Journey Two / Chapter 7


August 2016

Ladakh, the land of high mountain passes, is really one of the most remote and unique regions in India, Asia and the whole world – It’s an ancient buddhist home culturally closely tied to sitting Tibet on the other side of the Himalayan range.

Ladakh means the Land of the High Mountain Passes in local language. That name sure does justice to this extremely remote region, as some of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world are located here, Including Khardong La which sits at majestic 5360 m. The whole region is basically an high altitude mountain desert, with only small islands of vegetation.

Due to its remoteness and hardship of access Ladakh has been for most of its history independent kingdom going on with its own business separated from the rest of the world. Local people are mostly adamant followers of Buddhism, and for centuries they lived in peaceful agrarian society with completely different set of values. Even through at times it was officially part of this or that empire, the life of the locals went pretty much unchanged.

However, in the past 50 years of so, the life started changing dramatically. Influx of Tibetan refugees from China from one side, and more recent influx of both Indian and foreign tourists have slowly but surely transformed peaceful and remote region into place of both trade wealth and personal poverty. This transition is ongoing and escalating and its future is unsure, but it is well obvious to any visitor that ancient way of life and great part of unique Ladakhi culture is disappearing and is being replaced by capitalistic values of gain, globalism and consumerism, as it happened before to other regions of India and Southeast Asia.

Luckily, our week-long visit was enchanted by unrelated lucky coincidence. At the same time as we visited Ladakh there was also one very precious guest - His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. It turns out that His Holiness, who lives in different Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has a special love for the region of Ladakh, as it reminds him greatly of his home - Tibet. Indeed, Ladakh is full of Tibetan refugees and is often known as Little Tibet. His Holiness visits this region often and regularly despite his busy schedule, and when he does, he gives plenty of teachings, empowerment and speaks to the general public, among visiting schools, monasteries, hospitals and the rest of laity.