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Published: February 23rd 2019
We've been to India before. We've not been to the Punjab. My goodness, what an experience.
The walk about last night was a taster. Today we got a full meal.
A slightly later one than planned as we overslept, after our long journey with very little sleep and missed the hotel breakfast (served until 10.30 !).
Our room is on the lst floor and looks onto a red corrugated roof on which heavy rain pounded a lot of the night. Hence the late sleeping. This meant we had not had any view of the city from our room so we headed up to the pool area on the roof. Pool not very inviting after all that rain but at least we could see Amritsar from above.
Then down to the ground and we set off along the shop lined roads to find the Golden Temple. This is the reason people visit Amritsar. It is the holiest sites of the Sikh religion and round here it is all Sikh as evidenced by the many turbans. Also lots of traditional Sikh attire as well as long beards and handlebar moustaches. And the ladies, mainly in bright saris, a feast
for the eyes. My camera is twitching at the thought.
Our hotel is right in the middle of the old city which can probably best be described as bedlam. Everyone has a scooter or motorbike but there are no car parks. Well we did see a couple but they not surprisingly were full of scooters, only the very brave venture into this part of the city in a car. Those cars we saw were well dented. There are also tuk-tuks which park where they can. The scooters park along the sides of the narrow roads, double parked mainly. Sometimes tuk-tuks triple park them and the occasional car also stops where it fancies, quadruple parked with a total disregard for anything trying to get along the street.
This leaves one narrow lane for all the two way traffic. As I said, beldam.
From our hotel we headed left until we came to the high brick gateway which marks the way into the old city. Outside there are lots of big more modern buildings, but like so many sites in places like this they are either only partly completed or very badly in need of repair. One I think was
the town hall and there were certainly signs to a university. The roads are wider here but no less dangerous to cross for fear of being taken out by a tuktuk or scooter driving on the wrong side of the road at speed.
Then we came to the Temple area which is well demarked with traffic bollards to prevent the vehicles from getting close. This is fortunate as it is heaving with people. Many tourists, mostly Indian as this is a much visited, very holy place.
Shops line both sides of the road with little markets off these. So much to buy and a lot of the shops were much much busier than any English high street shop. If you want little leather slippers or a shawl this is the place to be.
At the temple we took our shoes off, found little fetching scarves to cover our heads and headed for the footbath entrance. We were turned back as we were carrying our shoes in our bag and had to go back to hand them in, in exchange for a token. Don't know how the guard knew we were trying to cheat but he certainly somehow did
Then into the temple grounds and have to say they are magnificent. White and towering and ornate all round in an enormous square round a pool complete with massive fish and in the centre, the Golden Temple itself.
The water of the pool is deemed very holy and worshippers bathe in the water. The men openly, the ladies sheltered from sight.
Never have so many selfies been taken and... in a place where there are signs to say no photographs and guards who parade the edge of the pool carrying spears and occasionally bother to tell people no photos. Impossible to stop it really as everybody has a mobile phone nowadays. I had checked the photo rules here before leaving home and it said photos were ok except in the inner, Golden, temple so not feeling guilty.
We featured on lots of Indian's selfies. They do like us to be on their photos. Really not sure why. Some posed for me and then thanked me. We love these people. I find all I need to do is smile and they are our friends for ever.
So yes I did take photos. Lots of them. The
poor camera just could not help itself and everyone else took photos too.
We didn't go into the Golden Temple itself. There was a very long queue and this is a very religious place and we are not of that religion so not necessary. Such a fascinating place. Lots of other buildings beside the Golden Temple and we have no real idea what they are. Mini temples and areas for food as well as a main building for free meals. We didn't go in there but anyone can and receive a free meal. This is a massive 'feeding' operation, and all manned by volunteers.
We ended up going round the temple area twice. Impossible in any verbal description to do this fantastic place justice so my photos must suffice.
After our temple visit we stopped at a Subway for a snack and drink finding it much easier to chose food from somewhere like that than the dubious looking food stalls which line the street. We managed to get away with buying only one thing from the shops, an ornamental dagger as carried by the Sikhs, and we hope it is allowed through customs ! It's only butter-
knife sharp !
The other main tourist attraction in Amritsar is the Jallianwala Bagh , where the Amritsar massacre took place in 1919 and now a memorial garden site. This was the spot where a gathering of 20,000 was fired on for about 20 minutes by the British without any warning and where several hundred Indians were killed or injured. A moving place to be and nobody seemed to take it amiss that we were British and we starred in lots more selfies.
Then back to the hotel not via the direct route which was interesting, as one street was full of popadum makers which made for some rather good photos. Again we felt pretty safe walking along even though sometimes off the main tourist streets.
Back to the hotel for a foot and leg rest and we were just thinking of going out again when we were called by the hotel house manager who asked if we would move rooms from our first floor room as there is a busy event in the conference area near our room. We hurriedly threw our stuff back into the bags and cases and moved to a much nicer room
on the the 5th floor. This one has a view through the window but we can't see it as it is dark !
Back out and to the temple again to see it lit up. Went via tuktuk at great expense of 100 rupees = £1. The temple is even more magnificent at night. Wonderfully lit and the lights and buildings reflect in the water. More photos of course and the guards were not bothering at all this time.
Tuktuk back nearly broke my back. We went down narrow back roads and I will swear travelled 3 times as far as coming but driver stopped to grab a bag of supper from a stall along the way so that is why we went that way. If you think that what we get in England are potholes then I can assure you, you have never travelled that route in the back of a very old and decrepit tuktuk.
Still just in one piece we had dinner at the hotel again.
So very pleased today that the weather forecast was wrong. Promised thunderstorms and major rain. Instead got some cloud and then plenty of blue sky and no rain. Dry
day tomorrow too. We are lucky indeed as tomorrow afternoon we are off to visit the border with Pakistan.
PS Running 2 days late with my blog as taking so many photos it takes me ages to sort them out and apart from that we are rather busy enjoying ourselves.
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