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Thursday, August 16, 2012

2 Months And A Half Off (Part 6)

This series of posts is a day by day account of my two-month-and-a-half trip that begins with a stay in Bangkok, followed by a train ride Amritsar, a bike trip from Leh to Manali and a yoga teacher training in Kullu Valley, the end of the habitable world.

Day 9: Amritsar
After coming home late from Agra, it was a challenge to pack our bags to catch an early train to Amritsar. Luckily, we didn't have to share our seats in the train with anyone. We were able to book two chair seats which means we have our own chairs on the train. And, they were comfortable. Sockets for charging phones and other electronics were also available by the window.

After getting out of the train and doing some haggling, we got an auto-rickshaw to the Grace Hotel. We read in the Lonely Planet that it was a budget accommodation that had a limited rooftop view of the Golden Temple so we decided to check it out.

The Grace Hotel (Amritsar)

When we arrived at the reception area, we saw that the hotel rates posted by the desk were twice the rates that were indicated in our outdated Lonely Planet: 1,500 Rs. for a standard room and around 2,500 Rs. for a double room.

After some haggling, we managed to get a room for 1,000 rupees per night. For a dingy and grimy room, the rate was a bit too high. It was hot and we were tired - We couldn't be bothered to carry our bags around, looking for another place to stay. So, we took the room.

The room we got had two small windows and an a/c. It was supposed to have a TV but it was broken during the time of our stay. We also had wi-fi. Aside from the grime and ants, what I couldn't stand about the room was the number of times I woke up because the A/C's turned off and the room's become too hot. Apparently, there was a master switch outside the room. And, when the people in the hallway or in the adjacent room turn on some lights, they make the mistake of turning off the power in our room. This happened more than once during our stay.

The hotel's rooftop was filled with rubble. Worse, it had a huge brick wall blocking the view of the temple. So, I had to climb one of the ladders leaning on the temple. And, from there, I got a limited view of the Golden temple.

The nice chai man opposite our hotel

The limited view of the Golden Temple


Day 10 (AM): The Golden Temple Area
The one thing that some travelers may not appreciate when staying in this area is that smoking and drinking are prohibited here. You'll have to take an auto-rickshaw to get to a bar. Also, they don't serve non-vegetarian meals in this area.


The area is filled with Jutti shops. The displays of colorful Punjabi footwear were really nice to look at. But, looks aren't everything. And, you might have to spend some time trying on different pairs of shoes in different shops to get one that fits you. In order to get good prices, you should have change, patience and good haggling skills. I've had so many experiences wherein I managed to get the price as low as 150 rupees but because I gave them 200 rupees, I ended up being told that the agreed price was actually 170 rupees.

I liked the Amritsar Punjabi Jutti (Ram Building Opp. Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar) because the shoemaker there has lined the insoles of his shoes with soft leather or synthetic suede, making them more comfortable. Also, he's made some backless juttis with an elastic strap that would keep it from falling off. 


It was the most unlikely place to find a Domino's pizza place. So, we decided to check it out. They had a selection of vegetarian pizzas, crusts and desserts. We got a magherita with a thin whole wheat crust and another one with a cheesy burst crust. The thin whole wheat crust reminded me of chapatti and the cheesy burst crust was like cheese parantha. It was actually a good mix of Italian, Indian and vegetarian.
Breakfast time in Amritsar can be a challenge. Every single place we went to was full. We found an unoccupied table in Zaika. Unfortunately, everyone was too busy to serve us. It took us around twenty minutes to get served. The paranthas here were worth the wait. And, the owner was considerate enough to apologize for not being able to serve us immediately.

The Golden Temple

Also known as Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple is the spiritual center for the Sikh religion. It attracts thousands of visitors everyday. 

We left our shoes in a storage area outside the complex. And, from there we walked bare foot into the temple. Once, a lady on a motorbike decided to drive on the mats that were laid out to lead people to the temple, almost running over bare toes.

By the complex entrance, we washed our feet in a small pool before we walked inside. The structure was beautiful but it wasn't that impressive. The attraction here is more of the absorption of the unique culture of the sikhs rather than the structure itself.

Around the complex, there were people sitting or sleeping on the floor. In the temple, there was a huge crowd of people making it impossible to go in. Some of the devotees crouched by the  pool to splash themselves with water. There was also a crowd of male devotees bathing in another area of the pool. We also passed some glorified sikhs in full attire. One of them had a huge turban on his head.

This is the biggest turban I've ever seen.

Day 10 (PM): The India-Pakistan Border
Everyday, loads of people head to the India-Pakistan Border to watch the border closing ceremony which starts at 6 PM and ends at around 6:45 PM. 

To get to the border, we booked a shared jeep with our hotel. We paid 125 rupees each for a ride to the border town. We were quite lucky to be picked up from our hotel since most of the people we rode with had to find their way to our hotel, which was the pick up point.

Since we were picked up around 2:30 PM and we arrived at the border at around 3:30 PM -- a bit too early for the ceremony. We were only allowed to bring our cameras and money so we didn't have much to entertain ourselves with during the wait. Bags aren't allowed in the border.

As we made our way to the ceremony, we were inspected twice. Whatever food we brought with us was thrown into the bin. Once, we were in the same queue as the locals. The second time around, we were in the foreigners' queue. There's a place allotted for foreigners in the ceremony area. And, unless you don't have plans of taking pictures or you have zoom lens, you might as well come in late to get a seat close to the action.


The march.

The kick.


  1. fantastic photos Shandy! what an interesting experience! Did the people in your photos ever complain about you taking their photo??