Published: July 17th 2008July 6th 2008
Amritsar; boiling hot, dusty and chaotic but home to the wonderful Golden Temple. Being one of only free attractions in India we were able to visit the temple at several times of the day. The first time was in the middle of the day which was not the best time as it swarms with hundreds if not thousands of pilgrims. As with all temples off came the shoes on went the head scarf and as this is a Sikh temple you have to wash your feet before entering.
Like the Taj the temple and complex are made of mainly marble with the temple itself coated in a golden metal said to be gold though I'm not entirely sure this is true. The temple is situated in the middle of a sacred pool and there is a walkway around the edge. Walking around the pool, in a clockwise direction, we watched people bathing and even drinking the water.
Inside the Golden Temple the decoration is very lavish and in the centre there is a group of guys playing music continuously dawn till dusk which is played through speakers around the complex and also televised. With so many people you are
ushered quickly through but just behind the guys playing music we managed to get in the way of the cameras so we can now say we were on Indian TV for a moment or two.
We were only in the temple about an hour but I lost count the number of people wanting to take our photo. It seems strange to us that people would want a photo of someone they don't know but nevertheless we obliged a few.
Amritsar is definately a place where the touts come out in force. After three months of travel in India you would have thought we would be used to it, but the constant stares and calls in the street sometimes can ware you down and we found ourselves shattered at the end of everyday whilst there.
The first place we stayed was the Grand Hotel, a good room, big, clean but ever so slighty expensive and a R50 tuk tuk ride from the action so we did a night and moved closer to the temple. While looking for the next potential doss hole we were wondering if we had made the right decision as most of the rooms we
looked at had more flies living inside the room than out. Eventually we found MK Sood guesthouse which wasn't too bad it had reasonable insect protection i.e. windows that shut and was clean enough provided you didn't move the bed, though No did and it wasn't pretty.
The nice guesthouse owner helped arrange a taxi to the Pakistan border for the evening ceremony. We arrived really early so had to endure an hour and a half of sitting on hot concrete waiting for it to start. To pass the time they played music and encouraged the women to dance. Hundreds of them rushed to the front and were dancing their socks off, for us this was quite unusual behaviour to witness as the indian women we have encountered so far are kind of quiet and pushed to the side so it was nice to see them enjoying themselves and giving it some.
The ceremony itself lasted about half an hour and involved lots of foot stamping, crowd cheering, flags being lowered, and lots of play-on bravado. From where we were sitting we could see the ceremony on the Pakistan side. Their uniforms were similar to the indian ones;
mohawk style helmets, tailored shirt and trousers and snazzy white boot covers.
After Amritsar we headed down the road to Chandigarh, a very modern city by Indian standards and a fairly pleasant place to spend a few days. The heat didn't let up and it was sweaty work walking around the famous Nek Chand Rock Garden. The garden, built in the 80's is constructed from recycled material such as broken plates, flower pots, electrical plugs and braclets. The little rock people were very cute although why he had made so many we don't know. As you walk around there is literally hundreds of these figures, standing inline like an army.
The city itself is a grid system with each area simply called sector and numbered 17, 22 etc. Like mentioned before it is very unlike the rest of india although you only have to drive a little outside the city confines to find the homeless colonies.
After a very pleasant few days of eating Subway sandwiches and lots of other long missed western food we arranged a taxi to take us to Dehra Dun, we have two weeks left in India so its time to up the
pace and see as much as possible before going home.
There are more photos below