Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dope on Kashmir - the real tourism destiny

God knows how the fake IPL player writes one blog every day... perhaps because he does not have a permanent job. My frequency, sadly has become lesser than one blog post in a month! 

Good that he is not being picked up to be in the field by KKR (or it could be any team??), we are getting to read an interesting blog !!

Sorry, I am here to write about Kashmir. I am not into writing travelogues but it is my belief that Kashmir is the best tourist destination in India, which is making me write something about my travel to Kashmir. The simple reason is that you just can't get bored of the variety of natural beauty in Kashmir even if you stay for a month... there are so many different and beautiful scenery and places to tour that it is never ending. 

Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is the end of March. Snow melts and Kashmir becomes drive friendly and tourist friendly in terms of costs and convenience. To enumerate the reasons for discipline:

  1. The roads are clear of snow and travel is not a problem
  2. The temperature is moderate. Daytime is one sweater cold and nights are 3 blankets cold. So you actually get to experience the cold.
  3. Gulmarg is filled with snow. There is a Gandola ride that cant be missed and it is no less than switzerland. See it to believe it guys.
  4. snow capped GulmargOther snow destinations like Yusufmarg, Sonemarg etc are snowclad and can even overwhelm an icelander.
  5. Pahalgam is green. Snow is gone and the meadows are beautifully viewable. Horse ride is possible and a must do there.
  6. Most importantly, March is the last off-season month. You can enjoy the off-season prices and the best facilities, as everything is renovated and made ready for the coming season and the rush of kids and 'gujarati' families.
More on Prices...
The main occupation is tourism and so every family is doing something or the other for the tourist. There is abundance of houseboats, hotels, Shikaras (boats), rent taxis (qualis/sumo) and the other necessities. Basically supply is definitely more than demand in the beautiful month of March.
Okay, if you are loaded with black money and can throw cash without the slightest guilt or if you are unfit or lazy to do some 'mehnat' to bargain for the best bet at multiple places, then it is your call. For some, vacation is complete relaxation, extravagance and becoming fat (piggish). They can ignore this section of this blog on pricing and cost management.
Some tips of how to get the best bargain. Enumerated again for the disciplined reader:
  1. Do not book any packages. Let me repeat, do not book any packages through your hometown travel agent (tourism consultant as they call themselves).
  2. The smaller houseboats will give you a room for Rs. 700/- and the bigger ones will come for not more than 1200/-. This is including breakfast and dinner. Yes of course, non veg included!!
  3. Water Skiing in Dal Lake is a must and that would come for 300/- per person. Its fun so you may give the nice guys a few hundred more for a longer session of wateraxia...
  4. Skikara is the only mode of transport in the Dal. They would come free with the houseboats. Twice in a day they will take you to the city and back. They have a shikara ride session and that will cost Rs. 400-500 for the whole day of floating on the Dal.
  5. In Kashmir, you should stay in the Dal. Take a houseboat in the middle of the lake and swallow the experience. Hotels are costly and it would be foolish to stay in them.
  6. You need to hire a qualis to travel around the valley. A good qualis with AC comes at Rs. 1000 a day. You take it anywhere and drive it till you get tired.
  7. Do not stay in Gulmarg. It is best to be a one day detour. It is the most beautiful snow capped place and the worst in terms of 'guide' menace. Gulmarg has pony ride all over the snow or human pulled sledge rides. Do not take any of their services. They are a difficult race and even your taxi driver wont utter a word for you in front of them. They will say that upfront before you reach Gulmarg. What you need to take is a pair of what you call gumboots or snow boots for Rs. 100. View from mountview
  8. In Pahalgam, you may stay a day or two. We stayed in Mountview and it was quite a nice stay in Rs. 1500 per night. Horse ride will take one full day and should cost you not more than 400 per horse.
So enough about prices... cant remember anything else. Its more than a month that I saw Kashmir. I will add anything that comes to my mind.... Keep visiting...
Some recommendations to end this blog...
  1. We stayed in a houseboat called "Young Bombay" owned by Noor bhaisaab. An extreme gentleman and the service is excellent. It is a small houseboat but surely worth for Rs. 700/- bucks per night of hugging 'hot water bottles'. Quite interestingly, during this time of the year, most of the houseboats do not operate their heaters. They give you hot water bags that we normally use for back sprains. They put it inside your blankets when you are having dinner and that keeps the bed warm to get into. Staying in Mumbai, it sounds so unbelievable. Sleeping with hot water bags inside 3 thick blankets. That will be suicide by dehydration in Mumbai.
  2. We rented a qualis owned by one dear gentleman by the name "Nazir". Great guide, Great Qualis and completely dependable. Worth your 1000 bucks per day. You can call him at 9906937297 and inform about your arrival. Again, do not book a package with him. Pay him by the day. Projectwise costing as we say in the corporate worldchikara
  3. We had a great fun-filled horse ride in Pahalgam. Cant remember the names of the guys who were our guides but enclosing a photograph and you can ask for him. Sweet chap, endearing to see him all red when you joke with him...
Why did I delay my writing this blog... cant remember much. I was planning to write over 10 blogs on Kashmir but now I cant even finish one... procrastination is sin.
Anyways, I will add in whenever I remember anything more... till then adios...

3 comments:

  1. Just the right time to visit the beautiful Kashmir..

    ReplyDelete
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  3. lovely. You described the Jammu & Kashmir so wonderfully. Pahalgam hotels provide affordable accommodation with all the basic amenities. Check out Hotel Abshar Pahalgam, one of the best hotels in Pahalgam.

    ReplyDelete

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