By 6:15am the guys were in the lobby and ready to go. We started walking and then called “the guy”… unfortunately he said he would be at the shop by 7am, and not at 6:30am as previously discussed. Unfortunately this was too late for us so we turned back. At 7am we picked up our packed breakfasts and boarded the bus. It was a full size bus which can hold 35, but we only had 13, so lots of room for everyone. We quickly found out that there was no heating on the bus, and with the temperature outside around 6 degrees it was quite cold, but it did eventually warm up as the sun came up. On the way out of the city I spotted an ad for a car that stated “It drives so smooth that you feel like you are driving abroad”. We soon realized why this would be a huge selling point. The bus ride that entire day felt like an experiment in shaking people! We arrived at Amritsar shortly after 10am and took a donkey-rickshaw from the bus parking to the heart of town right by the GoldenTemple.
As soon as we stepped off we had someone putting a head cover on our heads for a mere 10R (around 20 cents). We made our way to the entrance and first thing we had to do was take off our shoes and socks. Only bare feet allowed, we were quite relieved that it was getting warmer J. When we finally made it to the entrance of the complex the view was stunning! It is completely indescribable, and even the pictures cannot give away the enormity of the whole area, and the shine of the GoldenTemple. There were people taking a dip in the “pool of nectar”, and many splashing themselves and drinking the water from it. Jaspreet took us around and explained the significance of each part of the temple.
We then waited in a very long line to get a glimpse of the inside of the temple. After over an hour we did and it was quite a site, especially from the roof of the temple.
Next we went to eat at the free kitchen. That was quite an experience as well, and also a marvel of efficiency. Everyone is given a plate, spoon and bowl, then they all follow the stairs to the second level and crowd around the doors which all of a sudden open. Everyone rushes inside and is seated in rows on the floor with plates and bowls in front. Then people with buckets full of food and ladles quickly go through the rows and fill your plate with 3 local dishes. All of them non-spicy and all vegetable based. One was actually quite sweet, and all three tasted really good. Then they come and give you flat pita type bread, and fill your bowl with water. As you eat they keep coming around to see if you would like more. After around 5 minutes most people are done and get up with their plates/bowls/spoon and head to the exit. As you are walking out there is a set of people collecting the spoons, then another set the bowls, and then plates. You walk by an army of people who are washing dishes, preparing the food, chopping vegetables, and restocking. Quite an experience!
We said goodbye to the GoldenTemple and departed for the Wagah border.
When we go there we found it to be quite a tourist attraction. The bus parks about 1km from the border and you walk the rest of the way surrounded by people who are there to sell you food, drinks, postcards, dvd’s and all kind of souvenirs. Finally you get to the first checkpoint where they look at you and let you pass. There is a different line for foreigners and a different one for locals. After the first checkpoint you then go through a second where you need to take our everything from your pockets and get padded down. Next checkpoint once again you have to take out everything, show your passport, and get padded down. Finally you get to the stands and are directed to where to sit. We sat watching as both sides (Indian and Pakistani) filled up with spectators. Finally the ceremony started. The pictures and videos below will show much more than I could explain in this write up.
After the ceremony we walked back to the bus and headed back. We stopped at a Dharba to get some late “fast Indian food” dinner and then continued on our way. We were back at the hotel close to 11pm and ready to go to sleep after a very very long day.