EP 2 Gulmarg to Srinagar Season -2 | Gondola Ride Phase 2 | Maharaja Palace | kashmiri veg food.

EP 2 Gulmarg to Srinagar Season -2 | Gondola Ride Phase 2 | Maharaja Palace | kashmiri veg food.

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It feels like we are on a private snowfield. It is because we aren't sharing this space with anybody else. We are alone here, there is no other tourists in the vicinity. Namaskar friends! Welcome to Visa2explore. This is your host, Harish Bali.

Right now, I am in Gulmarg, Kashmir. We will begin our day with a gondola ride. Do you see the queue behind me? All are here for the gondola ride. The time is 9.15 in the morning. After a couple of hours, this queue will be two or three times longer.

Tourists who start from Srinagar this morning, reach here by 11 or 11.15 am. So obviously, the tourist rush increases suddenly. If you reach here after 12 or 12.15 pm, it would mean a long wait in the queue. We've just received news that the gondola ride has been stopped for some time. Let us find more about that and get in the queue.

First passengers of the day are the locals, who work on the peaks. After that the tourists are allowed in. The ride starts are 8.30 am. Our gondola ride begins now. We have Zahoor Bhai with us as a guide.

We will get down at Phase 1 peak. Then we will board the 2nd gondola for Phase 2 peak. Ticket for Phase 1 is for Rs 740. For Phase 2, the ticket costs Rs 950. I had booked these tickets 25 days ago. Because it is difficult to book tickets closer to the date of ride.

This is a forest area, right? It is all forest till Phase 1. Beyond Phase 1, it is mountain area. Zahoor Bhai, I could see some people walking on the ground below. They were headed upwards. How much time does it take to climb upto the Phase 1 peak? To climb up to Phase 1, it would take you an hour, or an hour & 10 min maximum. Talking of Phase 2, that journey would take you a whole day because....

...Phase 2 is at a higher altitude. Phase 1 route is flat at number of places, thus takes only an hour to complete. The name of Phase 1 peak is 'Kongdori', as is written here. We are at an altitude of 8530 feet. And beyond this is the Apharwat Mountain.

That is basically the name of this place. That is called Phase 2. I can see a cafeteria here. One more thing, we had no idea about the weather up here.

And standing here, I can see clouds touching the peaks here. I feel if we go any higher, it would feel as if I am standing inside the clouds. Am I right? Yes Sir, absolutely! The most exciting part of our Gulmarg gondola ride begins for Phase 2.

It is known as Apharwat, right? Apharwat! Apharwat! The ride from Phase 1 to Phase 2 seems to be longer. Yes, this ride is longer than the ride upto Phase 1. The ride to Phase 1 is 8 minutes long while this ride is 14 minutes long. And this peak is also at a higher altitude than Phase 1. What if someone's phone falls off while clicking photographs outside? (laughter!) I mean it can slip off from your hand.

So, keep your camera inside the cable car. Important point! We could see the snow as soon as we got down at Phase 2. I've rented these gum boots at Rs 150 per person. Now we will go and enjoy in the snow.

We had met some sled-owners down in Gulmarg. They told us that they charged Rs 3500 per person for a ride up here. I thought Rs 3500 is a bit too expensive. So, let us see how far we can go on foot? I have to admit, operating a sled here is hard work. People have boarded the sled. See the distance along which the locals are pulling the sleds with people on it.

And they will pull the sleds further once they reach the top. It is hard work! Come, let us go! If we walk non-stop, it would take how much, 40 minutes? The way you are walking, you'll take more time to climb. Alright! A lot of time! I will try to walk faster! Yes, absolutely! See, that is from where we started to climb. We climbed slowly, enjoying the journey, & reached here in 10-15 minutes. You saw people climbing on sleds from down there. This is the point till where they come.

The same sled-owner will take you beyond this point on a ski. Do you see two people on the same ski? How far do they take the tourists? Not far, just 70-100 metres. 100 metres! And then he will bring them back. For this, the charge is Rs 3500. I am having fun here! Bhai, you are serving kahwa (local tea) to everyone at this height. What is its rate? Rs 100 for a cup! Ok! I will have one! Nice! So, you made this kahwa at home? Yes, from home! Alright! Bhai, you should have a cup too.

No, it is alright. Give him a cup too! In case of bad weather, the ride is stopped at Phase 1 and not allowed further. And it happens a lot. You need to show them your ticket to let them know you didn't go to Phase 2. Thereafter, they refund you the money.

Or sometimes, the gondola ride could also be cancelled completely... ...owing to unannounced rains. In that case too, ticket cost is refunded. That is the system here. Okay Bhai Sahab, your kahwa is delicious! Really good! I mean I can taste the genuineness in this Kahwa. Although, it might appear too costly to you.

But that is the price of the effort it takes to bring Kahwa up to this height. That needs to be considered as well. Bhai, where should I keep the empty cup? Ok, well this is a good thing you have done here. It is a responsible thing to do that you'll be taking the empty cups back with you. Very good! My feet are sinking into the snow.

Wow! Wherever you look, there is a different view to enjoy! On one side, you have beautiful clouds! On the other, the sky is crystal clear! And here, you can see snow everywhere. Anyways, Zahoor Bhai has gone ahead & is sitting there. We are doing this journey at a slow pace, stopping frequently. This way, we are enjoying this trek while moving ahead.

However hard you may try, no amount of videography can do justice to this scenery. It is only for the eyes to see and for you to enjoy! We've just come to know So, you won't be able to separate the lake from the snow around it. This year, it has snowed heavier than usual. Alright! Therefore, the lake is frozen right now, otherwise, it used to be visible at this time.

Alright! Since we started walking, this is the first time we've taken a rest. We did stop earlier, but only for photography & videography. But this is the first time we are sitting since we began our trek. We are at quite an altitude! Yes, it is quite a height. We are going in that direction? Very good! Just out of curiosity, let me check whether this place has mobile network or not.

It isn't there. No? But network is there near Phase 2 gondola? Yes! Okay! Which mobile network is there? Jio or every one? It is either Jio or Airtel. It is either Jio or Airtel near Phase 2? Yes! There is zero network here. What would be the volume of snow here? It must be 3-4 feet deep. 3-4 feet! Yes! Bhai Saheb, I am enjoying here! Right now, there is no one here except us. Just imagine, there are thousands of tourists down at the Phase 2 base.

And we are the only ones to come up to this point. Let us see what lies beyond. Oye hoye!!!! God! What a view this is! Amazing! The whole scenery changes here. Awesome! I am so happy to be here! I don't have words to explain what I am watching from here. However hard I might try to do so,...

...I can neither capture this scenery in my camera, nor can I explain it to you. Still I will try to explain what I like most about this place. Look! First and foremost, we are at a height! And the mountain wall is slanting downwards in front of me. May be a local sled-owner could also take you down this slant on a sled. I don't know for sure though! The melted water near the mountain base is clearly visible to us. Small & big rocks are visible in places where snow has melted into puddles. Then there are clouds in the sky above.

This is too good! Such white clouds are visible only when you travel in an aeroplane. It is rare that you can see such white clouds with the naked eye. Nature at its best! Tell me where the lake is. Do you see that? Which one? Right there.

This is the lake? Yes, this is the lake. Right now, it is covered in snow. But still some parts are visible. This is the lake. It will be completely visible after 8-10 days' time. And its blue-coloured water would be clearly visible.

Its water will be blue in colour? This means by 15th of July or so, this lake would be clearly visible. Yes, all of it. What is the scene here regarding rainfall? Rain can come anytime! There is no fixed rainfall season here. It can rain for days altogether.

That means it isn't surprising to see this fine weather converted into rain suddenly. Absolutely! This also means you should carry extra warm clothing while visiting here. Absolutely! One must visit here with all safety measures. Also, definitely not without these gum boots. And if possible, carry a spare pair of jeans or trousers with you. One could also carry waterproof clothes.

Because even if it starts raining suddenly, your clothes inside won't get wet. And you won't feel too cold either. If I hadn't visited here today, I would've felt that I missed an important tourist point.

This place is magnificent! At the Phase 2 point below, people indulged in various activities like skiing. That is fun, no doubt! But up here, it feels we are standing at our private piece of snowy land. It feels so because we aren't sharing this space with anybody else.

We are the only ones here, no other tourists is in sight. It is surprising that I saw only one other tourist on my way here. He told me he was returning from this point. It would take you 15 minutes to reach the point below.

But he didn't go down, he saw it from here. In any case, we aren't going down there. It won't be easy to climb back up from there. Moreover, there is no point in going there since no lake is visible right now.

If you plan to visit here, don't venture out alone. Because you won't know the way on your own. No amount of guidance will help you on this route. You would definitely need a guide or a sled-owner with you.

Otherwise, it is difficult to do this trek alone. Yes, it would be difficult. It wouldn't be easy because we won't know where to put our foot.

Let us walk till there and enjoy the scenery. Let us go. If I could, I would have brought a folding chair with me.

I can't sit down otherwise my jeans would get wet. On the folding chair, we could sit here right until it started to rain. Because I just don't want to leave here. I mean I don't feel like leaving here ever. It is no big deal that a light drizzle has already started. However, the rain might start in another 10-15 minutes and it might be too late.

So, it would be better to start our return journey in the next few minutes. I have to say this - Gulmarg rocks!!! Now we've decided not to stop any longer. We will try to carry on non-stop till the gondola point. That would be better.

And I am feeling hungry as well! As happens often in the hills, you walk a little and suddenly you are hungry. So let's see, we'll have lunch either at Phase 2 or Phase 1. Come! We have been walking down for the past 45 minutes.

We are enjoying the slow walk down. Now, let me give you an idea about how far this place is, in case you plan a visit. Standing here, in this direction I can see the gondola cable-car. I mean I can clearly see the Phase 2 point. And in that direction, do you see that hill? Now that we've come down, it might not be clearly visible, but it is a big hill. You need to go across that hill top.

Once you reach there, it will take you another 20-25 minutes.... ...to reach the point, from where the lake is visible. Though that point looks close, it will still take us 30 minutes to reach their slowly. Come, let us move on.

It is nice! We enjoyed the gondola ride, both while going up and now while coming down. Good! Now, we will get down at Phase 1. Yes! Thereafter we will decide whether we'll eat at Phase 1 or in Gulmarg. Well, it would be better to go to Gulmarg. It would be better? Yes, because it is evening time, the queue for gondola would be long. Okay, it is better to get down to Gulmarg instead of wasting another hour in queue.

You can have lunch comfortably once you are in Gulmarg. Finally at 4 PM, we've reached Gulmarg. Just imagine, at 8.45 AM, we were at the entry point of gondola ride.

And we reached back at 4 PM but this journey was totally worth it! For lunch, I think we should go into the Hilltop Restaurant. After lunch, we will do some sightseeing. And then we have to return to Srinagar. There is a Miasa Cafe right below the Hilltop Restaurant. Here we've ordered a veg chowmein.

Amazing preparation! I was impressed with the first bite itself. It is full-on tangy, from all the sauces used in it. And it is well-cooked as well as loaded with vegetables.

Very good! We've reached to visit the Maharaja Hari Singh Palace in Gulmarg. This is the open space outside it, where taxis are parked, and there is the palace. Come! Shabbir Bhai will help us visit the palace. Do we need to purchase an entry ticket here? Yes Sir! The ticket costs Rs 40 per person & it is government rate.

For those below 18 years, the ticket price is Rs 20 per person. From where do we get the ticket? You will get the tickets inside. Sir, this is the first drawing-room of the palace. Maharaja Hari Singh used this fire-place as a heater at that time. What was the purpose of this place? Actually Sir, Maharaja Hari Singh used to sit here to meet guests.

Himself? Yes Sir! Nice! Beautiful! Sir, this is the meeting room in which Maharaja conducted his daily meetings. So, till 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh used to operate from here? Yes Sir! What was his reigning period? He reigned from 1923 to 1947. What is this? This used to be the Durbar (court) at that time Sir. It was called 'Conference Hall.' This carpet that you see is a single piece carpet. It isn't Kashmiri carpet. It is Irani carpet and was imported from Iran.

Really! Yes Sir! This huge carpet is in single piece? It is single piece Sir. It means this carpet is about 100 years old? Yes! It is hundred years old. This used to be the waiting room of the palace Sir. Before entering the Durbar, people used to sit here in waiting Sir. So, he used to continue holding court even on a holiday? Yes Sir! He used to hold court wherever he went. Yes, that is true! Shall we move on? Yes, come Sir! Sir, this is the first bedroom of the palace, the Master bedroom.

It used to be the personal bedroom of Maharaja Hari Singh. It is stylish! Look at the bed Sir! You told me this was Maharaja's holiday home. Yes Sir! His palace in Srinagar has now been converted into a hotel? Yes, it has been converted into a hotel. The hotel name is? Lalit! Lalit! The Lalit! Yes! This room is attached to the dining room. Okay, this is the dining room? Yes! Can you tell me something about this wooden carving? Actually, what you see here is a palace built with walnut wood. Wood derived from the walnut trees! Once this palace was completed, a ban was imposed on usage of walnut trees.

The ban still continues. Government would sue anybody who cuts a walnut tree. I also own walnut trees.

I can eat the fruit but cannot cut the tree. That is how it was during old times. Yes! Well, this palace is nice! And it is good to look at as well. Yes Sir! All of this palace has been handmade. And all of it is made with walnut wood? 60% Really! Yes! Now we have entered the Museum Room Sir! Here you will find weapons used during those times in Kashmir. You can see these small guns, which belong to the Maharaja's reign.

Alright! These guns have been preserved and kept here since then! What do you call this? It is called 'Khokhra' Sir. Khopra! Khokhra Sir! There are some swords as well Sir. And what is this? This is a candle stand Sir.

For light. Alright! It means at some point of time, candles were lit here when it became dark. Is there a basement? Yes Sir! The basement under ground floor was used as a stable for horses. Yes! Stable for horses! Yes, it was a stable during those times.

It feels exciting to be in the basement. Yes! And it also feels cooler underground. It is cooler here, without any air conditioning.

This floor is cooler in comparison to the upper floors. Yes Sir! Lovely! Why is this table and chair kept here? Actually Sir, when this palace was modified (renovated) in 2017... ...the government planned to open a restaurant here. 3-star restaurant! That plan was canceled and this year, another government proposal was made. It will now probably be turned into a 3-star coffee shop. That is a demand made by the tourists who visit here. It is a good thing! Yes Sir! A coffee shop here would be a good move.

Mostly, this palace is being used for film shootings Sir. South Indian films are also shot here. Then, some times, this space is also used to host functions. I will walk outside with you now.

Okay Sir! Shabbir Bhai, thank you for this proper tour of the palace in such a short time. I noticed something here. One, this whole palace is built with wood. Yes Sir! Only the basement part, which you said was a stable, is built with bricks. Yes Sir! It is all made in stone.

Are these lavender flowers? Actually these flowers are called "Lopin." Lopin! Yes! You will see lots of these flowers in Gulmarg today. I saw these flowers everywhere yesterday as well as today. Yes! Right? Yes Sir! You can see trees here Sir. There are several varieties of trees, here you can see Pine and Deodar. Yes, there are mixed varieties here.

Are there many Deodar trees here? Yes, Deodar as well as Pine. Pine too! This valley's charm lies in enjoying the view made up by huge green trees. By the way, April, May, and June as well are the best months for Kashmir travel. Rest, if you want to see snow, you need to come during winter months of Dec-Jan. January, yes! Wonderful! Okay Sir, thank you! Welcome Sir! After visiting Maharaja's palace, we are now heading 2.5 KM away.... ..to a Shiv Temple, which you can see right there. We need to climb some stairs to reach the temple.

Before that, let me also show you the meadows around the temple. I see tourists taking a walk here, while some others are just lounging around. And here are some ponies standing! Good! Come! After climbing the stairs, we've now reached the temple.

I was reading outside that this temple was renovated in 2021. This seems to be a very ancient temple! Sir, this temple was established in 1915. It has been 109 years since then. Maharaja Hari Singh established this temple in the name of his wife. This temple is built atop a hill.

You must visit here when you come to Gulmarg. You can pay obeisance here, have darshan of Lord Shiva. Let me show you the outside view of this temple. From here, you can have an aerial view of Gulmarg. Dhanyawaad (Thank You!) I told you this temple is at a height.

So, we get to see the view till far. Whenever I look across at the meadows of Gulmarg, I am reminded that.... ...such a view isn't available to see every day. This is the reason why Gulmarg is such a popular hill-station. Now look at these mountain slopes, lush green in colour. And there are varieties of trees everywhere, including Deodar & Pine. You know this morning we went up the mountains.

Though not exactly there, but I don't know in which direction that mountain is. But this view is so beautiful! It is a matter of 15 more days before the snow starts melting slowly. Let's take a look from there too, then we shall leave here. Wow! See, all vehicles parked here! Yesterday, we had dinner somewhere there! Gulmarg has 2-3, in fact, more than 2-3, at least 10-12 eateries. The JKTDC hut where we stayed is out there. It is hardly 500-600 meters on foot from here.

It is looking nice! It is so much fun to watch these beautiful meadows from this height. Now what should we do? We should leave for Srinagar without any further loss of time. The journey takes 1.5 hours. But I will still check the maps, may be it would take us 2 hours. And it is 6.30 PM already. We will reach Srinagar by 8.30 PM.

We will end our day once we reach Srinagar. Come! It is 8.30 PM and we've reached Srinagar. For accommodation, we've booked rooms at Mahatta Homestay. Now let me see the room so that I can show it to you as well. We've booked two rooms for ourselves.

Let me show you one! Here, take a look! Rooms were available in Deluxe, Super Deluxe, etc categories. We booked a Super Deluxe room. Nice room! Good ambience! It feels good to be inside this room. The washroom is also nice! Very good! The tariff of this room is Rs ten thousand and 200 or 300 something.

Now, I will join you again in a while. We will have dinner and then end our day. We've reached their restaurant for dinner. What do we have for dinner? This is 'Peela Paneer' (Paneer in turmeric gravy). The Paneer has been cooked in a curd-based gravy.

And I can see lots of Tej-Patta (Bay leaf) in this gravy. And black cardamom too! Okay good! Rajma (Kidney beans in gravy)! I think I will get Rajma later. Hmm! Dum Aloo (Whole potatoes in spicy gravy)! If you come to Kashmir and don't taste Dum Aloo....

...it means you've missed a very famous local, vegetarian dish. On my last trip, I tasted Dum Aloo at least 3-4 different places. And I felt a lot of difference within the different preparations. What else should I pick? I am now familiar with this dish. Last time, while visiting Doodhpathri, I ate Haakh-Saag with Makki (maize flour) roti.

Lovely! First, let us taste Haakh-Saag (local green vegetable). It is very juicy in taste. It is delicious! But the only thing is that salt is either too less, not present at all. It has nothing else but salt for seasoning.

Nice! A healthy food preparation! I found this dish's name quite interesting - Peela Paneer! As far as I can remember, I've never had paneer in a curd-based gravy! This is probably the first time! Whole spices like black cardamom.... , green cardamom, tej patta, etc are imparting full on flavours. It has a thin gravy. This taste is good, especially according to the local weather. I've already noticed the extensive use of black cardamom in the local cuisine. In Dum Aloo as well and in this dish that I am eating right now.

This paneer's taste is highly impressive! Do you know why these dishes are delicious? Because they have a homely taste Very well-cooked! I have found out about it. In order to cook Dum Aloo, potatoes are first boiled & skinned. Then, those are fried. Then this gravy is prepared separately, with onions and tomatoes. And eventually, the fried potatoes go into that gravy. Its gravy is full masaledaar (spicy)! Phirni (Pudding) is amazing in taste.

Delicious! It has dry fruits, but those have been cooked to the extent that... ....I can't see the dry fruits but can feel them in each spoonful. Fantastic! Delectable! The time is 10.30 PM right now. We had a long day today, as is usual while travelling.

Tomorrow, we are leaving for Gurez. We will leave for Gurez between 7.30 and 7.45 AM. Today's episode ends here. Tell us your feedback on this episode in your comments. The journey was hectic because you saw how far we went at Phase 2. Very few tourists venture that far.

But it was totally worth it! Today's journey, specially the one beyond Phase 2,.... ...has become imprinted in my mind like a lifetime memory! Right! So I will now say bye-bye to you here! We shall meet again soon. Till then, thanks for your time.

2023-08-04 19:47

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