KASHMIR !!! It has been my dream since childhood days to see the paradise on earth. It could not materialize due to various reasons. Finally I made it in 1st week of September!! For a change , I had plan the trip in advance and tour organizer, The Kashmir paradise tour" had given me a very good deal, a very nice Super deluxe House boat, a mid range Hotel in Srinagar and the my choice hotel in Pahalgaon.
You get to read a lot on Kashmir , so I wont go into details. I shall post few photographs and some travel tips. Our destinations were Srinagar, Sona Marg, Gul Marg , Pahalgaon and around.
Kashmir is very peaceful now and the tourism sector is back to normal. This year there was record number of tourists.
We took a flight from Delhi. Srinagar is just 1 hr 20 minutes away. At the airport our guide cum driver was ready with the vehicle and received us with a warm smile. Mr. Rafiq would be with us for next 7 days. He is a very cordial and knowledge person..
We drove from the airport to the house boat, water front. Our 1st night stay was in a Super Deluxe house boat on the Dal lake. The transfer from road head to house boat is always by boat, called Sikara. All the house boats are concentrated at one corner of the Dal lake. The lake is quite massive and you can have a look at Google map.
THE HOUSE BOAT We stayed in a House boat named 'New California'. It is part of the largest house boat complex "California House boats" and all boats are connected by a wooden walk way over water, one of its kind on the whole lake. Boats may have 2 to 4 and some times six rooms, with attached bath , dressing area and very well appointed.
CLICK EACH PHOTO TO ENLARGETHE LOCATION OF THE BOAT AS SEEN ON GOOGLE MAP
The House Boat New California where we stayed
The California House boat complex with connecting walkway
The California House boat complex at night
As you enter, you have a nice place to sit
Lazy people also sit here and watch the lake and passing SikaraThe living area with beautiful Kashmiri woodwork. The passage leads to the dinning area and then to rooms.
Woodwork in House boatSitting in front and watching
Tourists passing by on a Sikara
Fast food joint
Vendors on boat trying to sell. Akbar fort at a distance
It seems so unreal but real
Taking a Sikara (boat) ride is the main attraction on Dal lake. After lunch we set out on the trip. The boat man was waiting with a big smile. No sooner did the boat leave the jetty than we were flanked from both sides by small merchant boats. While on one side, SOMEONE was examining artificial Kashmiri jewelries one by one with great excitement , at the other side I was examining papier mache cats, owls, boats, jewelry boxes etc with reasonable disgust as the boat was obstructing my views. But it was a good experience and the merchants were humble and nice.
Here are some views of dal lake from Sikara
Sikara hiring point ( there are many)
Nehru Park on Dal lake. We took a break here .
There is a restaurant too, at Nehru park
Tarif karuN kya uski...jisne tumhe banaya ( I mean Kashmir and not someone)
As you take Sikara ride along the house boats , you really enjoy watching the names, the surroundings and the reflections on placid water . Note the names of the boats
The Char Chinnar on Dal lake
After a great pakoda snack at a floating fast food joint , I suddenly found that the boat man was restless and started persuading us to go to the narrow water ways to see lotus farming, floating vegetable fields, and incidentally some shops. The main reason was, he wanted us to buy some thing from the floating markets so that he could get a cut. It is usual in all tourist places. We did buy few nice dress material and the boat man was happy.
Here are few photos of waterway, lotus field, market etc
I was amazed to see 3 small kids alone in a boat rowing and ladies rowing and gossiping in another one.
Through the waterways along the boating fields
Some floating shops
A lotus, camera shy
Lotus fields...from here the Lotus stems are supplied and used in famous Kashmiri dishes
WaterwayBirds on the Dal
The red color is due to reflection of a painted glass panel of a near by house
We were back to the house boat in the evening, had a great but simple diner , with chicken , Dal, vege curry and rice.
End of part-1 and day 1.