The University of Kashmir is located inside a huge old garden called Nasim Bagh, and it’s back entrance is just opposite the road from Clermont’s Houseboat. After we placed our bags in the room, we went out to have a walk. The area is almost empty and nothing like a campus area. Nasim Bagh is a garden with these huge trees dated from hundred years ago, and it’s really nice that they are preserving it despite setting up a university campus in there.
Auto-rickshaw from Dal Gate to Clermont Houseboat: Rs.100
We arrived at Mr Ghulam Butt’s Clermont Houseboat after lunch at Lhasa Restaurant. And to our surprise, this houseboat is very exclusive and an outstanding from the bunch of houseboats we had seen earlier in Dal Gate. It comes with its private garden, and consists of 4 to 5 big houseboats, a house of the workers and housekeepers, a kitchen, a gallery building, and another small house for souvenir shop. Also, a posh-looking summer cottage in the corner. All of this are located inside a private gated area belongs to its respectful owner, Mr Ghulam Butt, elder brother of Mr Bashir.
Shafi is one of the people I contacted in CouchSurfing to be our possible host in Srinagar. Our plans however changed than initial itinerary, where we stayed in Ambassador Houseboat for two nights instead of one, and we didn’t overnight in Gulmarg as planned, and now we’re unexpectedly heading to Mr Bashir’s elder brother’s place when the family we met in Delhi has delightfully invited us to visit their hometown in Kashmir. Nonetheless, we’re still meeting Shafi as he lived not very far from Dal Gate No.2. He’s near Gate No. 4, actually.
We’re now leaving this place! So sad.. *_* And me with pretty decorated shikara.. we havent ride one yet, only took boat to cross to the houseboat. Not much difference anyway~
So after checking-out Ambassador Houseboat and said goodbye, we with our luggage walked further the Boulevard road to the agreed place, and when I called Shafi, he immediately came over to see us and we walked to his place which is located a few steps away behind the front buildings at the street.
Shafi runs a hotel named Hotel Mount Inn, and at its backyard there’s a nice garden where we sat having tea and chat. He was a nice man willing to share many things about himself and Srinagar. He brought us to see the rooms in his hotel and he said we could come stay here if we have more days. The rooms are really decent and so are their attached bathrooms. The good thing about hotel over houseboat is they usually have centralized heater so you won’t be freezing at night and earlier morning as we are when staying in houseboat!
Apart from hotel, Shafi also owns a souvenir shop where he sells Kashmiri shawls and jacket. He’s a real businessman! I bought one duo-tone pink-blue shawl from him and it was one of the prettiest color I’ve seen in shawl.
There’s also bigger shawl with traditional Kashmiri embroidery which is also pretty! But I already made my promise to limit my shopping as we still have more days to spend here :P
Watch the message by Shafi! :D
Shops and streets nearby Shafi’s Hotel Mount Inn. We didnt realized that there are many other shops and hotels hidden at the back of the visible buildings from Boulevard Road.
Because of last incident in bus coming back from Gulmarg, I now dont want to risk getting sick even more if we take jeep/taxi/bus for 9 hour on bumpy road to Jammu as we had planned. So we agreed to purchase another flight Srinagar to Jammu, although it’s a bit last minute but we had to go for it. Or so I said.
So Shafi helped us to find a nearest Internet Cafe for me to do the flight ticket purchase. Got panic at first when the Cleartrip system seem to reject my credit card payment when I’m doing this from here (while I didnt have any problem doing the purchase back home in Malaysia!) and I started wondering if it’s related to tight security here in Kashmir (like for example, non-Kashmiri sim card cannot be used in here, and SMS is not supported). We had no choice but to ask the Internet cafe to book for us and we paid him in cash. Now we’re a bit short in cash by few thousands Rupees.. aiyo.
Shafi brought us to this Lhasa Restaurant walking distance from his place. It has a nice open air dining area like a garden, and I guess it’s named so because they have Tibetan-influenced type of food.
Although, Shafi had another matter to do so we were left here, and Az had to go for Friday prayer at mosque nearby, so I had to wait here alone before placing food order.
Dining area inside the building, if you dont prefer being outside. And Lhasa Restaurant’s menu booklet. Lhasa restaurant is also featured in Lonely Planet book among chosen restaurants in Srinagar.
The food is nothing Kashmiri now.. the vegetable soup and beef noodle taste similar like we have back home in Malaysia, with a bit Chinese taste. And the fruity naan is called Kashmiri naan! I mean, we randomly chose something that is Kashmiri, without knowing that it’s actually a sweet-taste naan, full of dried fruit, coconut and yogurt! Although feeling regret, we had to finish them anyway.
Some photos Az took when he went for Friday prayer at this mosque. He simply follow the flow of people going for prayers, and ended up at this small mosque. It was during the very same Friday prayer time, in another mosque in Srinagar, an incident happened when an Imam was killed. I dont want to elaborate further about this, but Alhamdulillah we’ve been protected.
Houseboats: Can get from cheap to expensive rooms – Rs. 500 to some thousands Rs. Moderate is Rs.1000 with breakfast. The most important thing to check if they provide enough heating (especially if you come in non-summer season). It’s even more crucial than bathroom! A bonus if they have internet. Shikara ride: There’s a notice board by J&K Tourism giving standard price of Rs.300 per hour for shikara ride. But you can always bargain (possible to get Rs.150) Boat crossing: Rs.10 to Rs.40
If you havent had enough of Dal Lake views already! Some more photos I had to put here, for them being so beautifully tranquil. A big plus for being in this place in early April when you can hardly see tourist around. Dal Lake to my view should be a typical plain lake if it’s not because of the existence of classy houseboats sitting side-by-side, along with mountains at the back, making this place truly a Heaven on Earth, as it’s claimed to be.
Dinner first night: Mutton biryani, mushroom korma – Rs.320 Dinner second night: Kashmiri Biryani pulao, salad, tea – Rs.300 Dinner third night:Kashmiri Biryani pulao, mutton sour soup, papadom – Rs.440
I first heard of Mughal Darbar restaurant from one of the forums in IndiaMike – where I’ve got most of info and travel advice for India. The way they recommend it as if it’s a must-visit restaurant if you happen to be in Srinagar. Later, when Az & I was researching from Lonely Planet book we got from library, and this LP book is the oldest edition we ever seen – 1970’s!! And this book featured Mughal Darbar as well, and I mean, since 1970s! Therefore, we really have to go and see how special this restaurant should be.