Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Gardens In Srinagar

 There are a few gardens which was built by Jehangir Khan for his wife Nur Jahan during the 1600's. These Mughal Gardens are Shalimar Garden and Nishat Garden. And the most recent garden is the Tulips Garden which is open to the public for about 2 months in a year. We only visit Shalimar Garden and the Tulips Garden as Nishat is quite similar to Shalimar, both are Mughal influenced. We took a half day tour before leaving for the airport for the plane to New Delhi.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pahalgam, Kashmir

It takes about 2 hours to reach Pahalgam but we enjoyed the journey as the scenery was beautiful all along. Pahalgam is situated at an altitude of 2,133 metres and there are a few hill resorts nearby,  surrounded with pine forest and clear water stream from the snowy mountains nearby.  You can either do the horseback riding or just walking and treking the green mountain, but most tourist choose horse riding. There are a few routes to choose for horse riding, from the simple and relaxing route to tough and adventure route. We chose the later simply for the sake of fun and experience. But it's more dangerous as we have no experience at horse riding, and riding along the very side and steep mountains which is about 90 degrees up and down the terrain and muddy soil. Compare to our horse riding in Sonamarg the day before, this one seems more risky and dangerous because we are riding at the very edge of the mountains. Just imagine what if the horse makes the wrong step or skid. And going up and down the very steep terrain is like taking the roller coaster without having any safety protection. The ride took us about 2 hours. Pahalgam is famous among Indian tourist and of course it is more crowded than any other tourist spot in Srinagar. Anyhow, there are sufficient horses to cater for all. So you can imagine the number of horses available there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

kbguy..trekking The Himalayan Montains

Due to time constraint, we choose Sonamarg instead of Gulmarg. Gulmarg is more popular among foreign tourist and widely promoted by the Indian Tourism because of it's availability of electric cable cars. Both offer breathtaking scenery and natural landscape, but we choose to go trekking to get the feel of the snowy mountains in the most natural way.  The moment I was told about cable cars, I can imagine the huge numbers of visitors flocking the mountains just like our very own Malaysian hill resort at the Genting Highland. Moreover trekking with horses is something we wish to try and look forward to.
We left after breakfast at our houseboat. It was quite a long journey from our place to the mountain base. It took us about 3 hours with jeep. Our camera never stop clicking the moment we hop onto our jeep until we reached the base. We did had a half an hour stop for tea and some photography along the way.  Yellow flowers can be seen all over covering the land before reaching the base. We were told that the flowers were use to produce Mustard oil.

 At the base, we changed mode of transport from jeep to horses. Each of us rode on a horse with two local gypsies as guide. It was a long journey but worth the trip. It took us about 3 hours to reached the top and return. The guide told us they had snow storm recently and the place was closed to visitors, and was reopen just two days ago. As such the place was covered with pure white snow all over. Even though it was cold and snow everywhere, we were trekking at an altitude closer to the sun on the Himalaya mountains. After an hour trekking, we can feel our skin burning. At the end of the day, our face looks more tanned and the nose, ears and lips area got sun burnt.,,, and backache.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dal Lake and Shikara Ride

One of the famous place to visit in Srinagar is the Dal Lake. To tour the lake, try hiring a local boat called Shikara. It is actually a decorated boat with cover. The Dal Lake which is surrounded by snow mountains is one of the famous tourist attraction here. With the Shikara, you can actually cruise around the swimming area at the lake, floating garden, floating market, lotus garden and etc as claim by many travel agents but in fact it is all in the vicinity of the Dal Lake. Frankly speaking, if you happen to be there and plan to tour the Dal Lake, just tell them you want to cruise for how many hours instead of naming so many places. The water in the lake is make up from melting snow from the mountains surrounding it. During the day, many traders by boat can be seen selling a variety of goods, from sundries to souvenirs items. And there are plenty of houseboats for rent at the Dal Lake too. I suggest you make an attempt to stay at the houseboat for a night or two although for experience sake. The price may range from 1000 rupees to 1500 rupees per night for a two/three beds room. Remember to clarify what are included in the price such as taxes, drinks or meals. During our stay, we asked for all inclusive price such as taxes and meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) but we forgot to mention 'drinks'.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Lucky Star Houseboat

We booked out hotel in Srinagar through it's web site.  It was the New Lucky Star a.k.a. Young Lucky Star boathouse at the Dai Lake in Srinagar. After all it's the houseboat which is famous for among most tourist in Srinagar. There are a lot of houseboats at the lake. And of course the price varies from one to another too. I don't suggest you to book your houseboat through the website if you plan to visit Srinagar, if you are the price conscious type. I wasn't as lucky as the other group of travel mates from Bangkok. They got their houseboat at half our price by scouting from one agent to another in Srinagar town itself.

Usually I will recommend my readers the hotels I have stayed based on many reasons. But in India, I wouldn't recommend any of the hotels I stayed including this one. I noticed that in India, most of the people in the tourist related industry are ignorant on their service quality and would try to squeeze every penny out from their guest. As long as you are a foreign tourist, they'll try hard by hook or by crook. In actual fact, their services is darn poor and lousy. They even sweet talk you during the beginning of their services with empty promises.
At New Lucky Star, the whole family will serve you. They'll tell you, you are one of the family members. They'll invite you to their home. They'll offer you phone and Internet services. All these are hidden charges to be bill later.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner which we asked them to include on at an agreed price per meal are actually included. But at the end of the day, they asked for extra charges which was not actually mentioned, such as mineral water, tea and apple juice which was served during meals. I was actually annoyed because drinks should be serve with meals. They only informed us at the end of our holiday and the prices was doubled from the outside price.
There was one incident when we wanted to buy 2 bottles of drinking water from the boatman. Our houseboat owner quickly grab the bottles from the boatman who was about to hand to us. He asked the boatman to return later. We wanted to gave him the money as we knew the price was only 15 rupees per bottle. He asked us to pay at the end of the 4 days. From that day onwards, he handed us 3 bottles of drinking water every morning, and during every meal. At the end of the 4 days, he charged us 35 rupees per bottle. Of course we feel cheated. To make things worse, the whole family who served us during the 4 days including the driver and owner himself reminded us to give tips when making payment as if we owe everyone of them. To us, this is extremely rude.
Also in Srinagar, there are a lot of police and soldiers everywhere especially on the road side, tourist spot and airport. I notice that these security officers and civilian can't get along very well. In actual fact, they dislike each other. That was what our tour guide from New lucky Star informed us. From my personal opinion, the Indians are annoying, and disobey rules. That is why the security officers are stringent, rough and rude to them.
To cut the whole thing shot, I think Srinagar do have the opportunity to attract more tourist as they offer wonderful, beautiful and breathtaking scenery except the people themselves especially those in the tourism industry who do not know how to grab or take the opportunity to treat their clients and guest with care and improve their services, and most importantly to deal business honestly and with trustworthiness.