Posts Tagged With: amritsar

India… The good, the bad, and the downright evil

Well India has provided some of the best and some of the worst experiences of our lives. In some areas the scenery, people and food are among the prettiest, friendliest and tastiest (respectively) we have seen, met or had…in other areas …not the same story. Despite this we covered a lot of the country, saw a lot of sights, places, cities and have some insights that may prove useful to future travellers.

India certainly has a lot positive to be said about it and there are some must see items that make planning a trip very worthwhile. There are also some places that quite frankly are ruined by the people that you are forced to encounter along the way. Our trip was more low budget that some but higher budget than the typical backpacking style holiday.

We spent our money on the food, beer, accommodation and transport…choosing to pay that little bit more for the extra space and comfort and things like private bathrooms. That said…accommodation was generally about $20 a night for both of us and at its cheapest was $10. For not much extra (than our allowance) per day you could plan a very nice Indian sojourn and by paying the little bit extra can avoid some of the shonks that we hit along the way. You will be overpaying for what you get but the extra money takes away some of the headaches and surely that is worth a little more.

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Indian Must dos

With the beauty of hindsight this is where I would go to if I was to plan a short (2-3 week) holiday in India (in no particular order).

Agra – Taj Mahal and the fort…this one is obvious but they truly are that good. I suggest that 2-3 days is about the right amount of time here.

Amritsar – golden temple and the border show. Can be done in a one full day journey if time is tight but the people and food are so nice you will want to stay more.

Aurungabad – Ellora and Ajanta caves…absolutely stunning. Two days is about right. This was the surprise for me, had never heard of them but were the highlight of the trip.

Hampi – absolutely fantastic with so very much to see, need about 2 full days but will want more as the people and place are so good.

Jaipur – this has 3 forts, temples, a palace and all the old city walls and is again worthy of about 3-4 days depending on your schedule and timings. Jaipur is in Rajasthan and most of Rajasthan is pretty similar with forts and palaces etc. They are all different but are also very similar so if time is against you Jaipur would be my pick.

Ooty – the Indian blue mountains (Nilgiris) with a toy train ride to boot. Stunning scenery and clean by Indian standards.

Udaipur – we loved this place. The water and lakes make it very different to the other sights you tend to see. If you come in early in the morning you could see everything in a day and a bit so one overnight would be about right..add an extra night if you want to hit the fort and Jain temples which are a bit of a way out. We stayed for 6 days and enjoyed it all but most people will not have as much time.

The end.

My list would leave out 2 key ones on almost everyone else’s list and they are

Goa – a must for beach goers…we could have skipped it. It was nice and we had a good time but unless you are in dire need of sand and water it could be skipped.

Kerala – the cruise of the back waters was nice and a good treat. Our cruise was probably a bit long and one to two nights would be about right. There are afternoon cruises but you stay in the main channel with all the boat traffic.

Great if you have extra time

Now if you have a little more time available then these are my choices for good second tier spots with nice attractions, people etc

Darjeeling – tea fields, toy trains and the Himalayas on a clear day.
Hyderabad – an Indian city that is really trying to get it right.
Jaisalmer – desert, fort, safari. Nice if you have the time.
Jodhpur – nice place..very Rajasthan with forts and palaces.
Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip at the edge of 3 oceans
Mumbai – beautiful architecture, the gateway to India and Elephanta island.
Pondicherry – the French parts

Nice if you have LOTS of time

Mangalore – still the best food I have eaten in India (just not much to see)
Cochin – a nice afternoon but not too much to see
Trivandrum – good zoo and some nice architecture
Bangalore – not too much going on here

Don’t even bother

Bhubaneswar – caves and temples…not that fantastic and the experience is wrecked by the lying and cheating of what feels like almost everybody in the town. The worst that India has to offer.

I have left New Delhi off this list entirely because my experiences in New Delhi were entirely terrible. I came to Delhi 4 times (including transits) and had an atrocious experience each and every time. I may have been entirely unlucky…or it may well be the worst capital city on the planet, full of lying cheating scoundrels. Alas as New Delhi is a major transport hub you may just have to stop here to get to some of the nicer parts of India. Should you wish to do such a trip then I will let you form your own New Delhi opinion and would be happy to hear it.

I will leave the India topic with a few of my favourite moments…

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And my all time favourite moment…was…

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Farewell India…it has been an experience…

 

 

 

 

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The last of India

On our final leg of India we headed back into the mountains to Shimla. To get there we had another one of those monster transits that we are getting so good at. We took a 6.5 hr journey on an interstate bus from Amritsar to Chandigarh then a train to Kalka, crash for a few hrs, before a 7 hr toy train ride starting at 3am to Shimla.

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Jill REALLY wanted to see the Himalayas and get the mountains and snow photo. Mission accomplished. Shimla is a really nice town, especially if you are a mountain goat. It was steeper than Darjeeling but also had a lot more to see and do. We did a stupid thing by catching the lift down the mountainside and walking back up…had we walked down…oh never mind I’m sure you get it.

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Lots of mountain photos later, burning calves and quadriceps we did the 7 hr train journey back to Kalka, a sleep, a train to New Delhi, an afternoon snack, a street fight (verbal), a metro ride, and a 3am flight to Shanghai in China and the end to our Indian odyssey.

A final Indian recap post to follow…then China, Taiwan and Hong Kong here  we come…

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Varanasi and Amritsar

After our monster transits we finally landed in Varanasi. Got into Varanasi in the rain at peak traffic time. The rain turned the streets into muddy torrents in places and given that we were already tired and emotional it was not a fantastic start. We hooked up with an Aussie and a yank (Marita and Tayla) who were on the same flight and at the same hotel, so we shared a cab and later on a meal.

The next morning the rain had stopped and we went exploring the banks of the River Ganges. Varanasi is the oldest inhabited city in India and is known as the spiritual capital of India. We wandered along the River bank watching the Ghats as they emerged from the seemingly never ending series of steps coming up from the River. We hikes taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the city.

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Varanasi adds another dimension to most Indian cities as it has the Panchganga Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat (where Hindus cremate their dead). These are areas where funeral pyres are built and corpses are brought down, dipped in the holy river, draped in fancy cloth and set alight…for all to see. Needless to say photography here is considered poor form. But we stayed and watched about 6 of these. That evening we joined the girls to celebrate a milestone birthday.

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After Varanasi we took what was to be a simple flight to Delhi then on to Amritsar. Delhi threw us another slap in the face while transiting with a delayed/late plane, missed connection, lost luggage, refunded fare, twice as expensive replacement fare, luggage found but damaged. I swear that New Delhi hates us.

Amritsar was spectacular. The two main things we went there for was to see the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) and the border show. Both of these lived up to all expectation. The first night we hit the border show which takes place in Wagah (the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan). The village was divided by independence in 1947. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in India while the western half is in Pakistan.

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This ceremony is in essence a pissing competition during the lowering of the flag ceremony. Both nations in full dress uniform, comical marching and high stepping, and something that resembles a war dance. All of this cheered on by hundreds of nationals from each side chanting their own versions of fervour. This really is an experience that cannot be missed if you make it to this part of the world.

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The average Indian we have encountered thus far, all over the country is around five foot six, at the border there was nobody under 6 foot 4. Add to this the big head dress and the attempted psyche out is complete. Sadly the same applied on the other side of the border and every Indian or Pakistani with any sort of height has been hoodwinked into the army and is stationed on one side or the other.

The golden temple is one of the holiest places in the Sikh religion and is without a doubt the cleanest monument in all of India. There is a free restaurant attached where all can eat for free and those who can afford it leave a donation. The Sikhs are renowned for their hospitality and our experience was no different.

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Amritsar is truly a lovely place to spend some time.

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