At first, arriving in Lahore seemed to promise nothing except more of the same – sweltering heat, chaotic traffic and grimy slums. And one day seemed more than enough. Just an overnight stop and then one final push up the M2 motorway to Islamabad to start the visa tango.
But serendipity is a wonderful thing!
Sitting at a set of traffic lights that I hoped, rather than knew, would take me to the hotel where I was planning to stay a guy on a little bike beside me asked where I was going. I told him the Avari. He said follow me, I work at the Avari. I’m on my way to work now. So I followed my good samaritan, Khouri, on his miniscule 100cc bike as enthusiastically as my big yellow monster would allow while we dodged and weaved through Lahore’s lunchtime lunacy.
At the border post of Wagah, I had been told that the Avari Hotel was a 3-star hotel – good enough for me, thinks I, following my expensive, but ultimately disappointing, spluge at the Samrat in Delhi. However, the Avari Hotel was any but a 3-star hotel. It was the full-blown, gold-plated, crystal-chandeliered, grand piano playing, over-the-top, luxury 5-star hotel – the likes of which I have never before experienced. So, after making an instantaneous executive decision to refund my “Fast Forward to 5-star Hotel” (on the spurious grounds that the Samrat wasn’t a real 5-star hotel!), I leapt at the opportunity to wash the last traces of India out of my psyche and start afresh in a new and different land.
The Avari must employ half of Lahore because they had somebody to do everything for you. Open doors, carry luggage, press lift buttons, turn your bed down at night. A level of luxury that is beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of locals who live beyond the pale. But obviously there is an elite in Lahore who accept this as a normal way of life. There were very few western tourists there so I must have been a bit of a curiosity to them arriving in my daggy motorcycling gear.
And all of this for about AUD$100/night!!! I have spent more than that on dank roadside motels up and down the Bruce Highway.
So I spent one and a half days having my every whim attended to by a veritable army of hotel staff. Nothing was too much trouble. After a while though, the overwhelming obsequiousness began to grate and I just wanted to be left alone to do things for myself..
Inexplicably, one of the hotel’s many restaurants (I never did find them all) was holding a Tex/Mex night. This would have been bizarre enough in itself but , in addition, the waiters were dressed up in cowboy costumes. And one unfortunate soul bore a disturbing resemblance to Mr. Bean dressed up as Woody from Toy Story. I was just waiting for John Denver’s “Take me home country road” to replace the Urdu pop songs and the line dancing to start!
After a night of deep sleep in a bed that came with your choice pillows (firm, soft, down, foam among several other options) I indulged in a buffet breakfast that would put many Australian restaurants to shame.