Leh Ladakh India – food and lodging

Because high altitude sickness is going to turn you into a pathetic weakling for your first 24 hours, you want somewhere safe and comforting to crash. I booked ahead at Lotus hotellotus@vsnl.net which was perfect. I was served tea in the garden and then managed to unpack in the clean and spacious room before collapsing into bed. Mr Shankar, the helpful English-speaking concierge, insisted I have some dinner and conjured up consomme and rice, and that is how I spent my first day in Leh. But paying $40 a day was way too much, and next morning I scouted around for a cheaper guesthouse. I looked at many. Some, like Asia and Oriental, were nice but in Changspa, out of the town center. I lucked into the brand new Saiman guest house, run by Mrs Shahida Bano saiman_guesthouse@yahoo.com (mobile 9419371240, 9419218642). It’s smack in the center of town on Upper Tukcha Road, hidden on a small alley (look for the stone arch on your right after you pass the river) between green fields and a river, surrounded by the family’s vegetable and flower gardens, and with lawn furniture where guests eat, read and dream the time away. For $16 I got a huge room with balcony and Western bathroom, 24/7 hot water and the cheerful efficiency of English-speaking Shahida. Importantly, I left with her all my valuables while away trekking, including cash, and all was safe and sound. My top guesthouse find in three years of India!

Food in Ladakh is basic but fine. Hotel and guesthouse breakfasts include freshly baked pita bread with butter and honey, omelets and tea.  Backpacker cafes in Leh offer great banana pancakes and fruit crumble pies, which work well with chai and fruit shakes. Don’t look for great coffee.  My favorite place, where I ate huge salads (no tummy problems), soups and everything was the Tibetan pure vegetarian restaurant on lower Fort Road. With only 6 tables and everything prepared on the spot, it’s the favorite of Leh foodies. (I found a bottle of Italian olive oil in a tiny grocery shop on upper Fort Road, and used it liberally on the salads.) Look for it opposite the over-rated Tibetan Kitchen restaurant, where wannabe Chinese food vies with wannabe Western cuisine (and dinner reservations are required!) 

At the entrance to the bazaar and on the way up to the Palace are several clay oven bakeries, where you can buy the flat bread piping hot.

The Dzomsa Laundry in the center of town, with a newer branch on lower Fort Road, upstairs, sells terrific yoghurt, fresh apricot juice, muesli, and other healthy snacks. They also sell filtered drinking water in recycled plastic bottles.


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