Monday, July 15, 2013

Pakistan: The Highs and Lows

This is the list of things I loved and didn't love about Pakistan. I hesitated in calling this a list of "Bests and Worsts" because I really doubt that my mundane musings and annoyances are the absolute best and worst things about Pakistan....

This includes both tangible and intangible items, feelings and experiences. These are not all things that are necessarily unique Pakistan, nor is everyone bound to experience what I experienced there, but if you are curious about what one solo female traveler liked and didn't like about this relatively un-traveled country, here is my list:

Best things about Pakistan:
  • The people. By far the best thing about Pakistan is the Pakistanis. Of course, I came to Pakistan as a guest, so I was treated with the utmost hospitality by the families hosting me. However, in my rare moments alone, I found that even strangers were friendly and welcoming.
  • Sugar. I loved sugar! It was so refined and dissolved into tea so easily. I have never found such sweet and delicious sugar elsewhere. 
  • Cheekus/Chikoos/Cheekoos. The brown chocolate-tasting fruit, which is so sweet people with diabetes  cannot eat it.  
  • Cheeku fruit
  • Orange Juice. Fresh-squeezed form the juice cart, and served with a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor
  • Coca Cola served served in a glass bottle and not sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, and it has a cool Urdu label.
  •  Tea: boiled in milk and so thick and so strong.
  • McDonald's Iced latte: being so creamy and frothy, possibly because the milk is better in Pakistan
  • Cool windy at nights coming unexpectedly at the end of a long hot day.
  • The stars: abundant and visible at night, (and thanks to load shedding, even the cities are dark at night)!
My not-so-favorite things:
  •  Load shedding, also known as rolling blackouts. In some places, you have less than 12 hours of electricity a day. Most people use generators but it is still inconvenient.
  • Naan.  Pakistani naan is totally different than Indian naan. It is very thick, and has the texture of pizza crust. I missed the thin, puffy, Indian naans.
    Pakistani Naan
  • Heat and sun. Enough said.
  • Guns. They are everywhere in Pakistan, especially Karashi. Everyone has a gun, military, police, security guards. You get used to seeing guns everywhere. 
  • Curfew. Most young women in Pakistan have curfews of around 9:00 pm. If you are staying with a family, expect to be home after sun down, unless you are out with the family. Even if a formal curfew is not in place (because you are staying in a hotel, etc), it is good to know that most women do not go out at night due to safety concerns. I am a night creature and I missed being out in the darkness, though cities are not particularly well-lit at night (due to load shedding) and nightlife in the forms of bars and club does not exist (though house parties and underground raves certainly do). I should mention that I also got very delayed jet-lag towards the end of my trip, and this made me want to go to bed at 8:00 pm every night. Despite all this, I had a few opportunities to be out after dark, and I remember them all vividly: once at the pani-puri cart in Karachi, several times in Lahore (at LUMS, at a juice cart, and at a rooftop restaurant), and once in Islamabad on the rooftop of the home where I was staying.    
I will be writing in greater details about things like load shedding and safety in my next post, Pakistan: Know Before You Go.

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