This morning, I decided to hike up to Leh Palace. Although it's maybe only a half-hour-long walk, there is a steep hill/stair climb to the palace. It quickly became hot in the blazing sun, and I could feel the effects of the altitude more than I have yet, having to pause for a few seconds several times.
Along the hillside route were stray dogs lazily lounging around. One of them approached me and licked my hand, then realized I had no food and went on his way. Once I reached the top, I paid my admission and made my way through the corridors and small rooms with low ceilings. A number of rooms were locked, but I passed through one with a shrine and a few with art hanging from the wall. It was very simple inside, nothing elaborate or ornate.
The spectacular part was the view overlooking the city from the balconies, with mountains beyond mountains in the backdrop, no end in sight (alluding to a great Arcade Fire song—I was fortunate enough to see them perform recently, including this song, in Frankfurt).
Otherwise, I strolled around the streets some more and gathered a few extra supplies for my trek tomorrow morning. I discovered another Tibetan Refugee Market and a few interesting shops, including a cool book shop in the Main Bazaar (Lehling Book Shop), selling mostly English books on Buddhism, Ladakh, wildlife in the area, trekking guides, maps, and fiction. There seems to be a big biker culture here, with a handful of motorcycle rental and repair shops and the frequent noise of revved up Royal Enfield engines on the street.
My trekking adventure begins tomorrow morning, after my guide and porter pick me up from my guesthouse. We then drive a few hours to Chilling and start walking from there. I plan to take a notebook and pen and will write as much as I can during my downtime at the homestays. The morning after I finish the trek, I have a quick turnaround to the opposite side of the country. I fly to Guwahati, a city in Assam, the biggest of the northeast states.
I don't really have a plan when I arrive, except that I'll stay there to rest for a little while before I find my way into Arunachal Pradesh, my main destination. I was reassured that I would have my Protected Area Permit (PAP) by then, which is required for entrance into Arunachal. After browsing some discussion forums online as well as the directory of registered tour operators who issue PAPs, I contacted Tawang Tour and Travel and received a quick response—I recommend this agency for obtaining the permit (50 EUR). As a solo traveler, I will be restricted to Ziro Valley and the Tawang circuit, but Ziro is my target, so I'm happy.
The rest is up to adventure.