If you and your family or group of friends have decided to venture through the striking mazes of the country that possess a beauty that is almost transcendental, you have to do a couple of things to complete the trip.
You can’t really get into a Northern Pakistan state of mind until you put on a Pakol or wear the colorful dresses worn by the locals. There is nothing like embracing the culture of an area to fully experience your surroundings like a local. On the top of your list should be to travel light so you can indulge in buying yourself the traditional and cultural dresses that make Pakistan so rich and aesthetically diverse.
Have you really experienced the thrill of living in a mountainous range if you don’t risk walking through the narrow roads that circle the hills? With just a torch in hand, this is perhaps the most exciting ritual to experience when traveling up North. There is something stimulating and frightening about taking a walk in the dark of the night as the cold air grows around you and the laughter echoes across mountains. The roar of mountain lions and hyenas also puts a spin on this ironically calming yet exciting experience.
Whenever you go up North, it is impossible that you wouldn’t stop your car every now and then to ensure you don’t harm the monkeys that keep popping up on the road. No matter what the signs say, though they are there for your benefit, there is something fun about feeding the little critters. It is always a picture worthy moment when a barrel of monkeys of all shapes and sizes surrounds you.
This is bound to become a personal ritual. There is something almost nostalgic about playing this exciting game outside your rest house on top of a hill. Pithu garam is an age-old game that brings the entire family together, regardless of their age or gender. With stones of all shapes and sizes arranged carefully in the middle of a lush ground; just one round of this game is a memory you will carry with you for a long time. The fights over who got the last stone are also something to laugh about for years.
There is a specific kind of fun and rush eating the ‘thailay wali ice cream’ in the cold air that can only be enjoyed in the Northern areas of Pakistan. As you puff out the fog, the brain freeze of licking a Popsicle is so worth the flu you encumber the next day. Whether it is the air or the purity of products in the land up North, there is an enjoyable buzz in struggling to hold a cone through the gloves and freezing air that makes your nose stiff.
Although a cold is inevitable with the ice cream you eat, try warming up with one of the world’s best coffees. Be prepared to jump at the steam coming out of the machines. Somehow the vendor always thinks its the best time to push that steam button when the customer is standing dangerously close. But its worth it because seriously, Gloria Jeans and Coffee Planet got nothing on Murree’s cream wali coffee.
Have you really checked all the boxes if you don’t sit by the road and eat chicken karahi or the fries made with sweet potatoes, served with a questionable squirt of liquid that is supposed to be ketchup? Not really. So when you see an old Pathan with a single roomed shack on the road serving fresh food, pull over. It is an experience like none other. It is also something that will leave you licking your fingers and feeling fuller than ever before.
One always feels the need to slow down when looking at the views Northern Pakistan has to offer. Or it could just be that you are traveling with kids who need to be entertained at every hour of the trip. What better way to ride on horseback while admiring the beauty around? Not only is this the quintessential way to explore Pakistan, it is also quite the ritual in Murree, specifically. So when you approach a man walking with a string of horses, take the chance and let them guide your path.
Apologies for the Frozen reference but we couldn’t help it. We assure you though that the desi spin on the snowman is quite unique to our northern areas. Particularly the one’s tourists make along the way on the roadsides. If you are very much invested in the craft, there are props like umbrellas and shawls available to up your game as well. And remember, always take a selfie.
So the next time you venture through the glorious mountainous ranges and valleys, look a little closely and be sure to experience all of the above for an experience that won’t be forgotten.