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gloriajames Srinagar - A travel report by Gloria
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Srinagar,  India - flag India -  Jammu and Kashm¿r
5505 readers

gloriajames's travel reports

Kashmir - Switzerland of the East

  19 votes
Page: 1 2
Not only is Kashmir called a 'Paradise on Earth', it is also reknowned for being 'the most dangerous place on Earth'. So why did I visit India's Kashmir??


Winter Landscape of Srinagar
Winter Landscape of Srinagar
For the past 50 years, both India and Pakistan have been fighting wars over Kashmir. A battle yet to be won as nothing divides India and Pakistan as Kashmir does. Unfortunately, it's the people of Kashmir that suffered. Hence, when the tourism industry slowly developed in the past couple of years, many tourists have taken the opportunity to visit this war zone area, and life in Kashmir has improved recently.

Sharing its borders with China and Afghanistan, Kashmir has a 70 per cent Muslim population. And you may ask, what makes this a 'Paradise on Earth'?

Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is like a many faceted diamond, changing its character with the seasons and always looking extravagantly beautiful. But for me, I think winter in Kashmir was simply smashing and the best time to pay a visit!

I thought I should highlight some precautions to you if you do visit India Kashmir. I took a domestic flight from Delhi to Srinagar. At Delhi airport, you will be required to identify your luggage before you board the plane. Delhi airport is not very strict on what you can carry onboard the plane, so please do take your digital camera onboard the plane. On your return leg, you have to check-in your batteries. As you fly over the snowcapped Himalayan Mountains you will be mesmerized by the beautiful scenery. What you will notice when you land is the extremely tight security. There are military soliders everywhere carrying their guns. Do not let that scare you away! As soon as you pick up your luggage, do not fret if a plainclothes police officer stops you and ask you to register your details. It is a requirement on both legs of your journey. Do note that on your return leg to Delhi, the security is tighter. You are body searched at least 5 times before you board the flight. If you are carrying edibles in your slingbag, you are required to take a bite of your edibles in front of security, before you are allowed to enter the airport.

Favourite spots:
Dal Lake
Dal Lake
Though Srinagar is the summer capital of Kahsmir, in winter the sight is exceptional. The view of the houseboats lined on Dal Lake with the Himalayan Mountains as a backdrop is a sight! No trip to Srinagar is complete without staying in a houseboat and that was what I did!

What you will marvel at is the intricate and exquiste woodcarving of the houseboat. The houseboats usually have 3 huge bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room with a fireplace. Facilities are basic and each room has a small portable tv.

Fret not if you think you will get seasick, as the houseboats remain moored in one place on Dal Lake.

As you seem to have so much time in hand, chill out at the front of the houseboat and engage in conversations with the friendly Kashmiris. Alternatively, hop onto a Shikara, a small boat hand paddled by a boatman and spend an idyllic day on Dal Lake as you watch the world go by.

What's really great:
Landscape of Gulmarg
Landscape of Gulmarg
Heading out some 58 km West of Srinagar, I stayed overnight at a ski resort in Gulmarg. It's not Aspen though Gulmarg has been referred to as the Switzerland of the East, at an altitude of 2,730m. In winter, the pureness of the snow like a white blanket and fairy-tale green cottages, the pine trees, the fresh crisp air and the beautiful snow capped mountains, make this an ideal holiday destination if you can't afford the trips to Switzerland or Aspen.

The must-dos in Gulmarg is as follows:
1. Gulmarg Gondola which is the highest in the world. Take the ride and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views;
2. Ride on the snow sledge;
3. Khillanmarg - another ski slope for the die-hard skiers about 300m higher;
4. Gulmarg Golf Course which is the highest green course in the world;
5. St Mary's Church which is about 120 years old;
6. Kongdori - known as the Seven Spring; and
7. Maharajah Palace.

Sights:
Paper mache products about 300 rupees for 2.
Paper mache products about 300 rupees for 2.
The must-dos and sights at Srinagar are :-

1. Taking a stroll in the town of Srinagar, where you can find good Kashmiri pastries and sweets to take home. Buy their pre-packed goodie bag costing about 250 rupees.

2. Try the Kashmiri and malasa tea.

3. Go on a shikara ride on the Dal Lake to watch the sunset.

4. Visit the Government of Arts Emporium to purchase paper mache products and walnutwood boxes.

5. Take the Boulevard Road that will lead you to the famous Mughal Gardens - consisting of two gardens ie Cahsma Shahi and Pari Mahal, and the other consisting of Nishat and Shalimar gardens. You may remember Shalimar more as this was the romance ground of Emperor Janhangir and his queen, Bur Jehan.

6. Get a photoshot of yourself dressed in a Kashmiri outfit.

Accommodations:
Hill Top Hotel
Hill Top Hotel
Hotel accommodation at Gulmarg:
Both Hill Top Hotel and Pine Palace Hotel are located near the Gondola landmark. There about 20 rooms in each of these hotels. As there is no mobile reception in Kashmir, fret not, you can contact your loved one back home by using the internet facilities or a pay phone.

To make reservations: contact
www.mcogroupcompanies.com
www.skihimalaya.com
email : pinepalacegulmarg@yahoo.com

****************************************-**************

Houseboat accommodation at Srinagar :

For this, you will have to ask your India travel agent to arrange the accommodation if you wish to obtain the best rates. Alternatively, to to http://www.kashmir-tourism.com/kashmir-h-ouseboat.htm, to find what you need.

Staying in a houseboat can be cold in winter, so you have to leave your room doors unlocked as the caretaker will refuel the traditional fireplace by adding dry wood. In Gulmarg, an electric blanket will be provided.

Nightlife:
People of Kashmir
People of Kashmir
Kashmir has a mixed population of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Dogras. You will notice some Kashmiris are of Aryan descent and they have fair skin, hair and coloured eyes.

Kashmiris are friendly to tourists and during your conversations with them, do not be surprised if you are invited to tea!

Hangouts:
Vendors selling their wares on the houseboat.
Vendors selling their wares on the houseboat.
Being strict muslims, I did not see any pubs or clubs in Srinagar save for a lounge at the Hotels in Gulmarg where you can have a drink whilst you sit round the fireplace. Hence, I thought I should share my knowledge of what I know of the people of Kashmir.

Kashmiris are skilled artisans and craftsmen whose work of art is appreciated around the world. They are renowned for embroidery with intricate designs and on exquisite materials like Pashmina silk and Shatoosh.

A piece of advice :
Be prepared by the constant visit of vendors to your houseboat and even as you take the shikara ride, selling their pashminas, cashmere, leather jackets, jewellery and paper mache wares to you. You will be shocked by the starting price of their products. So PLEASE BARGAIN to at least 40% of the price, otherwise you will burn a hole in your pocket. Refrain from using credit cards as the exchange rate is not favourable and if you do use, you are required to produce a photocopy of your passport.

Restaurants:
Having a meal in the houseboat @ Srinagar
Having a meal in the houseboat @ Srinagar
Kashmiri cuisine features delicacies such as saffron, morel mushrooms and lotus roots. When staying at a houseboat, your butler will prepare all your meals for you which usually consists of soup, naan, rice, curry, 2 vegetable dishes, and dessert. I especially loved the most popular Kashmiri curry - ROGAN JOSH, which is spiced lamb cooked in yogurt and aniseed. And as for dessert, try the semolina pudding with your kashmiri tea.

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is grown locally here. It is used extensively to flavour the pulaos (rice dish) and sweets. The other popular dishes include the starter yakhni, dum aloo and haleem. So when you do shop, please buy saffron and kashmiri tea.

Other recommendations:
Houseboat on Dal Lake.
Houseboat on Dal Lake.
There are other areas in Kashmir you can visit. Extend your holiday by visiting PAHALGAM, boasting surroundings comparably to Swiss Alps. And if you like to trek then, head to the KOLAHOI GLACIER for a 3 day trek.

Another spot gaining popularity amongst tourists is SONAMARG (means MEADOW OF GOLD) at 3,000 metres (altitude) with snow capped mountains and trekking to THAJIWAS GLACIER.

Published on Sunday March 12th, 2006


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Thu, Apr 27 2006 - 12:30 AM rating by fymind

An excellent report by any standards!!
Gloria , keep it up!

Fri, Mar 31 2006 - 01:10 PM rating by alfonsovasco

Very perfect report, yours

Sun, Mar 19 2006 - 05:09 AM rating by jesusferro

good

Thu, Mar 16 2006 - 09:30 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Bravo Gloria, you are very courageous!

Tue, Mar 14 2006 - 11:54 AM rating by eirekay

Gloria, a beautiful report about what looks like a stunningly beautiful place!

Mon, Mar 13 2006 - 03:29 PM rating by davidx

A fabulous report on what souns like a fabulous place - and not too hot!

Sun, Mar 12 2006 - 03:31 PM rating by rangutan

As you discover new frontiers so the better your reports become Gloria. This is truely amoungst the best of many perfect reports!

Sun, Mar 12 2006 - 12:04 PM rating by marianne

Gloria,

5*
What a joy to read. Very informative. After reading this I realise I should visit Kashmir, the only problem is the weather. I hate the cold. In south India there are lots of kashmiris selling their souvenirs such as the paper mache boxes.

In the south, too, at the airports there is a body search. Men on one side, women on the other side, which I did not realise at first.

Affron was sold at the flea market in Anjuna, but mind you it was not the real saffron but expensive. Anyway we did n't buy it. We bought sandelwood powder instead.

Sun, Mar 12 2006 - 11:48 AM rating by isaacmolina

Beautiful !!! (like you!).

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