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Kashmir should be visited as a languid sojourn on a housebout on Lak Dal or a retreat into the landscape. I had a day. Rapid travel is not well-suited to every destination, though I had a great day in Srinigar and it was far better than no day.
Foreigners do not need permits in advance to visit Kashmir. Upon arrival there is a massive arrival form, a full A4 sheet of questions, given by friendly, low-key officials. No passport stamp unlike Andaman Islands, Sikkim and others.
Security lockdown is the lasting impression of Srinigar. There airport is sealed off with a 1km+ perimeter of checkpoints. From there into town the road is lined with military presence as well as throughout Srinigar. With elections coming this month the alert was stepped up and no one was in a convivial mood to deal with a nosy tourist so I kept my camera holstered around security. I saw a girls school wrapped in barricades and checkpoints and wondered the experience of the girls within, fighting for education.
Lake Dal is the centerpiece, a houseboat stay is the prime attraction that attracts raves and howls. Study all the the online horror stories to learn the ropes and make a plan.
I kept to land, chartering a prepaid taxi from the airport for my first stop, then negotiating with him for the rest of the day. I surveyed several of the Mughal Gardens, still not blossomed into spring, and the sights of the bustling, predominantly Muslim old town.
An overcast day in April does not show Srinigar in its best light. For summer, it would be a delight to launch a larger Kashmir trip, though not necessarily worth a trip just for the city.
On departure the same massive form, now labeled ‘Departure’ awaits foreigners.