May 21, 2013

Srinagar, India

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India
श्रीनगर, जम्मू और कश्मीर, भारत

16 (Thu) - 21 (Tue) May 2013

1st and 2nd nights - Royal Lodge HouseBoat, Gate no. 7, Boulevard Road, Srinagar
3rd to 6th nights - Noor Guest House, Abi Buchwara, Dalgate, Srinagar

1 of 3, 6 days Kashmir trip
5 of 5, 14 days India trip

Srinagar, located in the Kashmir region which belongs to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is the summer capital of the state, while Jammu is the winter capital - first time in my life encountering somewhere which has two capitals depending on the season.

The reason I named my photo album and the travel timeline above as "Kashmir" instead of "Srinagar" is, we traveled to another two places which are also in Kashmir but out of Srinagar and our lodging was in Srinagar for the entire 6 days, although Srinagar was the lead cast of the show.

Day 0

Why was there Day 0? Well, in my previous blog post about Amritsar, I mentioned that we took a morning squeezy bus from Amritsar to Jammu for a half day stopover before moving forward to Srinagar. That was Day 0.

We expected to get a bus to Srinagar in that afternoon itself, too bad when we approached a transportation service agent in Jammu and he told us that all buses to Srinagar are only available at night. Bloody hell~~ and we had to stay in Jammu doing nothing till night.

Tired and weary, we checked in to a hotel nearby after lunch, not to stay overnight but to unload our huge backpacks, settle down and take a refreshing bath.

We boarded the sleeper bus at night, which fetched us to Srinagar and reached the next morning.

Apparently Srinagar is located at a higher altitude, it's getting colder and colder as the bus journeyed up.
Some terrifying scene (don't feel like describing here) traumatized Susan on the bus, that we had to switch to mixing two genders in a compartment from the initial guy-guy girl-girl arrangement.
Wilsen puked on the way up.
Lying on the bus drifting along the barrier-less mountainside, we felt that we're almost halfway to heaven, and having no way out, we prayed...

Day 1

... and were glad that we survived the horrible journey. Thank God we're still alive.

We alighted at some wilderness in Srinagar, took an auto rickshaw to Dalgate, where the south narrow end of the beautiful Dal Lake is located. Despite knowing the fact that Srinagar is famous for its houseboats, somehow we're not really keen on staying there, and instead we're walking along the Boulevard Road and trying to look for a hotel where we could stay.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

May 20, 2013

Gulmarg, India

This post is a sequel of Srinagar, India (Day 5).

3 of 3, 6 days Kashmir trip
5 of 5, 14 days India trip

Another day trip after Sonamarg. This time it's a town located 50km westwards from Srinagar.

And oh, check out our fancy fashionista attire bought in Srinagar.

Gulmarg literally means "Meadow of Flowers". Lying within the Himalayas, Gulmarg is also a hill station and a skiing spot.

We're going to take the highest cable car in Asia to the snow capped mountain. And the cable car is called 'Gondola'.

Ok, this is getting me confused as well, because in Venice, the boat is called Gondola and in India they call it Shikara while calling their cable car Gondola.

This is how the gondola network goes:
Gulmarg ⇌ Kungdoor (Phase 1) ⇌ Aparwath (Phase 2)

Kungdoor (Phase 1)
There are actually two phases of the gondola ride, Phase 1 to the mountainside at Kungdoor and Phase 2 to the peak at Aparwath.

We were actually encouraged by a random Indian guy to go to Aparwath before we joined the ticket queue, although we insisted to stick with our original plan - to go only to Kungdoor.

The ticket price is ₹600 for Gulmarg ⇌ Kungdoor (Phase 1) and ₹800 for Kungdoor (Phase 1) ⇌ Aparwath (Phase 2). So if we were to go to Phase 2 from Gulmarg station, the total cost will be ₹1,400 per person.

We went up to Kungdoor, looked at the mountain peak above and ahead of us, we regretted, that we didn't listen to the guy at Gulmarg station. As there's no way to purchase the ticket for Kungdoor (Phase 1) ⇌ Aparwath (Phase 2), we had to go back down to Gulmarg and purchase another two sets of return tickets and that made us spend ₹600 x 2 + ₹800 = ₹2,000 when we could have just spent ₹1,400.

And we met that random Indian guy again as we got back down and as expected he sneered at us for not listening to his advice earlier on. Whatever...

Nevertheless, it's never to late to regret and we made the right choice. So if you're coming to Gulmarg, please make sure you go all the way to Aparwath (Phase 2), you will never regret as I'm about to show you what is up there as you continue reading.

We're again approached by some Indians for group photo taking :)

You may have a snowball fight if you wish to.

If my photos aren't convincing enough to convey how breathtaking it was, then please go and witness for yourself. I have seriously never associated that image with India.

Furthermore, I totally didn't expect myself to be able to visit a snow capped place in India, and unexpectedly, I've come twice to such places during this fortnight long trip.

All the spectacularism and company are truly remarkable and unforgettable...

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

May 18, 2013

Sonamarg, India

This post is a sequel of Srinagar, India (Day 3).

2 of 3, 6 days Kashmir trip
5 of 5, 14 days India trip

We had our transport (finally a car not an auto rickshaw) arranged by our host which fetched us to Sonamarg for a day trip.

80km of driving distance, Sonamarg is located northeast from Srinagar, at an even higher altitude.

Brunch break at Kangan, half way through our journey

See the snow capped mountains behind us? I felt like standing in front of Mt. Fuji.

We've reached the foot of the mountains and there we got to choose to take a horse ride to the snow capped mountains or to walk all the way there. Of course we paid to ride the horse.

It's actually the first time in my life riding a horse, which didn't accelerate no matter how hard I kicked its ass or yelled 'chia' (which I think only works for Chinese horses? *Watched too many ancient China dramas already*), so did the rest. They only listen to their master's order.

It's scary when we're on those steep rocky hills, but cool when we literally 走馬看花 on the green plain, where you could easily find the horses' excrement. Urgh...

Oh, are we in the Mongolian plain?

Here we are, at the foot of the snowcapped mountains, and we're 'insistently' invited to board the sledge where they pulled us up to the mountainside and made us slide down the snowy slope to the foot again on the sledge, without actually giving us time to consider, and initially we're really indecisive of whether to accept their service.

Well, that's how they make money - letting you see how much effort they put in pulling a human weight of more than 50kg up slope, and it's a slippery snowy slope!

I always show this photo to my friend and make them guess which country is this. 'India' seldom fails to be a stunning answer.
It looks a little like Switzerland which I went last year.

And 'majestically' on our respective horses, we 'galloped' off the snow capped mountains and the vast plains.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.