Things to Remember While Traveling to Ladakh
Sometimes, our hearts are in the right place but the consequences of our actions, especially when one is not cognizant of context, can cause more harm than good. I'm not trying to start a philosophical discourse here but this is the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of tourism in Ladakh. Beyond laws and regulations, I believe, there is a multitude of human emotions and rationale that can only be understood with empathy. As we all know, Ladakh has a fragile environment and a very influential tribal culture and population. Here, acting with empathy becomes of paramount importance. Here are a few more things that anyone travelling to Ladakh needs to know:
Try to avoid bringing your own vehicle: I know that a road trip to Ladakh sounds thrilling and Ladakh having recently cancelled its permit system sounds like the ideal place to go on your dream road trip. However, with the increase in the number of private vehicles in the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the carbon footprint. Also, Ladakh's economy depends heavily on tourism and one beneficiary of this is Ladakh's taxi union. The few months of summer are the only time they earn a living. By opting for a local taxi, you will be doing the environment a favour and helping the local economy.
Respect a place and do not spread false information: Culture, tradition, and religion are all very sensitive subjects. One should obviously always respect another person's beliefs. Over the years, however, there have been a few instances when the sanctity of religious spaces has been violated on the pretext of the silly narrative that the spaces are haunted. One might instigate a reaction out of such tomfoolery but it does not justify hurting people's sentiments.
Souvenirs: Souvenirs can play an important role in taking a small representation of a memory home and as lovely as personalised souvenirs are you might want to consider taking something very authentically Ladakh. Metal artefacts of Chilling Ladakh, Likir pottery, for instance, come to mind. Ladakh has bestowed an award, in 2021 at the "India International Science Festival" for traditional pottery!
Mask-up and quarantine: We all are going through a pandemic, and Ladakh being a high-altitude area, poses many challenges of its own.
Quarantining also ensures that you're well-rested and your body has completely acclimatised to the altitude and the climate! You will be saving yourself all the trouble of high altitude sickness and the people from covid by just masking up and following the standard protocol in place!
Save water: According to a study by the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDEG)-an environmental NGO based in Leh, an average Ladakhi uses 21 litres of water per day during summer and 10-12 litres during winter, while on the other hand, a tourist needs as much as 75 litres! Ladakh being a cold desert, with severely depleting water levels cannot afford the consequences of the reckless usage of water.