On our way back to Bangalore, Karnataka (south India) from Leh, Jammu&Kashmir (north India), we had a layover of around six hours in Srinagar, Jammu&Kashmir. And this is what we chose to do—a quick trip to Dal lake and enjoy a shikara (a small paddled taxi boat) ride. But there was a problem: a curfew was enforced in the city. Good news—tourists were allowed to travel around.
Without wasting any time we took a taxi, crossed Jhelum river, passed through deserted roads with only cops in sight, and arrived at a tourist-free, serene Dal lake. And were we happy? Not exactly. Every other shikara taxi wanted us to use their service. Can’t blame them; business was down since sometime and we were the only scapegoats around. After what seemed ages, we finally agreed upon a price with one shikara.
Oh, it was so lovely – fog crept in, colorful house-boats were anchored by the shore, beautiful water-lilies swayed in the cool breeze, on and off drizzle; it was just perfect! But this lasted only a short while. We realized that few shikaras selling flowers, junk jewelry, scarves, snacks and kashmiri tea, were all creeping in on us.
I flashed my sweetest smile and politely turned away most of them, except for the one selling Kashmiri tea (exactly what we needed on this ride) and junk jewelry. I gave-in to the sad story of the junk jewelry seller.
Few minutes of cruising in the fog, enjoying the peace and quiet, and then our boatman abruptly stopped by a large house-boat selling Kashmiri textiles. No, we didn’t want to do shopping. No amount of refusal worked here, they hadn’t had a sell in quite a few days and weren’t ready to give up on us. We were literally pestered into buying something. I bought a stole and we left immediately.
Return trip was smooth without any interruptions; except for a Kashmiri chai, one last time.
So, was it a good idea visiting Dal lake during a curfew? Maybe not. I don’t think I would do it again. And if you are a foreigner, I would strongly advise you not to. The only positive side to this trip – cruising a tourist-free Dal lake all to ourselves, but of course with intermissions and a tale to tell.
(This trip was sometime in July 2010)
Have you visited any place during a curfew?