April 27, 2010

The nature of my work implies extensive travel. And - mostly - I'm okay with it. It sucks not to be able to commit where I'm going to be at the end of the week, but in the grand scheme of things I like plane rides, I like exploring random places, I like meeting new people: generally I like traveling. Most plane rides for me this year, (minus the quick trip to Iraq) have been depressingly local. Which is not to say that the motherland does not make for good traveling time, it's just that I'm very fond of duty frees. This week, I'm slotted for a whirlwind tour of Quetta-Karachi-Sukkur before I can return to Islamabad. I have discovered (somewhat painstakingly) that packing for inter-provincial is an orchestra in itself. For each province one adds to ones itinerary, the list of things-that-must-be-packed grows exponentially.

Take destination 1, Quetta, Balochistan for example. Given the absence of the Serena from my life this jaunt, I'll be staying at a hotel with the dubious name of 'Lourdes' (no, thats 'not' Lords misspelled). Although I'm generally fond of hoteling, I usually travel with a kit-bag of accessories spanning shampoo to sanitizers. Re: clothes, I discover that for Quetta its usually better to pack last season clothes and a big-big chadar. Last season because that's how long it takes for women (and men) in Quetta not to look you (all dressed up in your floor length kameezes) as if you just escaped from the loony bin. Regular shalwar kameezes are fine, however sleeves ought to be full and low necks are rather unwelcome. In any case, the big-big chaddar (incidentally, markets in Quetta sell rather lovely specimens of these) hides most of everything. Mine covers my head and stops just below my knees. Thus shrouded, I blend in with the scenery (or so I like to think) deflecting unwanted attention. Clothes done, shoes (aside from coordinating with clothes) are somewhat superfluous. Mostly because I will not be walking anywhere in this lovely city. Or using public transport. Or doing anything else that women (particularly those who are not Baloch) just don't do. A caveat there though: after my last experience, I'd avoid open toed shoes. Quetta is very dry, hot and ridiculously dusty. Being all covered up has its uses! :P When traveling to Quetta, it's also wise to carry your own entertainment. Once - during a two-week stint - I remember driving up and down Jinnah Avenue (I think that's what the big main road is called) in search of an English bookstore. I found one, however all the store could offer me was text books and the Twilight Series, neither of whom were particularly appealing. Also, unless staying at the Serena, it's also wise to pack in your own access to internet. Particularly if you are - like I - a China-certified internet addict.

Karachi, Sindh is whole different universe. Karachi, for me, demands two sets of clothes. Out goes the chaddar and in come the shades. My air-conditioned car takes the brunt of the heat but I know enough to ensure that whatever I've packed should be capable of dealing with the results of intense heat (and humidity). Fashion isn't a huge concern in the day, primarily since Karachi happily hosts all kinds. Comfort is usually the order of the day. For me, the city is home. I have a closet there jam-packed with random things and when I'm going home I usually pack as little as possible (thereby making sure I have both incentive to shop and ample place to drag purchases back to Islamabad). Day clothes are accompanied by 'night' clothes. Depending on what is lined up for me, Karachi usually means socializing with family and extended family (think semi-formal shalwar kameezes, not particularly demure, but 'respectful' and almost always in sync with current trends) and friends (think western, generally trendy, possibly - depending on the plan for the night - a tad risque). Shoes naturally have to match the outfit, but Karachi is easy: what I don't have, mommy generally does. And what both of us don't have we look forward to going out and buying.

Interior Sindh (Sukkur included) is a whole new ballgame. Refer to Quetta re: wardrobe. Try to return without spending the night else remember tip about toiletries. Depending on the nature of the place you're going to, consider investing in traveling sheets. Either way remember that the most important item of clothing is the big-big chadar. Also, one must remember to pack ones own entertainment. A good book will probably come in handy.

Packing for Lahore is usually most difficult. Every time I have to plan for a few days in the capital of Punjab I look at my wardrobe with a critical eye, almost always finding it lacking. It occurs to me that nothing I own is really the 'furst-stare-of-fashion'. It hits me (painfully) that the 'newest' outfit I own is still several weeks old. How, I wonder, will I blend in with your average Lahori Aunty unless my kurta is skirting the floor and my sleeves are non-existent? Toiletries (though essential) take a firm back seat to cosmetics. Shoes are critical and must be matched 'just-so'. And shades are absolutely essential (either on the face or perched on top of the head, either way they must always be there). Also, one must remember that Lahore implies a LOT of shopping. And shopping implies a LOT of walking, so don't forget the flip-flops! :P

7 comments:

Roshni said...

I love Lahore <3

word verification: gasness.
HAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm...where and what do u work as?

ordered-chaos said...

Quetta has more pathan ladies then baloch, trust me on that :P

What book are you taking?also any interesting places for cosmetics and toiletries in lhr?

Anonymous said...

lahore also has Saad OK...

Desert Mystery said...

Sukkur is pretty hardcore, consider InterPak or Forum Inn Hotel incase night stay is necessary. Otherwise you will be required to be deloused if you stay at any of the other shadier joints.

Combat boots are also recommended to navigate what may be lously defined as "streets" if you dare to venture on the periphery of Sukkur and to fight off random animal attacks.

sharbet said...

I love this packing post. Somehow I find that it's nicest to be home where I have everything. I had such a limited choice when I packed for London coz of the weight restrictions.

Lonely Perverted Soul said...

you shud write a travel guide.. :)