December 14, 2021

Things to Remember While Travelling to Ladakh

There are, of course, a list of things you must remember before travelling to Ladakh. You must remember the basics- acclimatisation, warm clothes, making sure you have a post-paid cell phone, permits etc. However, here's a less common list of things to remember while travelling to Ladakh, a list that I personally think is more important.

1. Animals! DO NOT FEED THEM! (Especially in the wild) We cannot begin to express how wrong this truly is. Feeding animals in the wild not only creates a terrible human dependency but also disrupts the food chain. In the mountains, ecosystems are beyond fragile and are held together by a very fine balance of things, disturbing this has much bigger consequences than one can imagine. We know the Himalayan marmots are big, furry and adorable but if your driver gives you cabbage or worse, biscuits to feed them, say NO! (And even report them to the wildlife department if you can!)

2. Context is so important.
Have you ever walked into a big fancy museum and felt the calmness in the quiet and enormity of the space wash over you? Have you noticed that nobody talks loudly or plays music on their phones or calls out to their friends from across the rooms? Now, imagine you're in a monastery and you feel slightly less restricted, there are no cameras pointing at you and nobody asking you to leave the premises if you are chatty, would it be okay then, to be loud and boisterous? Almost every time I've been to a monastery over the past five years I have seen tourists be completely unaware and have absolutely no regard for the sanctity of the space.

3. Do not touch the frescos!
I know the lovely frescos in these monasteries are very often breathtaking and you want to feel the lines, smell the paint and have a more sensorial experience of these amazing paintings but, don't! These paintings are often very old, of very high heritage value and can be damaged by touching.

4. Garbage!
Did you know that more than half the waste produced during the summer in Ladakh can be linked to tourism and it is said that we produce about nine to eleven more tons of garbage a day during the tourist season than otherwise! So, refill bottles instead of buying packaged drinking water, throw trash in the bins and segregate wherever possible and support local food businesses instead of buying packaged food. (Really, how good can granola bars and Maggi really be for you or the environment?)

5. The Dress code
Ladakhi weather can never be very reliable so, packing for the worst-case scenario always helps. However, here, I don't mean dress code in terms of how many down jackets you need to carry but in terms of how you should dress so people don't get uncomfortable with you around. Think about it like this, if you don't see locals in the market wearing it and people seem to be looking at you and then immediately looking away then the possibility of you not having dressed contextually is high! I am sure there are other things too, that tourists need to remember, however, to sum things up, I think being an aware and responsible traveller is important not only because it doesn't cause disruptions in the places you're visiting but also because it allows you to assimilate and experience the spaces more holistically.

By Safina Qusar