A Love Letter to Ladakh, India


Story published on Passion Passport, July 2019.

Link to publication: https://passionpassport.com/love-letter-ladakh/

Far from the heat, noise, and chaos, atop India’s snow-capped mountains, I found peace. Before I even set foot in Ladakh, also known as Little Tibet, its very mention made me daydream. When I was growing up, my father used to tell me stories of his months-long trip through the mountains of India, Nepal, and Pakistan, and I have been mesmerized by these lands ever since. The people, landscape, and stillness quietly beckoned to me for years until, finally, I answered their call.

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The journey to Ladakh was an adventure in itself. Set on the Tibetan Plateau, the region’s capital, Leh, stands proudly at 11,483 feet (3,500 meters) in altitude, and the road to get there is a definite test of patience. Although the trek was long, I found the 20-hour bus ride from Srinagar to be awe-inspiring. Infinite winding roads packed with shepherds and their sheep, gypsies, and horse-riding nomads led us from the valley to the heart of Ladakh. It seemed like a bigger mountain appeared in front of our eyes at every turn. Everything kept me at the edge of my seat, with my head out the window and my camera ready to capture each moment and mood.

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After several hours, an overnight stop, and a morning chai, we finally arrived at Lamayuru, which served as our official introduction to the region. The landscape there is so unique that it felt like we were on another planet entirely — its vast, rough, deserted plains and patches of lush green and turquoise rivers were nothing short of breathtaking. Hundreds of magnificent monasteries dotted the valley, as they have for centuries, and villagers dressed in traditional Ladakhi clothing, with yak furs on their backs and prayer wheels in their hands, greeted us with the warmest of smiles.

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My days in Ladakh were spent roaming: trying every chai, indulging in various bread shops, buying yak cheese, conversing with locals, and finding the most unique handicrafts I could to bring back home. I visited monasteries, met with young monks, partook in Buddhism and meditation lessons, and even experienced Yuru Kabgyat, a deeply cultural Ladakhi festival where monks dance in costumes and masks to recreate traditional Buddhist tales. I hitchhiked through the incredible valleys; drove up KhardungLa Pass, the highest route in the world; spotted hundreds of wild yaks; and got caught in a snowstorm — in June!

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Every day in Ladakh was an adventure. Every night when I went to bed, I thought to myself, how could this get any better. And the next day, to my surprise, it always did.



Words and photography by Ariane Poulin