Despite Our initial plan was to take it easy the first two days in Leh and get our bodies used to the 3.500 meters. But we simply could not resist. We rented a semi-automatic 125cc motorbike (Gilles has some experience with those) and off we went to see the monasteries around Leh. Another plan that failed was to leave so early that we would be able to attend the Puja (religious ceremony) at Thiksey Monastery at 06:00 am. By the time we reached Thiksey the ceremony was almost over and the steep climb up to the monastery added another question mark to this undertaking. Most discouraging though were the busses on the small parking lot. This meant quite a crowd visiting the Puja and the last thing we wanted in our photos were tourists taking photos of monks. So we decided to move on.
We did feel a bit guilty, because Thiksey Monastery is indeed extremely impressive, located on top of a hill and most convenient right next to the main road. This and the short distance to Leh make it a prime tourist destination.
The monastery of Hemis is a bit further down on the Manali Road. But the last stretch takes you up a windy road to a hidden gorge: a drive through breathtaking scenery – red-colored hills and green grass against the perfect blue sky. To be honest, the museum of the monastery is by far the most interesting part. For us, the highlight was having a cup of tea with a monk student who told us about the monastery, the area, what and where the young monks study (southern India is very popular) and the many Tibetan refugees.
We actually decided to call it a day when we reached Chemrey Monastery. With temperatures rising even stopping to take photos became unpleasant and to climb another hill was certainly not an option. So we watched Chemrey from the green fields at its feet. This and the snowcapped mountains providing the proper background were just fine. We also must admit that by then we were a bit overdosed from going from one monastery to the next one.