Live dangerously: eat in India

Trip Start Feb 06, 2005
Trip End Jul 2005

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

After 15 hours of flat plains from Gorakhpur to Delhi we thought that there would have to be some change due soon, but the 9 hours we spent from Delhi to Amritsar proved us wrong. Its not that i've never seen so much flat space, i've flown over Oz and seen the African savannahs (ok, only on documentaries, but it still counts), but in India it's all cultivated. There are people everywhere. I think it's here that it actually hits you how crowded this country really is.
Not that it's inspiring in any way. The best description i've heard is by Terry Pratchett: "Sometimes he'd see people hard at work in the distance. As far as he could tell, their chief activity was moving mud around. Occasionally he'd see a man standing ankle deep in a flooded field holding a water buffalo on the end of a length of string. The buffalo grazed and occasionally moved its bowels. The man held the string. It seemed to be his entire goal and occupation in life."
Amritsar is similarly a very uninspiring town, famous for two things: the Golden Temple, which is Sikhism's biggest, and the closing ceremony at the Pakistani border. Our aim was to arrive early in the morning, go and see the temple, get a cab to the ceremony and leave first thing in the morning, thus minimising our time in what is, essentially, just another boring grey city.
The plan was working great until we decided to treat ourselves to a nice lunch in a posh establishment with air conditioning (ooh la la). My careful avoidance of meat while I was in India paid off when i proved that even vegetarians can get food poisoning (ha ha, I return to being a carnivor with satisfaction).
The Golden Temple was impressive, but even then I knew something wasn't right and it was with great effort that I forced myself to the closing of the gates. If the half hour taxi ride was painful, imagine how much fun it was trying to get a glimpse of the show while being sardined by the usual Indian crowd. It was hot, it was sweaty and most of them smelt like they'd missed their monthly bath. Joe worked miracles though and managed to get us into the VIP area.
The show is pretty impressive. The guards march as fast as they can, stomping their feet so hard we thought they must have broken toes. There is slamming of gates, rude saluting and chanting on both sides of the border. Then, after the show, we got mobbed by locals hassling us for photos with them. A few questions about where we're from and we become one of those stories they tell about how they've got friends in Australia. So in hindsight it was a good afternoon, but at the time I just wanted to kill everyone so I could go back to my room and die.
I didn't see much of Amritsar, despite the extra day I spent there. But I reckon I could tell you in detail all about our room's ceiling and the back of the bathroom door.
By the second morning the fever had broken, the migraine was gone, I was a couple of kilos lighter and we decided to run for it. With the help of Immodium, we jumped on a bus to Dharamasala, figuring anywhere else was better than the city of evil we were escaping.
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