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  • Journeys around South Asia

    by Sunny
    14th October, 2008 at 2:07 pm    

    Hello all, a quick summary of my recent back-packing trip around South Asia. I landed in Delhi about three weeks ago and immediately made a beeline for a small cheap hotel in Paharganj market which is a known backpackers hangout. Met loads of Israelis mostly (apparently around 20,000 Israelis are travelling around India at any one time) and a affable chap from Manchester who was also going to Kathmandu. We caught a train to Lucknow two days later, which was about 12 hours. From there we caught a train to a town called Gorakhpur, near the Nepal border, and from there a two hour bus to the Nepal border. After getting our visas, we met other some other backpackers and together hired a jeep to go up to Kathmandu (about 7 hours).

    Kathmandu is a bit like India, though it has a different character and tons of very nice Buddhist and Hindu temples. Stayed there for 5 nights, spending a lot of time discussing politics and religion with people from all over the world. Happy days. After that I left alone, caught a bus down to the border, then a bus to Gorakhpur (the grimiest city in India I’ve seen so far. The cockroaches alone made me want to walk around with a flamethrower). Got to Gorakhpur in the middle of the night and then caught a train straight to Amritsar, which was another 20 hours journey. This was the longest continous journey of my life - 36 hours straight. Got to Amritsar, stayed at the Golden Temple for 2 nights, and then caught a bus to the Wagah Border.

    Crossing over the border, I got into Lahore in the evening and went straight for Gurudwara Dera Sahib, where they put me up for the night. Spent two days walking around old Lahore (and also checked out parts of New Lahore), which is a city full of history and culture. Loved it. Then I caught a train down to Karachi (about 16 hours) and stayed there for 3 nights, and then back.


    It was my first time to Nepal and Pakistan, and both countries were enjoyable for different reasons. I probably felt less of an outsider in Pakistan because I know the language better. While I could speak Hindi (I’m fluent) in Nepal too, Nepalese is somewhat different. Plus, it felt like I could blag in Pakistan in the way I couldn’t in Nepal.

    The most exciting part of my trip was probably smuggling a kukri that I’d bought in Nepal through customs.

    You can’t miss a dagger like that. Except that neither Indian customs bothered checking it when I went back across the border, and neither did Pakistani customs open my bags (they only asked if I was carrying alcohol). Even at the hotel in Karachi, where they had a scanner due to bomb threats, they didn’t raise the question about the dagger. At the airport on the way back, I blagged it through Pakistani customs by saying it had already been cleared while entering the country (“khuda hafiz!”) and no one stopped me when I got back into London. Sweeet! Not that I’m carrying this around - this ornamental thing is staying strictly at home. But it felt amusing carrying this around in my backpack for some reason.


    Regular blogging will resume in a day or two.

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    16 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Kismet Hardy — on 14th October, 2008 at 2:19 pm  

      The backpack with in-built knife. The boys at TK Maxx are already on the case…

    2. platinum786 — on 14th October, 2008 at 5:26 pm  

      lol @ TK Maxx

    3. Leon — on 14th October, 2008 at 10:01 pm  

      Don’t you mean Primark Kismet?

    4. Jai — on 14th October, 2008 at 11:33 pm  

      You’re giving away far too much about your shopping habits, Leon ;)


      Sounds like you had a fantastic time, Sunny — what an amazing experience it must have been for you. Lots of incredible memories to cherish, I expect.

      Hell of a risk smuggling back that kukri, though, especially in the current climate and most of all post-9/11. Bloody lucky you didn’t get busted. And very worrying that it was apparently so easy to sneak it on board the plane — imagine if some jihadi nutters tried to pull the same stunt and hijacked yet another passenger jet.


      Welcome back (again) anyway.

    5. Andy Gilmour — on 15th October, 2008 at 12:16 am  

      Glad you had a good time, and also a bit perturbed you managed to bring that not-exactly-miniscule dagger back on the plane.

      Last time I went transatlantic I got singled-out for extra scrutiny just for having a beard (and a neatly-trimmed one at that!). Having a Yankee wife & 2 kids with me apparently didn’t count for much…


    6. platinum786 — on 15th October, 2008 at 9:13 am  

      ^^^ Why would a jihadi nutter hijack a flight full of Pakistani’s? The Pakistani government wouldn’t pay anything and the British government would pretend it didn’t receive any of the messages.

      Most non English-European countries don’t have this threat level. I came back from Eygpt and they didn’t even weigh our bags let alone check them. Everyone’s chilled out.

      I’m suprised sunny didn’t have to pay any rupees at the Airport.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 15th October, 2008 at 10:25 am  

      Nah Leon, TK Maxx.


      Fool Metal Jacket. Love it

    8. Shamit — on 15th October, 2008 at 2:25 pm  

      Nice one Sunny. Welcome back (again).

      I for one would love it if you shared some more details of your travel and experiences in Pakistan.

    9. Riz Din — on 15th October, 2008 at 3:23 pm  

      Nice accounts Sunny. I can’t believe this small sword made it through customs!

      You might have missed one or two developments in the financial world, oh, I don’t know, like the largest falls and rises in the markets in their history, the potential disappearance of the world banks, the bankruptcy of Iceland (this is sad), the terrible abuse of terrorism laws to seize Iceland’s assets in the UK, the bailout and nationalisation of the banking sector by the world governments, led by Brown, and on and on. Actually, it was probably the best time to leave this mental place.

    10. Amrit — on 15th October, 2008 at 8:13 pm  

      Welcome back!

      Sounds like the journey of a lifetime. I am slightly envious. :-D

    11. sabinaahmed — on 15th October, 2008 at 10:04 pm  

      Welcome back Sunny.
      Like the comment above,am envious too but probably it will not be as easy for me to make a sililar journey.
      And carrying ornamental daggers!

    12. John Lilburne — on 16th October, 2008 at 8:02 am  


      If you couldn’t understand Nepali it’s likely that you were actually hearing Newari which is far more widely spoken in the Kathmandu valley (or certainly was when I lived there).

    13. justforfun — on 16th October, 2008 at 10:21 am  

      Glad you got back safe Sunny.

      Looking forward to seeing the pics and hearing any of your ‘malteser’ moments :-)

      Did you see a kukri in action at a Dashain festival? Not an event for a vegatarian so i would not blame you if you gave them a wide berth!

      Kukris are not things to leave around - with its sharp and end weighted blade, even a 10 year old could lop off an arm.


    14. halima — on 16th October, 2008 at 11:10 am  

      “Kukris are not things to leave around - with its sharp and end weighted blade, even a 10 year old could lop off an arm”

      Yes, I was told this in my women’s self defense training class here in kathmandu - instead of a baseball bat by your bed, keep a kukri handy - light as a feather (well relatively) and due to its design/handle bar and end weight - it swings down very easily without needing any strength. pefect advice for your wives, girlfriends and daughters and this came from a military man trained in the jungles of asia.

    15. justforfun — on 16th October, 2008 at 2:13 pm  

      Halima - a kukri is a bit of over kill for a ‘bobbit’ moment surely ! :-)



    16. halima — on 16th October, 2008 at 5:14 pm  

      :-) Just a bit of an over-kill for a snippet moment, I’d agree. That’s the Ghurkas for you - brave and fearless.. though this one was a British British Ghurka …

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