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. 🙂