‘Peace & quiet’, cheap rates draw some foreign tourists to Kashmir
Srinagar/Sonmarg: You wouldn't expect to find foreign tourists in Kashmir right now. But if you stroll down to the houseboats moored in the scenic Dal Lake, you’d be in for a surprise.
Steven Ballantine, 51, is perched on the steps of a houseboat, strumming his guitar. On request, he bursts into song. “You might go to church, you sit down in a pew, those humans who ain’t human, could be sitting right next to you.” John Prine’s lyrics seem even more haunting against the backdrop of the mountains, with the first chill of impending winter slipping into the clear, crisp air.
Ballantine, a science teacher from Scotland, is one of 928 foreign tourists who arrived at Srinagar International Airport from August 5 to September 30, according to records of the Foreigners Registration Office. That doesn’t include journalists on duty.
Media reports abroad tell a different story... but the locals and soldiers here are both warm to us —STEVEN BALLANTINE, It’s the best time to be here as there’s not much rush and a significant drop in violence due to the restrictions —BARBARA STRAUSS,