It seemed like a pattern that all things good needed tempering with things not so good. It took me seven and a half painful long hours to reach Alchi from Srinagar in my hired car in the company of an equally painful driver, but I got what I asked for. My impatience and zest to pack in all at once compelled me to push limits and despite the lovely hangover of the lake in Srinagar, I just had to reach Alchi in Ladakh the same day for more. But by now, thanks to my most informative driver I felt like a walking encyclopedia in this village in the Leh district of Ladakh.
What I looked forward to was the monastery, hailed as one of the oldest. But it was already too late to explore any further, so I bunked the tented accommodation suggested by my driver, put my
adventurous instincts on hold and booked myself in the first budget hotel I saw. I could kill for a top-class massage today. But the inviting new morning had the looks of a great day. As a
habitual early riser, I wasted no more time and began my journey on foot. I knew that this monastery was the only one on flat grounds than others on hill tops, so it required no hiking to get to
Buddhism never ceased to intrigue me, either as a ninth standard student when we were taught about it or now when I was standing in front of the oldest Buddhist learning centre. This ancient place was soaked in the culture of the yester years. I entered what was called the Du-khang, the assembly hall where the walls were lined with possibly the oldest paintings in Indo-Himalayan styles. How well preserved they were! These paintings depicted Buddha in all forms and I spent considerable time admiring them.
Time flew while I made the full tour of the monastery but I absolutely had to make time for the river rafting on the river Zanskar and pick up the coveted pashmina shawls for my Delhi winters. Lots of travelling lay ahead from Alchi in Ladakh to Sansar, a famous hill station in Jammu but I was geared for it all.