Willing To Get a Photo With AK-47? Must Visit Pakistan!

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Jovago Pakistan recently interviewed Joan, a Spanish traveler and blogger who visited Pakistan. He also participated in a roundup post done by Jovago Myanmar on “Travel On Budget Tips“.  

We decided to get him on the ‘hot seat’ and explore his travel experience of Pakistan.

Read what exciting things he has to say..!

1 Our first question is who is Joan? Tell us a little detail about yourself.

I am a 29-year old guy, who grew up in a small coastal village in Catalonia, Spain. For the last 5 years, I have been working in the marketing departments of different international companies, spending the last 3 years of my career in Dubai.

In October 2016, I decided to leave the corporate world to travel full-time and write about it in a blog called Against the Compass, a blog about destinations off the beaten track.

I have just arrived in Kyrgyzstan, after a 2-month trip in Pakistan.

Jovago Pakistan

2. How do you finance your trips?

From both my blog and savings from my previous job.

3. What was the primary reason to visit Pakistan?

My blog focuses exclusively on unusual, barely visited destinations that have big touristic potential.

I blog with the objective of promoting tourism in these countries, which, for some reason, have a bad reputation in some people’s mind.

Furthermore, when I was living in Dubai, all my Pakistani friends were always telling me good things about their country, as well as showing me pictures of the beautiful landscape that compose Pakistan.

I was really amazed by all those striking mountains, so it seemed to me that Pakistan was the perfect place to visit!

Foreigners in Pakistan

4. What was your perception about Pakistan before your trip?

It’s a little bit hard to say, as I’ve been through two different stages. In the first stage, when I was living in Spain, I knew very little about Pakistan.

Besides what the media says, all I got to hear were things related to terrorism. Yes, I thought that Pakistan was a dangerous place to travel to.

In the second stage, when I moved to Dubai, I met loads of Pakistanis from who I got to know a face of Pakistan which I didn’t realize existed before.

It was not only their pictures of the mountains, but also their kindness and their efforts to make me believe how great their country is.

When I first stepped in Pakistan, I realized that this country was as they had described it.

Foreigners in Pakistan

5. How will you describe your trip to Pakistan in three words?

A deep personal experience.

6. What makes Pakistan different from countries you have visited so far?

The people.

Previously to Pakistan, I’ve been to countries which are famous for people’s hospitality, including Sudan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran.

People tend to say that it is in these countries where you find the most hospitable in the world. Well, clearly, they haven’t been to Pakistan. Pakistanis bring hospitality to the next level.

In this country, you are continuously interacting with locals, who want you to have the best time possible in their country or region.

You can see in their eyes that they are honest and helping you is their only intention. As a solo, independent traveler, this is just perfect, as you never get bored because you are continuously interacting and making new friends.

Foreigners in Pakistan

I’ve never made so many friends when traveling to a new country as in Pakistan.

Today, I can say that I have good Pakistani friends all across the country, who I am sure I will meet again the day I come back here, because I am sure that I will one day.

7. How many Pakistani cities you have visited so far?

So many places! I’ve been traveling around the country for 57 days!

I started my trip in Karachi, heading to Multan, from where I continued my journey through Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Swat Valley and Chitral. From Chitral, I went over the Shandur pass to Gilgit, from where I visited Fairy Meadows and and Naltar Valleys.

After that, I headed north, stopping for 1 or 2 days in Minapin, Karimabad, Gulkin, Passu and Sost.

It’s been quite a journey!

Astore valley

8. If you get a chance to visit Pakistan again, which 3 destinations you would like to explore?

I would like to spend a few weeks in Skardu. If I came in winter, I would also like to visit more of Sindh and Punjab provinces.

Actually, that was my initial plan, but I didn’t expect them to be that hot.

9. What were some of the problems you faced in Pakistan as a foreigner?

Bureaucracy problems, mainly. Sometimes the military asked me for specific permits, like an NOC, to visit areas which I knew it was not required for.

After endless discussions, they would let me go, but it was just a waste of time. In addition, the endless check points where you need to register as a foreigner make you waste a lot of time as well.

I also had some problems with the food. I am not used to oily food and, for some reason, I got sick in my stomach 3 times.

Kalam Valley Pakistan

10. What will be your answer if anyone asks you, “Why Should I visit Pakistan?”

As I mentioned previously, the people and the mountains are, definitely, the highlight of any trip to Pakistan. But I would also say that traveling in Pakistan is the adventure of your lifetime.

From hitchhiking on tractors and psychedelic trucks to driving over extremely narrow mountain roads built on cliff 1,500 meters high, soldiers who voluntarily give you their AK-47 for taking a photo and the fact that you can camp in the middle of a paradise completely by yourself.

I would also tell this person that Pakistan isn’t a dangerous place to travel to.

Jovago Pakistan

11. You must have researched on Pakistan before visiting. What is different in the real Pakistan?

Before traveling to Pakistan, I had already been told about the stunning mountains and the people’s immense hospitality.

However, what surprised me the most, was the large ethnic and cultural diversity, as it was much larger than I could have ever expected.

From the South Asian looking people of Punjab and Sindh, to the people of the Pashtun areas, closer to Iran or Afghanistan; the pagan culture of Kalash; the Shias from Gilgit and Nagar; the Ismayillis of lower Hunza and the Wakhis (and also Ismayillis) of upper Hunza.

Traveling in Pakistan is like traveling in several, different tiny countries. It’s fascinating.

Fairy Meadows Pakistan

12. Out of the different types of cuisines you had in Pakistan, which one was your favorite?

I would say that the food in Peshawar was my favorite. Those people know how to cook lamb, which is my favorite kind of meat!

13. Share one of your most memorable moment or incident in/about Pakistan.

So many things happened in Pakistan but a funny one was the day we went to Sheikhandan, which is the last village in the Kalash Valley, just a couple of kilometers away from the Afghan border.

The people in this village are Muslim, not Kalashi, (they were previously converted) and, originally, they come from Nuristan, Afghanistan.

Fairy Meadows Pakistan

We really wanted to visit this village, but the locals told us that foreigners are not allowed to go there. Together with both my Italian and Malaysian friends, we decided to give it a try.

There is a military check post 6km before the village. When we got there, they told us that we could only walk 500 meters beyond the check post and come back after 1 hour.

We didn’t care about what they said, so we not only went straight to the village and spent the entire day there, but we even went beyond the village, closer to the Afghan border and had some tea and food with the locals.

At the end of the day, the military and the police came after us and took us back to the check post. The captain said: ‘’You are the last foreigners that will ever cross this point’’

Sorry to all the future travelers!

14. Any ending note for readers?

I just want to say that if you come to Pakistan, don’t plan too much. Traveling around the northern part of the country is extremely slow and, most of the time, you’ll find yourself in a paradise where you will want to spend a few days.

Hope you enjoyed the interview with Joan. We will come back with another interesting travel blogger soon.

If you want to read more of Joan’s stories, you can visit www.againstthecompass.com.

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