Today I do what I‘d been avoiding for the past seven days. I stand in the long winding queue at the only ATM in Ladakh. Luckily there are separate lines for men and women. Still, it takes 30 minutes and much shoving and yelling to get my money.
An HDFC ATM will soon come into being. Take heart.
I have Leh and the day to myself. Everyone else leaves.
I start at 11 in the morning; just to be sure everything is open by the time I reach. It is an easy 20 min downhill walk to the market. The uphill climb later in the afternoon though gives me a headache.
My shopping list is short. The first tranche of shopping includes rotating wheels, turquoise jewellery, thangka paintings, shawls, apricot cream, wood crafted tables. None by any means cheap. Dvds of Samsara and Kundun. Did I say short? Yes, money depletes fast. Hence, the ATM.
Every shopkeeper is friendly, willing to talk, bargain till you drop. It is a no plastic zone, so carry a bag.
I highly recommend Amdos Café. The kahwa and chicken thentuk are scrumptious. Cheap too.
Ming suggests Bon Appetit. It turns out to be a lovely place where I spend my last few hours in the city.
I watch as the setting sun bathe the clouds in orange. There is a cool nip in the air. The poplars sway from side to side; as people nodding in unison. Dogs bark in the distance. Streams gurgle past hastily. Children call out to each other as they play. Prayer flags flutter in the sky. The orange disintegrates into the breeze as the clouds turn gray. Dusk descends.
I munch on my dimsums and sip tea.