Trip Report: One Day In Amritsar

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Nov 16th, 2018, 05:42 AM
  #1
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Trip Report: One Day In Amritsar

We spent one full day (two nights) in Amritsar as a “bridge” between Nepal and Pakistan for our two-plus week South Asia trip. Amritsar easily exceeded expectations, and the experience of visiting the Golden Temple arguably beats the Taj Mahal. Amritsar doesn’t really fit nicely into the typical first-time trip to India, but experienced travelers would be wise to visit the Golden Temple at some point. What follows are some trip notes.

BASIC ITINERARY

Day 0: KTM-DEL-ATQ on Jet (9W), arriving in Amritsar at 9:25pm

Day 1: Full day in Amritsar

Day 2: Depart for Wagah Border at 10am

PLANNING A TRIP TO AMRITSAR

Amritsar was somewhat of an afterthought because we’d previously been to India, and were planning a trip that focused on Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It’s basically impossible to fly directly between Pakistan and any of the other countries in the subcontinent, so we considered the possibility of using Amritsar as a “bridge.”

Using Amritsar as a “bridge” between Pakistan and the rest of the subcontinent works out *much* better going from Amritsar to Pakistan than the reverse, due to the India eVOA. We’d originally planned to first visit Pakistan and then cross into Amritsar. Then we realized that the India eVOA won’t work if we enter India via the Wagah land border crossing. So, we decided to reverse the trip, fly KTM-DEL-ATQ, and officially enter India at DEL using the India eVOA.

WHAT TO DO IN AMRITSAR

The Golden Temple and the Wagah border crossing ceremony are the main highlights of a typical trip to Amritsar. (Unless you’re a Sikh pilgrim, where there are many other temples.) Our experience at the Golden Temple is in the next section. We saw the Wagah border ceremony from the Pakistani side, and will discuss the ceremony in a different report.

On our one full day in Amritsar, we ended up getting a late (10:30 or 11am) start, and spent the rest of the day at the Golden Temple and the Langar (kitchen / mess hall) because we enjoyed it so much. So, we didn’t cover any other sites in Amritsar that I had noted as possible stops if we had the time.

The other sites that we didn’t visit include: Jallianwalla Bagh (a memorial for the British troops’ massacre of local protesters); Partition Museum; Hall Bazaar; and Durgiana Temple (a Hindu temple that’s a replica of the Golden Temple). None of these sites seemed like must-sees in relation to the Golden Temple.

One full day in Amritsar was perfect for us. We’d originally planned to visit the Golden Temple in the morning and then cross over into Pakistan in the afternoon. This plan seemed doable but a little rushed. We loved the Golden Temple so much that we’re very glad we had a full day in Amritsar.

If you’re planning on visiting the Wagah border ceremony from the Indian side, you might want to consider a slightly more time in Amritsar. You probably need to leave for the border by 1:30 or 2pm, which will cut your day in Amritsar short.

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

The Golden Temple is amazing. The Taj Mahal might be more beautiful, but the Golden Temple is perhaps a more special place to visit because it’s an active holy / pilgrimage site rather than a historical site. Visiting the Golden Temple is a bit like what we’d imagine it would be like to visit Mecca.

We started off visiting the Guru-Ka-Langarh (the Langar, i.e., the kitchen / mess hall). The Langar apparently serves 100,000 or more pilgrims a day, for free. This is an operation of monumental scale, and it was amazing to see this operation in action. One of the volunteers showed us around the entire four-story facility. We saw the chefs preparing and carrying around huge vats of chai tea and daal (lentils) and rice that are the sizes of small jacuzzis. We saw a huge room with of rows and rows of women flattening dough balls and tossing them onto the grills to make breads (chapatti, roti, etc.). We saw a row of 100 men synchronously washing dishes. We saw huge storage rooms full of rice, flour, lentils, etc. Everyone involved – the chefs, the dish washers, the naan bread makers, etc. – is apparently a volunteer.

The logistics to make the Langar work are mind-boggling, and we’ve never seen anything like this before. We sampled much of the food during our walk around the kitchens, and it was great. Though, we felt a little gross walking around the kitchen barefoot; there was no shortage of daal in our toes.

After visiting the Langar, we entered the temple complex. No shoes and socks, and both men and women need to cover their hair. Everyone must dip their feet into some sort of water before entering the temple complex; not sure if this is for cleanliness or some sort of ritual purification. Between walking around the kitchen barefoot for two hours, having to put our feet into this water, and walking around the temple complex barefoot for the rest of the day, we’re mildly shocked that nothing happened to our feet.

We saw relatively few (maybe 10 to 15) Western tourists during our entire day at the temple, and the overwhelming majority of the people at the temple are Sikh worshipers. So, the place feels totally real, rather than like a tourist attraction. Many people asked us for selfies, struck up conversations, welcomed us, etc. While a Westerner may look out of place at the temple, absolutely nobody made us feel like we shouldn’t be there. The Sikhs seem proud of their religion and of the temple, and are very happy to share it with others.

The temple, the lake, the bridge, and the surrounding buildings all look as beautiful in the pictures. Walking all around the temple complex is a great experience – people watching and meeting.

We’d read about lines of 2+ hours to go inside the temple itself (i.e., the building that’s in the middle of the lake). We weren’t even going to bother, but a guy at our hotel said lines are better in the afternoon. We checked out the line at 4pm, and were told that it would only be a 5-10 minute wait (which it was). It was great to see inside the temple; it’s beautifully decorated and there are men reading giant holy books. But we wouldn’t have wanted to wait 2 hours for it. Ask around to figure out when the lines are likely to be shortest.

Visiting the temple at night is special. The temple and the buildings in the complex are all lit up. I returned at night to get some night shots. Also, there is evening procession at 9 or 10pm where the main holy book is taken out of the temple and returned to “bed” for the night. I saw the start of this procession, and it was a lot of lively singing and marching.

GENERAL NOTES ON AMRITSAR

Amritsar surprisingly didn’t feel like the rest of India. While we spent most of our time at or around the temple, we were pleased at how clean and civilized Amritsar is. Or at least the parts that we saw. Amritsar is a city of over 1 million, and we expected the typical urban Indian mess that we’ve seen in other cities like horrible air pollution, trash and cow dung everywhere, shantytowns, begging children, etc. We saw none of this in Amritsar. Perhaps this is elsewhere in the city and the areas around the Golden Temple are cleaned up, but we were pleasantly surprised at how put-together Amritsar is.

HOTEL

We stayed at the Hotel Urban Galaxy. We paid 1800 rupees ($25) per night, including breakfast. This is a great mid-range (3*) option that is a two minutes’ walk to the Golden Temple. There are many mid-range hotels around the Golden Temple, and we chose the Urban Galaxy because it seemed to have the best reviews on TA.

The hotel seems newly built, so everything worked well. The hotel was clean and comfortable, and the hot water was good. The service was great, though it seemed like we were the only people staying there.

FOOD

Kulcha bread is an Amritsar specialty, and it’s delicious. It’s essentially naan that’s covered in butter and spices. It’s somewhat of a breakfast food, so it’s difficult to buy in the evenings. Our hotel served it with our breakfast.

We ate lunch at the “langar” (dining room) of the Golden Temple, as discussed above.

There are tons of restaurants and street food stands in the streets surrounding the Golden Temple. The food caters to Indian/Sikh tourists and pilgrims, not Westerners, so the quality, authenticity and prices are very good. For dinner, we walked around and had a sampling of various street foods and cheap eats at places that seemed popular and look good.

GETTING AROUND AMRITSAR

Uber works in Amritsar, but Uber won’t pick up or drop off within a certain area around the Golden Temple. If we wanted to use Uber, we’d have to walk 5 minutes from our hotel to the Uber pickup point. Apparently cars are not allowed in the streets surrounding the temple.

We arranged for our hotel to pick us up at the airport upon our arrival. For whatever reason, the hotel’s cars can drive directly to the hotel – even though Uber and the pre-paid airport taxis can’t. Before you get to Amritsar, find out if Uber or taxis are allowed to drop off directly at your hotel.

ATQ AIRPORT

ATQ airport was modern, clean and calm. There is an ATM that worked with my Schwab Visa ATM card, but not with my Citi MC ATM card.
LAX_Esq is offline  
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Nov 16th, 2018, 08:04 AM
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Very interesting report. Never thought of visiting Amritsar. But maybe will look into it for future trips.
Yes, the Golden Temple is beautiful, the langars are famous and the generosity of the Sikh people is well known.
Glad to hear also that the area is neat and clean unlike most of India.
You have a wonderful time and are the sharing of your experience will help other tourists visit this amazing area and learn more about the Sikh religion and the hard working and generous Sikhs.
Have a great weekend.
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Nov 16th, 2018, 08:17 AM
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We too had a short stop there and saw the GT at night, amazing and not too crowded, the border show for the changing of the guard where he who out struts wins and the site where Gen. Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on men, women and children, heart breaking.

We we also stayed at a 3 * hotel, not bad especially for the price.

It is not touristy and is certainly memorable.

Thanks for the TR.

Larry
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Nov 16th, 2018, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
We spent one full day (two nights) in Amritsar as a “bridge” between Nepal and Pakistan for our two-plus week South Asia trip. Amritsar easily exceeded expectations, and the experience of visiting the Golden Temple arguably beats the Taj Mahal. Amritsar doesn’t really fit nicely into the typical first-time trip to India, but experienced travelers would be wise to visit the Golden Temple at some point. What follows are some trip notes.

BASIC ITINERARY

Day 0: KTM-DEL-ATQ on Jet (9W), arriving in Amritsar at 9:25pm

Day 1: Full day in Amritsar

Day 2: Depart for Wagah Border at 10am

PLANNING A TRIP TO AMRITSAR

Amritsar was somewhat of an afterthought because we’d previously been to India, and were planning a trip that focused on Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It’s basically impossible to fly directly between Pakistan and any of the other countries in the subcontinent, so we considered the possibility of using Amritsar as a “bridge.”

Using Amritsar as a “bridge” between Pakistan and the rest of the subcontinent works out *much* better going from Amritsar to Pakistan than the reverse, due to the India eVOA. We’d originally planned to first visit Pakistan and then cross into Amritsar. Then we realized that the India eVOA won’t work if we enter India via the Wagah land border crossing. So, we decided to reverse the trip, fly KTM-DEL-ATQ, and officially enter India at DEL using the India eVOA.

WHAT TO DO IN AMRITSAR

The Golden Temple and the Wagah border crossing ceremony are the main highlights of a typical trip to Amritsar. (Unless you’re a Sikh pilgrim, where there are many other temples.) Our experience at the Golden Temple is in the next section. We saw the Wagah border ceremony from the Pakistani side, and will discuss the ceremony in a different report.

On our one full day in Amritsar, we ended up getting a late (10:30 or 11am) start, and spent the rest of the day at the Golden Temple and the Langar (kitchen / mess hall) because we enjoyed it so much. So, we didn’t cover any other sites in Amritsar that I had noted as possible stops if we had the time.

The other sites that we didn’t visit include: Jallianwalla Bagh (a memorial for the British troops’ massacre of local protesters); Partition Museum; Hall Bazaar; and Durgiana Temple (a Hindu temple that’s a replica of the Golden Temple). None of these sites seemed like must-sees in relation to the Golden Temple.

One full day in Amritsar was perfect for us. We’d originally planned to visit the Golden Temple in the morning and then cross over into Pakistan in the afternoon. This plan seemed doable but a little rushed. We loved the Golden Temple so much that we’re very glad we had a full day in Amritsar.

If you’re planning on visiting the Wagah border ceremony from the Indian side, you might want to consider a slightly more time in Amritsar. You probably need to leave for the border by 1:30 or 2pm, which will cut your day in Amritsar short.

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

The Golden Temple is amazing. The Taj Mahal might be more beautiful, but the Golden Temple is perhaps a more special place to visit because it’s an active holy / pilgrimage site rather than a historical site. Visiting the Golden Temple is a bit like what we’d imagine it would be like to visit Mecca.

We started off visiting the Guru-Ka-Langarh (the Langar, i.e., the kitchen / mess hall). The Langar apparently serves 100,000 or more pilgrims a day, for free. This is an operation of monumental scale, and it was amazing to see this operation in action. One of the volunteers showed us around the entire four-story facility. We saw the chefs preparing and carrying around huge vats of chai tea and daal (lentils) and rice that are the sizes of small jacuzzis. We saw a huge room with of rows and rows of women flattening dough balls and tossing them onto the grills to make breads (chapatti, roti, etc.). We saw a row of 100 men synchronously washing dishes. We saw huge storage rooms full of rice, flour, lentils, etc. Everyone involved – the chefs, the dish washers, the naan bread makers, etc. – is apparently a volunteer.

The logistics to make the Langar work are mind-boggling, and we’ve never seen anything like this before. We sampled much of the food during our walk around the kitchens, and it was great. Though, we felt a little gross walking around the kitchen barefoot; there was no shortage of daal in our toes.

After visiting the Langar, we entered the temple complex. No shoes and socks, and both men and women need to cover their hair. Everyone must dip their feet into some sort of water before entering the temple complex; not sure if this is for cleanliness or some sort of ritual purification. Between walking around the kitchen barefoot for two hours, having to put our feet into this water, and walking around the temple complex barefoot for the rest of the day, we’re mildly shocked that nothing happened to our feet.

We saw relatively few (maybe 10 to 15) Western tourists during our entire day at the temple, and the overwhelming majority of the people at the temple are Sikh worshipers. So, the place feels totally real, rather than like a tourist attraction. Many people asked us for selfies, struck up conversations, welcomed us, etc. While a Westerner may look out of place at the temple, absolutely nobody made us feel like we shouldn’t be there. The Sikhs seem proud of their religion and of the temple, and are very happy to share it with others.

The temple, the lake, the bridge, and the surrounding buildings all look as beautiful in the pictures. Walking all around the temple complex is a great experience – people watching and meeting.

We’d read about lines of 2+ hours to go inside the temple itself (i.e., the building that’s in the middle of the lake). We weren’t even going to bother, but a guy at our hotel said lines are better in the afternoon. We checked out the line at 4pm, and were told that it would only be a 5-10 minute wait (which it was). It was great to see inside the temple; it’s beautifully decorated and there are men reading giant holy books. But we wouldn’t have wanted to wait 2 hours for it. Ask around to figure out when the lines are likely to be shortest.

Visiting the temple at night is special. The temple and the buildings in the complex are all lit up. I returned at night to get some night shots. Also, there is evening procession at 9 or 10pm where the main holy book is taken out of the temple and returned to “bed” for the night. I saw the start of this procession, and it was a lot of lively singing and marching.

GENERAL NOTES ON AMRITSAR

Amritsar surprisingly didn’t feel like the rest of India. While we spent most of our time at or around the temple, we were pleased at how clean and civilized Amritsar is. Or at least the parts that we saw. Amritsar is a city of over 1 million, and we expected the typical urban Indian mess that we’ve seen in other cities like horrible air pollution, trash and cow dung everywhere, shantytowns, begging children, etc. We saw none of this in Amritsar. Perhaps this is elsewhere in the city and the areas around the Golden Temple are cleaned up, but we were pleasantly surprised at how put-together Amritsar is.

HOTEL

We stayed at the Hotel Urban Galaxy. We paid 1800 rupees ($25) per night, including breakfast. This is a great mid-range (3*) option that is a two minutes’ walk to the Golden Temple. There are many mid-range hotels around the Golden Temple, and we chose the Urban Galaxy because it seemed to have the best reviews on TA.

The hotel seems newly built, so everything worked well. The hotel was clean and comfortable, and the hot water was good. The service was great, though it seemed like we were the only people staying there.

FOOD

Kulcha bread is an Amritsar specialty, and it’s delicious. It’s essentially naan that’s covered in butter and spices. It’s somewhat of a breakfast food, so it’s difficult to buy in the evenings. Our hotel served it with our breakfast.

We ate lunch at the “langar” (dining room) of the Golden Temple, as discussed above.

There are tons of restaurants and street food stands in the streets surrounding the Golden Temple. The food caters to Indian/Sikh tourists and pilgrims, not Westerners, so the quality, authenticity and prices are very good. For dinner, we walked around and had a sampling of various street foods and cheap eats at places that seemed popular and look good.

GETTING AROUND AMRITSAR

Uber works in Amritsar, but Uber won’t pick up or drop off within a certain area around the Golden Temple. If we wanted to use Uber, we’d have to walk 5 minutes from our hotel to the Uber pickup point. Apparently cars are not allowed in the streets surrounding the temple.

We arranged for our hotel to pick us up at the airport upon our arrival. For whatever reason, the hotel’s cars can drive directly to the hotel – even though Uber and the pre-paid airport taxis can’t. Before you get to Amritsar, find out if Uber or taxis are allowed to drop off directly at your hotel.

ATQ AIRPORT

ATQ airport was modern, clean and calm. There is an ATM that worked with my Schwab Visa ATM card, but not with my Citi MC ATM card.
WOW!
Hope you enjoyed the serenity and holiness of Gurudwara.
Mouthwatering Langars.
scenic beauty of The Golden Temple.( Going to these holy places Calms the mind and gives inner peace)
Stay Blessed my Friend .
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Nov 16th, 2018, 10:44 PM
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A whiff of fresh air, Ladies & Gentlemen!
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Nov 18th, 2018, 03:41 PM
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If you haven’t seen the changing of the guard at the border see it or at least look at it on you tube.
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Nov 18th, 2018, 11:16 PM
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Thank You so much for the One Day Itinerary In Amritsar
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Nov 19th, 2018, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by vp_singh View Post
A whiff of fresh air, Ladies & Gentlemen!
I concur
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Nov 19th, 2018, 08:16 PM
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Thank you LAX for this report about one of THE greatest places in India. The Golden Temple is best seen in the daytime, as well as at night. It's community in daytime, and it's magical and peaceful after sunset.

In addition to historical places mentioned above, being within the Golden Temple complex gives some context to tragic events leading to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
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Nov 20th, 2018, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by CaliNurse View Post
Thank you LAX for this report about one of THE greatest places in India. The Golden Temple is best seen in the daytime, as well as at night. It's community in daytime, and it's magical and peaceful after sunset.

In addition to historical places mentioned above, being within the Golden Temple complex gives some context to tragic events leading to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
That is very true. If you ever are in Delhi and haven't seen it go to her home which is now a shrine to her life and to her assasinated son Rajiv too though to a lesser extent.
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