Double room with breakfast: Rs.1000
When our bus arrived at the Tourist Information Center station, there came a number of men asking where we’re heading, if we need a hotel or houseboat or rickshaw etc. Some even offered houseboat at Rs. 500, which is very cheap compared to what I’ve agreed with Ambassador Houseboat via email. I told them we already booked our houseboat, and mentioning Mr Husam of Ambassador, suddenly a guy gave a signal that Mr Husam is around here.
Obviously the houseboat owners know each other at this small town. To our surprise, Mr Husam appeared from those bunch of men, and said he was passing by the station and since he knew that we would arrive to Srinagar today, he thought of stopping. Despite that I didnt contact him even before we left for India, it seems our booking is kept firm. We took rickshaw with him towards the Dal Gate. The Dal Lake is practically a number of gates to jetty to take shikara or boat crossing the lake to houseboats. To go to Ambassador Houseboat, you need to reach Gate No.2. Mr Husam’s son came to pick us with their private boat to bring us to our room. Watch the short video below:
Houseboats in Dal Lake mostly come in similar shapes, only maybe what differs from one to another is the interior and furnishing. There is a balcony before you enter the main door, here you can sit while watching the Dal Lake and shikara/boats passing by. The houseboats here are either mostly hotels/guesthouse for tourists (you can notice their signboards) or residential houseboat – meaning, people live here. Mr Husam and his family lives in another houseboat next to his ‘hotel’ houseboat. The hotel houseboat, where we live in, is significantly decorative to give a Kashmiri style warm welcome to the tourist.
We are so impressed by its deco, the living room was huge with a number of sofa enough to equip a group of people. This houseboat anyhow, only have 2 rooms – one double room (one queen bed, where we’re staying) and another room with two single beds. Both come with private bathroom and toilet. Currently there’s nobody at the other room so we can make the whole houseboat for ourselves! :D
After the living room there’s another common area with dining table, a PC (where we can use internet for free!), fridge, kitchenette (you can use electric kettle to make tea). Electricity in the houseboat is somehow limited (it makes sense because this is located far in the center of the lake) and the PC especially relies on generator for its power. But it’s still better than none.
The whole area look elegantly pretty with wooden ceiling and furniture, not forgotten traditional Kashmiri carpets. Look at the deco lamps too!
First thumbnail (click to enlarge) is the pathway to the room (our room’s door at the right) and ahead is the door for the twin room. Second pic is our bathroom, complete with bath tub! Because of the cold weather, especially at night and early morning, it would take some time to let the water run before you can get the hot water. It would be smart to let the (intially) cold water run into the bath tub, and soon it becomes hot, you’ll finally get a tub full of warm water without wasting the cold water. No need to use the ‘blue’ tap at all. And the guestbook of Ambassador Houseboat (last pic) we can see hundreds (if not thousands) of messages by tourists from all over the world who have stayed at this houseboat.
Mr Husam and his wife prepare breakfast for us every morning, and we had it right inside their houseboat – yes, the one they literally live in. Their houseboat is far simpler than the hotel one, and in fact he doesnt invite all of his guest to his house and meet his family directly, with exception for us as according to him he feels closer to us because we’re Muslim :)
We are given this Kashmiri coat to warm ourselves (it would be too cold without one) and traditionally, you can further warm yourself by putting this heater (traditional basket with burning coal like pic below) inside your coat. I mean, seriously! (You can notice in first thumbnail above me having ‘something’ inside by baggy coat) :P
It’s our first time seeing such thing as Kashmiri traditional heater and I love putting my hands to it to get some warm. Breakfast in Kashmir is simply bread (Kashmiri naan) and butter with Kashmiri chai (tea with taste of cinnamon).
Another thing, you cannot expect centralize/electric heater inside houseboat room. Every time we want to go to bed, Mr Husam would prepare beforehand some rubber tube bags filled with hot water inside our blanket, and those will be sufficient to warm us all night.
Our Airtel prepaid sim (that we bought in Delhi) is not working in Kashmir, which is expected, as I read from many forums and websites telling so. But Mr Husam is kind enough to lend us one of his sim card so that we could still make a call to our family back home (with those not-so-positive issues on Kashmir being told over the media, our family was worried that we had not yet called them after leaving Delhi!), so at least over the phone we could convince them that we were safe in this calm and peaceful Srinagar and dont worry!
We stayed two nights at Ambassador, and that was really nice to get to know his family (wife and two sons) personally. They were also kind enough to lend Az a thick winter coat when we’re going to Gulmarg. We didnt film any video clip of Ambassador Houseboat interior until our last day in it, as seen in here: