Sunday, December 31, 2017

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Islamabad - Shopping for Local Pakistani Souvenirs

Islamabad is truly a capital city, and because of this you'll find that they don't really have local souvenirs. Instead Islamabad has souvenirs from all over Pakistan with a huge variety to choose from. If you're going to be traveling outside of the capital you may want to wait for certain souvenirs, as in their local regions they're often cheaper and offer more variety. Many regions of Pakistan are famous for certain products or trades, salt from the salt plains, hats from Gilgit, etc.

The great thing the capital offers is the chance to buy things from areas you may not visit. Many items might be made in Islamabad, but in the traditional way from the region where it is famous, and often made by someone from that region. You will likely pay a premium for these souvenirs in Islamabad compared to what you might pay in their original village or region, but it might be the only way to get certain items.

There are many different types of local arts and crafts available in these gift shops. Local things like hand made pashminas, wooden furniture, and all kinds of brass art just to name a few. The truck art section of any gift shop is also worth checking out. Carpets are very popular souvenirs however many are imported from outside Pakistan, so while it's a good buy, it's likely not Pakistani.

No matter what you buy, just make make sure to bargain as the suggested price is never the best price. Also, feel free to look around as there are multiple dealers selling just about everything.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Islamabad - Shopping for Clothes (tailors)

Tailors in Pakistan can be very high quality, very low quality, and everything in-between.  Prices can also be very high to very low, unfortunately the quality doesn't always match the price.  Many hotels have tailors inside them, and they're fairly average, but very expensive.  The benefit to a tailor in your hotel is you don't have to go far to find them, this can be great if you're not allowed to leave the hotel grounds for security issues. Finding a good tailor takes a bit of leg work. If you can, consult someone outside the hotel, if you have business meetings or even a driver can help.

When you get to the tailor expect to be attacked with offers.  Make sure you have time, and make sure you have an idea of what you want.  Be firm about what you want, but it's OK to hear them out a little.  Tailors have an idea in their head about western fashion, they will do what they can to make you say yes. Fitted suits and dresses can be done quickly, but you may pay a premium for for the speed.  You'll also have to make sure you book time for fittings to ensure the perfect fit.  While I've mentioned that prices can be expensive, it is relative.  Pakistani tailors are overall very reasonable compared to western tailors. You're likely going to be able to buy something custom made for half or even less than half of what it might cost in western countries.

The options of types of clothing you can have made runs from full tuxedos, to t-shirts.  They will offer to make copies of anything you want, or make something custom for you.  It should be noted that copies aren't often just copies.  More often than not the copies are inspired by the original, but will have some variations depending on the fabric and skills of the tailor.  Go in for fittings of the copies and make sure they fit properly, they may alter the design slightly, even if you bring in the clothing you want copied.  Make sure it's right, and if it's not, get them to fix it.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Islamabad - Shopping for Carpets In Islamabad

Pakistan is a hub for fine carpet shopping.  The country is surrounded by many countries that are world renowned for the carpets they make.  Many of these countries are also places that Westerners can't always get into.  Having such a huge range of very high quality carpets is both a bonus and a curse when you visit Pakistan.

The bonus is that you're not stuck with one design, feel, or quality of carpet.  Since these carpets are imported most of the time, you also don't have to worry about offending the carpet salesmen if you really don’t like a particular design. They don't make the carpets, or even have any local pride in them, so they're happy to give you a carpet that you want.  Sizes can range from tiny prayer mats (or even smaller) to giant full room carpets.  They also come in new and vintage styles to suit every taste.  The selection is so huge that it's also slightly problematic as well.

The biggest problem is a great problem to have, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of styles of carpets and have a hard time picking just one.  This isn't helped much by the fact that the carpet dealers always worry that you won't return to their store, and will do anything to get you to leave their stores with a carpet.  There are ways you can take advantage of their salesmanship to make your carpet shopping a little easier.  First of all book enough time to visit the shops, they will not let you leave after a 10 minute browse, many dealers will give you tea and water (and sometimes even a meal) to keep you in their shop for an hour or more.  If you have the time, take advantage and let them show you all the carpets, tell you why one is better than the other, and bargain as much as possible.

The key to bargaining is that you don't feel bad about how little you pay for a carpet. Make an offer well below something you're comfortable with. Try and find a nice middle ground, and know that they will not give you a carpet unless they're making a profit.

You can also turn carpet shopping into a fun educational experience too. Ask questions about  the carpets, find out where the design comes from, and how old it is.  You might be surprised at what a history one carpet might have. The dealers are often very knowledgeable about their carpets, and for many of them it’s a family business, so information has been past down from generation to generation.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Islamabad - Saidpur Village

Probably the closest thing Islamabad has to a tourist district is the village of Saidpur. Nestled between two ridges of the Margalla hills right next to Islamabad is Saidpur village. It's hard to say exactly where this village begins and where Islamabad ends, but once you're there the feel of the city disappears completely. Saidpur is an example of what the capital region looked like before the capital city was built on this spot.

The front part of Saidpur is the more touristy area and the back is where the locals actually live. For the most part there's nothing to really see in the back portion of the village unless you happen to be using Saidpur as the starting point for a hike up the Margalla Hills. There is a trail that goes up the hill from the village, and it should be noted for security reasons, that the hike up the hill is the only alternative exit from the village from the main road.

The front part of the village is mainly full of restaurants, and frankly they're all very good. There is also an old Hindu shrine in the village that has been turned into a gallery/museum. Closer to the entrance gate you'll find an art gallery as well as a few cafes. Daytime is a fine time to visit, however at night is when this village comes alive. You may find that parking can be very tight since this is a very popular area to be at night, but there will always be someone to help you find a parking spot.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Travel Tip - Islamabad - Pakistan Monument

The Pakistan Monument is probably the most touristy place you can visit in Islamabad. The monument offers a view of the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as well as a museum about the monument. The monument itself was built in 2007 and is designed to celebrate the different regions of Pakistan. The basic look of the monument is supposed to represent a flower opening up, and in each petal is depicted famous images from each region. The monument is very large, and can be seen from below the hill that it rest on.  However the best view is from the hill itself.

It does cost a few dollars to enter the area where the monument sits, and it's worth the price.  While the monument is very nice, it's worth walking around a bit to enjoy the view of the cities as well. This is probably the best view of Islamabad you'll get without climbing up the Margalla hills.  This is a very popular place for locals to visit, however not as many foreign travelers come here. This means you'll likely get stopped a few times to talk with some of the locals, as well as take a picture or two.  Most of the locals will be friendly and will leave you alone if you ask, however some might be a little more pushy.  The trick is to push back and insist that they leave you alone.

This is not a religious site, so you won't have to worry about covering your head if you're a woman, or removing your shoes.  For the most part this site is used as a picnic site and for simple walks outdoors.

Later

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