My apologies lovely readers I’ve been very quiet. I’ve been busy having a disastrous holiday and then recovering from the shock of it.
This post is a long rant to anyone who wants to read about how my adventurous holiday turned into a series of epic fails.
First time in 25 years, my flight was overbooked. The officials kept us hanging until 10 minutes before the final boarding call to get us 5 separate seats on the plane.
Landed in Islamabad and drove to Rawalpindi to meet with an uncle who invited us and promised to arrange an exciting trip to the north for us. Everything was fine but something just didn’t feel right. Uncle was making tall claims at the dinner table about how everything we need will be ready without any specific details. Naturally we started doubting if any of it will ever happen.
Uncle left the city for work. Said he’s arranged a driver for us who can drop us to the outskirts where can get a cab for Murree. Everything is arranged for us in Murree and we should have no issues exploring the city.
Murree is a supposedly beautiful town slightly up north Islamabad and a must-see for anyone who visits Pakistan. But we never wanted to visit Murree in this trip or any other trip because of how notorious it is for being crowded and dirty.
After a few shocking revelations about the trip that we never consented to, we ended up in a filthy guesthouse in Murree.
Days 3 and 4
Since we had got ourselves in that situation and we were tied by uncle’s expectations and the need to maintain good relations with him, we decided to put biases aside and explore the town (where we were supposed to spend one more day on uncle’s request).
Murree sucked for so many reasons it deserves its own blog post. The guesthouse that was booked for us as a friendly gesture was inconveniently located, super old and super filthy. We shopped at the ~famous Mall Road, visited Kashmir Point and Pindi point and that’s it. That’s where we had had enough of Murree for the rest of our lives.
We were so depressed that we stayed in the next day and watched about 5 movies in a row before going back to sleep. Can you imagine how much we disliked Murree that we were willing to stay in at a disgusting guesthouse? It is by far the worst popular destination I have visited.
While we were sulking in our tiny room, we got a call from my uncle that all the places I wanted to visit (Naran, Kaghan, Skardu, Gilgit, Hunza, Naltar) were suddenly inaccessible because of weather, fully booked guesthouses, no available flights or some other bullshit reason.
So we spent some time making an action plan now that we were sure that there is no exciting trip waiting for us.
Ran away from Murree and checked into Marriott Islamabad (supposedly Islamabad’s most expensive hotel) after four difficult days crammed in a small guesthouse room. A detailed review of Marriott Islamabad is coming soon because I have a lot to say about that place as well.
We didn’t know how long we had to stay there, whether we were supposed to wait for uncle to tell us the plan or do something on our own. So we decided to do what you would expect a Dubai resident to do – go to the mall.
Centaurus mall is currently the only fully-operational mall in Islamabad (so weird this is the country’s capital we are talking about) and is much smaller than the biggest mall in Karachi. But I loved Centaurus. In my 14-day stay in Islamabad, I visited Centaurus about six times.
Now that we were no longer under uncle’s reliable guardianship, we decided to explore Islamabad’s monuments on our own. Lok Virsa, Pakistan Monument, Faisal Mosque, Margalla Hills and the usual malls and restaurants. There is so much culture in Pakistan it’s unbelievable even for a Pakistani. Lok Virsa museums are a MUST for anyone who visits Pakistan and does not want to return sounding ignorant.
After 3 days in Marriott, my extended family came over to Islamabad so we could all see some parts of Northern Pakistan as one big happy family. We couldn’t have come up with a worse idea.
With 3 children under the age of 13, the holiday had become anything but adventurous. We spent days at a stretch entertaining the kids and catering to their needs.
We did try to explore some parts of Azad Kashmir from days 7-10. That was probably the closest I got to any adventure or landscapes. We visited a place called Bagh in Kashmir, which was beautiful but the wrong kind of wild. Not a lot of tourist-friendly activities and enough pollution to turn me off. Naturally, the kids were falling sick because of long drives in the mountains. So we came back. And how dare I suggest leaving the kids behind?
Lahore is the second dirtiest city I have seen after Karachi. Even Rawalpindi was cleaner than Lahore. The monuments should be demolished if this is how Lahore plans to preserve them. There was graffiti, food stalls, trash and CHAOS. Lahore Fort has become a public park and the Badshahi Mosque is in the saddest state (where are the photographers who take pretty photos of these places).
On the way to Lahore, we stopped at a village to please uncle and co. The village itself was interesting (very Bollywood-like) and the food was unreal. Never had better tasting Pakistani food thanks to the farm-grown spices, vegetables, rice, flour, chicken and MANGOES! But by this time I was done with life in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, this holiday was a massive waste of time, money, efforts and emotions for me. I’ve come back to work more tired than I left. However, I did learn some important lessons about being self-sufficient especially financially. And to be fair, there were some things I truly enjoyed (would I want to go back and do it again? No.).
For now, let’s just imagine this trip never happened and Pakistan is back on my bucket list. Thanks.