January 27, 2006
Hotel Al Hayat Hotel, Liaquat Chowk, Pindi, 130 Rs/nite
The gruelling 20 hours bus journey from Gilgit, which I regretted to take, at last finished. The regret came from to my anxiety of getting the ticket since the road block, that I thought the ticket can be difficult to get, so I booked earlier. The bus I booked started at 3 pm yesterday, and I booked the ticket at 12. When I lingered along gilgit road, I was invited by Pathani truck drivers to go with them in their truck to Pindi. But I had the bus ticket already, and they couldnt wait for me to cancel the ticket. What happened next was I attracted so much crowds on the streets, as I tried to explain to the drivers that I would like to go with them but I need to cancel the ticket I got first (650 Rs, not that cheap to throw away). Then the owner of their truck coming, and saying I had to pay 400 Rs if I hitch the truck, which I think more like a polite refusal and suggested me to take bus still.
So I took the bus.
And at last, the 20 hour gruelling journey ended. I arrived in Rawalpindi. Knowing that I cant stay in Saddar Bazaar, I directly went to Rajja Bazaar from Phir Wadhai station. I tried 7 Brothers Hotel, and they said they were fully booked, even I said that most rooms were locked from outside and it looked empty. They suggested me to go to neighbouring Javed Hotel, which looks much better. With the heavy backpack (after the sickness I am much weaker now), I climbed the stairs, before then getting refused as they couldnt take foreigners. So I went back again to the Chowk to the busy Al Falah hotel. I thought that hotel would be very noisy, so I avoided at the first place. But now my choice getting narrower. Before Al Falah I saw another hotel, looked very beautiful, forgot the name. The receptionist is also in the 2nd floor (dunno why they like to put receptionist on 2nd floor, but usually the first floor is restaurant). Climb, climb, climb, and again, I got refused. The owner tried with his Urdu mixed with broken English (as I didnt understand completely his Urdu) tried to ask apology from me. I went back again to Al Falah, and they said they were booked. I suspected that all hotels in this area, including the 7 Brothers, are not allowed to take foreigners. I attracted so much crowds, unexpectedly, and people tried to be helpful. But most people talked as they know everything, and they took me further and further, with my backpack, and keep asking how I spoke Urdu.
I was tired. I decided to try another place, Liaquat Chowk, where I probably may get cheap rooms. A friendly man, formerly suggested me to go to police office to get a permit to stay in Rajja Bazaar (I refused as I think it’s not that reliable) then put me in a car going through Liaquat Chowk. I suddenly went to Al Hayat Hotel, where the receptionist was also confused whether to take me or not. I was interrogated, it felt like he was an immigration asking a visa overstayer. He didnt understand the meaning of the dates of my visa, and claimed that I was overstaying. And he called his boss. After quarelling, I even got a cheaper price than the first quoted price. Thanks to a Hunza young guy, who claimed had seen me before in Sust, who helped me to make the receptionist believe I was a normal visitor.
I dont know why Rawalpindi cheap hotels are getting annoying when it comes to taking foreign guests, something that I didnt experience 2 years ago.
The Hunza guy, then introduced me to his Gojali friend, is doing business in Pindi. I went together with them today to offer their stuff door to door in shops in Saddar Bazaar. An interesting day.
But a real welcome to Rawalpindi just happened now. We had dinner together in the restaurant below our hotel. And they asked me to take pictures of both of them. And when I showed the result to them, suddenly my camera was grabbed by someone sitting next to me. I held the chain of my camera, so I tried to grab it back. He was annoyed. He held my camera in very scary way, screwing the lens, and he could threw away my camera anytime he wanted. He, old bearded guy, with 4-5 guys eating together on his table, has smell of alcohol on his breath. I know now I am facing a situation that I should be low profile. I just stared at him, showing that I was angry. I didnt say anything. His friends tried to beg him to return the camera, but this man, with uncontrolled brain, keep screwing my camera and making motion as he wanted to throw it away. He even swallow his burning cigarette, in front of my eyes (too bad I didnt have another camera with me so I couldnt take the picture of this scene ). My camera is like ‘an egg on a horn of a buffalo’, can find its end at any second. I was thinking to claim him 1000 dollars at least if he break any part of my camera. I was being silence, with sight of anger. While people tried everything to get the camera back, by saying, “uncle, uncle, this is a foreigner, our friend, bla bla bla”. The Northern Areas guys whisphered to the waiters, but they also were afraid.
After begging, kissing, and trying to distract the concentration of this mad man, one guy successfully grabbed back my camera from his hand. Nothing happened to my camera, it still worked normally. One of the man used the chance to kiss me, the smell of alcohol was very strong. Disgusting. As nothing happened to my camera and this is not my first time having the experience (I had almost similar before in Uzbekistan), I just wanted to let this case went away.
But my new Hunza friend, Suno, was very annoyed. He was angry and insisted to call police. Then the second fight almost happened. The friends of the mad man was not accepting, and the mad man became much more even irritated. Suno’s friend tried to make him calm, and people also tried to calm this mad man. The friends of the mad man shaked my hand to ask for apology, which I gave them.
The hotel receptionist was also blamed by Suno, as well as the restaurant. I didnt want to make hostility with the hotel, as I know getting cheap room in Pindi is not easy, but the happening today suggested me to find another hotel tomorrow or the day after