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Yasir's Travelogues

Story of a Malaysian Girl Travelling Through Pakistan

Pakistan…a country truly misinterpreted. This will be my first and foremost statement about Pakistan. My memorable journey to Pakistan began just before midnight on 25th of March 2017 when I landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport. From the moment I walked out of the airport to the very last day of my journey it was truly amazing. The very first experience of driving in a massively congested area at 11pm with the non-stop honking was a shockingly vibrant experience. Full of color and sound. I was in Lahore for just 2 days. Visited most of the main attractions with my local CS friend. Lahore is just full of life and action. Food Street, my very first local destination for a quick dinner in the wee hours. My very first taste of authentic Pakistani food, kebab and Malai Boti. Truly authentic, nothing like what I’ve tasted in Malaysia. The next day, breakfast the Pakistani way, Halwa Puri!!! Sinfully delicious and hazardaous to the hips. Well, no regrets. Anarkali food street a busy street, vendors calling out to everyone to patronise their stall. Truth to what is said, Lahore is rich with its food culture. After breakfast, Bilal my CS friend took me to walled city. Entering walled city felt like I was entering a time warp. The energy emitted by this place gives you a feeling as if you’re moving backwards in time. Moghul architecture is quite amazing. Managed to visit most of the places such as Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort, Raja Ranjit Singh Samadhi, St. Anthony’s Church (from the outside), Anarkali Bazaar and Shalimar Garden. I was unable to go to Wagah Border due to the time constraint. Lahore city is a city of the living history. Going to all these historic places gave me a feeling that I’ve walked the same path once walked, reigned and dwelled by the great Moghul Kings.

Then I traveled from Lahore to Islamabad. Stay in Islamabad was a short one.  Faisal Mosque emanates radiance from a faraway, nestled between the lush green mountains and pine trees. Marghalla Hills, Monal and Daman-e-Koh decorate Islamabad. Monal was hhmm..cosy and romantic 😉 Unfortunately, couldn’t make it to Lok Virsa and Pakistan Monument as the road was closed that day. Islamabad felt so much like home. Deserving of its title of 2nd most beautiful capital in the world, it’s a well-planned and organized city. Hat’s off to the city planners. Think this is where I would say “have fun in Lahore and live in Islamabad”.  Breathing in fresh mountainous air and walking by the sidewalks. A city cradled by nature.

Made my way to Gilgit Baltitstan (GB) from Islamabad with a group from The Karakoram Biker’s Club. The journey to Gilgit was really a long one but I enjoyed every single moment of it. Didn’t sleep a wink because I didn’t want to miss the beautiful scenery travelling through the Karakoram Highway (also known as the 8th wonder of the world). Though it was hundreds of miles of rocky and mountainous path, no one view was alike. It was just breath-taking. People in Northern Areas are beautiful, shy and live a simple life. Really wished that I could just leave the rat race life in the city and settle down up in the mountains. Make a living in Hunza by running a chai dabba (lol, wishful thinking). I did try my best to go to most places including Hunza Valley, Eagles Nest, Karimabad, Sost, Passu and Khunjerabad National Park. Unfortunately the one place that was a catalyst to me making this trip Fairy Meadows was closed due to heavy snowfall. Same with Pak-China border as the snow was too heavy. I did my attempt on foot for half an hour but had to give up as snow was too deep. Nevertheless, joyous feeling when I touched snow for the first time in my life at the Khunjerabad National park and played with snow till my heart’s content. Spend the most 10 beautiful days of my life in this little piece of heaven on earth.

Coming back to Islamabad on 7th of April was the highlight of the return journey. Heavy rain fall for the past couple of days had caused massive landslide in GB (worst in the last 4 years I heard). We had to build the muddy road by throwing rocks with our bare hands, walked through landslide as the roads had collapsed into the ravine and ride through jam packed vans with the locals to get to way to Chilas. From Chilas, the ride of our lives begun. We hired a 4WD jeep from Chilas as we had to abandon our van at Gilgit due to the landslide. 15 hours of “fast & furious” LOL. Who needs 4D movies. I was living it at that very moment with “Neche walley babu” song as BGM. He was a hell of a driver that made me think “if I survived yesterday’s landslide, walked through mud, rocks then no way I’m going to die today”. Well let’s look at the “positive side” if he weren’t driving like Paul Walker then we wouldn’t have made it to Islamabad the same day. That chap was a bad-ass but he knew what he was doing. THANK our lucky stars, we made it back safe and sound to Islamabad at 1am! The last 2 days were mother of all experiences for me. An experience no money can buy or neither can it be organized by any tour group!

Honestly, I’m glad that I made the decision to travel to Pakistan despite the discouragement that I faced from the very beginning. Thanks to the help and the advice that I received from friends in Pakistan and also other bloggers who have traveled to Pakistan. Their advice and travel tips gave me the courage to pursue this adventure. Truly enjoyed every single day in Pakistan. Though there were some moments that made me question what the hell am I doing here?. All this was over shadowed by the beauty of this country and its people. Totally blinded me with their love, simplicity and hospitality. Rehman one of our guides opened up his home to us and gave me the most beautiful opportunity to experience a day living with his family. An eye opener, that made me appreciate every little thing in life. Thank you Rehman g and family, may you and your family always be blessed.

Describing Pakistan in a paragraph or a write up isn’t fair and neither is it enough. One has to set their foot in this land and live it. Having said this, there are a lot of improvements that need to be done and implemented to encourage responsible tourism. Simple acts like not littering and cleaning up after are small actions that matter a lot. A better governance and preservation of its heritage and most importantly educating its people into loving and safeguarding their natural and historic heritage is crucial. Beautiful landscapes and historic monuments are gifts to Pakistan that need respect. Also upgrading the infrastructure and encouraging local arts & crafts industry, will automatically enhance the livelihood of its people and also boost the tourism industry of Pakistan.

Finally question frequently posed to me, will I make another journey to this so called land of “terrorist”? Oh hell YES! definitely I will. The land that “terrorized” me with its hospitality, warmth, beauty and love. Drowned me with countless cups of chai made out of pure sincerity and pratha rolled out with love. There is a lot more of Pakistan that I wish to see, explore and experience in the future. Go up to all the places that I missed and things that I didn’t get a chance to do. Have a gastronomical experience, soul searching journey and most importantly to meet up once again with some beautiful souls that are called friends now!

Insha Allah, we will meet again. Till then, “Pakistan, meray dil say bohat shukriya”. Allah Hafiz.

 

The Solo Travellers Guide To Backpacking Through Iran — TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

Iran is hands down one of the most incredible countries I have ever visited. I fell in love with this Middle-Eastern gem, and have been raving about it to anybody (and everybody) who will listen ever since I left! However, I must admit that a trip to Iran isn’t always as straightforward as a trip […]

via The Solo Travellers Guide To Backpacking Through Iran — TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

Lost in Gilgit Baltistan

Following are the daily dispatches that Mr.  Yasir Ahmed sent to Mr. Hasan Malhi while traveling in Gilgit Baltistan in May 2017.

Travel Update 1: Italian wants to go to Gilgit Hunza before going to Skardu so he joined a group (Falcon club) for Rs 25,000 for 8 days…I am leaving 10:00pm tomorrow for Gilgit via NATCO special costing 2200. Regular was 1900. Seat is number 31 which is not great. Its the last seat but the guy said that there would be more leg space. Gilgit to Skardu on Monday in daylight so I can see everything. Over and Out.

Travel Update 2: Took 10:30am Gilgit to Skardu NATCO, costing PKR 550. Lunch stop at 1:30pm. Reached PTDC at 5:00pm. Pretty nice place…beautiful view of the Skardu Valley. Manager first said PKR 3200 for standard room. But then I introduced myself and I was upgraded to the room where Imran and Jemimah used to stay (at less than the rate for standard). By the way road is decent but very narrow. Over and Out.

Travel Update 3: After checking out from PTDC Skardu and buying my PIA ticket for Islamabad left for Khaplu at 12:30pm. Got a front seat in Hiace for Rs.250. The road to Khaplu is quite decent, carpeted about 70% of the way. Definitely doable in a car. PTDC Khaplu is bit of a disappointment. Not that the building is not great or staff and service is not good. There is just no hustle bustle that a typical tourist spot would have. Maybe I am here too early in the season. And that was kind of the plan. Out to Shigar tomorrow. Over and Out.

Travel Update 4: After visiting Khaplu fort and Khaplu mosque took a free ride back to Skardu, some very kind Sindhi folks. Did not stop at Skardu and took the first available van to Shigar. Was informed about a certain Space Hotel by manager PTDC Khaplu. Quite a nice place and reasonable rent (PKR 1500/night). Next two days here. Just relaxing for a while. Over and Out.

Travel Update 5: The day was dedicated to testing my physical capabilities, first a 5 km trip to Shigar fort and back and then another 5 km trip towards the desert, on the other side of Shigar river. Feeling good. Plenty of tea and some Mohsin Hamid stories. Tomorrow is at least two of the following three: Kharpoocho Fort, Nansuk Village, Lower Kachura. Over and Out.

Travel Update 6: Hired a cabby to take me from Shigar to Lower Kachura (Shangrilla) and Kharpocho Fort. The trek to the fort was way tougher than I expected. Gave up about 50-100 ft before the destination, combination of fear and tiredness. Tonight in Skardu. Over and Out.

Travel Update 7: As expected PIA flight got canceled. Discussed with two friends who are staying at the same hotel and who were to fly the same PIA flight and it was decided to give it another chance on Sunday. The backup plan is to rent a car all the way to Isb (costs PKR 15,000 to 18,000 depending on the vehicle). All this fiasco resulted in the three of us going to Nansuk Village, a great trek and an interesting place. We have been told that we are about 15 day early as the Cherry (and other fruits) season would start in June. Over and Out.

Travel Update 8: As luck would have it, PIA flight was on time and we left for Islamabad around 10:15am. The 40 minute flight was really a documentary on the northern areas of Pakistan, provided you got a left side window seat. On display was Satpara Lake, Deosai Plains, Nanga Parbat, Babusar Top, Saif-ul-Malook and Neelum Valley. Touched down at 11:00am, happy and relieved that everything went to plan. Over and Out.

PS: I have made several contacts in Gilgit and Skardu and if somebody wants some help please do message me here.

Khunjerab Top and Back in 3 Days

Having spent most of my official leaves earlier I was left with no other option but to travel to China Border within 3 days (2 days of weekend + 1 official leave). Here are the details of how I managed to do it.

Day Zero

Left for Gilgit at 10pm from Islamabad. Got a front seat in Toyota GLI for Rs.4000. Reached at about 5am in Naran, continued onward to Gilgit via Babusar Top. Road was in decent condition but this changed after joining KKH at Chilas. There were major land slides to contend with. The last leg of this journey from Raikot Bridge to Gilgit was quite comfortable as the road condition was quite good. Reached Gilgit at 11am.

Day 1

The first day of journey was spent in Gilgit, mostly relaxing at Madina Hotel, having good food and sleeping. Went for an evening walk along the river to Gilgit Bazaar.  Had some Chinese food for dinner, listened to some good old music and went to sleep early.

Day 2

Headed for China Border at 10:30am (bit late, bad mistake) using public transport. It cost Rs.350 for a ticket to Sost, the last town before the border. Hired a rent-a-car from Sost to the border, costing Rs.4000 for the return trip. The border is about 85km from Sost which is about a 1.5 hour journey.

Returned to Sost at around 7pm had a quick meal and then started back for Gilgit. Since there is no public transport after sunset had to hire a car to Hunza costing Rs.1500. After reaching Hunza was told that there is no public transport in Hunza as well so had to hire a car again for Rs.2000. Reached Madina hotel at 11pm.

Day 3

Got up at 8am and had a quick breakfast. Was at the Jutial bus stop at 9:30am. Booked a seat on the Islamabad bound coaster costing Rs.1400. Left for Islamabad at around 11am. After meandering along the Babusar Pass reached Naran at around 7pm. Continued on to Islamabad via Balakot, Masehra, Abbotabad and Havelian. Reached Islamabad at around 2:30am. Tired and exhausted but happy to have managed it all I hit the bed at around 3:30am.

Total end to end cost: Rs.22,000 (hotel, transport, meals)

Travel Updates for Kaghan Naran

Its 24 April 2016 and the road to Naran is still closed. You can go up to Kaghan but beyond that its still inaccesible. We decided to stay at Khaniyan which is about 50 km from Balakot and 30 km short of Naran. Its quite a picturesque location and the weather here was also quite cool. The rest house we chose to stay was Arcadian, which was open so early in the season, and was also reasonably priced (Rs.6000/night for the deluxe room).

There is no cell phone service in the area but Warid somehow works.

For making a booking at Arcadian please contact Shakir Sahib at 051-8436971 or 051-8436972.

A Weekend Getaway To Kaghan-Naran

A long weekend is a prized asset for a travel junkie like me. So when the Muharram long weekend came around I packed my bags and got on to the road for Kaghan Naran. Having started at 9 in the morning I arrived in Naran at around 5:30pm. There was one stopover for lunch at Balakot.

After spending the night in the comfortable environment of PTDC Naran I decided to venture onward to Lulusar and possibly further to Babusar Top. But the information collected from the local people suggested that going to Babusar Top would not be possible as it had just snowed a couple of days back and routes to the top would be closed.

To my surprise the road to Lulusar was in pretty good condition and I had no problems getting there on my Suzuki Swift. Once again the information given to me by the Jeep Walas was that there is no way you can go to Babusar Top as you will be stopped by Army Jawans only about 5km further from the lake.

Incidentally I was not stopped at the 5km mark and I actually continued for another 17km beyond Lulusar Lake to arrive at Babusar Top. The road was not in such a great shape as it was partially covered in snow and there were also muddy patches which made driving quite challenging. The total distance from PTDC Naran to Babusar Top was around 65km.

There was even some consideration given to the plan of continuing on to Chillas as it was only 44km from the top. But with the fuel tank going low on fuel and with the weather uncertain I decided to head back. I arrived back at the hotel in around 2.5 hours and headed straight to the fuel station. But I was informed that the station was out on fuel and tanker would arrive late in the night.

So after spending another night at PTDC Naran and replenishing the supplies I headed back to Islamabad.

PS: We ventured out of Naran just in time to avoid the heavy snowfall that left thousands of tourists stranded in the valley. And later in the week the Northern areas were jolted by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

Mahabaleshwar : A Monsoon Getaway

The pictures of Mahabaleshwar in Monsoon are quite fascinating and immediately I try to draw comparisons with Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad. The lush greenery, the water falls and the lakes. There are trails that take you to the heart of the National Park and if you are lucky you might even spot a Leopard. The major  difference being that Margalla Hills National Park is located about 15 minutes from the main city and it loses some of its pristine beauty to the pollution created by the metropolis.

Source: Mahabaleshwar : A monsoon getaway

Eyes fixed on the Goal ..

Source: Eyes fixed on the Goal ..

Rohtang Pass – Snow and more !

Located in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, Rohtang pass links Kullu to Lahaul and Spiti valleys of Himachal Pradesh.

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