On the 7th day of my Leh, Ladakh trip I was going to experience the most amazing lake in both India and China called “Pangong Tso”. Lake in Ladakhi language (which is similar to the Tibetan language) is called ‘Tso’. Our tour guide Hardik briefed us about the day ahead. Pangong lake is 225km away from Leh city and once you get there, there’s nothing but this lake so a day trip is all that’s needed to soak up the beauty.
I was so excited to visit Pangong Tso, but when I heard that we have ‘Khichadi and Dahi’, traditional Gujarati food which is made 4 times a week in my house for lunch; I got super excited. I was so bored of having Maggie and Paratha for lunch and dinner as it was the only option while traveling. A piece of advice, do carry home cooked or packed food (your favorites) while traveling to Leh city, as the place is so remote you won’t find any famous restaurants or cafes here. Only road side dhaba (small cafes) serve food and also provide accommodation. And at these Maggie, Paratha and Rice are all you will get served.
We left by around 9 in the morning. The day in Leh starts early and ends early. I was having a light headache due to altitude sickness, which was spoiling the excitement. But I didn’t let it take all of me. I engaged myself with the beauty around, we started playing Bollywood songs and dancing to them in the bus and that’s how I distracted myself. The best part of this trip was no mobile network. Only local networks and Army networks are available after crossing 40kms from Leh city.
As soon as we were entering the valley, I could see small villages on different mountains and they looked very beautiful. Ladakhi housing history has its own different story.
A traditional Ladakhi house is made from stone and brick walls, roofs made with wooden beams and willow twigs covered with straw, grass, mud and clay; sometimes even with the dung of cows, donkeys or horses to increase its solidness. This building technique provides a lot of possibilities to play with its form structurally and aesthetically.
The Leh to Pangong route is a risky one because avalanches are very common but fortunately we didn’t experience any. After driving through the mountains we reached “Changla la” the third highest motorable road in India at 17,688 ft above sea level.
Less oxygen in the air does create breathing problems here as well, so as I advised in my previous post about Nubra Valley it’s a good idea to carry an oxygen cylinder. The Army here have their own hospital at this point, because this is the most common place where tourist needs extra oxygen.
After crossing Changla la, the natural beauty became even more mesmerizing. The empty winding roads and the clear sky was so satisfying to my soul. We had to take Inner line permit to visit Pangong as well. One strange yet funny thing which I observed was, all the roadside restaurants had just one name “Rancho’s restaurant”.
The famous Bollywood movie “3 idiot’s” climax was shot here this is the time when Pangong became attractive for Indian tourists. Lesser known fact for Bollywood fans Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Lakshya, Bhag Milkha Bhag and a few other Bollywood movies were also shot here.
Pangong lake road passes by the cold desert wildlife sanctuary “Changtang”. I’m not an animal or bird lover, so while my other tour mates were enjoying the special moment of watching rare birds, I was still struggling to find where they are!
Pangong Tso is in disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by China but claimed by India. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet. 60% or more of Pangong Tso is in China, while India has only 40% of this amazing beauty.
As soon as the lake became visible, I had a big jaw drop moment. The lake is so beautiful, surrounded by tall mountain peaks, with deep waters that change color every moment from deep blue to light blue to green to gray.
The first sight of the Pangong Lake was stunning. Our driver was searching for the right spot to park the bus and I was not able to control my eagerness to go as near as possible to the lake. While everyone was clicking pictures and roaming around, I spotted a particularly pretty part of the lake and sat here with my friend Zeal (was sitting with Zeal at Zeel – Lake in hindi is called Zeel) for almost an hour.
We both were new to each other, so we were talking, sharing our thrilling experiences till date, playing with stones. Enjoying the view was so satisfying that I was not even concerned about the Khichdi.
We had only 2 hours at Pangong and were returning back to Leh the same day. I gave maximum time to this place and yes didn’t miss the chance of being clicked on Rancho’s scooter.
Storms are very common at Pangong and we were lucky enough to experience the view of a storm over the lake.
Pangong is 14,270 ft above sea level. Temperatures here range from -5°C to 10°C as a result of which the lake freezes completely during winters in spite of its salinity. Very few trekking companies have permission to organize a tour in winters to visit the frozen lake. This is the reason you won’t find any hotels here for an overnight stay. Only few restaurants have staying facilities, and a few tents are also available.
Pangong, I’ll be coming back to visit you once again, I would love to witness a sunrise at Pangong Tso… another time I hope!
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