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.