Sick, tired and ready to stay inside my cozy room at the Hotel Honk Kong in Amritsar I lethargically dragged myself out of bed. My journey from Delhi on the freezing overnight bus left me with little motivation. However, it had been far too long of a journey to not see the one thing I had actually come to see, The Golden Temple; I took some cold medicine, a deep breath and found a bicycle rickshaw waiting outside.
A scrawny man with ragged clothes, a bad hair dye job and only 8 teeth hailed me right out of the door. I hopped into his chariot and we were off through the maze of crowded and loud streets of Amritsar. When we got to the bridge I had to get out and walk up, he was no Lance Armstrong so I obliged. Then when we got to the railroad crossing I was again hustled off my chariot to duck under the gate. While several people were ignoring the gate, I looked both ways and realized that the gate was closed because there was in fact a train coming. My prince charming made it across just in the nick of time and I followed once the train had passed.
When we finally arrived at the gates I frantically began to search my bag and all my pockets for my little money pouch to pay the 50 rupee ($1) fare and I couldn’t find it anywhere. On the side of the road, with every eye watching me as they passed I scrambled to find my money. Horrified that we would have to go back to the hotel so quickly and repeat the journey not once but twice more I sighed and tried to explain that I didn’t seem to have one cent. Prince charming only had a few magical words for me “no worry, no worry. I wait, you look and come back.” I must have had a puzzled look, as my faces usually give away how I’m feeling, and he repeated his mantra with a little head bobble “no worry, no worry.”
In my Dayquil haze I was off to stash my shoes and cover my head. I watched as the people first washed their hands, and then walked through not one but two small pools of water before entering the main gate.
I respected their lead and walked through the first of doorways where I finally saw the glimmering Golden Temple surrounded by the pool of holy water.
I started following the flow of people as they walked clockwise around the pool on the large marble deck lined with stripes of red velvet and straw runners. I didn’t take five steps when I was stopped by a group of pimply faced boys in turbans asking “which country you?” and “one snap?” I obliged and kept walking to admire the building, listen to the peaceful music and watch as the men undressed to dunk themselves in the water.
The paparazzi was everywhere. I was like a popular movie star trying to walk through the mall on a Saturday; me with babies, me with woman and children, me by myself and even people who weren’t asking to take snaps where pulling out their cell phones and giggling as they captured my photo from a far. Eventually the novelty wore off, for me at least, and I had to start declining requests.
I didn’t go into the temple because the line looked too long and I didn’t want to keep prince charming waiting. Plus, I knew I was going to return in the afternoon to experience the temple in the afternoon light and sunset.
Just as he had promised my chariot was waiting and somehow in the little English he conveyed he was going to take me somewhere else. I had no plans and happily agreed. I visited a garden around the corner from the Temple that was a shrine to a massacre and mass suicide – uplifting. After the garden he offered to buy me a cigarette and then took me to a cheesy museum where I had no money once again to pay the 10-rupee fee. Prince Charming paid and waited while I looked at the large scale diorama depicting several brutal wars which the Indians have apparently fought. Once we were back to the hotel I asked the price for this ½ day excursion? He said “your choice” or something to that effect. I grumbled, not knowing what that meant and ran up to my room grabbed a 500 rupee note since I didn’t have anything smaller. 500 rupees is about 10 bucks, his face lit up and I actually thought he was going to hug me. I collapsed on my bed for a nap and some food; I needed energy for second round of the The Golden Temple!
Stay tuned for Round 2: amazing sunset photos from The Golden Temple!