Images from the Silk Road | Leh, Ladakh
Ladakh's only real town is Leh. Leh, at an altitude of 3500 metres, is an old trading town on the Silk Road that linked India with the Chang Tang and Tibet to the east, Kashmir, the passes of the Karakoram mountains and central Asia to the north and west. North of Leh is the Nubra valley where dromedaries, the two humped camels that caravanned the Silk Roads to the far north and Mongolia, can still be found. Before the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1949, caravans came down from the north loaded with wool and salt to be traded for cottons, silks and spices coming up from India. The old town of Leh was the meeting place and the market square for this interaction.
Nowadays, lorries bring consumer goods from India and fruit and veg from Kashmir. Some unofficial trade takes place over the disputed border with China/Tibet to the east. A few years ago we bought some exquisite silver Buddha statues that had come from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. We bought them from a trader who'd met his father at the border on an unofficial "open border" day. This year tensions between India and China have escalated and there are no such days.
Monks on Market Street, Leh. Judging by their robes these monks with their prayers and bowls have probably come from Nepal.
An aerial view of Leh old town as seen from the Royal Palace which is modelled on Lhasa's Potala Palace. Now empty, except for photographic exhibitions of old Leh and the Silk Road, it commands a wonderful hilltop presence over the town and affords spectacular views. High above the Palace is the 16th century Tsemo Fort.
Looking up through Buddhist prayer flags at the old Tsemo Fort, situated above the Royal Palace, Leh.
The old wood fired Muslim bakeries in the backstreets of Leh, Ladakh. A newly opened Central Asian Museum is located in the Muslim quarter just behind the bakeries. It contains fascinating documents registering the trade and caravans that came to Leh over the last few hundred years and places Ladakh firmly on the old Silk Roads.
Leh is still a vigorous bazaar town, aside from the tourist souvenirs there are unusual things to buy. Yak tails anyone?
Leh Palace dominates the skyline to the north, to the south are the snow capped 6000metres mountains of the Stok range.
One of my favourite shops in Leh. They sell a few old nails, coloured rope slippers from the Kulu valley and these hanks of cotton used for butter lamps in the monastery.