I am generally not very good at agreeing with people, there’s a certain headrush in having a different opinion! :)
However, one chap I just cannot disagree with is Amir-e-Khusru Dehluvi… his famous words were the first to hit my brain the moment my craft touched down in Srinagar! Ps 1: Google and come back quick, if you have no clue about it.
Okay, now that the curtains have been suitably spanked up, let me scribble down a romantic escapade into a super elegant terrain of super warm locals.
Ps 2: Go alone, you will fall in love with yourself! Or take that chic no pickup line of yours is working on! :)
A. Fly into Srinagar: Yes, the same Srinagar…. the mere mention of which brings to the head visuals of fleeting chiffon, perched up cuckoos, apple orchards, snow clad driveways, crewel adorned Shikaras and the stunning Dal!
Get up in the wee for some soul stirring prayers recited from the mosque… take a day sprawling with a traditional Kashmiri Hookah in your hotel verandah and absorbing the sheer beauty of the land. Dip in to the bath tub, order some authentic Kashmiri Kehwa and keep gazing out into the nothingness of the far away land… totally worth a zillion meditation sessions. A highly recommended place to stay is the Taj Srinagar, their washrooms can easily be surpassed for mini football stadia!
After the spoilt brat yesterday, gear up for a quintessential Kashmiri today. Check out the Shalimar Bagh for gorgeous Mughal architecture, stroll down the traditional bazar and chat up with the locals, dress yourself in a Pheran and Kangdi and breathe in the crisp wiff.
Stay a day in a houseboat on the Dal and gaze at the enchanting life of the locals on the lake… flower and fruit sellers, musicians… shikaras would have it all!
Below are some picture I took on my houseboat morning.
Don’t forget to try some Nadu kari, aka lotus stem curry… and of course almond laced Kehwa every two hours goes without saying!
Also, don’t forget to buy some super awesome Pashmina from the land of it… check and recheck for an authentic vendor… and keep your plans of a new car aside for some time if you lay your hands on a truly authentic one! :)
B. Head to Gulmarg: Next up, head to Gulmarg. Spend a day skiing amidst the vast whites and super friendly instructors. When the Sun comes down, treat yourself to some hot maggi at the only kiosk atop in the middle of what seems like Siberia in December. Take the gondola down for breathtaking views of the valley.
C. Hitch hike your way to Pahalgam: This, I think is the coolest part of the itinerary. The way to Pahalgam is a freaking stunner and the only thing that can do it justice is hitch hiking! Horse backs, 4X4 wheels, bus… do it all for sure. Stop by the river and eat your lunch, pick a basketfull of apples from one of the numerous orchards, observe the locals trading on your way, wave to the enthusiastic red nosed kids on your way and smile at the absolutely gorgeous Kashmiri women wearing almost the finest jewelllery you would ever see and sitting in their verandahs and embroidering. This little road trip, my folks, is our blemish free Kashmir… flawless, safe and beautiful! Ps 3: Keep that bus trip song from the movie Rockstar on a loop.
D. Rent a car and drive your way from Srinagar to Leh: Come back to Srinagar and rent a car to drive yourself to Leh. Notice and appreciate the gradual and charming fading away of the Kashmiri culture and rising of the Tibetan way of life. Take pitstops at the engaging Stupas and monasteries on your way. Stop for a meditation session or two. Also enjoy a street side Thukpa, the Tibet style noodle soup.
E. Check out the Kargil War Memorial enroute: Spend some time at the Kargil memorial and allow yourself to be humbled by the gripping stories of the bravely led lives.
F. Trek down the frozen Zanskar river: Next, live up the surreal experience of walking down a frozen river stream. With seductive snow clad mountains on either side, this trek in the Zanskar valley is truly an episode you will never forget.
G: Camp the night on the banks of Pangong: Hop on to a jeep to Lake Pangong. The sight you would witness is the stuff dreamy postcards are made of. The ravishing blue of this lake is undoubtedly God’s Photoshop skills at its best. Stay overnight in a camp by the lake and as I always remind, don’t forget to gaze at the clear star studded sky. Profess your unrelenting love to yourself, or to the pick up line chic here!
H: Fly out of Leh: Get back to Leh and fly directly out of the Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport.