Friday, 26 June 2015

My Experience Of Travelling Alone In KASHMIR


People still have a sense of fear for Kashmir. The epic floods of September 2014 just added to the ‘terror’ that’s associated with this ill-fated land. But, I’d like to tell everybody that going to Kashmir has been my best decision as a traveller. So did I find it safe as a woman solo traveller? Yes, absolutely safe. In fact, it is much more comfortable for a woman to travel alone in Kashmir than anywhere else.

It’s time to break myths about Kashmir. I wouldn’t say that you shouldn’t be careful here and assume that everything is hunky-dory, but you can certainly feel normal just the way you feel in your own city.

         
My preconceived notions

When I started out with my journey in Srinagar (the capital of Kashmir), I had my preconceived notions about it. I thought maybe I’d need a local to accompany me everywhere, because it wouldn’t be safe to wander alone with a bulky camera hung around my neck. Thankfully, my notions disappeared on their own as I began to know the ‘true’ Kashmir and its people.

Wandering alone in Srinagar

I felt as normal and safe wandering in Srinagar as I feel in my own city or anywhere else in India. Yes, some people were amused to see me roaming alone and taking pictures, but they were helpful and appreciative of what I was doing. In fact, I also went to the old city of Srinagar where you don’t find many tourists, and even that was not a problem. Strangely though, there was a man, who passed by on a bike giving me a hateful look and uttering something to shoo me away! I was exasperated by it, but the friendliness, affection and support that I received from everybody else superseded that one instance.

I could have refrained from sharing this particular incidence here on my blog, but the reason why I felt the need to write about it too, because I don’t want to talk about just the good stuff. That said, I’d like to stress on the fact that no destination should be judged on the basis of a few idiots that you come across.
  
Should a foreign girl travel alone in Kashmir?

Yes, of course! I met a young woman from Taiwan who was also travelling alone in Kashmir. She joined me on my expeditions to Sonmarg and Gulmarg. She seemed to be pretty comfortable on her own. There was one incidence though, that proved that our Indian men treat foreign women differently. In Sonmarg, one man came up to my Taiwanese friend (while I was busy snapping photos) and asked her, “Do you need a guy? I’ll take you to places.” Thankfully, the Taiwanese damsel was cold towards his proposal and he left her alone. But, I was shocked for a while. I told her to be more careful and not to mingle with just about anybody.

I have to say that some Indian men do act weird with the white-skinned females. Perhaps they presume that these women are easily available. Anyway, all I want to tell women travellers from across the globe is that if you are coming to India alone, just be well-researched and take help from reliable sources – tourism boards and homestay owners. Besides, it was just one trivial incidence, which can happen anywhere in the world with any woman.


Staying with a typical Kashmiri family

I had the privilege of staying with a Kashmiri Muslim family in Srinagar for the first half of my trip. I call it a privilege because when you stay with a local family, you get offhand tips and insights on their city, which is far more valuable than travel brochures. It’s a relatively new guest house named New World Guest House, which is located in a residential colony near Dal Lake. The manager, Tariq is quite a helpful chap who ensures that his guests are well taken care of. His family also stays in the same guest house on the ground floor. So, you have a chance to interact with them as well.

Being a woman solo traveller, I felt absolutely at home under the care of this Kashmiri family. They were hospitable, warm and respectful. And, the best part was that my stay at New World Guest House cost me just INR 600 per night. My room was reasonably clean and comfy. I would say it was a good deal!

I have much more to write about my solo travel experiences in Kashmir, but that would take pages! There were people who called me their daughter, sister… and bestowed so much of love upon me that it’s hard for me to weave all of that into words.

Would you visit Kashmir alone?

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73 comments:

  1. Have been to Srinagar at least 5-6 times for my official work in last 2 years. I too felt that Kashmir is much more safe as compare to NE.

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    1. NE? Do you mean North East? Well, I found Sikkim safe, too.

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    2. Which part of NE and what made you feel unsafe Mahesh Divya Sir?

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  2. Nice post...I have many friends who belong to kashmir and it is on my list...would have liked to read more about the places to travel :-)

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    1. Yes, you will get to read on places to travel in my upcoming posts. :-)

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  3. Hey Renuka, How are you? Great post and I am glad I came across it. I have never planned and neither ever wanted to visit Kashmir for the obvious reasons but your post inspired me to plan my next trip. Very well written and described the true essence of Kashmir. That's true that idiots are everywhere and that should not stop us from visiting such a beautiful place or I should rather say "heaven". The pictures are awesome, loved them. Cheers!
    - Himanshu
    - Being Traveler

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    1. Hi Himanshu! I'm fine. :-) How have you been? Kashmir is not just a beautiful, but an interesting place too. Thus, a traveler should definitely visit it at least once in a lifetime. I am glad I did!

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  4. No. I wont visit Kashmir alone. A travel companion will be too good to talk about the beauty of the nature.
    And food in Kashmir also special. Maybe upcoming post you will write about food in Kashmir.

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    1. Yes, I will write about food, too!

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  5. Awww ... I miss Kashmir so much now after reading your post and completely agree with you that people in Kashmir are so warm and friendly, there is nothing to fear

    http://thetalesofatraveler.com/2015/06/15/chinese-new-year-open-house-2015-perak/

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  6. Such a lovely post. Kashmir is breathtakingly beautiful, and so are its people.

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  7. It's almost always the media's fault as to why people are getting deterred from visiting a particular place.
    There really is no perfect place anywhere as idiots are everywhere. :p
    Great post! Made me want to visit Kashmir.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear that! Hope you make it to Kashmir soon. :-) Yes, media blows things out of proportion, but it should be our choice to make our own judgments about a place.

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  8. Good work with spreading the right message. Our media should learn from you.

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    1. I hope they do! Thanks for reading!

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  9. Yupp its true Kashmir Is not Heaven by Land Alone but by its Heavenly kind People.. Thanks for your kind words about my kashmir . God bless you.
    Visit my page Www.facebook.com/rujlan
    Regards Rujlan Ahmad

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Rujilan! Kashmir was truly a wonderful experience.

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    2. I am also a traveller and a professional photographer most of the time I keep on interacting with people around the globe... I believe 90% of the people are good to everyone and it depends how you treat and greet people they reply in the same manner...
      I visited most of the places inIndia and felt that kindness everywhere. ..

      All I can say if you are good then the world around is best...
      Stay blessed

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    3. Yes, I agree with you. Thanks.

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  10. It really is inspirational story when it comes to a woman traveler as we are bound by our society believing women are weak in-terms of a creation. I thank Renuka for presenting the world with a true picture of self experience. Kashmir is a wonderful place when it comes to travel, There are a lot of new places yet to be explored, Every time one visits Kashmir, one should think out of the box and experiment with new recipes of travelling.
    Just to add to it, anyone who desires to visit Kashmir may visit this website WWW.MAKNTOUR.COM | WWW.FB.COM/MAKNTOUR for better Quality service.

    Regards
    Owais Khan
    fb.com/owais14

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Owais, for your kind words.

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  11. It sounds like you had such a great experience. I'm glad you decided to write about the negative things you experienced. I always like to read about travelers' real experiences, not the sugar coated versions. All in all Kashmir sounds like a fantastic destination. I hope I'm lucky enough to visit someday soon!

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    1. The people of kashmir always welcomes the nature lovers.......

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    2. AND THANKS FOR SHARING UR VALUABLE EXPERIENCE ABOUT KASHMIR............

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    3. Yes, Justine! I hope you get to visit it. I wrote about the negative things, because I don't want anyone to be shocked if he/she actually happens to experience those things and think that a blogger wrote just the 'good' stuff.

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    4. You're welcome, Sameer!

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    5. Hi renuka i also want to travel solo to kashmir n leh ladakh but i hesitate to go i m 40yrs.i listen about acomudation problem for solo female traveler.

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  12. Hi Renuka,

    Thanks for writing about my state.

    I would like to say sorry for the incident which you have faced in downtown and Sonamarg. As you said these kind of idiots are everywhere even in foreign countries. Next time you should try to visit beyond Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonamarg. Beauty of Kashmir lies in villages and try to visit them. And villages in Kashmir are much more safer than the city.

    Thanks again for writing it.

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    1. As I mentioned in the post, those petty instances didn't matter much, because the goodness of most people was far more palpable. Yes, I would like to visit Kashmir again and explore more of its rural regions. By the way, I did visit a village ahead of Tulail Valley.

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  13. Loads of thanks for sharing the true picture of my kashmir.

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    1. You're welcome, Tahir! :-) I'm coming to Kashmir again next year!

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  14. Kashmir is one of my dream destinations. So I never miss your posts on the same. They are rich in information and visuals. Thank you for sharing all those minute details... very helpful and inspiring for solo travelling.

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    1. You're most welcome, Moon! :-) I'd be happy if you make it to Kashmir soon and use some of my tips.

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  15. Well written but it did not amazed me as we are perhaps one of the best hosts one may get in world.Anyways thanks for endorsing Kashmir and putting reality upfront. I am sure any one who visits Kashmir has thirst of coming back and u ill be always welcomed.

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    1. Yes, you are right, Javeed. Anyone who visits Kashmir would like to visit it again and again. It is such a sublime land!

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  16. Thanku renuka for writing this for my kashmir and my kashmiris
    I am sorry for what u have faced here.
    U know wat today i am so much happy that tears came in my eyez coz this is the first time someone has the guts to show the true image of kashmir and kashmiris
    Indian media alwayz show worst of kashmir they show opposite of this but thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Rizwan! :-) I'm glad that I could visit Kashmir and know its people.

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    2. Really inspiring for people to visit Kashmir,as it is safe to visit here! Indian media is cooking up things which creates hurdles for people, it is simple anyone can get scared when he/she listens wrost things abt any place ! Btw interesting thing abt u is photography ,with the help of your art people can get attractted towards Kashmir.. Try to mention your email so that I can send you some pics of Kashmir or respond me on zeegee11@gmail.com

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    3. Thanks so much, for reading! I hope the myths about Kashmir are broken and more and more people visit this beautiful land. My email is available in my 'contact me' page on the blog.

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  17. Good work. Solo travellers like you should encourage more people from across the globe who still think kashmir is not a sage place to visit. I would love to guide anyone who wishes to travel to Kashmir regarding places to stay / visit. Anyone wishing to visit kashmir can contact me through mail fahd_khan@ymail.com
    Best of luck for your future travels.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Fahd! I'm sure more and more people will visit Kashmir in the days to come.

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  18. hi renuka thanx for ur visit and spreading the right information about Kashmir....

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  19. Replies
    1. Thanks Javaid! I had a great time in Kashmir (as the post says)!

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  20. Nice post.Waiting for your upcoming posts on Kashmir.Love to know about the vegetarian food .Thanks for sharing.
    http://www.srikri.com/

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    1. Yeah, I will talk about some vegetarian food in my upcoming posts!

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  21. Lovely! Kashmir really is such a beautiful land, and as you say, it's not that unsafe to visit, even for a solo female. It's such a shame to hear about that woman's experience with some creep - it can really ruin your experience of a place if it happens... but it's important to remember that it's not an Indian problem, it's a problem in many (most) places.

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    1. Yeah, maybe. If I travel to a foreign land, even I may get different treatment from what the local women get. I guess we just have to shrug off these things and travel no matter what.

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  22. Travelling is much safer in reality than in our head. Glad to see you share a similar experience. I have to go to Kashmir soon. :)

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    1. Yes, you are absolutely right! Traveling alone or with somebody has equal risks involved, but life isn't life without risks. I hope you visit Kashmir soon!

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  23. Beautiful......women are way to safer in Kashmir then in India,keeping aside the conflict aspect of kashmir. I too am a kashmiri working here in Noida. I find Delhi safer then Noida. I commute everyday from Delhi to Noida and once i cross Noida i feel that insafe air passing my skin as if the air too has lecherous , lustful intentions, i feel so unsafe right from the auto walla staring to someone in Mercedes looking at me. Kashmir is definitly safe but one should always be careful as culprit has no identity no nation no religion he can be anywhere.

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    1. I agree, lecherous people can be from anywhere. But, Kashmir is also India, and there are many other places in India, which are equally safe - Sikkim, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra...to name a few. I have traveled to all these places alone and I found people very respectful.

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  24. I liked the fact that you stayed with a local family, that surely made the whole experience even more interesting. I always try to mix with locals in every place I go, usually with the help of Couchsurfing and I love it :)

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    1. That's right, Franca! Staying with a local family is the best way to experience a place.

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  25. As far as I know, Kashmir is a Dangerous place for especially Indian and Pakistani. You are brave! You made it alone even you are a female!

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    1. Fon, Kashmir is not a dangerous place per se. Yes, there's some political tension once in a while, but those days of militants firing are over. Things are changing and tourists are pouring in. I'd like to encourage you to visit Kashmir and enjoy its beauty.

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  26. THANKS A LOT MS RENUKA FOR PROMOTING THE TOURISM OF KASHMIR ... And Had U Saw What is The Real Problem Kashmiris R Facing And Had U visted Tral , Sopore Or To any Resistance Leaders House Here To knw What is Happening here

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  27. THANKS A LOT MS RENUKA FOR PROMOTING THE TOURISM OF KASHMIR ... And Had U Saw What is The Real Problem Kashmiris R Facing And Had U visted Tral , Sopore Or To any Resistance Leaders House Here To knw What is Happening here

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks Renuka(sister)....
    We will die hard for the safety of tourists from any corner of world ...
    We wish again your vists to Pir ki Gali,Yousmarg,doodhpathri and we want you to interact with rural kashmiri population.....
    Regards
    zuhaib UL Hassan

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  29. Thanks Renuka(sister)....
    We will die hard for the safety of tourists from any corner of world ...
    We wish again your vists to Pir ki Gali,Yousmarg,doodhpathri and we want you to interact with rural kashmiri population.....
    Regards
    zuhaib UL Hassan

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  30. Thanks sister for giving right information about heavan on earth ( kashmir) to all world. thanks again and hope u will visit again.
    Tajamul Hamid

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  31. Much obliged to see your post mam, you see being a kashmiri I welcome all of tourists like you who observe any kind of place keenly & more precisely instead of its past or any kind of media TRP crap. Thanking you again mam. Respect..........

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  32. Hi i also travel solo.i face problem of stay hotelier not give room to solo female pls guide me

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  33. Hi i also travel solo.i face problem of stay hotelier not give room to solo female pls guide me

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    Replies
    1. Hi me too going this year, can we share plans :) will be fun talking about it

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  34. Hi, I'm going solo to same place on 1st june this year. If you don't mind can we talk for a while? I've got some questions and want your advices. Please please please, I'm hell of excited. Please whatsapp me 8460503479. Because of exams Ive deleted account I'll come back there. If you agree please tell me. I am 18 year old currently,

    ReplyDelete
  35. My experience was not good in Kashmir. I don't think that it is safe place for women. People do not respect tourist their. Even that tease outside women their. My sister and I have a very bad experience their and in our life we don't want to go their. It is not a nice place for girls. Beware

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    Replies
    1. Vikram, I'm sorry to hear that. As I mentioned in my post, you have to be careful wherever you are traveling - Kashmir or any other place on earth. I can understand what you are saying. But then, teasing and rowdy behavior can be found anywhere in the world.

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  37. Hi,

    I am planning to visit kashmir on 1st week of april 2017. Looking out if anyone visiting on the same period.

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