I was so excited when I got a call from the PR team handling J&K Tourism. I immediately agreed to go on the trip, I took three days leave as well. For me leaves are really truly precious because I work full time. Anyway, talking about leaves is not too engaging, so back to the Kashmir trip.
We stayed at a house boat at the Dal Lake in Srinagar for the first night. It was a unique experience. The name of the houseboat was Acropolis. It was clean though the bathroom was far from ideal. It was clean but had an antiquated and non-functional tub and to take bath you had to climb in. Other than this minor gripe the experience was quite memorable.
We visited the floating vegetable market at the Dal Lake early in the morning. Originally the market might have been only for the vegetable but now with tourists around flower seller also join in. It was such a pleasure to wake up at the other side of the lake and watch the birds and life generally around the lake. Srinagar is full of Mughal gardens but on this trip I could visit only one.
Pari Mahal is a seven terraced garden built by king Dara Shikoh somewhere in 1600s. It is a beautiful garden but more than that it has stunning view of the city. It is a bit outside the city, with narrow roads leading to it. I could have sat there for the whole day and looked at the view.
No, before you say you envy me, let me tell you I could not take a ride. Kashmir is trying to develop adventure tourism. Paragliding is one of the activities. It is happening on a hillock at the Asthan Marg. For us it was difficult to locate the place. As of now one has to trek 1.5 kilometers to reach the spot. It was fun for me but it would have been even more fun it I could have taken the flight! Anyway, there is always a next time! What a view we got even from the hillock.
What I could do was rafting on the Lidder River at Pahalgam. It was a short stretch of 2KM but that was enough for me. The water was so, so cold that I would yell and scream (no, really I did that) every time I got drenched. I can only shudder when I think what would have happened if I got thrown-in. Thankfully it never happened.
Finally, it is time to talk a bit about food. You are better off if you are a non-vegetarian as there are many local dishes you can try. I can only talk about this excellent lemon cake and coffee at Cafe Log Inn. Read it carefully, it is not login and password, it log as in wood Inn! More on these snapshots in later posts.
One of the fun things we did in Thailand was rafting at Nakhon Nayok. I have been on rafting trips before in India so I knew what to expect. There is a dam on the Nahon Nayok River which was the idea of the current King of Thailand known as Rama IX. The King of Thailand is highly revered in the nation. I saw many pictures of the king on display and he holds a camera in so many of them!
We stopped at a bridge to look at the dam and the surrounding areas. The view of the Nakhon Nayok river is beautiful and later in the evening we were going to raft along it.
Nakhon Nayok River, Thailand
We started near a bridge late in the evening, there were 6 of us in the raft other than the expert. If you have rafted in the Ganges you will find the Nakhon Nayok River milder. In Rishikesh both the times there was a dry bag on the raft so that I could put my camera in it. On calm stretches they would let us take it out and do photography. Not so in Nakhon Nayok, they had a dry bag but not in the raft. So I had no camera while we went rafting and for sure I had withdrawal symptoms!
Rafting was a lot of fun. All of us took turns to sit at the front of the raft. That is where you get drenched most. But unlike the Ganges there was no one who got thrown out in the water. There was a mild rain as well which made the experience even better.
Rafting at Nakhon Nayok, Thailand
The worst we did on this trip was, we would turn the direction of the raft. The expert was the last person in the raft and when we would hit the mild currents we would make him become the first, the raft would turn 180 degree. The expert was able to correct the position again quite easily. We did this many times!
When we reached at the end point for rafting there was another activity waiting for us. From an elevated platform we had an option of taking a Tarzan Jump! There was a long rope hanging from a tree and a tire attached to it. You had to swing from the platform holding the rope and standing on the tire. Then you could let go of the rope once you were above the water. I did it, it was a first and it was so much fun! I don’t have particularly strong arms so I was quite afraid that I would fall off as soon as I started. I fell off quite soon but at least it was not a vertical fall. That honor went to a young man from Taiwan! So on that high note our rafting at Nakhon Nayok came to an end.
Did it ever occurred to you that what happened to the rafts after we were done for the day? The first time I went rafting I was so hungry after it that all my attention was concentrated on food and chatting. Not so this time. I was still awake and curious about my surroundings.
Do I have all the paddles?
So I noticed this guy walking away with all the paddles and a keen concentration on his face which seems to be saying, “Do I have them all?” I am sure someone else did the same with the helmets and the life jackets. All the equipment has to be kept away safely for the next trip!
There were stairs!
The biggest task is to take the raft back home and these four strong people were trying to do just that. This was the ghat near Ram Jhula at Haridwar. And there were stairs to negotiate! I do not envy them for this task!
Jor laga ke!
And this group needed more than four people to negotiate the steps. If there are enough professionals with the raft they don’t ask the customers to help. But I have seen groups where customers also helped in hauling the raft away from the river. I was never asked to give a hand and I wonder how will I fare if I was actually asked to help! Maybe they know who will be more of a liability rather than help at such tasks!
Finally the raft is tied on the top of a jeep and it is all set to go home! This time I saw people adjusting the tilt of the raft on the jeep as well. Rafting has been fun for me but this time I also enjoyed clicking the homeward journey of the raft too.
They say there are two reasons why people visit Rishikesh- rafting and religion. I managed to get both in one frame. This was clicked after we completed our rafting near Ram Jhula.
Rafting and Religion at Rishikesh
I have to admit I have been keen on rafting. This time I was told by my raft expert Amit that the rapids have been named by Sir Edmund Hillary. I The name that is stuck in my memory is called ‘return to the sender.’ There would be more on rafting at the Ganges soon.