There doesn’t seem to be much ability to upload pictures here in Leh (at least “not until after 10pm”), so the photos of the past few days will have to wait a bit. As for Leh itself, it seems the least interesting thing about the region of Ladakh. It is inundated with tourists, backpackers and trekkers which of course has warped the local economy into the kind of bland sameness one finds in oversaturated tourist environments. The food is the same, the shops are the same, the life on the street is the same.
There are a few interesting things about the layout of the city, including labyrinthine paved paths (connecting a thousand new guesthouses) and the fact that in such a desert area, Ladakhi homes (and hotels and guesthouses) seem to have a great culture of lovely private garden tending.
Here are a few tips from Stephen should you have the misfortune to spend any time in Leh (as opposed to the surrounding towns and areas which are lovely):
-DON’T STAY AT PADMA Guest House and Hotel. Being highly recommended by Lonely Planet seems to be the death knell to anything special about a place, and this is no exception. We stayed there one night, the service was horrible, it was a bit noisy, the food was mediocre and the prices outrageous.
-DO eat at Cafe Yambuling. It was great food and great value and friendly service! I was especially surprised by the quality of the masala dosa.
-DON’T order anything with chicken in it. Twice now, I have had something really rubbery. And don’t order anything with meat in it in Leh, as most non chicken gets trucked in by non AC vehicle over many hours.
-DON’T think that your prepaid SIM card and roaming will work. My Airtel SIM, which has successfully roamed all over India, refuses to work here, even though there is an Airtel network. The woman at the Airtel shop informed me that Jammu and Kashmir (of which Ladakh is a part) is a militarily “sensitive” area and they have disabled roaming on all prepaid users like myself because we are clearly terrorists.