Kashmir Paradise on Earth in the Hug of Himalayas
When someone talked about Himalayas, “Nepal” was always the place that got into my mind even I never had a chance to be there. Thus, if I wanted to visit this great mountain range, Nepal would definitely be my destination. Nevertheless, everything has changed after I visited “Kashmir” in India!
Jammu and Kashmir is a state located in Himalayan ranges in northern India close to Pakistan. The state consists of three regions: the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. The capital of Kashmir is called “Srinagar”. During British Colonial Period, the British had built their residence in Dal Lake called “Houseboat”. The houseboats were created beautifully with carving artwork made of cedar woods. After India Independence, the Kashmir houseboats were owned by Indian millionaires who changed houseboats to villa for their vacation. Then the D-Day arrival, I flew from Bangkok to the capital of India: Delhi where I stayed overnight for a flight to Srinagar next morning. The reason is Indian Airlines has operated a flight to Srinagar one time in day. Luckily, my trip was in a spring season so there was no worry and surprising of flight delayed or canceled because of snow storm and so on.
After I finally sat in the cabin, I intended to awake myself all the time of this flying trip. The trip was claimed to be one of the most beautiful flying route in this world which you can see Himalayan ranges from the bird-eye view! So, I spent almost one hour of my flight to observe the outside view which was quite hurt my neck. Suddenly, I saw various white peaks that complex line in groups. That’s Himalayas! Incredible gorgeous! Especially, this sky view made me closer to Himalayan ranges. When the flight landed at Srinagar airport,I discovered that all men and women in Kashmir town are good looking. They have got light beautiful skins and their faces are piercing. This is different from the Indian who own “Rotee” shop in my hometown (I was realized after that they are Middle Eastern Muslims who are descent from Aryan). The weather was quite cold in Srinagar that made my tropical person’s lip shook. The temperature ranges around 1.9-7.3 ºC in winter and is not over than 29.5 ºC in summer. This cool weather enables the city to be the vacation place all year round including with its beautiful scenery.
After luggage reclaim, I went out to touch the fresh air, the outside was crazy cold. The weather in Delhi and Srinagar was totally different, from 32 ºC to 12 ºC. It was unbelievable that they were in the same country. Even I was there in spring period, the temperature was also 6-23 ºC. I tightened my clothes warmer then walk quickly, escaped the coldness to the car that waited to pick me up to the houseboat where I had to spend my 4 nights after this. Jeep 5-seat is common transportation in Kashmir. It took 30-45 minutes from airport to the houseboat because the road is not as good as ours. Only 2 minutes in the car, I heard many thunderous sound of horn from various vehicles. People only honk their horns whether they want to overtake, turn-left, turn-right and reverse, nobody uses their indicators!
Just a few minutes of our sightseeing in the car, we finally arrived to “Houseboat”. Oh! I was impressed by their external decoration. The outside was fully planted with various kinds of flowers such as pinkish cheery flowers, red and yellow flowers and orange tulips. Guide treated us a welcome drink: Kashmiri Tea. Kashmiri Tea was tasty with its milky taste. It was a good combination when served with dessert similar to kà-nom bâa bìn (Thai coconut macaroon).
After a delightful tea time, we were led to our bedroom. I was told by guide that the houseboats in Dal lake have been here for hundred years but still strong because the boats were renovated all the time. Every houseboats have their own name and I stayed on a boat called “Pearl of Kashmir”. The houseboat is as beautiful as its name, there is 3-4 bedrooms with a dining room, living room with fireplace for cold nights, and balcony. Also, there’s deck to see the top view outside. Floors were covered with carpets and rooms were decorated with white curtains with embroidery pattern. Besides, every rooms have their own bathroom and toilet. There’s a perspective of snowy Himalayan range from the balcony this made me day dreamed. The water in Dal lake was clear likes mirror. Various birds flew independent over the sky. While after, guide told me that we were going to have a Shikara cruise.
Shikara is a 4 seat boat. It is a rowing boat with a sharpened front and roof. Boat is decorated beautifully with color clothes. There’s comfortable sofa seat which I could feel like a great queen. Besides the beautiful view of Dal lake, we visited the Floating Garden. It was awesome to see the garden where the villager planted their seeds such as mustards, tomatoes and cucumbers. Along the way back to our houseboat, there were many villagers rowed the boat to sell sweets, breads, jewelries and their handicrafts. It was comfortably to sell and buy in this rowing boat.
After arrival to the houseboat, I took a shower with warm water then had a dinner. Our dinner was a hot vegetable soup with a little spicy taste. Also there were Indian basmati rice served with sautéed spinach, fried chicken with spices and salad. When I finished dinner, I quickly headed to my bed suddenly closed my eye with an intention to wake up early for sun rise in the morning.
Pashmina is the popular souvenir that every traveler buy when arrive Kashmir, there are 3 types of Pashmina: Himroo—Himroo fabric is made of both cotton and silk in the Deccan region of India Shahmina— Type of shawl made in Kashmir from Pashmina with a fiber diameter of 13 micrometres or less Shahtoosh— A fine type of shawl, now illegal, handwoven in Kashmir using the down hair of the endangered Tibetan antelope
At Gulmarg has cable station call “Gondola” (800 meter long). Recommend start from below to the top on Gulmarg mountain, during the way you will see the beautiful natural like paradise and have fun with ski and sled at the most beautiful ski area in Kashmir.
I woke up with freshness in this morning. This day, guide took us to Pahalgam which means “shepherds valley”. Actually, there are many attractive places in Kashmir.
However there are 3 popular places including Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Gulmarg.
Pahalgam is located 2,440 meters above the sea level. It is located 95 km far from Srinagar. On the way to Pahalgam, there were yellow fields of mustard flowers and militaries who held a gun in their arm stranded along to the view of yellow fields. This is because Kashmir is the border close to Pakistan. However they are welcoming to the tourists.
We stopped for a lunch time picnic nearby natural small river. After that, we rode pony to observe the sightseeing of flowers meadows, streams, valleys and local villages. The local people are very nice, smiley and friendly. They dressed with the similar costumes which are long gabardines with a big belly both men and women. I asked the guide for my question of this pregnant-liked costume. Guide told that the costume calls “Phiran” a Kashmir style winter costume which made from wool and the big-belly-liked is pot fill with fire and ashes this can warm your body from cold weather.
The weather in second morning was clearer than yesterday. Guide led us to Sonamarg where is difficult to visit if there is a bad weather. Sonamarg means “Meadow of Gold” is located 2,730 meters above the sea level and 87 km away from Srinagar. Along the way, there were yellow fields of mustard flowers with the perspective view of Himalayas. The color of the sky contrasted to the yellow mustard fields. I visited the natural Trout Farming, the farm is supported by the government and to be conserved for men who love natural fishing. Finally, we arrived to Sonamarg. In this place there are two choices for natural sightseeing: walking and pony riding. I chose walking that I could slowly took a picture of the views. Today, Sonamarg still covered with numerous snows. There’s mountain on the left side and Indus River on the right. I enjoyed picking up and throwing some snow balls. Guide told us that we could play toboggan in this area. I saw two guys shaking their hand to me. They took me to the 45 degree slope. It was high enough for me to get excited. I slide from the slope, it was incredible funny. So, I decided to take it one more that cost about 100 rupees. Besides, Sonamarg is the beginning of the way to Ladakh: a little Tibet, the important route calls “The Gate to Himalayas”.
Third morning, we headed to Gulmarg the popular place for ski and toboggan in winter. The ski price is very cheap compares to other countries. In summer the place is changed to 18 holes – golf course which is the highest golf course in this world! Also, there are many restaurants, hotels, clubhouses and The St. Mary Church that was built by British Colonial. I didn’t hesitate to try “Gondola” to observe the top view of this mountain. On the way up to the mountain, we could see the roofs of gypsy village. In winter the gypsy immigrate to the below valley then come back to their village in summer. The top view was very incredible wonderful. Everywhere was white and snowy that I could clearly see Himalayan ranges. Many people enjoyed playing ski and toboggan but an Indian girl was caught to my eye. She wore a bright-yellow sari! If there’s a country where a girl wear sari to ski, it will be India!
The last day that I had to leave Kashmir, my heart felt a little sorrow because I still want to spend more time here. This place is the unbelievable wonderful city that why they called: Kashmir the most romantic city in India! Good Bye. See you next time Kashmir!
Indian Airline operates a flight from BKK to Delhi where you can connect the domestic flight to Srinagar by the same airline. There is also a flight from BKK to Delhi by Thai Airways then you can connect the domestic flight to Srinagar by different airlines such as Indian Airline (Tel: 0-2231-0555-9) and Air Sahara (visit www.airsahara.net).
When to go
Kashmir is a place suitable for visiting all year round with its various scenic in different season. For flowers lovers, spring is your recommendation (March to June). In autumn, all leaves in town will change their color (October to Mid-November) and If you want to visit the Switzerland of Asia, winter is recommended.
Stay overnight in Houseboats beside Dal Lake: contact “Hill tour” (www.hilltour.com)
“Rice” is Kashmiri main dish eat with lamp, chicken and fish cooked with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. There is also a popular dish likes sautéed vegetables with mustard oil such as carrot, tomato, spinach, lotus root and turnip.
Paper Mache, Pashmina Shawl, Persian Carpet and Kashmiri Embroidery Cloth.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism; visit www.jktourism.org