“Pakistan 🇵🇰 ~It Just Got Real!”

By nothing short of a miracle, with the crazy weather (storms) trying to get to the Istanbul Airport, we are actually on board the plane. ✈️, and awaiting lift off. We are two very happy travelers!

On the way to the Istambul Airport. I was glad the driver could see better than me!

We are on a huge plane, with monitors at our seat with Hollywood movie 🎥 🍿 options! Oh m gosh, its been too long! I planned on trying to sleep, (it’s a night flight) but “I’m going to the movies,” instead! We’ve only flown small planes for the last year or so. (Lucky if we got a glass of water)! 🤪

Sometimes it’s the little things!

Remember, no news is good news. We will also be losing two hours on this trip, (time zones) and we will make contact as soon as we are able. We are touched by the care and concern from many, as we journey to Pakistan 🇵🇰. We promise we will be careful.

We Have Arrived in Pakistan!

Our plane left on time, and we arrived on time in Lahore, to be greeted by our friend and host. Everything went smooth and no issues. 

Getting checked into our guesthouse was great, then a nap was in order. After our coffee, upon waking, we left again, to get a SIM card, ATM cash, and do some shopping for appropriate clothing for me. My summer clothes I’ve been wearing, since we left the states, are “illegal” in some countries 😜 Pakistan is one of those countries. If the weather was cold, my leggings and long sleeve sweater would be find, but its too hot for sweaters in Pakistan. Zaje drove us to store for some shopping; bless his heart. Daryl and he were a bit bored, for obvious reasons, as I tried to find an outfit. I do not care for shopping, either! Size was the issue, since my shoulders alone are wider than most men’s shoulder, here; let alone the women’s shoulders. The pants are so big, they fall off, so finding a smaller pair of pants and a bigger top was tricky. Because of my curvy shape, the dress set had to be broken up (a color coordinated a-tri set are: pants, dress and scarf) I had to settle on my third choice, really, since the top was in a size that would fit. The traditional Pakistani dress is called Shalwar Kameez, but the version of this dress is an evolution of that style, rather than a deviation. Mission accomplished. In my new outfit, I have no shape, and am fully covered. I do love the scarf, though.

We are very use to seeing women wearing traditional garments of a particular culture and country around the world, and we love it. Whereas the men have gone more westernized over time. Here, as most men, right along with the women are in traditional wear. It’s very cool!

The lack of photos is because it was dark, with the early morning arrival. We are in a nice guest house and we were warmly welcomed! I will post photos on a later blog post.

The weather is good; hot, but dry and sunny. Tomorrow we begin exploring. It feels perfectly safe, and Pakistan does remind us of India, as we thought we would

We already received a random check, in the car, outside the airport. showing ID, Visa, and PCR negative test. Daryl had to be the one interviewed. I sat in the car, which was fine. Women are invisible here. 

Checkpoint near Lahore airport

Time for coffee!

Istanbul “Turkey Pakistan VISA DAY“

Our time with “our“ kitty is drawing to an end. It’s getting real. Our quest was to pick up our Pakistani Visa. The taksi, as they are called in Turkey, understands where we are going, and the time is the same as on our Google maps we are using in the back seat. We have to watch these drivers, to keep them honest. Most of the time they will go in circles so it can take fifty minutes to get to a 15 minute drive. 

We handed our passports to the Pakistan Consulate and because-of bureaucracies, we would have to come back in four hours to pick up our Visa. So, we headed to a French district to kill some time. Turkey and France were having a tiff, so we are not sure if Turkey has closed this district down. One French Hill, near to our hotel is closed, but we are taking a chance. The sun was just now breaking through the grey marine layer, so common this time of the year. 

Dogs and cats are very well fed and they get free medical services from the Government. The cats live a good life and play and are very friendly. The dogs are listless and stare off in space or just lay around. Nobody touches them and they don’t seem happy. A hand full of the dogs will share an open space and all are fat. Some remind me of hookers or drug dealers as they own one spot on the corner and never move. Day after day they lay by food and water. It’s very sad to me, as these dogs have never had a home, or have been loved on; though cared for. 

The French area was a very popular area with a trolley running down the wide lane, void of traffic. The architecture was impressive with stores on the bottom floor. I got a second pair of pants and a light jacket. Imagine that, I will be seen wearing something different than what I have been wearing. I trade off four different outfits and always wear flip flops. It is amazing how much my clothes weigh. It might be a drawbacks to be tall, in this case.

Back to the Pakistan Consulate, to pick up our Visa. As we drive back, we see a demonstration with police guarding with machine guns and reporters with cameras and microphones. The white coat-clad people turned out to be doctors and nurses protesting not getting paid more for the extra COVID work which has been has bestowed on them. They are on a contract with no overtime. Seven day weeks have been common, and they don’t get to go home to their families.

With our Visa enriched Passports in hand, we have a long drive because President Erdogan was in town snarling up traffic and closing highways. The taksi price was high, but we made it back to our hotel, enjoying our baklava and sandwiches that we picked up on French Street.

“Turkey 🇹🇷 ~We Are Going to Pakistan 🇵🇰! Hip-Hip-Hooray! Also, French Street and Around Istanbul”

Our main focus today, was collecting our Pakistan Visa at the Consulate, here in Istanbul. We got an early start, thank goodness, because there were a few surprises!

So proud. So proud

The good news is, we did get our Visas, but it would require some more waiting time; you know, just to ensure we REALLY appreciated it and all. 🙄 I am so over these delays! When it was our turn at the Consulate window, we handed over our Passports again, and we were told to return to pick them up by 2PM. WHAT! This would mean four hours from that time. It was a little frustrating because he told us our Visas were ready. But, for some reason, it would take four hours to peel the back off and adhere them inside our passports? Sooooo, off we went to find a “taksi” again, to go over to hang out on French Street, and see what that was all about. Come to find out, I had been in the French area before, at least a part of it, and it is very close to Taksim Square. I got a Turkish Bath a month ago around there. Nothing really indicated we had the actual French Street, but the district name of “Beyoglu,” we did see, and that was right. The other indicator are the gas street lamps, which are unique to the area. Its a nice place with huge, old French building, with exquisites architecture. The main square is on a wide road that only has a trolly. Other than that, it is pedestrian. I wanted to ride the trolly after we got our shopping done, but we never saw it again. Bummer. Oh well, it was fun to see, regardless. I didn’t take a lot of photos, because during the day, the electric wires and lines crossing over the walking area, between the buildings are very distracting and unsightly for photos. I’m sure at night the place is lit up like a runway and very pretty.

French Street in Istanbul has a long history that goes back as far as to the end of the 19th century. It was during these years that many French people started opening the first hotels, cinemas, theatres and coffee houses in Beyoglu. Also, a good number of the buildings on the street were built by the famous French architect; Michel Pasha.
At the end of 2003, a restoration work for most of the buildings on the street started under a joint project of Istanbul Kultur University and Afitas Production. Paris Municipality sent most of the French-style street lamps you see on the street today. The paving stones were changed, the buildings on the street were painted with colors and decorated with awnings, flowers and plants to reflect the French culture. In July 2004, the street was opened with many festivities under the name “French Street.” But after the France accepted the alleged Armenian Genocide, many of the shopkeepers on the street objected to the street’s name. Beyoglu Municipality accepted these objections and changed the name of the street to Cezayir Street (Algeria Street), which is a reference to the France’s massacres in Algeria. French Street signs were replaced, and the only ones left today are the ones on the entrances of some of the businesses.
Notice the gas lamps. We had time for a Hamam but this ancient bath was closed.

For our shopping, Daryl got a lightweight jacket and a pair of long pants. I bought boot socks, and a new carry-on suitcase. I had gotten a new e-Bag back in 2017, and I now know that three years of wear and tear is about all these bags can handle. That bag has really traveled the world, just like me. But I clean up wsy better than my bag. It was dirty and smelly; this after I had taking it into a shower with me and scrubbed it. No matter what I did, it never seemed clean, and never smelled good, either. The zipper was tearing, and it was ready to break. I was happy to say so-long! The e-Bags are not a cheap brand, and I was surprised how heavy the bag was for a carry-on size; while empty. For now, I got a far less expensive and lighter bag for $20 that will take care of my needs for at least another couple of years.

Addicted to Baklava. So many varieties to choose from!
We will diet, after we leave Turkey
Doctors on strike. They want more money from the government for the longer hours they work with the Pandemic going on. It was peaceful, but the police with machine guns surrounding the area would ensure it stayed that way.

We headed back to the Consulate, ahead of time, since we were done goofing around, and it was a darn good thing. You see, the President of Turkey was making his way to Taksim Square, as we were heading back to the Consulate. NOT GOOD. The roads were blocked and it took so long to get back to the Consulate, which was normally a 20-minutes affair. The $20 one-way was a drag, too! Ugh. BUT, it is all water under the bridge as that was our LAST trip (five in total) to the Comsolate, and we do feel such releif to have our Visas and and now we can be done with that chapter! From here on out, we know we are going to Pakistan, and that’s all that matters!

Driving past the Dolmabahçe Palace, located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Turkey, on the European coast of the Strait of Istanbul, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and from 1909 to 1922.

If interested in seeing more, here is a link to my blog post from when we visited this Palace:
https://2gypsiesinthewind.com/europe/turkey/turkey/turkey-dolmabahce-palace-in-istanbul/

The next thing I did, after we got our Visas, was to line up the Mobile Medical Technicians, with the help of our good friend, Taskin, from Galatolia Suites. He helped me arrange a 9:30AM appointment for us in the morning. He is so nice, our friend, Taskin. The mobile unit will roll up to our hotel, and they do our testing for us in our hotel room. Easy-Peesy. We have no reason to believe our PCR test will be anything but negative, (for COVID19) and we are ready to get on that plane Friday night and blast off! Our friend in Pakistan is just a dear. He is lining us up with some fun activities and site seeing in Lahore and the outskirts. We are not use to being so spoiled!

As you can see from the map, Pakistan shares borders with India, China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran (plus the Arabian Sea). Out of that list, we have not been to Iran and Afghanistan. I know, call us crazy, but we are in touch with some peeps from those countries, to inquire about tours, since Afghanistan and Iran visits would be limited to one or two stops, only. We are weighing the costs, and of course the border entry requirments. In Pakistan, alone, we will not get to go to all the places we want, either. We fly into the east coast; Lahore, and fir sure we will get to Islamabad. The rest is to be determined. We will only go where we are allowed, and where it will be safe for US travels, such as ourselves. For example. We wanted to got o Kashmir, when we were in India, but it was not safe to do so. Here, we have another chance from Pakistan, but it is not looking good, either. We will have to get proper permissions and approvals to enter the Northern Territory. We do not know much more than that, but we will find out, after we arrive.