Lahore is absolute madness! While it still belonged to India, it has been the capital of the Mughal Empire, and then the anyways grandiose mughal architecture got a Victorian upgrade from the commonwealth. This is then spiced up with decay worse than in India, smog that covers everything, and the pulsing of 10 million inhabitants.
After 5 days of confinement I was finally able to roam around freely, and even though it has only been 5 days, I was so happy like I just spent 2 years seeing nothing but walls.
There is literally everything in Lahore. Next to a KFC you can see street doctors making medicine from cobra heart or lion fat. Or you can catch them tapping the body fluids of some lizards with broken spines all day long.
When I arrived, they were having the biggest muslim celebrations for Muhammad’s birthday. And so the entire city was upside down, inside out. Not only was there 3 times as many people as usual, but all these people were going crazy on the streets. Literally.
The whole bazaar was decorated and lit like in bad Christmas ad of a telco company, which was truly a mismatch with the Pakistani vibes for me. Mawlid is a really cool festivity, I hope my photos and videos will be able to transmit that, because even our loud and firework-filled New Years parties are just as cheerful as an elementary school year-beginning ceremony compared to this.
The best was still the truckers place. It’s one of the biggest truck market in Pakistan. There is everything in Pakistani truck here: accessories, drivers, painters, lamps, stickers etc. I’d bet that the number of trucks per capita is the highest in Pakistan in the world.
These sometimes even 40-50 year old vehicles can cost 30-40000 USD no matter how dodgy they are, so if they are in a good condition and the decor is on point, they can cost as much as 100-150 000 USD.
Unfortunately the weather is getting bad in the North, so I can’t stick around any longer in Pakistan, but I totally understand those who stays for 4-5 months to journey around in the mountains. I’ve gotta go now, but I’m sure I’ll be back, because Pakistan starts exactly where it ends for me now. Hasta la vista, baby!
Till I’m back, watch this crazy fish market video I made:
I was headed towards the border in a comfortable pace. I thought I can do that 25 km in 1 hour, and that I could check out the shift change ceremony of the guards on the Indian side after they close the border at 4 PM. I was going with the flow of pedestrians, buses and the countless motorbikes, stopping every 50 m for people in uniforms waving at me, who all wanted the same from me. Then I finally got to the actual border patrols and toll, and the Pakistanis told me I have to hurry, because I have 35 minutes to do it all, if the border closes, I’ll be stuck there!
As I said before, the Pakistanis are very nice, but they were even nicer how they helped me quickly get through the border. I was the last one, and they were about to close the gate behind me. On the Indian side the ceremony has already started, and I felt like a gladiator who just stepped into the colosseum. The mass shouting, flags waving and myriads of eyes pointing at me. Like it was all about me, though of course I had nothing to do with it.
Ministry of Silly Walks
The closing of the Pakistani-Indian border and the flag-waving is one of the biggest tourist attraction of the region. There is a huge show prior to the ceremony on both sides, with its own showman creating the hype, so people have to be louder than the ones on the other side. I went back two days later to see the entire ceremony, and it didn’t disappoint.
The Indians are a lot better in terms of music and dancing than the Pakistanis, but by the end, the masses are shouting just as much on both sides. I made a short video to show this.
Everyone was going crazy except that poor border patrol who was writing my data into the registry in a rush, and then sent me the fuck away. At that point I knew that my master plan of watching the shift from here was falling apart, because I still had to go through the toll, so I won’t have time for both. The only advantage of getting there last minute was that everyone just wanted to go home, so the whole procedure around the Carnette and the toll was done in a mere 20 minutes. As I was pulling away from the toll and pulled the lever, I was screaming in happiness! I did it! I made it to India, I’m over the most difficult part of the journey and about one third of the trip geographically speaking.
There was more dirt in my memories
I arrived in Amritsar, and I dropped my jaw. After Pakistan, India seemed so clean and tidy that I couldn’t believe my eyes. This of course doesn’t mean that you aren’t swimming in shit up to your neck here, of course you are, but somehow it was just in another dimension.
There are a lot to see in Amritsar, but the most important of it all is the Golden Temple, the centre for the sikhs. I think I have expanded on my (non-existent) relationship with religions, and how deeply I’m bored of temples, but this made me shit my pants!
The respect towards the religion is almost tangible here. It felt somehow honest and true, not that pretentious posing I experienced in so many places. Based on the size of this place and the amount of people here, you can easily spend a whole day just people-watching and trying to understand what’s going on around you.
The temple that was the cleanest place I’ve ever seen in India operates as a kitchen to feed about 100 000 people on an average day. I took a look into the kitchen to take some photos, and they made me carry some pots that somehow made me feel really respected but stupid at the same time.
Just to take the stupidity up a notch, me and two guys from the hostel joined the free food distribution for dinner. It’s not only for the ones in need, whoever comes here eats as well. At the end of the day me and a dude went to a really bizarre place to consume some beers and whiskeys in order to break our chains of our day-long religious purity.
can’t get enough of saints
I was falling from one sacred trance into the other. My next stop was Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives. I consider him the most friendly and hence the most sympathetic religious leader, definitely with the coolest name. (I have to add that with Pope Francis the catholics come second which is truly God’s miracle!)
Dharamsala became famous for the world after the Chinese decided that they need Tibet in 1959, so like they usually do, they terrorized and fucked up everything and exiled the Lama as well, who put his base here with the permission of the Indian government. This doesn’t only mean that the Lama is here, but there are about 80 000 Tibetan refugees as well along with the exiled Tibetan government.
This place has an impeccable atmosphere, and because it’s on 1500m altitude, the disgusting smog that technically covers the entire country doesn’t reach here.
We reunited with my friend from Amritsar, who is roaming around India with a Royal Enfield. We were riding our bikes for two days in the area with him, along with a Dutch-Indonesian and a Chinese-Australian dude until I managed to get a stomach bug that literally chained me to the toilet for two days. At least I lost 2 kgs suddenly.
While I was struggling with the diarrhoea, my new friends left me behind the moment they saw I will probably survive. We were supposed to meet two days later in Chandigarh, but they ended up getting the same fate as I did.
I was crying and laughing at the same time. First, because I was left alone. But on the other hand, they laughed so much on me while I was sick, that those fuckers really deserved this little twist from fate. But that was only a little comfort for me not being around for that.
utopia made of concrete
I arrived here with huge expectations and I left with huge disappointment! India is one of the most chaotic and dirtiest countries in the world. In 1947 when Pakistan’s independence was announced, half of Punjab was taken away from India, so the Punjabi capital, Lahore belongs to Pakistan now. The first prime minister of the independent India, Jawahar Lai Nehru decided to tackle this problem in the most contemporary way possible: asking modern architects to create India’s most modern city.
Albert Mayer got the job, and he did the ground works by drawing the blueprint of the city, but after his partner, Maciej Nowicki died in a plane crash, he quit the job. So Le Corbusier came and take it over, and designed the entire city from tip to toe. He created a brutalist, minimalist, modern utopia in concrete in the middle of India. I have to say, some things might look good on paper, but shit in reality. To put it this way: I think the concept didn’t score.
I only studied city sociology for a semester in uni, but almost every course on this subject starts with those examples of unsuccessful city plans, that result in half-empty, raped ghost towns. I don’t get it, but politicians still somehow believe in this methodology. This forced urbanisation leaves dodgy neighbourhoods behind - both socially and architecturally. And so they become memento for brainless spendings of billions. From the Chinese Kangbashi to the residential complex of Ócsa - it’s how it is across the globe.
Chandigarh didn’t become a ghost town, but like any other city that was deliberately designed by engineers or artists, it’s totally cold and unliveable. Chandigarh is divided into sectors, and they all have their distinct functions. This utopian idea is only half solid to begin with, and then there is that fact that since Haryana went independent from Punjab, and Chandigarh became capital of Haryana as well, so the two regions share everything in 60-40% to add to the complications.
On the other hand, this clean, minimalist modernism fits India like a goa-trance dj would on a beer festival. The buildings that were created in a better era by naive efforts to make things better, are now victims of great Indian decay. Corbusier’s meticulously designed instructions on every last detail were long overwritten by people’s own needs and ideas.
So maestro would probably get a heart attack if he saw what happened to his masterpiece. He designed every building in a way that the concrete structures in front of the windows will create an obstacle against the incoming sun, making sure to keep the temperature low. These concrete structures are now shelves to hold the air conditioning devices. Touché!
Le Corbusier’s biggest creation, the Punjab Parliament got place on the top of the Assembly building, in the cupola. The top was possible to open, so the representatives could work in sunshine like they were outdoors. Obviously the roof was permanently closed off, and now everyone sits in neon lights.
Every huge and heavy concrete building was surrounded by pools, so the large grey surfaces could become lighter and airier on the reflections on the water . But the pools are now dried out completely, and those buildings that were meant to be a generous gift for the people now look like they were in some dying easter-european post soviet city as they are sitting next to the empty pools.
My mood seriously deteriorated after three days being here, so I had to leave.
Somehow Google denies that 25 km between Lahore and the border, so I leave that up to your imaginations
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