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Old 5th December 2009, 10:11   #16
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From Lal Chowk we came back to Boulevard Road and started the local tour by our car. I imagined how beautiful a view the Marine Drive type road along the bank of Dal lake would present when the naked mountains on the other side would be covered with fresh show. We got down at a picturesqe spot an took a few snaps. Bwana enjoyed the walk on the pavement and refused to enter the car when we were done, so we had to spend some more time there.

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The next stop was the Mughal Garden. The garden is huge and overlooks the Dal lake. There would be a great view of the sunset over Dal Lake from there but we chose not to wait. We took a complete round of the lake and proceeded to the Hazratbal Shrine. The Hari Parbat Fort was under the army, we were told, and needed prior permission for a visit. We didn't climb up to that place. We were back in Heemal by 6.45 pm. A total of 30 kms traveled, odometer read 10976.

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For dinner I wanted to search for an eating place which could provide us with Himalayan trouts. The others were not interested in any further expense of energy for trouts. We did have fried fish, but of some other variety, that didn't taste good. We had dinner at Heemal and slept early. Before going to bed, we saw a brilliantly decorated boat, with a band-party expertly playing a Bollywood tune, on a cruise of the lake from our balcony. Perhaps it was a marriage party. I tried to take its photo but miserably failed to capture the scene.

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Tomorrow would be our last day in Kashmir. We were yet to see any of the three must visit places: Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg. We had hoped to cover two of those places but the extra time spent in reaching Srinagar meant we had to choose only one. We came to know that nowhere we would find any snow, which was depressing news. So we chose the easiest of the three, Gulmarg.

Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 5th December 2009 at 10:18.
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Old 5th December 2009, 11:03   #17
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Excellent travelogue and nice pictures. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 5th December 2009, 11:36   #18
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Default Apples, Gulmarg and More Shopping

We set out for Gulmarg early. On the way we noticed the newly built railway lines and stations. The Banihal-Quazigud 11km tunnel will be completed soon and then one in Chennai will also be able to reach the Kashmir valley just by boarding a train. We were looking for a place to have our breakfast when we noticed tourist type vehicles parked on the roadside. There it was, a nondescript eating joint, dishing out oily parathas. But why are the people going to the other side of the road? A closer look and lo, there is that huge apple orchard right near the road. The owner is pulling a fast one by charging a fee of Rs.5 to enter the garden. We entered there too and bought garden fresh apples and pears from the selling point. They tasted like never before. We also bought some dry fruits.

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Gulmarg was not too far from that point. Another 50 rupees had to be paid as parking fees before entering Gulmarg. Once we got down, we were surrounded by people offering mule rides. There was no escape from their persistent pressure and we had to hire 4 of them. We could not risk taking Bwana on one of our laps while on a mule/horse. One of the mule-owners offered to carry him. Bwana was not very averse to him and we started our rather disappointing exploration of Gulmarg.

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We didn't feel like taking the Gondola ride and instead decided to be back in Srinagar early. We entered one of the eateries in the place for lunch. Rather than the food there, it was a handicraft work hung on an wall that roused my interest.

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Here is a view of Nanda Devi (unclear again because of haze). This was the only viewing of ice/snow in the whole trip.
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The U-VA has generally been neglected by the camera. She did her duty superbly however.
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Back from Gulmarg, we reached Lal Chowk for some more shopping by the ladies. All of a sudden there was a huge commotion right in front of us even as we were about to reach a parking lot. I was a little scared and seeing people taking U-turns followed suit immediately. Later I came to know that it was a spot like the Boat Club in Delhi where all sorts of demonstrations and dharnas take place. Problem is that in Kashmir the demonstrators resort to not too peaceful means at the slightest provocation. We found our way to hotel Heemal, parked the car and went out to the shopping places located nearby.

Since our features resemble Bengalis and our accents too are similar to those of the Bongs we were generally mistaken as Bongs too by most shopkeepers. I was amazed to see quite a few Kashmiris speaking fluent Bengali. I could infer that Bengalis visit Srinagar in large numbers and so learning their language was beneficial to the business of Kashmiris. At the time of payment it turned out that the credit card machine went bust. Then myself and bro were given a thrilling bike ride (3 on one bike) to a travel agent's place who accepted the payment on behalf of the shop.

After roaming around for some more time I discovered a Bengali restaurant too and asked the owner if trouts were available. He promised to get them a day later on advance payment. I had no option but to decline the offer. Then we spotted a pastry shop, had patties and chocolate pastries there and got some bread and biscuits packed for the next day. Another round of shopping later we were back in the hotel to have dinner and the last night's sleep in Kashmir.

Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 5th December 2009 at 11:54.
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Old 5th December 2009, 12:56   #19
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tortoisnhare, very neat travelogue and pictures.
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Old 5th December 2009, 13:49   #20
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Default On the Way Back and Amritsar

It was 6.15 am on 30th Sept 2009. We were ready to start our return journey. There was a weird feeling of incompleteness in my mind. I said to myself, "I am coming again to see the frozen Dal lake and the snow clad peaks in Sonamarg and to taste the Himalayan trout in Pahalgam." I noted down the odo reading, 11103, and started the car. "Goodbye hotel Heemal, you were nice." I drove non-stop, barring the occasion of toll payment at lower Munda, till Patnitop. Idea was to cover as much distance as possible during the day because I wanted the others to see on that night, something that I saw 20 years back, the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

On a bag buying spree in Srinagar...
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On the way we sort of had breakfast with the packed bread , biscuits and water and the consensus was that we would have an early lunch at the Patnitop tourist bungalow and chicken must be in the menu. We entered the tourist bungalow paying a 50 Rs. entry fees at the gate at 11 am. The odo read 11287 then. By then it was discovered that we didn't put a bag of sister-in-law in the car which had her favourite pair of shoes. I remembered to have taken the bag out to the lobby of the hotel but nobody cared to put it in the car.

We spent some time in the complex taking photos and relaxing and then entered the restaurant. After making us wait for a long time the waiter announced that the supplies hadn't arrived and they wouldn't be able to provide lunch. We ended up with bread-butter, omelette and coffee at an exorbitant price and in the process lost some precious time. By the time we left Patnitop it was 12.15 pm.

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We were bypassing Jammu this time by taking the Udhampur-Samba road. Bwana got into a foul mood just after passing Udhampur and we were forced to stop on the roadside at about 1.30 pm (Odo reading 11332). From that point my brother took the driving seat and thankfully Bwana didn't trouble us any further. Udhampur-Samba stretch, though at times having very bad roads, presented some breathtaking views. I also found the elevated railway bridges very attractive.

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We could not spot any decent eating place after Samba and extreme hunger forced us to enter a nondescript dhaba which didn't even have a bathroom for use of womenfolk. As a result, the backyards of the dhaba got enriched with liberal sprinklings of urea. The hot and spicy dal and subzi with hard tandoori rotis were tasty but were too much for the ladies. Bwana used a portion of a tandoori roti as biscuit and seemed to like it.

We had last tanked up the U-VA in Srinagar on the way back from Gulmarg. Since we were going to take NH15 from Pathankot the pumps selling petrol at 45 per litre would elude us. We spotted a good looking fuel station at Madhopur and refuelled the car there. The place had better amenities for the women too and our companions made good use of those. We arrived at the bifurcation point at Pathankot towards Amritsar via NH15 at 5.45 pm. The odo read 11461 then. NH15 was a 2-lane highway with moderate traffic with picturesque views of various types of paddy fields.

We arrived at Golden Temple, Amritsar at 8.30 pm and entered the temple even before making any arrangements for the night. We toyed with the idea of availing of the free accommodation provided by the temple authorities but decided against it. We came out from the temple premises and my wife suggested to come again early in the morning to see the view during daytime.

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We found a good enough hotel with AC rooms and parking facility very near the Jallianwala Bagh @ Rs. 900 per room. Took vegetarian dinner (could not find any of those famous chicken joints of Amritsar) and retired for the night.

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Early in the morning of October 1 we entered the Jallianwala Bagh first and then the Golden Temple again. Clicked some photos in both places and then had tea in a roadside joint. The customary shopping was done in a market just next to the Golden Temple.

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This small corridor was the only way out when the firing took place.
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Ornamental fish in the pond. Twenty years ago I had seen normal rohu and katla types there.
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The Akal Takht
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Audiophiles will love them! The Golden Temple is powered by hundreds of Bose Speakers all around.
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Old 5th December 2009, 14:38   #21
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On 01 October we began our journey back to Gurgaon at 9.00 am from Amritsar (odo at 11566). The chicken meal had still eluded us and we were determined to have it in our lunch plate this time. We reached Jallundhar in very quick time. That stretch of NH1 from Amritsar turned out to be one of the smoothest and with the least amount of traffic. Up until Khanna we could not spot any dhaba/restaurant who would provide non-veg meal. We were all hungry but very adamant about the chicken. Vaishno, shakahari etc continued to greet us in regular intervals but we kept ignoring them.

Finally, at a place called Sirhind we entered the Sahil Motel and we did not face any more disappointment. The time was around 1.15 pm and the odo read 11766 then. The first full tandoori chicken vanished in no time. While ordering the second the waiter announced that at the same price they could serve white tandoori chicken which would be fresher and tastier but would take a few minutes more. We ordered the white variety and it was one of the best tandoori chickens I have had.

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The rest of the journey was uneventfull and inspite of a never ending traffic jam and low fuel warnings from Ashram onwards we safely reached a petrol pump at Green Park to tank up. We were back at Sec.15 GGN at 9 pm.

The final odo reading was 12067, i.e. the total distance covered during the trip was 2073 kms. By a rough estimate the mileage per litre returned by the U-VA was an impressive 15.7 kilometers (with 90% AC and generous bouts of driving in 3rd gear). The ergonomics of the car seemed to be just right as nobody felt any back pains or any other discomfort related to long rides. In other words, I was mighty impressed by her.

After some rest on the Gandhi Jayanti day and some more shopping in Sarojini Nagar Market in the evening we packed our bags again for the return flight next day.

Bro dropped us at the airport on that day. The departure lounge of Delhi airport dazzled like some place abroad and I was especially impressed by the squeaky clean urinal/bathroom. We were back home in Guwahati by 5.30 pm.

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Old 5th December 2009, 19:04   #22
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Nice travelogue and pictures.
Hey, I too stayed in that JKTDC place in Patnitop on our recent Leh expedition led by HVK.
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Old 5th December 2009, 19:34   #23
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Quote:
Soon it was time for paying another toll of Rs.70, this time for entry into
the Kashmir valley (at Lower Munda). It was already 4.25 pm there and I took the driving seat once again from that point. Soon enough we were in the plains
The toll of Rs 70 you paid in Lakhanpur is the only toll, you have to only show the ticket at the second toll gate in Qazigund, you do not have to pay again. They tried to see me the toll ticket too, but I insisted that I had already paid, so they said OK and let me go. Needless to say, the toll gates at both the places, Lakhanpur and Qazigund, are a mess.


Quote:
Here is a view of Nanda Devi (unclear again because of haze).
That was Nanga Parbhat, so called because there is no snow on its steep rocky slopes. It is in the Karakoram Range in POK, close to the K2. Nanga Parbhat is among the top 10 peaks of the world.
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Old 5th December 2009, 19:51   #24
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@aroop, akas_chauhan, snarolikar, phamilyman, pulsar56, MX6, rk_sans, sumannandy, dwarka, laluks

Thank you all for your encouraging remarks.

@laluks
I am a big fan of your photography.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The toll of Rs 70 you paid in Lakhanpur is the only toll, you have to only show the ticket at the second toll gate in Qazigund, you do not have to pay again. They tried to see me the toll ticket too, but I insisted that I had already paid, so they said OK and let me go. Needless to say, the toll gates at both the places, Lakhanpur and Qazigund, are a mess.
HVK, there is an option in the Lakhanpur post to pay Rs. 140 which takes care of both Jammu and Kashmir valley. I was however given the Rs. 70 ticket there because of some misunderstanding and when I told them that I was going to Srinagar it was explained to me that another Rs.70 would be realised in the L. Munda post.

Quote:
That was Nanga Parbhat, so called because there is no snow on its steep rocky slopes. It is in the Karakoram Range in POK, close to the K2. Nanga Parbhat is among the top 10 peaks of the world.
Oops, my mistake. Thanks for the correction. And thanks again for the way you inspire us to travel.

Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 5th December 2009 at 19:55.
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Old 5th December 2009, 20:05   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tortoiseNhare View Post
HVK, there is an option in the Lakhanpur post to pay Rs. 140 which takes care of both Jammu and Kashmir valley. I was however given the Rs. 70 ticket there because of some misunderstanding and when I told them that I was going to Srinagar it was explained to me that another Rs.70 would be realised in the L. Munda post.
I just realised after you pointed out, that you had paid only part of the toll (Rs 70). In Sep 09, the full toll was only Rs 130, looks like they have raised it to Rs 140.

Time they 4-laned the Jammu-Srinagar highway under the NS corridor project - don't see any construction activity going on.

When we took the Samba-Udhampur highway, it was in good conditions, sad that it has cracked up.
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Old 5th December 2009, 20:09   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
In Sep 09, the full toll was only Rs 130
Hey, 130 it was! Sorry.

Last edited by tortoiseNhare : 5th December 2009 at 20:10.
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Old 5th December 2009, 22:41   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tortoiseNhare View Post
@laluks
I am a big fan of your photography.
Thanks tortoiseNhare, for the kind words.
You can see more of it in my recent ooty travelogue

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Originally Posted by tortoiseNhare View Post
HVK,
......
And thanks again for the way you inspire us to travel.
You bet!
Recently I joined HVK fan club on face book
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Old 7th December 2009, 16:53   #28
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nice pics. excellent coverage, seemed like a journo.

So much you paid in total ?
Stay ?
Toll ?
Petrol ?

I too am intending to go there Dec end in my Santro, any specific advice ? Is this good season to go ? Can I see snow ?
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Old 7th December 2009, 19:47   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanwaramit View Post
nice pics. excellent coverage, seemed like a journo.
Thanks a lot indeed.

Quote:
So much you paid in total ?
Stay ?
Toll ?
Petrol ?
Stay
(i) Rs.900 for one AC room + 2 extra beds + car parking in Vaishnavi Dham Jammu (all four adults + kid accommodated in one room, bedbugs were not part of the deal!)
(ii) Rs. 1250 per room per day in Heemal Hotel of JKTDC. Took two rooms for 3 nights (ample parking within the campus; extremely good deal)
(iii) Rs. 900 per room (with AC) in Amritsar at a place near Jallianwala Bagh on our way back. Took two rooms for one night (parking in hotel basement).

Toll
Panipat=Rs.20x2, Karnal=Rs.78x2, Shambhu=Rs.47x2, Ladowal=Rs.80x2, Lakhanpur=Rs.70x2, Lower Munda=Rs.70x2. In addition, many JKTDC tourist resorts (Patnitop, Gulmarg for example) charge a Rs.50 entry/parking fees.

Petrol

A Santro is expected to be more frugal than the U-VA. Our intake:
Rs.1800 at GGN, Rs.1500 at Pathankot, Rs. 1500 in Srinagar and Rs. 1500 at Madhopur.
The tankful at Madhopur (near Pathankot) was almost empty when we arrived at a filling station at Green Park, DLI. Note that Petrol is costlier in Punjab, even more than in J&K.

Quote:
I too am intending to go there Dec end in my Santro, any specific advice ? Is this good season to go ? Can I see snow ?
We were told that it starts snowing from November. I don't have much idea about what it would be like to drive in snow. To see all the places of interest you must however reserve a minimum of 5 days excluding the time you would spend driving to Kashmir and Back.
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