[ Sept.1996 ] Our long travelling from China to Pakistan for more than 40 days was coming down to the final stage.
On the last day in Gilgit, the town in the northern Pakistan, we visited the tearoom where we had been on the first day.
we visited his tearoom again
This time there were some other customers and we found that one of them was the brother of the manager of our hotel, North Inn.
Apparently he had studied Islam and got PhD, but could not find a proper job in Pakistan, so doing a tour guide now and then.
People there were all nice and friendly and we had a good time.
As for lunch, we went to a restaurant where the tourist groups gathered.
There was a group of German tourists there and I was surprised to see some women wearing sleeveless blouse with shorts in this Islamic country.
When you are in a group, probably you would not have any scary experiences.
Then we got on 5 pm night bus and left Gilgit.
We met kind people one after another towards end of our stay in Gilgit, and thanks to that, my impression on this town much improved.
The bus was NATCO bus and the destination was Islamabad.
I had heard that it would take between 14 and 17 hours, but because it was the night bus, I had thought I could sleep and it would not be too difficult.
But I was wrong.
The bus went down on Karakoram Highway and the road were winding and the surface was not smooth, so this bus ride was too bumpy to sleep.
Because it was night, I could not see the view well, but I could see some things lit by the moon and understood that the bus was running on the edge of the scary cliff and it crossed the unsteady bridges at least twice.
When it was the dead of night, I had to fight against my sleepiness and the bump.
Maybe because it was downhill, I almost fell from the seat many times.
After this terrible night, finally we arrived in Islamabad at around 9 am, which means the journey took 16 hours.
We stayed in Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.
From the bus station we took a taxi to get there and when we asked the fare, this driver said “as you like”.
And in the end, we had an argument about the price.
The hotel we stayed was called Paradise Inn whose room was very basic, which was OK ( 900 rupees: $1=37.53 rupees), but when we asked for one thing, they brought two and demanded some tip, which pissed me off.
But because it was the end of the travelling and did not have the enthusiasm for looking for other hotels, we stayed here for two nights.
In Rawalpindi what I enjoyed was Raja Bazaar.
We went there by ‘Suzuki’ and we had to sit next to the driver in the small space.
And both the roads and the bazaar were the most chaotic places I had ever seen.
On the road there were cars, donkey carts, person pulling a cart with the mountain of goods,bicycles, motorcycles and people all over the place and they were moving to all directions.
At one point, it seemed that a water pipe had been burst and a policeman was trying to control the traffic, but most people were ignoring him.
The bazaar looked like a chaos, too, though it was divided by the items they were selling; fabric area, shoes area, household goods are, etc.
So many people were wriggling and probably 80% were men.
But generally people were friendly, so I did not feel so threatened as on the first day in Gilgit.
The buildings were all badly damaged, which seemed to fall down at any moment.
And it was incredibly hot.
At one shop, I bought some embroidered shawls as souvenirs.
Their first price was 450 rupees for one, but after negotiation it came down to 1300 rupees for 4.
One thing I had gained during this travel was certainly the practice that I would not buy anything at their first price.
Another thing I learned in this country was that when there was a dispute about for example a taxi fare, it was better for me to speak up and conclude the price rather than my male travelling companion.
Here probably men were not very used to be told off by a foreign woman, so they tended to back down.
Apart from the bazaar, another interesting place was Lok Virsa Museum in Islamabad.
They exhibited craftworks from all over Pakistan.
The textiles in Pakistan were amazing particularly the embroideries.
For example, when I saw a piece of cloth which looked like having some printing on at first glance but in fact it was all intricate embroideries.
It was a shame, though, that the some of the glass cases were broken and used Sellotape not to fall apart.
And it could be nicer if they had more information.
The entrance fee was only 10 rupees, so I thought they could raise money for the maintenance by increasing the fee.
Next day, finally our travelling ended.
We flew from the simple airport as the capital city’s entrance point to London by Pakistan International Airlines.
As soon as I got on, I saw the Pakistani people were arguing regarding their seats, which made me think that they were for ‘Suzuki’ not for the aeroplanes.