Kashmir Trip Report April - 2016

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#1 Apr 18th, 2016, 14:36
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#1
Teaser

It was 11 o'clock in the night. We all were very much tired with long flights. After collecting baggage from belt number 14 of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (Kolkata) we boarded in our Honda City to reach home. Thus our wonderful Kashmir Trip comes to end.

Date of journey: 09-Apr-2016 to 17-Apr-2016

Places covered: Srinagar Sonamarg Gulmarg Pahelgam Aru Valley Betab Valley Baisaran

Our team: Wife, Son (6 years), My Colleague, His Wife and Me
#2 Apr 18th, 2016, 16:54
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Day 1

09-Apr: Multiple alarm started ringing at 3.00 am. We wake up. Soon my phone started ringing. My colleague wanted to make sure that the modern Kumbhakarna (me of course ) wake up. Soon we got ready and started our journey towards Kolkata Airport by a yellow taxi at 4.30 am. On the way we picked up our partners from their residence. AI 763 from Kolkata to Delhi was on time. Journey upto Delhi was uneventful. In Delhi there was only one hour lay-off for our Srinagar flight AI 825. But the queue for security checking was looking like a long snake. Palpitation started. We received a call from Air India personnel stating that it was just us left to board the flight. We managed to reach the gate within permissible time. Surprisingly it was the same aircraft by which we travelled from Kolkata.

Just before landing at Srinagar the view was awesome. Sky was covered by cloud and soon it started drizzling. It was 11.50 am. Our driver Bilal vai (9796176200) was waiting for us. We boarded in his Tavera and headed towards the city. We only pre-booked the up and down flight tickets for this trip considering uncertainty of Kashmir valley. Bilal vai took us to Hotel Malik Palace at Boulevard Road. We liked the room and booked it for two days @ Rs 2000/- per room/day.

This year Srinagar observed hottest February (20.6 degrees Celsius) after 76 years. As a result of this Tulips got early blooming and the Tulip Garden was opened on 15th March. A tension was always there in our mind - whether we could see the blooming. Bilal vai already confirmed that the garden is open. So quickly we got fresh and went out for lunch at side by restaurant Stream. After having nice Rogan Josh and Gushtaba we headed towards Asia's largest Tulip Garden. It was 30% blooming shown in the electronic display board outside the garden. Entrance of the garden is about 5 minutes walk from the parking area. Here the nagging things started about which I have read in almost all TR of Kashmir. Auto walas started insisting us to take auto up to the gate of the garden. They said it is five kilometers. But we constantly keep saying - nehi vai, nehi chahie. Ticket price for garden is Rs 50/- per head. We went inside the garden and enjoyed the beauty for almost one and a half hour.

We choose Hotel Malik Palace without seeing any other options. So we have a doubt - whether there could be a better option in a better price. So my colleague and I started hotel hopping in Dalgate area. We found almost no hotel having better room than ours. Only one or two hotels were slightly better. But the price of that betterment was almost double than our hotel's price. Surprisingly many hotels with shabby and stinky rooms were sticking at Rs 3000 - 3500/- per day!!! After a strolling of almost three hours we concluded that we are in a good hotel with good pricing. We took masala dhosa at dinner from Panjab de Rasoi which was strictly not up to the mark.
#3 Apr 19th, 2016, 17:28
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#3

Day 1 Photos

View from aircraft





Dal Lake







Tulip Garden



















#4 Apr 19th, 2016, 17:39
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Day 2

10-Apr: We woke up at 8.00 am and become ready for Sonamarg day tour by 10.30 am. We had nice aloo paratha at a road side dhaba on the way. Upon reaching Sonamarg we were gheraoed by dress, shoe and sledge walas. There was snow everywhere. Our snow gear was good except shoe. So we opted for shoe only. Bargaining started from Rs 200/- per pair of shoes and ended at Rs 50/- (thanks a ton to India Mikers).

After putting on hired shoes we started walking towards snow to enjoy. But the sledge walas took oath that they would not allow us to enjoy. They always kept insisting to get on their sledge and we keep saying no. If we stop talking then they asked - vai naraj ho gaye kya? This continued until we came back to the pitch roads - continuous more than an hour. We took photos and played with ice ignoring them.

After that we started our return journey and halted at a vegetarian dhaba by the road. We were waiting after placing the order. Suddenly we felt that the steel chairs are slipping on the tiles floor. Then I saw a car parked outside was swinging. Then everyone realized that it's an earthquake. Luckily it stopped quickly.

In evening ladies started shopping at dalgate are. After shopping we had dinner at Stream.
#5 Apr 19th, 2016, 19:26
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#5
Nice start Saikat..
Subscribed..
Only rules that matters are:What a man can do and what a man can not !!!!

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#6 Apr 19th, 2016, 19:57
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#6
Refreshing photos Saikat.
#7 Apr 19th, 2016, 20:46
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#7

Day 2 Photos

On the way to Sonamarg





Sonamarg







Return journey from Sonamarg





#8 Apr 19th, 2016, 21:58
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#8
Tempting images..carry on..
#9 Apr 20th, 2016, 12:33
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#9
Nice Photos Saikat!
#10 Apr 20th, 2016, 15:25
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Thanks Vaibhav, Life1style1 and Nehalem
#11 Apr 20th, 2016, 15:46
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#11

Day 3

11-Apr: It started raining from last night and continued on next morning. So we had to cancel our local sightseeing plan in the first half. Our plan for the second half was to move to Pahelgam and stay there for three nights. So we checked out from the hotel and booked the same rooms for last three nights of our tour.

We moved to TRC and booked JKTDC two BHK hut in Pahelgam for that and next night. Then we headed towards Mughal Darbar, the most authentic Kashmiri restaurant in Srinagar. We had awesome wazwan thali there. They provide us complimentary Kashmiri Qahwa which was also very good.

Then we started for Pahelgam. Rain becomes lighter and finally stopped. Road was good and road side sceneries were beautiful. We reached Pahelgam after two and a half hour. Our caretaker Rashid vai was not very good in hindi and he speaks very quickly. So communication becomes a bit problematic.

The JKTDC huts are located very nicely. But it is neither beside Lidder River nor close to the Main Market. There is a restaurant run by JKTDC. But one needs to confirm the menu for dinner by 4.30 pm.

After check in we found that water is coming out from one of the beds. I called Rashid vai and complained about it. He moved the bed and saw us that the housekeeper used extra water during cleaning. Then he dried it with mop.

Power cutoff is a common problem in Pahelgam. Also voltage is very low and due to that one of our geysers was not working properly. But Rashid vai promised that if hot water not becomes available in morning then he will provide that in bucket. He also told that tomorrow he will cook Kashmiri Chicken for us and price will be lower than JKTDC restaurant.

Bilal vai took us to Nathoo's rasoi for dinner. One need to pre-pay for the initial order. But for any additional order they serve at table and one can pay later.
#12 Apr 20th, 2016, 15:49
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#12

Day 3 Photos

On the way to Pahelgam





JKTDC Huts Pahelgam







#13 Apr 20th, 2016, 17:32
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Day 4

12-Apr: There was power cutoff full night. So hot water was not available next morning. Upon asking for hot water Rashid vai replied gas cylinder price is Rs 1200/- So it is not possible for him to make hot water. We become angry then and complained this to the reception. The person there told that if he promised then he has to provide hot water. However it is unofficial. So finally we got two buckets of hot water which served the purpose. Later Bilal vai informed us that hotels in the market area have wood fueled boiler for hot water supply. I would suggest avoiding JKTDC huts. One can come to the location and spend some time.

We started at 11.00 am for the taxi stand number 2 with Bilal vai. There we opted for Aru Valley and Betab Valley tour by Tavera. Within five minutes of starting our journey we concluded that we got a rash driver. Also he was constantly offering us to take many more places by his car. Fortunately soon he got a phone call and he said that he has to attend some other customer and he is calling another Tavera from taxi stand for us. We remain seated in the car. The alternate car reached soon and we moved to that one. The new driver was very good. He drives safely and never offered any extra tourist spot to visit.

First we reached Betab Valley. It was tremendously beautiful. Our time was only one hour which is strictly not sufficient to explore such a valley. We spent quality time there and came back within the time. Then we started for Aru Valley. There was a toll plaza where the person said toll is Rs 20/- per person, i.e. Rs 100/- But our driver told us to provide Rs 50/- When the person asked - yeh kya hay? he replied - maheman hay, rakh lo. The road to Aru Valley was very scenic. But the actual valley is not attractive to that level. Again the time was one hour and we met it.

Upon returning to taxi stand number 2 we paid our driver Rs 1450/- as per rate chart and he was happy. Then we asked Bilal vai that today we will take Kashmiri Polao and Korma in lunch. He took us to Hotel Heena at Main Market. The food was good. After lunch ladies have done their Pahelgam-Shopping.

Our initial plan was to spend three nights at Pahelgam. But on the way return to hut Bilal vai told us to go Baisaran next morning and then go back to Srinagar as there is also many places left to visit. We thought that Betab, Aru is already done and after visiting Baisaran really nothing to do at Pahelgam. So we agree to do so.

This night Rashid vai cooked Kashmiri Chicken and roti for us. The food was not very testy. But he did it very heartily and when he asked - khana kaysa tha? we all said - bahut baria. Actually almost all people in Kashmir are very welcoming in nature.
#14 Apr 20th, 2016, 17:34
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#14

Day 4 Photos

Betab Valley

















Aru Valley



#15 Apr 21st, 2016, 11:39
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#15

Day 5

13-Apr: We became ready by 9.30 am. Hard bargaining started with pony wala and finally they agreed at Rs 3400/- for four ponies. I had only prior pony ride experience at Kufri and it was scary to me. So I was in tension. Our journey started and within two minutes my all fear was gone however the road ponies followed was water stream, steep and muddy mountain slope. After some more time I became able to run, turn and stop my pony We enjoyed the 30 minutes long journey to Baisaran valley.

I have read before and saw in pictures that it is very similar to Khajjiar. Yes, it was. The valley was beautifully lashing green surrounded by devbar trees and snow capped mountains. My colleague who has not been at Kjajjiar liked Baisaran as mini Switzerland. But somehow I liked Khajjiar more. We have spent some good time there. During return journey ponies took more scary road (actually no road). At one point my pony's front legs slipped and folded from knees. As a result the height decreased and my legs got dipped into mud. The pony walas told that our hut manager is looking for us as we supposed to check-out at 12:00. But we knew they were lying. JKTDC personnel do not care for such small matters. Actually they got another customer for Baisaran. Proving us true they left us a few meters behind of out hut and told us to board a car (Tavera again) for reaching hut. We gave them Rs 100/- as tip (two persons).

On reaching hut we paid Rs 3400/- for ponies. I washed my shoes (snicker) and tied those tightly on top of our car. Then we checked out and headed toward Heena. This time we had Kashmiri Biriyani which was good but very different from any Biriyani I have tested at different part of our country.

During return journey we stopped at a dry fruit cum spice shop and do some shopping. As our hotel at Srinagar was booked from next day, we decided to try house boat for one day. We took a shikara from ghat no. 17 and seen some house boat. Those were beautiful but we felt stuffy inside the bedroom. There were wooded smell and lack of air circulation. So we dropped the house boat plan and reached Hotel Malik Palace. Rooms were available and we checked-in. Dinner was done at Shamyana Restaurant. Foods here were very good. But the waiters are not at all courteous. We visited there later also as foods are good.
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