After his voyage, Kim grasps the mission that his father had assigned to him—informing contemplative travellers about idyllic locations containing exclusive properties, which unveil a true essence of Asia.
The Mughal Emperor Jejangir was so moved by the beauty of Kashmir that he exclaimed: “If there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.” Kashmir Valley, the gateway to the Himalayas, is a region blessed by the gods. Steeped in legend and myth, Lake City, better known as Srinagar’s most prominent landmark Dal Lake—laden with local villages, floating vegetable gardens and lotus blossom fields—is a natural wonder. Here, Sukoon (which means “divine peace” in Kashmiri) is a luxury houseboat strategically moored, so guests can view the Zabarwan mountain range and a few of the city’s architectural splendours—the Mughal Gardens, Shankaracharya Temple, Hari Parbat Fort.
Carved wooden doors open to reveal a lounge adorned with crystal chandeliers and intricately handwoven Kashmir carpets. The vast dining room is filled with period furniture. Overall, the décor has a distinctive Victorian feel, recalling something bequeathed by the British colonialists who fully understood Paradise Valley’s splendorous characteristics.
Outdoors, I spot the sun’s last pale pink rays hovering over the lake. Piping hot tea comes served on an etched silver tea service. Distinct smells of saffron and cardamom fill the air. The enthusiastic staff provides excellence service. A feast is served: raita
(yogurt dip), pakora
, (samosas), skewered lamb with herbs, yellow lentils, crispy naan
(bread), eggplant caviar.
At dawn, a transparent veil lifts the morning’s mist up over the lake to reveal purple hued clouds embracing the foothills of the Himalayas. My hosts loan me their ornate shikara
(gondola) to explore the treasures in and around the lake. I spot terraced gardens, small skiffs manned by young men with light green eyes selling bunches of lotus flowers. A young woman, paddle in hand, offers cherry tree blossoms, and bouquets of purple and white irises.
I stroll around Srinagar’s medieval Old City admiring centuries old wooden homes. An elderly man wearing a turban sits in his shop with his copper wares. An affable woman negotiates the price of her fine pashmina wool shawls. My hosts offer endless excursions to explore the region: the fascinating, elevated hill resort Gulmarg; a jungle safari through Dachigam National Park; a glimpse at the world’s best saffron fields near Pampore; the Awantipura ruins...
Through their spirit of service and legendary Kashmiri hospitality, the owners of Sukoon present travellers not only insight into these virgin landscapes, but also something else that is truly out of the ordinary—mystery and pure beauty in a hidden world.