Day 5: Monastary Tour (Thiksey, Hemis & Shey)
Leh Travel Blog› entry 6 of 26 › view all entries
"This is the strangest music I know. It's hardly music at all. Those long wind things ... the way the drum rattles in the middle of a prayer ... the long roll of cymbals that brings everything to a climax. It is as if the rock were singing; it is as if the wind and the rain were singing. It is not music; it is sound, essential sound."
A Journey in Ladakh - Andrew Harvey
Another early morning. We woke up at for today's tour to three important monasteries in the area around Leh.
The sun was coming up and made a wonderful shadow play on the mountains south of Leh. Past fields of white stupa's and the occasional prayer wheel we arrived at Thiksey. The town's monastery could be seen on a high hill. A stunning site that brought back memories of the Ganden monastery in
Wheezing and panting we climbed the stairs to the prayer hall where this morning's puja was taking place.
Unlike all the monasteries I'd seen in
After about an hour in the prayer hall I wandered around the rest of the gompa. There was a huge 14 meter high Maitreya (the future Buddha) statue in another prayer hall, covering two floors. Like in this hall another monk was chanting and drumming away in the hall of the protectors. The faces of these wrathful protectors were covered with cloths. The roof of the gompa offered stunning sights of the surrounding mountains and after this breathtaking (literally and figuratively) climb it was time for a nice cup of black tea in the restaurant.
Our next stop was the Hemis monastery, some 45 minutes southwards. We drove alongside the
A long, winding road took us to Hemis monastery, which is located in the gorge between two mountains. Hemis is the richest gompa in Ladakh, but most of their wealth is fixed in land and therefore the place actually looks less well preserved than Thiksey. Some interesting things we saw at Hemis were small statues made of butter and dough, an 8 meter high statue of Padmasambhava and another statue of one of the founders of the monastery who had disguised himself as a Moslem and smuggled Buddhist holy scriptures under his turban.
The jeeps drove back northwards to Thiksey where we had a buffet lunch at a restaurant across the road from the monastery.
Some ten miles along the highway to Manali, the walls of the old palace of the kings of Leh rear up along a prominent ridge to the north of the road. A king hasn't lived there for 400 years, but the evidence of power and wealth still clings to the place, both in the scale of the ruins and, on a nearby hillside, row upon row of crumbling white monuments. From a distance they resemble l
They vary in size, the highest being almost 20 feet tall. Usually situated in favourable geomantic locations, their design represents steps to enlightenment. They are constructed on five levels, with the square base symbolizing the earth and the tapering tops the sky and stars. As I wander among them I can see that few are intact. Most are leaning or cracked down the sides and all look as if they may have been opened up at some time. Intriguingly, many seem to have been freshly whitewashed, suggesting someone is still looking after them.
Michael Palin -
After a photo stop at a big field of white chörtens (stupas) we visited the old palace at Shey.
Before being dropped off at the hotel we had one last photo stop at the residence of the Dalai Lama during his visits to Ladakh. A dais was placed in the middle of a large field, where thousands of people would attend his speeches. During his last speech he had called for peace among the Buddhists and Moslems in the region.
Back at the hotel Judith had taken it easy the whole day, sleeping and reading. We divided our luggage over our backpack (that would be taken on the trekking), daypack and flightbag (which would remain in the hotel), a sometimes chaotic bit of reorganizing. We had ourselves dropped off in Leh, where we bought some cookies and nuts for the trekking, checked our e-mail and filled the empty water bottles with purified water at Dzomsa, an organization that refills bottles to reduce the quantity of trash left by trekking tourists.