Thursday, July 25, 2019

India: Part 5 - Amritsar Wagah Border

Monday morning I had some free time until my afternoon tour. I wandered around town for a bit until I got too overwhelmed with crowds and stares.



This mom asked if I would take a photo with her son. So I asked for one in return.






I think some of the museums were closed on Monday, so I didn't go into any of them. I also didn't feel like eating alone, so I went back to the hotel and ate at the restaurant there. I met a fellow American named Liz who was in Amritsar for a few days. She is a teacher and was taking part in an exchange program to spend a year teaching science at a monastery in northern India. It's quite remote with limited cell and wifi service, so she takes breaks to travel around when she can. Seems like an interesting thing to do, but without a lot of comforts. And living with nuns has its own set of interesting things. It was nice to meet someone while I'm hanging out alone, and we'd end up shopping together one afternoon and she joined me on a tour of the Golden Temple.


After lunch it was back to City on Pedals for the Wagah border tour.


I don't remember when I first heard about this ceremony at the India/Pakistan border, but it has fascinated me ever since. This is a major bucket list check in my book. Unforgettable, and something that most people this side of the world won't get to see.

The tour started in the early afternoon, and it was just me and Rabia. Like I said, she's awesome, and it was so fun just to hang out like friends. She's the only woman tour guide that drives around these parts, and we hopped into the car for a bit of a trek out of Amritsar. We first stopped at Pul Kanjari, a historical spot that was often visited by a maharaja.




It's a very popular spot for wedding photos.


Pakistan is just over there beyond the fence.


Inside the temple. The door was locked, but Rabia knows everyone, so she found the guy with the key.



The wedding couple car.

On to the border.

There's me, headed towards Lahore.




All sorts of concessions available. And Rabia knows all the guys who sell them.

There's a special foreigners section, where I got to sit.


While we were waiting for the whole show to get started, we saw some people crossing the border. A large bus also drove through, and there was a solo female backpacker coming from Pakistan into India. We cheered for her.


Before the ceremony begins, the women on the India side go down into the stadium and dance to show off the power of women in the country. It's an interesting contrast to segregated crowd on the other side where women don't have as many privileges. Rabia made sure that I participated in this!


I think I was the only foreigner down there. It was cut short a little since there was a visiting general from the military and they had to do something to introduce him.

This border ceremony takes place every evening and has been going on for decades. The border is opened and the flags are lowered on each side, but not before the armies from both sides put on a coordinated show of power and rivalry. This guy is the hype man and gets the crowd going.



So much pride for Hindustan.








Women on the Pakistan side.

Men on the Pakistan side.

For real, India and Pakistan have had all sorts of disputes over the years, but it's nice to see them come together in a show of power, but also in fun and cooperation.



Meeting at the border for the showdown.







The flags are eventually lowered and the border is closed again. 


On the way out, I got to chat with this guy. This really is one of my favorite things I have ever experienced. If you're ever in India, you must go to Amristar. 


After the border ceremony we drove back into Amritsar and visited the Mandir Mata Lal Devi temple. I couldn't take photos inside, but I wish I could have! It is like a carnival funhouse in there. Mirrors and colors everywhere, little tunnels to crawl through. So odd and so fun and not what I would have expected of a temple at all. I got a souvenir on the way out.


Back to the hostel to say hello to the animals and then homeward bound. Golden Temple up next!



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