Traveling to a new place, meeting new people and learning about a new culture is one of the most thrilling things. Especially, when it’s full of little unexpected surprises like Amy Kim’s lovely visit to Pakistan. With the breathtaking views up in the north, green valleys, friendly and warm people, and so much more, she reminisces about her experience. She chats with R&L about her travel stories.
Amy Kim from Canada (she is half Korean and half Taiwanese), who is currently working in Mumbai talks to R&L about her incredible visit to Pakistan, the unbelievable beauty of the landscape and the friendly hospitality of the locals.
Hi Amy! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Amy Kim and I’m a 26-year-old Canadian working in Mumbai. I’m heading the marketing department of a travel social enterprise based in Dharavi called Reality Tours and Travel. I love what I do mainly because I know 80% of all our profits go back to the community through our charity Reality Gives. My team is incredible!
Tell us about your trip to Pakistan. What convinced you to visit there?
Pakistan wasn’t on my radar until my good friend gushed with pride about her country’s beauty and how misunderstood it was due to news and politics. Lucky for me, she extended a warm invitation to discover all that she raved about… And that’s how it all began!
I took the invitation seriously and began the trying task of applying for a tourist visa from Canada – because apparently, you can only get a tourist visa from the consulate in your home country. It took an official notarized invitation letter to be sent to Canada, the visa fee, excessive documentation over three months and a final protest and outburst of tears to be granted my tourist visa. Prior to this, I hadn’t planned anything other than a flight to Pakistan mainly because I was unsure if I would receive my tourist visa at all. This happened to work in my favour—I booked at the last minute while I was in the country and decided to go up north. In turn, I was connected to the most hospitable people who have eventually become my friends.
“Pakistan wasn’t on my radar until my good friend gushed with pride about her country’s beauty and how misunderstood it was due to news and politics. Lucky for me, she extended a warm invitation to discover all that she raved about… And that’s how it all began!”
What 5 things would you recommend for anyone traveling to Pakistan?
1. “Go up north,” everyone urged, and for good reason! The northern mountainous areas in Pakistan are the kind of breathtaking that casts your senses under a deep and enchanting spell – the kind that you cannot fathom or comprehend. It truly does exist there. Indeed, I visited the Gilgit Baltistan region. It’s an area boasting of the most precipitous mountain landscape, pristine blue lakes, stupefying glaciers, lush green valleys, villages teeming with apple trees, apricots and butter tea.
To this day, I dream about the beauty and solitary delight that Gilgit-Baltistan offers.
2. Accept the copious cups of warm chai and meals Pakistanis unfailingly thrust your way. You’ll be pulled into homes and get insights into family life, religious practices and more. This is, in my opinion, the best way to learn about the political and cultural landscape of any place. I was presented with many an eye-opening discourse that shed new perspectives on relations between India and Pakistan, as well as the birth and struggles of the nation.
“You’ll be pulled into homes and get insights into family life, religious practices and more. This is, in my opinion, the best way to learn about the political and cultural landscape of any place.”
Amy enjoys one of many warm meals with the friendly locals.
3. If you’re in Karachi, check out the city’s burgeoning art scene through its galleries and museums. I definitely recommend hopping on one of the Super Savari Express bus tours. They take you around Karachi in a characteristically ornately decorated, bright Pakistani public bus.
“They take you through hidden parts of the city to enhance your understanding of the megacity that is Karachi.”
Amy recommends a ride through the city of Karachi on the Super Savari Express Tour.
4. Islamabad and Lahore are two beautiful cities, just a bus journey away. You should make a visit to both for different reasons:
“Lahore for its rich architecture, history and Punjabi food… I found that it resembled New Delhi, having been part of the Mughal empire; and Islamabad for its cosmopolitan restaurant scene and lush rolling green hills.”
Do not miss a visit to Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.
“Look for Nutella and Oreo stuffed naan. Paired with a piping hot cup of chai for the evening, it is a heavenly and decadent combination.” ~ Kim
Any travel tips for first-time travelers heading there?
Traveling solo through Pakistan, especially to far-flung places up north is not the cheapest because it is hard to get to. Flights and long road journeys are expensive. Do ensure to read up on safety—particularly up in the Northern areas. Several checkpoints are set up there, where they take down your particulars and all the spots you’re headed to.
“If you are a foreigner, they assign police escorts to accompany your car on the Karakoram highway, which is notoriously known as the “most dangerous highway in the world”. But don’t be bothered by the security. It’s just a formality in place to make tourists feel safe. Most of the policemen and army men on the ground are friendly and curious to hear about your origins.”
Amy drives through furry traffic on the way through Hunza Valley.
What are some of the things you learned about Pakistan from your trip?
I had an amazing guide, Zahir Shah, who showed me around Hunza Valley. He was from the Wakhi ethnic group… I learned a few words of Wakhi while I roamed through the region with him. I also learned that the Wakhi are Ismaili Shias and thus followers of Aga Khan. From what I gathered, Ismailis are seemingly more liberal and do not practice purdah. I never encountered Wakhi women in burqas, staying in separate quarters from men while I was there.
“There are about 8 languages spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan. Apparently, the residents of Gilgit are issued different ID cards and also do not partake in national elections. I found this a tad disconcerting, but my guide did not seem perturbed by this. He approved of the autonomy that Gilgit-Baltistan had, and in fact seemed like he preferred to not get involved in the nation’s political affairs.”
Can you tell us about your favorite memory from the trip?
Catching my breath while climbing up to catch the sunrise from arguably the most glorious viewpoint in Hunza Valley called “The Eagles’ Nest” was unforgettable. There was no way to adequately encompass the feeling of awe and liberation that filled me while watching the sun rise above the mountains and shedding warmth over the expansive valley.
I will never forget the sweeping silhouettes of the mountain range, the bitingly crisp thin air, the intoxicating and lightening shades of blue sky. It was a sunrise in the valley – a sunrise, unlike any other one I’d experienced before.
The breathtaking view from The Eagle’s Nest, Hunza Valley.
View of Hunza Valley from Baltit Fort in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan.
Find Amy on Instagram to follow her beautiful travel stories.
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