My first visit to Kashmir, and always an honest opinion about the place follows below.
Unfortunately, I picked a rather wrong time to travel to Kashmir, and my views may be biased due to the unexpected cold welcome I received. I do not by this mean that the people are cold, the temperature was 4 degrees when I arrived on 17th March 2016 at 8.30AM and to top it, it was pouring and while I was getting off the aircraft, I felt a wee bit dizzy; for those of you who do not know, I detest cold weather, I am a chirpy little bird in the spring and summer but I am quite an annoying complain freak in the winters! I really abhor chilly winds and times when I want to cover my body like an Eskimo and shut off– No offense!
Well, the driver was there to pick me up on time and he turned on the heater in the car after I was comfortably seated and I felt fine.
Now, the honest opinion, Kashmir is filled with beautiful, men, women & children. Perhaps the area renders a lovely glowing skin to each of them and they all undoubtedly look lovely! But unfortunately the place isn’t as well kept in terms of beauty. There is an old world charm about Srinagar, but the garbage thrown in callous disarray is distasteful, not to mention quite a bit of the road is not put to complete use and broken vehicles lie there, almost orphaned!
Now coming to the good side of things (I always save the good for the end!); the Dal lake looks absolutely ravishing! Even though there are a ton of houseboats on the ghats, the lake with its glass like water surface, almost looks holy and heavenly! The small Shikara boats moving about, a few carrying happy tourists or romance stricken couples on their first or tenth honeymoon, a flower man, or simply locals going about thir chores, well the sight is gorgeous! The lake is truly one of the wonders of Srinagar.
|A Shy Rasheed, the Boat Driver|
We arrived at Ghat No. 19 and the speed boat was there waiting to pick me up and take me to Sukoon Houseboat, the place where I was to stay. The 5 minute boat ride was chilling, as it was still raining and of course was very cold, but when we reached Sukoon, the warm welcome I received made me forget the cold and I felt at home. Tastefully created with walnut wood, the ceiling and walls carved out by different sets of local Kashmiri Artists was quite a sight for the artist in me. It was warm and cozy inside and I was offered the traditional Kashmiri Kahwa tea made of Saffron and almonds and I was ushered into my Suite at the end. The Suite was large and comfortable with a couch and sofas to relax, a large amazing double bed with 8 inch mattresses, luxurious duvet and two windows offering a beautiful view of the surroundings. The bathroom was large with a shower cubicle and a bathtub, a large mirror and extremely tidy & fresh linen. I just dropped on to my bed and fell asleep like a baby. There are no TVs in Sukoon Houseboat and it is an epitome of quiet and peace as the name says! The food is good and the service is genuine.
|Sukoon - Peace, Wisdom & Contentment|
While Sukoon itself is quite a destination, during my stay I visited several places of which I highly recommend visiting a few rather unique places.
Aru Valley, just a mere 13 kms ahead of Pehalgam, is a darling of a place where I found fresh snow, but the weather was pleasanter than Srinagar and I had a jolly time looking at the local children playing and the men and women basking the sun.
|Fresh Snow at Aru Valley, a camping site in the summer|
Another experience that I would recommend is the Old City Walk at the Old Town. I shall leave some things for surprises.
|The Old World Charm|
I also recommend the Shankarachariya Temple for the glorious views it offers and a Water Safari on the Dal Lake, crossing over to the Manasbal Lake through the river Jhelum and camping over night on the gorgeous banks of the Manasbal lake with live barbecue under the stars!
|View from up above!|
|The Amsterdam of India!|
|The Floating Vegetable Markets - Dal Lake @ 6.05AM|
Finally an early morning visit to the floating vegetable market and partaking in the naptol that happens there shouldn't be missed for the world!
I am told that the best time Kashmir in its full bloom is from May to September, so plan your trip wisely unlike me!