LOUNGING IN THE MOUNTAINS: PART III

Our journey wasn’t restricted to Srinagar only. We drove up to Gulmarg: a paradise for the sports lovers. We stayed at The Khyber, but just one night at the opulent hotel wasn’t enough. If I start to use the words luxurious, majestic, and so on then it for sure wouldn’t justify the grandeur. It was more like living a dream surrounded by snow from all sides. It had snowed endlessly for days, but stopped before our arrival.  But the view was no less.

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It is needless to say so but still when in Kashmir don’t forget to drink Kahwa: a traditional drink made of Kashmiri green tea, cardamoms, saffron, cinnamon, cloves, almonds, and sugar. I can tell you this for sure that one cup just wouldn’t suffice because it is absolutely heavenly.

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It was difficult to leave the hotel but resisting the warmth we made our way to hop onto ‘gondola’ – a cable car that carried us over the snow covered trees and mountains to reach the peak where all the activities were happening. So, for the very first time in my life, I got the chance to try my hands and legs at skiing. On television this sport looked quite easy but the reality was completely different. Once you have all the gear in place, they tell you to maintain your posture; bend your knees a little with the elbows jutting out and your back bent forward; the last part was difficult for me because I believed that I would rather slide down the slope on my back. Phew! I did land on my rear quite a few times and dragged the poor instructor as well. I am sure he must be cursing me till date. However, I enjoyed sloping own the mountains albeit on wobbly knees.

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Next, it was time to test my courage on the snow scooter. The best part was that speed was no bar and I drove it on my own. Woohoo! No one can look better than Sean Connery on a snow scooter, but I did give him quite a competition… no kidding about it or maybe just a little. The energy exuding from the scooter with every inch covered in snow transcended me into a different world altogether. It turned out to be an experience for a lifetime.

So, it wouldn’t be fair if I skip the most enchanting day of our journey. Despite the constant prayers, God didn’t seem to be in any mood to make the snow fall. Well, what we saw in Gulmarg had stopped before we reached there and we wanted to see the snow fall right in front of our eyes. Since, the nature refused to give in, we packed our bags and slept quite dejected because next morning we were to leave Srinagar and go back home. You must have heard that a wish from the heart is usually fulfilled sooner or later. The next morning we woke up to beautiful flakes making their way from the sky and falling softly in our waiting palms. It was the most beautiful sight I could have ever dreamt of. We danced and played in the snow till the time our bodies refused to stay out another second in the biting cold. My fingers and face had gone numb but it was worth every second that I spent in the snow. It snowed all day and as a result all the flights had to be cancelled and we had the brilliant luck to stay an extra day in Srinagar. Also, it was being said that such a snowfall was being witnessed after decades. I don’t think that this vacation could have ended on a better note. It was better than any dream for me.

After reminiscing about the best days of my life, I am all set to go back and enjoy God’s very own paradise once again but this time in Summers.

P.S. This post is last in the series about Srinagar. Also, if you just came across my thoughts then don’t forget to read about the first and second leg of my incredibly beautiful vacation.

LOUNGING IN THE MOUNTAINS: PART II

Srinagar is known for its scenic beauty but what no one talks about is the people there. It was an absolute delight to meet such warm and polite people, which is quite rare in today’s world. Most places in India make you wary of strangers who wouldn’t mind staring at you and make the most of it by brushing their hands here and there. However, in Srinagar we did not face any such problems because nobody was really bothered. Contrary to the image created by media, people there weren’t raring to jump at you with arms and ammunition. Srinagar 12   A visit to Srinagar wouldn’t have been complete without a shikara ride on the Dal Lake. The man riding the shikara introduced us to Kashmiri folk songs, but otherwise his playlist belted out songs fit for a party. The thing that made the ride even more fun was the Maggi that we ate in the middle of the lake. We were completely frozen because of the rain and mist, but it was certainly a ride to remember. Surely, the food at The Lalit was mindblowing but then it wouldn’t do if we didn’t try the street food. They say that true love is the one who accompanies you anywhere or rather follows you. Cliché much?! I can never get enough of Rajma Chawal, but hadn’t expected to get it in Srinagar out of all places. Krishna Dhaba should be on every foodie’s list especially for Rajma Chawal because the aroma and the scintillating flavor will captivate you. The new friends we made there loved it so much that they had it packed to take back home. Srinagar 9 The next stop on our list was Chashme Shahi or The Royal Spring: another feather in Shah Jahan’s elsusive turban. This garden is blessed with seven natural springs that are high on mineral content. It is said that the water from these springs is so pure that it can cure pains and diseases. How true is the claim is anybody’s guess. No doubt the water was cold and heavenly and if nothing else then I did discover something new, which wasn’t ever there in the textbooks. Lal Chowk has been made synonymous with riots and constant fights between the natives and the defence forces. We too were deterred by someone from going there, but we relented because the traveller in us refused to play the role of a meek tourist. It wouldn’t be right to say that somewhere deep down we weren’t skeptical but our determination paid off. There wasn’t much to explore because of the rain and falling dusk; however, moving in and out of shops and talking to people proved to be an experience in itself. I would say that one should take out a few hours to learn more about the market. Well, having explored almost every nook and corner in Srinagar, it was time to enjoy other places as well. I cannot wait to tell you about what we did later, but for that you will have to read my next post. It is a promise that I won’t take much time to share a new leaf from my travel diaries.

P.S. This post is second in the series about Srinagar; many more interesting thoughts are soon to follow. Also, if you just came across my thoughts then don’t forget to read about the first leg of my beautiful vacation.

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LOUNGING IN THE MOUNTAINS

Finally, we made it all the way to Srinagar! After overcoming all the obstacles thrown in our way the trip on paper became a reality. It sounds a tad bit dramatic, but it was worth the wait. College, job, hectic schedules, and other obligations kept us from planning one long trip to unwind. The first time around we had to unpack our bags and cancel the trip in the wake of the devastating flood in Kashmir that wrecked damage more than anyone could anticipate.

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However, we are a determined lot and nothing could deter us from our vacation. Soon, the bags were packed once again and we finally boarded our flight to Srinagar. After a short stop-over at the Jammu airport, we were flying over the snow-capped mountains. There wasn’t a more beautiful sight I had ever seen before.

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We stayed at The Lalit Grand Palace in Srinagar: one of the most spectacular properties that is bound to leave you awestruck. Initially, it was known as Gulab Bhawan, which was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910. The credit for the fine décor and furniture belongs to Maharaja Hari Singh, the nephew of Maharaja Pratap Singh.

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Every nook and corner in the hotel personified luxury but the view from the rooms stole the show. The windows faced the lush gardens boasting of decades old trees, the tips of which were at that moment covered with snow. However, in summer you would be able to enjoy fruit laden trees and beautiful flowers too. We had one of the best views from our rooms: the Dal Lake covered by a sheet of mist and beyond that snow covered mountains. It was an absolute bliss to sip a piping hot cup of tea while taking in the sunrise sitting by the window.

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I cannot survive for long hours without food and it is a major concern while travelling. Well, I didn’t have to worry at all because Chef Digvijay made it a point to prepare dishes that were lactose free. After almost 4-5 years, I had the most delicious pizza and if I could then I would have eaten it in every meal.

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I almost forgot to tell you that the dining room there is called ‘Chinar’ where we ate our sumptuous meals. Mr Ranvijay – the manager at Chinar – made us feel at home by sharing anecdotes from the places he had been to. On our last night in Srinagar, I ate the most delicious Arabiatta Pasta that too without cheese and it was so tasty that I forgot to miss cheese. At the cost of reiterating, each and every meal tempted and satiated my taste buds beyond reason.

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Our stay there was nothing short of royal. It wouldn’t be right to say that it was only because of the grand property, sprawling rooms, delicious food but also because of the service and warmth we received from the team at the hotel. Our needs were taken care of even before we requested for anything at all. Mr Prince, the assistant manager, was extremely hospitable and made our stay quite memorable. If you ever stay at The Lalit then do ask him to take you on a tour of the palace because that’s where you will get the real insight into how to lead life king size.

P.S. This post is first in the series about Srinagar; many more interesting thoughts are soon to follow.

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