I have been lucky to visit Kashmir three times and I find it incredibly beautiful. As the season moves to summer vacation time you might be looking for a trip to Kashmir. I have out forth a list to things to do in Kashmir. I hope you will enjoy it. And I sincerely hope that another flood doesn’t materialize in Karshmir.
It is an amazing experience to stay in a house boat in Srinagar. There are many house boats both at Dal Lake and Nagin Lake across various budget ranges. For me the most beautiful aspect of staying a house boat was to wake up in the middle of the lake and see it come alive in the morning with shikaras selling breakfast, flowers and souvenirs.
Walking around Dal Lake in the evening is a thing of beauty. The setting sun makes the surface of the lake glow. I would stop at the road side tea shop and have chai as well when I was tired of walking.
There is a local floating vegetable market on Dal Lake which sells wholesale vegetables. It has become a tourist attraction too. One has to wake up early to go there as the market disperses by 7.30 am or so.
Paragliding is available at Srinagar from Astanmarg area. I could not do it personally as our bookings didn’t work out but I did see the site and it was a beauty.
Pari Mahal is a garden in Srinagar. The garden itself is beautiful but the view of the city from the garden is breathtakingly beautiful.
The gondola ride at Gulmarg is very popular and rightly so. The ride is dependent on weather. On some days it is not possible to go the level two due to the weather, on some days the ride may just not happen at all. But if possible do try going to both the levels. In the skiing season it is fun to skiers zipping around on the slopes.
St. Mary’s Church is situated on a vast meadow and the location itself makes it so beautiful. A mass is said in the church every Sunday and the priest comes in from Srinagar!
Gulmarg gets snow, a lot of snow. When I was there in March it had five feet of snow. And snow is so much fun. There is a skiing institute in Gulmarg too, so if you are planning to learn skiing, Gulmarg is one of the options.
There is rafting available on the River Lidder in Pahalgam. It was open for a small stretch when I was there and the water was oh so cold! But it was a lot of fun as well. Pahalgam is picture postcard beautiful even otherwise.
If you like tea you have to try kahwa the Kashmiri tea. It is a tea made without milk and everyone does it a little differently. I am otherwise a big fan of Chai but kahwa comes quite close. When in Kashmir, I drink only Kahwa. You have to give it a try, chances are you will get addicted like me!
For this Friday’s sky watch I had to once again rummage through my old folders. I went to Srinagar twice this year, one in June and once in September. And I was almost caught in the floods in September. In all I have been to Kashmir three times now. But I still feel I have seen too little of the region.
How I wish I could say that took this picture while around the lake. The truth is I was stuck in a traffic jam by the lake when I clicked this picture. I clicked it sitting in the vehicle itself, on my cell phone!
When I actually walked around the lake, it was during the day when the sun was harsh and pictures quite flat. When the light was good I was stuck in a traffic jam! How do you react when you find yourself unable to take pictures properly when the light is good? I sulk quite badly and it happens to me so many times.
The view of Srinagar from Pari Mahal is awesome. Pari Mahal is actually a garden rather than a mahal (palace). In a way I envy the couple, sitting with each-other with such a fabulous view in front of them! They so seem to be into the scene and enjoying each-other’s company. No worrying about manual mode and camera settings for them!
If you are fond of clicking pictures, do you ever feel that you are almost always chasing pictures instead of enjoying the scene? Do you ever put down the camera to enjoy the moment? If yes, how do you manage to do that? You have to tell me the secret.
For the sky watch today, I am putting up ten pictures, 8 from my travels in 2014 and 2 from the backyard. You might have seen those pictures in some previous posts but I was tempted to put the eye candies in one place!
10. A Sunset in the Backyard
I usually reach home after the sunset, except for the peak of summer when the sun sets quite late. This evening I was lucky, the sun was yet to drop over the horizon. I clicked it from my balcony. One day I am going to see more sunsets rather than commuting through them!
9. Mandvi Beach, Kutch Gujarat
I went to Kutch in January in 2014. It was a solo, last minute trip. I was so fed up with the hotel prices in Bhuj that I settled for staying at Devpur Home Stay. That was such a blessing as Krutharthsinh Jadeja ji fixed all my subsequent itinerary. It was because of his recommendation that I ended up at Mandavi and enjoyed the sunset at the beach.
8. An Evening in Hong Kong
This year I took my niece and daughter on a trip to Hong Kong. The kiddos were quite fascinated by the Victoria Harbor. They were so engrossed that they did not notice that I was clicking pictures. I am going to take them out again but next year.
7. A Para-glider in Srinagar
This was before the devastating September floods in Kashmir. I was there in June. I was getting out of Srinagar on September 7 as well, when Jhelum breached its banks. I hope J&K would recover from the disaster soon.
6. A Beautiful Sunset at Monsoon Palace, Udaipur
There are some sunsets that get itched in your memory. The sunset at the Monsoon Palace in Udaipur falls in that category. It was such a beautiful evening, the sky had just the right amount of clouds so as to make the evening beautiful without overwhelming the sun!
5. Misty Mountains, Paro, Bhutan
This was a morning shot. I usually open the curtains before I go to sleep. Around the time of sunrise I opened my eyes to see if there was something worth getting up. The mist had gobbled up the mountain range and re-drawn the shape of the mountain! It looked like someone had repainted the landscape. I went to the balcony to click a few pictures and then I went back to sleep again! That is how I approach sunrise photography!
4. The Beach at Maafushi, Maldives
The trip to Maafushi, Maldives has been such a joy. I loved this lone coconut tree which was reclining at such an impossible angle towards the sea. I clicked many photographs but I like this one the best.
3. Batal, Spiti
Mountains have been giving me only clouds, mists and rains since June 2013. Batal, Spiti was also going the same way till the clouds parted for a while in the evening. And that was the only time in this whole trip that they showed any mercy to me!
2. Sunset at Maafushi, Maldives
Sunset at Maafushi was a magical time. It was a pleasure to be out on the beach and enjoy the sea. Sunsets became all the more special. I always thought Maldives would be beautiful but I never thought it would be so beautiful.
1. Construction Work in the Backyard
Sometimes pictures happen in the backyard as well. I was trying to click the sun peeping through the construction site but it was not giving me anything worthwhile. Then decided to go for the silhouette.
This is a petty post. This is about my difficulties in catching a flight out of Srinagar yesterday, the day Jhelum River breached its banks. However, this minor tragedy collided with the major tragedy of the Srinagar floods, of the Kashmir Floods.
I went to The Khyber Resorts (Gulmarg) on Friday, September 5, as I was invited. Apart from minor traffic jams I did not face much of a problem in getting out of Srinagar even though it was already flooded. A bridge near Gulmarg has collapsed so we had to take a 10 kilometers detour through a village to reach the resort. Gulmarg was misty, it rained but we had fun.
Coming back on Sunday, September 7, was a different story though. When we started from Gulmarg it was not raining, which was a good sign or so we thought. Mohammad Akbar was our driver, he has been with the resort from the early days. There were six of us in two cars. We were making good time and in our inexperience we made an unscheduled stop! Whatever the duration, we did make a stop and in the process got separated from the first car. Akbar at one point told us to hurry up as the situation on the ground was not too good. That made the three of us come out of our stupor. We actually had a smooth sailing till Bemina in Srinagar.
At Bemina the water was gushing over the road, I have not seen anything like that in my life. People standing on the way told us that the Scorpio could cross. But Akbar was not too sure. After an initial round of opinions, we decided to follow whatever Akbar suggested, as he was the local and the most experienced. I saw people from the houses nearby standing on the road. There was an announcement going on in Kashmiri. Akbar said it was a call to move the women and children to the local mosque. They had shelter for the animals too.
We hanged around Bemina for a while. Trucks were stranded as the Srinagar Jammu highway is closed. People were burning wood on the road divider to keep warm, it become a social space. We went to the edge of the water. Akbar decided that he would not drive through and we respected his decision.
He parked the vehicle sideways and we waited for a while. I got down and walked to the edge of the water. The water was so damn cold. From the comfort of the SUV it never occurred to me that the water would be freezing. There are a few local youths talking to agitated people stranded on this side. A lady wailed, she had a flight to catch and she wanted her vehicle to go through. The boys had put a makeshift barricade. To me the flow looked scary. I said so to them. They pointed out, “Look at that truck full of people at the other end with all its weight? Even then it is moving with such difficulty!”
We decided to head back, at least for some distance, away from the water. I found a wash room in one of the restaurants. I saw army personnel in this area and asked them how was the situation beyond the water torrent? One of them said I would still miss my flight as there was a massive traffic jam after that in the city. I talked to a family which had a flight to catch to Jaipur at 4.00 pm . They said they managed to cross the water at Bemina by getting into a truck with all their belongings. But the truck turned back due to the traffic jam. They are worried about missing their flight, so was I. Mine was at 2.25 pm and it was already knocking on 12.00 noon.
We thought we would have tea. But no one was really in the mood. We thought of heading back to Gulmarg. As we turned back, I feared that my family would badly panic if I got stranded. I also had to be at work on Monday. But all of us agreed that we will not take any undue risks. We also worried about the other car, as our cell phones were not working.
As we were about to pull out, a local came and tipped Akbar about an alternative route which would take us to Badgaon, and to the airport. We were assured by the army people that the flights were taking off, if we could reach the airport. We decided to try the alternate route. I was hopeful that the flight would be delayed as Srinagar was anyway on red alert.
It was a narrow village route that we took. The roads were bad but it had only minor water logging. The paddy crop which would have been harvested in 15 days was washed out. When the water will recede, it will leave other problems in its wake.
Akbar drove with infinite patience on the roads that were bad. He frequently asked for directions. At one point he asked me, “Am I stopping too many times for asking directions?” I told him, “That is not a problem at all, menfolk usually don’t ask for directions and get lost!” Around 1.20 pm we were at the outskirts of the airport. I started feeling hopeful. Phones were still not working. Then I spotted what looked like a traffic jam. Thankfully it was a false alarm.
We finally reached the airport, clearing the outer security, at about 1.30 pm. We gave lift to a father-daughter duo close to the airport. When we got down in front of the terminal Akbar exclaimed “Ham jeet gaye!” We won! After thanking him and tipping him (which would never be enough) I flew through to the Indigo counter and presented my ticket. They accept it without any fuss. I made it to the flight. In a rare departure from the norm, the security at Srinagar was kind to the passengers. They were thorough but not too gruff. In my hurry, I forgot to put tags on my hand luggage. They found two tags from somewhere and stamped my luggage. On any other day they would have sent me back!
As I walked to the waiting area, the members of the first car saw me. We all could finally breathe easy. They took some other detour to reach the airport. Our flight was delayed by many hours as the Prime Minister was in the city. Helicopters doing relief work had priority. Inside the plane every one had a story to tell, about how they reached the airport. The staff of Indigo gave us tea even before the flight took off.
I could see the pilots chatting in an animated fashion, earlier they have always been a voice from the cockpit, highly efficient but hardly human. We talked to the cabin crew who started their day at 4.00 am from Dubai! Life was slowly coming back to normal. I reached home late but I reached home safely.
Unfortunately the same can not be said for the people in J&K. Help them in which ever way you can. This has been my first close encounter with flooding and it has left me shaken!