Ethereal Kashmir, Real Kashmiris
The favorite part of my Kashmir experience is the people of Kashmir. Honest, warm, respectful, cordial, genuine, intelligent...I can go on and on.
In one word: People With High Emotional Quotient
Our first contact person in Kashmir was Mr. Waseem Bhat, who owns the Kashmir Tourism Cabs business. We had been chatting with him over the phone about where we should stay, what places we should visit and all. To all our queries, he had one reply "Waseem Bhai is there and you don't need to worry, just fly down to Srinagar."
And true to his words, he chalked out a perfect itinerary for us: Srinagar-Gulmarg-Pahalgam-Srinagar.
I and my husband were flying from different cities, so our arrival times were different. My flight from Pune got a bit delayed. But Waseem patiently waited with my husband to receive me. We drove straight to Gulmarg, where we stayed at The "Khaleel Palace", which was arranged by Waseem.
The "Khaleel Palace" is very close to all the sports activity locations, so it was quite convenient. Waseem engaged a fantastic guide for us (Firdaus), who took great care of us throughout our stay. About Khaleel Palace, the staff is fantastic, but don't expect much in terms of food.
After a two-day stay in Gulmarg, we drove to Pahalgam, where again Waseem had arranged a fantastic stay for us at the Royal Hilton. It is a new property and beautifully maintained. The food, facilities, and service are excellent.
In Pahalgam, we visited the Betaab Valley (formerly Hajan Valley) made famous by the 80's movie Betaab. it is very well maintained and a good place to relax. We also visited the Aru Valley, which is located upstream of the Lidder River. Overall Pahalgam was all about scenic meadows, lakes, and mountains.
Next, we drove to Srinagar, where we decided to stay in a boathouse. While Waseem was not very confident, he did manage to get us yet another fantastic deal at Golden Lily, which is at ghat #20. Golden Lily is run by a father and son duo, both fantastic hosts. They cooked some amazing vegetarian food for us and ensured we were warmly tucked in our beds by keeping the "Bukhari" burning constantly. Bukhari is a Kashmiri traditional heating contraction.
We had a great experience visiting the Dachigam National Park, which Waseem managed to secure entry for us at the last minute through his contacts. We also did a road trip to Sonmarg.
Waseem also helped us shop for the best dry fruits, shawls, and papier-mache items.
Just one grievance missed experiencing snowfall. So, Waseem Bhai has promised to arrange for a month-long homestay for me in Kashmir in 2021.
Thanks, Kashmir Tourism Cabs for this awesome memorable trip.
P.S. Please visit without Kashmir, it is the safest place in India. Felt like home 🙂