We were sad to leave Bhagsu, but excited to be on the road again. We got the bus from Mc Leod Ganj to Pathankot where we got the train to Amritsar. We stayed in the Golden Temple, eating in their dining halls that feeds *** thousands each day.
We met Bert (Holland) and his wife Maria (Boliva), who had just came from China, down the Karakoram Highway, through Pakistan and into India. We went for some beers and they gave us loads of tips.
The next morning we got a taxi to the border and crossed into Pakistan (after pausing for our last Kingfisher outside the border). We came through the opposite way, just over a year ago. The roads were still flooded from the monsoon rains.
The roads were chaos as we entered Lahore and it took forever in the sweltering heat. At one point on a three lane road the traffic had turned and started coming back the wrong way, there must have been an accident or something, but it was madness.
We checked into the Regale Internet Inn and could only get a sweaty dorm room. We had a Siesta, it was boiling, then on the night we went to the Sufi night at The Shrine of Baba Shah Jamal.
Sufism (Islamic mysticism) adheres to main principles of mainstream Islam but emphasises a need to understand the real essence of Islam and not be restricted to formal manifestations of the religion. Sufis (mystics) are on a quest for spiritual emancipation. They use music, dance (and it seems a lot of Hashish) to connect with god.
The traditional dhol drummers banged out hypnotic beats non stop all night, whilst a few that could find space in the packed shrine, would dance, spin, whirl and shake their heads in a trance like state. People passed around fruit, drinks, food, joints and the impressive apple bong! People tend not to use rizzla papers here instead they empty the tobacco from their cigs then repack it with hash and tobacco. Men and a young lad walked around cooling the crowd with giant felt fans, whilst others sprayed rose water over the crowd.
There were fireworks over Lahore that night. The courts had decided that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be allowed to re-enter Pakistan.
Pakistan is in a political quagmire at the moment. On March 9th 2007, Chief Justice Minister Chaudhry, was suspended by Musharraf. There was a mass protest led by Lawyers in Lahore. The situation has been turbulent since. A few weeks back Musharaff was close to calling a State of Emergency.
A lady I got chatting to in an Antiques shop (they had some great old cameras on display), said that Pakistan needed rulers like Musharraf. 'Politicians are only out for themselves, they are corrupt, Musharraf and the army stand by us, we have had many tough times including the Earthquake in 2005, he has been good'. This sentiment was echoed a week or so later by another Punjabi we met in Bumbaret.
Most other people I spoke to didn't share this view. Including the owner of the antique shop, they started having a full on debate. He said 'look at the price of cooking oil, it has gone up , everything gas gone up, the economy is ruined ..'
A guy we met in a rooftop restaurant overlooking Shahi Qila, Lahore Fort, said that for the first time in a long time, people are starting to believe in the courts, law, and democracy. That maybe they can challenge the 'dictatorship' rule.
Musharraf has ruled Pakistan as a Military leader (or dictator depending on your stance) after the Military coup in 1999. Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister at the time, tried to sack his army chief, General Pervez Musharraf whilst he was midair returning from an official function in Sri Lanka. The tactic didn't work. Within a matter of hours, Sharif was under arrest and Musharraf had imposed military rule. Read Story of how 1999 coup unfolded on BBC.
Lahore is great, super friendly place especially if you think of the size of the city. But it’s insanely hot and nothing works properly. The lecky keeps cutting out, which not only plunges you into darkness but also when the fans stop spinning you really start to cook! We eventually uploaded our site here, but it was a mission! Uploading in the middle of the night when the electricity was more stable.
To celebrate I went to the shady beer outlet under the Holiday Inn. Pakistan is a dry country, but you can get beer at some places if you have a foreign passport. If you’re a Christian you can get a letter from your doctor which you can then use to get booze!?!
We didn't do too much in the day as it was too hot to walk around. But we went to some Punjabi films on McLeod Road on the night. We saw 'Majajan', a classic starring Saima. We also saw a trashy film, whose name we don't even know. A guy from a nearby cinema warned us it was a 'sexy movie' and we should instead watch a good respectable 'family movie' at his cinema. This intrigued us even more. It looked like it was filmed ages ago on several types of film stock, but it must have been no more than a year or two old judging by the mobile phones. It was terrible! But fun and had some 'sexy' dance scenes.
The Regale Internet Inn became a good home for a week or so. Malik the owner is great as are his sons and staff. We went with him to a festival in Kasur which marked the anniversary of Baba Bulleh Shah a Sufi who challenged the doctrine of the times and called for a greater respect for all humanity and religions. At 'Fry-Chicks' a fast food place serving Fried Chicken, Byriani and Pizza we met Farrukh Mahmood, the owner, who really looked after us all. He had lived in Manchester for a while, "that's where I got my Pizza recipe", and was happy to chat about England and Pakistan. Outside the festival roared. We walked through the crazy streets to the Shrine where there was singing, music and dancing. A man, straight out of Ghostbusters, sprayed Rose water over the crowd.
Back in Lahore, there was another concert in the nearby Bagh-i-Jinnah (Lawrence gardens) and one night Malik even arranged a roof top Qawwali (Islamic devotional singing) concert at the Inn.
The food in Pakistan is not quite as good as India for Veggies but we had some good Dal, Veg and great Chappati on Food street, a lively outdoor traffic free road full of eateries. The Ice cream from Chaman on 'Ice Cream Street' was bostin! Mango and Pistachio was our favourites. This place was where all the action was, packed in the evening with families, couples and groups of men. The sweet shop near Regale Internet also done the best Kulfi, ice cream. On our last night we indulged in the western delights of Pizza Hut, which was a bit pricey by local standards but still packed with families and young Lahories eating to a EuroPop beat.