Highland polo

Polo ground in Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir State, India.

Under a bright blue canvas on a sunny day, I stumbled upon this broad ground. Crowds were already gathered purposefully on the fringe. Stopped to ask someone what is going on. A polo game was about to start in 5 minutes. And then I recalled that earlier on a passer-by at the market asking me where was the polo ground. I didn’t know at that time.

At the blow of a whistle, the ball was given a hard knock. Within two seconds of the game, the ball came rolling past my ankle, followed by charging horses that looked frightfully close to mowing down the couple seated right in front of me. The thundering hooves reverberated across what felt like a mini battle ground.

Post-trip I read that polo originated in Persia (Iran). The polo game was originally part of the training of the cavalry. Apparently at times warlike tribesmen used to play it almost 100 to a side! Polo was introduced to Ladakh, where it is hugely popular today, from neighbouring Baltistan around the 15th century.

It was the Ladakhi army playing against another team, the name of which I didn’t quite catch. The game was held as part of the Ladakh festival, against the stunning backdrop of the mountains.


6 thoughts on “Highland polo

  1. Feet on fire

    beautiful photos.

    I accidentally stumbled on your site. And as a fellow Singaporean, traveller, and seeker of the good life, I wish you well.

    The Karakoram for me was always special, except that rather than the Indian side, I was more familiar with the Pakistani and Afghan Karakorams. In 1996, just out of NS and before I went, I spent several unforgettable months wandering the peaks and valleys there. The wild jagged peaks of the mountains was exactly what I needed to shred the sterile cling wrap of being Singaporean. Singapore society was wealthy but essentially gutless. Pathans was the other extreme, poor but essentially fearless. Two extremes, each as ridiculous as the other. Understanding of the undesirability of one extreme saved me from tolerating the stupidity of the other, inherited, extreme.

    Still travelling nowadays but not so much. I’ve done more than my share. But still, maybe I’ll see you in Bosnia. Or Tajikistan. Or….

    1. plumerainbow Post author

      Thank you for the well wishes. Though not originally from here, I’ve live here a long time. Over time, I’d actually found that Singapore is not that ‘sterile’ contrary to popular belief. If scratched beyond the surface – that sheen of unconscious conformity – diversity abounds.
      Yes, may be see you on the roads… in Iran, in Ethiopia… Safe travels.

      1. Feet on fire

        A Malaysian?

        In many respects I agree with you. The one huge exception is political choice – in this area, Singapore is a land of eunuchs. Though that, thankfully, looks like it is about to change.

  2. Feet on fire

    sorry, my last post should have read ‘before i went to uni’

    I’ve read some more of your blog.

    Costs aside, how can you not like Spain. If I have to spend the rest of my life confined to living only in one country and never visiting any other….Spain would be one of the contenders. I suspect the winner would have been France, but Spain definitely a contender. Along with Canada and maybe Indonesia.

    Wow to your Scotland post, I lived there for 4 years in a tiny village north of Loch Ness. It is every bit as beautiful as you describe. Just too damned cold and wet all the time.

    South America was gorgeous although the northern hemisphere is more my kind of thing. Artic Canada, Iceland, Siberia, the Artic bits of Norway, Finland, etc. By now, I’ve settled down somewhat in my travels. Not so much visiting new countries but seeing new regions in countries I have visited before. Nowadays, I live half the time in Singapore and the other half in Europe and usually make my holidays in a country that’s in between the two.

    Finally, this time round I’ve given my real email in case you want to contact me, as I might get lost in cyberspace and never find my way back to this blog. Only replace the 9 with a 6.

    1. plumerainbow Post author

      Ha! Did I come across as not liking Spain? That post was more reflective of the reverse culture shock in terms of cost of having just arrived from south america.

      There is almost no place that I visited that I didn’t like. But one place I think that is worth going back to is the highlands & isles in Scotland. The ruggedness, the lush greenery, beautiful bodies of water, challenging climate, dramatic landscape…

      1. Feet on fire

        There were few places I actually disliked, but there are some. Los Angeles, Qatar, Dubai, Jakarta, Warsaw, Gentings, etc.

        Mostly there were places did not arouse strong feelings of either like or dislike. Too many to mention but many of these are big tourist draws – Sydney, London, the Thai coastline, most of the US.

        Then there are places that I feel strongly positive about. Spain, France, NYC, parts of Indonesia, parts of Canada, Scotland, Norway, Pakistan, Mongolia. Sometimes I find a place, like Beijing or Hanoi, where my first visit 10 or 15 years ago, was fantastic but the most recent visit was disappointing. Too much characterless development, the bland gray or tacky tones of new commercial buildings like everywhere else in the world.

        Nowadays I focus my travels on finding new places really off the beaten track or places safe from drowning in tourst hordes or overdevelopment. To find an entire valley or city which has been left off, or just blithely written off, by every guidebook. It doesn’t have to be far. You can find magical places even a couple hours drive from Singapore, and there are heaps a couple hours flight away.

        Earlier this year, I was staying in a mountain village in Indonesia. The view was spectacular, unbroken views of volcanoes and ocean. No electricity, only one shop with offerings so limited and unguarded that I could have easily have driven off with all its wares. A thousand years ago, there was a highly sophisticated civilisation whose sense of aesthetics and balance were unsurpassed by the average American or Singaporean today.

        The culture was unique, cockfights in the morning and bomoh sessions at night. Demons are believed to run wild in this place, it had the reputation of being one of the most haunted and cursed places in all of Indonesia. I loved it. The headman was telling me that I was the second tourist to visit the village. The first one was apparently a tourist from Jakarta who visited in the late 1990s.

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