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Hi everybody! Hope you all enjoyed reading my previous post:  My Travel Diary – Mumbai to New Delhi

Here’s the next part…

13.06.2013

At 6:45am in the morning, I took the taxi for ISBT at Kashmiri Gate from where Volvo buses left for Amritsar. It had rained during the night. At the ISBT, I was told that there were no buses leaving for Amritsar till 11:30am and due to rains the probability of the bus being on time was quite low. Since the bus ride was around 9 hours or so it didn’t seem wise to land in a city at night without a hotel reservation.  A bus conductor told me that his bus went up to Jalandhar and from there Amritsar was just two hours away.

Finally, I decided to proceed to Chandigarh and spend a night there. There were plenty of Volvo buses proceeding for that city and the bus journey was of five hours. It started raining heavily on the way. Having had a chocolate pastry as breakfast, my lunch was a chocolate brownie and breadsticks.

At the Chandigarh bus stand, I enquired about Volvo buses for Amritsar. The guy behind the counter was very helpful. He told me that buses for Amritsar left from another ISBT in Sector 43 and wrote down the bus timings for me on a piece of paper. He seemed like a good guy so I asked him whether he could recommend some good hotels in or around Sector 43. He wrote down a hotel name “GK President” which he said was quite good and within my budget. I decided to go to the ISBT first and then to the hotel. I didn’t want to take an auto rickshaw because I knew they would ask for more than twice the normal fare from me. I saw a few local buses passing by and thought it would be a cheap and a convenient mode of transport.  A few youngsters helped me board the right bus and I was soon on my way to the ISBT. After checking up the place from where the bus for Amritsar departed, I took another bus that would drop me close to the hotel recommended to me. From there I was told an auto rickshaw ride would cost 20 rupees but when I stopped one which was passing by, the driver said it would cost me 50 rupees. Cheat!  I walked a bit ahead and got an auto rickshaw with the normal fare of 20 rupees. The hotel looked good and my room seemed okay till I noticed the water from the room air conditioner dripping on the bathroom floor. I immediately asked for and got another room.

Since I had been to Chandigarh before and had visited most of the city, I decided to rest in my room for the day. It had been an enjoyable ride in the local bus and the people had been warm and helpful. Trying to grasp their heavy accented Hindi was a bit difficult at times as I wasn’t able to figure out whether they were speaking in Hindi or Punjabi. Still, it was fun interacting with them. The food at the hotel was delicious too. I loved the chicken curry that I had ordered in my room for dinner.

14.06.2013

After a yummy breakfast of aloo parathas and a glass of hot milk, I was ready for my journey to Amritsar. It was 8am when I reached the ISBT. There I was told that the Volvo bus for Amritsar would arrive at 10:30am. Another guy told me it would come at 12 noon. Not wanting to waste any more time in waiting for Volvo buses, I enquired about any other bus leaving for Amritsar. To my surprise, there were A/C buses for Amritsar leaving every hour. It was then that it struck me that the helpful guy at the ISBT had noted down for me the timings for the A/C buses instead of Volvo buses. There was a bus waiting at the gate and I boarded it immediately. On the way after an hour or so, the bus ran into some problem and we had to wait in the simmering heat till another bus proceeding to Amritsar passed by. After a seven-hour long journey, the bus reached Amritsar at around 4pm. I checked out for buses to Dalhousie for the next day and learned that there was only one direct bus for Dalhousie departing at 9:10am. Otherwise there were buses (both Volvo as well as local) departing for Pathankot at regular intervals during the day. From Pathankot I could take another bus for Dalhousie. Since I had a heavy suitcase and a handbag, the direct bus was a good option.

It was nice to see cycle rickshaws in the city. I had luggage with me so I took an auto rickshaw instead for Queens Road. That was after a fair amount of haggling over the fare with some of the drivers. One of them had asked for 100 rupees! But I finally got an auto rickshaw that charged me the normal fare of 50 rupees. I had read that most of the good hotels were located on Queens Road and Hotel Shiraz Regency was a popular choice. But when I reached the hotel, I was told all the rooms were booked.  They recommended me a hotel just opposite the road – Country Inn & Suites By Carlson.

Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Amritsar

Really nice place, I thought, when I was offered a refreshing napkin and a welcome drink.  I had to make most of the remaining day- visit the Wagah Border and the Golden Temple. The former was a good 29 km away and I had to reach there as early as possible to witness the evening parade. A taxi was quickly arranged and I was soon on my way towards the country’s border with Pakistan.  The taxi driver drew my attention to the passing trucks from Pakistan carrying herbs, dry fruits, raw material for making cement, etc. Likewise, trucks from India were carrying foodstuff to Pakistan.

The Wagah Border

Bags had to be deposited at special counters before proceeding towards the Border gate area. I put my wallet, cell phone and digital camera in the pockets of my cargo pants and joined the huge crowd of more than three or four thousand people.

Swarupa at the Wagah Border near Amritsar

In this photo, I’m standing against the background of the Indian gate with the Indian flag flying high. The one beyond it is in Pakistan. The scene of action is this area between the two gates…

Dancing at the Wagah border

Patriotic songs and peppy numbers blared from the loudspeakers. People danced and cheered and waved Indian flags in the centre while I squirmed uncomfortably on the hot concrete seat which was burning my butt. Made me wonder why the others seated around weren’t suffering like me! On the other side of the gate, the Pakistanis were doing their own thing. Finally, the parade started…

Parade at the Wagah Border

I left the place a few minutes before the parade ended to avoid being in midst of huge crowds while exiting.

On the way back to the taxi, I stopped for a 500ml bottle of lemon drink. I guzzled down its contents and immediately reached for another bottle, emptying it too within a few seconds. The aroma of roasted corn on cob suddenly made me realize that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.  It tasted heavenly as I pounced on it greedily.

Returning back to the city, we passed by the Khalsa University.

Khalsa University in Amritsar

The taxi driver was very eager to show me the place and asked for permission at the main gate so that I could click some photographs of the University.

Later, I took a cycle rickshaw to go to the famous Golden Temple.

It looked so very  beautiful! Like in every other Gurdwara (place of worship of Sikhs), here too people have to cover their heads. In case they don’t have a suitable covering, the temple provides orange coloured-head scarves which are to be returned on the way out.

Swarupa at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

The holy shrine receives over 100000 visitors daily. I joined the huge queue of devotees to enter the temple sanctum.

It was fun ride in the cycle rickshaw back to my hotel till the driver stopped to pull up the hood of the rickshaw covering my view of the city. He said it was for my own good as there were plenty of chillar (hooligans?) on the streets.

Cycle rickshaws in Amritsar

At my hotel, there was a multi-cuisine buffet dinner but unfortunately I was losing my appetite for food. I settled for sweet corn chicken soup instead.

Coming up next:  My Travel Diary – Amritsar to Dalhousie and Khajjar

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