Friday, 19 October 2012

Amritsar - India - June 2012

We arrived after another 13 hour train journey from Delhi, in sleeper class with some more lovely people. We tried to sleep a lot during the journey and at one point a group of begging girls hassled Sarah and me for a while, tugging on her clothes for well over 5 minutes. When they had gone and we had a chance to chat, we started talking with a Sikh girl, who was on the upper sleep bunk with her sister. Her English was not to bad but then again our Hindi and Punjabi was way worse. We talked for a lot of the trip, when we left the train we said goodbye and were later told to follow them and not to get a tuk tuk. It turned out that there was a free bus to the golden temple so we piled on to the very packed free bus and smiled as we had now made new friends.

When we arrived the Sikh family told us to leave our bags at the free accommodation and to leave our shoes in the shoe drop point. We did this and the Sikh family showed us around the Golden Temple guiding us around everything. We drank the water around the temple, fearing illness but respected their customs and was fine the next day.

Somehow I managed to get out of the bathing in the temple water, but Sarah did not and had to go into the ladies area and bath with them. We then drank lychee juice and went inside the temple, being shown all the customs required when in the temple. It really was lovely and everything was made of solid gold. We then went on to sit for the prayers and then went to have a free meal with all the other people. It was lovely to see all types of people sitting and eating as complete equals. There was many people cleaning and dishing up the food and it was great to see so many volunteers. We then said a very warm farewell to our new friends that gave us one of the most amazing experiences we had in India. 


We went back to collect both our shoes and bags and went on the look for a hotel to get some rest after our very long day, as the free accommodation was full. We stayed in this nice hotel with a very cold air con system that could not be changed only turned on or off. While collecting our bags, before going to the hotel, a girl said that H.H 14th Dalai Lama was doing teachings in Dharamsala before going to England. After talking it through with Sarah we decided that we would leave for Dharamsala on day 3 in Amritsar. This meant we needed to do lots in our last day. We decided to look around the Golden Temple on our own again and in the afternoon we went to see the changing of the guard at the India Pakistan border.

We jumped in a very old jeep style car with no air con and drove to the border after picking up some other Indian teenagers. We arrived and got stuck in the queue or mass of people pushing and shoving and it really was a very unpleasant time as we had very little water and people were touching us at all sides. When the gate was opened people pushed and people got hurt, but once through the small gate we had to spate into ladies and men and at the end of the line I found Sarah waiting for me. We then went to the area for tourists and got our seats and we had lovely seat and a good view. When the celebrations started the ladies got up and danced and Sarah decided to do this and she had a lovely time. The ladies really take a front row in this event, as on the Pakistan side the ladies are not allowed to do many things due to the Muslim rules. The Indian ladies would run up to the border with big flags to show the freedom they have in India, and it would appear that this is a lot of fun for them.


Then the soldiers started their special foot stamping parade around the gates of the border with the Pakistan side doing the same. The soldiers really do seem to take this very seriously and their faces are very stern. The end of the whole experience is when the flags are lowered at the same time and the gates are opened and closed very quickly, as quickly as that the whole experience is over!


At the end of the parade we posed for pictures at the gate and made our way back to the Jeep taxi and were dropped back at Dominosin Amritsar for a nice cheese and tomato pizza. After this we went back to our hotel and packed ready to leave for Dharamsala the next day.

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