This was our first trip by train, from New Delhi to Amritsar. The trains are in very good condition and when you book an overnight train you get a bed, pillow and sheets just for yourself. Seriously, they’re the best, but you need to be careful with the tickets because on some of the most famous routes the trains get fully booked months in advance. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve the 2nd most populated country in the world.
As soon as we got out of the train we met an Israeli girl who was going to the same place as we, the dorms of the Golden Temple. The three of us then started talking to the tuk tuk drivers in the station, which is never a good idea because they’ll always try to rip you off. All of them seemed to be in sync and they all asked for 150 rupees for a 3km ride. This was obviously too much so we decided to refuse them all and walk away from the station to find someone more reasonable. Eventually an old guy approached us and said that he would take us for 60 rupees which we thought was fair so we hop on the cycle rickshaw.
When we got to the temple we had to ask around where the dorms where because we had no idea, so eventually a Sikh took us there. You should not expect much of them, you’ve 1 bed that you’ve to share (we shared with the Israeli girl), the bathroom is in another room with about 5 beds or so, you don’t have hot water and you have to shower with a hose. Also, you should take a locker with you because it’s the only way that you can get your stuff safe during the day. You’ll have no wifi, clean sheets or AC, but it’ll be a nice cozy experience I guarantee!
This Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, is the most sacred site for the Sikhs. This is a very recent religion that was born in India and is a mix between Islam and Hindu. The Golden Temple is the house of the guru that founded this religion.
It was about midday and we started to feel a little hungry, so we headed to the canteen that is open all day for all people. The place is entirely run by volunteers and you can get your meal for free if you are patient enough to wait in line with hundreds of people. In the Golden Temple area you need to show some respect by covering your hair and taking off your shoes while you’re in there. The place is stunning and you can enjoy just sitting there while watching the people going on with their prayers and, sometimes, from being a star and taking pictures with Indians. Especially if you’re a woman!
Another curiosity about this place, and we were kinda lucky to witness since it was the weekend, is that there are families that go there the whole weekend in pilgrimage and then spend the night in the surroundings of the temple. They literally spend the night in there, as you can see by the following pictures. It is quite nice to see such devotion…
On the second day (and last) that we spent in Amritsar, and after saying goodbye to our new Israeli friend, we wanted to go to the border celebration with Pakistan, a very famous event that occurs every day at the Wagah border and it is a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation. There are several people on the street that offer their services to get you there in a group, but you’ll probably end up in a lot of stores being pressured to buy something because all of them have a share in these places. It is a very common practice in this part of the world. We didn’t want to spend time bargaining with them so we knew that a hostel (Jugaadus) in there offered this service so we decided to go and talk directly to them even though we weren’t sleeping there.
I must say that they were very kind and there was no problem getting in their organised trip to the border and the price was quite reasonable too (can’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was about 150 rupees p.p.). It was on this trip that we met a Dutch guy name Naique, who we would meet again by surprise in Varanasi almost 3 weeks later, but we’ll get there later.
Once you get to the border be ready to wait in line with hundreds of people. Luckily, you can use your tourist status to get ahead of everyone if you talk to the military guards. Once you’ve been through, grab a nice seat and just enjoy the show.
At the end of the day we went again to the Golden Temple where we could relax and enjoy for the last time that marvellous sight. Tomorrow we’ll have a long day on our way to Mcleod Ganj, or little Tibet, home of the Dalai Lama.
Oh… And in case you still think about eating meat in India… Nevermind that, even the MacDonald’s knows what this country is about.