Having had virtually no sleep we had a power nap and were up at 9:30. We had got 24 hours in Amritsar before catching a train onto Delhi and then to Jodhpur. We wanted to make the most of it and seeing as how neither Manali nor Amritsar were on our very sketchy plans we had no time to waste. Plan F was well under way now..
First stop was the Golden Temple. Amritsar is famous for its Golden Temple and it is like Mecca for the Sikhs. Both Al and I were mighty impressed with the fact that it was free entry unlike the extortionate Taj at RS750!! Not only was it free entry but you could even store your shoes and other belongings in the lockers for free. We spent a few hours just wandering around the temple basking in the peace and quiet as people came to pray and to bathe in the holy water. Turns out that yet again Al and I were drawing some attention and it wasn’t long before we’d got about 15 Indian lads all gathered around us wanting their photos taken.
As we were walking around we came across the dining room. We were aware it was free but were debating whether or not it was right to go and get some free dinner when two Sikh men thrust some plates into our hands and ushered us into the huge dining hall. You all sat in rows on the floor cross legged and waited for the food to be served. We held our hands out to have chapattis dropped into them followed by a scoop of dahl a scoop of rice and a scoop of something else which I have no idea what it was, it was nice though. We sat with literally hundreds of Sikhs having free dinner and you could even have seconds! Free is our favourite price and right now these Sikh fella’s and I were getting along just great!
After a few hours there we headed to a memorial called Jallianwala Bagh. This was a park where back during the times when Britain ruled in India we decided to massacre 2000 Indians just because they were protesting. We felt a bit awkward at first a bit like how I would imagine a German must feel in Normandy but within minutes we were the centre of attention again having our picture taken with the Indians. They seem to take the forgive and forget approach which is kind of nice.
A quick dash back to the hostel to get changed and we were back at the temple to catch a mini bus to Attari which is right on the border with Pakistan, much further and you’d be in Lahore. The border closing ceremony is a massive tourist attraction and something which Indian people are mad passionate about… anything to have one up on their rivals Pakistan. An hour in a cab and we hit the border, there was a huge queue but we were told to go straight to the front as we were VIP’s. We all thought that it was a bit strange to be treated at VIP’s for no reason at all, but we did as we were told. We walked down to the border waving our Indian flags chanting ‘Hindustan Jinderbad’ (India is the greatest).
Turns out you need your passport as ID when you get to the border ceremony although Al and I did not realise this and hadn’t got ours with us… amazingly, my Police ID card and a smile got us both through all the very high security and got us sat down with a great view of both sides of the border. Some Indian dressed in a white tracksuit comes running out of a building past a row of soldiers, who look like roosters, hands in the air chanting Hindustan Jinderbad.. he was like the warm up act and was utterly hilarious. He had everyone dancing and chanting as loud as we could so that we could prove our side was better than Pakistan’s feeble crowd.
The ceremony got under way and was the most over the top hilarious thing I have ever seen and looked like something out of Monty Pythons Ministry Of Silly Walks sketch as the soldiers kicked so high it looked like they might kick themselves in the face. The gates were flung open, two soldiers from each side shook hands (although it was clear they did not like doing) and then the flags were lowered and the gates slammed shut with such passion that they bounced back open. Then they march off down the road with the flags and that was it, the border was closed for the evening. Well, I say that, but just after the ceremony finished a coach load of tourists rolled up and after a bit of discussion were allowed back through to the Pakistan side.
On the way back to Amritsar we got chatting to the guys in our minibus and decided to go for a beer when we made it to town. Beer and food done and we were in bed by 10 as we had another full day of travel ahead of us the following day.
Amritsar in 24 hours… DONE!