During our three weeks in Ladakh, not one single festival was held in a monastery. None! Dates of the festivals are linked both to the moon calendar and to complex astrological considerations, thus their dates can vary widely. We simply did not check carefully enough!
So when we heard that a “Domchot” was being celebrated in Likir Monastery (1,5 hour drive from Leh), we went for it – Needless to say we had no idea what it was. Now we do: a lot of chanting, praying and a few instruments were played, that’s as close as we got to a festival. But it was a unique experience without other visitors, just us sitting and watching the monks.
A little further west on the Kargil Road is Alchi (two hours from Leh), the only monastery we visited that was not on a hill. It stands out for other reasons as well: it is the oldest monastery in Ladakh and famous for its 11th century murals. Also the huge statues with painted legs were impressive. The tiny village of Alchi has turned itself completely over to the tourist industry: every single house is a souvenir shop or a restaurant / hotel, and the parking lot is full of jeeps and busses.
This two day excursion took us back to Lamayuru, but we did not visit the monastery again. Our focus was entirely on the “Moonland Landscapes”, an area with bizarre rock formations right outside the village.
We checked into the guesthouse closest to Moonland, the Lions’ Den. From there we had a great view both of the “Moonland Landscapes” and the monastery. Run by a lovely family, we spent the evening in their living room together with their two kids and grandmother, who she was praying all the time. One wall of this room was full of shelves stuffed with an incredible number of dishes and brass pots. We naively asked if the family was collecting those, only to be told that every decent household in Ladakh is equipped like this – To be used when family and friends visit or for weddings.
The other surprise was that they had high speed Internet access, which is basically limited to Leh, when there is no power cut, of course!