Getting the Pakistani Visa
It was a struggle getting the Pakistan visa, since I tried to get it in Tehran and Kuala Lumpur. I emailed the Pakistan Consulate in Tehran a few times, but never got an answer. It was also written on their website that it will take a few business days, so I was not going to take a shot at it. While in Kuala Lumpur, I called the consulate, but they told me that they only gave out visas to Malaysian residents or expats working in Malaysia. Hence, my only option was to go back to Tokyo. I was going home for a visit anyway, so it was not a problem, but it would have been substantially cheaper to visit Pakistan from Iran (overland) or Kuala Lumpur (flight).
The proceeding day after arriving in Tokyo, I visited the embassy in Hiroo. This part of Tokyo is an affluent and luxurious area with a lot of embassies. I arrived to the embassy, which was located next to the EU complex and it was a very modern and stylish building. There were two Pakistanis doing paperwork and I was the only foreigner in there. The visa process was actually very easy. I dropped off my package of documents, paid 100 Yen ($1 USD) and was told to come back the next day to pick up my passport. This may sound like a joke, but it really was equivalent to $1 USD. I got my visa the next day without a problem (I apologize for not smiling, but the consulate person was staring at me while I took this selfie).
Flight and Arrival to Karachi
I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Karachi on Pakistan International Airlines. I did not even know this airline existed until I bought the ticket on Expedia. My flight and service were smooth. They provided food (it was a chicken dish and very good!) on board and enough soft drinks to keep me busy during the five and a half hour flight. Unfortunately, the only movie playing was an Urdu one, so I slept most of the way.
Arriving at Karachi Airport was simple and hassle free. You just go through the usual airport process without any surprises. One note, if you are a foreigner, you are allowed to bring in two bottles of liquor. The duty free shop on arrival was closed, so if you need to get your booze in place, make sure you buy it at the departure destination. Pakistan is a dry country, so there are no clubs, bars, restaurants with alcohol. I was told recently that there is a Korean restaurant that serves beer, but I have no clue where it is.
I met my couchsurfing host Shahid in front of McDonalds. Believe it or not, American fast food chains are prevalent in Pakistan. I saw the entire package of KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Cinnabon, TGIF, etc. For the coffee lovers, Starbucks has yet to enter the market. Potential business opportunity? My first impression of Shahid was a bit overwhelming. He was this tall and hefty man with a long unshaped beard. He could easily be a number 8 in a rugby forward pack. He was wearing the typical Pakistani national outfit, smoking a cigarette as he greeted me with a smile. “How was your flight?” I felt at ease after meeting him and his lovely daughter Aisha, who devoured her McDonalds lunch. I really did not know what to expect coming to Pakistan, since the media portrays the country as a dangerous place and you only hear about terrorism or someone getting killed. I obviously felt better after meeting Shahid.
We went directly to his apartment and was greeted by a full course Pakistani dinner that his wife cooked. It was very delicious. First of all, I have never tried Pakistani food, but this cuisine may be one of my favorites in this part of the continent. We had chicken biryani, mutton curry, fried river fish, grilled ocean fish, and vegetables on the side. For a carnivore like myself, this was the perfect meal. I could not have asked for a better host. This was the perfect start to my trip to Pakistan.
You may like some of my blogs from Pakistan.