Dal Lake and rude dirty men and touts

Srinagar Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 26 › view all entries

Srinagar was an interesting experience. the army guy who looked super angry tried to get me to go back on the plane before i even set foot on kashmiri concrete. he was like shouting at the stewardess in unknown language and pointing at me - probably something along the lines of "get this white girl out of here." or something. well eventually after pointing at the word srinagar on my ticket he gave up and gruffly pointed for me to wander in front of runways to get to the arrivals hall. then of course i have to go to the foreigner counter - to fill in one of many foreigner forms. Already having filled in the form - accomadation became the thing on Kashmir.  The lake is filled with houseboats - which, once, were also filled with tourists - but with over ten years of conflict in the region, the tourist trade has dwindled and competition has become, as I found, very aggressive for the slowly renewing numbers of tourists and their cash.

There was a gauntlet of houseboat owners and taxi drivers/guesthouse/boat owners in one who literally chased me along to where the bus left.  I held my ground and insisted I would wait for the bus for 35 rupee rather than the 150-200 rupee they would charge me to not take me to the hotel - but most probabky show me their/their friends houseboat/guesthouse - even tho they say if i dont like i can go to my choice of hotel.  I had 15 of them shouting. i told them that i knew it was hard not having many women around but get off and move on. After avoiding yet more supposedly friendly helpers who then became touts in their own right, I managed to get on the bus.  However, before the bus had properly stopped at the tourist reception centre, the touts had already climbed onto the bus.
   Battle with the 5 more ruthless touts commenced, who followed me to my hotel and actually almost into the hotel room telling me they owned the hotel and i should come on their better houseboat! Ruthless tactics.  The hotel staff couldn't do much about it, and allowed them to spin their mad spiel to me while I was filling in the forms.  An intense start to my stay - and I was pretty wary and a little scared to go back into the street in case they were waiting for me.

However they weren't outside when I left to do some sight-seeing.  Wandered around being told the wrong way until I met some 18 yr old flashy kashmiri boys - obviously rich - ones dad was in local council, others was a businesman with "many western friends". they showed me round lake and bought me lunch - even though they were in ramadan and not supposed to be eating - in honour of their new western woman friend.

hmmm. suspect, but at least i had a guide. They were pretty helpful. if a little in awe of such a normal thing as sitting wiht me in a restaurant.  In India, men and women do not have friendships.  They are friends with their own sex, and then they are married to each other.  Apart from family members, and obviously in more modern areas this is changing, they dont seem to conceive platonic friendships between men and women.  A bit of a shame really.  And a source of various problems for the female traveller.

Anyway after seeing the lake with my new found friends, I left them to go refresh in the hotel.  I then wanted to go see the old town, but ended up in the little boats that are hand rowed round the lake for about 3 hours.  It really was stunning, you can see the pictures.

  A new life was centered around the lake where people lived along the banks and used boat to go to shops perched in the lake and also there was floating markets of boats with veggies for sale.  This apparently is in the early morning and many tourists come to see it.  I have heard of similar things in Thailand and Laos so will check it out there.  Really enjoyed the lake - so peaceful.  And saw the sunset over it as well.

Went back to the hotel - the boys had told me that even tho it was friday night, people didnt really do much except eat with family in the evening.  Also, the old town is apprently still a bit dangerous at night with the terrorist activity so I decided to watch some TV in the room with snacks.  Ramadan probably isn't the best time to visit a muslim place, most of the restaurants arent open as most of the people here are fasting all day.

  So I decided to get the two day bus the next day to Leh, Ladakh.  This is the eastern part of Kashmir - completely different as it is up in the Himilayas and cold and full of exciled tibetans who practice Buddhism rather then Islam.  Read the next two entried for detaisl fo the two day bus trip and the stay in Leh, which was much more relaxed and easy.


In all I enjoyed the beauty of Srinagar, the lake was stunning with the surrounding distant mountain back drop, but I just feel for a white woman this is not so great a place.  Would have been better to be with a guy!  The society just doesnt respect women in the same way as in the western world unfortunatly.

  But it was worth seeing it, and the conflict, although still present in the form of masses of army soldiers patrolling the streets and the odd barbed wire road block, is obviosuly starting to reside.  But it does remain in the background and was interesting to see it.

rotorhead85 says:
Great place, great blog - thanks!
Posted on: Feb 09, 2009
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photo by: vishal_