We walked in to a travel agent in Dharamsala to ask for transport to Amritsar just as he had finished explaining to a nice Irish lady that there was only a 1% chance that he would be able to find someone to share her 2am Amritsar-taxi with. It seemed like a good match so we joined in to get moving again – it would have been too easy to just spend week after week in Dharamsala as it’s a really nice spot. The 5 hour drive was uneventful, apart from the killing or at least severe maiming of a black stray dog (the driver quickly stopped and rushed out to check…yes, the car was alright!).
Amritsar, or indeed the whole Punjab state, has really just one major tourist attraction; the Golden Temple – the holiest site in the Sikh faith. Sikhism is young as religions go, started by a Guru Nanak about 500 years ago – it’s a bit of a Hinduism-Islam mix that is nice enough to drop the horrible caste system. The temple is open to everyone of all casts and all creeds – they even serve everyone who wants food there for free, some 10,000 portions a day! The majority of Punjab is Sikh, and most men sport a beard+turban combination..some also carry a dagger or large sabre on the side. The golden temple is actually covered with real gold – some 100kg of leaf gold. Inside the temple there is a continuous readings of the sacred Sikh texts along with shabad kirtan music, all of which is also relayed on loud-speakers all over town. We could hear it constantly from our hotel room..and just in case we couldn’t there’s also a live TV channel for backup!
Circling around the temple we made lots of friends, people who wanted to tell us about the Sihk faith and the temple, people who wanted to interview us on how much we knew about the Sihk faith and the temple (perhaps for a school project), and endless amounts of people who wanted to take a photo with us / of us / wanted us to take a photo of them with our camera. We were asked some interesting questions..did we have a love-marriage or an arranged marriage? One person asked if I was Edel’s brother or her boss..? I’m her boss of course! From Amritsar we wanted to continue on to Manali – I wanted to start by train but Edel wanted to take the bus the whole way so we went with the bus..
We stayed just one night in Amritsar – I went back to the temple again at sunrise for some more photos and on the way back I was questioned by the police for taking pictures of a cow on the street!