FULL DAY SIGHTSEEING IN THE INDUS VALLEY. Today you will spend a full day visiting many of the important places in the wide Indus valley. This will certainly include Shey, – Palace of the old Ladakhi kings,
Thikse – a large monastery which contains a three-storey-high statue of Chamba, Buddha of the future, and Hemis – the largest monastery in Ladakh. At the latter, ask to see the temple in the rear, which houses the Buddhas that have in the past ‘spoken’. In the afternoon you drive back to Leh. Overnight at Hotel.
SHEY PALACE (15 km from Leh)The old ‘summer palace’ of the kings of Ladakh was built about 550 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the first king of Ladakh. It stands next to the remains of a larger construction on the east side of a hill which runs south-east towards the Indus. From the palace you can see over the fertile Indus plain north-east to Tikse Gompa and over the Indus to the Zanskar mountain range. The old Shey palace has the largest golden Buddha statue in Ladakh in its gompa. The statue is worked out of gold and gilded copper sheets, stands 12 meters high and has blue hair. It was erected by King Dalden Namgyal in the middle of the 17th century. The most important moment in the construction of such a figure is when the eyes are painted in and the statue can ‘see’. No artist or monk would dare to look the Buddha in the eye so the pupils are painted over the artist’s shoulder, with his back to the idol.
THIKSAY GONPAThe 500-year-old Thikse monastery, perched on a hill high above the Indus, has the largest contingent of monks in Ladakh. On the right of the entrance to the main courtyard a new chapel houses an enormous 15 meter high seated Buddha figure. About 100 yellow-cap monks belong to the gompa. If you get there by 6.30am you can witness the daily morning prayers, but there are also prayers closer to noon, preceded by long, mournful sounds from the horns on the roof.
HEMIS GOMPA (45 km from Leh) Hemis Gompa is famous far beyond the borders of Ladakh for its Festival. This takes place every year with mask dances on the 9th to 11th day of the fifth Tibetan month. Hemis also has a gigantic thangka, one of the largest in the world, which is only displayed to the public every 12 years at the Festival. Hemis Gompa is the largest and one of the most important in Ladakh quite apart from its annual festival. It was founded about 350 years ago by Stagtshang Raschen, who was invited to Ladakh by King Singe Namgyal. A Buddhist scholar will give a talk and answer questions. Overnight at hotel.
VISIT ORACLE NEAR LEH, OR DRIVE TO STARTING POINT OF TREK. We cannot guarantee this proposed audience with an oracle who foretells the future, but if possible we will arrange for you to meet her in a village near Leh. She has such a reputation that local people are afraid to talk to her for fear she will tell them things they would rather not hear. Much of today is free time to be spent doing your own thing. In the afternoon, you drive to the start of your trek at Ridzong, and on arrival, you walk up to Ridzong Gompa. Ridzong monastery is nestled on a hilltop and is a meditation center inhabited by monks. No local house can be seen except for small Pullus here and there. Visit the Gompa and camp nearby.