Before I start with my Kashmir tour experience, let’s catch up on where we left.
How have you been? If you’re an old reader of my blog, you know how inconsistent I’ve been in the past year. For the new readers, let me tell you I’ve been writing on this blog for a long time, maybe five years or so. I started by writing two blogs per week, slowly cutting it down to one blog per week. I even ran blog marathons where I wrote a blog every day for a month. I’ve been writing quite a few blogs irregularly in the last couple of years. But I keep returning to this space because it’s my favourite place.
We went on a Honeymoon Special Kashmir Tour in the last week of July. After our marriage, this was our longest trip, and we decided to go with a honeymoon package with Veena World. Our package included the to and fro flight tickets, and we flew the Spice Jet.
Also, this blog is not a travel guide. It is all about my experiences with the travel company and the fantastic bunch of people I met on tour.
We had a lot of time on our hands after we checked in to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai. My first-time flyer husband was inquisitive and nervous about the check-in process, so we arrived on time. But surprisingly, everything went relatively easy, and we had our boarding passes.
As decided, we took pictures of the passes but did not upload them on social media platforms. After all, we were on a social media detox.
Seeing the enormous aeroplanes on the runway was fascinating as we waited for our flight to be announced. I wonder how these giant birds fly high in the sky. As I had ample time at my disposal, I designed the first page of my journal – I carried a new journal to the Kashmir trip gifted to me by my best friend.
I was pretty happy with the page and felt satisfied when I clicked a picture. After reading a few pages of a Ruskin Bond book on my Kindle, there was still time before we boarded our flight.
Slowly, we noticed couples coming toward the lobby. We guessed they, too, were travelling to Kashmir with Veena World. One of the couples had our undivided attention. They looked different from the other couples because the guy had a “W” on his t-shirt and the girl had an “E”. They walked together to form a “WE”.
I, too, had thought of buying something like this for us but decided against it. Going with the trend was not my cup of coffee. But there was something nice and soothing about these two t-shirts, which I realized later during the tour.
Soon we boarded the flight and were welcomed by the crew members of Spice Jet. Unfortunately, we did not get the window seat, but I was happy as long as we sat together. A few couples were busy adjusting their seats with other co-passengers who were solo travellers. The struggle was real as things got awkward while approaching strangers.
Unlike my husband, I was more interested in the people on the flight than looking out the window to see the clouds. He, too, looked for a vacant window seat. While the newly married girl standing next to me in the window seat urged her husband to speak to a solo traveller to exchange seats, something happened, and my flight journey was made right.
Let me give you all the details of some of my co-passengers:
1. The handsome hunk
The window seat woman exchanged seats with this guy, who looked stunning as if he had walked straight from a ramp. I had a crush on him in no time, and my husband had a guy crush on him. I secretly thanked the girl for exchanging the window seat with this handsome hunk.
After settling down in his seat, my husband sat in the middle like every other Indian man. As if it’s an unsaid protocol to protect your girl from a stranger. I struggled to see the guy but was too hesitant to peep through to have a good view. I’d have seen him just for a few minutes, but his features were fixed in my head.
He had a long steep nose with soft and flawless facial skin. He had a cap on his head throughout the travel. His tight pastel-coloured t-shirt emphasized his gym body, and his visible nerves made me want to touch them. I had to remind myself that I was on my honeymoon with my husband and should concentrate on him.
But I was again pulled toward him when he took a book out to read. I love men who read books. He read “The source – The Power of Happy thoughts”. “OMG! He’s into the same genre as I am”, I thought and blushed.
The good thing was that my husband, too, was fascinated by his personality. As I took out my journal to jot down a few characteristics, my husband helped me with the details. “He is eating almonds now”, he said, and that felt cute.
A few minutes before the flight took off, he received his father’s call on his iPhone and began chanting some mantras on his chanting beads. Oh! He had my heart all over again.
Soon we were around 30,000 feet above the earth in the sky. I had carried my starter pack for flying, which contained chewing, earplugs and cotton balls to prevent myself from the in-flight pain in the ears during take-off and landing. I had googled it for my first flight to Kerala, which had helped me then.
I’m allergic to air and need to protect my ears while travelling by any mode of transport.
Once the plane took off and my starter pack worked well, I was tension-free and again checked on the guy sitting in the window. He had closed his eyes during the take-off and rested his head on the seat behind. Later, he took off a small stand and put his iPad on it. He watched some English movie on it while he munched on the almonds.
After some time, the air hostess handed him a packaged meal, which was included in his flight ticket, unlike us. That was unfair to us, I thought.
The guy ate everything on his plate – rice, dal, palak sabji, orange juice, a small cake, and a chocolate bar. Immediately after finishing the lunch, he asked for cuppa noodles. I cursed our tour itinerary for not including food on the flight. The aroma from the cuppa noodles filled my nose, and I longed to have it, but my husband declined my ask.
He was concerned about the window seat and asked the air hostess if there was any vacant one. She said that all the seats were occupied. The handsome guy overheard our conversation and offered us the window seat.
My heart did a little dance at his generosity.
We exchanged seats, and now I was sitting in the window, and my husband continued to be a barrier between us. We thanked the guy, and he said, “No worries. That’s okay. You guys can enjoy”. He had a deep masculine voice every girl desires for. I wanted to gift him my books at that moment because I thought – A thank you is not always enough. But I had to stop as I was carrying only single copies of my books – Monday Mornings Done Right and My Brave Lady. I had planned a photo shoot with the books in Kashmir, so I suppressed my excitement.
2. The army guy
Once we were over the handsome hunk, we noticed a man sitting adjacently to us. He had an army bag and an army mask and wore a simple chappal. We guessed he was travelling on work as the flight was supposed to land at a military airport, i.e. Srinagar. We all have different levels of respect for army guys.
These guys have unique face that is not attractive but gets the highest respect. He was watching ‘Shershaah’ on his mobile phone but was also considerate of the couple sitting beside him struggling to get a video of the clouds. They were sad about not getting a window despite having a window seat.
The army guy coordinated with his friends sitting behind. He asked them to exchange seats with this couple so the couple could enjoy their first flight to the fullest. It’s rare to find people who understand us without saying anything.
3. The commentator
Have you ever encountered a person in the theatre continuously giving spoilers throughout the movie? Well, we had one on our flight too. A couple, probably a Veena World couple, sitting in the front seat, was caught up with a commentator who was perhaps a frequent flyer.
But I guess the couple was attentive to his descriptions of Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Tour, for I could hear a two-way communication.
I observed on the flight that everyone around us was pretty talkative. The flight did not go silent even for a minute. That’s when I realized almost all the couples were newly married and had so much to discuss, unlike us.
The couple in the front seat talked about their likes and dislikes of the Marvels series. The one who was sitting diagonally opposite whispered in each other’s ears. I wonder if I would stand up and checked on everyone, I would have got a nice view of couples chit-chatting, wouldn’t I?
Talking about us, we are one year into the marriage and didn’t have much to discuss. Also, the writer in me had overpowered the wife in me. I had this leisure time for writing after a long, long time. How could I not utilize it to its fullest?
I had been dying to get creative, write, and jot down some important thoughts that would come to mind and vanish within a second before I could make a note of them. This has happened ever since I got married. There’s always something on the head, either the breakfast menu or simply thinking about is-this-the-right-thing-to-do?
After writing a few pages in my journal, I scribbled the view from the window, a tone of milky balls of clouds and the aeroplane’s wings.
I was glad to see my husband’s happiness as he smiled like Rancho from 3 idiots on his first flight.
We were thousands of miles above the world – Just the two of us and the co-passengers whom I couldn’t help stop noticing.
When we reached Srinagar airport, we were acquainted with a few couples and headed to the airport exit to be welcomed by our Kashmir tour guides, Sagar Mhatre and Jayesh Pawar.
Our Kashmir tour started with a houseboat stay on Dal Lake. We were mesmerized to see the train of houseboats parked at the lake. The mountains, trees, and the lake made a painting that immediately soothed our eyes.
We were taken to the houseboats by a short shikhara boat ride. Our houseboat’s name was Green Mountain. It had four rooms in it. The boat was not less than a queen’s palace. We made the most of our time and clicked a lot of pictures.
We were told that Dal lake contains a population of 5 lakh people staying on the water with 18000 houseboats and 1 lakh shikhara boats. The lake was 21 km long and had all the facilities inside it – like the drinking water supply, floating markets, floating farms, electricity supply, and wifi facility. I even saw a floating post office.
Our night stay on the houseboat was uncomfortable due to the lack of ventilation. But the overall experience of staying on the water was amusing. The next day, we left for Pahalgam to commence our Kashmir tour further.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Read the next blog here.
If you want to check out our Kashmir tour pictures and videos, do visit my Instagram handle – @shraddharane23