India is a country with many faces, you can find anything you are looking for there. This being said, India is definitely the place to go if you want to find your inner peace. As 90s kids, we grew up with depressing stories and horrifying pictures of the war over Kashmir in the news, it can be challenging to imagine the hidden beauty of this part of the world. Since the moment I landed in Kashmir, I was amazed by how much beauty and tranquility can be taken for granted, and go unnoticed without many people actually getting to see it.
Jammu and Kashmir are the Indian administered parts of the land. The city of Srinagar us the capital of this state, and it’s mostly famous for the breathtaking nature and the redundancy of lakes. The Dal lake is one of the biggest there, and like all the others, its full of lake houses that have been built during the time of the British occupation for the British to stay there. Kashmiri people have later taken them as homes, and most of them are rented to tourists and visitors. Some of them are very well kept, and staying on that houseboat is an experience in itself.
The Water Action
Since Srinagar is very quit, and the city sleeps very early, It is during the daytime when all of the exploration takes place. The vegetable market stars after dawn, which happens to be in the water with vendors showcasing their products on boats. It is one of the coolest things you will get to do, just take a Shikara (water taxi, which is the most popular transportation in Srinagar) and wonder around the market. You can also take the Shikara to the city itself, and to visit the local artisan workshops which are magical themselves with all their Kashmiri wool and handicrafts.
The Dramatic Bollywood Scenery
I will never forget the hours I sat there enjoying the scenery of the lake and the mountains with an atmosphere so calm, you can actually hear the sound of the light rain drops on the water. A sense of tranquility and peacefulness that I have never felt before, just as I sat on the porch of the boat daily enjoying my sunrises and sunsets. The only thing that interrupts is the Safron (Zaafran) and handicraft vendors coming on their boats to sell you their stuff, which I recommend you to buy as they are extremely cheap and of good quality.
Once, I decided to have a typical dinner outside the boathouse (which is not that common since the whole city has 2 or 3 restaurants only), I was sitting there having a hard-time communicating with the staff as they didn’t understand English so well, and out of the blue comes this middle aged man offering to help. It was a very nice gesture I have to say, what was surprising is that after some minutes he approached me again offering to show me around the city. As a single female traveler the first thing I should have done was to refuse but something made me go along with it and I decided to go with him. We get out of the restaurant and find his wife and 3 kids were with him, the nice little family took me in their car and showed me every little unusual inch of the city (also paying for the entry tickets, which was very thoughtful), they took me back to their house in the evening for some tea. And just like that, they turned me from a stranger to a part of their family, sharing their food and drinks, and memories if I may add (the grandfather was there, and he kept telling me old stories of the place). This is how typical Kashmiris behave, it’s very rare to find this warmth in some big cosmopolitan city.
The Jewel of India
Discovering the north of India should make your bucket list. Getting there is not as hard as you would think. A ticket to Mumbai on Oman-Air for instance can cost a little more than 3,000 EGP and taking internal flights within the country is very cheap. Also the living costs won’t cost you much since the Egyptian pound costs around eight Rupees. I remember when I was walking around, one of the residents was telling me about a Kashmiri poet who was famous for his saying, describing Kashmir: “Heaven is this and this and this”. I will never forget this phrase, as for me every part in Kashmir, whether places or people, was in fact an unseen heaven..