A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Amritsar to McLeod Ganj....

Lama to you!

semi-overcast 25 °C

We left off in Amritsar about to visit the India Pakistan border... and what a day trip that was!

On the way we went to the Mata Temple in Amritsar. Now, the Hindu's know how to make a fun building of worship! They could teach a few of these Christians a thing or two! They appear to have based the temple on a mixture of the 'House of Fun' at Blackpool and Las Vegas. As you walk through the temple, you get greeted with multicolor Dieties, you crawl through the mouth of Ganesh and walk through a shallow tunnel of water into the hall of mirrors! All surrounded by mosaics and occassionally a small man who puts paint on your face and gives you some sweet rice to eat. Now that is what all religion should be like in my book!

We then jumped in a car to the India Pakisan border for a display of national pride! We reached the border and found out there are stands of seating and hundreds of people there to watch the border close for the night. Women from the stands get up and dance around on the army parade ground doing all the Bangra moves! Then there is a lot of flag waving on both sides of the closed gate. Then the master of ceremonies (who slightly resembled an Indian version of Michael Barrymoor) got up and started the crowd in cheers of Long Live India (Hindustan Zinzabad!) and 'All hail Baba G' whilst from over the gate Pakistan crowds retaliated with their chants. I particularly liked 'Baba Baba Baba! Gee Gee Gee' to the tune of Oggy Oggy Oggy.

After this there was a whole lot of hillarious marching and kicking from the police on either side. To see is to be believed.

They have then developed a fascinating way of displaying which nation is better. The head of the guards from each side gets miked up and holds a long note for as long as possible. The longer they hold the note, the louder the crowds cheer and apparently the better the country is. Whether the Pakistan or India guard lasts longest means they win! I think this is how all international disputes should now be sorted out! Stuff nuclear power, vocal exercises people! That is the way to success.

Now we have departed Amritsar and headed to McLeod Ganj, the home of the main man, the 14th Dalia Lama. In fact he is in town at the minute so lots of monks around... everyone loves a good monk! Now this place is a world away from the madness of Delhi. We are 1750m up in the foothills of the Himalayas and the scenery is breathtaking. The whole place is very chilled out. Generally lots of monks (I am very impressed with this so may repeat this fact a few times) and aging hippies. The town is full of Tibetan refugees and temples with prayer flags flying from every tree. Couple this with the fact there are wild monkeys everywhere hanging from buildings and temples, free cows chilling out in every spare space and falcans swooping around day and night and it makes a really lovely place to be!

Plan for the next few days? Who knows. Whether to stay until the beginning of October and do some trecking and go see the Dalai Lama's lectures in a few days or whether to move on to Shimla... will let you know when we have got round to deciding!

Posted by Annie Thornton 02:05 Archived in India Tagged amritsar mcleod ganj Comments (0)


Welcome to India!

sunny 36 °C

So here we go! Welcome to India!

We are currently sat in Hotel Tara Palace in the heart of Old Delhi watching 'Bolly Divas' and resting up after three days hard sightseeing and revelling in the relaxation after the brilliant and manic environment of New Delhi. The current view from the window is generally a patchwork of corrugated iron where kids are flying kites.

The journey was surprisingly easy to say we had the baggage load of a small army rather than two backpackers due to everyone’s generosity in donating items for the Salaam Balak Trust. Thanks to my dad and his baggage trolley we managed all our transfers with relative ease and were even shocked ourselves. Needless to say we had a congratulatory shandy once we had got through check in and were bag free!

The only hold up was waiting for the bags and there was a moment of fear as the baggage carousel stopped without our bags appearing and ours were the last of the plane. Between us we had two lots of underwear, some PJ bottoms and a spare set of leggings if our bags were lost... Imagine the fashion combinations! We needn't have worried, two fold. Our bags did appear to some celebration and the clothes in Delhi are so cheap Andy has started to wish he had lost his bag and could start from scratch!

Our dutiful hotel pick up was still waiting two hours after we were supposed to arrive with his sign for 'And Drew Lank Shyre' and he helped us dodge all the scams and touts that are infamous for that initial arrival. As we left the airport we got that overwhelming feeling of heat hit us as we walked to the car park and we could finally appreciate what my mum has been referring to!

Now I am used to people pulling up on the motorway to change a flat tyre. I was surprised however when we were driving down the motorway and we saw a chap pull in the motorway layby on his HORSE and change its shoes at the side of the motorway. A sign of things to come I hope!

A quick run down of our activities. In Delhi so far we have explored the streets of Chandi Chowk. We are impressed by the city retail set up. You want a bike fixing, you go to bike fixing street where the mechanics are (incidentally this is outside our hotel), you want some fabric, you go to fabric street, you want a 32 MB USB storage drive... well there is a man on every corner ready to sell you that!

We have explored Connaught Place where Andy was subject to a near miss ear rape by an ear cleany man. The chap had a book full of recommendations from Western travellers that 'after this mans service my ears have never felt so clean', Joe Taylor, UK'. As the chap seemed to only have one cotton bud, and it did not look too chipper, Andy passed on the mans service. (don't panic Mum, it is Andy's new tattoo of Delhi in Hindi script you should be worrying about).

We have also since being here visited the Red Fort and it is really impressive. I won't go into detail as Wikipedia and the Lonely Planet do that for us all! I will tell you that neither of these sources go into what I think is necessary depth about the amount of wild CHIPMUNKS there are running around in the Red Fort! Now that is an impressive quality for any location.

We then went to Ghandi Smirti, the house where Ghandi spent the last 144 days of his life and the location where he was assassinated. They have a very entertaining range of montages depicting different stages of Ghandi's life made entirely from dressed up Barbie dolls. Now that is something they don't put in the guide book and I think would definitely increase the foot fall to this memorial if they did! Andy walked Ghandi's last steps and marvelled at the chap he idolises and his life. I entertained myself taking pictures of Andy posing next to Ghandi's glasses which are in a glass case at the exhibition. Shame Andy didn't wear his Ghandi costume as the glasses are all he is missing...

Beer and food brings us to today!

For those of you who have sufficient commitment to get to this point reading, I salute you!! For those that are already bored, we will put some pictures up in summary so your not missing much!

Today we hunted out the Salaam Balak Trust near New Delhi Railway Station that works with the Railway Children of India running children's homes, schools and training and apprenticeship schemes to help them get out of a life of poverty. We went to one of the Boys children's homes which served as a drop off for the donations we brought. There were about 30 kids who were there who we met and hung out with for a bit. Me and Andy got relatively mobbed by the kids who all wanted to shake hands, introduce themselves and then play hand clapping games. Andy remains the most impressed by the kids who could do the best Dame Ednor Glasses with their hands and turn their eyelids inside out. They will distribute all the goods we brought across the five homes they have in Delhi so thank you to everyone who donated!

The children's home is basic and they don't have a lot, but what we saw when we were there is that all the kids were clean, well behaved and when one fell over and cried,he got picked up by one of the staff and given a cuddle until he stopped. We also turned up unannounced on a Sunday afternoon so we reckon that it was a clear indication of the reality of the atmosphere there. There was a sense of a family rather than an institution. The kids all had ambitions of a future and the Trust is committed to helping them get there purely from the help of donations and commitment from the staff.

After a brief stop off for Thali and Chay we headed to Birla Mandir the massive Hindu Temple which Ghandi declared was for all castes. It was really lovely to walk round. Apparently for some of the visitors though, we were the biggest attraction as people took photos not of the architecture, but of us. All I can say is that we apologise to the UK for us being it's representatives in India! I assured them that other people are more photogenic!

Tomorrow (Monday 19th September) we travel to Amaritsar (450km north west of Delhi) to see the Golden Temple, which is the holiest Sikh Shrine in the whole of India.

Keep in touch everyone!

Posted by Annie Thornton 00:20 Archived in India Tagged delhi Comments (1)

Amaritsar 1

Golden Temple

28 °C

Leaving Delhi and Arriving in Amaritsar

Prior to heading off for the train at New Delhi Train Station, Annie and I stopped off for something to eat in the Pahranganj district on the Main Bazaar (High Street to us common Brits). Whist the Main Bazaar is full of small shops selling all manner of things, there are a few cafe/restaurants along here which cater for westernised standards of hygiene and sanitation. We ate food within a fine roof top cafe establishment to which we were offered tea coffee, coke, sprite and beer (spoken very quietly), which caught my attention and quickly responded with a quick 'yes please, two!'. The waiter returned with two tea cups and two pots of what he called 'special tea'. Indeed the tea pot was laiden with ice cold frothy Kingfisher Lager! Suffice to say we stayed a few hours prior to our train at 4:30pm.

The train station is like a mad house, I would not recommend New Delhi Train Station to anyone, people trying to sell, buy/rob or con your ticket from you or persude you to buy a new one because the one you have is incorrect/not a ticket but only a voucher for a real ticket. However, we managed to withstand the barrage of obstacles to get to our platform.

The trains are fantastically old and battered machines, but the carriage was a little newer and comfortable. In fact we had a pleasant 6 hour journey which was broken up by a 5 course meal! Sandwiches, Tea, nibbles, soup,Curry and ice cream! The landscape is flat here, and still imersed with poverty along most of the train route, including lots of people living on rubbish dumps, which was very sad to see. Arrived at 10:30pm to a screaming horde of rickshaws wanting to take us to our hotel which was across the road from the station! Hotel is called 'Grand Hotel ' Recommeded by Lonely Planet', however, I have read Lonely Planet and it does not say this, but is listed in the mid range hotels. This hotel has a bar called 'English Bar' and serves beer!

Following a stressful sleep under the mosquito net, we awoke for brunch in preparation for our long awaited trip to the Golden Temple. Built in the early 16C, this Sikh temple is the holiest sikh shrine in the world and is open to anyone who wants to visit providing you respect the religious etiquette I.e washing hands and feet, covering hair and shoulders, (men and women). White marble throughout the complex, with a holy lake and the Golden temple in the middle. It is such a divine and inspiring sight that it makes you feel quite overwhelmed. Indira Ghandi (former Indian President) made the decision to storm this temple in the early 1980's after an uprising which eventually led to her assassination – silly woman. What made me laugh was that the Indian Government fixed the temple, but the Sihks were not satisfied so they took down a whole clock tower and rebuilt it themselves!

Tommorrow we are going to the Indo-Pak Border to see the ministry of silly walks ceremony (those who have seen Michael Palin's around the world will know what i mean!).

Peace, Love and Harmony!

Posted by Annie Thornton 14:00 Archived in India Tagged temple golden Comments (2)

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