Kashmir Houseboat- one of the main tourist attractions
Going to Kashmir and not staying at a houseboat is almost like going to Italy and not having a pizza or to Turkey and not seeing a belly dance. Since the time we had planned the tour, stay at a Kashmir Houseboat was fixed and we lined it up on the last day of the tour after we returned back from Gulmarg. The lunch was at Ahdoos as we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of experiencing the famous food joint and the bakery. To our dismay, the bakery and the restaurant had then split between two brothers. After the not so significant lunch, we headed towards the famous Kashmir Houseboat stay.
The first impression of a Kashmir Houseboat
I must say a disclaimer here that we were heading towards the end of our journey and the next morning we were flying back to Kolkata. Madhushree and I had already started having the feeling of a Sunday afternoon with Monday coming in, cannot say about Tugga as he definitely could not express his feelings in words. We planned to stay at a boat at Nigin Lake. The two main places where one can stay in the houseboats are either Dal Lake or Nigin Lake. We crossed the lake by a shikara to reach the Houseboat.
Difference between a Kerala Houseboat and a Kashmir Houseboat.
I have stayed in a Kerala house boat earlier and must say that the experience wasn’t a smooth one either. The major difference between the both is in the mobility and as the Kerala Houseboat will sail through the day and will anchor in the night, the Kashmir Houseboat remains stationary all through. This is one of the primary reason why I consider the Kashmir houseboat stay over rated. However, other than the inner wooden carvings and and design, more or less the concept remains the same.
Inside the Kashmir Houseboat
Just as hotel classifications, there are different categories of Houseboats in Kashmir too. Luxurious one, a middle category and a category beneath that and so on and so forth. The agents do a booking on the basis on equivalent to 4 star or 3 star or 5 star category. We believed we had booked the luxurious one only as they say the main difference lies in the ammenities of the toilets and the furnitures used and ours one had a bathtub. Now, in freezing cold of Kashmir, will that bathtub ever get used? We entered the houseboat from the back entrance after our luggages were neatly unloaded on the other side of the Nigin Lake. All the house boats would have a sitting room/ dining room, a nice balcony in the front, a pantry and 3 or more rooms with attached bathrooms. I don’t have pictures to substantiate some of these as the internal lighting was very dim as the power source was a generator. We faced some problems in getting ample power plug points to charge the mobile phones. By the time we settled down, the natural day light was also fading out and however could manage few shots in the balcony and the nice wooden carvings along the perimeter of the guard in the balcony. We got served the first round of Kahva.
The evening and Night
It gets tough to manage a kid in a low lit house with no entertainment at all and blame it on us the parents of this age or otherwise, to keep them confined between 2 rooms and expect that they would get stuck to the drawing book or story book is a tall ask. We spent some time in the living area and by 7 / 7.30, we asked for the dinner as we had to wake up early next morning.
Food in Kashmir House boat
There will be a personal attendant who is the defacto caretaker of the houseboat and he will arrange everything for you. There are umpteen number of Kahva servings as and when needed. We had an early dinner which had sheek kebab, roti and we had asked for a yellow dal fry. The food was home cooked and comforting in taste. The Kashmir houseboat also offers breakfast in the morning which we got packed and it was sandwich and eggs.
There is no heater in houseboats of Kashmir
We realised this for the first time when we called it a day and went to our room. There is no electric heater in the room and after almost 30 years I experienced a hot water bag. The story behind this goes as follows – Few years back, a couple of Kashmir Houseboats got burnt completely due to a malfunctioning electric room heater and since then it has been banned. Now the problem is the hot water bags were rationed and one per head so we got 2 and all went for Tugga’s comfort.
Why I think a stay at the Kashmir Houseboat is overrated
- The fact that this is stationary, there is no thrill of enjoying nature and exploring the unknown
- Some may say that the beauty of Kashmir and Dal Lake or Nigin Lake is such that you can enjoy this but imagine a situation where you have gone to visit a place and you are stationary in front of a window for more than 24 hours. Won’t you like to go out and explore more outside?
- There is an option of doing that here by boats which can be pre booked and one can take you for an early morning ride to the vegetable market which I missed
- If that needs to be done then why waste your time holed up inside a house? Remember there is no entertainment and not even a TV
- If you are with a group and have the entire houseboat to yourself, then it’s different or else it gets boring and confined to 2 rooms for 24 hours
- For children, it gets even trickier as they almost have nothing to do and cannot be left alone to play in the balcony (extension of the houseboat) also
Despite all of the above, experiencing a Kashmir House boat is necessary or else your vacation will remain incomplete. Kashmir houseboats can be booked before hand or once reaching there almost every hotel will have a provision for the same.
In case this is turning out to be a post which has got all negativity punched in against houseboats then look at these pictures. On a lonely night these lights coming from houseboats are like small beads of shining pearls. To see this I can visit the place once again
Now before you end the reading this and leave with a bitter after taste, I will like to mention something. The picture of Dal Lake and Nigeen lake is incomplete without HouseBoats. They complete the picture and are like an ornament on Dal Lake. Day or night the picturesque Houseboats complete the picture and no matter what happens inside the Kashmir Houseboats, for the sake that these earn livelihood for lots of people, hence I would request you to try them once for sure.
In case you agree or disagree to my Point of view, drop in a comment?