Make mine a sea bed . . .

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

THE next best thing to cruis­ing, all snug in a comfy cabin, has to be stay­ing at a ho­tel or lodge on a pon­toon or a house­boat that’s per­ma­nently moored as they are up in Kash­mir, In­dia, on Sri­na­gar’s Dal and Na­gin lakes.

There’s some­thing very Ratty and Mole about be­ing on the wa­ter. It doesn’t al­ways have to be glam­orous and some­times it’s even a bit of a relief not to be go­ing any­where much — maybe out for a few hours, as you do on a wooden ket­tuval­lam, lit­er­ally a ‘‘sewn boat’’, made with­out nails, on the back­wa­ters of Ker­ala in In­dia’s south­west. Just an out­ing, please, to feel the breeze and ob­serve swoop­ing king­fish­ers and blue but­ter­flies and bar­gain with pass­ing fish­er­men over fat prawns and bony but de­li­cious lit­tle karimeen fish for din­ner.

Decades ago I spent a lot of time up in Kash­mir be­fore it all but fell off the map, even for the most gung-ho of tourists; the bor­der re­mains in dis­pute, more than 60 years af­ter the hor­rors of Par­ti­tion, and travel ad­vi­sories sug­gest we stay away, sadly. Yet there’s still some­thing ap­peal­ing and peace­ful about the prospect of sit­ting on the poop-deck of a moored house­boat as hawk­ers sail in, pad­dling shikara ca­noes bulging with sacks of pash­mina shawls, pa­pier-mache boxes and lus­trous moon­stones.

The house­boats mostly have re­gal names, sug­gest­ing ra­jahs and their ra­nis would have been very happy rest­ing their be­jew­elled heads here, but the con­cept dates to the time of the Raj. When the lo­cal ruler de­nied the Brits the rights to build sum­mer houses in Sri­na­gar, those canny colonis­ers com­mis­sioned house­boats that were never in­tended to move and most of which were lav­ishly em­bel­lished and kit­ted, flo­ral cur­tains, chan­de­liers et al.

A few years ago, I stayed at King Pa­cific Lodge in Canada — one of the best adventures ever. It’s a 17-room pop-up ho­tel an­chored along the shore of Barnard Har­bour on Princess Royal Is­land and sur­rounded by the world’s largest tract of in­tact tem­per­ate rain­for­est. The two-storey lodge is perched atop a for­mer naval barge be­side a jetty; it’s towed into place at the end of each win­ter af­ter its hi­ber­na­tion at Prince Ru­pert.

Ac­cess is by vin­tage float­plane from Bella Bella, north of Van­cou­ver, which adds to the fun, and the place moves and creaks and there’s even the oc­ca­sional sen­sa­tion when the wind whips in that a tremen­dous gust could carry you off to the wa­tery realms of whales and all those salmon, so full of fight up in Bri­tish Columbia.

There’s the sen­sa­tion of al­most be­ing at sea if you stay at over­wa­ter re­sort bun­ga­lows in des­ti­na­tions such as French Poly­ne­sia or the Mal­dives. I holed up in one at Bora Bora that had a glass panel in the floor to ob­serve the pa­rade of vi­brant ma­rine life be­low; the house­keeper, Odette, called it my ‘‘Tahi­tian tele­vi­sion’’ and pointed out a fish that we swore was wear­ing coral-pink lip­stick.

All such over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows (or bures or vil­las, de­pend­ing where you are) have wooden decks, some­times jut­ting out like the prow of a ship, plough­ing into the breeze, and many with pri­vate pools can­tilevered over the la­goon for the ul­ti­mate in (al­low­able) dou­ble dip­ping.

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