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One of the unique charm of Kashmir are the houseboats. The houseboats are the floating little hotels which can be seen on the edge of the Dal Lake or in the secluded areas of the Nagin Lake in Srinagar. There are about 1300 houseboats moored on the waters of the Dal lake and about 1,000 are on the official approved list of the Tourist Department of the State Government. The government has fixed tariff for each houseboat depending on the facilities it offers. Living in a houseboat is an exotic way of spending a holiday in Srinagar in Kashmir.
There is an interesting story about the origin of these houseboats. Once, the British had taken a fancy to Kashmir and wanted to come here for a holiday during summer. But the wily Maharaja had different ideas. He did not want the British to come in large numbers and indulge in conspiracies to dethrone him. Therefore, he forbade the non-state subjects to own landed property in Kashmir. But, the British had a clever idea.

They built houseboats which were located on the waters of the Lake and invited their friends. They trained the Kashmiri cooks in the western cuisine. The British enjoyed their cruises on water in tiny hand-pedalled “Shikaras”, the little boats with giant mattresses, cushioned seats and curtains. Now, most of the old British houseboats are not there, but still there are some better and roomier houseboats which could surpass the comforts of a 5-star hotel.

The houseboats are grand with hand - carved furniture and rich Kashmiri carpets. Some of the names of the houseboats are like White House, Washington, Love-in-the-Mist and Noorjehan. The owner and his family live in an adjoining separate houseboat where the members of the family provide service to the guest. A houseboat boy is always on call and three meals are served daily from a menu of western, Kashmiri or Indian cuisine.

One can travel anywhere from the Shikaras or tiny Kashmiri boat with cushioned seats and curtains. For the rest of the needs as well, you don't have to go anywhere as there are various vendors who sell the things on the boat. The families huddled in large vessels move up and down the river to transport timber.

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