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Published: January 31st 2009
Looking out at the view
So, although we do not leave India until tomorrow, we sit here now, back where it all started, in Delhi, writing our final blog for the India stint of our travels! T'is emotional! But let us first go back and update....
28th January 2009
The alarm sounded at 0630, and after the obligatory 5 minute 'snooze', we jumped out of bed almost fully clothed - as is the norm in Delhi - and briskly walked to the Train Station for our 0720 train to Amritsar. Now, we know we said we wouldn't go anywhere near the Pakistan border, but we figured that that promise was broke in Jaisalmer. Plus, what was awaiting us in Amritsar seemed worth the trip. Our train arrived at 1330, and after sorting out our return journey we made our way to our accomodation. As is the now routine, we dumped our gear and set out to find some lunch. As is also the routine, we ordered too much! After lunch, and a short nap, we cleaned up and headed out to The Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is the holiest Sikh shrine, with an alleged 750kg of Gold inset in the roof. We weren't sure
Us in front of the temple.
of protocol, but after shedding our shoes and socks and locating head scarves, we made our way through the pool to wash our feet, and down the steps towards the temple. This is one of those places that more than live up to your hopes, or expectations. It is stunning. We did a lap around the surrounding pool, and purchased some food to donate. We then made our way across the Guru's Bridge to the Temple itself. We followed the crowd up to, around, and inside the temple to see the Priests inside singing from their Holy books. It was quite an experience! As it was night time, we looked forward to seeing it in daylight, and so this was followed by an early night - as travelling for 14 of the previous 24 hours was beginning to take its toll!
29th January 2009
Our day today didn't really kick-off until we jumped in our shared taxi at 1500, to travel 30km west to Attari - place of the India-Pakistan border. Our taxi was built for 9 people, so there were naturally 12 of us packed in. Our driver was a very jolly fellow though, and seemed to have
Guru's bridge leading towards the temple
a soft spot for Hayley - we think it was the ripped jeans! We arrived and took our seats - VIP Seats no less - in what can only be described as an arena. To describe it a bit better; there are the gates either side of the border, and 2 stands either side of these - one PACKED with Indian 'Supporters', one sporadically filled with Pakistanis. There is loud music, chanting, dancing, cheering - even an MC whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of national pride. It's very bizarre....and it gets more so. Soldiers on either side then attempt to intimidate each other with a long, looooong, roar(?!), before the guards Goose Step towards the gate! They kick their legs high - we mean really high - almost kicking themsleves in the head (think Basil Fawlty). At the gate, the Commanding Officers of each Country shake hands, before the flags are lowered (at exactly the same time) and the gate is closed; the border is closed for the night! This is something we are sure we would never see anywhere else in the world - and despite the current tensions between these 2 countries, it was nothing but
The border gate
We returned to Amritsar to have some dinner (and jalebis) before bed. A surreal day.
30th January 2009
After some 'issues' with our hotel, we decided to check out and so we headed towards the communal accomodation of the Golden Temple. A big part of Sikhism is inclusiveness, so the temple complex includes both a huge kitchen (that can feed 40,000 pilgrims a day) and free beds. This is definitely an experience thing more than a comfort thing; the beds are tightly packed, and the beds are essentially a piece of wood on legs. Also, there is a very high chance you will get bedjacked if you leave the room due to the popularity with other travellers. We risked leaving our beds, however, to check out the Temple in the morning light and were as impressed as our first visit, and so we decided to seek out the other temples in the city. Our first stop was Sri Durgiane Temple - the Hindu response to the Golden Temple - otherwise known as the Silver Temple. To our surprise and disappointment it was a scaled down, watered down version of the Golden Temple. We didn't stay very long. From
A trained killer...and an Indian guard
here we visited Mata Temple, which is described as a cave temple - we were very excited. On arriving we were puzzled as to where the caves were?! We were ushered inside a building though, and it felt like walking through a Fun House; ramps, low ceilings, mirrors, crawling through artificial tunnels, walking through ankle deep water. Another very, very strange place. At the end though, we sat in the main room and ate in line with worshippers which was kind of nice. We spent the afternoon relaxing, and revisiting the Temple before going to bed early for a 4am start.
31st January 2009
After a very early start, with bleary eyes, we stepped on our train at 4.45am and stepped off it at 11.45am here in Delhi. We will spend the rest of the day organising our things ready for our departure to Singapore tomorrow!
4 weeks ago (one week in), we would have been surprised at how much we would come to enjoy India. We'd read about the cultural differences, but we're not sure that there is any preparation for the reality of life here. Its SO different, on every level. Now though, we are sad
The Golden Temple
that our time is up and feel that there is so much more to see and experience here. India is definitely a hard country to travel in, but with a little perserverance it has so much to offer. We have seen here some truely amazing things that will stay with us forever.
We hope you're all well and enjoying life as much as we are. Keep the news coming!
Love and miss you all
See you in Singapore!!
H and D
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