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.

Well, you know, you'll always find yourself being sold or offered some services in most places in India right after you alight from the auto rickshaw, especially at those touristy spots. After a week of training, I guess we're more or less numb towards those annoyance.

As expected, the locals kept bothering us with their houseboat offers, we insisted that we're passing.
Somehow, I forgot how but, there's this one guy who offered a pretty good deal I guess, and we're convinced in the end.

At Gate no. 7, we boarded his Shikara (the boat on Dal Lake which looks very similar to the Gondola in Venice) and he fetched us to his houseboat (Royal Lodge HouseBoat).

When the shikara moved away from the main road, my goodness, I had to close my eyes and enjoy nothing but the water paddling sound. That's the tranquillity which I've been fantasizing.

The living room of the houseboat.

After depositing our stuffs, getting ourselves washed and changed, off we went, to the land to have a chilling stroll along Boulevard Road and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Dal Lake.
Oh ya, located in the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, don't expect Srinagar to be as hot as the rest of the places in India. It was spring when we're there and the average temperature was around 18°C, and it's even colder at night, if you ever wonder why were we putting on our jackets.

Besides, Jammu and Kashmir is a slightly different Indian state - any mobile network/roaming from the rest of the world will not work, and that's a huge headache for us. Regions in Jammu and Kashmir are often the victims of terrorist attacks. Tight security and mobile limitation is enforced by the government to control terrorist activities there. Therefore every evening you'll see soldiers patrolling on the street in Srinagar.

Beautiful spraybow at a fountain on Dal Lake

We had a sunset Dal Lake shikara tour after that

Selling stuffs across shikara on Dal Lake, win liao...

Ice cream too...

Just... beautiful......

Row row row your boat...

This totally makes me feel that I'm a professional photographer

Kashmiri dinner at the houseboat (chargeable)

Applying mask before sleeping for our first time on a float house

Day 2

What a shame but, we're quite indolent and the programs of the day were rather unattractive.

Did I mention that the host of the houseboat kept hard selling services and tour packages that sound more like a rip off? Well, staying one more day gives us extra one day worth of nagging, and hence we decided to stay there for probably two days before sourcing for other lodging options, before getting ourselves into more dilemmas.

In the morning, we're brought to some exclusive boutique to shop for some Kashmiri clothing, and introduced to Pashmina, some very fine (and costly) fabric originated somewhere there, which we insisted not to buy despite being hard sold.

Each of us did buy one clothing each to be worn together at the latter trip, like what we did at Taj Mahal.

Another boring and lazy stroll around Srinagar, approached some travel agencies and got some brochures about Srinagar attractions, and that ends the day. Well, I would take it as a compensation for the tension we got two days ago - the disastrous bus journey up to Srinagar.

And that's our 2nd and last night on the houseboat. Oh, and it's a quiet night on bed in Srinagar - there's no need of turning on a fan due to the weather, and so noise was minimal.

Day 3

A great Kashmiri breakfast for a great day ahead. It's gonna be a day trip to Sonamarg.

Please read Sonamarg, India and be amazed by the scenery which leaves you doubt - "is this seriously India?".

Day 4

Noor Guest House
We woke up at a different place. We've moved from the houseboat to Noor Guest House.

It's a pretty decent place.
WiFi available, but you have to pay a fee every 24 hours, and they'll type the password for you so you can only use it on your one device. However, it totally doesn't take a genius to discover the password by clicking "Properties" after right clicking the network. LOL~~

It's a another lazy day... 'cause... we just wanted to nua... But of course we did eat, I somehow looked forward to eating whenever it's meal time when I was in India.

Lunch at Baba Ki Punjabi Rasoi

Mushroom Fried Rice @ ₹120, Butter Chicken (Half) @ ₹250, Gobi Masala @ ₹80
Dinner at Paradise Restaurant, Boulevard Road

Day 5

Please read Gulmarg, India and believe me, it's even more astonishing than Sonamarg.

Here's a sneak preview:

You're right, we're going somewhere up there...

Day 6

We're getting lazier and lazier, as our India trip was coming to an end.
Having survived this India trip, we rewarded ourselves with a slightly more sumptuous dinner at Shamyana Restaurant before leaving this beautiful city of Srinagar.

Aloo Ghobi Masala @ ₹149
Butter Chicken Boneless (Half) @ ₹255
Chicken Pudina Boneless (Half) @ ₹255
Butter Naan @ ₹60
Roti @ ₹15

Day 7

First time in my life taking 3 flights in a day - Srinagar AirportIndira Gandhi International Airport (Delhi) ✈ Chennai International AirportSingapore Changi Airport

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

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