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My Silk Road The Piglet stumbles across the continent

42 - Floating in Kashmir

INDIA | Wednesday, 10 October 2012 | Views [549]

Kashmir - a ride in Lake Dal

Kashmir - a ride in Lake Dal

After almost 20 days on the road, I have now arrived at Kashmir, the last stop of this journey (Part 2 of the Great Silk Road trip). Kashmir (or at least the part of Kashmir in which Srinigar is located) is in the Jammu and Kashmir province in India which has a separate administration from the rest of India, a legacy from the 1947 Indian independence, although recognised as Indian territory.  Srinigar is beautiful with mountains in the background and beautiful lakes in the foothills. 

Unfortunately, the atmosphere is somewhat tense in Srinigar because of opposing pro-India and pro-Pakistan activities within Kashmir as well as the movement for Kashmiri independence.  Much of the population seems to be Muslim and in earlier days, they were apparently inclined towards Pakistan but today, feelings seem to be more mixed.  Certainly, there are pronounced Muslim influences - calls to prayer are regular and schoolgirls are dressed in Islamic garb.  On the other hand, there are Indian armed soldiers scattered in the streets ostensibly keeping the peace although we were also told that Indian soldiers get paid a 30% premium for a Kashmir posting so it is not unwelcomed.  Some of the people we spoke with privately today were also more in favour of Indian rule because of the relative prosperity and development of India.  So, the jury is out and in the meantime, tourists in Srinigar cannot use their own mobile phones apparently because of anti-terrorist security restrictions (none of the non-Kashmir telephony services connect to Kashmir, so this also applies to Indians from other regions) and I couldn't even legally buy a local SIM card or local phone.  Finally, an enforced break from communications!

The Dal lake in Kashmir has hundreds of houseboats moored to its shores.  The houseboat is a guesthouse offering bed and board of varying grades.  I am staying at the Shalimar Palace which is located at a quiet corner of the lake overlooking lily and lotus beds.  Shalimar has 7 rooms, each with an ensuite bathroom (thank god!) and a lovely terrace and sunroof.  I am at a room at the end which is a bit dark but that's fine as I am out most of the day either in a shikara (painted boats with canopies and cushions which can seat up to 4) floating about the lake, or sitting on the sunroof to take in the sun.  As the sun sets, one enjoys a gin and soda (no tonic water in Srinigar, weird) and various peddlers row up to the houseboat to offer jewellery, spices, postcards, shawls.  Lovely lovely pashminas on offer - and methinks nicer (and certainly cheaper) than the "chin of the baby goat" wool from Loro Piana!

This morning, I was woken up by the Muslim call to prayer but anyway had to get out early to visit the floating veggie market which starts from 6am.  Men on wooden boats congregate in a corner of the Dal lake to sell vegetables (lotus roots, tomatoes, spinach...).  After a morning soaking up the sun, there's another lazy shikara ride around the nooks and crannies of Dal lake to see the old wooden houses dotted all around the lake and enjoy the lilies in bloom (check out the pics).  Most relaxing, except for being harrassed by the very insistent peddlers on their boats.



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