Getting lost in Lahore

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 11th, 2007. Updated on February 15th, 2011. Published in: Travel blog » Pakistan.

Travel Journal Overview: I’d grown an aversion to tourists. Day trippers from India, hippies, and hashish smokers. This in turn started to annoy

The streets of Pakistan (click to enlarge)

The streets of Pakistan (click to enlarge)

me, I was nearing India, and knew there would be more.

I slept as well as one could expect. 8 beds remained empty that night, and I wondered why the idiot in reception put me next to the bed beside the door? Sure I was able to wake up 4 times during the night as the 4 other occupants either came in or exited the room and having to nudge into my bed to do so.

I met 3 somewhat expatriate type Serbs that were planning on opening an orphanage in Pakistan and an English guy over breakfast. It was a day of music at the shrine of Shah Jamal and later that night at a Sufi music bar. No one was going to the day time festivities so the hotel receptionist bundled me into a Rickshaw babbled something briefly and told me it would only cost 50rps. I really did not want to see the shrine, nor music being played there. But I had a few hours and it seemed ‘Everyone’ had to go.

As traffic ground to a halt, I started to really regret not doing my own thing. Choking smoke bellowed into my face, the heat of the day increased and we seemed to nudging into ever thickening traffic. I am not a music person. Not at all. It would be nice if I was, it could help with conversations. But being stuck in in heavy pollution to go and see a bunch of stoned drum beating locals was not my idea of fun. After 5 minutes in one particular place I threw my hands in the air. Enough. I asked the driver to pull over. I wanted out. I would hail another diver, knowing the process of changing one’s destination was usually too much for a rickshaw driver to handle mentally.

The driver nodded and we pulled over to large junction square. I got out and handed him a 50rp note. HE lost the plot. The driver started shouting as waved the note in the air before grabbing my wrist. Bad move buddy. I reversed his wrist into a wrist lock and warned him off about trying to touch me. He dared to shout back only to be completely drowned out by my fierce roar of profanity. He backed off immediately. His little eyes quickly scoured the area for moral support. A few bystanders gave open eyes looks in our direction but quickened their pace away. I roared again, making a look around as if to invited people to look at the cheating Rickshaw man. He ground his teeth in silence as I walked away. It felt good to vent.

Street children eating ice cream in Lahore

Street children eating ice cream in Lahore

I looked around to see where I was. There were masses of people around and not an inclination where I could be. There was a mosque with an open square across the road, from asking a few people it seemed to be Acta Mosque. I was none the wiser, and after 30 minutes of walking I was in less dense traffic. I wanted to get a cover for my day bag which was getting rather scruffy. An old Rickshaw driver with a friendly smile and frizzy beard swore he knew the place. This chap was full of chat, and was very curious about what I liked in Pakistan. We pulled up outside the travel store and he insisted in waiting to be sure it was the right place.

I headed inside the shopping mall like hallway towards the well lit travel store. It was closed. The lights were on, but only a phone number on the door indicated life. I called it. The voice at other end was not that interested in occupying his shop. I left.

The old man was still outside and gave me a little wave. I walked over deciding I needed to see something good. “Lahore Fortress”.

The old driver smiled his toothy grin and nodded reassuringly, “Ah, the Fortress!”

30 minutes later and I was standing outside of a modern looking terracotta colored building. Some questions later and it seemed that rather than the famous Fortress the old driver had rather taken me to Fortress Stadium. Arh!!!

I refused to join a few travellers heading to the Sufi music night. I had enough that day without being surrounded by stoned hashish smoking locals and travellers alike. Instead I headed for a night time look at Badshahi Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. It certainly felt like Lahore was in a different Pakistan. The mosque was set onto an adjoining courtyard that opposed the Real Lahore Fort and was lit up quite beautifully. People wandered around in couples and in groups, all very relaxed and at peace. I must say I was a bit nervous taking photos, it was Friday and few people, in fact none, had cameras. A few stares, but not much else.

Local Brass seller in Pakistan

Brass and copper seller in Pakistan

This is one of those times I realized the difference of travelling alone versus with someone. If their had been two of us photographing it would not have been so nerve biting. There was twice the argument if an upset emergency rule arm man came over, and twice the detraction to hiding a memory card. Instead it was just me, so I took my time.

I spent the rest of the night in conversation with the trio of Serbs who’d been there a while and concurred it was just a smoking den at the music night out.

Some related links from this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from Pakistan)

Stories: The Pakistani Truck Painters

Stories: The Last Khyber Pass Journey

Pakistan Travel Guide

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