Think about the most beautiful thing that you have ever seen, now go beyond it and think about something more beautiful than that, done? Now workout little more on your imagination and try to think something more beautiful, only this time you should go till infinity. Done? You know what,
You haven’t reached Ladakh yet……..

The mesmerizing, astonishing, enthralling, hypnotic and spellbinding beauty which lies beyond infinity is unimaginable to any Human mind and thinking. I have used all the superlatives that I know in a single sentence so that you ppl are not bugged time and again, but I bet that all the superlatives available in any known language of mankind will fall prey to the beauty of Ladakh.
If you are an atheist you ought to visit Ladakh, you will start believing in God and if you believe in God you should certainly go to Ladakh, you will meet him.
Its been almost an year and I do not think I am capable enough to describe Ladhak and its journey to you. So I thought let me write about few things which you certainly should not miss doing/visiting if you are ever in this paradise.

1. Take a bike trip from Manali to Leh :
This is one of the must dos for all the travel fanatics out there. When you google Manali to Leh road trip you will find hundreds of you tube videos (one of them is fortunately ours) write-ups , articles and blogs. You will get mesmerized and terrified at the same time by what you see and read in there. So I do not want to write anything more about it and load you with additional vocabulary. All that I would like to tell you is that “DO IT TO KNOW IT”. No video, no photograph and no article or blog can ever explain that feeling. Believe me I have tried to explain a million times to friends and family what it felt like but I have always fallen short of words. It is the epitome of beauty that your two peppers will ever observe in your lifetime and it is the ultimate adrenalin rush that you will ever have ( yes no sky diving or bungee jumping can ever give you that). So go ahead and DO IT!!!

2. Stay at one of the dormitory tents at Pang or Sarchu :
On the way from Manali to Leh , people normally take a break on the second day of the travel at Sarchu or Pang. You will find some high end tents to stretch your legs at Sarchu but our recommendation is that you should avoid the luxuries of the high end tents and rather go in for a dormitory tent where you will have other fellow travelers staying with you. Skip your privacy for a day and talk to people about their experience, pain, hardships, learnings etc. Travel is not only about crossing places, it is in fact about meeting people, food and cultures when you cross lands. Is it not this way how the cultures of one land traveled far and wide into another world with the travelers and conquerors? These tents are the best places to experience the joy of making friends while travelling and who knows you might meet some really seasoned traveler who might share his best kept secret with you!!

3. Climb to the top of the Castle Tsemo at Leh :
There are many local sightseeing to be done in the city of Leh including the Leh palace , Shanti Stup and many monasteries. But one place which probably does not rank very high on the tourist to do list is the fabulous Castle Tsemo. We were also quite apprehensive in going there as we did not see many people opting to do so. But now since we did go there, I can certainly say that it is a must do. Do not just visit it, but climb to the top of it for 2 reasons.

a. No other place in the whole of Leh can give you such a spectacular sight of the city and the landscape together. What we were able to capture in our cameras is not even half of the beauty and the vastness that your naked eyes will ever lay upon.
b. The top of this place has the serenity of the moon and the depth of an ocean in it. I had a feeling of the birthing of my luminous self. Out of the two moments on the trip when I could feel my tears roll down, this was one. (Read on to find out the second moment)

4. Stay at the homestays or home guest house at Leh :
The belonging of a home away from home, being one with the different people, their culture and traditions. It is like a cradle of joy. This feeling of oneness and bliss can best be experienced by staying in a homestay and home guest house. Moreover, it’s a must do in Leh because you will meet one of the warmest and friendliest people ever. The quintessential forever smile on the faces of these people give you the much needed warmth in those cold terrains. Stay in one of these homestays to enjoy one of the most hospitable and amicable stays ever.

5. Eat at the Gesmo Restaurant in Leh :

As the city of Leh is the capital and the most important and largest city of the entire Ladhak and Zanskar region, you will find many good places to eat here. Also with the ever growing popularity of the place among the foreign nationals, you will find many restaurant serving multi cuisine dishes. However, one place to eat which clearly stands out among all of them is the Gesmo Restaurant for an exceptional food, service and friendliness. It is centrally located in Leh on the Fort Road. It is a small road side restaurant with no frills but a lot of character. It has a multicuisine menu and every item is just heavenly. However “The must haves” are the Israeli dishes (Laffa), the local Ladhaki / Tibetian dishes ( Thukpa , Mentuk and Momos) , burgers , coffee and their fresh bottled juice. Even all the Indian dishes on the menu are worth a try. Everything is freshly cooked, delicious and scores very high on the Value for money. Highly recommended place for all the food lovers.

6. Try to grab a picture of the Santi Stup at night :
Shanti Stup is one of the favorite site for local sightseeing in Leh. But most of us always visit the place in the day. My recommendation is that even if you have already seen it in the day time, give it a second visit after the night has fallen. The sight of the Stup after it is all lit up is just a spectacle to watch. This is one of the most photogenic sights for all those who love to click. So pay a visit to this magnificent piece of architecture at night and grab your stunning click!

7. Read the Maggi Story at the Khardungla Pass:
Who is the savior of all the bachelors in India? Who is our best friend in the college hostels and the dormitories? Who holds the omnipotent place in all the midnight snacks? Who used to satisfy our hunger and craving after that evening play during childhood? Who is the best childhood, teenage and the adulthood friend of essentially all us Indians? Yes it is our ever favorite and our savior forever, the 2 minute noodle “Maggie”. But how many of us really did know the Maggie story? Do not worry. After you discover a new fact that Maggie was not only your savior on all those above occasions but also a big savior on your road trip in these mighty towering Himalayas, the pleasure to read the Maggie story on the World’s Highest Motorable road will be second to none. Yes, the Maggie story is written down on army café in the Khardungla Pass. So, while you sip your cup of hot tea (highly recommended) and gobble your Maggie up there, enjoy reading the story of your favorite and all time savior up there. And yes you can say those words there which you always wanted to say “Oh! Maggie. What would I have ever done without you? I love you forever and ever”

8. Go for a walk in the desert of Hunder on a full moon night:
Yeah, I do understand it is not very easy to plan this. But if you are on a road trip then you will in all probabilities spend around a week in an around Leh. So if carefully planned with the calendar, it’s not very difficult to achieve this. Spend a little more efforts in your tour planning to witness this forbidden beauty. The sight of the full moon rising beyond the hills, the white sand shimmering away to the white light of the moon in this plaintive land, the snowcapped peak far beyond shining even after the night falls and watching the multiple colors in the night sky playing hide and seek is a feast to the eyes of any beholder of beauty and to the lens of any pro photographer. The photograph below was clicked by us (extremely naïve photographer) with a very basic lens. But if you are a pro travel photographer, you will not want to miss being at the right place at the right time to capture a memory which will help you relive that moment a thousand times.

9. Take your bike down to the Pangong Tso Lake and give it a click :
All through your trip you will fall in love with your machine again and again. So much will be your love that you will virtually get married to it on your journey. So why not allow her to pose herself away at one of the most photogenic and postcard perfect location on earth. Yes, your machine will love to be clicked against the emerald blue waters of the ghastly beautiful Pangong Tso Lake. So please make your muscles work a bit and pull her down to the lake to give her that perfect moment.

10. Take the Dha -Hanu route while going from Ladhak to Srinagar or vice Versa instead of the regular NH 1 :

While going to Srinagar from Leh or coming to Leh from Srinagar , most of the travelers mostly take the NH1. Basically because the road condition is good to ride and drive and also because it is likely to take less time. But who the hell cares about time when you are on a trip of your life. So chuck the NH1 and take the road less travelled – the Dha – Hanu route and you will not regret. You will pass through a completely different world of tiny villages, mystic green, yellow and orange covers, blue green glacier water running by your side and white, blue and purple mountains. Will it mesmerize you? Will it leave you stunned? Honestly speaking I do not know and I have no words to describe it. May be a poet of far more worth can describe those visuals. I only know that I was frozen, I did not want to speak and yes it was the second moment when tears slowly rolled down my dry, worn and sun tanned cheeks.
I hope that this write up will make your journey more memorable like it did to us. However it was not an education tour but I learned. It was not a spiritual tour but I became more God loving.
I learned to care. I learned to care about people, time, and resources. I started loving everything that that I have. I started respecting the air that I breathe and the water I drink. I started trusting people not only the other people but the person inside me. I started believing myself. My abilities. I had a good meeting with my shortcomings my fears and the methods to overcome them. I developed a sense of being passionate about something, it is weird that I don’t know what that something is. But it is somewhere deep down, of doing things and not sitting idle. I became more human.

More info:

On the way to Leh from Manali

The dormitory tenta at Pang

Shanti Stup at night

The desert of Hunder on a full moon night

The twilight view on the way to Srinagar vis Dha -Hanu

The Maggi story at Khardungla Pass