Although I am working with VDX.TV, I do a lot of pet projects in my spare time. It can include anything. In these works, I gain a lot of experience. Links to such recent experiences are given below.
29-09-2023 – 06-10-2023
I visited Kashmir with my parents and my sister after attending the Dubai Summit. Our journey started in Srinagar and ended in Srinagar. We arrived in Srinagar quite late on the 29th of September. We had booked a packaged tour for our trip, so our driver was waiting for us at Srinagar Airport, and he took us directly to the hotel. We spent four days in Srinagar, and our first day began on the 30th of September.
Day 1: Local sight seeing at Srinagar
On Day 1, we began by visiting the Shankaracharya Temple. Our driver brought us to the temple’s base, from where we had to climb approximately 250 stairs to reach the hilltop Hindu temple. The surroundings exuded a sense of holiness. Besides the spiritual experience, this site also offered breathtaking views of Srinagar, including the Jhelum River and the Dal Lake, although the fog obscured some of the best views.
Srinagar, often referred to as the ‘City of Gardens,’ boasts many beautiful gardens. During our visit, we explored a few of them, including Parimahal, Chashma Shahi Garden, Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden, and Nishat Garden.
Parimahal is a multi-level garden built on a mountain slope, offering spectacular views.
Chashma Shahi, although not as expansive, is a charming garden located close to the Raj Bhavan. The only downside is that cell reception is quite poor in this area.
After a quick lunch, we visited Shalimar Bagh, which was partly under construction during our visit. Typically, it is known for its fountains and colorful flowers.
Nishat Garden, the largest among the gardens, was the final stop. It’s a magnificent garden, and to explore it fully, we had to walk approximately a kilometer from one end to the other. The garden features a line of active fountains that run its entire length. While not all of them are visible from the back due to its vast size and elevation, this garden is an absolute must-visit.
Day 2: Visit to Sonemarg, Zero point
On the following day, we embarked on a journey to Sonamarg, Zero Point, which is approximately 60 kilometers from Srinagar. The road leading to Sonamarg is in good condition and actually extends all the way to Kargil. However, rental cars are not permitted to go beyond Sonamarg due to local policies. To proceed to Zero Point, you have to negotiate and pay a significantly higher price—4 to 6 times the original rate—to the local drivers. Regrettably, the local drivers and people we encountered displayed extreme impoliteness and rudeness, which cast a shadow on our overall experience. Despite this, we did manage to find a few beautiful views along the way.
Upon reaching Zero Point, the atmosphere improved significantly. We enjoyed our time there until the driver falsely accused us of exceeding our allotted time and shouted at us.
At the end of the day, we returned to Srinagar.
Day 3: Trip to Doodhpathri
On Monday, we visited Doodhpathri, which is known for its milky-white water. However, local authorities don’t allow cars to go to the actual location, and visitors are required to take ponies or ATVs. Unfortunately, our driver didn’t inform us that it’s not very far, and you can easily walk there. Instead, they told us it was a 12-kilometer journey when, in reality, it’s just around a kilometer, with most of it being paved road. Nevertheless, we took a pony ride and crossed through some fields, capturing some wonderful photos.
Doodhpathri itself is a beautiful place, and it’s recommended to explore it on foot as far as you can, rather than relying on a pony ride or any other form of transportation.
Day 4: The Gondolaride
The following morning, we checked out from our hotel and headed to Gulmarg. Gulmarg has certain local policies in place that restrict tourists. For instance, they don’t allow tourists to enter the town without a hotel booking. Furthermore, the gondola ride is almost 2 kilometers from the town’s entrance, making it necessary for visitors to use expensive local ponies or ATVs. Despite these restrictions, Gulmarg is a truly lovely place, boasting a vast green valley.
After checking in at our hotel and freshening up, we made our way to the Gondola, which was conveniently close to our hotel. The gondola ride was truly magnificent.
The ride to Phase I took around 7 minutes, following a 20-minute wait in line. Phase I was an incredible experience, although Phase II and the chair lift were closed during our visit. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed the valley, which offered a sense of peace and serenity.
In the evening, we decided to explore the area on foot, despite local insistence on hiring a pony or ATV. Walking around was a delightful experience. The next morning, our driver took us to a Shiva temple located at the end of the valley. The view of the valley from the temple was nothing short of spectacular.
Day 5: Pahelgam
On the fifth day, we departed for Pahalgam, which is located opposite to Gulmarg. The journey took nearly 5 hours, and we made one stop to buy some walnuts. By the time we arrived in Pahalgam, we were quite hungry, so we had lunch first.
After a satisfying lunch in Pahalgam, we headed to see Baisaran Valley, often referred to as ‘Mini Switzerland.’ There’s no proper road to the Baisaran Valley (in fact, the road is still under construction). The only way to reach it is either by pony or on foot. The distance is relatively short, about one kilometer, but the terrain is quite steep. You have to ascend about 300 meters to reach Baisaran Valley. We chose to walk, and it took us around 40 minutes. However, if you decide to walk, you may encounter some taunting from locals, but the trek is relatively simple if you’ve had any prior trekking experience.
Baisaran Valley itself is lovely, with considerable size and fencing. You can spend some time there and engage in local activities. However, I didn’t enjoy it as much because it felt somewhat artificial. Don’t get me wrong—the natural hills are real, but the valley has been specifically cleaned and maintained for tourists. Nonetheless, it’s worth visiting at least once, and we spent about half an hour there. By the time we descended, it was evening and getting dark.
Our driver then took us to our hotel, which was just okay—nothing particularly special about it. The following day, we checked out and visited two other attractions, Aru Valley and Betaab Valley. While both were good, they had a somewhat artificial feel, similar to Baisaran Valley. Personally, I didn’t enjoy them much.
Day 6: Dal Lake
After visiting the local valleys, we returned to Srinagar for our final adventure—a night on an infamous houseboat. On our way, we made a stop at an apple garden where we purchased some apples. While the view was truly breathtaking, the apples themselves weren’t that impressive. We could easily find better apples at our local market, but these were fresh.
Upon arriving in Srinagar, we had a prebooked Shikara ride on Dal Lake for an hour. The highlight of Dal Lake was undoubtedly the ride itself—everything else paled in comparison.
The following morning, we started very early as our flight was scheduled for the early morning. Overall, our trip to Kashmir was a bittersweet experience, with some unexpected disappointments. I’m not sure if I’d return, but I have a fondness for Sikkim and might revisit it someday. I’m starting to miss Sikkim.