Arriving in Islamabad airport, finally I am here, after a difficult visa process, sending my passport back to Brazil, and a decision to take a flight from Urumqi because I wouldn't like to wait 15 days more to get the bus by Karaokorum highway, even I knowing I will lost a beautiful scene on the road. I got a host from Rawalpindi, near to Islamabad, his name is Suleman, so I called him when I was out of airport, he would come to pick me up, I hadn't a local number that time, there were a lot taxi drivers offering to take you to the place, so I refused the service saying I have a friend coming, and he offered me his phone to use, I thought that was kind, but in the end he asked me for some money, even I exchanged the Pakistan rupee in airport, but I wasn't familiar to the local and I didn't have a "small" money as well, so I gave him RMB 20, and he asked for one more RMB 20, RMB 40 in total, I didn't realize that was a such money for them, a little more than USD 6 and USD 1
There was a diamond in the Buddha head
equal 90 Pakistan rupees, when I stopped to make a account I realized I should give him Pakistan rupee, and suddenly I felt scammed. A learned lesson, always keep in mind the exchange rate, and make a account before any action.
There was a couchsurfers' meeting dinner in Islamabad, my host didn't want to go, so I went to Islamabad by myself, taking a local bus, actually that wasn't a bus, that was a van with a number like a bus, the most of public transportation in Pakistan was running by private van, normally a lot of people inside and cost around Rs 25. Arriving in Islamabad, a guy from the same van got off in the same stop as me, he bought me a cold drink and showed me the direction, I was quiet surprising by that. I walked around to buy a local sim card, but I couldn't because only the main office can register a foreigner cell phone user, and the main office was closed on Sunday, so I found a long chair in a public place, then I stayed there spending time until dinner, and there was a free open wifi, again a unexpected thing.
After around 30 minutes, 2 local guys came to sit at my side and start to speak with me, we had a long conversation, that was very pleasant. The dinner meeting was in Saidpur village, one of the oldest place in Islamabad, now there are a lot of nice restaurants, the meeting had some local guys and Ciro, a Portuguese traveler, that was nice to speak Portuguese on the road it makes me feel a little in home, in the end the host of the event didn't show up because of traffic problem.
Next day was Monday, I went to Iran embassy, because I want to get the visa in advance and to cross the board to Iran, but I couldn't because I took too much time to arrive in embassy, and already closed, I wasn't expecting to access embassy was that hard, you can't just go to embassy by yourself, you should go to shuttle bus service first, what is quiet far from the embassy, then you must pass by all the security check points and leave your bag to take shuttle bus, basically all the important places in Pakistan are surrounded by sharp fences and security guards
A mountain area of Islamabad
with big guns, actually the guards with big guns is the only thing made me uncomfortable in Pakistan. In the end I decided to fly to Iran because of situation of the border area, and also the visa is easier to get on arrival. On the way back to center to buy a sim card for cell phone, I had a nice experience to meet a local guy, with a short time talk, he was inviting me to visit his university, Quaid-e-Azam university, and it happened few days later, because I had plan to go to Taxila, Abbottabad and Murree in next days.
Taxila is a historical place, ancient city like Srikap, also was a important Buddhist place, even the most of building were gone, and the statues were taken to another place, you still can see some remains there, there is also a guide who can speak English and explain a lot of things to you, but they are expecting you give them money in the end of tour. Basically a foreigner will pay 20 times more than Pakistani for a ticket, normally the ticket fee for local is Rs 10 to Rs 20. My plan was to
Alcohol in Pakistan
That is a unusual thing in Muslin country
go to Abbottabad after Taxila in the same day and back to Rawalpindi, Abbottabad is a place where they caught Bin Laden, so there was Bin Laden house, but I couldn't because that was too late, according to a old man I met on street in Taxila, who could speak English, also invited me to have a tea and cookies, and arranged a rickshaw for me to visited the places in Taxila.
After talking to the local people, I skip Abbottabad, because they said the Bin Laden house was totally demolished, and now only a land with grass, so I decided don't go there, sorry Alexandre, I promised you to visit the place and to take a picture. In the end I went to Murree, a mountain area near to Islamabad, a very beautiful and peaceful place with a pleasant weather. And next day I went to visit Muhammad, the guy I met in the bus another day, in Quaid-e-Azam university, that was a huge university with a nice of Islamabad city, but when it was evening and day getting dark, the impression of the university was dark, I mean there was no lights, actually there was no electricity,
Pakistan is facing a serious problem of energy, when I was in Rawalpindi and Islamabad cutting the power was quiet usual, like twice at day, and 1 hour without electricity for each time.
On Friday, my host Suleman had free time to show me around, Friday is like a holiday for Muslim, that is a special praying day for them. So we went to Monal, that was on the top of mountain, where can see the whole Islamabad, there has a high class restaurant there, we got a very night view of Islamabad after a big raining, there were lights in city and the view was fantastic. And in the same day there was the airplane crash in Islamabad airport, for a moment I thought that was a terrorist action, but it is not, everything is OK.
Arriving in Lahore by train from Rawalpindi, the train was very nice, and train didn't have delay even the local people always telling me there is always a huge delay of trains in Pakistan, maybe I was lucky. My host in Lahore is Mohsin, a teacher of Punjab University, so I was staying in the dormitory of university this time, and
Cleanliness is very important for Islam
the difference between a student and professor in dormitory is professor stay alone in a room and can order food to delivery in the room as well.
Lahore is a huge city, also the closest one to Waga border, the only way to India from Pakistan by land. Actually the Waga border is the most beautiful border I have ever seen until now, even I was not to cross the border to India, I went there to visit because of ceremony there, twice in a day, to open and to close, do they close the border after the ceremony, yes they do. Anyway, the ceremony basically is the music, the dance, the yell and the military show in both sides, competing like organized supporters, very interesting and vibrant.
Lahore fort and Badshahi mosque are very nice places where I spent the whole afternoon and beginning of the night to take pictures there. Visiting the places in Lahore was nice, but actually the local people made me feel much better, a guy teaching me Urdu in the bus, a family explaining to me the Pakistan history in Waga border, a stranger took me to bus station by walking about
15 minutes, another stranger offered me a ride by motorbike to my place when he saw me didn't get the bus, the people in Pakistan always is surprising me by good way. Now it is the time to leave Lahore and head to Karachi, and one day before I go to Lahore railway station, there was a bomb blast, this time was a terrorist action, but that made me feel much safer to Lahore station, because they won't do it twice in the same place, and fortunately this news didn't go to China, at least my mom, my dad and my wife didn't know that, otherwise they will be very worry.
Train to Karachi was very comfortable, again I met a lot friendly people, talking with me for whole trip. Arriving in Karachi, my train basically was on time again, just 15 minutes delayed. This time my host was a woman, Madeeha, a woman hosting a man in Islamic country? Yes it is, I was very astonished when she invited me to stay in her home, but in the end I found out her family was traveling around the world with her father, a navigating officer, so she is
very opened mind and her family as well. Madeeha went to train to pick me up, then we went to a coffee shop, there was everything calm, and suddenly they closed the door, put down the iron curtain, some people looked through the windows, but the most of them was asked to stay away from doors and windows, something wrong was happening outside, some kind of protest, what exciting! And in the end nothing happened on th street where we were, just a precaution, anyhow, I didn't see a situation like that before.
I stayed 5 days in Madeeha house, she has a very flexible work time as journalist, so she took me to visit a lot of places in Karachi, and the place I liked more was Choukundi tomb, a very unique place with beautiful and interesting grave, Mr. Ali Dino is watchman of the place, he explained the histories and meaning of stone engraving on the tombs, like weapons for man's tomb, ear ring necklace for woman's tomb, but the sad thing there is the government is not taking care of the place, the trucks are always running through the cemetery without any protection of the historical
heritage. We were suppose to visit the beach area of Karachi, but we got stuck in Lyari area, there was a huge protest, everyone was very nervous and running out from the place, and I was there again! Somehow I attract the troubles, maybe because I wanted to see that, the bright side was always only to see and to tell the adventure later, no harm.
Karachi was my last city in Pakistan, because I already decided to take a flight to Iran, because of the situation of Balochistan area, according to Madeeha, I should not go by land. When Madeeha was busy, I stayed in her home for long time, because outside was very hot, I was thinking to walk but I gave up with 41 degree outside. Staying in her house was very pleasant, her whole family (including a dog Milo) made me feel like part of the family. So basically what I did when my host Madeeha was busy, to talk with members of her family, that was very nice, to play with Milo, I love dog, so I spent a lot of the time with dog, and also met another active couchsurfer from Karachi, Muzzammil,
that was very short, only a morning.
Finally the to leave Pakistan, what I can say about Pakistan is the country is facing a lot of problems, political corruption, energy failure, internal fighting in some sensitive area and a small terrorist group. But the people there are extremely friendly and helpful, at least everyone I met in Pakistan, without exception. If they can fix the problems someday, Pakistan should be a lovely country.
Final account of Pakistan:
- 17 days
- Total USD 468 ( Flight from Urumqi to Islamabad cost me USD 300)
- Average USD 27.53 per day
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