Touchdown Amritsar

Location: Amritsar

Hotel: Hotel Popular

Firstly, I am retraining myself to say amRITsar instead of AMritsar. Subtle, but it is like an American saying brisBANE (pronouncing it “bain”) when locals know there is no final vowel and it is properly pronounced Brisbn.

Whoever said that the journey is half the fun hasn’t done this flight. Leave Gold Coast at 2030 arrive Kuala Lumpur at 0300 local (0500 by my body). KL airport at 0300 is about as exciting as any airport in the dead of night. You would at least think that would make half comfortable chairs to sleep on. Then leave KL at 0730 (0930) arrive Amritsar 1100 (1530). I am sure there are worse flights, but this felt long…because it was.

You may have seen my travel hack #1 – wait until last to board and then sit in the first empty row. It worked on the first leg.

On the second leg it almost worked. I thought I was last on. I had an empty row. Winner! But someone was running late and the bastard had been assigned one of my seats.

Truth is, I think I slept better sitting up compared to trying to get comfy lying down. And no, funny people, I cannot stretch out over 3 seats.

I was the only Westerner on the flight into India. Amritsar is in Punjab state which is historically the Sikh homeland. So there were many colourfully turbanned men, and some women. I am going to have to find out more about this. Also despite asking a couple of people I haven’t found out at what age young men switch from that topknot type of hairstyle to a full turban.

Off the plane and into immigration. Ahh, India. A sea of colours with loads of people in the Indian Nationals queue. Just me in the foreigners queue. Sweet.

Except Mr Immigration wasn’t impressed (didn’t understand?) that I didn’t have a hotel booking. Knowing I was arriving late morning I knew it would be easy to find a hotel (it was) but it was a mystery to him. He eventually accepted “unknown Amritsar” as my India address.

It’s always good to get the heart starter happening right up front and get it out of the way.

I jumped in a taxi to get into town. I explained I didn’t have many Rupees (R50 = $AUD1) and he agrees to stop at an ATM on the way. So far so good.

We stop and I put in my card, which I hadn’t thought to test (I know, I know), and my PIN was rejected. So was another I thought it might be, so was another. Uh Oh! I really didn’t want the card to be locked so I stopped.

I had R375 saved from my last trip. Even in tightest of tight arse mode I don’t think I could last 4 weeks on $AUD7.50. I got driver to give me a wifi hotspot so I could use the bank app and hopefully reset the PIN. The PIN I thought it was and had tried earlier worked – good and bad news at the same time. I reset it anyway and we stopped at another ATM.

Normally if they charge a fee I will go to another machine. But it worked! I was so grateful I was happy to pay the fee and more has it been necessary. But I will confess to shitting myself for about 10 minutes. I have no idea what I would have done if I couldn’t get money out.

Hotel Popular actually isn’t. But that is good for me as they had decent rooms to spare and (shock horror) I am not being so tight arsed this trip.

They do have fast wifi (amazing), towels (unusual) and hot water (bonus). Plus it is only about 1.5km to the Golden Temple which will visit tomorrow then the Pakistan border on Monday.

I asked a cycle rickshaw driver if he knew a good restaurant. He assured me he did, named Crystal Restaurant. He said he would take me there for R10 (20c). Been there, done that, at that price I pretty much knew it was going be only 50m or so away but I couldn’t spot it. What the hell, R10!

It was 60m away, just around a corner 😁. But what a great meal. Welcome back to India.

Last time I was here I had my sandles tarted up in Jodhpur. I thought I might as well start off looking flash and for R30 I now do.

Does anyone play badminton in Australia? I knew it is popular here and when I spotted the Amritsar badminton club I went in to watch. These kids were ferociously good. Even in clown mode, for a laugh, I wouldn’t have gone up against the youngest of them.

So, a jittery start turned out well, plus some great news (to be revealed in future) from home. Life is good.

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