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Ladakh, India: Monasteries and Mountains - Page Two

By Ravi J. Deka


ALTERNATIVES

Volunteer work
Like most of the Himalayan regions, Ladakh relies heavily on volunteer workers to carry out projects in community development. There are several organizations that accept foreign volunteers, and spending a few days or weeks lending a hand is a wonderful way to get closer to the Ladakhi people and culture.

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SECMOL
SECMOL (Students' Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh) works to improve government schools, promote cultural and environmental awareness, and builds solar-heated earth buildings. Volunteers are invited to help at camps for Ladakhi youth every year in May and June, or to inquire about other kinds of volunteering. You can visit SECMOL Campus at Phey village, 18 km west of Leh off the Leh-Srinagar Highway, but please call before visiting.

SECMOL
P.O. Box 4
Leh, Ladakh 194 101
India
Phey Campus tel: 91-1982-226120; Leh office 252421, 253012
www.secmol.org, email: info@secmol.org; secmol@rediffmail.com

The Tibetan Refuge Camp and Library in Choglamsar--about 10 km from Leh on the Manali route-- also offers numerous voluntary work opportunities. Some are welfare activities, others have decidedly political undertones.

Tibetan Refuge Camp and Library
P.O. Choglamshar
Ladakh
Jammu & Kashmir, India

The largest volunteer organization is LEDeG, the Ladakh Ecological Development Group, who have an Ecological center not far from the Morovian church. Set up to preserve the Ladakhi culture and teach application of "appropriate" technology, their most noticeable activityis a daily screening of the video "Ancient Futures," which highlights the problems of tourism in Ladakh. They also accept volunteers, and every year, scores of overseas visitors pay a fee to sign up for a stint of voluntary work in a Ladakhi village with a family.
Ladakh Ecological Development Group
Leh, Ladakh 194101
India

ledeg@vsnl.net

Or in Britain or the U.S.:
Ladakh Project
21 Victoria Square
Clifton, Bristol
BS84ES
United Kingdom

Or
Ladakh Project
P.O. Box 9475
Berkeley, CA 94709

Or contact ISEC, the parent body of the Ladakh Projects

International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC)
Apple Barn
Week, Dartington
Devon, TQ9 6JP
England
Tel: 44-1803-868650
Fax: 44-1803-868651
E-mail: isecuk@gn.apc.org
Website: isec.org.uk

 

Other Opportunites

Check out notices and posters on the walls of the "German Bakeries" for the current addresses and the programs of other volunteer organizations and projects in the region. You can also check the boards for current meditation and Buddhist study courses offered in the region.

TOURING

Most of the travel agencies and tour operators in Leh are only brokers; very few undertake their own operations. So, it pays to weed out the middleman and find authentic guides.

 

Local Guides
One brilliant trekking guide and organizer is Mr. Tsering, the proprietor of Shanti Guest House in Changspa. Mr. Tsering is an ex-defense personnel who specializes in both summer and winter treks and mountaineering. He offers most reasonable rates and is a marvelous cook.
Mr. Tsering
Shanti Guest House
Changspa
tel/fax: 91-1982-53084

 

Mr. Tashi of Yak Travels is also an excellent organizer
Yak Travels
Main Bazaar
Near State Bank of India
Leh, Ladakh
J & K
India

Explore Himalayas, one of the oldest Travel agencies in Ladakh, also conducts numerous treks, Jeep safaris and Indus River rafting expeditions.

Mr. T. Wangchuk Shali
tel: 91-1982-52727
wangchuks@hotmail.com
indiamart.com/explorehimalayas

 

Indian Shepherds (P) Ltd. (contact Capt. Raaj Kumar)
New Delhi - 110 016
India
Tel:91-11-651-1389
Fax: 91-11-651-1389
georgian@del3.vsnl.net.in
Specializes in various package tours from treks to caravans to motorcycling.

Snow Leopard Trails (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Kanglachen Shopping Complex
Zangsti,
Leh, Ladakh-194101
Tel: 91-1982-52074
Fax: 91-1982-52355
Email: leopard@nda.vsnl.net.in

For other reliable guides, you can also try the Travel Corporation of Ladakh
tcl@mantraonline.com

LODGINGS

There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in the region, but don’t look for the 4 star luxuries. There are a number of upmarket places located on the roads leading down westward from Leh’s main street, some with running hot and cold water.

 

Leh
The bulk of the economy lodges and guesthouses are found in the Changspa locality, near the Shanti Stupa. Mostly family run, an average room rent varies from $2 -3 USD per night with a shared bath.

Other similar guesthouses can also be found near the Sankar Gompa at the northern end of the town. Usually placed in a garden and surrounded by barley fields and vegetable patches, these guesthouses are usually quite and very neat and the landlords friendly and accommodating: a far cry from the cramped and bedbug-ridden places with stinking toilets around the bazaar. Leh is prone to perennial power shortages, so there is mostly candlelight--and sometimes generator power--at night. It’s romantic and real, but make sure to carry a flashlight.

Elsewhere
There are also guesthouses outside Leh, in Choglamsar, Stok and Phyang. The Ladakh Sari in Stok is upmarket, while the others are usually budget.

 

Homestays
You can also stay as a guest with a Ladakhi family in these places, and an inquiry in the local tea shop or eatery usually directs you to the right places. Prices are very modest, but of Spartan comfort, and the ecological toilets (hole in the floor) are not for the squeamish.

Similar arrangements can be made in virtually in every village in Ladakh, offering an excellent atmosphere to disappear and unwind, especially if allergic to the tourist crowd.

Monasteries
Some monasteries have guest accommodation, available for a donation (very basic). Others occasionally consider requests for an overnight’s stay. Single women are allowed stay only in nunneries. If you are planning a monastery stay, keep your sleeping bag and a flashlight handy.



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