If you ever run into trouble with someone in Pakistan you can always just cry out loud: “Why are you doing this to me? Am I not a guest in your country?” The trouble-maker in question will then get very embarrassed and anyone passing by will come to help you.
We heard of a Danish guy who saw a local grope a French girl’s breasts as she got off the bus in Peshawar; he walked over and began to beat the local up. Suddenly a shopkeeper came running out and pulled out a gun from a belt in his trousers.
“Shoot him!” He cried, putting the gun in the Dane’s hands. We’re happy to say he declined the honour.
Pakistan doesn’t receive much tourism and travellers are very warmly received in most places. Sit down in the park with a pot of tea and a newspaper and soon you may find yourself with fifteen men sitting around you waiting to strike up a conversation.
Many people still speak English, the colonial legacy and you can have a good time just making friends at random and letting them guide you around. No one will ever ask anything of you and you’ll have a hard time to pay for anything. Do what you can to address the balance – Pakistan is a poor country.
The hashish is pretty damn fine here, just make sure you’re smoking with the right people; in Peshawar you don’t need to worry so much about the police but there are a lot of colourful characters around.
A good way to have some fun is to head to the park on weekends and join in a game of cricket. Players of all ages turn up with a couple of stumps, maybe a ball and hope to meet others who own a bat and another stump. They’ll be delighted to bowl out a foreigner on the third ball.
If you get a little freaked out with all the crowds and the noise, head for one of the universities for some educated conversation. It’s possible to spend days staying with new friend after new friend on campus. You’ll be very welcome and the culture exchange works both ways.
A good trick also is to dress like a local. You can buy the shawal kammez that so many Pakistanis wear and discover the pleasures of dressing baggy. The trousers are so wide that you could also use them as a bed sheet in an emergency. It’s a seriously comfortable way to dress.
Then, if you’re a guy and you let your stubble grow, you might even look like an Afghani and be able to blend into the street scene.
Never use your left hand for eating, giving or taking anything.
Take off your shoes when you enter someone’s home.
Don’t stretch out your feet in anyone’s direction, it’s considered disrespectful.
Dress conservatively everywhere. No shorts or T-shirts.
Second hand English bookstores are plentiful here.
Hitchhiking is very easy though not a fast way to move around given the state of the roads. Pakistani trucks are the most beautiful in the world though, being covered all over in tinsel, bright paint, stickers and trailing bells and chains that jingle along the ground.
On the train from Taftan to Quetta don’t be surprised if it stops regularly to let smugglers unload their stuff.