Staying on a Houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir

Posted by on Nov 5, 2012 in Blog, India | 1 comment

Dates of travel: 10/31 – 11/4/2012

Jammu & Kashmir is the northern-most state in India. We had been reading a lot about its beautiful mountains and friendly people. Plus, again we were excited about cooler temperatures. To get there we took a 12-hour train from Delhi to Jammu and then a 10 hour bus ride to Srinagar, a mountain town with a lake full of house boats. We decided to take the sleeper train since this way time would go by faster. The train station as well as the train was super crowded. We had 4 other people sleep with us in the same compartment and there were 3 beds stacked on top of each other. It looked a little bit like a very small jail cell, but luckily we had a nice family in the compartment with us and we were able to get good sleep during the night.

Sleeping on the Train

Sleeping on the Train

Station Platform in Jammu

Station Platform in Jammu

When we reached Jammu train station, we were immediately bombarded with offers for packages of taxi rides up to Srinagar and houseboat stays. Since the price was good and the pictures of the house boat looked great as well, we agreed on one of the offers and soon we found ourselves in a shared taxi with another Indian couple up to Srinagar.

The taxi ride was a terrible experience. The road was winding its way up into the mountains and as if there wasn’t enough swirling going on with that, the driver needed to constantly overtake everyone in front of him no matter if we were going in a steep curve or not. There were no seat belts of course, and not only did we feel very unsafe, but the continuous breaking and speeding up made us feel queasy. We stopped at a road-side lunch place and had rice and lentils like everyone else before embarking on the last 4 hours of the ride. I started feeling very sick soon after. To make things worse, the Indian lady in the car next to me started burping with her mouth open which filled the car with half-digested food smell. When we finally reached Srinagar I was so miserable and then we still had to cross the lake to get to our houseboat. Still, I stayed strong and made it to our room on the boat. I don’t want to describe the horror that went on in the bathroom that night.

The next morning I didn’t feel much better. The owner of the houseboat took us aside and gave us his sales spiel of all the wonderful tours he could take us on. I told him that I was very sick and therefore didn’t want to go on any tours. We decided to stay on the boat for another day to make him happy even though the price was much higher than our first night. That was a mistake. The food was absolutely terrible and we had no place to go for alternatives. For lunch and dinner we got plain rice with an oddly seasoned lentil & vegetable mix. It was the exact same for each meal and it looked like they just reheated what we didn’t finish the day before. For breakfast we got an omelet that was half egg and half burned grease. Luckily the toast and rice were edible. It was difficult because the owner seemed so proud of his food and we didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t. For the second day we just ordered rice and toast for all the meals “because we were sick” and since we had paid for full board, we asked if we could use their little rowing boat for two hours to explore the lake. Unfortunately, there must have been a misunderstanding and when we were leaving the owner insisted that we pay him $18 for using his boat. That was an outrageous price. We could have gotten a day-long private tour for that money.

Woman paddling a Shikara boat on Dal Lake

Woman paddling a Shikara boat on Dal Lake

Dal Lake

Dal Lake

Eric paddling us around non Dal Lake

Eric paddling us around non Dal Lake

Wakeboarding - Indian Style!

Wakeboarding – Indian Style!

Houseboat Storefronts on Dal Lake

Houseboat Storefronts on Dal Lake

In Good Faith - The houseboat we stayed on.

In Good Faith – The houseboat we stayed on.

Having "Breakfast" on the Houseboat

Having “Breakfast” on the Houseboat

To be honest, we weren’t that impressed with the view and countryside in Kashmir. Dal lake was dirty and had a ton of trash floating in it and we couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains because of the smog. It might be prettier in the summertime, but because of the cold season people were burning trash everywhere to keep themselves warm.

Once we left the boat, we were lucky to meet Julie, a kind man who offered us to stay at his guesthouse by the lake. By that time we both were sick and ended up spending three days in bed. We took turns taking short walks into town to pick up supplies and medicine. When it was my turn I couldn’t take a step without being stopped by an Indian wanting to talk to me or sell me something. I just wanted to get a few items and then get back to bed. I had to keep telling them “Please, just leave me alone”.

Once I started feeling a bit better it was time to leave Kashmir and we took another sleeper train to Rishikesh, a town know as yoga capital of the world.

All India posts:
Part 1 – A long day – Crossing the border into India
Part 2 – Cycling in India 
Part 3 – Feeling like Superstars
Part 4 – A super-cheap amusement park? Heck yes!
Part 5 – Dussehra Festival
Part 6 – Agra and the Taj Mahal
Part 7 – Delhi
Part 8 – Staying on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir
Part 9 – Yoga in Rishikesh   &   Leaving India
Final Part – I.N.D.I.A. – I will never do it again! 

One Comment

  1. Oh, yuck. I got sick just thinking about that taxi ride. Sounds like one of those experiences that make the other ones so much better. Brave souls, ye be!