Watching the sun go down behind the distant mountain, I just lost in my own thoughts. Hmm, definitely a sucker for those amazing colors and I could watch this scene over, and over again.
Cont'd from HERE
After a quick freshen-up and solat, we have been served an incredible Hyderabad Biryani for lunch. Well I'm not really a big fan of biryani but I was pleasantly surprised. Cannot comment much on whether it was a "real" Hyderabad, cause I ain't never had one before, mate! And was that a coleslaw? Never tried that one too!
To be honest, my stomach can't really tolerate with this kind of food, dia macam tak boleh telan, kenot go orang cakap. Being a mek, my comfort food would always be sayur air, sup, tom yam, budu! Ahaha #matilahnak.
But my friends said that was the best Biryani they've ever tasted! So, I think mama (we called Uncle Nabi's wife mama okay, haha, there's a story behind it, more on that later) really made with love using the best quality Basmathi rice, well-marinated chicken and the best saffron in town. Seriously I can't recall the taste of that Biryani because I've eaten something else; nasi impit and sambal ikan bilis my mom packed for me. Hehe. And they happily had my portion. Dasar kelaparan semua orang masa ni.
Hiks. Kena bebel walau di mana jua anda berada. Haha. Mom definitely knows best kan? She packed for me 30 small packets of nasi impit but I left 15 at home. Told her, that's too much. Hahaha. Rasain loh. Kalau orang tua cakap tu, tolong dengar dan ikut! Hehe.
On top of Houseboat Lily of Nageen
And while we waited for our shikara ride in the evening, we were sitting on the wooden floor on top of the houseboat. A great view of other houseboats lined up along the lake and we can clearly see shikaras in vibrant hues. Mostly in red and yellow, and they were so bright in colors, so vivid and beautiful.
When the boatman came, we then boarded a shikara together with Uncle Nabi. They took us to a non-tourist zone and we can feel the silence in a hidden corners of Nageen lake, floating literally on the surface of the waters. So calm and peaceful.
Pardon my acah-acah pose. Pretending to dip my hand in the water of Srinagar, checked!
It was cold that time. So cold to be honest, I shiver a bit. But seeing the reflections of the houseboats on the water, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. Such a beauty.
Well, the boatman didn't speak much, perhaps because of language barrier. But we did chat with Uncle Nabi a bit. He told us that lotus season had not started, yet. The lake will only be surrounded with water lily and lotus somewhere in April. And from my observation, almost every house or houseboat in Srinagar had a little garden in their backyards. It is one of their sources of income, they might be selling bouquet of flowers or even the flower seeds to tourists.
We then floated in silence, embracing the moment. It was so amazing to sit in the slow moving shikara, watching the mountains around and you just see a life beyond what you've usually seen.
The famous Hazratbal Shrine
Hazratbal Shrine is visible from most parts of the Dal Lake
It's just beautiful
To be continued,..
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. You’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way, ever again.
Honestly, I was a bit nervous. Travelling to unknown places in foreign countries is something I've done before, but I've not done it in a while, I think almost a year after returning home. And the fact that we were heading to Kashmir which most of us know this place as the conflict zone between both Pakistan and India made me a bit... worried.
I'm going to skip about Chennai first because it was just a transit. We waited at Chennai Airport for at least 5 hours before our next flight to Srinagar. So really nothing much to say.
And, guess who I met at KLIA 2? Miss JariManis! Tapi we never greeted each other pon. Takut salah orang, she was alone that time queuing at one of the Airasia's check-in counter. But then I still feel bad sebab I should have just said Hi. Sorry JM!
Flying over the Himalayas, India
Hmm, remember I have an overactive bladder problem in my previous blog entry? Haha. So, aisle seat and quick access to the bathroom would always within my choices for long-haul flight (in this case, 3 hours from Chennai to Delhi and another 1 hour from Delhi to Srinagar). But, not this time. I occupied the window seat on the plane from Chennai to Srinagar, contrary to my usual liking for the aisle seat just because of the view above; Himalayas mountain range, the planet's highest.
The plane that we took (IndiGo) from Chennai to Srinagar stopped over Delhi Airport for couple of minutes before departed again to Srinagar. And within 15 minutes of take off, we were already flying over Himalayas! I was really, really looking forward for this view.
No words to describe, I gasped at its beauty. So so sooo beautiful and Allah is really the Best of Creator. When the pilot announced that we were flying over Himalayas, everyone was looking at the windows, both sides, and stunned. It was soo amazing and Kashmir really won my heart at first sight.
We arrived on a not so typical winter weather, strangely. And Kashmir really greeted us in the loveliest way. It was sooo sunny and bright. But, as we stepped out of Srinagar Airport, a cool gust of wind hit our face, sending a shiver and a smile. I haven't told you that I really love winter time, have I?
We was enthralled, intensely, by the existence of so many Indian soldiers that first welcome us as we stood at the traffic junction just across the Srinagar Airport. But as we moved further, it was not that bad. They might have a very tight security in Kashmir but it was so peaceful nonetheless.
Houseboat Lily of Nageen
As soon as people think of Srinagar, we always see an image of Dal Lake with thousands of houseboats. And the wooden houseboats can only be found in Srinagar, India. Sooo rustic! Well, Kerala also has its own version of houseboats, but let's just not go there right now okay?
Among all other places to visit in Kashmir, stay in houseboats is definitely the most sought after. To be honest, who doesn't want to post a picture on Facebook or Instagram that has a check-in status of "Our houseboat for the next three days!" Hiks. Well, I did that. Haha.
So, during our stay in Srinagar, we stayed at the Houseboat Lily of Nageen owned by Uncle Nabi and his son, Ajaz. Interestingly, Malaysians make up a large proportion of Uncle Nabi's guests. Thanks to Dr. Faizal of Kembara Sang Kancil for his write-up about Houseboat Lily of Nageen. And the trip would not have been memorable if we did not enjoy the hospitality given by Uncle Nabi and his family. Really, highly recommended!
Well, we chose to stay in Nageen Lake instead of the famous Dal Lake just because Nageen Lake is less crowded with people and more serene. And we want to avoid sellers coming to our houseboat too. Haha. Tapi can't be avoided. They still came but not so frequent. Only one seller per night.
Houseboat Lily of Nageen; picture courtesy of Booking.com
These houseboats intrigued me, so did their history. They first came into existence during the colonial time, back in the 19th century, when British expressed their interest in buying land in Kashmir. But a restriction which prevents an outsider from purchasing land in Kashmir didn't allow them to do so. And I think this restriction still applicable until now. So British being British, they were smart and they came out with an idea to make a home in the valley without buying a land.
That's why most of the houseboats in Srinagar (both in Dal Lake and Nageen Lake) are so luxurious because they had the money to make the houseboats as beautiful and as comfortable as possible. Don't be surprised if you try to search the houseboats from any of the search engines, you might find some of them would have rather interesting names like New Buckingham Palace and other well-known cities around the world. Haha. Reason being, to attract tourists. There are hundreds of houseboats to choose from, so choose wisely okay?
Houseboat Lily of Nageen; picture courtesy of Booking.com
The living room and dining room of Houseboat Lily of Nageen; picture courtesy of Booking.com
We were surprised when we entered our houseboat. It was very clean and had a really cosy atmosphere. The living room was a showcase of Kashmiri carpets and embroidery, with chandelier and a massive wooden furniture. Macam dalam cerita Hindustan lama pun ada. Tinggal tak pakai sari je lagi kat dalam tu. Haha. But they do have flat screen TV okay! Banyak pulak tu channel yang ada. Ah-ma-zing.
The bedroom of Houseboat Lily of Nageen; picture courtesy of Booking.com
A carpeted hallway connects two rooms of which accommodate by Fana and her shuben (Room #1) and both Nini and I, we chose Room #2. Konsep mengalah kat situ hahaha sebab obviously Room #1 is bigger and nicer. Khen? Tapi since they both shuben and wife, so its okay. Take it take it.
Anyhow, both rooms equipped with fabulous Kashmiri carpets, carved wooden beds, cabinets, wall details and ceilings, colourful embroidered curtains and bed linens, chandeliers and attached bathroom with standard amenities.
Green for Room #1, and Blue for Room #2; picture courtesy of Booking.com
Part ni memang jenuh, sebab kalau tak, mereput la kau tak mandi. Haha. So so soooo cold, tak tipuuu. Sila take turn okay? But the best part, Houseboat Lily of Nageen considers Wi-Fi as an essential service so you can still communicate with each other. In our case, isu air panas! Hahaha. Plus point kat situ sebab nak update Instagram pun senang. Hiks.
We also got to experience a lot of activities first-hand such as burning wood in a traditional heater to heat up the room. It can get really really cold at night and in the morning in Srinagar but not too worried, the beds are equipped with electric heated blanket. Tapi still sejuk ya ampun. I think most of the time memang dalam duvet sahaja berkuntum sebab too cold to move around the houseboat. Haha. Hibernating.
And actually you can request from houseboat butler to setup the heater stove every night and every morning. We ended up giving a lot of tips to him, sedekah. Because he really is our everything, housekeeper, cook, cleaner, butler semua pun dia buat.
Our Srinagar stay was absolutely perfect. Uncle Nabi warmly welcomed us with Kashmiri tea mixed with Saffron (seriously the best tea I've ever tasted!), biscuits and cakes, and made us feel instantly at home. Rindu teh Kashmir please! Where to find ya? Sedap ngat ngatttt! Can't get any more Kashmiri than that.
To be continued :)
I'm back again, keeping my word and trying to make sure that I write a bit about my trip to India. Hehe.
The Taj Mahal, under construction edition!
So for first timers, there is no doubt that travelling to India can be a major culture shock. You might have heard the rumours, it can be one of the most mentally and physically exhausting. Penat kena tipu satu hal, penat melayan semua orang nak TA YA PA (tips!) pun satu hal jugak. Nothing is free okay in India. You even have to pay even when a guy walks you to your room. Motif? Not that we requested such services pun. Ish.
Anyhow, it gets easier once you get used to India and know what to expect. So the keyword, you have to prepare and expect the unexpected. Haha.
The right preparations can make your first trip to India is memorable for all the right reasons.
Start researching where to go and when to travel
I used to plan my trip extensively over the years but it changed gradually. And now, I prefer to stay flexible and not to over plan. Reason being, you will never know what will be going to happen.
But as I said, this in India. Travelling here can be challenging so I think it's a good idea to at least research where and when you want to visit. And maybe try to plan a rough route around the main attractions.
Introducing from left, Nini, yours truly, Helmi (Fana's shuben) and Fana. Bukan acah-acah naik kuda, tapi betul-betul kena naik! Up and down the hills, mampoo? Siap ada yang terjatuh, hiks. Anyway shooo bushuk all of us bau kudaaa hahaha.
India really is huge and somehow quite difficult to decide where to go, especially if you've got time constraints, which unfortunately most people do have. Tapi being Malaysian, I guess our places of interest would be almost the same. Haha. Kan? Especially for first timers. The Golden Triangle (Agra, Delhi, Jaipur) which is a must, and Kashmir (Srinagar, Sonamarg, Pahalgam, Gulmarg).
Our highlight of the trip is none other but Kashmir and we even decided to visit Kashmir alone at first but ditched that idea pretty quickly. Hello. Kau pergi India, tak pergi Taj Mahal? Haha. Cannot be. One of 7 wonders. Too bad Taj Mahal is currently under refurbishment, If your sole purpose to India is to visit Taj Mahal, then perhaps you should consider coming in a few months time. Kalau tak, merasalah tengok under construction edition sajork.
From my experience I think the best time to visit India is really in the winter (from November to February). Cooler temperatures make travelling more pleasant. And takde bau keti sangat. Hiks. Tapi if you wanted to visit areas macam dalam cerita 3 Idiots (Leh, Ladakh and Manali), the best time to do this is in the summer. Winter would be too cold and they even close the road from October till April FYI. So, plan wisely.
Book your flights
Then of course, book your flight and let the countdown begins.
We initially planned to travel with Malaysia Airlines (#taknakkalah, hiks) and decided to buy our tickets during Matta Fair in September 2015, but the price was super expensive. Mahal nau nau, almost RM1,800! (KUL-DEL-KUL). Lupakan je lah niat tu.
So, Plan B kicked in.
We then met at Gloria Jeans Damansara and searched for the best deals on Skyscanner. The cheapest option was from KL to Chennai and the return ticket was around RM1,000 (luggage and meal inclusive).
Well, not that cheap but considering the ticket was bought super last minute, pejam mata je lah. And we bought our domestic flights within India too. Chennai - Srinagar, Srinagar - Delhi and Delhi - Chennai. Total dalam RM1,000 jugak. So tambah tolak flight tickets je nearly RM2k. Sobs.
But we had a bigggggg problem after that.
Oh no!! Why oh why? Soooo breaking news! Our departure time is less than 2 weeks and now Chennai under water? And was that a plane? Haha. Haih stress.
And they were right.
Book your trains
Please, please, please, book early to secure your seat. The advance booking for Indian train ticket opens 120 days before the date of journey. We booked 2 months in advance but please be mindful that by just having a ticket does not guarantee your journey is confirmed.
Well, this is India. It all depends on the ticket status. And our ticket status shows "RLWL", Remote Location Waiting List! You will get the confirmation whether your status is confirmed or not on the day of the journey itself, to be exact 4 hours before departure time! Crazy. Macam nak pengsan. We were travelling during super peak period, Christmas time okeh! 3 kali naik train, 3 kali berdoa tak sudah. Haha.
And some people macam take advantage of our situation and paksa suruh ambik service dia all inclusive kereta dengan driver and tourist guide siapppp. No way man, aku akan ingat kau Rashid! Rashid Ajanta Hotel, sila berhati-hati dengan mamat ni. Gerammm. Hahaha.
If you need my user name and password for IRCTC website, please email me. I'd be glad to help. Sangat renyah benda ni.
Anyway, we survived. Hehe.
Book your accomodation
Houseboat Lily of Nageen, Srinagar
This one is self-explanatory. Hehe. Basically murah je accommodation kat India ni. Affordable. Pilih je mana nak according to your preferences. Nak dekat train station ke, nak cantek ke nak review okay ke, up to you. Janji boleh tidur je konsepnya. Yang penting kena yaqeen bersih! Haha, Kalau non-yaqeen, amekla hotel lain okay. Hiks.
Get your visa
I did the easiest way but of course I had to pay extra for my visa. Haha. Malas nak baca instructions punya pasal. Hiks. So I went to this address:
G-01, Straits Trading Building
Cubaan meniru style mek Lopa. Hahaha. Till then and good night!