6th Aug, Delhi
“Off gallivanting into the unknown again, Red?” My poison of choice this time is Ladakh, located in the northwest Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. This expanse of land in the upper Indus Valley is home to numerous Buddhist monasteries, and also home to some terrific mountainous scenery. “And why Ladakh?” you ask. The air tickets decided the destination. When AirAsiaX started flying the Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Delhi route, the promo tickets were going for a steal. I paid 230 SGD (well, 302 SGD including baggage fees) for a return flight from Singapore to Delhi, via KL. From Delhi, I had the choice of either the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, or the more exciting and markedly different Ladakh. Initially I had wanted to go overland from Delhi to Ladakh, cutting through Jammu and Srinagar. While the scenery would have been spectacular, it would have taken much more than the 10 days I had. So in the end, gallivanting to Ladakh it was, via an internal flight from Delhi, along with B, a friend who knows way more about India than I do.
Packing is a bitch
Flashback to one day before. I am in a fix. The websites say that you are as likely to get frostbite as you are to get sunburnt in Ladakh. Now how do you pack for that? At 3500m above sea level, Leh, the capital would be cool. Except it is summer now, and in the arid high-altitude desert environment, where you will be standing that much nearer to the sun, it is going to be hot.
Recently I have this obsession with travelling light, with as minimal gear as possible. I never get it right though, it is either too many things or too few (I recall freezing my ass off on arrival at Dhaka’s airport, while at the same time becoming mosquito fodder). This time round, I intend to pack just enough. Should I bring more tops? No that would take up space. I contemplated bringing my fleece jacket. Too bulky. I ditched my fleece jacket. Shoes? Overrated. Other than covering my feet, shoes perform not much better than my trusty Chaco sandals. Should I bring shoes then to trek across the rocky terrain? Jeans? Dead weight. Questions, questions. I even thought of getting rid of everything, and going with just one hand carry bag, so as to avoid the pesky $72 baggage fee (its 16 SGD for 15kg from SG-KL, and 20 SGD from KL-Delhi).
In the end, here’s my gear:
- 1 Solomon cap
- 1 balaclava
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 2 striped polos (yes, I know, I don’t seem to wear anything else)
- 1 ultralight Icebreaker 150 baselayer
- 1 weathered Kappa windbreaker
- 1 pair of cheap wool gloves
- 1 T-shirt + shorts
- 3 sets of Ex-Officio quick dry underwear
- 2 pairs of long cotton pants
- 2 pairs of wool socks
- 1 pair of Caterpillar boots
- 1 pair of Chaco sandals
The weighing scale at the ticket counter puts my backpack at 7.2kg. And that is with my boots chucked in! Add another 1.5 kg for this netbook, my pack weighs less than 10kg. I suspect that I am seriously undergeared, but let’s see over the next few days. Worse come to worse, I will buy whatever extra layers I need, should the temperature be too cold. Good luck Red!
AirAsiaX to Delhi
It is Aug 2011, and AirAsiaX has just been awarded the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline for the third year running. No surprise really, its performance supercedes all of its competitors, who are known more for delays and bad service (Here’s looking at you, Tiger!)
This flight from Singapore to Delhi would be the first time I would be going “fly through”. This meant that on the same ticket, you could pass through AirAsia’s low-cost terminal without having to clear customs. Upon landing at the airport, instead of heading towards the customs area, you head towards the transfer area. Here the immigration staff will check your documents and your hand carry luggage, before letting you exit into the, voila: Departure waiting area!
It is all very convenient really. Even the luggage you checked in back at Changi Airport gets tagged with a transfer label and you will see it only at your final destination. It’s a wonder why not more Singaporeans do the “fly through” and book these AirAsiaX long haul flights.
The flight from SG to KL was uneventful. I’m a real pro on this route *flex*! The KL-Delhi flight is slightly more of an issue. It is a 5 hour plus flight, and since they ran out of English newspapers at the airport waiting lounge bookshop, I am stuck with my book, (“Into the Wild” is about this guy who ran off into the Alaskan wilderness to live off the land. They found him dead four months later), and my netbook. I devoured the Aug copy of the in-flight magazine, Travel 3 Sixty, and now am sitting at the window seat, holding my pee in and stalling off the hunger pangs. Oh, did I mention? I’m fasting. The couple beside me, now asleep, had just lapped up their meal. The label on the foil says, Chicken Butter Masala.
It is 7:38pm Singapore time. Which should be time to break my fast. Except this plane is headed west! The plane left KL at 5:30pm, and if I reach Delhi at 8:40pm Delhi time, I would break my fast precisely 3 hours later than normal. How does this work anyway? I’m sure there is some rule about travelling while fasting, I should have paid attention more back when taking those religious classes. Chicken Butter Masala, ugggghhh!
Next post…Joolay Ladakh!