My Trip to Pakistan – Islamabad December 2011
The travel plans were made and I set off to Pakistan on the 9th of December. The journey started well as I got upgraded to business class and had a pleasant journey to Karachi. I was scheduled to take a domestic flight from Karachi to Islamabad. Things started to go bad when I landed. I made my way to the check in counter to learn that the PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight to Islamabad was cancelled. They just did not bother to contact the agents or the passengers to inform them of the cancellation. The PIA ground staff were however polite and quickly arranged me to stay at the Airport Hotel and take the first flight out to Islamabad on the 10th morning. I had to call my client and the hotel in Islamabad to inform them of the changes to my itinerary. Hurrah to mobile roaming!
My perceptions of an Airport Hotel were based on the other airport hotels which I had stayed in (Dubai, Bangkok, Amsterdam); however the Airport Hotel in Karachi is another matter altogether. It is a real dump. I am not running down Pakistan or its people as I have stayed in very good hotels in Karachi and Lahore on my previous visits to Pakistan. This was a real house of horror. The rooms were dirty and smelly, the bathrooms were dirty and the dining hall was something else altogether. The table cloths were full of food stains and looked like they have never been bleached since the day they were made.
The management of this hotel needs major overhauling if it is to be an airport hotel. The staff of the hotel belongs in a farm looking after animals and not in a hotel serving weary travelers. They have no idea of how to handle guest in the hospitality industry.
I left the hotel early morning (on the 10th) and made my way to the airport to catch the flight to Islamabad. Things ran smoothly from then on and reached Islamabad on time. I was met by the Islamabad Hotel (http://www.islamabadhotel.com.pk/ ) representative at the airport and was taken to the car park to embark on the short drive to the Hotel. In the car park I saw this amazing site of a fork lift being used to move cars that had parked violating the parking rules.
I settled in at the hotel and met the client in the evening to prepare for the start of the training. The training on Institutional & Organizational Development will run for 5 days with 25 participants.
The first day of the training went well and the atmosphere in the training room was good and positive the client was very happy at the end of the day and was keen to keep the same momentum during then next 4 days.
The second day of the training also went along as planned and was well received by the participants. After the training I went to the shops (Jinnah Super Market) with one of the participants as my guide. Islamabad boasts of quite a few good shopping areas with some well stocked shops in clothing. The main thing that struck me is that you do not see poverty on every corner. Islamabad seems to have a majority of middleclass to upper class people living in the city. Quite a contrast to Karachi and Lahore where you do see poverty as it is common in other cities of South Asia.
The third day of training went smoothly without incident. After the training I met the managing director of a company which I met last when I was in Lahore in 2008. We were unable to build a working business relationship since we last met (9/11, war in Sri Lanka and the deterioration of the security in Pakistan which led to the Sri Lankan cricket team being attacked). We discussed the opportunities for joint collaboration and agreed to take the business relationship to the next level. Only time will tell is we are able to do this.
The fourth day of the training too went well and we will be going out for dinner with all the participants. We all made our way to Monal Restaurant located about 4000 feet above sea level (http://themonal.com/monal.htm ) at the top of the hill at Margalla Hills National Park for a night time view of the city of Islamabad.
I recommend to all who visit Islamabad to go for dinner at this restaurant, the view and the food was exceptional and so was the service. After dinner we went to Gelato Affair (www.gelatoaffair.com ) at the Gole Market to have dessert. The ice cream selection available was enormous and great tasting.
The last day of training went according to plan and was able to conclude the training program on time as planned. The participants were appreciative of the efforts of the trainer and received excellent feedback through the training evaluation. After the customary goodbyes and promises to keep in touch we concluded assignment.
The trip back to Colombo was on schedule; unlike while arriving at Islamabad the flight back to Karachi was on time and managed to arrive at Karachi without any hassle.