5 reasons why you should visit Amritsar
Our time spend in India had been rather fluid but the date for visiting Amritsar had been set in stone some six months previous. Our friend Helen was coming out to join us for the final six weeks of our time in India and we were excited to be sharing our experiences of this fascinating country with her. Amritsar as it turned out, was a great introduction to the complexities of India for her and we think it should be on everyone’s India itinerary. Here’s our top five reasons why you should visit.
1. Amritsar Bed and Breakfast
If you are a foodie, this is the place to stay in Amritsar. Gregarious host Vivek, will take you to breakfast at one of his favourite local haunts every morning. His wife, cook extraordinaire, Sangeeta will prepare you the tastiest and most generous of dinners. Her love of cooking shines through in her food and her joy at seeing you enjoy it is endearing.
Vivek and Sangeeta hospitality and friendliness made our stay at Amritsar Bed and Breakfast an absolute pleasure. Yes, the bed was a little firm for us delicate Westerners and our bathroom could have done with some updating, but you go for the amazing welcome, great conversation and incredible food!!
2. The Golden Temple
At the time of our visit, Amritsar was a bit of a mess. The whole city was being dug up…
Getting around was a nightmare and the whole place as full of dust, rubble and the stink of exhausts fumes. But, oh the Golden Temple… Cover your head, wash your hands and feet then walk in under the Clock Tower. Suddenly you’ll find yourself in an oasis of calm, peace and tranquillity. The Golden Temple is magical. Visit during the day and at night.
The community kitchen, known as a langar feeds an incredible 40,000 people per day! Everyone, regardless of faith and background is welcome. We made our donation and grabbed a plate, bowl and spoon then headed into the fray. It’s a vast undertaking and is organised like a military operation. We found a queue and were herded into an enormous dining room. Everyone sits in rows on the floor as equals and volunteers dollop generous tasty portions of dahl, rice, vegetables and roti on to your plate.
But be quick! The cleaners do not wait and we found ourselves being swept out as they prepared for the next group of diners! There certainly wasn’t time to take any photos.
The preparation of food and the clear up were just a fascinating as dining in the langar itself.
4. Wagah Border Ceremony
The pomp and ceremony (and general showing off) of the Wagah Border Ceremony between India and Pakistan must be experienced to be believed.
As soon as we exited the car we were besieged. Young men attacked us with paint brushes to daub the India flag on our faces or anywhere they could reach. Which we then had to pay for.
Once decorated we were led to the stands. There was building work going on here too! To be fair, on the Indian side they need to accommodate ever growing number of visitors, both Indian and foreign who flock to this daily event.
The official purpose of the ceremony is to lower the national flag and close the border for the night. After various patriotic activities from Bollywood-style dancing and running with the Indian flag which Helen and Eliza got involved with to rapturous applause from the crowds, the main event began.
There were seriously high, high kicks, salutes, chest-beating, foot stomping, blaring music, general swagger as the two sides tried to outdo each other. The over-the-top uniforms with their fan-like tops and neatly oiled moustaches added to the theatre.
Thoroughly entertaining and an interesting insight into Indian nationalism.
5. Amritsari Fish
Vivek recommended a stand on the highway to try Amritsari fish so on our way to the border ceremony we stopped for a late lunch. We selected our fresh fish whilst trying to ignore the swarms of flies that kept trying to land on it. The cook filleted and coated our fish in a spicy batter with lemon, chilli, garlic and ginger before throwing it in a pan of hot oil.
Lip-smackingly good as they like to say in India.