Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir has long-enticed me with it’s melodic mysticism, and when former guest Dave Stamboulis told me that he’d, quote, “Just completed a rather wild journey to Kashmir and Ladakh,” I knew that we had to have him back on the show to tell us more about these spectacular areas of India, a country we’ve been eager to explore more on Talk Travel Asia.
Scott & Trevor Banter about what they know about these regions of India:
Trevor: When it comes down to making out, Scott, whenever possible, put on side one of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ – although Amy Heckerling cut to Kashmir, Zep’s sixth album, Physical Grafitti, truer words were never spoken and Kashmir, both the song and the land that inspired it, clearly have a legendary appeal.
Scott: Ah one of my favorite movies – Fast Times… Been super keen to go to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. Going to mountain bike or motorbike there one day. I’d say it’s in my Top 5 or so. Never been to the Indian Himalay and this seems like an awesome spot.
Kashmir – is there a spot with a more mystical name? We have also known a couple people to go skiing there over the years and by all accounts it’s gorgeous. Just too bad there has been such a long standing conflict over the area. It’s one of those spots that you wonder if it will ever settle down?
TREVOR: According to Wikipedia: Ladakh is a region administered by India as a union territory and constitutes an eastern portion of the larger Kashmir region that has been the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947 and India and China since 1959. Ladakh is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the east and the Indian-administered union territory of Jammu and Kashmir to the west.
In the past, Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes until Chinese authorities closed the borders between Tibet Autonomous Region and Ladakh in the 1960s. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. As Ladakh is strategically important, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.
The largest town in Ladakh is Leh. The main populated regions are the river valleys, but the mountain slopes also support pastoral nomads. The main religious groups in the region are Muslims (mainly Shia) (46%), Buddhists (mainly Tibetan Buddhists) (40%), and Hindus (12%). Ladakh is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India. Its culture and history are closely related to those of Tibet.
Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times. Ladakh’s earliest inhabitants consisted of nomads known as Kampa. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century. For much of the first millennium, western Tibet comprised the Zhangzhung kingdom(s), which practiced the Bon religion.
Ladakh, sometimes referred to as Little Tibet, is an attractive tourist destination because it is home to one of the purest remaining examples of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Visitors come to see a preindustrial culture, tour the Buddhist monasteries, and take in the dramatic mountain vistas.
SCOTT: To the east, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state in a subsidiary alliance under British East India Company rule from 1846 to 1858 and under the paramountcy of the British Crown from 1858 until the Partition of India in 1947, when it became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: China, India, and Pakistan.
After the Government of India repealed the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, the Parliament of India passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, which contained provisions that dissolved the state and reorganised it into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir in the west and Ladakh in the east.
Kashmir Valley is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. Gulmarg, one of India’s most famous ski resort locations, also has the world’s highest green golf course. There are also flower gardens and apple orchards in Jammu and Kashmir. Tourists come here for the handicrafts and Kashmiri shawls.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the sacred temples of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath each year, which has a substantial impact on the state’s economy but tourism has fallen over the last three decades.
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INTRO: When we recently thought of inviting former guests back on the show to see what they’ve been up to in the years since they last appeared as guests, Dave Stamboulis was near the top of our list. A freelance photographer and travel writer based in Asia since the 1990s, Dave was eager to come back on and regale us with his travel tales, including his “Wild journey to Kashmir and Ladakh”, two regions of India we have yet to discuss on Talk Travel Asia. Dave joins us today from Bangkok, Thailand.
- Who are you recap: when you came to Asia – what you do here
- What inspired this trip and when did you go? (Kashmir first?)
- Give us a broad strokes overview of the trip/s then we’ll get into specifics of each.
- Had you traveled to these areas before?
- Any challenges with the logistics of putting together such a trip?
- Ok so where did you go first and how did you get there?
- Wild life?
- What kind of accommodation?
- Where next and how to get there/around?
- Any surprises along the way?
- First impressions.
- How did things there go?
- In what ways similar or different from where you were last?
- How is the food?
- Where next and how to get there/around?
- What are the obvious differences between the two regions?
- Food? Accommodation? Language? Etc?
- What were the highlights?
- Were there any places you missed for one reason or another?
- Anywhere you would like to go back to?
- Tips for people planning a trip to one or both regions:
- Packing, safety, prepare yourself mentally for…?
- What’s next for Dave?
- Episode 49 – Hiking and Biking in Hong Kong with Dave Stamboulis
- Hong Kong Biking Areas Map
- Dave’s Book: Odysseus’ Last Stand
- Dave Stamboulis’ website