I can’t believe I’m writing about our last stop in India – it seems like just yesterday that we landed in Trivandrum, all fresh faced, bright eyed, pale and clean! Who would have thought that we would traverse the entire country from south to north in one month, gaining experiences I can’t even properly describe, all while slowly lowering our standards for hygiene.
Mike and I took another side trip while in Punjab to visit Amritsar. This city is known for the beautiful Golden Temple and it’s proximity to the Pakistani border (hence, literally the last stop in India). Mike’s cousin, Jyotika, was gracious enough to organize a taxi to drive the 4 hour journey from Ludhiana to Amritsar. Along the way, we ate our super healthy packed lunches of pooris, cold coffee and Fanta, all while drifting in and out of sleep (for those who don’t know me, I can fall asleep in any moving vehicle whether it’s a car, bus, subway, train, plane etc). We finally arrived in Amritsar and made a beeline to the Golden Temple. All I can say to describe it is “boy, is it gold!” The actual temple is surrounded by a body of water that resembles a moat and is enclosed by colonial-looking white buildings all around. There were a lot of people there even though it was considered a “slow” day. The Golden Temple is one of the holiest temples for Sikhs and they bathe in the water around the temple to purify themselves. You can buy offerings (food, flowers etc) to bring into the temple and we thought about it but found out from another tourist that the lineup would take 2 hours. Maybe if we were devout Sikhs or if it wasn’t 35C outside, we would’ve braved the lineup but we were sweating just standing still in the shade so admiring the temple from afar would suffice.
Next, we visited Mike’s cousin who is in the Indian Army. He sent an army truck to pick us up which only had seats in the open back. With Mike and I sitting there, passerbys probably thought either 1. “Who are those foreigners? Are they important somehow?” or 2. “What did those foreigners do this time to get arrested by the army?”. I’m pretty sure it was the latter since after a month of backpacking, we looked more like vagrants than foreign dignitaries.
After lunch with Mike’s cousin, we headed off (still in the army truck) to the India-Pakistan border in Wagah to watch the border closing ceremony. All I can say is that Indians are patriotic when it comes to competing against Pakistan. That may be a gross understatement but it was insane! There’s stadium seating on both sides of the border gates and the 2 countries compete in fanatic cheering, flag waving and flamboyant gesturing. There’s even a hype-man dressed in an all white sweat suit with “INDIA” on the back of it, white sneakers and a whistle to rouse up the crowd. The soldiers start off by yelling as long as they can into the hype-man’s microphone (at which point I started giggling) and then perform all these high kicks and salutes (at this point I’m laughing out loud) one at a time (which means I laughed hysterically 5 more times). I swear, some of the kicks were so high, I thought they would knock themselves out. With their tall feathered hats, it reminded me of birds and their mating dances that you see on the Discovery Channel.
We then took off on the 4 hour trip back to Ludhiana in the dark which was like a roller coaster ride! The taxi driver was a good driver but in the dark, Indian roads are another story. He would pass large trucks with only one lane and cut cars off, all while honking the horn because apparently if you honk the horn, you can do whatever you want. At one point, we were driving on a pile of sand used for construction in the middle of the road trying to look for a shallow way of getting off the mound and back onto the paved road. You think that’s crazy, the crazier thing was that we weren’t the only cars doing that – there were at least 5 other cars around us all trying to find a “safe” way back onto the road. We also passed through farmland where the fog was so thick, we couldn’t see more than 2 feet ahead of the car hood. It was slightly scary but also very calming for some reason.
We finally got home and packed our stuff since we’re heading back to Delhi to do some souvenir shopping before returning back to Western civilization. No, I’m not talking about coming home to Canada but heading off to the mirage city of Dubai!