Friday, February 5 Ready to go to the airport at 6:00. Flight was late, but we had extra time in Delhi before going on to Amritsar. We arrived in Amritsar about 30 minutes late and there was no one there to meet us. Another guide called our hotel for us and we were told the car would be there in 10 minutes. When they arrived, the young woman said she was late due to traffic, but the lady at the hotel said they were late because the flight is always late and they didn’t think we would be there so soon. This was our first and only hitch with AK. It was getting late in the afternoon, and they did not want to take us anywhere because no guide was available. After a bit of discussion, they arranged for our driver, Sam, to take us to the Wagah Border with Pakistan to see the daily evening closing ceremony. [Normally drivers are not given that much responsibility without a guide present]. It was such an event! There was big cheering on both the India and Pakistan sides. “Long live Hindustan” and “Long live Pakistan” rang out from the crowds in support of their respective countries. It was very ceremonial and quite pointless, with soldiers in fancy dress strutting up and down the road to the border crossing to embellish the closing of the gate for the night.
Changing of the Guard at the Wagah Border between India and Pakistan
It reminded us of the Ministry of Silly Walks. We were very glad that we had insisted on coming here tonight. Back for dinner at our hotel. The food was not very good, but we enjoyed the company of a couple from Switzerland, the only other guests at the hotel that night. At 9:00 p.m., our guide, who had been previously occupied during the day, showed up to take us to the night ceremony at the Golden Temple of the Sikhs. What a gorgeous sight, especially at night.
Saturday, February 6 Back in the morning with our Amritsar guide to see the Golden Temple by daylight. It is our first cloudy day, but still nice. We entered the Temple area after leaving our shoes and socks and washing our feet in the shallow foot bath in front of the entrance to the Temple area. This is the holiest of Sikh shrines. It was amazing to see the 24-hour kitchen which feeds 30,000 people, for free, every day. All work is done by volunteers.
We went into the Temple to see a priest reading from the huge, Sacred Book. Many Sikhs were in prayer. The Temple is even more beautiful inside than out, but no photos are allowed. We finished our tour of the area by seeing the “bed” where the smaller holy book stays throughout the day. We walked through some old city streets to see the memorial park where the British fired 1600 rounds at a gathered crowd 100 years or so ago, killing and wounding many, and abandoning them where they lay. Back to check out from our hotel and on to the airport. This was our least favorite hotel. It is a very old eclectic place featuring aromatherapy, and not much else, for the guests. It is probably cleaner than it seems but just not our style. We were dropped off at the airport. Another glitch: our tickets were not changed to show we were leaving Amritsar for Delhi today instead of tomorrow. Fortunately, the airline representative was able to finally change our tickets, and we were on our way. We were met at the Delhi Airport by our AK representative and taken to the Delhi Oberoi Hotel. We drove though Embassy Row on our way. Lots of parks and green space. This is a very nice hotel and a welcoming complimentary bottle of wine awaited us, (Delhi is a bit more cosmopolitan than the other places we have been). We enjoyed a very nice Italian dinner at the Italian restaurant in the Hotel: gnocchi with walnuts and raddicio, chocolate lava cake for dessert.
Sunday, February 7 We started early. Our guide, Jaibir, took us to see both old and new Delhi on a whirlwind tour. We started in Old Delhi by seeing the Red Fort built by Shah Jahan. It is a large area of mostly red sandstone.
Then to Jama Masjid which is still the largest mosque in Asia. All women get a large cover to wear.
We took a very fun ride in a rickshaw through the narrow streets of Old Delhi. On we go to the park where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are buried. Next stop is Humayun’s Tomb, which was built by Humayan’s wife in his honor. Red Sandstone and white marble. Lots and lots of school boys are there for a cultural field day. We take a drive by the big, beautiful area of the President’s house and other very large government buildings leading to India Gate, built to commemorate those Indian soldiers who died in World War I.
The last stop is in South Delhi to see the Qutb Complex, begun in 1193. The minar is 250 feet high with intricate carvings. Buildings around it have carvings similar to those at Khajaraho. The iron pillar in the court yard is from the 4th century.
Last stop is Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, a newer, yet ornate Hindu Temple. Even a nice shop next door to where we left our shoes. Back to the hotel for Barbara to pack up and rest. We had a light supper after such a big lunch. Nasheef, the AK representative, was very helpful at the airport. There was a very long line at the passport check, but all went fine, with plenty of time.
Monday, February 8 The flight actually left Delhi this morning at 2:00 a.m. All went well. There was plenty of time in Amsterdam, then on to Detroit. Many hours of sitting. Since Barbara had not checked luggage, she got through passport check and customs and security very quickly. She arrived home safely to be greeted at the airport by Melanie. Upon arriving home she enjoyed a big glass of water from the tap.
I stayed on in Delhi to meet the birding group with which I would spend the next 3 weeks in India. I will be posting the results of that trip, with far more emphasis on the birds and with far less detail, than has gone into the preceding report.