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 :)