Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Kashmir, First Impressions & Gardens ” : Odyssey to Paradise on Earth (Part 2)

Seldom will you get excited by scene from the window of an airplane during a flight. Mostly the view will be monotonous and it’s either the clouds or the never ending seas. But this time it was different. We were literally screaming !! Screaming in excitement.
The majestic Himalayas, kissing the clouds, embracing each other. The kind of sight we needed to rejuvenate ourselves after the Delhi episode (Read it here)

The snow cover on the top was enough to keep our kids excited. The primary purpose of this tour was to experience snow, which we had never seen in our lives. This being the month of May we had an apprehension about the availability of snow.
We soon touched down the PARADISE ON EARTH and all of sudden we felt a lot happy as the temperature was about 15 degrees celcius, making us forget the horrid heat in Delhi. As we were inside the taxi a “Chevrolet Tavera”, eagerly watching the sights around, we got a first impression on Kashmir.

This place is not metro, not even a non metro city. It was calm, the people around does not seem to be in a hurry. Military presence is everywhere. Thanks to the numerous terrorist strikes in this region.
There were no high risers around and no shopping malls. This place is a mystery for us who come from southern part of India as the news which we see and hear about this place is completely about attacks, arson, looting etc. This mystery combined with the hearsay about the beauty of this place had kept our mind preoccupied with lots of thoughts and made us forget the fact that we didn’t have the breakfast and time was already well past 11 am.

Our driver was very friendly and he kept on talking. Seems like, the impending 4 days is not enough for him to tell us stories about this place. His target was to take us to the Hotel and then to roam around the gardens in Srinagar. But we cannot wait or rather our stomach cannot wait till we reach the hotel. Soon we found ourselves inside a road side cafe, browsing through the menu to taste the delicacies of this region.

The cafe didn’t disappoint as the preparations were very tasty, we being the genre of enjoying food as much as anything else. 1 hour well spent in this shop tasting the chicken pakoda, fish finger etc all Kashmiri style.
The horrendous hotel experience at Delhi soon came into our minds as we entered the lobby of the Hotel Pamposh where we were going to stay.

This hotel is right in the heart of Srinagar and seems to be built long ago. There is a huge space in front of the hotel. But no gardens, no lawns. Red soil top. Car parking space is ample. Lots of 17 seaters and 7/8 seater taxies occupied this space.

Our driver opened the Gyan box and informed us that around ten bomb blasts occurred in the front of this hotel. This area was a mini market and the terrorists could get maximum casualty here. We felt a mild shudder in our body. But people here seems to have got used to the bomb blasts and the terrorist attacks. The place was bustling with activity. This hotel has got a number of rooms. Cannot be called a luxury hotel though. Just a basic one. Luckily the rooms were big and airy. No kettles, no heater. Thanks to the Delhi experience, anything above average will appear good to us.

After a relatively big nap in the soothing climate we set off for a roam around Srinagar’s famous mughal gardens, but even before we could reach the first garden we had another food stop. Our driver must be feeling funny, coz the only things which we did after reaching here was having food. Hotel name is Sunset Boulveyard

This time we decided to try out some Kashmiri special dishes and it was yummy. We got the real taste of Chicken Kazwan.

The persons manning the restaurant were equally good. Patiently explained about the preparations, the best combinations, enquiring about the taste of food. Result, we enjoyed the experience to the core.
“Tunnels” , when we hear about them, we think of the man made engineering wonders which made travel underneath ground possible. But here we were amidst a natural tunnel. People here call it a “Green Tunnel”, an apt name.

The green tunnel indicated the arrival of USPs (unique selling points) of Srinagar. Immediately after the green tunnel, stood in front of us the majestic “Dal Lake”. In no time we were travelling by the road on the banks of this lake. It was a slightly cloudy day, still the sight of this lake was mesmerizing. This one is huge. One of the biggest lakes in the world.

A stroll through its banks, hand in hand with your partner. Romance is sure to set in, no matter your age. This lake has numerous artificial fountains. Not really needed though. Sometimes people overdo things.

Couldn’t resist ourselves a short break near the lake even though the driver advised against it. It was already 3 pm and we were yet to visit any one of the planned spots. We didn’t bother. We are on a HOLIDAY. No targets here please.

Right in the midst of the lake stood 4 trees. A famous landmark of dal lake. The “Char Chinar” Wonder how that small piece of land appeared there.

The site is more beautiful than in pics. There is greenery. But the pictures lacks it. Thanks to the cloudy skies.

The shikaras added color to the lake. Waiting eagerly for the tourists. We had a ride planned next day.

The first of our planned targets was in front of us soon. The Shalimar Garden. One of the numerous mughal gardens around. Located right next to the Dal lake. Took tickets. Only nominal ticket rates. Parking is cumbersome. Driver gave us his number and parted. We had to spend atleast 5 minutes at the entrance itself. Not because of the crowd. To enjoy the place. Let the pictures do the talking.

Cool climate. Lush green lawns. Pristinely maintained.

All flowers are commonly known ones. We have seen it in our place too. Here they are more rich. More energetic. Fully bloomed. Spreading the color. The Fragrance !!

In the back drop, The Himalayas. With just enough snow cladding on the top to increase the visual appeal. Who designed all these?

We are lost. Lost in a paradise. We were walking. Slowly though. Not many words spoken. Only the occasional clicks here and there. My five year old daughter and nine year old son too were enjoying the colour. The tranquillity. Experiencing the beautiful face of nature.

We were woken up from the real life day dream by some polite requests. Handsome young lads were offering Kashmiri dress. Not for sale. For rent. Just for a photo shoot. To carry back as memorabilia. Wife immediately insisted. A wise decision though.

We were soon transformed. Felt like a family which came out from an epic opera in prime time. Laughed a lot. Made a lot of fun. Again we were in another world. Photo session ensued. Rs. 100 per photo. Bargain to get this rate or even better rate. We didn’t bargain much. These guys were doing a good job.

These pictures will remain in our hearts for ever. But they gave us prints. 30 minutes later. Exactly as was informed.

2 hours had passed. Our driver was amused. What’s there to see so much inside.

“If we go at this rate we won’t be able to visit all the gardens”. But we don’t care.
“We are here to relax”. Somehow he is not convinced.
“You came all the way to North from South and still not wanting to see everything.”
“There is always next time bhai”

The car was again trotting by the side of Dal lake. Came to a stand still on its banks itself. A small royal wall with a fountain by the road side. What’s there to see here.

This is the entrance to “Nishat Gardens” – the garden of Gladness. Climbed up a series of steps. Another level with some flowers and a royal wall. Is this garden so small. Should we skip this one.

Another series of steps. That’s it. We are blown away. This one is huge. Vast. Flowers everywhere. Greenery. This garden starts from Himalayas and ends at the Dal lake. Really sandwiched between the majestic Himalayas and the Dal lake.

Watch the flowers around. Full blown. Colourful. More size than we usually see. Climate is so suitable for these flowering plants. Naturally blessed.

To increase the awesomeness quotient, sun started painting on the sky. Colors change briskly. The transition is starting. It is 7pm here. Sun sets pretty late, by Indian standards.

I love silhouettes. That too at this time. The puff clouds adds more life to the frame.

My reaction on being here is summed up in this picture.

Good things doesn’t last long. We all were engrossed by the evening sun’s show. But it ended all too soon. Still ambient light was good.
A stream of water was flowing right through the middle of the garden.

Intermittent fountains was making the water create a background score. Is this milk or water?

We lay down in the lawn. Watching the sky. Getting another perspective. Cool breeze. Colourful flowers around. Even kids kept gazing the sky. The sky is still red or orange or a mix. Beautiful to look at.
Still a long way to go inside the garden. Started another stroll. Big flowers paved way for smaller ones. A little more ahead all flowers were of the same genre. Roses. Aplenty. Different varieties. Radiating that great rosy smell. The stroll gave way to some wild excitement. We started running.
Yes, all four of us were running around. We became kids again!!

My phone was ringing. I had put it in silent mode. Don’t want to be disturbed. Our driver was calling. It was the 5th time. He wondered what we were doing inside this garden. Only two gardens in a day.
Quite unbelievable for him. We had to console him. We will take some more time to get back.
We spent some more time in this paradise. Befriending the flowers. Smelling the aroma. Getting chilled. Temperature was going down fast. So was the light. We have to bid good bye. And yes we did.

Back in the vehicle. Still took some time convincing our driver that we are happy. 6 gardens was the target. We went to only 2. Are we satisfied. Yes , a hundred times.
It was a wonderful day. A wonderful start to our sojourn in Kashmir.
Wonder what lies ahead. 3 more days we will be here.
Charted a plan for the next day with the driver. A visit to Gulmarg. The place where we can see snow. Feel it. Play with it. Can’t resist the excitement. But this is life. Always expect the unexpected. More on that in the next part.
Here are some more interesting pictures which I took during the day.
Vehicles get dirty pretty soon in this part. Thanks to the sticky mud. The occasional rains etc

A regular sight in Kashmir. VIP vehicles with all sorts of warfare. Escorted by police/military.

The Sankaracharya temple, on a hill right in the middle of Srinagar. Climb around 100 steps to reach here and you can see the entire Srinagar. (I did not attempt though)

One of the premium hotels in Srinagar, The Oberon, right near the dal lake, A sprawling campus

The roads adjacent to Dal Lake

The paddy fields in Srinagar.

Green tunnel

The fountains in Shalimar garden


A special plant in Shalimar

Sprawling lawns at Shalimar

An eagle, at Shalimar Gardens

Some more sunset shots from Nishat bagh

First impressions on Kashmir was truly wonderful. True to its description, this is paradise on earth !! 3 more days to go and more interesting places to explore. Read Part 3

Index of full story


R Niranjan Das said...

Excellent photos and write up of your experience. Kashmir looks enchanting!

Happy Kitten said...

No more on Kashmir?

Waiting eagerly... said...

Niranjan. Thanks for your constant support and encouragement

Happy Kitten. There is lot more on Kashmir.. But putting it on blog takes some effort. Managed to update the third part. Will finish of the complete story in a week. Click here to read it


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