Day Three: Isloo
Delirious from lack of sleep, TP and I stayed behind while LB and KG took a tour of Islamabad highlights: the Rose and Jasmine Gardens, the museum, an informal cricket match, the flower monument, Said Pur Village. You'll have to entreat them to get the details on the excursions. I don't have much to report either because I spent the morning trying to catch up on sleep but the constant but well-meaning interruptions thwarted my efforts. Really, the only noteworthy events of this day include Aunty Nusrat's famous Burmese Oo No Kauk Sway, watching ZP's "uncle" Rafay (age 4) take him under his wing and teach him how to play mini-golf, having some gup shup with Aunty Tukki and Uncle Zak about the finer points of cricket while sipping tea in the upstairs lounge, and going to Daman-e-Koh for a view of Islamabad at night. TP counted the trip up Margalla Hills a success because along the way we caught sight of a family of wild boar, jackals, and monkeys. [note: family did not consist of all of these animals; only the wild boars were family while the jackals and monkeys were neighbors and drifters]
Since Day Three was pretty uneventful, I'll go ahead and throw in Day Four.
Day Four: Lahore
Pile one grandfather, one uncle, one aunt, one of each parent, one sister, one brother-in-law, one husband, one son, a driver, a valet, and me into a coaster and you've got the makings of some fine comedy (hopefully not as dysfunctional as the crew of "Little Miss Sunshine"). We jumped onto the smooth-as-silk, three-lane M2 Motorway and headed west to Lahore. Crossing the river Jhelum, we were given brief history and geography lessons along the way. Vast salt ranges drew stories of Gandhi's Salt Satyagraha. ZP was fantastic the whole way; perhaps relishing the fact that he was not strapped into a car seat and was free to lap-jump at his pleasure and leisure.
Upon arriving in Lahore, our first stop was at the Naval Mess to unpack, have some refreshing cold drinks, and regroup. We began our tour of Lahore, world-renowned for its tradition of fine food and love of cuisine, with, of all things, a quick stop at McDonald's. I have not darkened a door of a McDonald's in ten years. If not for the need for speed, I would not have done so this time. But we needed to fuel ourselves for the day ahead and this was the fastest option. Rest assured, those of you who crave certainty and familiarity, the burgers and fries at the Macca's in Pakistan are just the same as those in the US.
Lahore Fort, a masterpiece of Mughal architecture, allowed us to stretch our legs, admire the mosaics and gilt, and pose for pictures on the canons. Badshahi Mosque, another prime example of the Mughal era grandeur, loomed majestically over us. The last time I was here, LB's friend came with us and the combination of sizzling summer heat, ultra-fizzy soda, and running up the steps of the mosque ended with arms crossed over the belly and "Aunty . . . I don't feel so . . . BLECH!" Shalimar Gardens were in a state of neglect and did not have the same impact as it did years ago when the grass was lush, the flowers clearly tended to, and fountains actually clean and operating rather than in disrepair with the water coated in a thick layer of green moss.
Other stops included the Lahore Railway Station, Kim's Gun, and the Wazir Khan Hammam, but the chaotic traffic and unbelievable pollution took its toll on us and the rest was a blur. I did not recall how bad the air quality was in Lahore but the blanket of haze that covered the city by the late afternoon was insufferable. The breath-taking wonders of the morning's tour of the gorgeous and intricate architecture gave way to the evening's literally breath-taking smog that drove us back to our quarters, exhausted and congested. Our plans to dine at the brothel-turned-restaurant Cuckoo's Nest were exchanged for a quiet dinner at the Naval Mess with various family members dropping by. We gratefully had an early night to rest our weary bones after the hectic day.
Lesson of the day: Consider taking a cue from the Asians and don a face mask to filter some of the pollution entering your nasal passages when trekking through Lahore.