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The Tranquilo Traveler

The Tranquilo Traveler is a celebration of voluntourism, slow travel, and other interesting ways to see the world. Travel writer and award- winning Moon Handbooks author Joshua Berman created The Tranquilo Travel as a resource for world trippers and international volunteers, a window to the author’s travels in Nicaragua, Belize, and beyond, and an update of his books and articles.

The Regale Internet Inn, Lahore

Username By Joshua | July 25th, 2005 | Comments 7 Comments »

regale1.jpg

I could have named this entry “Lahore Lovin’” or some other such city-centric title; the fact is, though, our four-day experience in Pakistan’s ancient (and steaming hot) Punjabi capital revolved almost exclusively around this back-alley backpacker standby. Given a full-page “Author’s Choice” recommendation in the Lonely Planet, the Regale is a sure magnet for the handful of vagabonds who pass through this city on truly unusual overland journeys.

The main attraction of the Regale is NOT the quality of the partitioned-off rooms, the freshness of the air in the dormitories, nor the cleanliness of the cramped common spaces. Nay, the Regale’s selling point (besides the super-mellow rooftop “Tribal Area,”see Unusual People post) is the generosity of its owner, Malik Karammat Shams, a retired Pakistani journalist who uses his extensive network of friends and family to give his guests otherwise impossible access to some truly deep cultural niches.

“I want people to experience the reality of Pakistani culture,” he said. “I want to show you Pakistan; I feel that I am Pakistan, so I want to show you myself.”

It was Malik who brought us into the cool, wide basement of the Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri shrine, where we were given led directly to front-row seats (cross-legged and barefoot on the hard floor) to watch devotional Qawalli musicians sing about their love for Mohammed and peace and brotherhood. It was Malik who organized a fleet of auto-rickshaws to carry us to the Shrine of Baba SHah Jamal, where famed Sufi dhol drummers Gonga and Mithu Sain swept us along (the rhythms of dhol, says their CD cover, are used to “catalyze the mind of the devotee as he is seeking spiritual tracne, nearness to God”); again, we were accompanied by an entourage of Malik-ites who ushered us through the crowd to the very inner circle of the musicians. Malik claims that before he began such visits six years ago, few foreigners, let alone foreign women, were allowed inside these sanctums since they began – 900 years ago! (properly veiled Pakistani women are permitted, but must remain in a fenced off cage).

lahore1.jpg

And it was Malik who organized a field trip to a countryside Sufi festival, one hour-and-a-half outside Lahore in the village of Jamdiala Sher Khan, where, he told us, 95 per cent of the inhabitants had never seen a foreigner before. The festival itself was more secular than any of us expected (re: transsexual dancers, a Mad Max-style motorcross show, and an Pakistan Army vs. Navy team wrestling match), but the experience was phenomenal nevertheless.

As the 25 of us piled out of the 16-passenger mini-van, clown-style, not knowing what kind of spectacle awaited us, we were duly surprised to learn that WE were the spectacle, and a drum troop proceeded to accompany this parade of grubby Angrez through the throngs of villagers. Malik knew the festival organizer and the chief of police, so our security force now included several armed men, in addition to the handful of bodyguards who had taken us to the other events. We were marched through the shrines as television crews filmed our reactions, giving brief interviews as we were swept along (for the first time on the trip, we claimed we were Canadian); then through the muddy bazaar and finally into a private home, Malik’s friend, where we were honored guests, the lot of us piled into our host’s bedroom where we took off our shoes and lounged on his bed, enjoying the fresh swamp-cooler fan, as well as cold fizzy drinks and many smiling, staring women and children.

When the sun had gone down a bit, and the sky was turning dusky orange, we were led up a series of bamboo ladders to the flat rooftop, lounging on mats, drinking chai, looking out at the festival below, then, when a dust-storm struck, cowering on our stomachs until the winds brought rain and violent gusts of wonderfully cool air; we retreated back downstairs, where we again sat in circles on floor mats, candle-light now, power out in the whole village, until dinner was served: hot chapattis and the best dahl any of us had ever tasted in Pakistan. There was a great deal of smoking, laughter, and of course, more tea, until we made another sweep through the festival and then the long, cramped ride home.

And now we had this shared experience, this group of international strangers with only this night — and our common love of travel — in common: three couples — one each from Slovania, Holland, and Switzerland; a harmonium player from Bolivia; solo Iran-bound overlanders from Venezuela, Germany, and Japan; a pair of Korean girls; an American Sikh from Arizona; and us, Canadian honeymooners, on our last night in Pakistan.

Category: (c) Pakistan
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7 Responses to “The Regale Internet Inn, Lahore”

"Manzoor" | July 26th, 2005 at 3:08 pm | comment link
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Good bye Joshua + Sutay
Hope someday you will return Pakistan.

Joshua’s prose is delighful, bringing into mind Urdu poetry’s 2 main characteristics: Bayan ki saadgi ore jezbaat ki sechaii ( simplicity of expression and truthfulness of expression).
Even my 10 year old son could Danish could enjoy it.
Your visit opened a new vista with my attachment to Gordon College. No institution can be famous without strong personalities. And Gordon Colege is rich in such personalities and humane tradiitons.
Interestingly I enjoyed arabic phrases in your talks and wriitngs too. How you got them. Even your visiting card shows a strong arabic touch.
A date tree, an arabic arch and warm colours. Perhaps you spent time in Central America and got it from there. Columbus took this touch from Spain. Like Ole.
bye. I wish a happy journey through east for you.
Manzoor

"Manzoor" | July 26th, 2005 at 3:10 pm | comment link
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( simplicity of expression and truthfulness of EMOTIONS).
The EMOTIONS is the exact word in earlier comments. (sorry)

Bobby | October 27th, 2005 at 5:20 pm | comment link
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Dear sir,

It is very nice to hear your story of Pakistan,

I my self have stated hosting travelers also

Where they can enjoy the luxury of Pakistan and see the beautiful suburbs rather than be caught in a daily life of dust, smoke and chaotic streets, I like to show the finer side of Pakistan. I like to show that everything that America and U.K has you will also find here.

I mean luxury cars and house and cable t.v etc.

And I do this all for fun and of no charge our guest are served with health meals including meats and Pakistani style chicken other dishes. And a real place to rest.

I feel that the travelers should be really invested in because they will come back and enjoy even more.

The last three traveler from Canada stayed with me has they were headed towards Vietnam on bike
They felt so comfortable and at home, were able to rest well and wake up fresh.
They even wrote of me in their blog.
http://www.twohammers.blogspot.com

even thou a place to sleep and a plate of daal is better than nothing

I have started hosting guest at my home,
And I do this of no charge and I even take of from work to guide them around.
and it is great and its fun.

sora | November 14th, 2005 at 12:50 am | comment link
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Hello.
while I’m searching Gonga and Mithu sain’s information about the Barbican festiva in London, I found this web page. I appreciate your story and specially regal’s picture. It’s very nice to see again.

Pakistan Travel Forum | January 4th, 2007 at 10:21 pm | comment link
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Please do post your comments and experiences about traveling in Pakistan…

http://p078.ezboard.com/bpakistantravelforum

Pakistan Travel Forum is a place to share your experience of travelling in Pakistan, to ask questions and to give advice and direction. We believe that an independent forum like this, created by travellers for travellers, will help to reduce misunderstanding and the negative outlook maintained by Western tourists towards this wonderful country and its warm and hospitable people.

air | February 7th, 2007 at 6:29 pm | comment link
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thank you, i am working on research on pakistan culture. it’s very useful, and show the real life.

sven | March 28th, 2008 at 6:10 pm | comment link
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hi there,

oh yeah, malik and regale are amazing. stayed there twice for a week while traveling from croatia to india in december/january 2007. still, i could feel that dust in the air as well as their hospitality. from croatia till india i haven’t found such a complete place. hotel in yazd/iran is the most similar one but still, it is the hotel only. regale is something special.

love,

sven

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