Leh – Monasteries
Around Leh you can do a few trips to monasteries, aka gompas.
First stop: Thiksey Monastry
Walking up to it from the car park, you pass wind battered prayer flags – always photogenic.
You’ll wander by objects painted prettily, also.
I don’t know about you, but I find monks absolutely fascinating and they’re great to take pictures of. Call me a monk stalker, if you will.
Walk around the top for a bit, then venture down again where you can enter a morning class, or prayer, with the younger monks.
On the way back down, an older monk passed me and said ‘good morning’. Monks talk to you? Brilliant. Then I passed another monk with a mobile phone. Monks have mobile phones? Brilliant. Then I passed two other monks play fighting with their toothbrushes. Monks play fight AND clean their teeth? Brilliant. I’m learning a lot about monks (couldn’t tell you jack shit about the monastery itself though).
Next stop was Hemis Monastery.
Along twisting, mountainous roads and far away from anywhere it seems. The furthest monastery I visited.
I arrived and paid a contribution and found they were all still in morning prayer. So I hung about like the monk stalker I am waiting for them to come out, but to my delight a few went in.
After a while they all started filing out, me taking pictures not seeing the sign that said no photography (I assumed afterwards that was for inside). As a 5’11 female with light brown hair, blue eyes and a large DSLR camera round my neck I felt I blended in quite well.
They blew a few large large trumpets outside, banged on drums and played with the local stray dogs.
After they dispersed, I wondered around and came across a room filled with oil. Weird.
You’ll find these prayer wheels in all the monasteries, too. I dare you to spin them anti-clockwise.
A monk asked for a ride down to the market. Monks ask for rides and shop in markets? Brilliant. On the way he made small talk with the driver then said goodbye and thank you as we reached the market down the hill. I was a bit monk-struck and didn’t really know what to say.
The scenery between monasteries is well worth checking out, i.e. don’t close your eyes in the taxi.
Next up was Shey Monastery and Palace.
It all looked a little run down and out of shape compared with the other two.
All monasteried out after a mere mornings sightseeing, it’s time to head back to Leh feeling like you’d just been to Tibet.
When visited: early October
Weather: chilly, sunny days and cool evenings.