Category Archives: Himalayas

Apricot season in Ladakh

Apricot Season in Ladakh

Local vegetable seller during the apricot season at Main Bazaar Road

Leh town, Ladakh, India

Late Summer brings along the Apricot Season, cheap, plentiful, juicy and sweet organic apricots here in Leh.

I was globbling these wonderful apricots on a daily basis.

These taste even better than the ones I have tried in Australia and Europe.

Organically grown, pesticide-free apricots.

Apricot Season in LadakhApricot Season in LadakhApricot Season in Ladakh

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Waiting for a ride to Rumtse

Tanlangla pass - heading to Rumtse

September 2009

Tanlangla Pass, Ladakh, India (around 17,00 ft)

He waited for a couple hours…

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Thiksey Monastery by Night

Thiksey Monastery by NightThiksey Monastery at Dusk

September 2009

Thiksey Village, Leh, Ladakh, India

Had initially decided to stay at Thiksey for a night so I could attend the early morning puja (prayers) at the Thiksey Monastery. It seems there were few options here, it was either staying at the hotel which is owned by the Monastery, expensive and quite yucky, it had some strange sickly smell at the room the manager showed me, or at the nearby guesthouse which was closed and locked up as the owner was away.

I walked around the village and looked for more guesthouse options, along came a local man with his horse. While asking for directions to other guesthouses, he offered his home without any hesitation, however I was hesitant but decided to follow him to his house because I was a little curious.

Immediately as I arrived into his house, I was welcomed by his two friendly kids, Tsetan and Yangdol and their grandparents who were in the garden.

In the house, I was greeted by his wife, Jigmat,  Stanzin said some brief words to her who then signalled me to their modern yet traditional looking Ladakhi living room. This was where I slept for a few days.

Had I not met Stanzin and invited to his home, I would not have decided to stay a few days to experience more traditional Ladakhi culture. It was heart warming for me to be invited by these open and generous people.

Thiksey Monastery by Night

It was cold and it was late at night when I took this shot but the whole atmosphere was beautiful, the monastery looked even more spectacular and photogenic at night.

Was brushing my teeth out in the garden when I saw this view. There is no indoor plumbing at the house hence everything has to be done out in the open under the clear skies. Water was collected daily from a underground well some distance away and stored in containers.  A traditional Ladakhi house has an outdoor soil toilet and no bathroom, washing is done out in the open normally in the garden or out in the courtyard.

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Sku – a Ladakh noodle stew

Sku - Ladakh Noodle

September 2009

Thiksey Village, Leh, Ladakh, India

I got introduced to this traditional Ladakhi dish, ‘Sku’ while staying with a family in Thiksey Village.

Was wandering in the village and asking directions for a guesthouse when I was invited to stay with the family. At first I was hesitant when Stanzen, the man of house offered his place while taking his horse back to the household, but I was warmly welcomed by each member of the family, along with the two cute kids, Tsetan and Yangdol who helped carry my bag to the family living room where I stayed for a few days.  That’s Ladakhi hospitality for you, very open and friendly people.

Sku is made from local wheat flour (with unusual yellowish tone) and water and served with a vegetable broth. This hearty dish is something like a vegetarian pasta stew like gnocchi (potato pasta), a very simple dish that is helped by the incredibly sweet peas tomato and potato. All local vegetables harvested from the family’s various fields. These organic produce taste amazingly sweet and favor some.  While peeling the vegetables I was constantly popping these deliciously sweet raw peas.  I snacked on these constantly when I was in Leh, organic vegetables taste simply better than mass produce ones, if anyone doubt how organic vegetables taste better, they should come to Ladakh and eat these tasty vegetables raw!

Sku - Ladakh Noodle

Jigmat the lady of the house and Palmo, the sister in law who is currently a resident teacher at a Changtang village. She normally returns home during the weekend and cooks all her favorite dishes. Here we are sharing a cup of butter tea and while making Sku. As I didn’t eat red meat, Palmo decide to make Sku instead of cooking a mutton dish.

Sku - Ladakh Noodle

The dough is kneeled into cylinder then shaped into these little noodle by the thumb.  Palmo was teaching me how to shape the noodle. She does it in one swift skillful motion while my part of the Sku suffered with my clumsy unskillful hands.

Sku - Ladakh Noodle

The broth sauteed with diced tomato and onions before adding the other vegetables and further flavored by other spices like saffron. The Sku is boiled along with the potatos until soft.

Sku - Ladakh Noodle

This pasta stew is hearty and very healthy dish often eaten during the bitter cold winter months where temperature averages -20 to 30 degree celsius.  Sometimes the broth is made from mutton or beef bones along with dried vegetables that is harvested during summer.

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The only photo I took of Manali Himachal Pradesh

The only photo I took in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

September 2009
Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

One of the few places in India that I don’t really enjoy being at. Tons of hippish types that normally travel in big packs, full of touts constantly harassing you, however there are still a few places I could hide out, although often, those irritating fake sadhus and musicians who keep disturbing you at your guesthouse every morning.

Decided to splurge a little one day and had an rather expensive meal that cost Rp350. Smoked river trout that Manali and Kullu is famous for.

More photos of the Cham dance at Korzok

More photos from the Korzok Cham dance.

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos

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Preparing for a Cham Dance in Korzok Village, Tsomoriri

Prior Warning!

Image intensive for those with limited bandwidth. Keeping the photos small. You can click on them to see the bigger version but that will lead you to the flickr site where I am keeping the photos. So if you wanna view the bigger version, just use the open new tab or window rather than clicking the images.

PS : sorry about not processing the photos on PS, am a little lazy to clean up the photos, so you are getting the images unprocessed, just resized and converted straight from raw with the dust spots and all.

Early September 2009

A high lama visited the village of Korzok at Tsomoriri and they decided to perform a Cham dance only the day before. The Cham dance or Masked dance is only performed by the monks and suppose to give merits to the audience, the monks are dressed in beautifully made ornamental costumes and masks of animal deities.

I happened to intrude into the preparations for the cham dance while everyone else, the villagers and the tourists  including some annoyingly and irritating Indian ‘press’ photographer (you know who you are) and  a few other rich European photographers with huge camera set-up waiting in the courtyard for the performance. The monks were kind enough to let me stay on and photograph them dressing up for the dance. The whole setup was amazing, everyone  went about the preparations, the other monks and a few villagers helping out, dressing the monks in their beautifully intricate and heavy costumes.

The feeling I got from this event : well its more genuine and provincial, more real compared to the other large cham events that is happening in the other places.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks preparing for the first cham dance, there are 2 dances or ‘acts’. The first ‘act’ has the monks covered without the deity masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Korzok village isn’t really a rich village hence the rather humble setup for the costumes and cham dance setup. However the village use to be quite rich before with the villages having tons of pashmina goats, sheeps and other livestock trading with nomadic changpa people.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

A monk all dressed up and ready for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The two cham masks of animal deities for the second dance. The eyes of the masks were initially covered, before the  preparations, the high lama came in to  conduct some prayers, summoning the deities at the various altars. Then walked over to the masks performing the prayers, the covers were taken off from the masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The caretaker monk in charge overlooking the costumes. He is in charge of the daily evening pujas (prayers) for the gompa and also in charge of the costumes and the chest of cham masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Laying out the costume for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Taking out the deity mask for the second dance. Its eyes were uncovered after some prayers and chanting by the  high lamas and the monks before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks all prepared and waiting for the high lama to inaugurate the whole dance by saying prayers and giving offers to the deities gods at the altars. The dressed up monks all gathered at the altars and did some quick chanting before the performance. To my knowledge, they had to summon the spirits or deities before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama greets all the dancers and proceeds to praying and invoking the gods at the altars and asking for blessings to the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

All ready, the monks walking out for the first dance one by one, drumming along the way

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks out to the courtyard for the first dance while one of the head monks watches on, he co-ordinates the dances.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The dance at Korzok gompa courtyard, quite a big event with the villagers out in their best clothes even though this was a last minute, the event announced and decided only the day before. Word gets out pretty fast here.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The cham dance at Korzok gompa courtyard with audiences from Korzok and nearby villages

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers watching, some came from nearby area around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake. All came with their best clothes and beautiful colorful woollen weaved shawls made with the local pashmina wool.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for the second dance with the deity masks

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monk and his sword awaiting for the mask to be placed on him

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Putting on more detailed ornaments, actually takes quite awhile putting on the little details.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The Korzok gompa not really a rich monastery, they still make do with the decorations. The skull ornament is usually craved out from bone but they were inventive to create it from leather.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Waiting for help with his costume for the second dance with the deity mask

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

During the break for the second dance, one of the villagers offering yummy salted goat butter tea to everyone including myself! Such wonderful people!

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Antelope mask deity for the second dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Dressing up for the second dance, preparing for the heavy deity head mask to be placed upon

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The deity mask is incredibly heavy! One of the monks allowed me to carry one of them after the dance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

More ornaments waiting to be dressed up

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Second dance over, the last cham dancer returns back to the gompa as the trumpets playing to welcome him back. The trumpets are blown signifying that the dance is over, following the dancers in and out of the gompa chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Cham dance over, the monks playing the tibetan trumpets as the high lama proceeds back to his chambers in the gompa

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama giving his blessings to the local villagers as he returns to his private resting chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Show’s over, the monks taking their instruments and other stuff back

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers making their way back home after the cham dance along with their prayer wheels

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The locals going home after the cham dance with the frequent sand storm looming over. The ladies dressing in their best clothes, colorful shawls self weaved from the wool they got from their sheep and pashmina goats.

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Setting up prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake, Ladakh

Tsomoriri Lake is set in the Changthang plateau in the eastern Ladakh, nearby the nomadic village of Korzok. Altitude around 15,000ft

I visited Tsomoriri Lake in early September 2009. Having just visited Kashmir only less than 3 days ago, I was experiencing a little high altitude sickness, usual headache and breathlessness, the cold icy and sandy winds made it a little more uncomfortable. There were mini sand storms blowing through the village of Korzok and that made it worse.

Came here for the Tsomoriri Ladakh festival which is suppose to feature cultural performances of this region. Somehow the locals do not know it is happening despite asking many of them on the day of my arrival. They only came to know about the festival on the actual day from the tourism officials and the district commissioner, all they knew was that a high lama was visiting the Korzok gompa.

So when is the high lama coming I asked ; “he will come only where he arrives” replied Tsering, a delightful and helpful 17year old who help run his family homestay.

In the morning, decided to mount the Tibetan prayer flags (Lung-Ta) that I brought from Leh,at the lake. While struggling a little setting it up, strong winds and occassional sand storms, two jeeps drove up and out came these 2 jeep drivers who were driving some Indian tourists up to the lake.

I was truly blessed, these angelic Ladakhis instinctly knew I was struggling with the flags and took over with the mounting almost immediately. While the angels were helping me with the prayer flags, I said my prayers and dedicated the flags to my dad for his health and well being, to my two dear friends Diana and Kam for their recent health woes. Praying for them, for their health and well-being, peace and protection

The scene was breathtaking with snow capped mountains and the blue fresh water lake, a beautiful place to be in the morning.

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

The lake is surrounded by the elevated valley of Rupshu with snowpcapped hills of around 20,000 ft. It rained the day before, this place is experiencing climate change to the maximum. It hardly rains here, maybe slight drizzles but this year it rained with heavy short burst of downpour, in the afternoon, the heat can be so strong with the sun beating down at 30 degree celsius

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

There is an art in setting up the slate rocks that the Ladakhis seem so talented in doing swiftly and artfully.

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

One of the Angel Ladakhi setting up the flag on the other end

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

The two Ladakhi helper angels who were quite experienced in setting up the flags for me.These angels were driving some Indian tourists to the lake as seen at the background. Indian army soldiers taking a break from their work. They saw me with the flags, immediately they took over my flags when they saw me with it. Such wonderful angels!

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

Setting prayer flags at Tsomoriri Lake

PS: sorry about the photos, I didn’t have the chance to process them on photoshop, hence all the dust spots are still there. just converted and resized them from raw files.

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Scored myself some nomadic himalayan cheese

Got some himalayan cheese (average 750g each) from Pahalgam, Kashmir. The company (Himalayan cheese company) claim to have collected the cow milk from nomads, highest quality grade milk with grass fed cows in high altitude highlands. Its unpasturised and made by the traditional method, by hand and the cheese is even transported by mules and horses. How environmentally friendly!

Bought young 2 month old gouda and a one year old gouda. The one year old gouda is amazingly matured and taste more like vintage chedar than a gouda. Interestingly not much fat content in the cheese but taste heavenly. I am addicted!

Well Pahalgam, Kashmir is Alpine paradise, the water streams from glaciers, there are actually trouts in the rivers and taste pretty yummy. Pretty great fruits and nuts. Yum

Young Himalayan Gouda Cheese 2 months old

Young Himalayan Gouda Cheese 2 months old

One year old Himalayan gouda cheese

One year old Himalayan gouda cheese

what a difference one year makes, the old cheese taste heavenly

what a difference one year makes, the old cheese taste heavenly

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Finally made it to Leh, Ladakh

Arrived to Leh, Ladakh. Long bus rides from Delhi to Manali (2 nights). Manali to Keylong (12 long hours on public bus). Keylong 2 night to recover from hellish ride. Bus from Keylong to Leh (18 long hours on another public bus). Spending 3 weeks in Leh and going various places from there. Great place to base yourself compare to Manali which is dreadful and full of Weed smoking travellers. Went to Nubra Valley, took a bus to Diskit and Hunder. Hunder for 2 nights, quiet and peaceful, but not really much to do, except short walks to the crumbling gompas around. Plenty of apricot trees and the famous 2 hump hunder camels.