Travel Journal Overview: Lahore, I was hoping, would be another extension of this great country. It wasn’t quite that. In fact it seemed to add something else again to the mystique and diversity of Pakistan.
After a little lateness caused by my Rickshaw driver literally running out of gas I arrived at the Daewoo bus company in Peshawar. From the outside the buses looked fairly dire, but inside there was plenty of leg room, AC, and best of all no one next to me. I read for most of the 9 hours and time passed quickly.
12o Rupees from the terminal and I was at the Regal Internet Inn on Regal Chowk. A place described to me a a grubby and squashed in backpacker place. And, for all purposes, it was. With no rooms available I was stuck in the dorm. I did not mind so much, but the only bed was the one next to the door, and with so many beds (12) packed into one room there was not so much room.
Strangely enough there were actually people here, backpackers. Unlike the rest of Pakistan it seem Lahore was quite a popular destination. And there was little sense of Emergency rule here. It turns out that Lahore gets quite a lot of business from travelers in India coming over for a quick two day stop to see what the place is like before scurrying back across the border.
Even more bizarre was the fact that there was a Subway fast food restaurant and KFC in Regal Chowk. So, all things considered, I feasted on Subway. Which, for the first time, taste quite different to other Subway’s around the world. Cheese was smaller, bread not so fresh and, of course, no ham. KFC on the other hand was good. What’s more, they had only deaf people working there. A refreshing change.
I headed out to Camera road, a place in the LP that stated was the best place to buy anything for a camera, practically in the world. ERM… no…. Well maybe if your camera was an old film type or you wanted to buy a digital compact. Yes there were more camera stores that I have every scene, but to really find something of a bargain or specific there is not going to happen.
Rather than head back to the tiny Regal Inn, I went in search of Rawalpindi Popular Inn, another budget consideration listed in the LP. I took an Auto rickshaw and headed off at the bargain price of 60 rps. 1 hour later and I was standing on the side of the road with the driver being surrounded by security guards, a policeman, two KFC workers and some other rickshaw drivers – all concerned that we could not find the RPI at it’s maps location. People grabbed, tousled and pointed at the LP map. Then flicked pages, turned the book upside down, translated the address a few times and spat a lot.
Nope, no sign of the RPI. My driver was quite distraught. As if he had failed me. I insisted there was no problem. But I think he thought I was homeless for the night or something as he kept persisting. Either that I or it was the cliché white man is never wrong scenario. Still, everyone was very nice and was treating this with the utmost importance. So much so the security guards began peeling back posters attached to the building with the same number as the address in the book.
The policeman pointed to a sign from a letting agency high up on the wall, and then proceeded to telephone them. No answer of course, but I could see where he was going. The two security guards were going somewhere else, down the side street and into someone’s house. Minutes later they emerged with a local chap who looked like he had been sleeping. Much conversation then started with many more noddings and wagglings of heads. My driver finally came over to me and explained to me what I had already figured out. RPI had closed up. I looked on at the mass of concerned faces staring back at me. What to do? Well I did what anyone would do. I held up the LP for Pakistan and said it was a very bad book bringing me out to a closed down hotel. Everyone immediately began to nodded in agreement and waggling their fingers at the book.
Everyone content with the outcome, I headed back to Regal with the driver. I gave him a whopping great 500rps. The man started to look for change, even as I was trying to say thank you for all his help. He had after all gone to more trouble than any other taxi type driver I had ever met. When I pushed the note back in his shirt and was met with a frown. I told him this, and ended in a “Shukran”, his face broke into a little shy smile.
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
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