Special Travel Feature: Kashmir, India by Jean

“People don’t take trips,
trips take people.”

John Steinbeck

Happy New Year dear readers! How’s the start of 2016 so far? I’m pretty sure most of us are already planning our next adventure, listing our travel escapades for this year.

In this Special Travel Feature, we’re having Jean, a nature-lover from the province of Polomolok, South Cotabato in the Philippines. She’s currently based in Bangkok, Thailand as a travel agent and has already been to some places in the Philippines (Dumaguete, Davao, Manila, Batangas, and other cities). She’s also toured a bit of Thailand (Phuket, Pattaya, Rayong, Trat, Chantaburi, Huahin, Chaam, etc.), India (Kashmir, Amritsar, Delhi) and Laos (Vientiane).

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Jean enjoying snow for the first time in Gulmarg, Kashmir

Jean’s dream destinations include Europe, Canada and New Zealand. Her latest place traveled was Chaam, a beach destination in Thailand, but she pensively tells me, “My most unforgettable trip was in Kashmir, India in 2010 when a friend invited me to his home country.” As our featured traveler, Jean reminisces about her fascinating trip to India, where she pinpoints Kashmir as her favorite. Dubbed as India’s Switzerland, Kashmir is known for its cool surroundings (it’s a haven for tourists during summer), scenic lakes, attractive flower gardens, and a unique mix of varied ethnicity, with the majestic snow-covered Himalayas as backdrop.

Q. Describe your stay in Kashmir, as well as the other places you’ve been to in India.

My stay in India was a different experience for me. It was April when we arrived and even if it was not winter, Kashmir was awesome because of its cool weather and the lovely view of the mountains capped with snow. It’s a Muslim area, but people are always smiling even if they seem not approachable.

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Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden in Srinagar

On the first day of our trip, we stayed overnight in a house boat in Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. The lake is large and its location is ideal, the scenery is nice as you can see the Himalayas in the background.

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Dal Lake in Srinagar

Dal Lake is home to many house boats of all sizes for tourists, from single room boats to large vessels that can accommodate more guests. You can see that the lake is filled with lotus plants with some flowers blooming. If you prefer accommodation near the road, it’s a little bit expensive, but those boats based farther are more affordable. Food is prepared and delivered upon request depending on your choice of meals.

We were brought to the house boat by a shikara, a small paddle boat. Motorized boats are not allowed to maintain the quietness and peacefulness of the surroundings.

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Shikaras lined up in Dal Lake

We also went to Gulmarg and rode the gondola (a cable car) – from the base of the mountain and going to the top, the second level or the highest point it can reach.

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After ten minutes, snowflakes started to fall and it was such a great experience as it was my first time to see and touch snow.

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We also took a side trip to Amritsar, Punjab state of India and visited Harmandir Sahib or the “Golden Temple”.

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Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar

Q. Any tips for traveling to Kashmir?

• Kashmir is a Muslim area, so if you plan on having drinking sessions with your friends, just bring your own alcholic beverages. It’s for your own consumption only as it is strictly prohibited for Muslims and you cannot invite them.

• It is better to rent a car with driver when touring around. The driver serves as a tourist guide, he knows where to go and will take you to the places according to your itinerary and schedule. If you go beyond your travel time, just give him an extra tip.

• Bring your jacket and winter clothes. 🙂

• Regarding food, there are local restaurants where you can dine and they offer good and tasty dishes.

Q. Any personal insights about travel and going places?

Whenever I travel I always consider first the natural sceneries of the place and learning a different culture. I like meeting new friends. There’s that feeling of being happy and fulfilled when I arrive in a new destination.

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