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Lake Maze

Golden Dal, Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Golden Dal, Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Gliding through absolute tranquility in a Shikara, only the quiet slapping of the paddle to be heard, is the ultimate experience. Where? At the Golden Dal, a labyrinth of small canals, large fields with lotus plants, houses built on stilts and others made of bricks that are perched on little islands. In between – floating vegetable gardens with gigantic green squash dangling from the bushes. Some houses form little villages with stores and other businesses. The calm waters of Lake Dal allow making amazing photos – reflecting the sky, mountains, houseboats… A photographers dream! Continue Reading →

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Floating Vegetable Market

Floating Vegetable Market, early morning on Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Floating Vegetable Market, early morning on Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

It was still dark when our Shikara dove into the labyrinth of Golden Dal. The lake was absolutely quiet and temperatures bone-chilling at around 05:00 am. We hoped so much that this trip was worth the effort of leaving our warm bed. Oh yes, it was! We found a place squirming with small boats selling squash, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, green beans, fish and flowers. Men only, squatting on their boats haggling with people they have probably known all their lives. Continue Reading →

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House Boating in the Indian Alps

House Boats reflecting on the waters of Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

House Boats reflecting on the waters of Lake Dal, Srinagar, Kashmir, India

When the plane dove below the thin layer of clouds, we spotted snowcapped mountains in the background and dark green land below. We instantly knew we would like Kashmir. For the uninitiated Kashmir traveller, the location of the houseboats is a bit confusing, even after arriving. A trip up the hill to the Temple of Shankaraya gives some perspective. The great view over Srinagar and Lake Dal helps understand that houseboats are only allowed in a small section of Lake Dal, in a kind of wide inlet called Golden Dal. The approx. 1.000 (!) houseboats line the northern shore of Golden Dal and the island that sits right in the middle of it. These houseboats do not float around, but are attached to the shore. Continue Reading →

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The Golden Temple – Reloaded

Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, also referred to as the "Golden Temple", a prominent Sikh Gurdwara or Sikh temple, at night, Amritsar, Punjab, India

Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, also referred to as the “Golden Temple”, a prominent Sikh Gurdwara or Sikh temple, at night, Amritsar, Punjab, India

We could not wait to get back to the temple, so intrigued we were by the beauty of the sacred place, so captivated we were by the friendly smiles, the eagerness to talk to us, to have our photo taken with the family… It was like bathing in good vibes. Everything was the same when we returned, except the temperatures – it was cooking and to make matters worse, very humid. We never realized how much the heavy rain the previous day had cooled down the city. Then streets were flooded, and the on-and-off rain that followed was annoying, but temperatures were so pleasant. We did not last long in this sauna. Continue Reading →

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Flag Business – Patriotism Running High

The Wagah border closing 'lowering of the flags' ceremony, at the Indian-Pakistani border, close to Amritsar, Punjab, India

The Wagah border closing ‘lowering of the flags’ ceremony, at the Indian-Pakistani border, close to Amritsar, Punjab, India

You want to learn a lesson in crowd control? You think nothing, no matter how crazy, can surprise you? Then you must see the flag ceremony at the Pakistani-Indian border at Wagah, between Amritsar and Lahore! Every evening the flags of the two countries are taken down in a ceremony that has no parallel – a choreography of music, chanting political slogans, trumpets and whistle blowing (the latter to control the crowd) on part of the organizer. Cheering, dancing, clapping, waving the Indian flag is what the approx. 40.000 Indian visitors contribute. Continue Reading →

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The Golden Temple Embraces Us

Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, also referred to as the "Golden Temple", a prominent Sikh Gurdwara or Sikh temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India

Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, also referred to as the “Golden Temple”, a prominent Sikh Gurdwara or Sikh temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India

Our expectations were very high and as we all know, such are usually not met. But Amritsar proved this theory wrong. The Golden Temple, and the entire complex surrounding it, is breathtakingly beautiful. But what makes the visit so very unforgettable and enjoyable is the relaxed atmosphere. Many of the pilgrims come from villages or cities where foreigners are hardly ever seen and they loved having photos taken with us or simply dared a quick hello. None of the consistent stares like in Ajmer at the Dargah Sharif Tomb, or the no-photo paranoia of Pushkar (the holy Hindi City). Very rarely have we immediately felt so comfortable and relaxed at a holy place. Continue Reading →

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Amritsar: First Night Gone Wrong

Monsoon rain and floded street in Amritsar, End of July, Penjab, India

Monsoon rain and floded street in Amritsar, End of July, Penjab, India

Luckily Gilles saw the small handwritten sign “bell” on the wall. Our taxi from the airport had dropped us in a rural area at around 04:00 am, in front of a locked iron wrought door. Two young men with tousled hair appeared buttoning up their shirts. So it was only mildly surprising that there was not much greeting. Still it didn’t feel right. The small, extremely hot room added to that feeling. The roaring AC cooled it down soon and a fast WiFi connection lifted our spirits. Yes, it felt good being online at 04:00 am. But the noise of the AC was deafening and the arctic air brushing against our bodies promised a major flu. Continue Reading →

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