture by shining it into the camera lens. I've usually light painted subjects, as this is more of my interest.


Title: Leh Palace Night Sky 1
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. Light painted Leh Palace. ISO 200, 123 second exposure, f/2.8 17 June 2013, 11:19 pm.
Photographer: Ken Lee
Location: Leh, Ladakh, Indian Himalayas.

Spooky Leh Palace.

Leh Palace is a forbidding enormous structure, towering above Leh. And at night, it really becomes especially spooky. I thought to enhance that in this and the previous photo by exposing the photo for a while, letting the clouds drift past, their motion smearing them into a surreal Himalayan night sky.

I asked at the hotel about the safety up at the Palace, but everyone assured me that it was perfectly safe. "Just watch out for the dogs. There are a lot of dogs out there." I heard many barking, and saw many, but they were not aggressive, and none ever bothered me. Still, I was told to swing my tripod a bit when walking around at night.

But what was more dangerous was walking the streets of India with its rubble, uneven surface, gaping holes, broken concrete, slippery mud, and other treacherous things makes walking around at night seem more dangerous than walking around Joshua Tree at night!




Title: Leh Palace Night Sky 2
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. Light painted Leh Palace. ISO 200, 82 second exposure, f/2.8 17 June 2013, 11:22 pm.
Photographer: Ken Lee
Location: Leh, Ladakh, Indian Himalayas.

Remember, follow the little forward and backward autorickshaws to navigate.

Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

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The Himalayas of India: Summer 2013


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