3

gondola ride in india

It’s minus 3°C and the visibility is getting lower with each passing minute. “They closed Phase 2 this morning,” announced the guide as he leads the way toward the Gondola platform. Because of the bad weather, my walking abilities severely affected by the slippery snow, and the guide’s persistent reminder that we’d be completely lost without his services, we reluctantly allow him to show us the way. Turns out the gondola is a mere 15-minute walk from our hotel.

Gulmarg’s gondola operates in two stages. The first one takes us 8,530 ft to Kongdoori Station, while the next stage goes way up to 13,780 ft on Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Afarwat Peak. The latter stage is highly dependent on weather conditions. Disappointed though I am for phase 2 being inaccessible, there isn’t much choice. Few minutes later, up in Kongdoori station, the visibility drops to less than 10 feet. And then, since it snowed all night, we’re now standing on 8 ft of snow, each step sinking 2 feet deep as we slowly inch forward. It takes us twenty-five minutes to walk a distance that would have otherwise taken us ten minutes to accomplish in normal weather conditions. But the experience of dining at 8000 feet with snow all around us is priceless.

The guide looks at me disgruntledly when I inform him that I have checked the weather report whilst planning this trip and that the weather is predicted to clear up the next day.  “Only God can tell what the weather will be like tomorrow,” he says. I decide to leave the conversation at that and enjoy my lunch.

gondola phase 2

The weather clears up the next morning. I jump out of my heated bed and draw the curtains to find glorious sunlight shining outside. There is already a queue at eight in the morning when we arrive at the gondola’s phase 2 platform, all of them geared to ski the slopes. I notice there are no benches to sit on while waiting for the car to arrive. This could be a major issue during the peak season in summer when the schools are off and local tourists flock this part of the country. I’m told people end up waiting three to four hours for their turn on the gondola!

gondola gulmarg

There is an option to buy tickets online, but since you still have to fall in line to collect boarding passes and show some ID at the same window where they sell the tickets, I don’t really understand what the benefit is of purchasing the tickets in advance. The disadvantage of going up the second phase the following day is that we have to repurchase the phase one tickets again. But it’s totally worth it.

At one point—two minutes before setting foot inside the cable car that sits 4 adults with ski gear, to be specific—we question the safety of Gulmarg’s gondola. However, since we have already paid quite an amount for the journey and queued for over an hour, we quickly climb in with another couple, the door automatically closing itself.

gulmarg in winter

The gondola literally creaks its way, hanging from the cable. There are moments of nervousness, specially when I focus on the height and begin having doubts about the gondola’s safety. The breathtaking view, however, distracts me from my silly thoughts. There’s a couple sitting behind us, all geared up to ski the slopes, and I pick up snippets of their conversation as I take pictures of the mountain in front of me. I overhear them comment about how fresh and perfect the powder is for skiing.

Just a few meters toward the end of our phase 2 ride, the gondola abruptly comes to a halt. We choose to ignore this for the next couple of minutes, busying ourselves by looking down at the skiers gliding swiftly on the snow beneath us. A few more minutes later, realizing we’re still not moving, my imagination begins to run wild. Outside, a strong gust of wind gently rocks the car we’re in. I wonder what happens if someone falls from such a height. Will the soft and deep snow provide enough support so that the bones aren’t crushed? Will it bury the entire cable car in its frozen embrace so that no rescue team can find whoever is in there? Is there a rescue team in Gulmarg?

kashmir snow

We’re still suspended and we don’t know what’s happening. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t scared because there are few seconds where I was truly frightened. Knowing how to find ways to distract the mind with pleasant thoughts is such a blessing! Finally, after what seems to be an eternity, we begin to move forward and upward toward our destination.

Stepping out of the car, I turn around to see where we’d come from. A young man stands with one hand on his hip and another holding a shovel. Working here on a regular basis, the clouds floating about the majestic snow-swept peaks must appear as normal for him as it is for me to see a caravan of camels relaxing in the great expanse of the Arabian desert.

working on top of the world

The LOC or Line of Control is the border that separates the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir and this is only a few kilometers from where I am standing. Armed military men roam the area. I notice a camp in the distance and wonder how these men handle the extreme temperature. I suppose one of their duties is to make sure tourists and skiers like us do not wander off across the border. Although they appear intimidating at first—with their scrutinizing looks and armed uniforms—they eventually smile and try to make small talk with Masood.

skiing in kashmir

Skiing in this part of Gulmarg is not for the amateur. First off, the quick change in altitude can wreck havoc to a person’s body, causing labored breathing, increased heart rate, and fatigue. Then there’s the risk of an avalanche.

A young Kashmiri man skis past us. I have great admiration for these local men who can expertly maneuver their way on these dangerously vertical slopes. These Kashmiri men, with their good knowledge of the terrain, act as avalanche experts and guides for the foreign skiers.

powder snow in kashmir

I envy these people who seem to be enjoying skiing from such a high point. Masood and I stay at the top of the mountain and watch them glide down the slopes one by one. We don’t talk much, too mesmerized by the incredible view. It’s such a surreal feeling to be standing above the clouds, at the level of the snow-capped mountain. If I only focus on the view in front of me and forget than I’m standing on solid ground, it feels like I’m flying. It feels like I’m weightless and floating with the clouds. It’s the most incredible feeling.

ski in kashmir

Eventually, it takes a lot of effort to breathe and my nose is frozen and numb. The rays of the sun bounce off harshly against the white snow, forcing us to squint and quickly put our sunglasses back on. We take the next available car and head back down. Fortunately, the return trip is uneventful and I am able to take a lot of pictures. My favorites are the ones below:

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gulmarg in winter

honeymoon in kashmir

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10

chicken noodle sizzler

There is an Indian restaurant here in Dubai called Little Hut that my family and I frequently go to whenever we crave for some good sizzlers. I always look forward to the smoke, the exciting sizzling sound, and the aroma that comes off the hot griddle while the staff brings it out from the kitchen and onto our table.

I tried to recreate a sizzling dish at home. This is my last recipe-post that was prepared in my old kitchen. It was a success: the food was delicious and the sizzling effects made me very happy. Once you learn how to create a sizzling dish, there are endless ways to experiment. You can make beef and mushroom, vegetable fajitas, cheesy pasta, kababs, chicken risotto, or chicken manchurian — all hot and sizzling!

This recipe is specially dedicated to my two lovely blogging sisters Khanum and Miss Maqsood. There’s a lot of work involved but the end result is totally worth it!

Marinate and fry the chicken:

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Marinate the chicken pieces in freshly-ground black pepper, red chili flakes, soy sauce, vinegar, and salt.

Prepare the batter by mixing egg, all purpose-flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and black pepper powder.

Dip all chicken pieces in the batter, mix well, and fry on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes or till done. Remove and keep aside. Make the sauce with bell peppers and cook the chicken in it (detailed recipe below).

 

 Boil the egg noodles as per packet instructions: 

DSC_0767Cook the vegetables:

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Fry onion, garlic and ginger.

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Toss in the mushrooms, capsicum, and corn.

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Add carrots, soy sauce, tomato ketchup, and hot sauce.

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Add noodles and spring onions

 

Prepare and preheat the griddle:

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Preheat griddle by keeping it directly on the stovetop on high heat for 5-7 minutes.

 

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4.8 from 4 reviews
Chicken Noodle Sizzler
 
Sizzling chicken and peppery-garlicky noodles with crispy vegetables.
Author:
Recipe type: Noodles, Chicken, Sizzler
Cuisine: Chinese, Indo-Chinese
Ingredients
Marinade for the chicken:
  • 250 grams boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp freshly-gound black pepper
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
Coating Batter for the Chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
Rest of the Ingredients:
  • 250 grams egg noodles
  • 1 green/spring onion, chopped (separate white from green)
  • 4 tbsp garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1-2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 capsicum, diced
  • mushrooms, chopped (as much as you like)
  • carrots, grated (as much as you like)
  • baby corn, chopped (as much as you like)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • vinegar
  • oil
Instructions
Marinate & cook the chicken:
  1. Marinate the chicken in vinegar, soy sauce, salt (optional), red chili flakes, and pepper. Keep aside for at least 30 minutes (but preferably longer).
  2. Mix all ingredients of the batter in a bowl.
  3. Add the marinated chicken pieces into the bowl and mix well.
  4. Heat oil.
  5. Fry chicken pieces for about 5 minutes or until done. Remove from oil and keep aside.
Cook chicken in sauce:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil.
  2. Add white part of the green onion and garlic. Fry until garlic is light brown and fragrant.
  3. Add ½ of the capsicum and fry for 1 minute.
  4. Add soy sauce, tomato ketchup and hot sauce.
  5. Add cornstarch dissolved in chicken broth or water. Cook for 2 minutes (or until thick)
  6. Add the fried chicken pieces and stir to coat well.
  7. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Boil the noodles:
  1. Boil water with ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp oil.
  2. Add noodles to boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes (or check packet for cooking instructions).
  3. Remove from heat before they get overcooked (noodles should have a little bite).
  4. Strain and leave noodles in a colander with a tsp of oil (to avoid noodles sticking).
Cook the vegetables:
  1. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan.
  2. Fry garlic until light brown and fragrant.
  3. Add mushrooms, carrots, corn, and remaining capsicum. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add soy sauce, tomato ketchup, hot sauce, vinegar, and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the cooked noodles. Stir gently.
  6. Check seasoning and add salt accordingly.
  7. Sprinkle leaves of the spring onion.
Preparing the iron griddle:
  1. Remove cast iron griddle from its wooden base.
  2. Rub oil generously on both sides of the cast iron griddle.
  3. Preheat griddle by keeping it directly on the stovetop on high heat for 5-7 minutes.
Assembling the sizzler:
  1. Mix 4 tbsp oil and 4 tbsp vinegar in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Reheat chicken, if necessary.
  3. Reduce heat to low (the stove on which the griddle is on).
  4. Arrange a bed of noodles, covering the base of the griddle. Top with chicken pieces.
  5. Carefully place the hot griddle back on its wooden base.
  6. Spoon a tsp of the oil and vinegar miix on the cast iron griddle (for the sizzling effect).
  7. Serve immediately.

 

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13

red tag home

I recently had the chance to work with Reg Tag, a chain of value fashion and home stores spread across the Middle East and Asia. They have a very good collection of homeware and accessories.

I have decorated my apartment with accessories from their summer collection. To see how I incorporated these accessories throughout my home and tips on how to get that summer feel indoors, read more here.

 

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