Interview Of The Month: Is It Safe To Travel To Kashmir?

Joy Singh @Raasta.jpgThere’s a lot to be said about Kashmir. The Valley has enchanted travellers for centuries but all that has changed in the past decades. The very idea of travelling to Kashmir is considered dangerous. Alpaviram spoke to F&B entrepreneur, Goumtesh Singh better known as ‘Joy’ who from hails of Jammu. Now, a co-partner of Raasta and although his work takes him away from his beloved homeland, its beauty and charm is always on his mind.

What memories do you have of your days in the Valley?

The fondest memory of the valley is not that old, it’s when in 2010 I went to Kupwara to see the place since we have a house there. It is by far one of the most serene and peaceful places I have seen. It is hard to believe since the place is in North of Kashmir and is one of the most affected areas but the calmness that place brings to the mind and soul is unmatched.

The mountains, the river and the small market, the people and everything else – all invoke a feeling that one can never express in words and a memory which will be with you forever.

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What would you consider the greatest hindrance to tourism in Kashmir?

The beauty of Kashmir is indescribable and it is an impeccable place to visit but still somewhere people try to avoid visiting  Jammu & Kashmir due to the terrorism that exists in that state. Kashmir was known as the ‘’Princely Heaven State’’ earlier and it was the favourite destination for holidays and the travelers used to love the beauty of Kashmir. From past few years, there has been a cold tourism attraction due to the unrest in the valley which makes it difficult for people to travel freely.

Do you feel that a greater number of travellers to Kashmir can help the local economy find a stronger footing and thus, help Kashmir?

Definitely! If you see around the world countries are existing because of tourism and lasting because of the same and here we are talking about a state. So yes more number of travelers will give a lot of support to the economy. Firstly the lifestyle is quite slow and Kashmiri people are better known for their simplicity. Kashmir tourism has been slow for the past few years because of the internal disturbances in the state.

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Not much is known about Kashmiri homestays, can you share what a day at a Kashmiri household comprises?

Kashmir is a beautiful place to stay and spend your quality time, meeting people there who are so humble and down to earth will make you feel like home. If we talk about a day at a Kashmiri household then it will take me a day to tell you the different experiences and the changing weather that makes your mood change every hour. To start with, the moment you enter a homestay you are offered with a cup of kahwa which is a traditional green tea served to guests in Kashmir. It is a refreshing drink and mostly served with honey, almond and walnuts.

As a food lover, the Kashmiri traditional platter is more vibrant and mixture of various traditional spices. The natives are a huge fan of meat, fish, chicken dishes like Wazwan (which is a 36 course meal), Rogan Josh, Shah Degh which are among the famous Kashmiri dishes. Kashmiris are so fond of rice that they make some amazing rice dishes as well like Kashmiri Palao which is a popular dish in the region.  Kashmiris usually offers to their guests a large bowl of rice which is the most favourite food to eat with some seekh kabab and various non- veg dishes. Besides enjoying the scenic beauty of the areas near the homestays one can also enjoy the houseboats, one can also find the floating market of fruits and vegetables over there. Tourist can also stay in houseboats. You can also have a ride of shikara to visit Chaar Chinar, which is located in the center of Dal Lake. It is a sort of island having four Chinar trees.

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Which are the unique destinations that visitors should explore on their visit?

Kashmir valley is a place which is not just pleasant but peaceful, the atmosphere around is covered in snow and greenery. We all are well aware of the places much known to us like Srinagar, Leh, Sonmarg and Gulmarg for their pure adventures, exemplary beauty and a skiing paradise. But there are a lot of places that are still unexplored in the valley like the Kupwara: The crown of Kashmir where one can enjoy the thriving meadows, the clean water scenes and the alpine mountains and this city just epitomises the beauty of the place.

Pahalgham is the place from where the Amarnath Yatra starts and is a great tourist attraction and Gondola rides in Gulmarg which the quite famous tourist place and travel through cable car to enjoy the best view of highly snowed mountains. In the valley since Dal lake is very famous so people tend to forget the other Nagin Lake which is also a great place to go and stay with fewer tourists around and peaceful houseboat stays.

What should travellers to Kashmir be responsible about?

Kashmir is more peaceful and safe if we compare to any other cities.

When you visit any place outside, there are a lot of things one should consider and be responsible about. Talking about Kashmir, there are a lot of customs and cultural requirements- the travelers are expected to wear clothes that are simple and don’t make the people around uncomfortable. The city is clean and green, so the basic responsibility of keeping it clean is a must and due to the military assistance all over using of the basic resources carefully is also a necessary thing to do.

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