After every museum and monastery closes for the evening, tourists descend on Leh’s main market. It’s not a small number of people, I even bumped into acquaintances from work at the market. The Family decided to go there a little before ravenous hordes descend on the cafes. Her first photo of the day shows an exotic market scene: a row of vegetable vendors against a backdrop of beautiful carpets, and a scattered few shoppers. Even the vegetables are laid out on lovely carpets. It is the best photo of the market I’ve seen, but it’s not the typical photo.
If you want the typical photo, that’s this. Crowds of tourists not sure what they want to do. Some sit on benches, others take selfies or photos of each other, the rest cruise in gangs up and down the drag, while the more clear-headed fill up the many cafes and bakeries which offer free wifi.
The market has one of the most cheerful post offices I’ve seen anywhere. It was closed, of course, by the time I spotted it. But there was always a gaggle of tourists around it, either taking selfies against the “I Love Ladakh” mural on one wall, or using it as a meeting point. The bright white building with red trim looked like it might be a place where locals meet and chat.
There were two beautiful mosques on the road, in two different styles. One was an exotic plaster and wood structure: all white and light wood stain. I had to look twice to see that it was a mosque. The architecture was adapted from the native Ladakhi style: the grand gate was in intricately carved wood. The other was a structure that was more immediately recognizable, the turrets and doors, the green and white colour scheme, similar to the mosques that you see around the world. About half of the native Ladakhis are Muslim, the other half Buddhist. This is an ancient history. Ladakh was on the old silk route, and cultures and religions traveled along it for much more than a thousand years.
I liked the view along the drag: with the Leh Palace perched on a hill visible along its axis. The afternoon had turned cloudy, but now, at sunset the clouds parted and we had this joyful golden light on the palace and the upper stories of the shops here. I left The Family to find old Ladakhi jewelery in jade and coral and climbed to a cafe on one of the upper floors with my copy of Gurnah’s “The Last Gift.”
A couple of days earlier The Family had discovered the wonderful Ladakhi apricots: small, juicy, and flavourful. She’d bought a kilo from this lady, and we ate them over a few days. We picked up the fruits again later, and they would be one of the best things we got back from Ladakh.
And the local jewelry? Glad you asked. They are jade and coral, set in silver. The silver-work was fascinating. I saw three pieces, one was antique, the second was a grand old silver piece with new jade and coral pieces added to it, and the third was an old coral set with new rings of silver added to it. In this last one, the silver will get a little patina as it ages.