We Went to... Pakistan pt. 1!

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

“PAKISTAN?! WHY PAKISTAN?!” that question is one of the most commonly asked by everyone when we announced that we’re crossing Pakistan. A question that we always have to keep up to, every time we meet new people. Before we started our trip, I was a little concerned the second my parents told me that we’re crossing Pakistan. Let me be honest, I was a little terrified… but that feeling stopped when my parents are meeting one of our greatest friends he’s currently living in Singapore. He said, “Don’t go to Pakistan! You can fly from India to Turkey and then from there you can continue your trip”. His other friends also said, “Do you bring a gun?”. It seems like they actually cared about us and they’re terrified if anything went wrong with us. I was a little bit concerned at that point, a lot of people saying all these things about other people’s countries, especially Pakistan. I felt bad for them (Pakistani), other people don’t even get to visit Pakistan and they’re able to judge them by their cover… they already stepped into the wrong place.


From that second, my perspective of Pakistan is changing. It can’t be what they said, about all the terrorists, the bad people, the people holding “guns”, and so many more. I start to have some faith in Pakistan and just experience it myself without just judging things by it’s cover. The second I stepped into their country, everything changed. The soldier welcomed us by saying “Assalamualaikum” and we say it back to them. The second he finished checking our passports before we get through the immigration he said… “Welcome to Pakistan”. So far, throughout our whole trip, we have never been greeted or welcomed that way. We were a little bit surprised because we haven’t got into their country and we never knew if we’re going to be sent back to India or home just because we can’t get through. Therefore, they already welcomed us with a huge smile and a kind heart. The same thing happened the second we entered the immigration building, there are other people there too and asked: “Assalamualaikum, Where are you from?”. The way they asked was very different from how others would ask, they ask out of their curiosity, not their job.





The immigration building isn’t as modern or as luxurious as other immigration buildings, but we saw the immigration officer, she was putting her baby in a wheelchair and taking him around the building. The immigration officers are using formal clothes and uniforms, they look very intimidating but the second they greet us with a warm welcome they have a really big heart. The immigration officers were a family, the other officer was her husband. Shortly, as they stamp our passports and hand it back to us. They said, “Welcome to Pakistan”, with a huge smile. I couldn’t stop smiling at that point, with the right people, the right atmosphere, and the situation. I couldn’t care less at the building and the facility, with good hospitality, with the right heart, and the right atmosphere, I couldn’t care less about the little details.


Based on my opinion, Pakistan and India are very different. From their hospitality, their surroundings, their characteristics as a person, how they acknowledge others, and many more. As we all know, there was a conflict or crisis between India and Pakistan. According to National Geographic, the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was sparked by a fateful decision in 1947, and has resulted in decades of violence, including two wars. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have been locked in conflict over Kashmir, a majority-Muslim region in the northernmost part of India. Therefore, it’s not like the old days, they don’t fight and now they have seen each other as friends. Even though some Indians and Pakistanis have different visions or perspectives from one and another.


Pakistan and India’s land border is very unique yet rare, therefore… I believe that I could never see it anywhere else but in Pakistan and India’s land border. Pakistan and India, both sides close their land borders… meaning, from both sides they can’t cross. They have a usual closing ceremony every day! Therefore, every closing ceremony there are a lot of citizens from each side that would like to watch. The land border is somewhat like a concert, they provided us seats to watch the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony takes about an hour but the preparation can take much longer than that because we still have to wait for other citizens to fill in the seats too. We were the first people that got to sit in the “arena” seats.




There were several soldiers guarding the gate, walking forward and backward. Pakistani soldiers are very tall and big! They are literally like giants, I don’t understand how they are so tall and big! They were also holding gigantic guns, imagine how it will look like on me and holding onto those big guns. Not long after, a bunch of people came and took their seats! On the Indian side, it turns out that they have more seats than the Pakistan side. When the closing ceremony started, they started saying “takbeer… Allahu Akbar!”, the performers are way bigger and taller than the soldiers! Imagine how tall they are?!


As they start to do the closing ceremony, something caught my eye. What was that? Something caught my eyes that they are doing this movement… therefore, I have seen it somewhere. Not long after, I thought of Freddie Mercury. In Queen’s concert, Freddie always has this hand signature or hand movement that is very iconic for Freddie. Is when he put his fits up in the air, this is exactly what both India and Pakistan are doing. I kept on looking to the other side and this side, just to compare and contrast. What’s very different in that the performer and the soldiers in India aren’t as giant and as tall as Pakistan’s side. Pakistan was also using a black uniform meanwhile, India was using a light brown uniform. They basically have the same uniform but a different color.





From our first couple of hours there, we already make friends with others and that really made me happy. The part when we were waiting for the closing ceremony to start, there are more and more people filling in the seats. Surprisingly, the person that was sitting next to my mom… she can speak English fluently. We asked her “How can you learn English very well?”. “Well, I just graduated from college in the U.S and this is also my first time watching the land border closing ceremony,” she said. We were a little bit shocked and she was still very young, how is it possible? So then when the ceremony starts she explains to us what are they doing and what are they saying. I really love these small gestures of people trying to help people.





When the closing ceremony finished, there are a bunch of people wanting to take pictures with the performers too. Well, we’ve decided since this could be a once in a lifetime we’ve decided to take pictures with the soldiers too, also we took a picture earlier before the closing ceremony started. We took pictures on the border! Then not long after, when we were on our way to our car. It started with 3 guys, they were asking for pictures so then I decided to agree, because why not? Therefore, after these 3 guys finished taking pictures… a bunch of people started coming and taking pictures with us. We were a little bit confused why? Back at home, if they see foreign or more to western or middle east tourists they get amazed and do wanting pictures. Meanwhile, here in Pakistan, it’s the exact opposite. They are amazed by my mom’s face, she has more Chinese features. Meanwhile, I have and look very much like an Indonesian which I am very proud of.




They were also amazed by my grandmother, Gemma. Well technically her name is not Gemma but as her grandchildren long ago we couldn’t say Grandma so we decided to call her Gemma. It’s a lot unique and better :) Anyways, Gemma has a Red Hair… it’s not natural but she basically has a Red Hot Orange Hair! Meaning, it caught people’s eyes a lot. Oh! While we were waiting for the closing ceremony to start, we all change our attire into more suitable and polite attire. I was using regular dry-fit clothes, so then my mom gave me her scarf so I could wrap it around my head and I also wore my jacket too. It turns out here in Pakistan, the majority of the girls didn’t use hijabs, they use long sleeves attire or proper attire, they also bring a scarf too. To compare and give a good example, their attire is when we usually celebrate Ramadan by the end of the month.


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- Alhea Houtman