Welcome to Pizza Hut, Welcome to Pakistan!

Well it’s our last night in Pakistan and time to recap on the last couple of days!

After Sukkur, our next stop was Multan – a very hardline Islamic town where we didn’t quite know what to expect! Going to Multan meant that we were leaving the Sindh region of Pakistan and entering Punjab.

Punjab means ‘5 rivers’  and is a much more affluent region. It is from the 5 rivers that it derives its wealth and we noticed an immediate change to the scenery as we drove through it. The first thing we noticed was the lack of people living on the streets. Of course, there were still homeless people, beggars and dirt but not nearly as many as in Sindh. The other main difference was that the scenery was dominated by crops rather than shanty towns – mostly mango and sugar cane which went on for miles. It was a lot ‘prettier’ than the ‘landscape’ of Sindh but pretty can sometimes be a bit boring and if we’re honest we didn’t enjoy this journey quite as much as our previous ones!

Our lunch stop halfway to Multan was a nice surprise however, we pulled up at a local restaurant where some cooks were brewing up some lovely smelling concoctions under a shelter – we were just going to use the loo and buy some nan but then we thought ‘sod it, we’re hungry so lets be ‘local’ and get some proper food’. With Amjad’s assistance we ordered some daal – lentils which you would never have caught me trying before this trip – and it was absolutely gorgeous! four lots of nan, two bowls of  daal and a 7-up only cost us 180 Rupees (which is less than £1.50!!)

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The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful – the main thing we did was watch our police escorts continue with their game of tag – they were getting on our nerves a bit today though as they insisted on driving slower than everyone else on the road! We hard some hard core police with us today – army trained Punjab Police, who have ‘No Fear’ written across the backs of their tops. Scary.

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We were flanked by two cars as we approached Multan centre and when we pulled up to the hotel we had another 12 or so policemen greeting us – plus snipers on the roof! Where the heck have they brought us? we thought. We weren’t allowed out of the hotel AT ALL that night- definitely no getting round that and to be honest I was quite glad as the stares we got as we drove in just didnt seem quite as friendly!

On to Lahore!..

The next morning, half the police stayed with us on the drive to Lahore, where we are now, but this time, when we arrived we WERE allowed out of the hotel. There was a catch however as we soon found out that we could only go with an armed escort! We only twigged this when halfway down the street we spotted some old dude in a police uniform, holding a rifle, walking a bit behind us. We walked into Pizza Hut to get some dinner and the poor bloke literally stood outside for about an hour and a half waiting for us!

When we left he was replaced by another one who proceeded to walk us to the market, round the shops, and escorted us back to the hotel in our tuk tuk! Very bizarre – we decided that we would HATE to be  famous and to be followed about all the time – you really feel like you have to rush and I actually felt sorry for him having to follow us nobody’s around – especially when the tuk tuk driver (who spoke more English than our escort) said that ‘the very good policeman is very hungry’. Oops.

Pizza Hut was awesome by the way – tastes just like it does at home! The duty manager opened the door for us as we walked up saying ‘Welcome to Pizza Hut, Welcome to Pakistan’ (obviously the only Westerners who had lunched there that day!). We were also treated to a kids birthday party while we were there – they were playing some really cool Pakistani Hip Hop and dancing in one corner of the restaurant!

The next day, we spent some time walking around the local area and met a man in one of the shops (who noticed Richard’s Strongbow T-Shirt and said hi) from Lancashire of all places! He now lives in Pakistan after an arranged marriage and we stood chatting to him for a while. He gave us a lift back to our hotel which we were really grateful for, as I think I would have collapsed carrying our 6 bottles of water and ‘bus food’ that we had just bought!

It’s difficult to say what we think of Lahore really as the part we stayed in was very westernised and the shop we bought our food in is apparently like the Harrods equivalent (according to our Lancashire friend). We were warned to stay away from very ‘touristy’ areas as there has been a lot of trouble in Lahore lately, so didn’t venture far beyond the Gulburg district where our hotel was, but the main thing we noticed about Lahore was that nobody really blinked an eye at us here! Definitely a change for us.

Pakistan really is a conflicting place – having been here a week it seems that there isn’t really any ‘right or wrong’, ‘black or white’ way of thinking about it. There are always two sides to everything that goes on here – just like the snake charmer from the other day made us realise.

We’ve visited Pakistan at just the right time, managing to dodge political and natural disasters from a shooting in Karachi just after we left, riots and arson attacks on shops and restaurants as well as the devastating moonsoons that have been all over the news. Whilst we’ve been very lucky not to experience these things first hand we have definitely sensed an underlying tension about the place. This has been true in every town or city we’ve visited.

Personally we really don’t have anything bad to say about Pakistan – yes it’s dirty, yes it’s corrupt and yes there is massive problem with poverty that from what we can gather the government is too ‘preoccupied’ with other interests to do anything about, but the majority of people are well intentioned, helpful and get on with their daily lives without much complaining which is something I can’t quite get my head around!

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It’s been very interesting to compare Pakistan with Iran – two countries which are portrayed as having extremely ‘difficult’ relationships with the West. Ouroriginal opinions of both places have been switched around – in Iran we were a novelty, people knew ‘who’ we were (albeit most initially presumed we were American) but in Pakistan we are more of an oddity than a novelty – when seeing us people are a mixture of bemused, curious and slightly apprehensive, sometimes fearful. They stare and giggle and are not really sure who or perhaps ‘what’ we are! I didn’t expect this -there are so many Pakistanis in the UK that somehow I kind of expected them not to blink an eye at us, but really it is only the wealthier part of society that don’t look twice when we walked past them in the street. The poorer end of society – most likely the ones with little comprehension of the ‘outside’ – act like they have never set eyes on people like us ever before in their lives!

Looking back at our time in Pakistan, both of us definitely agree that it has been the BEST country we have visited so far! A lot of people will find that strange- especially when I talk about the filth, armed guards, staring locals and beggars, but for us, this is perhaps the first time we have felt that we are truly ‘travelling’. It’s such a culture shock but everyday has been filled with a new, colourful, exciting or shocking experience that we will never forget. From cows, people and crops balancing precariously on top of tuk tuks and trucks, to dodging water buffaloes and camels in the street, we’ve loved witnessing the colourful madness of Pakistan. We’re are so pleased that we’ve been able to experience it ‘while we can’ (as I think the proverbial is just about to hit the fan if David Cameron has anything to do with it!).

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Will also be very interesting when we hop across the border to India, as we’re told that Pakistan is NOTHING compared to that!

Well, enough philosophising for one day – it’s Tomas’ 63rd birthday today so we’re off to celebrate with a fiesta!…


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1 Comment

  1. August 04, 16:32 #1 margaret D.

    You will find India much the same depending what part you visit. I loved the hussel and bussel and the people interesting!!!

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