Chinmay Malaviya TRAVEL BLACK BOOK

Foodpanda boss Chinmay Malaviya loves leisurely Ladakh

Mr Chinmay Malaviya in Ladakh, India. -- PHOTO: CHINMAY MALAVIYA
Mr Chinmay Malaviya in Ladakh, India. -- PHOTO: CHINMAY MALAVIYA

Foodpanda boss Chinmay Malaviya says the stunning region in Indian Himalayas is different from New Delhi

Who: Mr Chinmay Malaviya, 24, is co-founder and chief executive of Foodpanda, a mobile and online food delivery portal. He has lived in Singapore since 2008, when he moved from India to study computer engineering at Nanyang Technological University.

Favourite destination: Ladakh, India

Why: Ladakh has ethereal views, great food and humble people. It is a totally different world from New Delhi, where I was born. It is great if you are looking for peace and calm, great landscapes and a chance to explore a new culture.

Favourite place to stay

Hotel Holiday Ladakh (www.holidayladakh.net), which is just outside the main market in the town Leh. You can wake up at 6am and watch the sun rise behind the mountain from the balcony in your room. The stunning view is great for self-reflection. It offered an infinite sense of serenity during my stay. Rooms start at 3,150 rupees (S$69).

Favourite place to eat

Small momo stalls found on pedestrian streets. Momo are steamed or fried meat, vegetable or cheese dumplings which are a staple diet in Nepal and Northern India. The dumplings are similar to those you find in Chinese restaurants in Singapore, but with a spiciness that Indians love.

In my opinion, it is the best fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine. The most famous and my favourite is the steamed chicken momo. A plate of five pieces will cost no more than $3.

Favourite museum

The Hall Of Fame (www.lehladakhindia.com/hall-of-fame) in Leh. It is a museum built and run by the Indian Army which shows the stark reality of how many wars the people there have gone through and the hostile conditions they faced.

For example, Ladakh was the epicentre of the Sino-Indian war in 1962, which was fought in the area's severe mountain conditions.

Visiting the museum helped me understand the locals on a deeper level. Also, it instilled in me a sense of patriotism as an Indian national and made me respect the people who fought for the country.

Favourite tourist site

Chang La Pass which, at 5,360m above sea level, is one of the highest drivable roads in the world. You can rent a motor- cycle in Leh's main market, where many tour operators will loan bikes for $50 to $60 for 24 hours.

Take a ride through the challenging 20km pass. In the cold weather, the ride can be a bit rough, but the majestic view at the summit, the great sense of achievement and thrill of completing the ride will be worth the effort.

There are mechanics and tour groups along the way should you need assistance.

At the summit is a cafe called Rinchen Cafeteria, which claims to be the highest cafe in the world.

It serves a hot and spicy thukpa, a Tibetan noodle soup, and butter tea to toast to your success for about $2.

Best place for breakfast

Any local restaurant in Leh will serve a breakfast of tea and barley cake with honey or yogurt. This typical Ladakhi breakfast can be found in many restaurants until about 11am and costs less than $2.

Must-try dishes

Chicken momo and manchurian noodles. Manchurian are meatballs made of chicken with egg, flour, garlic and many spices. They match perfectly with a bowl of chow mien, a spicy stir-fried noodle dish popular in the region. Vegetarian Manchurian made of cauliflower is a delicious alternative.

Best view

Every corner of Ladakh has a great view and sunset to offer, but the views in Nubra Valley, about 150km north of Ladakh, are some of the most stunning. Nubra is about a three-hour drive from Leh. Another memorable view is at Pangong Lake, which crosses the border of India and China. The picture-perfect views pique one's curiosity about the different world on the other side of the lake.

Must-do day trips

There are many monasteries within a two-hour drive from Leh, but the one I recommend is the Thikse Monastery.

It is located on top of a hill and, with many smaller buildings arranged in ascending order of importance below it, resembles the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, the former home of the Dalai Lamas.

The monks here will gladly take you on a guided tour and, because they are very amiable and open to talking about their lifestyle and beliefs, a visit here is sure to broaden your insight into Buddhism.

For those who know it, the popular Bollywood movie called 3 Idiots filmed scenes at a boarding school here.

Event to bookmark

I was lucky to be in Ladakh during the Hemis festival, which takes place at Hemis Monastery in early June.

During the event dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, there are masked dancers and musical performances which we watched while having a cup of local tea.

The vibrant colours, the energy of the performers and the unique musical instruments played during the festival are a great treat.

Best advice

The best time to visit is in May and June when you can escape the heat in Singapore for the cool mountain air. Plan to spend about five days here.

vlydia@sph.com.sg