This is my DocuVlog about travelling to Hiran Minar Tomb, Khewra Salt Mine and the wonderful Katas Raj Temples. This is the perfect detour when travelling from Lahore to Islamabad, or vice versa! Read more about the trip here.
Check out some of my travel pictures at: www.instagram.com/travelling_the_unknown/
Above is my Lahore vlog, where I cover my visits to Anarkali Bazaar, Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Museum, Wagah Border, Wazir Khan Mosque, Jahangir’s tomb, Lahore Zoo, Ichra Bazaar, The Old City – and a brief introduction to Paan!
Music credits go to Kuljit Bhamra (first song), Surjit Bindrakhia (second song), Amar Singh Chamlika & Amaryjot (third song), and Alam Lohar (fourth song).
Roughly half way between Lahore and Islamabad, these two sites make for a wonderful detour from a journey between the two cities.. The town of Sheikhpura, near Lahore, is also on the way, and is home to Hiran Minar, a beautiful complex built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Khewra is home to the world’s second largest salt mines (and the world’s oldest!), but what really blew me away was the nearby Katas Raj temples, a little visited holy Hindu complex which happened to end up on the Pakistani side of the border following partition.
Following our trip to Lahore, we left the city in a car with faulty AC, which was such a struggle in 40+°C heat, but we managed it until reaching Islamabad! Our first stop was Hiran Minar, built to commemorate Jahangir’s pet antelope!
We then drove to the Khewra Salt Mine, which was roughly a 3 hour drive. The mine is supposedly more than 2000 years old, and was apparently discovered by Alexander The Great’s horse. This place was certainly fascinating – not only its history but also the various salt formations inside. Getting into Khewra Salt Mine also proved fun: on a train into the mining tunnels!
The way I like to put it, Lahore is an explosion of colours, sounds, smells and more. For someone living in Europe, North America, or perhaps even most of the world’s countries, coming to Lahore is overwhelming. Bypassing the chaotic (but somehow moving?!) traffic can be challenging. As a noticeably foreign face, you’ll get a lot of locals wanting to talk/take selfies – this may also be overwhelming to those who haven’t experienced it. But don’t let any of this put you off an adventure to one of the Indian subcontinents most vibrant cities, and the hub of Punjabi culture. Also, you can check out my Lahore travel vlog where I go into the top sites in detail.
1) The Wagah Border
If seeing only one site in the Lahore area, this should be it. The daily joint border ceremony with India provides a climatic nationalistic experience to those on both sides of the border. The must see flag ceremony starts just before sunset in the summer (earlier throughout the rest of the year), requires no ticket, and truly is a fantastic experience.
Having lived in Oman for 5 years and knowing the country well, I can say that the answer is simply YES. While the country boasts some of the region’s (if not the world’s) most luxurious hotels, it is possible to visit Oman on a budget. It has many cheap/mid-range hotels, and a national pastime of such is camping (albeit mostly not in Western-style tents). In fact, in Oman, you’re allowed to pitch your tent up wherever you like, as long as it’s not private property! And, if you don’t stay at one of the country’s top resorts, and eat local, you’re bound to have a more authentic experience.
After arriving in Vladivostok by coach from Hunchun, China, it felt like we’d entered a different world. China was only a few kilometers away, and yet Vladivostok felt culturally and ethnically closer to Europe than anything. The name ‘Vladivostok’ is derived from the Russian words of ‘to hold’ and ‘east’, perhaps symbolising the city’s strategic military significance – it was never taken by the Japanese during their empire. We were to stay in this city for a few days before flying to the awe-inspiring peninsula of Kamchatka.
The most exciting part about Vladivostok was a tour that we took to a derelict part of Vladivostok’s fortification system. We walked, with our guide, through long grass, and then underground, deep into this masterpiece of engineering. Our guide began to explain the history of the fort. We must have appeared tired, because, out of nowhere, he pulled out a handgun and shot it down one of the tunnels. Well that woke us up! He subsequently told us to shoot the gun ourselves, telling us to “imagine we were aiming at Japanese troops”. Well that was an experience…
The real highlight of our trip to Russia; however, was visiting Kamchatka. We spent roughly a week in the land of bears, wilderness and volcanoes, seeing some wild bears ourselves. The landscape was stunning! We spent this time hiking, on a boat trip, on a helicopter excursion (to “The Valley Of Geysers”, a must see in Kamchatka), fishing, and visiting a traditional village of the Koryak people. The only thing we didn’t enjoy was the museum in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – what a bore!
With summer approaching, holiday planning is beginning to take root for many. Instead of travelling to the tourist-packed beaches of Spain or the theme parks of Florida, why not try something more unique. Here’s my list of my top 5 “off the beaten track” destinations to travel to this summer:
1) Northern Pakistan
While the visa is a little expensive and tricky to obtain (you have to be a national/ permanent resident of the country you’re applying in), the effort is most certainly worth it. The northern valleys of Kalash, Hunza, Neelam, Skardu, among others, offer some of the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Summer weather is also perfect for outdoor activity, at between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius depending on the area and altitude.
After a fantastic hike throughout Chilbosan area in the morning, through forests I found fairly similar to those in the UK, we got back on the bus to go to a city called Kyongsong, also spelled Gyongsong, which is nearby Chongjin, perhaps an hour driving.
Our journey to Kyongsong was definitely the main highlight for me during that day. Passing by fields, mountains, and regular North Koreans going about their daily lives. Especially in the Chilbosan area, the little villages which we passed were stunningly gorgeous, like the pictures below:
We had a gorgeous bus journey from Chongjin city to Mount Chilbo (Chilbosan), one of North Korea’s sacred mountains. We passed lush greenery, dramatic cliffs, and through beautiful old villages.
The picture above shows the beautiful scenery which we bus passed.
The trip to Mount Chilbo was meant to take roughly four hours, including a short stop at another revolutionary site, but our bus broke down in the countryside, delaying us. To be honest, I didn’t mind that we broke down, as it allowed us to see a part of North Korea up close that foreigners normally wouldn’t be able to see. We were stuck in between two villages, and there were loads of locals passing by. They reacted to our presence rather strangely (they definitely weren’t used to seeing foreigners).