Breathless in Leh

I wake breathless in Leh; at 3,500m above sea-level this is extraordinary. If we were in the Alps we would be in the Aiguille de Midi at the top of the highest ski life, looking out across a vast waste of snowy mountain peaks. Mont Blanc is only a thousand metres higher than this!

Upon rising we walk around the crowded and bustling town. Leh is in India but has a trace of Tibetan calm about it. At a bookshop I buy Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, a novel written after the First World War about a young Indian boy at the time of the Buddha and his quest for spiritual enlightenment, a key theme in Buddhism.

Being the world’s worst shopper, with no intent to purchase anything and with a distaste for haggling I wander the bazaar aimlessly. However later in the day I walk through town to the Soma Gomta, or new monastery, in a quiet courtyard just off the main street. A hundred yards away is the Muslim mosque. The close proximity of these different religious establishments causes me to consider faith, and in particular, Buddhism. Of all the religious faiths, Buddhism is arguably the simplest. It requires no faith in a supreme God and is more a way of life than a religion. It is the most ancient, but in many ways the most modern and demands only good thoughts and an ambition to reach a state of nirvana.

It is easy to see where the aforementioned Tibetan calm comes from and in a place as vibrant as this it is most welcome.