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Pakistan PTR - Part 4: Lahore Days 2 and 3

gavin

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Have another very late trip report that could totally have been done while I was off work for months. It’s going to be very wordy to start with (I figured that some people might be interested since it’s a pretty obscure destination), so feel free to skip forwards.

This trip was very shortly after India (about 3 weeks after getting back), and I’ve got to say that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it so soon after being in the same part of the world and not massively enjoying it. Add that to the fact that I didn’t know a single person who’d ever been and the “dangerous” reputation the country has, and I was really just not in the mood to go.

Turns out I f**king loved the place.

Arrival in Karachi

Let’s face it, Pakistan isn’t in many people’s travel plans, and Karachi, despite being the biggest city, probably isn’t top of the list for anyone who does go. It’s the financial capital, but doesn’t have a great deal to bring tourists in. However, there were a load of +1s and I’m always interested to see the bigger cities anyway.

Getting there was a faff though. There are no direct flights to Pakistan at all from Hong Kong. If there were, it would probably take around 5 hours, but I ended up going Hong Kong – Singapore – Colombo – Karachi (taking about 16 hours in total). Looking back, I would’ve been better off flying into Islamabad (only one connection) and getting internal flights later, but it seemed to make sense to start in the south (Karachi) and finish further north than piss about shuttling back and forth.

Unconnected subplot: I left my Kindle in the seat pocket after landing at Colombo, and realised just seconds after getting into the terminal. Of course, it was too late to get it back, so there was some faff at a customer information desk where they said they’d get it to the gate of my next flight. It wasn’t there. To be continued…

Back to Karachi then. I was, very noticeably, the only westerner on the flight and in the airport, and I was expecting a bit of faff at the immigration desk, but it was very smooth. I already knew that a tourist getting a SIM card at the airport was unlikely (and true – the phone shop/booth couldn’t/wouldn’t sell me one), so I’d bought some international sim thing, which supposedly included Pakistan, before I left Hong Kong. Nope, didn’t work. Slight panic at this stage then.

Anyway, I got a taxi to the hotel. It wasn’t too late when I arrived, but I was knackered so just asked about getting a sim card somewhere (loads of phone shops around, but that wouldn’t work) and had a quiet evening in the hotel.

Karachi

The next morning it was a taxi to one of the service centres/shops of a mobile phone company, where they could give a foreigner a sim card. It was easy enough and very cheap, but clearly designed for people living and working there since the guy seemed very surprised that I only needed it for about 10 days. Anyway, panic over.

The plan was to head out to the newest park in the area that afternoon (didn’t happen – more later), and some +1s in the evening (places open from mid-afternoon to late at night), so I did a bit of touristy stuff for a couple of hours.

Area around the hotel:







Old library:









Mosque:









Museum:









I think this was, technically, private property, but the security saw me looking and invited me to go in (not inside the building, just the grounds).









This is the house of Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan. There were no pictures allowed inside, but it was nicer outside anyway. I was the only person there and got my own little private tour from a staff member.





I’ll just mention now that any worries I had about Pakistan disappeared even from the airport. The people there were among the nicest, friendliest and most helpful that I’ve met anywhere. I very clearly stood out and got a lot of attention anywhere I was going, but none of it was negative and I never felt in the least bit on edge.

Everywhere I went, people were coming up to talk to me and were all genuinely lovely. The first couple of times, I had my guard up since in many countries that means rip-off/scam etc., but that wasn’t the case at all. For example, the security guard inviting me into the grounds of that building. I almost didn’t, and fully expected a hand to pop out for a tip as I left, but he was being genuinely nice. It was the same deal with the staff member at that house showing me around.

Ok, it got a bit tiresome having the same conversations multiple times a day (where are you from, why are you here, what do you think about it etc.), but people were just curious about me and keen to show off their country in a positive light. It made me feel quite sad in a way because they obviously know the unfair reputation Pakistan has, especially with regards to terrorism/religious extremism, and they were very keen to show that “most of us are very good people”.

Throughout the trip, there were lots of welcoming gestures. For example, at most mosques there are places to leave your shoes and pay (not much but still), but they wouldn’t take money off me since I was their “guest”. I even had a Careem (similar to Uber) driver cancel my trip (probably taking on a fee himself) as I was “his guest” and he didn’t want to charge me.

Anyway, I did some park stuff after that bit of looking around, but I’ll get that up in the next section since there’s a bit of explanation/preamble about how that worked and this is way too word-heavy as it is.
 

Hixee

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This is fantastic. Never heard any report from someone I trust (not Lonely Planet "isn't the whole world magnificent and you're stupid for thinking otherwise"), and this is really quite uplifting. It also looks pretty nice from the pictures!

Looking forward to the rest of this. :)
 
Thank you for taking the time to share this, look forward to reading more. You’re right, as a destination I have genuinely read NOTHING about, I am very interested and will be watching out for updates :)
 

gavin

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Some park stuff then. This was the same day as the touristy stuff from the last bit.

Looking into the parks (checking for opening times etc.), I saw that some of them had restrictions for “families only”, which basically means no single or groups of men (or “stags” as they referred to them). This was potentially a problem. One of the bigger Karachi parks had this restriction listed, apart from on Mondays when it was open to everyone, but that wasn’t going to work since I didn't have a Monday there.

Anyway, I messaged them through Facebook, explaining the enthusiast/CF thing (as well as throwing in RCDB since I knew I’d be sending pictures there), with the hope that I’d manage to get in at some point (I had it planned for the next day). In the meantime, I headed to a shopping mall park.

Onederland



Just as I got to the mall, I had a reply to the previous Facebook message, along with a Whatsapp number, so ended up speaking to someone from the PR department there who asked a bit more about what I was doing and asked if I could make it to the park in the next hour or so, the agreement being that I could get what I needed and they’d also use my visit for their own PR. I hadn’t planned it for that day, but said yes obviously before finding the park in the mall.



This place had no such “stag” restrictions, but, unlike most shopping mall places I’d seen in many other countries, rather than a free-entrance, pay-per-ride system, this one only had an all-inclusive option, and it was pretty expensive. Feeling emboldened by the recent conversation, I spoke to a manager (I’m such a Karen), explained the CF/RCDB thing, and he took me in and gave me a personal tour (got the cred of course) before taking me into an office, where I was given coffee and snacks, to meet another manager, who seemed fascinated by the whole concept of coaster enthusiasts.







It was only a small place, but they were keen to point out that all their rides were Italian and “not Chinese”.







My original plan after this place was to head right out of the city to a brand-new park (Bahria Adventure Land), calling into another one (Askari Islands of Fun) on the way back (both open until very late), but, as I said, that other conversation had happened, so instead I headed to:

Aladin Amusement Park

I was met by the guy in charge of the park’s PR/social media, we had a nice chat, with more coffee/snacks, in his office (during which he mentioned a park of theirs near Islamabad - I f**ked this one royally, which we’ll get to later), before a cameraman arrived and I got fully miked up. Not was I was expecting, but I needed those creds!

Log Flume (not a log flume) had popped up on RCDB just a few days before I made the trip, so that was a nice pre-trip surprise though obviously I would have found it myself anyway.









What ended up happening was that they asked me to talk a bit before and after any rides that I did. I only wanted the three coasters, but felt a bit cheeky, so also rode some other stuff which they suggested (clearly wanted footage of me riding).

It’s not something I enjoyed doing to be honest. I don’t make videos and don’t like being in front of a camera. I hardly ever even take any pictures of myself on any kind of trip. If I did this kind of thing myself, I’d definitely plan much more what I was going to say instead of just uncomfortably chatting s**t on demand, though that doesn’t stop most twats with their own “channels” I guess.

Anyway, I did this thing:





I avoid these kinds of things now, but didn’t really want to say no. It was fine, luckily. It was only a short cycle. I was worried I’d be on it for ages while they filmed, but that wasn’t the case.

Did the ferris wheel for similar reasons.











Family Coaster:





This was “running man”:



Free Fall is one of the bigger rides here. These type of shuttles are common in Pakistan, but I hadn’t done one, so it was a new one for me. I’d seen something similar (though a traveling one) years ago, in Portugal I think, but it was from a train window and I didn’t get to ride it. They’re basically giant butterflies, and go on for ages since they just coast back and forth after they’re released from the top.





Did the chairlifts. I probably would’ve done this anyway for the views/pictures. They took ages though. They completely cross the park, but there’s no exit at the other side, so you have to do it as a round trip. I think I was on it for about half an hour.



































After that, I went to another office and had more drinks and snacks with who I think was the main boss of the park. Again, this was all very nice, chatting about a bunch of different stuff (not park stuff at all really) before heading out.

I haven’t really talked much about the park, but it was pretty decent. Obviously, in terms of rides, there’s nothing special for us lot, but as a local place there was a pretty big selection (there was an attached indoor place that I didn’t go into – no creds – and loads of flat rides etc), it was clean and had a really nice atmosphere.

It was definitely one of the stranger experiences I’ve had though. If it weren’t for the “families” restriction, I would’ve popped in by myself, got the +3, maybe done the chairlift for pictures, and left, but I ended up there for a good 3 hours or so. I’d never used the CF thing before (apart from getting press passes for IAAPA) since I’d rather just pay and not have to think about it, but I probably should really since I always end up giving parks free publicity through our Facebook page anyway.

Until I started typing this report up yesterday, I’d forgotten about the video completely, but checked to see if anything had been done with it. Yep, it’s out there.

There was another, very small, indoor park not too far away, but I decided to skip it. It was also apparently a “families only” place and only had a tiny kiddy coaster.

I’d also since found out that Askari Worlds of Fun was closed. There had been an accident in which a discovery ride has collapsed and killed someone. That had been about a year and a half before my visit, and the park had reopened for a while, but had since been closed again, so I ended up just heading back to the hotel.

More Karachi (with park) in the next bit.
 

Hixee

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Double post - bite me.

That's actually really quite fab, I have to admit. You come across very well. 10/10 bull****ting there (especially the Discovery), I love it! :)

I won't post the link, as you didn't and I don't wanna step on your toes, but good work. :D
 

nadroJ

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I love how friendly and accommodating everyone seems, makes me want to head out there even more! Just watched the vid too, thought you came off really well considering it's not something you're comfortable with! Although you can really feel the sarcasm when you're talking about the Running Man I howled.

Also lol at the casual copyright infringement park logo 👀
 
Have watched the video too. It’s actually a very polished video and you came across great. As far as scripting goes, I don’t think I’d watch nearly as much on youtube if it ‘felt’ scripted, I think the spontaneity is one of the main draws, and you pulled it off well in that video. Clear, informative and entertaining.

Thanks again for another update.
 

gavin

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The next day, I headed out relatively early to the newest park in Pakistan. At this point, it had been open for less than 3 months. Various sources had it opening from 4pm, but their Facebook said 11am, so I decided to trust that. I think I turned up sometime around midday and it was fine.

Bahria Adventure Land

The park was one area of the much bigger Bahria Town complex, essentially a large gated community just over an hour outside Karachi. The whole place was obviously designed for very wealthy people (all very new, modern apartment buildings, high security, lots of open space), but all felt very sterile.

When the park opened, there seems to have been a bit of a furor over the price (around 20 quid) which was ridiculous by local standards. There were families turning up and not realising how much it would be, and having to leave because they just couldn’t afford it. They dropped the price by half, but that’s still a lot by local standards. Given its location, I kind of get the impression that they’re really going for a certain “standard” of clientele.













It was pretty much empty apart from one medium-sized school group and the odd smaller group of people. The main coaster here, from Preston and Barbieri, was pretty decent.























I really should’ve known better than to expect to actually see a sky swat, but I don’t massively follow flat rides news.



Actually this:





This was closed/being worked on:



I did the drop tower and Ferris wheel though.



















Some more of Rail Blazer:











The dinosaur area didn’t have any actual attractions in it:

















Another area had a few more flat rides, a splash battle and Golden Horse worm.















I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but this isn’t just theming; it’s an actual mosque:



I can see what they’re trying to do with this place. They want a Western-style theme park with specific areas and higher-quality foreign rides as opposed to the more local “amusement park” style. They’ve also included ALL the Western fast-food places (McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut…), though none were open when I was there.

It was a nice enough park - it was all very fresh and clean - but it also just all felt very, very bland unfortunately. Given the prices, the out of the way location and the low number of attractions, I think this place will struggle compared to the cheaper, more “local” places in the city.

Back into the city then, and a bit more sightseeing, starting with the Quaid e Azam Mausoleum (the founder of Pakistan and the guy whose house I’d seen the previous day. It was all very lovely, but took a while due to so many people wanting to talk to me (all in a good way; no hassle/selling crap etc.)

















Then it was on to Mohatta Palace, which is now used as an art gallery. No photos inside – they were very strict with this, collecting all phones etc. at the entrance.











This wasn’t far from a small amusement park, Jabees Funland, so I grabbed the +1 there.





















I then went up to Hill Park. The amusement park section, Funcity, had a “families only” policy, and the guy at the ticket desk wasn’t going to let me in. A manager did though, though it was a case of get the cred and leave.













I only realised later that RCDB mentions a possible second amusement park area. If I were a bit more on the ball, I would’ve had a look for it, but as it was, I just admired the sunset view and then got a taxi back to the hotel.









Karachi then. I liked it! Yeah, it’s busy and crowded, and it may not have huge amounts to do for tourism (the creds notwithstanding), but I enjoyed it. There was also no “foreigner surcharge” on any admission fees, so the museums, mausoleum etc. cost pennies. Compared to big Indian cities, it was generally cleaner (people are actually hired as street cleaners here) and less chaotic in general; the driving was MUCH more civilised despite there being similar levels of traffic (India is awful for this), with far less leaning on horns constantly.

I almost forgot my missing Kindle subplot. I’d been in touch with the airline (Sri Lankan), who confirmed that they had my Kindle. Well, they didn’t, it was being stored in customs at Colombo Airport. Anyway, good news that I knew where it was. Yeah, they’re not expensive, but the hassle of setting up a new one, transferring books etc., would have been s**t.

They couldn’t send it to Hong Kong since they have no Hong Kong flights themselves. They could’ve sent it to Karachi, but since this communication had taken a couple of days, I would be leaving before their next flight arrived, so they arranged to forward it to my next destination, Lahore.

How’s that for a segue to the next part of the report?
 

gavin

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Lahore Day 1

I think I had a morning flight and got to the hotel relatively early, which gave me pretty much 3 full days here. I started out by heading to the area around the fort, but it was all closed off for some government function, so I just had a look at this tower (didn’t go in – not sure if it was open even) and headed back out again.





I got a taxi up to an old tomb/mausoleum (Jahangir’s Tomb) just outside the city. Unlike Karachi, the tourist spots in Lahore had a different pricing system for foreigners (presumably because it’s more of a tourist spot), but the difference wasn’t as ridiculous as it had been in India and was still really cheap.



























It was lovely, but again took a while to do because I was apparently way more interesting to the locals than the tomb was. I got the impression that the locals use the grounds more as a public park (very cheap entrance price and a lot of open space) than to go there to see the building itself.

From there, it was back into the city and to the “walled city” area (all the old stuff), going in though Delhi Gate:







The aim was to head to a mosque a few minutes’ walk inside that gate, but right inside I found some old baths which turned out to be gorgeous.















Continuing down to the mosque:







The mosque itself (Wazir Khan) was stunning. I should just point out that when I went to a few different mosques, it was outside of prayer times. I didn’t deliberately check and plan around this - it just happened - but the actual prayer times are fairly short anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big issue to wait a while before going in if the timing was off.







































What I liked about this mosque was that it was right in the old-town area, surrounded by market stalls and busy, narrow streets rather than being out by itself in some quieter area like a lot of them are.









There was a shopping mall cred, and I needed food, so that was the final thing for the day. I got lucky with the timing of this since if I would’ve got to the mall an hour or so later, I may not have been let in since it was “families only” after a certain point in the evening.

Something else I haven’t mentioned is that the food in Pakistan was excellent. Some of the local stuff is understandably similar in some respects to Indian food, but with occasional beef options, and there’s also a lot more of a middle-eastern influence, so lots of kebab-style stuff. Maybe more surprisingly, there were also a lot of Western chains, especially in the food courts of the shopping malls. This one, for example, had both a Popeyes AND a Nandos and I could’ve cried.

Fun Factory
Anyway, the park. I did the CF thing again and spoke to a manager for the cred. This time, it was more because the place was very clearly a kiddy place and needed a ticket to get in. When these mall parks are just open and free to wander in, as they are in many countries, it’s less of a big deal, but I felt really weird going up to a ticket counter and buying an entrance ticket. The manager seemed quite baffled that coaster enthusiasm was a thing and that their tiny coaster had a listing on an American website, but was very accommodating.











And that was it for the first day.
 

gavin

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The next day then.

I confirmed with Sri Lankan Airlines that my Kindle was being delivered to Lahore Airport and I’d be able to collect it from around 1pm, so I had a lazy morning (the hotel was easily the nicest of the three on this trip, so that was no hardship), and headed back out there to collect it.

This wasn’t difficult, but took ages. I ended up sitting and chatting and drinking coffee with a group of staff from the airline in their office while they had a bunch of back-and-forth phone calls with Sri Lanka since that’s where it had been sent on from.

Because the Kindle had been in Sri Lankan customs, there was a per-day charge I had to pay (nothing to do with the airline themselves), but nobody seemed to know how much and/or whether I could pay it in Pakistan currency. I was expecting maybe a fiver a day, ten possibly, but no, that was way off. I expected the worst when the guy who’d been on the phone for about an hour getting it sorted turned to his staff and said something in Punjabi which caused them all to piss themselves laughing.

Turns out I owed the grand total of 200 Pakistan rupees, or about a pound. I still had to wait while Sri Lanka then e-mailed a receipt for the whole pound (needed signing etc.) before they could release the Kindle. F**k knows how much the phone calls alone had cost. Idiotic.

On the way back, I stopped off at Shalamar Gardens. There was a bit of bulls**t from a few locals around claiming that all the water features were under repair/restoration etc., but I get the impression that it’s been sitting in this state for ages. You could get the idea of how impressive it must’ve been in the past though.





















Thanks to the airport/Kindle thing taking ages and the weather turning a bit crap, that’s all I did for that day.

The next day also had s**t weather, but it was my last day in Lahore, so I still headed back to the fort area, which I’d been unable to get into a couple of days before. The fort was cool though despite the weather with some rooms given over to art exhibitions etc.



































Across some square from the fort entrance in the last picture (which was actually closed, but a staff member opened it up to save me walking all the way back around) is one of the bigger mosques. It was all very impressive and had very few people there. I ended up getting a bit of a private tour from a security guard who insisted on pointing a a few things out to me.





























Cred time! I really wasn’t sure about heading out to this place since it was a bit out of the way, the weather was obviously crap, it was winter and it was mostly a water park. Their Facebook page said they were open, but there was no way of knowing if that had been updated recently.

Sozo Water Park

Yeah, this wasn’t promising. Everything was closed up and no ticket windows were open.



As I was leaving though, a couple of people popped out of a security hut at the car park entrance, one of whom turned out to be the manager. The park was actually open, but they had no expectation of anyone showing up. He seemed massively surprised that I even knew about “Big Drop”, but took me back to the ticket windows, called someone to open it up (no freebie this time), and then took me into the park and to the cred himself, calling someone else on the way to get it open.

Behold!













It wasn’t the most comfortable and confident I’ve felt on a coaster. The cable pulls you very slowly, forwards, up the spike in front of the car, meaning that you get the backwards drop first. It then coasts back and forth for AGES, probably exacerbated by the wet track. At 110 feet, it’s much bigger than the usual Pakistani shuttle things.









There was then the - by now obligatory – tea/coffee and snacks in the manager’s office before I booked a car and headed back into the city, finishing off by calling into the Lahore Museum for an hour or so, which was decent enough.



















And that was it for Lahore. Again, I really liked it. It was too bad about the weather on the second and third days, but I still got plenty of stuff done and never really felt rushed since I’d given myself plenty of time and nowhere was busy. Again, the people were all beyond lovely everywhere I went and the various bits of touristy stuff were all really impressive.

One more city to go.
 

Howie

Active Member
So... let's talk about this video that you didn't post a link to and weren't comfortable doing. Yeah, I'm afraid to say I found it 😁
Welllll sh*t - so that's what you look and sound like! All these years, not a clue...
You did well, bro, really good vlog, much better than many regular vloggers. I demand from now on that you vlog everything - you're a natural! ;)

I also liked the picture of the nipple-squeezing statue further down the page. 👍
 
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