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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Ladakhi royal wedding

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

Managed to wrap everything up and hit the hay by midnight. My brilliant brain still woke me up at 6:30, refusing to let me go back to bed. But the blue brilliance of clear sky invites exploration and seizing the day.

peak

outskirts

It's a few miles hike through the outskirts of the town and into the hills, to reach the high viewpoint perched directly above the valley. The world here is drawn in shades of ocre, with streaks of white smeared above 20.000 feet on distant peaks. You could shoot staged Mars landings here and people might believe you.

hiking up



Did a short live stream from up top - replay is here - found a bit where I speak in English, but otherwise enjoy the views - and spent good three hours there altogether, already planning hikes to higher altitudes in the area. I would love a sunrise ride to the trailhead though, and that will be an issue here. The fair price - perhaps $20 - is simply not enough to get anyone out of bed here. I don't need to explain how different that is compared to the rest of India.

Leh and surroundings



Found a different path off the mountain. Seemed nice, with few gated communities on the slopes leading into the valley. Once down, I found a barbed wire fence around the whole perimeter... with a convenient, human sized hole right on the path. So I went through.

At first it seemed to be a private housing for local hound population, with hundreds loitering around. But soon enough the truth, which I'm sure you've guessed, emerged obvious. Sculptures of tanks and small fortresses, Fire and Fury! and other motivational slogans on every corner...

I was walking through a military compound. But I was walking out so nobody bothered. Got asked what's up once, but didn't even get a motorized escort. They let me walk the couple of miles out by myself, uninterested.

military compound





Had to cheat, again, but even the thought of all the circular, pointless conversations weighed on me hard and after eight hours in the sun I was pretty burned out. Coffee propped me up and off I went; how much for a bike ride? How much for the Restricted Areas Permit? How about a climbing permit for Kang Yatse?

Sometimes you get an answer, but getting an answer I could work wth... I'll try tomorrow again.

small fortress outside the compound



Quick shower; the hostel is full to the roof and evenings and mornings are highly competitive. Attracted by loud music from the neighbourhood, spilling into the streets for a second night in the row, I went to check it out.

A large tent with more seating areas around, but no-one seemed to mind my presence. The answer to what's going on was simply a royal wedding and come have some food.

The largest wedding in Ladakhi history.

in the tent:

snacs, chai, whisky, local beer

f & m traditional dresses




It's the second day; yesterday was for close family, today for two towns, over 3.000 people. And me.

female section / (seated) the king of Stok

couple's grandmothers greeting everyone present



I was the only foreigner to spend the evening there. Few more people wandered in - but took few pictures, spoke to no-one and left again. And here, immodestly, is where I see myself being different from

tourists

that's the answer

tourists never change

new person, same pattern

band and slow, traditional dance




The first hour I didn't even take pictures, as a visitor. Only after my new friends, who were guiding me around encouraged me and gave me their OK, I started documenting the event.

kitchen

dinner


the couple has arrived

And we danced, and drank and ate and took pictures of the royal couple until well after midnight. The royals have no actual power anymore, courtesy of India, but like in Pakistan, retain their reputation, most of their wealth and respect of the local people.

bestowing of the honorary white khata


on the dance floor

w family n friends

I'm leaving few phone - filmed segments available for the business class. Check them out!


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