Pakistan … What is interesting there? Isn’t it dangerous? Is it frightening?
By: Pu Mekpipat
When learning that I was visiting the less visited place, almost everyone fired tons of questions at me. Most of them disagreed with my idea because they might have heard things from the media, ranging from extremely different culture to the unrest they often witnessed.
Moreover, visiting Pakistan, especially visa application process, can be a bit difficult for Thai people. First, we must fill the form downloaded from the embassy website. Then, we submit the passport and a thick pile of documents at the Embassy of Pakistan in Soi Nana. After presenting all papers required, we must transfer the visa application fee at the bank in that Soi before returning to the embassy to get the receipt and visa appointment paper, which usually takes three business days.
You have to do all of these by yourself and cannot assign anyone to do it on your behalf. Does it seem a bit too complicated? Now you had better ask yourself that question.
After two of my friends had expressed their strong will to visit Pakistan, we, with air tickets and visa in hand, flew to Karakoram Mountain in one evening before the first winter breeze of the year caressed the country.
The foreigners cannot visit Pakistan by themselves. They need the tour agencies there to issue a guarantee letter as a reference document for visa application. My friend sent email to Altaf Travel Agency, asking them to arrange the program for us. After learning about our trip period, conditions, and needs, the agency sent us the program and total expense. We could choose either all-inclusive package consisting of transportation, fuel, tour leader, driver, food, accommodation, and permit or the package that included everything but food. After the negotiation, we confirmed the deal and prepared the money to pay the agency there. Once we arrived, we needed to stick with the agency throughout the trip. If wanting to go anywhere, we needed to ask for permission and present the permit to the officials at check points. With a car, chauffeur and tour guide, my friends and I could get around town as we planned, which followed the program almost completely.
For those who would like to visit Pakistan, I can summarize the following points based on my experience:
15. Karakoram highway is the world’s highest highway (from sea level) connecting Pakistan with China, with the total distance of 1,400 km.
16. The electricity in Pakistan is unstable. Many hotels have power shortage (including wi-fi) issue. They have to schedule the time to turn on or turn off the electricity. Some do not even have warm water.
17. Pakistan is quite dusty because it does not have sweepers, unlike Thailand. So, it is a good idea for those with allergy to carry masks.
18. Even though it is quite safe, you should be cautious and strictly follow the advice of tour guide. Personally, I buy travel insurance every time I go abroad and suggest you do the same. Believe me … Only a few hundred baht you want to save from the insurance is not worth it if any unexpected incident happens. This will prevent you from the regret … “If I had known about this, I would have bought the travel insurance.”
I do not try to convince you to pack up and apply for Pakistani visa. Based on my personal experience after spending seven or eight days in this country, I can conclude that Pakistan is a perfect choice for those who love adventure. However, I can guarantee you it is not that tough. (I found a group of retired folks from Thailand going there themselves.) The spectacular nature and friendliness of people is more than enough for me to get back there.