Amritsar Day 1

Trip Start Dec 08, 2008
Trip End Dec 24, 2008

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Flag of India  , Punjab,
Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ok, so we got up this morning hoping for a better day than yesterday. The travel agent worked very hard to help us reschedule our flight to Amritsar and we were going to try again this afternoon.

The morning is fairly uneventful. A nice breakfast with tea and lots of amazing toast. Devika appears to be a little under the weather. Nothing horrible yet, just general fatigue and congestion. We chat for a bit and then go downstairs and repack out traveling bags for only a single overnight trip.

I spend a little time blogging, processing photos and I check in with work while Rebecca does some reading or something.

The time to leave has come, we've got to leave like 3 or 4 hours before our flight in order to make it the 20-odd miles across town to the airport. So we make it there with a little time to spare. And we walk in the first door and there is this giant gorgeous waiting room.... lots of semi-comfortable seats that are actually movable. And they don't have integrated arrms!! So you could concievably lay across them if you needed to. And not only that, but there is a giant jumbotron screen at the end of the room that is showing the animal planet channel. And every couple of mintues it shows this nice overlay of which flights are pending, and their status (like security checking now, or boarding, etc). And we look at each other and say "Where was this room yesterday?!?!"

Anyway, we wait for about half an hour before our flight moves to the "Security Check" status, and we go through all of that quite smoothly, wait a little while and get on our flight.

The trip to Amritsar is quite quick, maybe an hour, maybe 90 minutes. I love short flights!

We get off and get in touch with the guy from the hotel. We meet up with him and walk out of the airport that looks like it's in all forms of construction. Then I see a sign that says "Amritsar International Airport" and I think "This is an international airport??" I mention that to the hotel guy and he's leading us to the car and he says that they were only granted the license or whatever to open an international airport like a year ago. And they bought up all the land around the place and they were building and building and expanding into a giant new terminal with a giant welded metal overhang high above the parking area. I think it's really gonig to be quite impressive and nice once it's done. But right now there is a lot of plywood and mud.

We're driven across town and it becomes apparent right away why some people think of Amritsar as a dirtly little city. It just seems lots more compact that any place we've been too thus far. I know that Delhi has a population of a zillion, and I know it's really cramped in places, but there is an actual feeling of openess to it much moreso than Amritsar. Every street in Amritsar feels dark, of course maybe part of that is that the weather was overcast, but I don't think that's it. It has that feeling like you see in movies sometimes, or maybe more in comics or aniime... almost like they buildings are wider at the top than they are at the bottom, and they squeeze together 3 or 4 stories up and don't let the sunlight in. I really don't know how it works, but the place just feels compressed. Not that that's a terrible thing, I got the feeling that it's got it's own eb and flow to the way things work, it would just take some getting used to in order to stay there for a prolonged period of time.

We get to the hotel, and we're being shown to our room by the sme guy that met us at the airport, who is the owner's son. And we find out the hotel is actually his old residence... he even said "like... I was born right here" So that made it kinda neat. The rooms are really quite spacious, the vews out the window aren't so great, but that's not their fault. It's a very nice little place with amazingly helpful people. And it's withing walking distance of both the Golden Temple (about 1 block away) and Jalianwalla Bagh (about 3 blocks away).

So we get all settled, then go downstairs to ask for help pin finding this restaurant that the Lonely Planet recommended. Some place called Sukrit, which is supposed to have amazing tandoori chicken. So we get a car over to where that restaurant is... which is in Nehru shopping mall in the newer portion of town. And have a pretty nice dinner. The tandoori chicken is very tasty, but even on medium spicy, it can kick your ass. Rebecca ordered a raita after the first couple of bites to help cool it down (worked very well), and we got ice cream for dessert, which also cooled us off just fine.

After diner we just decided to walk along the streets and look at all the shops and see what we coule find. The couple of shops that looked good to me, which had formal sarees and stuff in the windows, Rebecca nixed because she said they looked too expensive. She was probably right. But we found a little grocery store that had some of our favorite indian cookies and Rebecca actualy found some colorful hand towels that she loved.

But the real striking thing that caught us both off guard... is that there were no beggars. Nobody was looking for handouts, nobody was getting in our face trying to hock their wares, and if we did go into a shop, we were treated just like everybody else. And we both suddenly realized that while Amritsar seems a little rough around the edges to look at, we were both quite enjoying it because it allowed us to explore an Indian city and the Indian way of life without being stalked like walking money bags. So that part of the trip was quite nice.

We actually had a difficult time finding a cab or a tuk tuk to get back to the hotel. So we went back to the restaurant and asked them for help. They were happy to help and walked us out and found a tuk tuk for us and explained where we needed to go and we hopped in for the ride.

Once back at the hotel, we decided to walk over and visit the golden temple. It was already dark by this point, so we didn't know how it was going to work. It was easy to find, and we came up to one walkway and our first glimpse of it was pretty impressive. But it's a holy place, and you need to check in your shoes like you do at a bowling alley. Then you need to wash you hands and feet. They even make the foot washing easy by having these little troughs build into the walkway before you get to the holy place. And they run lukewarm water through the troughs 24/7 365 days per year. So you check in your shoes and socks, and get a head covering in these little buckets filled with kerchiefs that you take when you need one and put it back when you leave. And then you walk up to one of these little troughs and wade through it (they are only like 2 inches deep) and that's enough to be considered clean and respectful. Then you can go inside.

Inside is like a giant marbel courtyard with inlay work everywhere. And a giant square pool in the middle that is considered to contain holy water. Then at one side of the pool there is a walkway to a little island in the middle and that is where the golden temple is. And inside the temple (during the day) is the original Sikh holy book. The Guru Granth Sahib. So we went through all the lines, and walked to the island and passed through the room with the book, and the people singing holy songs over it (they do that 24/7 as well) It was pretty neat, and seeing it all at night was kinda special too.

We were just about to leave when a very nice Sikh gentleman walked up to us and asked where we were from and all that. And then informed us that there was gonig to be a closing ceremony in about 15-20 minutes. Where they would fetch a golden chariot, and dress it all up and then carry it out to the temple and get the holy book, then take it back to the place where it sleeps for the night. So we stuck around for that, which was quite a spectacle (I got some videos I'll try to post soon) And after all that, we went back to our room to turn in for the night.
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