Kashmir travelogue 2: Staying in a houseboat

Read part 1 of the travelogue here!

We stayed in a houseboat on the Dal Lake for the last 2 days of our Kashmir trip, and it was a fantastic experience.

Houseboats in Kashmir are so very different from the ones in Kerala. I have stayed in both, and have loved both experiences, though they are drastically different.

In Kashmir, houseboats are located in the interior parts of the Dal Lake, and they are stationary. Unlike their Kerala counterparts, they do not ply on the waters of the lake. There are ghats built all along the Dal Lake, from where you can board shikaras to take you to the houseboats. The shikara ride from one of these ghats to our houseboat gave us a rough idea of what life on the Dal Lake is like – more about that later.

So, we reached our houseboat, and both of us were instantly charmed. It looked – as do all houseboats on the Dal Lake – out of an old Hindi movie.

The shikara-wallah secured the shikara to the gangplank with a bit of rope, and we walked into the houseboat.

Kashmir houseboats are quite different from the ones in Kerala in terms of appearance as well. The Kerala ones are fish-shaped and structured out of various parts of the coconut tree, while the ones in Kashmir are made largely out of walnut wood and look more like houses than boats. There are huge poles that hold the houseboat firm in the waters of the lake.

The next picture is that of the patio of our houseboat – a sort of lounging area that, we saw, people commonly used to drink or eat snacks. We made maximum use of the patio to gaze out at the beautiful Dal Lake and see how it looked by early morning, noon, evening and night. 🙂

From the patio, we could admire the pretty flowers that adorned the gangplank…

…. and gape at the view in front of us…

…. and say hello to our morning visitors, some of whom came in pairs….

…. some single, and some in droves.

Each morning, we had the pleasure of feeding the birds – they are so friendly, they come right up to you. They are used to visitors feeding them, I think; they were not scared of us one bit. 🙂

It has been such a LONG time since I saw a sparrow in Bangalore that I was thrilled to spot groups of them flying into the houseboat.

Life in a houseboat always enchants us, and it did this time around as well. It is so peaceful, calm and relaxing to stay on a houseboat – with the helper and the cook taking care of every single thing for you. Well, that would happen if we stayed at a hotel as well, but we find staying on a houseboat more therapeutic and different.

We found that a lot of people booked their stay on a houseboat, checked in by morning, freshened up and then left for sight-seeing, only to return late in the night for dinner at the houseboat. Both of us are against doing that – we would rather stay in the houseboat the entire day, not go anywhere, and soak in the life around us.

Of course, I cannot not mention here the number of vendors who row their small country boats to the houseboats to sell their wares – everything from toothpaste and fruits to flower seeds and shawls is available via this mode of transport. It was a tad disturbing, but charming nonetheless. 🙂

The next picture is of the living room of the houseboat. It was so classy and regal that a ‘Wow!’ escaped my lips as soon as we entered. It was decided then and there that we were not getting out of the houseboat for a full 2 days, and not going out anywhere except for a shikara ride at the most.

Here is a close-up of the lilies that were so beautifully arranged in a vase in the centre of the room. The vase is papier-mache, one of the most popular handicrafts of Kashmir.

That there is the dining room. I totally fell in love with it – the carpet, the chandelier, the ornately carved chairs, et al. And the cook made some yummylicious food. We had our first taste of Kashmiri Dum Aloo here, and instantly became victims of it. 🙂

That is the bedroom, royal-looking pristine white sheets, gauzy curtains, carpets, dressing table and all! Love happened immediately. 🙂

Each houseboat has 2 or 3 bedrooms, which are let out to different families. We had the houseboat entirely to ourselves for a day and a half, and another family moved into the other two bedrooms the last day of our stay. We were not very comfortable with the arrangement – it feels a little awkward, like living with strangers – and would have preferred that all the rooms in the houseboat are let out to one single family. Anyways, it was a fun experience all right. 🙂

 

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41 thoughts on “Kashmir travelogue 2: Staying in a houseboat

  1. I am at loss of words. What a beautiful travalogue. I am planning a Kashmir trip Sept end. Do you think it would be a good time? And would you mind helping me out with the hotels you stayed and their reviews. The houseboat looks mindblowing.Which one is this? I have too many questions but a blog comment is not the right place,. Can you share your itinery at srividya.janakiraman@gmail.com

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      1. Thank you so much Girlnextdoor. The houseboat is so beautiful. And I must say its a neat writeup.
        Will be waiting for your email 🙂

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    1. @Jas

      Yes, there were hordes of sparrows near our boathouse. I was myself stunned to see them. I haven’t spotted them anywhere in Bangalore except for the international airport. 😦 I hope they aren’t going to become an extinct race. 😦

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  2. Lovely Lovely lovely pics 🙂
    I can only imagine how beautiful the experience must be staying in a boat house in the Dal lake so close to nature 🙂
    Thanks to you, I will certainly include the boat house experience when we plan a trip to Kashmir 🙂

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  3. i am taking notes, Thanks for the tips 🙂
    The houseboat is so regal and the sone pe suhaga is that it is in Dal lake, you can actually hang out in patio and see the dal lake from there 🙂

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    1. @Techie2mom

      I think only the Dal Lake in Kashmir has houseboats, though I am not sure. 🙂

      Yes, it is an amazing feeling to sit out on the patio, gaze out at the pretty Dal, and share some snacks with fluffy, feathery friends. 🙂

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  4. That is a lovely set of pictures and so wise of you to stay put there for 2 days. It must have been a totally memorable experience na? Sometimes you need to relax even when on holdiays. Hubby feels we shud visit as many places as possible and I am of the view that we shud sit & absorb the beauty of a place 🙂

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    1. @Smita

      We had had enough strenous journeys in the first leg of our journey, so we just wanted to relax when we got to the houseboat. Yes, it was a lovely experience – created loads of memories that will stay with us forever. 🙂

      Thankfully, the OH and I both are of the opinion that travel should not be rushed, sometimes much to the chagrin of the people travelling with us. 🙂

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  5. beautiful pics, when my parents went, they went as a group, and stayed for only one day in the lake boat house, luckily they had their friends staying with them, not the strangers..

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  6. at loss of words!!! breathtakingly beautiful 🙂

    completely mesmerized with the beauty of the houseboat and its surroundings 🙂

    Thanks for sharing such great pics, I am more tempted to plan a trip to Kashmir right away! 😀

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  7. Oh, my goodness, that houseboat is incredible! I would have been agog too. Especially the porch… and that living room… and I can’t believe that vase was paper mache. Gorgeous! What a magnificent place to stay.

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  8. I am absolutely inside the screen trying to get a feel of it all. Looks heavenly. I really want to go there TGND 🙂 Haven’t been in a houseboat in Kerala though I have been in Kerala for an entire week 😦
    Loved reading it. Loved the photos. I would never go to any place for sight seeing whatsoever. I’d just book one week in the boat and ogle at the intricate designs, stare at the sparrows in disbelief, feed the birds and cuddle up with K and maybe a nice book occassionally. Sigh!

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  9. unfortunately I am one of those who checked in the morning and came back for dinner at night during our houseboat stay. I went with friends through a popular tours and travel group before marriage, so you can imagine the itinerary 🙂
    Nevertheless, the houseboat stirred in all the emotions that you went through and I was equally overawed by the sheer elegance of the house that was situated amidst such a divine landscape.
    Beautiful pics and narration, as usual.

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    1. @Uma

      Thank you, Uma. 🙂

      I can imagine what your itinerary would have been like. We had also booked a package tour, and our schedule was entirely fixed by them. However, we had told them in advance that we wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of places less than the average tourist does, but we wouldn’t want to rush through the tour.

      The first few days of our tour were a tad hectic too, as we were travelling to Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam. The last 2 days, we were booked in a houseboat, and we wanted to relax and shed off all the stress before we went back to our routine lives in Bangalore.

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  10. This was a houseboat?? If I forget that piece of information, this looks like a royal old-timers palace..with such fine carvings and arrangements, I for one would surely forget going out 🙂

    Loved this piece!

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