Hello and welcome back to Part 4 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. If you had been following, I think you are now very familiar with a traditional Indian Sikh wedding.
At the conclusion of the wedding ceremonies and parties, I had two days to spare before embarking on my solo journey from Chandigarh to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Some of the guests of the wedding (residing in the same hotel) wanted to make a trip further north to visit other places and that's where we decided to visit the Wagah Border (called Wahga border in Pakistan) to witness the Wagah Border Ceremony, as well as Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) during this day trip.
- Attari Village - Wagah Border (Border between India and Pakistan)
A point to note, that in any countries you intend to visit, it is always good to be prepared; know the routes you'll take, distances between the places you will be visiting, mode of transport, have spare batteries for your mobile devices etc.
As our day trip was rather impromptu, there wasn't exactly any plans. All we did was to book ourselves a transport and off we went. Mind you that the Wagah Border was about 270km away from Chandigarh and Google Maps had it for 5 hours travelling time. With this information, we got up bright and early, had our breakfast and departed the hotel at 9:00am with our spirits and mood high from the past few days of partying.
Well, Mr. 'Murphy' (Murphy's Law) always has a way of making fun of people. Well, we certainly didn't plan to get stuck in traffic for close to three hours on the road. The vehicles were stationary and terribly close to one another that at one point of time, I was able to help myself to some sugarcanes which someone was transporting through my opened window. Traffic was just horrible! 'Why are we waiting' and 'Are we there yet?' kept on playing in our minds.
So eventually we did arrive in the village of Attari. Make a rough guess as to what time we got there? If you guessed 5:00pm, you are absolutely right! We spent 8 solid hours driving from Chandigarh to the village of Attari where the border is situated. But, we humans love making lemonade out of lemons right - we did admire the beautiful countrysides, tasted raw cane sugar straight out from the machine, had ice cream which costed us SGD$0.50 for a cone which would have costed SGD$2.50 or more here in Singapore.
As if the 8 hours journey wasn't the worse that can happen, the flag lowering ceremony (Wagah Border Ceremony) was about to start at 5:30pm which meant that everyone in the bus only had 30 minutes to run 500 metres to the border gates in order to witness the ceremony. As we had with us a few older folks, running for them was out of the question so they had to give this ceremony a miss or catch it from afar from the huge electronic and pixelated displays. I did not want to miss any photo opportunities hence there I was literally making a mad dash to the gates.
Oh, and as if the 500m dash within 30mins was straight-forward? I couldn't be more wrong!
I had to dance my way pass the crowd of hundreds of people just to reach not one but two security lines for body searches where I again needed to squeeze and shove my way to the front (in case you didn't know, shoving, pushing and squeezing is the norm in India) to have my body searched quickly. Security was really tight - they didn't allow any kinds of bags, cigarettes, lighters, sharp objects etc - the heighten security was in place due to a suicide bombing attack which took place in year 2014 during the daily border ceremony in Pakistan. Thankfully foreigners holding foreign passports (make sure you wave it up in their air when nearing the checking and segregation areas so that the officers could see you and redirect you to another faster lane if necessary) were allowed to use special (tourist) security lanes that would eventually get me to the border gates within 15 minutes.
Do enjoy the next few photos I took when I was at the Wagah (Wagha) Border Ceremony.
Personally, I can't help but think about the years of conflict India and Pakistan have been in when witnessing the Wagah Border ceremony. Despite their tense relationship, both countries still come together every sundown to produce an enthusiastic and pomp ceremony marking the nightly closing of the border. I can only hope that relationships between both countries will improve for the sake of the the well-being of their people.
- Amritsar - Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)
After witnessing the Wagah Border Ceremony, we left the village for the city of Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple. The journey from the border to Amritsar took us about an hour and we were very glad it was only an hour given that the traffic leading into the city was by no surprise, horrible. It was about 7.20pm by the time we arrived in Amritsar.
Feeling famished but wanting to make up for lost time, we hurried along the busy roads leading to the temple and it was along the way that I heard from Mr. Charan that within 2km radius of the temple, the food were all pure vegetarian - for a moment, my heart sank - "I need my meat" I thought to myself but quickly disregarded this point because all I wanted was to get to the Golden Temple quickly.
After arriving at the Golden Temple, we had to deposit our shoes as no footwear is allowed within the Temple premises. Given that it was winter, you can just imagine how cold the marble floor was to the touch of our feet. But the cold in our feet soon gave way to a feeling or sensation that I felt while staring at the golden temple.
Along with a few others in our group, our jaws dropped as we stared in awe at the Golden Temple. The gold from the Temple gleamed straight in our eyes so much that a pair of shades would help us see better. It was as though we had finally seen the heavenly light shining down on us from the heavens above (ok, I was being dramatic here).
I recall vividly on first stepping into the temple, feeling a deep sense of respect and privilege - that for me as a foreigner, and of a different faith, was able to set foot into the holiest of holy places of the Sikhs. And I am really thankful for that.
Enough said, below are some photos from Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Enjoy.
Having seen this holy place, I have to admit that although the time spent in there was short (I didn't get the chance to enjoy the free meals or lodging provided or enter the Golden Temple), I truly enjoyed every minute of my time there. I found it rather hard to leave such a peaceful, extraordinary and stunning place.
Hold it hold it.. do you really think the day trip is done? Absolutely not! I have a little more to share regarding this 2 days 1 night trip. Yes! You heard me right. Our day trip became a 2 days 1 night trip.
Here's what happened - It was about 9:00pm when we decided to finally make our trip back to Chandigarh from Amritsar. Remember I said that we were all famished? Well, we had to grab a quick bite. For me, I tasted vegetarian McDonalds for the first time (OMG it was quite awful) and the rest of the guys got vegio pizza to takeaway and eat on the bus as we had a 4-hour journey ahead of us. We got back onto the road at about 10:00pm and was scheduled to arrive back at our hotel by 02:00am the latest (as advised by the driver).
As we headed back to Chandigarh, Mr. Murphy again decided to pay us another visit - this time with a punctured tyre on our transporter. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM US MURPHY! Thankfully a gas station was close by where we got some gas and had the tyre replaced. The time was 02:00am and all of us were already exhausted, the driver then informed us that for safety reasons (he's on his spare tyre), he was only able to travel at 50km/h back to our hotel. All of us just sunk into our seats sighing in disbelief but had to resigned to fate on what had happened to us in that past 19.5 hours. In all, we arrived safely back at the hotel at 04:30am. What an eventful day it has been for all of us who signed up for this day trip.
Some pictures to document the incidents while coming back to the hotel.
So, I've finally come to the end of part 4 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. I do hope that you've enjoyed my blog posts so far. In part 1 of my blog post, I did mention that I'll cover my trip to India in 4 parts. Well guess what! I've got a bonus Part 5 for you that will be up by next week. Do continue to stay tuned to my blog for more updates.
Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
- keep God in heart and mind at all times
- live honestly and work hard
- treat everyone equally
- be generous to the less fortunate
- serve others
Have a lovely mid-week everyone!