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05.05.2016

Your fellowship will most certainly pass - the Khardung-la, that is. Five hours from Leh, two hours from the Chinese border, and deep in Ladakh’s Nubra Valley, seventeen small cottages make up Lchang Nang, a “house of trees” that opens for business today. Expect poplar roofs, a cafe serving ginger lemon cake and two-humped camels as near-ish neighbours.

Lchang Nang’s been buzzy for the last few weeks, especially because its interiors architect and landscaper is Pio Coffrant, who ran Hauz Khas Village's cozy hotel The Rose, popular for its cult restaurant and a rose garden outside every room. 

Eighteen months ago, Pio swapped the gardens out for a whole vale - Nubra is called “the valley of flowers” - and the apple orchards that surround Lchang Nang. “Ladakh is interesting to start with,” he says over a crackling phone line from Lchang Nang. “But the valley itself has a very specific culture and history. Here, the desert landscapes you associate with other parts of Ladakh become something different. You’re standing the middle of absolutely fertile country - and looking up at the absolutely bare slopes of the Himalayas around you.”

The Nu Wave

Nubra used to be an important stopover on the old silk roads, but grew less and less accessible over time - in fact, until the Indian Army built its Khardung-la road, the area was absolutely cut off from the rest of the world every winter, Pio says. Communications still require some careful execution, if our attempts to trying to get through to Pio are any indication: no wonder Lchang Nang has a “disconnect” option on their website.

Working with owner Rigzin Wangtak Kalon and managers Gayatri Kachru and Abhishek Mukharji, Pio modified Lchang Nang’s cottages, built in the local style, roofed with mud packed over willow branches and poplar beams. “The buildings breathe in summer as well as winter,” he promises. 

If you aren’t excited by the prospect of arriving in the middle of paradise, switching off your phone and sleeping for a week, don’t worry. Lchang Nang may not be a backpacker halt, but they’ll help organise trips to Pangong and Trisha lakes, and are offering a special package for mountain cyclists. 

La Dame Aux Camel-lias

Flat-landers have to acclimatise at Leh for a day or two before they can drive onwards. (Can we do the last leg in our fleece pyjamas?) Count on fresh air and woolly beasts to revive animal spirits, though: we’d get out of bed any morning to make friends with Nubra’s Bactrian camels, the two-humped, low-slung cuties native to these parts. 

Maybe one will come with us to the Sumur sand dunes nearby, where we’ll stop and imagine what it was like to be a caravan-driver in centuries past.  Lchang Nang says it can even put you on a (bird)-watch list, take your kids tree-climbing, and pack you a picnic hamper if you want to go and sit by the Siachen river. 

“With everything I do, I try to find the centre of the space,” Pio says. “I can’t really describe my style, but I think the warmth and energy that people liked about The Rose - they’ll find that here as well. It’s very sunny and cosy.” Okay, where's valley?

Getting there: Lchang Nang, Teggar Village, Nubra Valley, J&K. See www.lchangnang.com, call 011-41607153 (Delhi) or 01980-223667 (Nubra). Full board rate is Rs 10500 on double occupancy and Rs 9500 for single occupancy.

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