“Instead of stressed, I lie here charmed” – Placebo.
My first stop in Pakistan was Lahore. After the online visa application (rather taxing), I was booked in to stay at The Rose Palace Hotel in Lahore. From here I would backpack the sights of the city, head out to Wagah for the famous border parade with India and roll across the river to the city of Shahdara Bagh.
Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan after Karachi and the 26th largest city in the world, with a population of over 13 million. This is a fast and furious wacaday beast. It’s not even the capital. Nor is Karachi, which I’d later backpack. I byballed the capital city of Islamabad, focusing my initial pursuits here in Lahore. Rupees in hand, this is a race for rats to die.
“It’s a race for rats to die” – Placebo.
I was based in the excellent Rose Palace Hotel which is in the city’s Gulberg-II district. It was a decent base for a brace of days whackpacking this joint. These were my personal top backpacking sights.
1.National Cricket Stadium
Whether this was all excrement or not, I’ll never know but for two consecutive days at about 5 different entrances, I was refused entry to the national cricket stadium! One of my tuk tuk drivers said there was an important match on that week, I believe it was Pakistan v Afghanistan and therefore I wasn’t allowed in!! I would have thought the opposite! Twice I got up to the gate, once chased by guards and another time told to stop taking photos…
2.National Football Stadium
Even worse, and for the same reason, I was also banned from the National Football Stadium!! This was a bad start to backpacking Lahore as those were two of my most important and craved sights when pakpacking Lahore. Football wasn’t to be here, in unforgiving Lahore. Instead, I popped into the local bookshop and left them a copy of my own football book, Champian Stewartnova. If they are not letting me see their stadium, I’m showing them mine!
3.The Old Walled City
Finally I was allowed to visit somewhere and it was worth the wait. I loved the old walled city here in Lahore.
It actually had some English signposts and writing in it, though still I was a solitudinal tourist. I was the only foreigner I seen at all these places.
To get in, you walk through the entrance gate, Delhi Gate, which is actually a wall. You can’t miss it as the Pakistan flag flies from above it.
Once inside, you feel like you have been warped back to a bazaar bizarre world. This is textbook Palestine.
This is Silk Road loyal, Silk Road reminiscent and wouldn’t shock anyone that wee Mohammed shuts his pomegranate smoothie shop 5 times a day to attend Call To Prayer at his local Mosque. Of which, the Wazir Khan Mosque is highly impressive.
You can spend hours in here and it’s fascinating. Without doubt, the Old Walled City of Lahore is my favourite attraction in this city.
4.Model Town Park
As my tuk tuk driver Asif danders with me through the large, green, leafy Model Town Park he claims this is Lahore’s Central Park akin to that in New York City.
This one is better though. Much safer, no law allowing guns and certainly no capitalist buck eejits promoting serial killers on Netflix. I sense a calm here. I cross the bridge over a greenish river where you can sail on a boat. I don’t bother though, I enjoy the walk instead.
Model Town Park, in a smoky smoggy city, is a breath of fresh air, literally!
Sitting tall but not enough to sky scrape or pierce, is the Minar E Pakistan. It’s a national Monument and is housed in a tranquil city park. The tower was built between 1960 and 1968 on the site where the All-India Muslim League passed the Lahore Resolution (which was later called the Pakistan Resolution). This happened here on the 23rd of March 1940 and was the first official call for a separate and independent homeland for the Muslims of British India, therefore a catalyst for modern day Pakistan.
The Badshahi Mosque here is open to everyone and is free so I was able to go inside. This is an important Mosque which has relics from the prophet Mohammed in it. There is a small museum within the compounds of the Mosque which is worth checking out.
The Badshahi Mosque was built between 1671 and 1673 and by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The mosque is an important example of Mughal architecture, with an exterior that is decorated with carved red sandstone with marble inlay. It remains the largest mosque of the Mughal-era, and is the third-largest mosque in modern-day Pakistan. I visited a few Mosques in Lahore and this one and the Wazir Khan were the two most memorable so I’d recommend it.
Next to the Mosque is Lahore Fort. Whilst I gladly backpacked the inside of Forts in India, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Taiwan and so on, this one I didn’t bother going inside. These days I sometimes just skip things if I don’t feel like it. In my early blogging backpacking days, I’d backpack every sight under the sun in a city! Now, I pick and choose. This was decent to see from the outside and I don’t need to prove anything by going inside anymore.
Take your pick here really as the whole city is a market.😂But actually the market zones have names and there are even parts of the city which focus on one niche – like the sports market area, the fruit market area etc. This whole madness used to fascinate me especially in my glory days backpacking Taiwan. Somehow, these days, these markets don’t inspire me as much as they once did. My tuk tuk driver took me to the Urdu Bazaar (mostly books and print places) and the Kashmiri Bazaar (anything from food to jewellery).
Although I backpacked on trains in the nearby countries such as Delhi to Mumbai in India, Hospete to Chennai in India and Dhaka to Chittagong in Bangladesh, here I was on a faster trip so I used an internal flight to get from Lahore to Karachi. However I did have a look at the train station, which was actually a lot calmer than I expected! The trains in India were nuts (and I took about 10 trains there) but here didn’t seem quite as bad.
I enjoyed people watching. Either grab a tea or coffee in a wee cafe and stare at the Lahore world. Overall, Lahore was mayhem and also a tad confusing, and Pakistan isn’t actually my style of country. I couldn’t get such inspiration like I could in Taiwan, or Uruguay, or Poland. I’m glad I’ve seen it though and I might be back one day. Who knows. Here are some final photos from my time Pakpacking in Lahore.
Here are some videos from my time pakpacking in Lahore, Pakistan: