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Welcome to Besham & Meet Malala

Adventure Chronicles Part 2.

No photography allowed, is what the guide announced in our bus. I secretly moved in my seat, opened the window to my right and slowly began to take my camera out. I tried to set it smartly on the spot where It couldn’t be spotted and was just about to press the shutter when my world fell apart…. Sighs. I was busted with my dslr by my friend sitting next to me. She reminded me it could get us in trouble. After a second of protest, I gave the idea up and began to stare outside the window with a heavy heart. The Thakot Bridge, the amazing Thakot Bridge located in North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan is a spectacular sight and in a matter of few moments, all of us with our mighty tip top Dslrs simply passed by it without ever taking a photograph.

Rules like these during traveling suck big time. What’s the point in saying, “You cannot photograph that bridge” when you definitely know that google has tons of its images already?

But then a bridge like that cannot be truly seen with a photograph even or described well enough in words. Its huge, super huge and surrounded by mountains and sea green/strange white colored water that one look at its surroundings, takes your breath away. The structure of the bridge is very impressive and gives it a majestic look. No photograph of it that I saw on google can truly justify the beauty of it that I witnessed with naked eyes.

It kind of reminded me of the Bilfrost Bridge in the movie Thor. It was Magnificent. The water of Indus River flowing beneath it sometimes makes so much noise, that it feels like you’re passing by the valley of some giant. I LOVED it. And terribly hated the idea to pass by it just like that. Instead, we should have stopped. Gotten out of the bus and walked on it. If the bus was in my hands, I would have drove crazily over the bridge to and fro , to and fro and all over again.

The road kept stretching , beautiful scenery on both sides of the bus. The breakfast at Abottabad few hours ago was long digest and our tummys were grumbling for food. That’s when we reached Besham and stopped for lunch.

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You don’t know Besham ? I didn’t know the town existed myself until I stepped down from the bus and walked into Besham’s finest 2 star Continental Hotel. It is the largest town and commercial centre of the Shangla District in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and everyone you’ll meet there, except the foreigners and travelers, are Pure Pashtu speaking Pathans with red faces. Yes, they are adorable like that.

Interesting facts about Besham are that most of their shops remain open 24 hours a day due to its geographic position as it is on the famous Silk route which connects Pakistan with China. Wow! Me went on the Silk route? Saying it out loud feels so good. I had never imagined it to be this good. Besham shops are famous for their china and international goods. In summer this small town is the centre of international and national holiday makers who use this route to visit the Northern areas of Pakistan. 

The place that we stayed at for lunch and some rest was neat and clean. Besham Continental Hotel is a 2 star hotel located along the Karakorum Highway (KKH) in Besham town. ThIS hotel offers simple rooms for tourists and general travelers on Silk Road. We were total 80 members on board, so our organizers had booked few rooms to get fresh there and charge our cells ,therefore resting my back on a comfortable bed for few minutes was a big relief. Those who wanted to offer their prayers, prayed with peace.

After awhile, I walked out of the room, fresh with energy. The lounge upstairs was vibrant with sunlight and colors. It looked very pathan-ish.

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And what made me more happy was to explore the Besham Continental Hotel’s Antique Shop.

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This shop had the most expensive stones, antique pieces and pretty kurtas that were too tempting to buy. I pointed my finger at a light pink stone resting in the showcase and asked its price, for its sparkles were breathtaking.

“Ye kitne ka hai Khan?”

“Ye Penteees hazar ka hai ,baji” the boy replied, smiling.

“35,000?!!” Oh my God!” I looked at my friend standing next to me. After a moment, I asked the price of the black kurta hanging behind him. “Aur ye kitne ka hai?”

He grinned a little. “Ye ? ye bas Chaar hazar ka”

I could not help myself but just stare at him and then laugh. This clever boy was making big money and  I decided If I can’t buy anything from him, atleast I can make him more famous on my site. So I asked him to look in the camera, smile wide and say cheese. He was so pleased to know that this would make him famous that for a minute I could not stand straight to shoot him. I was laughing out loud at his expressions. This was Besham. A place that made me mind boggling giggle.

After exploring the antique shop, we headed for the dinning Hall for lunch. The menu was simple, daal and roti with salad. And the place was very neat with a food counter. Forgetting everything else, I attacked on the food.

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Delicious daal with lots of chilli. Ah! It wasn’t something lavish, which is why it was perfect because when you’re on the road, traveling to a far away land, simple things like these give you the real experience of the wild and unpredictable life outside your comfortable home zone. Another thing that I have learned during my traveling and adventure trips is about tea. Yes! For me tea is very very very important. Its an energy drink. But remember my advice, DO NOT ORDER TEA just like that. At hotels like these, the tea is often too sweet by default. Later we discovered that its a problem with every Hotel on the road. They are just too generous with sugar. Extremely generous. Enough generous to make you vomit.

After an hour or so we stepped down, and waited for our bus drivers to return. Masha Allah ,we had total 4 big buses to accommodate 80 travelers.

The noon was slowly departing and evening was knocking on the door. Our bus was getting ready. And that’s when we met her. Malala.

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She was just a year or perhaps 2 years old lil kiddo. Nibbling on her Chilli Lays with an attitude that said “You all photographers with big lens and big cameras can go to toilet! I won’t share my lays or smile at your cameras! huh I know my rights.”

Right.

We had spotted her sitting outside the main door leading to the Hotel Lounge. Getting her attention towards us was the hardest part. Me and my friend kept making noises like we are trying to lure a cat into milk trap. But the cat won’t listen. Then after awhile, she turned her head towards us and we fired our cameras all at once. 

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Soon joined her two or three brothers who were white and sweet alright but not at all photogenic like Malala. Seeing how famous his daughter had become, Malala’s smiling father appeared from the lounge beaming with pride and cheered her daughter to smile more for the two girls shooting her like crazy.

I love her. I am home, sitting on my bed, writing this post and I am still in love with her adorable smile. I wonder where would she be now? Would she still be eating her lays ? When years have passed and she has grown up ito a beautiful lady, would she still remember that I had photographed her when she was a baby? No, certainly not …

I wish I see her again but you and I both know, this is a stupid wish. And that’s the saddest fact about traveling. We come across people, make memories , live unforgettable moments with them and then we say them goodbye, just like that.

The memories I made in Besham were not many but few, my stay was not for more than 130 minutes but the joys I encountered there on the way to Chilas, oh man! they were simply, new.

 

To be continued ... The Night & Chilas

  • First of all, masha’Allah. Allah Malala ko har buri nazar se bachaaye. Ameen. She is a very beautiful child. Her cheeks are like apples!

    I second you on the advice on drinking tea whilst traveling in desi land. Even in India, it’s always too sweet! I’m usually a one-cup-of-tea-per-day person, but while traveling, there’s just this intense craving to drink tea whenever there’s one available.

    The prices in that antique shop is crazy! But you know what, the fact that you have stepped foot in and traveled through the Silk Route is so amazing! You totally rock!

    I can’t tell you how much I love reading your travelogue. Boht maza araha hai 🙂

    • Khanum

      Thank you, Nadia! Your love and interest means alot. And to be honest, Mujhe bhi bohat maza araha hai while writing down my travel experiences, finally.
      I don’t know why was I avoiding it before. Ab tou dil chahta hai Turkey ki stories bhi likhun, they were fab.

      • Oh, yes, please! Do share your Turkey ki stories 🙂

        • Khanum

          🙂

  • Pervisha, you made me recall all the wonderful days (and amazing night) that I spent in the region. Thank you so much.

    Many things have changed since then – including the bridge at Thakot, the no-photography thing, deteriorated security situation, travel at night and the color scheme at Besham Continental. However, Indus is still the same and it changes colors from blue to green. Smoke coming out of chimneys still represent the life. Mountains, stars and darkness and the solitude haven’t changed.

    Sigh, I am Kohistan!

    • Khanum

      What a surprise, Raheel ! Its good to see you.
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and it took you back to that place. You are always welcome to read more and share your own version of that place. I would love to know what else has changed there.Though the Indus was really the same, changing color at one point. I was in bus at that moment, when passing by a point I saw the water changing color. And I was so amazed at it..

      When I was there, you did cross my mind because the way you once described your love for those mountains, somehow lingered on my mind. I hated them at first, a part of me still does, but as minutes passed, I found them the most gorgeous and alluring. They have a way of moving you.

      • I left a comment couple of weeks ago, but apparently it got lost somewhere. (Rest assured, I am a regular reader – but not so good with comments.)

        So, why is there some hatred for the mountains?

        • Khanum

          I really had no idea that you left a comment before, too. I didn’t receive it. So I thought that perhaps I lost a reader when I shifted to my new home, at a a new domain. But glad to know you still visited.

          As for the hatred, ah! well … Its bit hard to explain. First they hit you hard with awe, then they kind of over power you. I l couldn’t take my eyes off of the spectacular mountains I saw on my way to Dasu from Chilas. They were mighty and intimidating.
          I guess I hated them for awhile when the climbing became very hard for me. Getting to the base camp was tough as I had no hiking experience prior to that. I hated that mountain for the prayers it made me miss that day. In truth, I hated myself for that and gussa Mountains pe nikal gya. But in the end, We had a truce. I bid them farewell with a heavy heart and now yearn to return to them.

  • Khanum

    I don’t know what’s wrong with your comments, I do not receive a notification. I stumbled upon this comment of urs in my disqus account by chance.
    And hah, yes! I saw your comment there. I can’t believe how often I get to hear Nanga Parbat’s name now. It looked so great in Nadia’s photographs. And so wide.
    Your Thakot picture is great. I didnt even get a chance to step down from the bus there.

    P.S. I agree. Fairy meadows definitely aint a stroll. It literally had me gasping for air because I have no stamina for trekking. Its a miracle I got back on my own two legs.