In September, me and my mother went to Kashmir, that has been on our wish list for a long time.
We booked ourselves with wowsumitra.com that has its office in Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi. We booked ourselves in July for the September Group, to avail the discount offer. Initially we were told that all seats were full for September and we were offered to go in October. We declined that offer and told them to inform us if there are any cancellations for Sept. group. Next day itself, two seats became available. WOW :)
It was a group of 25 ladies from all over India. First, I was asked to book my air tickets on my own. I was told the flight no. and the time to book for. After I did it, putting in great effort in searching good deals on various sites, I received a call from WOW asking if I would like them to book it for me. :(
Next, I was told that there would be two transfers from Srinagar Airport to the hotel. If we were arriving after the second transfer i.e. 2 pm, we were to reach the hotel on our own, spending Rs.800. Well, havent we paid you in advance for the whole tour, so shouldnt you wait for us at the airport? I called up the office and even our tour manager in Bangalore and requested them to wait for me and mother at the airport.
The good thing was, we were given complete list of fellow passengers and the tour managers details, so it was very reassuring.
Finally we reached Srinagar Airport, met rest of the group and the tour manager, were taken to a restaurant, where we were to have lunch at our own expense. (We were informed about it in advance). Here onwards, our dream tour started in Kashmir.
We were 25 ladies in two 12 seated Tempo Travelers. Now, that we found a bit uncomfortable. There were ladies who were able to switch buses and get good seats in front or the middle. But me and Mummy were slow and I found myself sitting mostly in the last seat. That was highly uncomfortable. No body wanted to sit in the back seats. My suggestion is, last row of seats should have been left vacant. Just below the last row, all our luggage was stuffed and occasionally some bags would fall on the back seats.
We stayed in houseboat on the first night in Srinagar, then we traveled to Sonmarg (2 nts), Gulmarg (1 nt), Pahalgam (2 nts) and lastly back in Srinagar for one night. Hotels were good. The rooms in Sonmarg hotel were damp and we had to get pillow covers and bed sheets changed. Rest were all good. Food was good. We were given paneer dishes every time and in the end we were pretty tired of it.
In Sonmarg youngsters did trekking for miles, in Gulmarg there was Gondola (cable car of our reviewers recommend us) ride. In Pahalgam, river rafting was planned but then had to be cancelled owing to less water. :( Then we visited several temples, Mughal Gardens, Betaab valley. We were even taken to the beginning of the route to Amarnath, even some ancient sites on the way to Pahalgam.
It was first trip to Kashmir for most of the ladies, including the tour manager :) She, Ms. Preetha was a very friendly tour manager (WOW prefers calling them WOW buddy).
In every place, WOW would collect tips from all of us, so that it could give it to the hotel staff. That was fine. But after that, the hotel staff would ask us for tips individually. Again we had to tip them. So, we ended up giving tips in all hotel twice. That was weird! :(
Overall, it was a pleasant experience of our reviewers recommend us for my mother and myself, barring a few aforesaid issues. We were lucky that our fellow passengers were extremely nice. I made good friends. :)
Some of my fellow passengers were single. It was a very safe trip for all of us. We moved around like a small family.
So, I recommend WOW tour company to all ladies who want to travel but may or may not have company. WOW made our dream come true, to visit Kashmir!!!