Green and not.
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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It was an easy bus journey to Islamabad. I thought for a capital city it would be quite busy and have the normal hustle and bustle and business. Our hotel had satellite tv, which was fab for David because the cricket was on. We watched the box for a while then went exploring. It's a strange place. Quiet. It was built in 1961 and was set out on a grid system with location codes, e.g. we were in G7, and shops and blocks of flats and markets that just belong to that sector. There is a kind of business strip with larger hotels and more shops that's called the Blue Area slicing two top sectors from the bottom two sectors. Bit clinical. It's really lush though, lots of trees and grassy spaces, big medium strips where kids were playing cricket and badminton or families just sitting around but it's really ugly in that the buildings are quite run down and there just isn't anything going on. It's characterless. Boring is a good word too. We went off in search of some food after the sun had gone down (thanks to Ramadan) and walked through the Blue Area and to a really commercial section. There was even a Nike shop where David found some replacements for his replacement rubber slip-ons. I actually bought some new sandals myself as my beloved 7 year old foot companions are getting worse. David wore his straight away because the rubber Pakistani specials were cutting his toes off but I'll wait. I don't have the heart to part company just yet.
There was a massive thunder storm during the night. I've never heard thunder so loud! Of course it didn't wake David up though! It continued all day so we had a big sleep in and David got to watch loads of cricket. That night we went in search of better food. We went to a different sector and found a fantastic bakery and bought donuts and biscuits and Galaxay chocolate! Then we found this little back street cafe and had the best beef curry and aloo gobee ever! I was again the only woman but they were so pleased to have us there.
Next morning we were up early to get to the Indian Embassy. Since 9/11 they've upped the security in the Diplomatic Enclave and you're not allowed to take bags, mobiles or cameras, etc. David had to deposit all his stuff but as my bag was more of a handbag and I'm a woman they let me through with mine. You also need to buy a ticket to get to your chosen embassy and take a shuttle bus there. Oh - you're searched before you get to the bus line. Once inside there were huge lines outside the Indian Embassy. One for men and one for women. We waited for a while but then realising we didn't have any forms I went to the front to get some. It wasn't long before David was dragged to the front of his line and told to go straight up to the foreigners' window. I went up to the guard and said I wanted to go too and he let me. My bag was searched again and we went to the front and dropped our forms and passports off. In 7 days time we should have our visas for India! That will be my half century of countries!!! We checked out of our hotel and went to visit the old city of Rawalpindi.
So much more life here!! It's back to the regular traffic jams, pollution, horns, shouting, pushing and general hubbub of a crowded Pakistani city. This is more like it! The hotel we went to had been recommended by another hotel but it was a complete dive. They showed me two rooms that weren't fit for rats so I asked for a top floor room. It was so much better but still a complete dive. We had a corner balcony with a great view of the main streets below. There was also a very noticeable fried fish smell coming up from the fish shops further down the street. We must be down wind. It would be fine for one night, plus the guy on the desk was really friendly (and it was cheap). Whilst sorting out the paperwork I flicked through the visitors book. Seems everyone loves the place!! I saw the name Tadek. There was only 1 Tadek from Queensland we knew so it had to be him. I mean, how many Tadek's from Queensland can there be? He'd stayed here 5 years ago! Wonder if he'd been as selective as me.
We went off to look round the Rajah Bazaar and eventually came across the Jami Mosque or an old guy told us. I was the only woman. It looked pretty old but had lovely painted walls inside and the rocking, chanting guys down one end with prayers and napping people at the other. David spotted another temple type roof a little way away and we went off in search of it. We picked up a little straggler who insisted on coming along. He tried to take us to some smaller place but we knew where we wanted to go and left him behind. When we got there it looked more like a Hindu or Sikh temple and was in really bad condition. We went for a look inside and it obviously wasn't being used as a place of worship anymore. There were a few beds about and someone finally came out. They said it was the temporary head for the Secret Police! They showed us around - well what was left and said it used to be a Sikh Gudwara called Rai Bahadur Sardar Soojan Singh. There were some beautiful paintings. Such a pity that it's being left to rot. David was talking cricket with his new Pakistani Secret Police friends so he was happy. Whilst walking round the streets near our hotel we saw some colours in a cage. When we went up to it, there were little chicks running around but they'd been died fluro yellow, green, pink and orange! They were so cute so the guys took some out for me to hold. They're so soft and fluffy! I really wanted to take some with me but just further up the street was the reminder of what they would soon turn into so I put them back.
That was Rawalpindi. So much more entertaining than Islamabad!
Tomorrow we were off to Peshawar.