First stop: Amritsar and the Golden Temple
After spending two amazing months outside of India, it was time to go back to the country, which seems to be like a magnet for me. I’ve never been to the North of India before, so it was time to explore finally this part of the country.
I arrived in Delhi on March 17 and had my first couchsurfing experience; I stayed with a really nice Indian couple in Delhi for 4 days. It’s so nice to come to a big city and not to be alone. Delhi after all is not such a scary place as I first thought, yes it is big but if you stay there and explore it with a local person it is a very interesting city with lots of things to see.
But since I only have one month left in India I wanted to explore 4 more places: Amritsar and the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, Dharamsala – the Exile of the Dalai Lama, Rishikesh – the Yoga Mecca and Varanasi – the holy city on the Ganges.
So my first stop after my arrival in Delhi was Amritsar. I kind of had the feeling I would love the place but as it sometimes happens, if you have too high expectations you will get disappointed but not so in Amritsar. I arrived after a 6 hrs train journey and took a Rickshaw from the train station to the Golden Temple.
|The Golden Temple at day light|
Everyone was very friendly to me, smiling and happy. I arrived at the Golden Temple and looked for a place to stay within the Golden Temple complex and was lucky enough to got a single room with bathroom for Rs 100,-/night (€ 1.50/night).
The food in the Golden Temple is for free or you can give a donation – I already loved the Sikh culture then, for a long-term traveller on a tight budget it is heaven on earth.
So after finding a room, having a free meal, I was ready to explore the Golden Temple complex and honestly, the Golden Temple is exceptional beautiful and you just want to stay there and sit and watch and sit and watch some more.
|The Golden Temple at dawn|
|...just sitting and watching...|
|A Sikh warrior|
I took so many pictures of the Golden Temple at different times of the day, it is just so beautiful that you can’t get enough from it. And the Sikhs, wow – they are so friendly; I was really feeling in the right place.
|Father and daughter.|
|Taking a bath in the holy water of the Golden Temple.|
|The colors of turbans.|
So time flew by and I learned a lot about the Sikh culture. The Golden Temple has 4 entrances: North, East, South and West – it means that everyone is welcome to enter it. The food is free, as mentioned before and you can sleep at the Golden Temple complex. If you don’t get a room, you are welcome to put your mattress for free anywhere you like to. The whole system of the Golden Temple runs by donations and volunteers. Everyone can volunteer and everyone does: men, women, children and visitors. Of course I couldn’t resist and although I favoured to put chapattis in the food baskets (I think that was the easiest job of all), I volunteered to clean the dishes with a lot of other volunteers (that wasn’t the easiest job of all and you had to be quite fast as well but I coped :). The dishes are cleaned six times, so you can be sure they are really clean. The food there, all vegetarian, was delicious and we had lots of fun while volunteering. I think not too many foreigners do it, so we were kind of an attraction to them :)
First we were trying to find out how we could volunteer until we found someone who told us, just to do whatever you like to do, there is no one who puts you in a job, you just choose something and start. The amazing thing for me was that it really works that way and they never run out of volunteers in one place. You can do so many things: cutting vegetables, preparing chapattis, giving out food and tea, cleaning the dishes and and and – it’s a big machine and it’s running 24 hrs. When you get tired, there is already someone waiting to take your place. In one day 500.000 people can get fed – it is just amazing.
|...washing dishes, my job.|
|the chappati team|
|...to feed 500.000 people a day, you need big pots :)|
|...everyone helps - men and women work together.|
Besides staying in the Golden Temple complex, I also explored and enjoyed the city of Amritsar and the ‘closing the border’ ceremony of India and Pakistan. Every evening, just before sunset, the Indian and Pakistani military meet at the border to engage in an extraordinary 20-minute ceremony of pure theatre. It's hilarious.
|Last picture before leaving Amritsar: Miguel (Chile), me and Dean (GB) in front of the Golden Temple.|