2012 was the year when I got married and with a recent job promotion; my happiness was on the full swing. I wanted to utilize my time and leisure travel with my hubby who was otherwise quite busy with his job and on-site travel. The plan to travel Kashmir was made so random that I even don’t remember who suggested this place, I or him?
Anyways we had 5 days with us in the month of August around Rakshabandhan and we just booked our flights. And the strangest part, we hadn’t finalized our accommodation and till the time we landed at the Sringar airport, we had done no bookings for the stay!As we reached the airport, I found no difference between the Delhi or Srinagar; what’s the fuss, I thought in my mind.. And probably there was security all around; probably that gave me enough strength to not assume about any negative aspect! So we went to the government authorized travel booth and randomly checked with them about what would be the better idea-
To stay in a nice hotel or on the Shikara for 4 nights!
In a minute, he had given us the ‘best possible deal’ with a decent discount; as we had no other option in hand so we proceeded with it and tried out luck.
As the cab was proceeding towards the city area, my heart began thumping up and down. Folks, we were ofcourse in a different land all-together; the air, ambience, scenery, and outlook everything looked so unique and picturesque. And then the driver parked the car near the lake and one Shikara was waiting for us; I was enthralled. I mean we were about to land at our place through a beautiful boat ride and that ensured that we were going to have atleast two such rides daily!
But the most stunning part of the trip was still waiting for us; the Boat house; that was superb. I mean I had no words to define it, it’s been almost 7 years but the memories about that beautiful place are still untouched like fresh dew in my heart. That boat had three bed rooms, a beautiful varendah and a lavish living room followed by a cozy dining area at the center. I was surrounded by water from all the sides with beautiful curtains encircling it like a new bride; and there was a steep way that led to the servant quarter’s boat but that was almost hidden. In-toto a houseboat on the Dal Lake, is like an elixir in the heaven. Our abode was quite a distant from other houseboats and that was a plus point and luckily there were no other occupants so it was a complete win-win deal for us.
Dal Lake and boats are Srinagar’s lifeline; there was practically everything you can do there. From taking a city’s tour, to enjoy ‘Kahwa’ and hot cup of Maggie, to buying dry fruits, kesar, vegetables, fruits, accessories, apparels or do nothing. Just enjoy the silence prevailing in the atmosphere and feel yourself. Or go deep and have a glimpse of the lives of real ‘Kashmiri’ people. I saw school children on the boats who were going to their school and Mums rowing the boats with proficiency and people connecting with each other in the most simplistic way.
For the next three days, we had an amazing experience sightseeing the famous trio- Sonmarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgaam; all the three lcoations can be covered in one day from Srinagar though I highly recommend to give Pahalgaam 2-3 days extra.
On the last day, we tried to explore the city on own and ditched the cab. We rather took an autorickshaw for the famous Shankaracharya Temple, he temple is at a height of 1,000 feet (300 m) above the valley floor and overlooks the city of Srinagar.
It was so much fun and one of the best part, we got to converse with the local native of Srinagar, a middle class Man who shared few snippets of the real Srinagar with us.That was the Ramzaan time and he told us how he hasn’t kept the fasts due to health concerns but neither can he disclose it to the others because he might get assaulted for not continuing the traditions. I can’t comment much on that, but the way he talked to us, I felt an instant connection. The people aren’t alien and they also want to prosper and earn the same way as we all want. It’s just a matter of few opportunities.
He later took us to the famous Mughal gardens and walked through the farthest corner of the Dal lake. There is a beautiful fort, Hari Parbat; honestly we had no clue about it ( we hadn’t done any research), and visiting there completed our sweet little jouney to Kashmir.
Though I really wanted to shop from the authentic workshops there but if I remember clearly, we were short of cash so kind of ditched that plan. We had already bought a lot of dry fruits and other stuff, the stay was costlier too and the cab fare, Pony ride in Sonmarg, Gondola ride in Gulmarg and additional taxi fare in Pahalgaam; well these were some visible costs!
But If I have to summarize, then Kashmir is an awesome place to visit, but yes it’s costly if you want comfort and little luxury. Keep your eyes open, be vigilant, be respectful and rest don’t bother much. It’s as part of our country as any other place.
And it’s beautiful!
Did I mentioned I was crying on the last day while taking the last ride on the boat? Not because my digital camera had splashed inside the water or we had to take a long cab journey from Srinagar to Jammu, but because I really didn’t wanted to go back. I was in love with Kashmir and I promised myself to go back there once again!
Actually we went back again, to Ladkah few years later. I will share my #pahaditales in the next blog. Let me know if you liked the post or if you need any further details then please do mention it in the comment section.
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