During our recent trip to Pakistan, we often stopped for roadside food. Roadside food builds memories. I enjoy stopping for roadside food. However, as an American with a digestive system unaccustomed to unfamiliar bacteria, food safety is key. So, before I go on, safety tip – we only purchase whole items or thoroughly cooked items. And, for fruit, we wash it with bottled water. Now, for the fun stuff.
Roadside Food Builds Memories Through Meeting People
My favorite part of roadside food is meeting people. We meet the food vendors. Moreover, we almost always meet other people that happen to be nearby. Often, children gather to greet us.
Roadside Food Builds Memories by Forcing Us to Stop Driving and Look Around
Temptation compels us to keep driving to meet deadlines. But, stopping for roadside food forces us to slow down and look around. Moreover, we take time to interact with our surroundings. Look at the scenery. Take some photos. And, talk to someone.
Roadside Food Builds Memories Through Fellowship
We often travel with companions. So, stopping for food let’s us get to know each other. Breaking bread is a great way to create fellowship.
Roadside Food Connects Us to the Land
Roadside food invariably reflects the local land. So, look beyond just the fruit or the nuts. You can often see the orchards that produced the food.
One appreciates Wagah at many levels. This is the site of the daily flag ceremony at the Pakistan-India border. Pakistan Rangers and India Border Security Forces lower both Pakistan’s and India’s flags, two hours before sunset. We attended this ceremony on September 24th. I found it fascinating. Moreover, I refer to it as Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor.
Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor
The border ceremony is a metaphor. The ceremony represents the partition’s tragic history, cautious cooperation, and ongoing tensions. However, the ceremony is also just plain fun! One easily overlooks the negative connotations to simply enjoy the experience.
Border Ceremony Video Highlights – 6 minutes 30 seconds
For a quick look at the ceremony, check out this video. Amir (our guide) and I shot this six and a half minute video using my Samsung phone.
Pre-ceremony Reminds Me of a Sporting Event
The pre-ceremony reminded me of a sporting event. American football comes to mind.
The ceremony starts with a flourish. Rangers march out toward the border gate. India’s BSF troops do the same. Especially impressive, the high steps. I wince thinking about it!
The ceremony ends with the simultaneous lowering of each country’s flag.
Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor and the Partition
India and Pakistan have a complex relationship. It began with the Partition.
First, consider the British Raj. The British ruled India from 1858 to 1947. After World War II, Britain was weary and ready to end its colonial presence in India. Partition planning began whereby Pakistan was to become an independent country. Boundary planning intended to provide Pakistan as a Muslim country with Hindus and Sikhs remaining in India.
Unfortunately, the British rushed the border definition decision. Sir Cyril Radcliffe had just five weeks to define a border boundary between the countries. Moreover, the decision was casual. And, it was secret. People only found out about the border boundary two days after partition.
Chaos and violence ensued. Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes to move into either Pakistan or India, based on their religion. Countless died. I have extended family members with heartbreaking familial stories. For example, a family member only taking their house key with them as they fled. They assumed an ultimate resolution to the situation. It never happened. Another family member volunteered to clean and make burial preparations for dead bodies arriving at the Lahore train station. I am sure many stories are the same on the India side of the border.
Epilogue for Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor
I don’t judge the tensions. I have many family, friends, and colleagues on both sides of the border. First of all, Pakistan is a new country. It is only 70 years old this year. It started with only what the British left. Pakistan had no industry. At the beginning, government workers did not even have pencils. Moreover, profound theology differences exist between Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. To me, this seems more than just the American Methodists versus Presbyterians. Profound belief differences exist around the nature of deity, food, animals, and many other aspects of society.
Beyond these internal challenges, geopolitical forces did and continue to bring external pressure. Early on, the United States and Soviet Union struggled to gain the upper hand in influence on both countries. Since 9/11, the United States exerts severe pressure on Pakistan to contain terrorists. Notably, Pakistan saw its tourism industry devastated. Most of all, if any American thinks Pakistan does not try, think again. Security checkpoints abound. For example, every Pakistani carries a national identify card. (I received a tour of the identity card IT kiosk in one town. Impressive!) Furthermore, Pakistan absorbed countless Afghani immigrants. And, Pakistan prevented the Soviet Union from reaching a warm-water port.
In comparison, look at the United States. We currently struggle with Red versus Blue. Republicans versus Democrats. We even fought a Civil War over slavery. As I write this post, the United States just had its worst mass shooting in history. I hope Americans remain humble and appreciate the tremendous sacrifices and obstacles both Pakistan and India did and still face.
Iconic Badshahi Mosque Leads List of Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase sites
Badshahi Mosque is iconic. Emperor Aurangzeb commissioned the construction in 1671. Construction finished in just two years.
Interestingly, Badshahi was the world largest mosque for 313 years. Today, it is the second largest mosque in Pakistan.
One enters Badshahi through its distinctive red sandstone entrance. As with any mosque, one removes their shoes prior to entering. Since I was still walking on a sprained ankle, I welcomed the comfort of wandering through the mosque in my socks!
The courtyard is large and can hold up to 100,000 worshipers.
As with the entrance, the Prayer Hall entrance has a red sandstone with white marble inlay.
The outer walls have large minarets while main building has four smaller minarets.
I am not Muslim. However, these two young men, below, invited me to sit with them in the Prayer Hall. So, I did. They spoke very little English. And, I do not speak Urdu. However, we enjoyed some time just being together. In the photo below, he is showing me photos of his children. We all have some things in common!
Wazir Khan is adjacent to the Kashmiri Bazaar. Combining the two into a sightseeing trip makes sense.
Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase- Lahore Fort
Lahore Fort is a sprawling site covering almost 50 acres. Several Mughal Emperors contributed to its construction. However, we only had time to see a few highlights. One can spend days here. But, Lahore’s climate is warm and humid – 90 to 100 deg F and greater than 50% humidity. So, we wilted quickly in the heat. As a result, that limited the time we wanted to spend wandering the fort grounds.
My fort visit involved countless selfie requests. I enjoy interacting with everyone. So, I usually try and say yes. However, our guide sometimes wanted us to keep moving to stay on schedule.
Jahangir was the fourth Mughal Emperor. He ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. Most noteworthy, his name means ‘conqueror of the world’. Political, economic, and architectural achievements characterized Jahangir’s reign. Also, he applied Islamic law in a progressive fashion, allowing people to retain their own laws and customs when it made sense. For example, he allowed Muslims and Hindus to retain their own laws with respect to marriage.
The exterior is extensively decorated with pietra dura, an inlay technique using polished, colorful stones.
Inexplicably, the tomb area had no lighting. So, we used our cell phone flashlights. Consequently, I shot the photo below with a flash.
Note the intricate inlay work. The inlay consists of actual colored stones.
The Mughal Empire leaves the world quite the architectural legacy. However, can we or should we learn anything from the empire? Theories abound on the reason for the Empire’s rapid decline starting in the early 1700s. Probably, several factors played a role. Political feuds, runaway expenses, external threats, and inability to change accelerated the decline. Perhaps, our lesson – we should not take our successes for granted.
Lahore’s Mughal Empire History showcase provides a treasure-trove of architecture and history.
Pakistan’s tourism appeal reaches its zenith here. One phrase comes to mind when describing Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – primal beauty. Pakistan’s Northern Areas showcases some of the most primal and raw beauty in the world.
So, after much planning, our journey begins. First of all, we traveled by large van. Rather than trying this on our own, we used a guide and driver. Moreover, this is an out and back trip. Our journey started and ended in Islamabad. We went as far as Khunjerab Pass on the Pakistan-China border.
This post only touches highlights. Consequently, I organized highlights into categories reflecting my memories:
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights -Scenery is the Star
Highlights abound. However, scenery is the ultimate star in this journey.
Rakaposhi Peak reaches 7,788m. Consequently, it is the 27th highest peak in the world. Also, Rakaposhi is the only mountain on earth that plummets directly, for almost 6000 meters, to its base.
Most noteworthy, after 20 years of attempts, a British-Pakistan expedition conquered the mountain in 1958. Moreover, Captain Sher Khan (later Colonel) lead a successful 1979 Pakistan-Polish expedition. Khan was the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.
We reached Hoper Glacier by 4-wheel drive. In contrast to some glaciers, Hoper is fast moving and deep. Most importantly, a lovely village and valley provide context.
There are so many tall mountains! Over 60 moutain peaks top 7400 m. Consequently, uniqueness matters. Tupopdan, commonly known as “Passu Cathedral”, reaches 6,106 m. It lies to the north of the village Passu.
Passu’s cathedral-like cones provide mountain drama.
Nanga Parbat anchors the western Himalayan Range. This huge mountain is not a single peak. Rather, it is a series of ridges culminating in an ice crest at 8,126 m. Notably, Nanga Parbat is the 9th highest peak in the world. It is the second highest in Pakistan after K2.
The name Nanga Parbat is Kashmiri for ‘naked mountain’ because its slopes have no vegetation.
Especially relevant, early disasters gave Nanga Parbat the nickname Killer Mountain. 12 climbers and 18 sherpas had died there by 1937. A joint Austrian-German expedition conquered the mountain in 1953. Moreover, Herman Buhl made the final successful ascent on July 3rd in a grueling solo climb without oxygen.
On July 13, 1989 Colonel Sher Khan became the first Pakistani to summit the mountain.
Meeting children along the way
Meeting children is crucial to our Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights. While we both met children, Dinah especially bonded. We often just stopped on the side of the road to say hello.
Visiting a Hunza Valley School
What a special day! After my sore ankle climb up (in the dark) and down from the Eagle’s Nest (with big thanks to our guide Amir for holding my hand and Aized for shining phone flashlight on a good path for me), we had a quick breakfast. Then, a big highlight! We visited Hasegawa Memorial Public School in Karimabad, Hunza.
First, we attended assembly. They sang the Pakistan National Anthem. The Principal discussed the schools goals and principles. The assembly sang. Then, they invited Dinah and I on stage. A group of children performed a traditional dance for us. However, Dinah and I were not getting away that easily. They invited Dinah and I to perform the traditional dance for them!! Yikes! We did. I then offered a few words from the U.S. Then, Dinah took the microphone and spontaneously decided to sing “Whatever a Wonderful World”, a cappella. The children cheered and screamed for us and Dinah.
After all this we met and had tea with the Principal and visited a classroom.
Dinah and I attempted the traditional dance in front of the school children at Hunza. We were not good. But, the kids enjoyed it. Plus, I was doing this on a day-old sprained ankle. However, I doubt that contributed to my lack of skill. Nadia and Amir (our guide) joined to help rescue our performance.
Scenery, meeting children, and visiting the school seems wonderful. However, we relished meeting fellow travelers.
I felt lazy! We flagged down Nedo and Swinde on the road from Hunza to Gilgit. They had biked from Switzerland through China! Swinde is a photojournalist and writes a blog.
We left copies of our passports and visas at innumerable checkpoints. This individual next to me checked us in and out of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. He remembered us when we returned our visitor card today. He told me to tell everyone how nice Pakistan is to visit and that he will never forget this day.
Navigating challenging roads
Roads create Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. We experienced hairpin curves. Our drived dodged landslides. We drove around animals. And, we created two-way roads out of one lane roads. Also, we even had traffic jams from Pakistan-China trade transport.
I added my health to our Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. First, I have a well-know sensitivity to altitude. I walked from the parking lot to the Pakistan-China arch at Khunjerab Pass (15,397 feet). Dizziness crept up on me. I thought I could make it back to the parking lot. However, my traveling companions and Pakistan security officers thought otherwise. So, I got to sit in the security vehicle and then hitched a motorcycle ride back to the parking lot.
The second health adventure involved spraining my ankle. I stepped off into soft sand. And, down I went. My ankle is still sore. However, I never slowed down. Our guide found me a hiking stick. I kept to our itinerary!
Pakistan Northern Areas Adventure Highlights – Simply Have Fun
Not everything needs adventure. Or, education. We often just relaxed, laughed, and had fun.
This is not the easiest trip. Yes, it is easier to sit by the pool at a major hotel chain. However, you will never experience something like this unless you jump out of your comfort zone. Go create your own Pakistan Northern Areas adventure highlights. Hire a guide and a good driver. And, you will build memories for a lifetime.
Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.
After months of planning, we can declare our Pakistan vacation underway. We knew it was real when we bought airline tickets. Of course, I bought the tickets through Expedia. For a preview, see my blog post Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview.
First, we decided transportation to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Or, to most people, SeaTac. We looked at options like airport parking, Uber, or a private car. Consequently, we settled on the popular Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle. Great choice. We arrived at SeaTac in two hours.
Getting our Pakistan Vacation Underway with Emirates
This was my first time to fly on Emirates. I heard so many good things. Emirates met my built-up expectations. First of all, we had a non-stop from SeaTac to Dubai. And, then another non-stop to Islamabad. Having just two air legs saves time.
I expect sparse amenities in economy class. However, Emirates provides a degree of luxury, even in economy. We had large touch screens. Music and video choices abounded. Also, we had live television for tennis and the hurricane news. Furthermore, we had excellent food choices. The menu below is from flight to Islamabad.
Easy First Day – Managing Jet Lag
International travel presents jet lag challenges. We arrived in Islamabad at 1:30 AM. We easily cleared customs. Then, we spent another hour retrieving our luggage. Finally, we made it outside where our son-in-law’s parents (Aized and Nadia) were waiting for us. Shower and bedtime at 4:00 AM. We slept to almost 10:00. Then, we start the time zone adjustment. I like staying up all day the first day. I almost made it. But, I did sneak a 30 minute afternoon nap.
Metro to the Mall
Dinah wanted to buy some clothes. So we headed to the new Centaurus Mall. Aized dropped the three of us off at the metro bus station while he drove on to the mall. We rode Islamabad’s new metro bus system to the mall. The buses drive in dedicated bus-only lanes.
The mall is new for Dinah and I. In contrast, we shopped at small shops in 2012. I am not sure how I feel about this sign of progress.
I never took an escalator selfie!
Walking from the metro bus station to the mall, I noticed dark clouds in the Margalla Hills. Results soon appeared. Consequently, we had to wait out a big thunderstorm. It reminded me of our Florida days.
We were feeling the jet lag. Dinah succumbed to a longer nap. However, I tried to avoid a nap by touring roof top solar panel system. Eventually, I sneaked a 30 minute nap.
Getting our Pakistan Vacation Underway with a BBQ
I will never complain about a BBQ. So, this seems like a fitting first-day meal. Aized grilled chicken.
Furthermore, we had so much fun listening to fun YouTube music while grilling. Here are a couple of samples.
We did not want to go to sleep too early. So, next up. Movie night, with popcorn. We watched Romancing the Stone in Aized’s dedicated AV room. Big screen plus surround sound helped stave off jet lag.
Finally, bed time! We went to sleep around midnight. Not too bad for a first day!
It will not be long now. My wife and I are fast approaching our trip to Pakistan. So, this is my Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview.
I think I win the award for uncommon vacation trip of the year. And, that is no small feat since I work for Expedia. Many colleagues take interesting trips every year.
My wife and I have extended family members in Pakistan. They will host us and travel with us. Consequently, the trip perhaps is not an “adventuresome” as it might seem at first glance.
Pakistan and U.S. Politics
President Trump recently made this trip even more noteworthy given his criticism of Pakistan. Suffice it to say, I completely disagree with our President on most issues. Moreover, I find his past comments on Muslims offensive. Beyond this, he proposed bad policy with his travel bans. In contrast, global travel helps us understand each other and build understanding and peace. Never the less, I will enjoy myself. Also, I will do my part to build cultural bridges between the U.S. and Pakistan. Finally, I will try and ignore the negative politics.
Staying in Contact
While on the trip, I will try to post every day. I emphasize the word try. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Trover.
Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview – The Hunza
We travel to The Hunza, a mountainous valley in Gilgit. I look forward to this trip highlight. I included the map of our drive below. Notably, we travel through so many impressive mountains. Many of the surrounding peaks surpass 19,000 feet!
We will travel the same road as seen in the video below.
In addition to The Hunza, we will visit historic Lahore for a few days.
Looking Back to 2012
My wife and I previously traveled to Pakistan in 2012. For that trip, we spent of most of our time in and around Islamabad. In contrast, I look forward to more adventures, like The Hunza, on this trip.
Here are some “memory lane” photos from 2012.
Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview – Experiences to Avoid
I plan to avoid one experience from the new year of 2013! We spent an unexpected 5 days in Kuwait City after fog delays in Islamabad. Kuwait Airways put us up in a 5 star hotel. But, after 5 days, boredom! We fly Emirates this time. So, I expect great things from this airline.
In “Innocents Abroad” Mark Twain wrote a famous quote.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
So, I hope this Pakistan Adventure Vacation Preview fulfills Twain’s sentiments!