Yearning for Freedom and Dreams in Pakistan

  Whenever the kite flies, no matter what it means, please bravely chase it, for others and for yourself. I read “The Kite Runner” a long time ago, which is a story about redemption told by the Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini: two young friends lead different lives due to an accident, and the protagonist Amir is also there. After going through all kinds of things, I found my true heart. This trip to Pakistan did not have such a profound story, but it seemed that I saw a lot of kites carrying courage and yearning.
  When I knew that I was going to Pakistan, the fans on social platforms were very excited: Help us to see Pakistan, shoot more Vlogs (video logs), let everyone see what the real Pakistan looks like, and experience it The hospitality of Pakistani people. For me, who has not been able to travel far in the past three years, the places where I can apply for a visa are extremely yearning, especially in places like Pakistan where there are few tourists, and even travel information is extremely scarce.
  When I landed at Karachi Airport, I ran into two Chinese compatriots who were staff sent by a Chinese company to Pakistan. They were surprised that I chose to travel here, and enthusiastically shared their work and life in Karachi: For them, they shuttle between work and the hotel every day, two points and one line, and the unit will give every time when they go shopping. I have two security guards, I eat Chinese food, and everyone I meet speaks Chinese, so I don’t have the opportunity to really know this place.
  During the journey in Pakistan, it coincided with the celebration of the end of Mubarak’s Ramadan. One of the deepest impressions on me was the devoutness of the local people’s religious beliefs. They prayed devoutly and integrated their beliefs into every corner of their lives. People danced and sang in the streets and alleys, and I was deeply infected by their piety.
  All the way from Lahore to Karachi and then to Islamabad, the appearance of the city gradually became clear: Lahore is dominated by humanities and history, and the local people are also very simple and enthusiastic. People will come forward to shake hands and communicate at any time. Attractions like the Deshahi Mosque, everyone is taking pictures of TikTok (a short video social platform owned by ByteDance); Karachi is dominated by sea views, and the scenery of the port is amazing, like coming to the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, The cargo terminal and the lively market, the people sitting cross-legged on the painting carpet smoking hookah, and the flowing music all make people linger; if you arrive at the capital Islamabad, you will find that the whole city is very quiet, but it seems that everyone is in Faisal Mosque, not even a single person on the street.
  This trip lasted for half a month. Without any plan, I went to places at will, met a person, and experienced a wandering life. Except for a few Chinese faces in the capital Islamabad, it seems that I have never seen a foreigner like me in other places. The short-sleeved shorts are incompatible with most of the gray robes. Some would wave friendlyly, some would shake hands shyly to greet, most of them would still look curiously at such a completely different person from his face to his clothes, quietly blending into their calm world.
Metropolitan Impressions of Lahore

  In the 7th century AD, the eminent monk Xuanzang introduced in detail what he saw and heard during his visit to the city of Lahore in his works, which became the earliest record about this city in Chinese history. Pakistanis say: If a Pakistani has not been to Lahore, his life is in vain. So, my trip to Pakistan started from Lahore.
  Lahore is the most attractive city in Pakistan. Lahore is the soul of Pakistan. With a history of 2,000 years, it can be regarded as the perfect embodiment of the mighty Mughal power. This exotic Islamic ancient city has honey-colored buildings, museums with rich exhibits, lively bazaars, and the junction of India and Pakistan. Every picture is engraved in my mind.
  It was late at night when we landed in Lahore. From the turbulent pick-up crowd, we got into the dilapidated car arranged by the hotel and checked into the Luxus Hotel, which is said to be the top hotel in Lahore. High-end hotels in Pakistan will provide free pick-up and drop-off service. When you search online, you will see that it has the highest rating and the most expensive price. “Luxury” is the reason why I choose it, but I didn’t expect the car in front of me. Let me see the difference of “luxury”.
  I successfully found the driver of the hotel in the crowd of people picking up the airport. There was a lot of people around me, and the noise was so noisy that it didn’t look like an airport late at night, but rather like the old scene of the Green Leather Railway Station. All this is like the scene when I went to India for the first time and landed at Varanasi Airport. The two time and space are so similarly intertwined. I thought it was like this in every airport in Pakistan, but when I went to Islamabad, I found the common indifference of all metropolises. The airport was empty, and people shuttled through it expressionlessly. There was no hugging and crying when sending off the plane, and no pick-up joy and anticipation. More and more cities around the world have been like this, but I miss that warm emotion, thankfully, Lahore is like this.
  The Lux Hotel is an urban hotel with standard facilities such as a swimming pool and a gym. It costs about RMB 900 per night. It looks cheap, but it is much more expensive than the Ferretti Hotel I moved to later. The price of Ferretti, which is closely adjacent to RMB 400 per night, is really cost-effective. Although there is no swimming pool and gym due to its age, its garden and corridors are enough to show its status. Big-name stars such as Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando They all stayed here. Of these two hotels, the former represents the highest standard of contemporary Pakistan, and the latter represents the glory days of the past. Comparing “contemporary” and “once”, the former has relatively complete supporting facilities, rich breakfast, modern facilities such as swimming pool and gym, while the latter has traditional gardens and wedding halls.
  As I got to know this country more and more deeply, I realized that the price of 400 yuan a night is equivalent to a month’s salary of many locals.

Disputes and intersections inside and outside the Iron Gate

  Lahore consists of the old city built in the period of Akbar the Great (16th century) and the new city in the south. The old city is surrounded by a 7-meter-high red masonry wall with 14 gates and a moat winding through the city wall. The east gate facing Delhi, India is called “Delhi Gate”, while the main gate of the Red Fort facing Lahore is named “Lahore Gate”, which shows the deep historical relationship between the two cities.
  I went to the Wagah Border between India and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from India filled the viewing seats. They sang loudly, and dozens of people held hands and danced in the square. It was very lively. On the Pakistan side, there were not too many people, and people took pictures of rangers who were unusually tall and wearing tall cockscomb hats. Perhaps because there are very few Pakistanis who go out during the daytime during Ramadan, only a small number of tourists come to the border, and there are very few Chinese faces.
  The Wagga border is the junction of Pakistan and India. Since 1959, India and Pakistan have followed the daily military practice: the flag-lowering ceremony starts at 6 pm every day. down. The flag-lowering ceremony ends at 7 o’clock. It is the best choice to arrive before 5 o’clock, because driving is not allowed from the gate of the border. Before the ceremony begins, people from both sides of the border will sing and dance through the big iron gate of the border, like a festival. I was dragged by the people around to paint the Pakistani flag on my face and wear an emerald green turban, which looked like a character in a cartoon. When I took pictures among the tall rangers, I was like a dwarf. Because the background of the photo is in the direction of the Indian side, it seems that there are many people around, which can be regarded as “photo cheating”.

The flag-lowering ceremony on the India-Pakistan border, the Pakistani rangers are dressed in black.

  The flag-lowering ceremony officially began, with long and melodious trumpet sounds on both sides of the border, the rangers officially began to perform, and the cheering and cheering audience was enthusiastic. Looking from a distance, India and Pakistan are basically in the same movement, with forward steps, quick steps, and high leg lifts. They must not lose to the opponent in terms of momentum. Although the movements are exaggerated, they are still serious and tense. It seems that such a flag-lowering ceremony cannot be seen in other parts of the world.
  When the flag was lowered, the big iron gate on the border was pulled open, and the national flags of the two countries lowered slowly symmetrically. The rangers on both sides raised their heads high and watched, and let out a long and deep roar. Tourists also stood up and paid attention. When the national flag was lowered, accompanied by the dance steps of the rangers, the iron gate was closed again, and the tourists left in a hurry, leaving an open space. People can’t help being in a daze, as if none of the lively scenes I saw just now happened. Only the thick iron gate reminds people that there are still grievances and grievances here, but there will also be intersections.
Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque

  The real beauty of Lahore lies in the most exquisite and still magnificent buildings left by the Mughal Dynasty.
  Lahore is known as the “heart of Pakistan” because of its colorful and splendid ancient culture, but tourists who visit Lahore can only truly touch this culture if they step into the famous Lahore Fort in the city center The rhythm of the heart. The Lahore Fort is located in the center of the ancient city, not far from the Badshahi Mosque and the Pakistan Monument.

I was like a dwarf when I took pictures among the tall rangers.

  The Lahore Fort was originally an ancient palace during the Mughal Dynasty. The palace is all made of marble and is majestic. Before the sunset, I came here, and in front of my eyes was the honey-colored wall. The Persian-style flower windows and complicated flower doors were painted in bright yellow colors, and the interaction between humans and elephants was painted, which was smart and lively. There are 21 buildings in the Lahore Castle, with elaborate decorations. The stone pillars of the gallery are gorgeous pictures inlaid with thousands of colored stones, and the exquisitely carved doors and windows have never decayed. The most touching thing in the castle is not the tall palaces, but a love elegy about the love of children. Legend has it that Shah Jahan and his concubine Taj were inseparable. One night, Taj looked up at the night sky. She hoped that she could have a magical bedroom, even when she was lying on the bed, she could see the sky full of stars when she opened her eyes. So Sha Jahan ordered to build such a palace for Taj in the Lahore Fort. Under the careful conception of craftsmen, the four walls of the bedroom are inlaid with precious gemstones of various colors, and 900,000 pieces of red, blue and brown glass lenses are pasted on the dome and the walls. As long as a candle is lit in the center of the hall, the lenses of various colors will disappear Can add radiance to each other to create a vast galaxy. This extremely gorgeous bedroom is named “Mirror Palace”, and it is the most beautiful and classic work in the entire Lahore castle.
  The viewing point of the castle is facing the Badshahi Mosque, which was built in 1673-1674 under the supervision of the brother of King Aurangzeb (son of Shah Jahan). The tall wall is made of red sandstone. When you climb up the steps to enter the courtyard, you will find a square square in front of you, which can accommodate 100,000 people to pray at the same time. In the middle of the square is a 16-meter-square pool made of marble for people to fast and bathe. On the west side of the square, the tops of three white onion-shaped towers are shrouded in rosy clouds, and flocks of birds fly together, accompanied by the melodious sound of singing, flying around the setting sun.
  When I arrived at the Badshahi Mosque, the fasting ceremony was over, hundreds of people walked out in groups, and dozens of copper pots were prepared outside, neatly arranged in order, filled with curry rice, Believers who are waiting for the end of fasting come to enjoy it.
Dinner in Karachi

  Karachi’s itinerary was a surprise, I didn’t even know the city existed the day before I booked the flight. The chartered driver in Lahore is from Karachi. He took his two children with him when he went to the Wagga border. Along the way, they talked about the beauty of Karachi, the food, and the scenery. He said that Karachi is “Pakistan The best city”. So I thought, let’s see for ourselves.
  At the beginning of the 18th century, Karachi was still a small fishing village. After being occupied by the British army in 1842, it became the gateway to the Indus Valley due to the development of the port and the construction of the railway. The inland cotton, wheat and other crops were transported to the UK. After the 20th century, the city became more and more prosperous. Today, the urban area of ​​Karachi is divided into two parts: the new area and the old area. The old area is located near the port, and the new area is full of modern buildings, full of modern atmosphere. In order to see Grand Harbor with my own eyes, I chose a nearby residence, and the room was facing the sea.
  It took more than ten minutes to walk from the hotel to the port. While waiting for the port to open outside, this picture appeared in front of my eyes: seabirds hovering above my head, trucks rumbled past on the cross-sea bridge, and freighters on the sea were busy shuttling back and forth …When I really walked into Grand Harbor, I found that this place is actually a place full of freedom: some are like Bosphorus Port, and some are like Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, with exotic gourmet shops , constellations, tarot fortune tellers, large and small children’s playgrounds, immediately formed a sharp contrast with the classical simplicity of Lahore.

  I also witnessed the excitement of the last night of Ramadan. From 7 o’clock in the evening, people began to scramble for food, but they were not in a hurry to eat after it was brought to the table. Instead, they prayed first, then ate two sweet dates for appetizers, and then began to enjoy the food. I sat on a high place on the second floor and “met” the super beautiful sunset that arrived at the same time as the green leather train. A young man in a robe walks on the railway tracks, forming an exquisite landscape painting with the sea and sky. After dinner, I found a masala tea shop, sat cross-legged on a painting blanket, and chatted with a group of guests smoking hookah until late at night. These customers are shop owners in the port. Most of them have been to Guangzhou and have done import and export business. They are well-informed and have a good impression of China. Many of them plan to go to China again this year to further expand their careers.
  Karachi is the largest and most populous city in Pakistan, where modern and ancient cultures combine. There are narrow alleys, gravel paths and elegant modern buildings. It’s a pity that many attractions are either closed because of Ramadan, or like the Sun Yat-Sen Museum, they are not allowed to take pictures, and the guides start to collect tips after taking tourists around in a hurry. So when I look back at Karachi, my impression is of a lively night market scene. There are many men’s salons, facials, massages, hairdressing, and manicures. Local men seem to attach great importance to their hair, skin, and nails.
  In Karachi, I was lucky enough to find the building left by the British colonial period – Frere Hall (Frere Hall). It was originally the city hall of Karachi, very British style, facing the city garden, and is considered one of the most iconic buildings in Pakistan. Completed in 1865, Freire Hall has an art gallery and a museum with a collection of various stone statues and oil paintings, including the statue of King Edward VII.
The “Kite” of Islamabad

  On the first day of Ramadan, I flew to Islamabad and lived in E7, a wealthy area in Islamabad. Booked the most expensive room in the area on Airbnb before the trip. On the phone with the boss, he said it was the absolute best! After arriving, I found that it was really good: every morning, when you open the door of the room, you will see lush forests and monkeys all over the mountains!
  From here, you can walk to the Faisal Mosque, which can accommodate 100,000 believers. This mosque can be said to be the place with the largest number of people in Islamabad, and most of them are believers from other provinces. This mosque was donated and built by the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. It is the largest mosque in Pakistan and even South Asia, and the sixth largest mosque in the world.
  Starting from the center of Islamabad, head northwest straight to the southern foot of Mount Malgra, and you can see 4 towering cone-shaped minarets from a distance, with golden crescent ornaments on the top shining brightly under the sun. Back then, people chose to build large-scale projects at the foot of Mount Malgra, not only to use the mountain as a background and barrier, but also to rely more on its natural “noble” geographical location. The four minarets are minarets, nearly 90 meters high, and as long as you get a little closer, you have to look up to see them.

The Grand Prayer Hall of the Faisal Mosque is a tent-like structure without pillars, with a vaulted ceiling as high as 40 meters, and a 3-ton chandelier hanging in the center, which is assembled from nearly a hundred gold-plated tubes, dazzling.

At the Monal restaurant on the top of the mountain, you can have a panoramic view of the whole Islamabad. The decoration and service here are all five-star level, but the per capita consumption is very cheap. The food is mainly Pakistani local cuisine and American fast food.

  The second most crowded place in the city is the famous hilltop restaurant – The Monal. On the day of fasting, a large number of young people came to the mountain on motorcycles to take pictures, walk, chat, and watch the sunset. I also got to know a bunch of local students. These students are all full of dreams, some are about to become lawyers, and some are yearning to sing in Bollywood. They talked happily. I haven’t seen such a real dream for a long time. During the meal, two ladyboys suddenly came over and asked the people around for money. They looked not young, and their heavy makeup was very rough. The students told me that this is a traditional phenomenon. These people are not allowed to go to school or work, so they can only live by begging. It suddenly occurred to me that in the movie “The Kite Runner”, the boy who was willing to help Amir find the dropped kite again and again, if he hadn’t been rescued by Amir, might have spent his whole life begging in women’s clothing.
  When I left Islamabad and landed in Bangkok, as soon as I turned on the Internet, I received a message from a new friend in Karachi: Have you arrived safely? After being moved, he replied: Why haven’t you slept yet? I remembered a KFC voucher that he took out from his pocket when we parted. It was a gift from him. He told me to go to KFC before leaving Pakistan. I went, took a photo and sent it to him. . He responded with a smiley emoji and said to me: We will meet again.
  In the days to come, I will keep thinking about these people I met in Pakistan. They lived in crowded alleys, passed through the crowd, and rode dilapidated motorcycles. One by one, they shook hands with me and introduced themselves in a friendly manner. They want to be my friend, even for a short time; they give me gifts, give me blessings, and invite me to eat together, even if it is a simple meal, it is a delicacy that they have worked hard for many days; they told me that they want Going to live in the UK, the US, the Middle East, wherever they go, they want to go out and see, because they have so many dreams they want to achieve.
  I am a little sad. These youthful faces will grow old one day in the future. They will no longer believe in dreams for the sake of their families and children, and will do their best just to earn my hotel accommodation fee for a day. I seem to hear someone say in my ear: “Let’s fly a kite.” I looked up and looked at the kites whose strings had been cut in the sky, flying across the sky like meteors, and falling down in circles. “Do you want me to run that kite for you?” The voice seemed to appear again. I seem to see a Pakistani boy with a well-trimmed beard, his Adam’s apple wriggling up and down, the wind brushing his hair, and smiling at me so brilliantly. He put his hands to his mouth: “For you, thousands of times!” Then he ran away quickly and disappeared into the corner of the street.
  This boy is no longer the one described in the book, nor is he an independent individual, but has become many specific images, which surround me in my memory. Perhaps these fragments will take me back to Pakistan to search for these kite runners more deeply.

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