My Amritsar trip

Harmandir Sahib, better known as the Golden Temple is the holiest Sikh shrine
Image courtesy: Bodhisattva Sen Roy

In his latest blog, Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler recounts a visit to Amritsar, one of India’s most iconic cities:


Indian soldiers march in formation at the Wagah-Attari border
Image courtesy: Tony Wheeler

Their boots came down with a resounding thump. Then there was the briefest handshake across the border before the soldiers spun round and set off on another march clearly inspired by Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch. When you’re wearing a particularly silly hat and trying to kick it off your head, Monty Python is the only thing that comes to mind. After being witness to the Mass Games at the gigantic stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, I used to say that if the outcome of wars is ever decided by whose army dances the best; my money was on the North Koreans. But after watching the Indian and Pakistan armies dancing around at the Wagah-Attari border near Amritsar I have a feeling the North Koreans may only be in for the bronze medal.

Strange hats add colour to the outlandish dance of the soldiers
Image courtesy: Tony Wheeler

I came to India for the launch of the first 10 Lonely Planet India travel guides written especially for the Indian traveller. After my launching duties, which involved materialising on stage out of nowhere, (with a considerable help from a magician though), I headed off to Amritsar, close to the border between India and Pakistan.

The border crossing performance has become a major tourist attraction on both sides, but for more serious visitors the great Golden Temple is still Amritsar’s number one. I found a hotel a stone’s throw from the holiest Sikh temple. This way I was able to visit the temple at different times of day to appreciate its appearance under varying light. In fact my afternoon, night and early morning visits could also have been summarised as ‘seeing the temple under different types of rain.’ I managed to get everything from a light drizzle to a monsoonal downpour.

Volunteers wash dishes at Guru-ka-Langar
Image courtesy: Tony Wheeler

I also managed to fit in another prime Amritsar experience – the free vegetarian meal in the shrine’s Guru-ka-Langar (community dining hall). Everyday 60,000-80,000 meals are dispensed (can reach an astounding 2,00,000 on Sikh holy days), in an amazing production line comprising entirely of volunteers. I did put a contribution into the donation box against my free meal. Wandering through the brightly lit, crowded streets of the old city around the temple is another part of the Amritsar experience.

During my spell in Mumbai and Delhi for the launch, I interacted with the media a lot and I said that travelling by rail was an important part of the Indian travel experience. I’d like to say that at least one aspect of Indian rail travel has really gone through a major update, because I was looking forward to buying my train ticket online. Except I couldn’t, despite wrestling for hours with the Indian Railway website. If India’s airlines can sell you a ticket in a flash, perhaps the railways need to ask them how it’s done.

Tony Wheeler, along with his wife Maureen founded Lonely Planet back in 1973. For more history, click here.




    • N

      October 12, 2012, 10:11:55 pm

    • Beautiful account..the pictures as well as the narration. I remember visiting Amritsar with my family some time back. The whole experience in Harmandir sahib is divine.
      The show at the wagah was a bit amusing to me. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hotels near Amritsar Railway Station

      December 16, 2013, 3:36:20 pm

    • Thanks to your posts, I feel much confident now and can pursue any vacation in a more comfortable way… thanks again and keep writing such informative posts.

    +1 Reply

    • Sonali

      December 9, 2014, 11:43:37 am

    • Nice blog…

    • Travel To Amritsar

      October 13, 2015, 3:59:57 pm

    • Amritsar is famous for celebrating the all festivals. This city is also popular for Golden temple. Many people come here to visit the Golden temple. In this city, many places are popular like jallianwala Bagh, Wagah border and etc. You should go to this place and see all the famous places. This place is also known as “Guru ki Nagari”.

    • Ana Hayden

      March 23, 2016, 12:30:00 pm

    • Loved your blog very mcuh but also love the place very much as i had visited it a few days back, Loved the hospitality offered by the people especially by my taxi providers Om sai Ram Travels. They took me to that places that are not even mentioned in any travel magazines but are still very wonderful ones. They told me about every single place and they are told to be the one of the best providers of Taxi service in Amritsar . Loved the place very much. Thums Up..!!

    • rajeev147

      July 29, 2016, 1:25:00 pm

    • Nice

    • rajeev147

      July 29, 2016, 1:28:00 pm

    • Nice information. Amritsar really a great place to visit. Whenever i go to Golden Temple i find peace in there. I usualy book cab from to visit amritsar.

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