Monday, January 29, 2007

Views of Amritsar

Amritsar is a city in the Punjab, about twenty miles away from the border with Pakistan. It's most famous as the center of the Sikh religion, and both the religion and the city's tourism center around Harimandir Sahib - the Golden Temple. I'll talk about that in a future update, for now here's a picture taken from my hotel window:

My first view was at night, a strange experience. There's plenty of cities you can apply a "city that never sleeps" label too, usually these cities have brightly lit downtown districts, rather exclusive, that operate late into the night. Amritsar was brightly lit throughout the night, but it was narrow, twisting, semi-paved roads, and the lights were a haphazard series of lamps hanging from storefront framing.

During the day, the streets are bustling and crowded with mostly pedestrian traffic:

And that's the main streets! When you get to the narrow side streets it can almost be a joke. The traffic can be so intense the crowds of people will wait by the side for the opportunity to squeeze through. It can take minutes for people to make their way across. Note also the bicycle rickshaws. It's an informal system, my sister told me where we wanted to go and negotiated a price. I recall it was about a quarter for a relatively short ride, and we probably got ripped off.

But I have to say these side streets were a lot of fun. It's a lot of shopping, and it's very colorful. Even though there aren't many foreigners, I didn't get lots of surprised looks or kids shouting random English phrases at me, the way it often happens in China.

Women's clothes are bright and beautiful elsewhere in India, but especially so in Amritsar. These side-street shops were stuffed with clothing stores:

And for an unpleasant subject: Hygenic standards were unbelievably low everywhere I went in India. I found myself going to the tourist places to eat, just because everwhere else was so obviously unfit. For instance, in Amritsar, a lot of street food had flies just hovering around. A little off the main roads in the central parts of town, there were open sewers. I don't want to show a picture of that, instead here is a pleasant pictures of some girls going about their business:

My immune system has been built up by spending more than a year in China, I often eat street food. I also look over food for obvious defects, I wash my hands and all that, and I consider myself of a very healthy constitution. Still I got spectacularly sick in Amristar. For three days I only had about two hours of energy in my body, the rest of the time I could only lay in bed or slumber around slowly, with a high fever being the most prominent symptom. Later, my friend who frequently goes to India tells me he's gotten sick every time he's been there.

Continuing on, there's many sites around town, such as other important Sikh religious shrines, and the nearby border with Pakistan. Being largely out of commission, though, I was limited. I did have a look at the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre site, which commemerates where hundreds of people were killed in 1919. It helped crystallize Indian resistance to English occupation. It's now a pleasant park, where I enjoyed the people watching:

In addition to the people-watching, there were some beautiful flowers, the likes of which I've never seen before!

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