Sunday, April 27, 2008

Srinagar, India: 26July2007

5 Dollar of Arguement

After breakfast, i walked to the houseboat that i wanted to stay. Half way through, someone called me. It was Michael, one of our car-mate from Vashist to Leh. He said he stayed at a nice hourseboat and asked if i wanted to stay there as well. So i went with him, who knows it might be a better decision.

The owner wasn't there when we get there, so we couldn't ask for a price. The houseboat was kind of luxury. Since most of my time will be outside instead of staying at the houseboat, so i am not willing to pay too for much for that. The worker at the houseboat mentioned a price of 1000RS for twin sharing. i don't see how could the price to hike up for another 300Rs from the 700Rs that Michael was already paying. But as the house owner wasn't there, so we decided to talk about that later and went to the shikara lake ride first. Well... this proved to be a bad decision later.

The shikara ride was a good chill out. We passed by the old city, the lotus pond, the floating garden and people's farm. The boatman was good in English, so he was a competance guide as well. It ended up that, we spent almost 6 hours on the lake. It was such a coincident also that, i saw Eneko, my travel partner at Vanarasi on the lake. He was on another shikara, fishing. We intended to have dinner together, but in the end, it just doesn't work out.

When we got back to the houseboat, it was already 10pm. i was tired to move to another place and i am reluctant to pay the steep 450Rs for the room. The owner was unhappy that i wasn't willing to pay the price and he was rude too. i was trying to explain to him that, it wasn't that his houseboat was not good or the price was too expensive. It was, i don't want to pay this kind of money just for a night of accommodation. i have never paid more than 300Rs for accommodation. That was not a big sum of money if you convert to other currency (Rs 450 is around USD 10), but for all these time when i am in India, i knew that this was not a small sum in Indian standard. A normal worker might earn 500Rs a month and i have tried not to convert. So in the end, to end the 'dispute' between the owner and me, Michael insisted he would still pay his 700Rs of room rate, while i pay the rest of 300Rs. i feel bad about this (it was just a matter of a few dollar ...), but since he insisted, then i just guiltily accepted. i would move to another place tomorrow.

Sometimes, i think there is no point to argue over a few Rupee. But sometimes, i would think, if i compromised with every few rupees of extra, then i would easily get over budget. Sometimes, it would really depends on mood as well. When i am in high spirit, i give tips like 10 Rs, but if i don't feel good, i won't hesitate to bargain over 5 Rs. :)

The child was trying to sell something to Michael. Normally they ride their shikara and approach the tourist in other shikara.
He was trying to sell some jewellery.
i told him that i am a Nepalese courtesan, so i do not have money to buy things from him. :P
In the end, i bought a dolphin bangle. i gave it to Wei Kwan when i came back.

Eneko on another shikara.
May be we both got some influence from Dario to want to come to Kashmir.
Eneko is from the province or area in Spain (can't remember the name of his place) where the people is asking for independent (The similar case of Quebec, where people have their own language and culture that is different from the majority others in the country). So he thinks he should really come to Kashmir.

The exquisite Mughal Garden.
We came with Shikara, by the lake, but many would come with the land transportation.

The local with their own shikara.

The shikara passing by the old town. Most of the houses are ancient and i think they looked beautiful. But some of the houses are abandoned or destroyed partially due to the war.

How a houseboat room looks like.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Drass-Srinagar, Kashmir: 25Jul07

Lesson learnt: Choose your partner wisely!

At 4am, i tied my own luggage at the roof top (yes, carried my own heavy luggage and climbed up to the roof of the bus). Then i slept through out the way in the bus journey, until 3 hours before we reach Srinagar.

Along the road, there were military camp and militant posted along the way. In someway, this was making me feel walking on the street is kind of safer (well ... but later on, the house boat owner actually said, nobody trust the military people here). However, the heavy militarized reminded me that, this is not a peaceful paradise after all.

i met an Indian old man on the bus. He claimed to have a sister in Kuantan, Malaysia and he could really tell me many stuff about Malaysia. Since i don't have partner now, so i just partner up with him. i think it should be kind of 'interesting' to travel with some local as well. (This proved to be not a very wise decision and almost everyone said i am too naive.)

So eventually, i found that, may be Indian men don't do thing like split bill in the public (you have to do it discreetly out of the eyes of others) and they like to make decision. So, i paid him whatever bill in the room (he refused to take it otherwise) and instead of ordering food myself, i would just tell him what do i want and he would order for me to the waiter who was standing right in front me. These were just kind of strange to me, i feel like an incapable inferior animals who couldn't do my own thing. But may be, this is just the Indian gentleman way.

He refused me to call him uncle and didn't talk much about his family. This was actually making me feel rather uncomfortable. Well... The worst thing should be, he started to touch me. Squeezing my shoulder, my back, my limbs, kiss my cheek ... (not that we knew for years and in fact not even a day!) i was trying to be polite, so i told him that, i don't like people to touch me, so please don't do so. i was thinking, worst come to worst, i would just whack him! i learnt Chinese martial art after all!

By end of the day, i got my bus and train ticket to Delhi and Gaya done. Then we both took a shikara (gondola) ride on Dal Lake. The boat ride was scenic, but it wasn't that enjoyable with a companion who made me think that, he would take advantages on me if he found chance. i started to talk about my 'boyfriend' to him as well, hoping that, he would put a stop to whatever in his mind!

In general, i think, tomorrow, when my current travel partner leave, i would be able to enjoy my stay better. Surprisingly, people here are friendly and helpful. i didn't feel particularly uncomfortable with the military. The men and women here are good looking and it is always nice to see beautiful things around. :)

A stop over point for breakfast, from Drass to Srinagar.
The pine tree hill was beautiful.

The houseboat on Dal Lake.
Considering what gets put into the lake (there are no proper sanitary system for houseboat), the water is amazingly clear.

While the atmosphere on the lake is beguiling, Srinagar is still the epicentre of
Kashmiri troubles.
So photo taking of any military, including government buildings and bridges could risk to be arrested.

Houseboat on Nagin Lake.
This peaceful stretch of water is around 7km from Dal Lake but can easily access by the local small public bus.

The Boulevard, the majority of houseboats are lined up facing here.

This was one of the street that i passed by on my way to walk to the government office to buy my train ticket from Delhi to Gaya.
i like the ancient-looked buildings.

One of the shops at 'that' shopping street.
i think, i have never seen any shop as colorful as these that i can see in India.
Kashmir is afterall still India, eventhough the color might not be as sharp as those in Delhi, but the shop is still kind of colorful to me. :)

Me on the Shikara. i was with my travel partner, but i refused to take picture with him. :P