Amritsar

17/10/17 – 20/10/17

The night we arrived in Amritsar, we went for a walk at night to the Golden Temple. It looked absolutely amazing! 

We had always wondered why the stray dogs went crazy every night at 10pm ON THE DOT. Well, that night we discovered the reason. At soon as it hits 10pm, it’s basically a sex free-for-all for all the strays and they literally queue up for it! We were on our way back to our hotel when we saw two dogs who appeared to be joined at the rear leg.

We then noticed that actually they were attached by THEIR BALLS!? Their balls have been wrapped around each other so they couldn’t separate. Not really understanding what we have just witnessed (and close to calling SPCA), we asked someone why the were like that. He laughed and explained that that’s what often happens when they have sex and they are stuck together for about 20 minutes! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

In the morning we decided to check into the Golden Temple accommodation for the experience of it. As we were finishing off our postcards, a big fuck-off bedbug literally half a centimeter long scurried right across my postcard! We really tried to suppress the horror but decided that we weren’t dealing with this again and booked a hostel instead! 

Once that was all sorted, we sent off our presents that we had accumulated and no longer wanted to lug around. First we had to go to a shop to buy a box, then we went to another shop so they could pack our 5kg box, put it in a fabric bag, sew it up and seal it with candle wax! It looked so cool when it was finished! 

We went into the temple this time and met a guy called Gagan who actually sung the prayers at the temple. He showed us around the kitchens where people all volunteer to wash dishes, make chapattis and cook the dal! Each dish is cleaned 10 times before being handed to someone to eat off. 

There are two ways the chapattis are made at the Golden Temple. One way is by hand, where people sit around tables and roll out the balls of dough and the other way is by using a massive chapatti making machine which separates and flattens the dough before firing it on a conveyer belt! 

The dal and other food that makes up the free meals at the temple are made in GIANT pots held over flames. When I say giant I really mean it! 

Gagan had to go so we continued to wander around the golden temple and decided to come back for dinner. 

As we were walking around all of a sudden there was a wall of people carrying buckets and giant squeegees appeared in front of us heading our way! They started throwing water all over the ground not caring what was in the way. We couldn’t even get around them there were that many people! So we had to awkwardly hide behind a pillar and hope we didn’t get saturated! ๐Ÿ˜‚

We went back to the hostel for a power rest and to see if anyone wanted to go to dinner. We only managed to persuade one kiwi guy Alex to join us and we headed out to the temple again. 

We lined up at the entrance to the eating hall to collect a plate, bowl and spoon then were led inside to a spot on the floor in line with everyone else.

Now we just had to wait for the servers to go down the line and fill our plates, one item at a time! It’s really quite an amazing and efficient system which feeds thousands of people every day 24/7! It’s also run more or less by volunteers! 

Although it’s made in such huge batches, it doesn’t take away any of the quality of the food! The curry, dal, sweet rice, weird sweet pink crunchy noodle looking things and of course chapattis were honestly among of the best I have eaten in India! 

For once we were the last ones left seated because when everyone finished, they immediately got up and handed the dirty plates over to the volunteers and were out of there! 

Walking around the temple we were asked for countless selfies and one family even struck up a full blown conversation with us. Except the man pretty much refused to address Danielle and I which was a bit awkward. For example we would ask him a question and he wouldn’t even look at us and instead would turn to Alex to answer our question. 

We decided to face the HUGE crowd queuing up to go into the Golden Temple itself. We were in that queue for at least an hour! What little personal space we were hoping to maintain didn’t last very long at all. The closer we got, the more people pushed and squashed themselves into our backs. Danielle even got a little burp in her ear! ๐Ÿ˜‚ In the end it was all worth it because the interior of the Golden Temple was absolutely incredible! There were prayers being sung and the walls were head to toe in beautiful mosaic tiling, with of course LOTS of gold! 

We all headed back to the hotel to hang out with everyone and played carrom which is a board game people in India get VERY competitive playing! It’s kind of like snooker except up to four people can play and you use your finger instead of cues. 

Diwali tomorrow!

The next day we spent hours walking the markets. We tried and failed to buy Punjabi suits to wear to the Golden Temple that night for Diwali but at least we bought some yummy aloof bhujia! Eventually we gave up and headed back to the hostel, Danielle still wasn’t feeling very well so she lay down for a rest and I went with Gopi on his motorbike to get food. We sped down the busy streets while I was gripping onto the seat for dear life. If you think it’s terrifying being on the crazy streets of India on a tuktuk, try being on a motorbike with no helmet! 

Gopi pulled over at a small food stall pitched up next to a river and ordered some food. Now I was quite nervous about eating food from a seemingly random food stall, but it turned out that although it had no sign and looked pretty dodgy it was actually famous in Amritsar for its pakodas! When we ate them, we could really see why! They were so flipping delicious AND they didn’t give us the shits! ๐Ÿ˜

That night everyone was in the common area getting excited about Diwali while poor Danielle remained in bed. Even when we were getting dressed and ready to go she decided it would be best if she just took it easy. 

Our new friend Priya came to my rescue and helped me drape my saree! What took her only a few minutes, had already taken 30 and I didn’t actually do it right! 

Priya and I missed the hostel crew so we left soon after. We jumped in a tuktuk that only cost 10 Rupees each as opposed to the 60 Rupees each it had cost Danielle and I just because Priya was Indian! The tuktuk driver asked Priya in Hindi if she was my special guide and told her that she should make sure she gets lots of money off me! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

We finally arrived at the Golden Temple and slowly moved with the crowd to the water, catching the last few minutes of the main fireworks show. Then we walked around to take a few photos. 

Every few metres I would get asked for selfies because not only was I a Westerner, I was a Westerner wearing a saree! One man even asked me to pose with another Westerner for a newspaper article! ๐Ÿ˜‚

We got back to the hostel by jumping on a rickshaw. I don’t know how I feel about some poor, skinny old man pulling me along by bicycle. However rickshaw drivers are often poorer than tuktuk drivers and so by not taking them, they may not get much of the work they need to make a living.

Finally back at the hostel, we headed upstairs to the rooftop to wait for everyone else to get back for our own mini fireworks display. At this point we could still see pretty much all around, but about 2 hours later we could hardly see the house next door! 

What was so cool about Diwali was that EVERYONE was getting involved. Just every three or so houses we could see fireworks going off! Although some were a bit dodgy and went horizontally onto the roof of the house next door! Lanterns were even being released into the sky as well. 

When everyone had arrived back,  the hostels stash of fireworks was cracked out. Some people had turns of setting off the fireworks and others just stuck to the sparklers. I was one of those because I feel like the firework safety standards we’re going to be pretty loose… 

We set off a big box set of fireworks and once they had all set off, the box was actually on fire… So there you go. 

One of the hostel people, Roop, actually set some off by holding the end of the firework! 

On our last day in Amritsar, we planned to go the Golden Temple to volunteer and make chapattis, before going to the border closing ceremony. Because Danielle was still feeling worse for wear, I only went with Craig, who was also staying at our hostel. We entered the chapatti making hall and jumped onto a table that had a bit of room. On our table there were 4 VERY cute children who were 2, 8, 10 & 13 and had beautiful names which I cannot remember how to pronounce correctly! The two boys who were 8 and 13 had the coolest turbans and to be honest I was amazed that they could even hold their heads up! 

One person at the table sat next to the mountain of dough to separate and roll it into much smaller balls for us to roll into chapattis then we would pile them up and one of the kids would take them over to be cooked. Talk about team work! 

The women at our table helped us master the art of the perfect chapatti before we went down for lunch in the eating hall. 

After our bellies were well and truly pushed to their limits, we raced back to the hostel to meet Danielle so the two of us could go to the India-Pakistan border closing ceremony in Wagah. 

We jumped in a tuktuk with 9 other people (how is that even possible?!) and were on our way! At a roundabout there was a bit of traffic next to a line of slum huts. Outside were a bunch of children with a few of the parents and when they saw us they all started to wave! The two of us saved like crazy and blew them kisses back! It was at this point they all ran over to say hello. It took all my will not to ditch the ceremony and play with them instead! They were all so cute! ๐Ÿ˜

Another 40 minutes and we were parked up near to the border entrance. Our tuktuk driver paired us up with an Indian guy on our tuktuk to me sure we didn’t get lost which was lovely. I’m sure the guy didn’t mind too much because apparently if you’re a tourist or a tourist’s “guide” then you get special treatment and don’t have to be squashed in the crowded area like everyone else. Not sure how I feel about that… 
Anyway, we got ourselves seated and looked around the stadium. It was truly incredible to see the turnout of people who came to a ceremony that happens EVERY DAY! By the time the ceremony started,  the Indian side was completely rammed with people chanting and cheering “INDISTAN” to show their support and gratefulness that they are now at peace with each other. 

The ceremony itself was pretty awesome to watch as the soldiers marched and did an identical step routine to the other side as they brought down their flags. 

We made our way out with our new buddy to find our way back to the tuktuk. Back at the hostel we grabbed our bags and jumped into another tuktuk to the train station, headed for Delhi. 

Celeste

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