Pakistan, Iran and Turkey
04/12/2009 - 05/14/2009
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My introdution to Pakistan was really amazing. I sat on the Pakistan side during the famous India-Pakistan border closing ceremony. It's like a big sporting event complete with bleachers for the huge crowds that come.
I stayed just one week in Lahore and Islamabad, which are the safest places in Pakistan. I was hosted by families in both cities and got absolute VIP treatment from both. I met so many people and ate so much good food. It was really a great experience.
My host family in Lahore
My host Azam from Islamabad and his son Omar
After Pakistan I had to cross the border to Iran. This was the most dangerous part of my trip as the area around the borders can be a bit shady. I took a marathon 3 day train/bus journey from Islamabad, Pakıstan to Ahwaz, Iran. My first train was 6 hours late and I barely avoided having to stay the night in Quetta, Pakistan, the place I was told to avoid at all costs. I crossed the Iran border with no problems but pretty tired. I was told I had to have a policeman escort to the next town. This was ok but the "obligatory" $20 taxi was not. I told them it was my money and I wanted to take the $0.50 minibus. After about 2 hours finally some guy said I (and my police "friend") could hitch a ride with him for free. After another 24 hours of buses I finally arrived in Ahwaz exhausted and I phoned my friend Mohammad. We had a mix up and he was near Shiraz 5 hours away where I had just been! He phoned a friend though and in no time I had a place to stay.
Mohammad rushed to Ahwaz the next morning and we spent a very fun (and busy) week. We saw the war monument near the Iraq border, stopped at the persian gulf, saw lots and lots of ruins, visited Shiraz for a night, met lots of very nice people, swam in hotsprings and all kinds of stuff. I ate so many mouth watering kebabs including at the BBQ/picnic on my last day. I am addicted to them. We were often on the road and the scenery was always amazing.
Mohammad and me at the Iraq-Iran War Monument
After I left Mohammad's I spent a few days on my own visiting Esfahan which was awesome, the main square is really great and lots to see. Then I had a day in the huge capital Tehran.
I had a scare in Esfahan my full 8GB memory card "failed" and it seemed all my videos/pics were gone. Luckily, I almost certain they can be recovered using software.
The "Islamic Republic of Iran" is really a unique place and people are really nice. They love to have guests in their country. It was one of the best parts of my trip.
My first impression of Turkey was not good. I had to pay $60US for my visa at the border (all other countries are $20 max) and the guy even tried to trick me to pay $70. At the bus station some guy asked me to pay 2 Euros for using the toilet even though he wasn't around when I went in. And then my first bus was like $40 for what would have cost $7 in Iran.
I was a bit bitter but after one day it was obvious it was worth it. It is a special place and the people are really friendly (especially my couchsurfing hosts). One day me and another guy hitchhiked qnd we never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride.
My first stop was Cappadocia which was really cool. Everywhere there are strange rock formations. Many of them carved into homes, hotels and churches.
Arriving in Cappadocia
Istanbul was not what I expected but I like it. It is very European feeling and finally I could wear shorts again! (In Pakistan, Iran and east Turkey you aren't allowed). Also, there were cats everywhere which I love. I spent my last day in Edirne, Turkey on the border with Bulgaria. It is a nice, friendly small town.
Now I'm back in Europe on my way home trying not to faint every time I buy a train ticket (about 25X more expensive than India or more). I'm a bit travel weary but I'm still enjoying the the trip.
The transport trucks in Pakistan all look like this