Home Media & Culture Chinese explorer Marsha Jean in awe of Pakistani hospitality

Chinese explorer Marsha Jean in awe of Pakistani hospitality

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Marsha Jean, 21, a female Chinese traveller is currently on her visit to Pakistan to explore the cultural heritage and scenic landscape of Pakistan. Hailing from Hong Kong, Marsha Jean also hold Australian citizenship as well. Jean, is on the mission to travel and photograph Pakistan through hitchhiking and cycling.

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First ever knee-deep-snow hiking experience. Incredibly lucky that the lakes weren't frozen! Look at that reflection! Took 7 hours (round trip). There are 3 lakes in the Upper Naltar valley of Northern Pakistan. Surrounded by a beautiful pine forest, they are a stunning emerald green and blue in summer time. Trip report: I left my bike at a village in Lower Naltar and began the hike to Upper Naltar. There's a Forest Department's checkpoint before entering Upper Naltar. They protect the pine forest from logging. I wanted to camp one night in the forest. However, the forest department didn't allow me (due to concerns of my safety 😅). They invited me to stay in their spare room and cooked a delicious meal for me. (Really really good people!) After dinner, they handed me a phone. On the line is a police officer. He said it is dangerous for me to hike alone, so I must be accompanied by an armed escort. (The hike to the Naltar Lakes is a very easy hike. I have GPS, emergency and snow trekking equipments). I prefer enjoying nature alone. So I told him I will begin the hike at 9am the next day. My actual plan is to go at 6am. The next morning, the police escort showed up before 6am. My genius plan failed 😂 He is a super friendly guy and agreed to giving me 100m distance for privacy. We managed to reach the second lake, before he broke the silence and told me his shoes were actually soaked wet. We turned back. I was really stressed as I was worried he'd lose a toe or two just to accomodate me. It was a bummer to have to be accompanied by an armed police when I really wanted peaceful time in nature. I would have been able to reach the 3rd and largest lake too. However, I do understand that Pakistan feels too responsible for the tourists safety. . . Is it the first time you've heard of the concept of police accompanying tourists on hikes?

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Talking to a local news outlet, she stated that she has travelled to several countries of the world in the same way. Jean, had first travelled to Australia when she was 18, where she worked in the hotel and save enough money to travel across the world.

Read more: Pakistan’s image building & tourism go hand in hand

“When I was 18, I travelled to Australia on my pocket money. My original plan was to travel for only two months but as I journeyed across and met other travellers, I realised how easy it was for me to travel.”

Before coming to Pakistan, she has travelled across South-east Asia, Nepal, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, Morocco and Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. From Turkey, she reached Greece where while working as a volunteer for refugee organization she heard about Pakistan. Crossing the Balkans all the way from Greece, she reached France and from there she flew to the United Kingdom.

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Cycling the Karakoram Highway in Northern Pakistan is the most pleasant traveling experience I have had yet. (Seriously. Of 3 years of traveling exp) How could you not fall in love with a place when literally everyone wants to treat you like a queen and screams in joy when they see you (a foreign guest). And with views like this just off the road? This was a few days ago at a glacial lake before it started pouring rain and snow. Now I'm hiding in my tent, covered by 2 sleeping bags and a blanket, hoping I don't wake up in the morning missing a toe or finger. . . [Update: it was a pleasant experience until I crossed Gilgit town. In the south insane catcalling and harrasements started. Drivers suddenly became more hostile. It's still worth going through this to reach all the good people and beautiful landscapes] #thekarakoramclub

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Marsha Jean stated that she visited the United Kingdom to apply visa for Pakistan.

“In Greece, I heard about Pakistan and how amazing it was as a travel destination… hence I decided to fulfill my dream,” she says. She entered Pakistan in October 2018, went to the north first and then cycled her way through to the south.

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A portrait taken in Hunza, Northern Pakistan. Nov 2018. I am just an amateur photographer, but I think I have a tip to taking better portraits. People have a lot of emotions that are exposed on the face. If you want a photo of someone at their most natural and relaxed state, they must trust you. It really makes all the differences in the world to sit and chat with your subject before asking for a photo. . Let them get to know you first. Impress them with a few local phrases. With you own body language, show that you are relaxed, open and have nothing to hide. Start chatting. Ask them about themselves. Ask them about what they are the most proud of. Ask them about their families. Tell them they look beautiful. Tell them their shop/ children/ village is beautiful. Make them feel proud. Tell them why you want to take their photo. All this could be done with a few local phrases and body language. When they are ready, take that shot. Don't forget to ask, "Facebook? Instagram? No problem?" . How I planned this photo: This shop owner has beautiful blue eyes and strong features. I wanted a photo of him looking very proud. So I took a moment asking about his shop and complimenting him. I told him he has beautiful eyes that matched his jacket, and that I'd like to take his photo. I asked if he'd like to sit there. I planned to have the orange dress in the background complimenting the blue. I'm still not good at processing RAW photos yet. So this is the result, processed with Photoshop's Camera Raw. If you have any critiques and tips please let me know. Thanks!

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Jean, initially decided to stay 45 days in Pakistan but is now planning to extend her stay to six-months due to immense hospitality given to her by the people of Pakistan.

“I have enjoyed my time in Pakistan so far, it has been four months now and I have cycled all around northern areas and visited places such as Malam Jabba, Peshawar, Taxila, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Naltar Ski Tournament, Jhelum, Lahore to Multan, Bahawalpur and the Cholistan desert jeep rally,” Marsha says.. “I’m invited and taken care of by locals, almost everywhere I went.”

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This is the Nanga Prabat, world's 9th highest peak at 8126m asl. Viewed from the legendary Fairy Meadows Most don't know this, but the real name of the Fairy Meadows, in the local Shina language, is "Phung Dori" – "a place to run your fingers along your moustache" How beautiful is that? Traveling is all for moments like this to take your breathe away, right? And girl was I breathless 😂 A 2 hour hike took me 6 hours to complete. Because: it was my 2nd day of having really foul diahhrea, have been cycling non-stop everyday, and was carrying a 15-20kg backpack. You girl I was prepared for hardcore camping. 😉 I didn't use any of the gear in the end, because one of the guest houses was open due to reconstruction and the owner was super nice to let me stay 4 days for free! Shout out to Sarai! In winter, hardly anyone goes there so all guest houses are closed. . Ah Also I wanted to hike to the basecamp but the police didn't let me.

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“The people of Karachi are a special breed… open-minded and have a lot of drive for life. I have visited the beaches, walked through old town Saddar and even cycled to Lyari.”

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A Kyrgyz girl whom I shared a hostel dorm with, passed me her phone. In Google Translate, it read "I'm just going to pray. Please don't be afraid." . I travel quite a lot in Islamic countries. In the past 3 years, I have in fact spent more than a third of my time in one. That's a lot, considering that in my 3 years journey, 5.5 months were spent working in London, 8 months traveling and working in Australia. The countries I refer to are Iran, Iraq Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Morocco. I have hitchhiked across Iran, Iraq Kurdistan, Morocco, Afghanistan's Wakhan region etc. Now I'm roaming by bysicle. I rode across Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and now Pakistan. When I was in Afghanistan, I hired a donkey and trekked for 19 days, visiting remote villages and settlements. Sounds crazy, right? But for experienced travelers, we all know it's no big deal. Afghan's Wakhan Corridor is a really peaceful area, very isolated from the rest of the country. I had gone 1 year without ever staying in a guest house/ hostel. Muslim's are quite known for their hospitality, as their guests are "gifts from God". Everywhere I go, people invite me, spoil me with love and care. And that, is why I fking love visiting those places. To meet the people. Feel the love. Experience the hospitality, the life, the culture! This, for me, is the epitome of traveling. To see true beauty of our world. Meeting the family you didn't know you have. I never chose to travel specificly in Islamic countries. It's coincidence. By exchanging with other travelers, I know where are the so-called 'travel gems'. . It is excruciating to see so many innocent people feared and hated, while most are in fact one of the world's purest people I have met. They watch the news too. They are on social media too. They know and it hurts. It hurts, too much. In case you don't know: Iran, Afghan and Pakistan were super touristy in the 90s. They were part of 'the Hippie Trail'. . [I'd love to hear your thoughts, opinion, experience.]

A post shared by 🌞Marsha Jean 🌈 (@girlgonetolive) on

She has always visited the Hingol National Park, Balochistan and Rani Kot Fort in Sindh.

Marsha Jeans said that her visit to Pakistan has greatly altered her perceptions about the country that is otherwise assumed as a highly war-torn country.

Read more: Safaa In Transit – Travelling Pakistan and Beyond

“After meeting other Pakistanis on the streets, I got to know that they are friendly, and the country has such a rich culture… archaeological sites, including the Buddhist monasteries of Taxila in Punjab and Takht-i-Bahi in Mardan, the Hindu monastery of Tilla Jogian that used to be home to the yogis (gypsies) before partition.”

She also appreciated the visa relaxation policy by the current government. She says she is thinking to return to Pakistan by the end of this year.


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