One of the ways of getting to Leh is the air services from Srinagar and Delhi. Yet, coming into Ladakh by road has its own feel. The flight from Delhi, over the Great Himalaya and the Zanskar range, is spectacular. There is one way from Srinagar via Kargil and over the three passes, Zoji-la, Namika and Fatula and another route from Manali to Leh. Flying in, you see the scenic beauty from above, while coming by road you become a part of the scenic beauty. Travelers, however, also need time to allow for the acclimatization, Leh being at a great height, where the air is thin.
Driving in from Kashmir, you pass by the Suru and Zanskar valleys below Panikhar, which is one of the most attractive regions of Ladakh. Geographically, it is the Indus valley, which is the backbone of Ladakh. Shey, Basgo, Tingmosgang and Leh along with the famous Gompas all associated with Ladakh’s history are located along the Indus. Gompa means a solitary place ,and are basically monasteries which are situated all over Ladakh. With their massive walls and small windows, they look more like miniature fortresses, rather than monasteries. Sani, Karsha, Stongde and Bardhan are magnificent examples.
Most of the population in Ladakh follows Buddhism and even with the developing tourism, most of the villages in and surrounding Ladakh remain unchanged and oblivious to modernization. The people have a friendly and laid back attitude and are often lazy. Their staple food is Tsampa, parched barley flour, which is either mixed with butter tea or Chang, a mildly alcoholic drink. Even technology in Ladakh is of the simplest kind, the wheel being impractical in the rugged mountain terrain. The houses are simple and built usually with hand using stones or sun dried bricks. A lot of timber is also used.
The language of the population is an archaic form of Tibetan, with a large range of dialects depending upon the location of the villages.The people of Ladakh are not over worked. They work just for their basic needs, which largely involves farming. Women here work just as hard as men, whether it has to do with selling or labour work. Ladakh also has a wide array of handicrafts, from metal work to clay and pottery and even paintings. Pictures and designs on canvases and clothes relating to Buddhism or Buddhist texts are indeed famous here. In the markets of the slightly larger towns, pearls and precious stones are quite a tourist attraction, while woolen shawls and carpets also generate adequate amounts of income.
It is said that Ladakh is one of those few places where you can get a sun burn and a frost bite, sitting in the same place. From Buddhist monasteries to mountain ranges, there is a lot of sight seeing and trekking that can be done in Ladakh, while the friendly population helps the traveler to soak up on the history of the land. Ladakh is not about comfort living. It is about interacting with nature and with a culture that till today remains untouched.