My First Trip Report - Kashmir Trip (31st March, 2012 – 14th April, 2012)

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#1 Jan 4th, 2013, 14:06
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Hi Friends,

This is my first Trip Report in IM. So, please forgive any unwanted mistakes on my part. Though it has been 9months, still I want to share this memorable travelling experience with you all. I’m trying my level best to provide as much detailed description as possible. First let me start with our tour plan. It took us 3-4months to gather all informations, decide our route, plan the whole trip, book hotels and car etc.

Summarized Tour Plan

31st March, 2012 - Train from Kolkata to New Delhi
1st April, 2012 - Train from New Delhi to Jammu
2nd April, 2012 - Patnitop
3rd April, 2012 - Pahalgam
4th April, 2012 - Aru
5th April, 2012 - Aru
6th April, 2012 - Pahalgam
7th April, 2012 - Srinagar House Boat
8th April, 2012 - Gulmarg
9th April, 2012 - Gulmarg
10th April, 2012 - Srinagar
11th April, 2012 - Srinagar
12th April, 2012 - Train from Jammu to New Delhi
13th April, 2012 - Train from New Delhi to Kolkata
14th April, 2012 - Reached Kolkata in morning

I will shortly post the detailed TR along with the pictures taken by me . Hope you all will like them.
#2 Jan 4th, 2013, 14:12
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#2
surely...please initiate :-)
#3 Jan 4th, 2013, 14:12
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Saptarshi - we missed each other by a week
#4 Jan 4th, 2013, 14:25
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Originally Posted by arijitde View Post Saptarshi - we missed each other by a week
Really??!! Eh...a week before or after?
#5 Jan 4th, 2013, 14:29
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A week before ... when Kashmir was more white, I guess
#6 Jan 4th, 2013, 15:40
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I must say it's quite a elaborate trip...14 days for Kashmir valley only! Must be very detailed TR. Better late than never, Saptarshi... carry on please!
#7 Jan 4th, 2013, 15:51
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Originally Posted by asishdas View Post I must say it's quite a elaborate trip...14 days for Kashmir valley only! Must be very detailed TR. Better late than never, Saptarshi... carry on please!
Actually the tour was of 10 Days. We lost 4days in train. Could not afford flight and we all agreed to that so that we can put a little more money in enjoying the place.
#8 Jan 4th, 2013, 15:56
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I understand. But don't miss even a single point..we want to hear and learn everything you had gone through. Specially I'm curious to know what prompted you to stay 2 nights at Aru.
#9 Jan 5th, 2013, 11:44
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yes, me too ... I was in Aru just a week before you, Saptarshi, and the place was hardly accessible. And where did you stay? JKTDC?
#10 Jan 5th, 2013, 13:15
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Originally Posted by arijitde View Post yes, me too ... I was in Aru just a week before you, Saptarshi, and the place was hardly accessible. And where did you stay? JKTDC?
Yes I came to know this from the Pahalgam JK Tourism office that Aru was inaccessible even few days back. But I suppose we were lucky enough to get access to Aru. But another point which is still higher than Aru is Lidderwat. There is trekking from Aru to Lidderwat and from there to the Kolahoi Glacier. We wanted to do that also. But that was not possible due to snow.

And yes we stayed at JKTDC hotel. It was wonderful.
#11 Jan 5th, 2013, 13:19
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#11

Smile Here goes my Trip Report

Our trip consisted of 7 heads. All were family members including one elderly person. We booked all JKTDC hotels through internet except for Srinagar and Patnitop. For Srinagar we booked a hotel and a houseboat from one of our known travel agents (Ananya Travels). We also hired a Scorpio from him for the whole trip (@ 2400/day). And in Patnitop my father, who works in a nationalized bank, booked 4 holiday home rooms. The rooms were extremely cheap. Only Rs. 50/room. We were really concerned how will be the room.

31st March, 2012
We boarded Rajdhani Express at 4.50PM from Sealdah. The ticket price was Rs. 1535 per head (Class 3A).

1st April, 2012
We reached New Delhi at around 10.30AM. Our train to Jammu was at 8.40PM. So we needed a place to rest, have lunch and freshen up. These were especially needed because there were ladies with us. So, we decided to hire few beds in an AC restroom of the railways. Luckily we got it and booked 7beds @ Rs. 200/bed.

So we moved into the restroom at around 12.30PM. We all took a cold bath as it was quite hot in Delhi. After freshening up, we had lunch. After that we took a nap and got ready to catch our next train which was Jammu Rajdhani Express. The ticket price was Rs. 875 per head (Class 3A).

2nd April, 2012
We reached Jammu at about 6AM in the morning. Our travel agent already told us to hire an auto from outside the station and go to Rajdhani Hotel from where the car was supposed to pick us up. So we took 2 autos for Rs. 100 each and went there. There we took the car and started for our first destination PATNITOP. There was a cool breeze and the atmosphere was awesome. Tawi river was flowing alongside. We were clicking pictures every now and then. To this the driver (Bunty) said “Yahan kya tasveer le rahe ho sir, jannat to agey hai” (The pictures you are taking is nothing, heaven is ahead).
We stopped at Tawi View Restaurant for our breakfast. Price was reasonable but variety was little. We had aloo paratha with a special chutney. It was awesome, may be because we were starving :P.
Tawi View Restaurant

Then we again started for Patnitop. We reached Patnitop at around 11.30AM.
When we got the room there we were just stunned. Like I previously said it’s rent was only Rs. 50 per room and served as a holiday home for the bank in which my father works. But the rooms were awesome. Neat and clean with TV and heater. Though the TV was not working properly, we didn’t care. Actually these rooms were of JKTDC hotel at Patnitop. They had a collaboration with the bank. And what can I say about the serene beauty of Patnitop. There were pine trees all around. Cool weather but not chilly. Distant snow-capped mountains were a feast for our eyes.
A cottage in Patnitop


A view from our Hotel in Patnitop

After a little rest we freshened up and took the car to visit a temple nearby and small market where a famous blanket is available known as “Bulbul ka bachha” (Baby of a bird called bulbul). It is named so because the material of the blanket is warm but was so soft that it can be passed through a normal ring which we wear in our fingers. After visiting the market and the temple we had our lunch in a small road-side dhaba at 3PM. There we ate Roti, mixed-veg and Maggi. Then we came back to the hotel before dark. The night was a little chillier than the morning obviously but not unbearable. We had a nice evening gossip, a few pegs of whisky and then our dinner. Dinner was a little costly.

3rd April, 2012
We started for PAHALGAM at 8.45AM.On the way two things are worth mentioning. At a place called Banihal Pass, we faced a huge traffic jam which according to the driver, was normal. About 40-50mins was wasted there. After that we crossed the famous Jawahar Tunnel, at about 1.30PM we came to a point known as Titanic View Point. It was a beautiful place from where a huge valley was visible.

Lidder River on the way to Aru

We stopped for about 10-15mins there and headed for Pahalgam. After reaching Pahalgam we had a little problem regarding the JKTDC hotel we booked. We booked 2 dormitories (Rs. 1000/room) of 4 beds each. We generally try to book dormitories because we all like to stay together during tours rather than in separate rooms. But these dormitories were actually meant for people who spend only the night while Amarnath Yatra. I mean it is not like dormitories in other hotels. They did not even have a bathroom inside the rooms. There were common bathrooms. Rooms were stuffy and dirty. No chairs or tables in the rooms. Lights were disgusting. After a lot of discussions with the JKTDC officers it was decided that we will stay in these rooms for that day and they will make separate arrangements for us (extra payments needed) for the next booking on 6th April.
Anyways the surroundings were beautiful. Lush green fields. Lidder River flowing nearby. We were disappointed with the room so the day was ruined and we didn’t go anywhere except local market area.

4th April, 2012
We wanted to start for ARU as soon as possible in the morning due to the urge of getting out of those stuffy rooms but could not start before 11AM due to obvious problems. Aru is only half an hour drive from Pahalgam Town (10-12Kms). The way to Aru was beautiful.

Lidder River on the way to Aru

When we reached Aru at 11.30AM we were dumbstruck with the beauty of this small village surrounded by mountains. We felt as if we could touch the snow-capped mountains. No unwanted sound was disturbing the nature.

The small Village of Aru

The JKTDC Hotel here was also brilliant. Rent was a little high @2000/double bed. Our previous day’s bad experience was wiped out in a moment. The rooms were brilliant and the service of the hotel staff was also very good. They were modest in their talks and work. JKTDC Hotel had a huge area surrounded by a fence. The ground floor of the hotel was partly covered in snow.

Our Hotel in Aru

That day we didn’t go anywhere. We just kept our luggage in hotel and explored the village on feet. There are a few private hotels also there but considering location and beauty they were no match to the JKTDC one. There were also few tea stalls and small garment shops. We visited Aru Valley on feet. It is not far away. Everything around was so beautiful, cal and quite that I can’t explain properly in words. It was so quite that we could hear the rustling of leaves and the sweet sound of water flowing in a small creek flowing in the valley. This is just what we expected from Aru and we got it. We always like quite places like this and Aru with its beauty and serenity won our hearts.
We had both our lunch and dinner in the hotel itself. Prices were not cheap but were not too expensive also, considering the fact that it was such a remote village. The night was very cold. We were literally shivering even after taking a few pegs of rum when we came down to the dining room for dinner.

5th April, 2012
We had breakfast (Toast and omelets) and got ready to visit Kootpathri by horse. We hired 6 horses from the son of the hotel caretaker. My father stayed back because he was not confident about horse ride due to an old injury in spinal cord. They agreed to give at Rs. 300/Horse(actual rate for Kootpathri was Rs. 110/horse but they said that they will take us on a total 3hrs trip around Aru Valley). Then we started for the place. Mid-way it started drizzling a little. Slowly when we reached a higher elevation through the forest it started snowing. When we reached it there we saw it was a cold, windy valley. Snow-fall continued for another 10-15mins. There were also small empty gypsey houses. The Horse owners who accompanied us said that gypsies still come to stay in these houses. They farm here, stay with their cattle for a few months and then again go away. We enjoyed the snowfall thoroughly in Kootpathri.
Then we again started coming down to the hotel. In between they took us to a small tea-shop. We were amazed to see a tea-shop in that elevation and such abandoned remote place. We had a nice tea which they call “Kehwa” and also smoked hookah from them. Then we came back to hotel, had lunch and rested till the evening. At night we had a nice but simple dinner and went to bed dreaming about the beauty of nature we experienced in the day.

6th April, 2012
Not wanting to leave Aru we started a little late for Pahalgam again after having breakfast.

Breakfast at Aru

There we first dropped in JKTDC office for the room arrangements. They said that they have arranged for 3 double bed rooms for us in exchange of the dormitories in which we stayed on 3rd April. But we had to pay extra Rs. 1400 for that. So we moved into the hotel and this time we were happy enough with the rooms.

Our JKTDC Hut in Pahalgam


After putting our luggage in the rooms we came down to the Pahalgam Taxi Stand to hire a taxi for local sight-seeing because our car would not have been allowed for the sight-seeing. This is a rule in Pahalgam. So we hired a Sumo @ Rs. 1000 and went to visit CHANDANWADI and BETAAB VALLEY. We also had other places in mind like Baisaran and some lakes but the driver said that there would not be enough time to go there and come back before dark. So we stuck to these places. First we went to Chandanwadi. It was a beautiful place. There was a long patch of snow covered sloping area which they call Snow Bridge. We had to take Gumboots (Rs. 50/person) and wooden stick(Rs. 10/stick) to walk on that snowy slope. We also took a guide/helper for Rs. 200 who helped us to climb the slope. We climbed on the slope and had fun throwing snow balls on each other. It’s a more difficult job to maintain balance while coming down. There were sledges which were taking people down to the base of the slope. We bargained a lot and took 4 sledges for Rs. 200. Our hearts were racing due to the speed of the sledges while descending from the steep slope.

Snow Bridge



After that we went straight to Betaab Valley. It is a beautiful cold valley with lots of greenery and a river flowing through them. The shooting of the film Betaab (starring Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh) was done here. After that this was made a tourist place. There was a park in this valley. We took a stroll around the park feeling the beauty of the surrounding nature.

Betaab Valley



Then we came back to the hotel just before dark, satisfied with the places we have seen. In the evening we had a nice gossip, made coffee in the room itself with a water heater we took along with us and had some snacks. For dinner we took our car to the market and brought local preparations of mutton known as Wazwan and roti. They were delicious. And prices were perfectly reasonable.

7th April, 2012
We started for SRINAGAR at 10AM. Our driver said that there was a strike/protest about something on the way that they normally take so he will take us through a small village in a different path to avoid any problems.

Mustard Field on the way to Srinagar

On our way we stopped at Rafting Point for some time to ease the journey.

Rafting point

Then we continued towards Srinagar and reached there at around 1/1.30PM. This was our day for the incredible house Boat experience. We had lunch in a restaurant in Srinagar before checking in our House Boat. Then at around 3PM we checked in the House Boat. The rent of the boat was Rs. 4500 per day. There were two well furnished rooms, a dining room and a drawing room with TV. We arranged for a shikara ride (Rs. 300 per shikara per hour) in the evening. We hired two of them. The shikara came to our boat at about 5PM and we went for a ride in the DAL LAKE. It was really a wonderful experience. The lake was calm and beautiful and surrounded by mountains. At places the water was transparent. It seemed as if the whole city was residing on the lake. There was everything, starting from mere barber shop, markets, tea stalls to small houses, farming areas etc.

A Shikara on Dal Lake


Sunset at Dal Lake


Market on Dal Lake


After the shikara ride we came back to our house boat at 6.30PM. We asked the house boat care taker to bring our dinner. He went to the market and brought it and we had a nice dinner in the beautiful dining room.

8th April, 2012
From Srinagar we went to GULMARG for a 2night stay. While entering Gulmarg we did not like the place so much because there were too many hotels and shops etc. It is a very commercial place. But when we reached the JKTDC hotel and then to the 8 bedded Dormitory (@Rs. 4000) we booked, we really started loving the place. Our dormitory was not in the crowded area. It was a quiet place with a wonderful view of fully snow covered mountains in front. The room was not anything extraordinary but neat and clean enough. There was electric and normal blanket on every bed. That day we didn’t go anywhere. Just explored the area around and gathered information about the Gondola Ride (Cable-car/Ropeway) for the next day.

View from our Hotel in Gulmarg


To anyone visiting Gulmarg, I would like to say one thing. There is no doubt that the place is beautiful but keep in mind that everything in Gulmarg is very costly, starting from food to the gondola ride.

9th April, 2012
Within 10AM we reached the ticket counter for the Gondola Ride. We knew that there will be a huge queue as the time progresses. We took 7tickets till the first phase (@ Rs. 300). Then we got into the cable cars. Each accommodated 6 persons. An important information that I want bring to the notice that the cable car does not stop while getting up/down. It continues moving and people have to get into the car in the running. Although running, the pace is slow. Anyways the ride was a thrilling experience.

Gondola Ride in Gulmarg


View from Gondola on the way to Phase 1




When we reached the first phase and came out of the station we felt as if we are in Switzerland. Everything and every possible direction our eyes could reach out was white with snow. It was snowing a little bit at that time also. It was a brilliant sight for the eyes. We learnt from there that the second phase was not open due to bad weather conditions. There was also a restaurant there. We had a nice cup of tea there. Our hands were shivering due to the cold weather. After staying there for about 1hour we again came down by the cable car.

At Phase 1




Then we had lunch in the JKTDC hotel only. The lunch was simple – rice, dal, a fry and egg curry. But quiet costly. The weather was not clear from afternoon. A bit cloudy, raining sometimes. So there was nothing to do in the evening except sitting in our room, enjoying the chilly weather and taking a few pegs of rum/whisky.

10th April, 2012
We started around 9AM for Srinagar. It was raining quiet a bit then. A drizzle it may be called. The morning was very cold due to the rain. At around 10AM while crossing Tangmarg we had breakfast there with sandwich and tea. When we reached Srinagar at 1.30PM we saw that the weather there was same as Gulmarg. We checked in the hotel we booked from our travel agent. The hotel was not very good but ok. We booked this to cut our cost for the trip. The room rent was Rs. 900 per room. We had lunch in that hotel only. Then we took our car went around Dal Lake for a ride. Ladies in our group went for some marketing. After that we came back in the hotel.

11th April, 2012
This is was our sight-seeing day for Srinagar. First we went to Shankar Acharya Temple. The temple is situated at a decent height from the main road. The day was very foggy and it was still raining. The temple had about 300 stairs to go up. We went up slowly, taking rest at every interval. Some of the visitors were having breathing problems due to lack of oxygen. Anyways we did not have much problem. The view from the temple was awesome. The whole Srinagar and Dal Lake can be seen from there.

View from Shankar Acharya Temple

From the temple we went to Nishaat Bagh and Tulip Garden. I don’t exactly remember the entry fees for the gardens but they were between Rs. 50-100 per head. Nishaat Bagh was good but Tulip Garden was the one which left us mesmerized.

Nishaat Bagh








Tulip Garden
















After visiting the gardens we went to Pari Mahal. It is a historical building which kings used for their entertainment. This mahal is on a hill top. From there a the golf course of Srinagar could be seen.


Pari Mahal




Golf Course View from Pari Mahal


A wider view from Pari Mahal


Then we came back to the hotel in the evening. We started to feel sad and tired as our trip was coming to an end. We quickly had dinner and went to sleep because the hotel manager and the driver asked us to leave early for Jammu to avoid any delay due to traffic jam or landslides.

12th April, 2012
This was our last day in Kashmir. Our return train was from Jammu at 9.45PM. We left for Jammu early morning at around 7AM. The journey was long and hectic. Especially after a long tour when you are coming back home and energy levels are down it seems all the more frustrating. One of our group members fell sick due to empty stomach and the turning roads of the mountains. The driver was also driving at a little more speed than he was driving in the whole trip to cross a particular landslide area known as Rambon. We had lunch in a dhaba at around 3PM. After that we reached Jammu at 5PM. There we made full and final payments to the driver and moved into the station. We had to wait another hrs for the train so we sat in the waiting room. At last the train (Jhelum Express. Class 3A ticket price was @ Rs. 650) arrived at proper time and we boarded.

13th April, 2012
After reaching New Delhi we booked few seats in the AC waiting room. Our next train that is Sealdah Rajdhani Express from Delhi was at 4.30PM. Ticket price was @ RS. 1535 for Class 3A. We had lunch in a nearby restaurant in Delhi. All of us could not go together due to the luggage. Some of us had dhosa and others biryani. Now we had a little time in our hand. Three of us, just out of curiosity, boarded Delhi metro and went to see the Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan and came back quickly half an hour before the train time. Then we again boarded the train in proper time.

14th April, 2012
We reached Howrah (Kolkata) at 10.15AM (scheduled time was at 10.05AM). Back to home after a memorable trip to the paradise on earth.
Last edited by Saptarshi Majumdar; Jan 5th, 2013 at 17:39.. Reason: Info Edit
#12 Jan 5th, 2013, 14:25
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Neat, crisp and full of useful information. A few pics are awesome, especially the close up shot of Tulip. Great job, Saptarshi! Only one question: You mentioned in your report that you had bought 1st phase Gondola ticket @ 800/-. Is this for all 7 of you? or for single ticket? As far as I remember, cost of 1st phase ticket is Rs.300/- only. (Ref:http://www.gulmarggondola.com/gondola_tickets.php). Is this a typo? I would request you to post an additional chapter indicating cost, contact details etc.

Thanks for sharing.
#13 Jan 5th, 2013, 14:50
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#13
Funtastic Trip Report.

I liked photos with dew-drops most!
#14 Jan 5th, 2013, 15:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by asishdas View Post Neat, crisp and full of useful information. A few pics are awesome, especially the close up shot of Tulip. Great job, Saptarshi! Only one question: You mentioned in your report that you had bought 1st phase Gondola ticket @ 800/-. Is this for all 7 of you? or for single ticket? As far as I remember, cost of 1st phase ticket is Rs.300/- only. (Ref:http://www.gulmarggondola.com/gondola_tickets.php). Is this a typo? I would request you to post an additional chapter indicating cost, contact details etc.

Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for pointing out the mistake. Yes it is a typo. Actually, from the ticket counter we got the info that 1st phase is Rs. 300 and 2nd phase is Rs. 500. Therefore we calculated @Rs. 800 per head and that figure stuck in my mind.

The additional chapter that you requested indiacating cost and contact details of what? Hotel and car bookings? Cost are all mentioned in the report. And hotel bookings were done throught internet from JKTDC website. And for the car, house boat and Srinagar hotel booking we asked Ananya Travels. I will post the contact details of this travel agency by tomorrow.

Please let me know if you asked for anything other than this.

I am glad that you liked my first report.
Last edited by Saptarshi Majumdar; Jan 5th, 2013 at 17:30..
#15 Jan 5th, 2013, 17:15
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  • Abhijit Ghosh is offline
#15
Lovely trip report.
Can you mention the name of the hotel in Srinagar which you have got for rupees 900.
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