Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

View from a room

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View of Himalayas in Lamayuru

View of Himalayas in Lamayuru

What was so special about this room? Firstly, it was at 11000 feet, with a picturesque view of Himalayan range. Secondly, the room was a lavatory with a porcelain toilet, in a part of the world where porcelain toilets are rare.

Two of us had arrived at Lamayuru, site of an eleventh century Buddhist monastry in Ladakh. We had been hitchhiking with truckers, or busing, along the Leh-Kargil highway, making our way from one village to next. I remember it was mid morning when we arrived and it was blindingly bright. The last forty minutes of the truck ride had been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time – narrow winding road, high mountain on one side and deep cliff on other.

Ladkah is a high altitude desert with spots of green here and there. But, Lamayuru is truly dry. Down in the village, there were a few dozen old homes, and a few not so old homes – nothing had looked prosperous except the towering monastery.

Traditional Ladakhi kitchen

Traditional Ladakhi kitchen

We hadn’t planned ahead knowing fully well that during tourist season, we would find shelter. While we were still getting the dust off our clothes, a woman clad is beautiful traditional clothes, climbed up to greet us. She was pretty, barefoot and climbed like a goat. Maybe the sun had aged her – the wrinkles on her face and the spring in her steps were at odds with each other. She offered us a place to stay the night. We liked her entrepreneurship and followed her. She taking the short cut, jumping and leaping from one rock to other and us trailing behind on the road, breathing heavily in the thin air. Her guest house had quaint, well cared for rooms with low windows, and the floors were covered with beautiful Kashmiri carpets. We breakfasted on dry chappati and sweet chai in her proudly maintained traditional kitchen. We had made up our minds to stay when I asked to see the bathroom. Maybe I shouldn’t have. What I saw was a spacious unadorned room with low ceiling, a perfectly symmetrical 8 inch wide hole in the floor and a large window with a beautiful view. I peeped into the hole. I saw what looked like an open air mound of shit. She looked heartbroken when we told her that hole in the floor was no go if we could find a porcelain option.

That’s how we ended up at the monastery guest house. It offered a porcelain toilet. We spent the day doing what tourists do in these parts – checking out the monastery, making friends with the little monks in training, walking through the village, and checking out nearby trails. Evening comes quickly in these parts and power is limited to a few hours each evenings. We spent those hours sharing stories with other tourists and locals. A simple but leisurely dinner of chappati and daal followed and then to bed.

A little monk in Lamayuru

A little monk in Lamayuru

In the morning, the view from my toilet seat was spectacular. Windows were large and low, making them just eye level from where I sat. Since the guest house itself was high up above the village, I didn’t have to worry about people looking in. The morning sky had started out being reddish black and had eventually turned so blue that it could have been violet. Sharp scraggly Himalayan ranges could be seen at a distance and there colors had changed with the rising sun. I think that was the longest I had sat on a toilet, not in harmony with my surroundings, but in awe of it. I am not sure if I would have enjoyed the view so much if I were squatting above a hole in the floor but that surely would have been a more interesting tale to tell.

Travel Note: Outside of capital city Leh, Ladakh is not a resource rich place. It is non-trivial to find hot water and modern toilet facilities. Also, it is safer to carry your own sleeping bags. Water is not very plentiful so chances of clean bedding is remote. If you are traveling without a guide, stick to the basic food groups like lentils and Indian bread.

Written by locomotoring

June 13, 2008 at 1:02 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] of the most beautiful things are indeed found in middle of nowhere. I found Himalayan splendor in Lamayuru, a poor Himalayan village. But what is so exciting about washing dishes, chopping vegetables,  or […]

  2. […] village was a vegetable soup with nuggets of dough cooked in the hot soup, no spices or herbs. At Lamayuru, we had lunched on dry chappati and tea. In Leh, our hostess had brewed us the salty buttered tea […]

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