Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Amritsar - Day 4

 Hi all!!
Here I am, finally making my last post on our trip to Amritsar.
I know it has been a while. And there is not much to put in this post except for our final hours in Amritsar ... rather around Amritsar ... before our departure in the afternoon.

I hope you have read the first, second and the third part of this series.

 We had just half of our last day in Amritsar ... our flight was at 3 in the afternoon. So we kept 1 as our deadline. By the end of two days we were familiar with the attitude of the cab drivers and did not want to risk losing our flight back.

We had our breakfast in our hotel dining room, which had a buffet of fresh, wonderful food.
As mentioned earlier, the hotel, Ramada, did have a wonderful batch of chefs and some very good food. We had requested to pack a lunch for us too, which they did. And thoughtfully added some fruits, sweets and tissues, spoons and forks too.

After breakfast, we collected our luggage and checked out ... but not before having to wait for another half an hour for the cab to turn up. This time it was the hotel cab, with a different driver ... but things weren't different.
However, once he turned up, things were back to normal as he took charge of our time and with his jovial nature, took us around Amritsar one final time.
I had wanted to go to Kanhaiya's for a last breakfast ... which would have happened if the guy had turned up in time ... but it was not to be.
The driver was truly apologetic hearing this and took us to Gianni's for a good glass of lassi instead. After that was another round of shopping for me.

 Later, he took us to another Gurudwara nearby.
On the way was another canal, that we stopped by too.
trip to amritsar
 This gurudwara was situated on the outskirts of Amritsar and is even more cleaner and quieter.
There were very few people around, which made it even more peaceful. Here too the shabad played all around.

places to visit in amritsar
 The sarover here is smaller and is filled with fishes.
You are allowed to step into the water here, unlike at the Golden temple, and can feed the fish too.
It was hot and I did step into the water and sat with my feet in, for a while.
Absolutely loved the serenity all around.

what to do in amritsar
The prasad that day was methi parathas ... and we were handed some too.
Sitting on the low veranda all around the temple, we ate the parathas and the kada prasad.
Lunch done!
After that we decided to leave.

On our way to the airport, this statue was our last glimpse of Amritsar.
The place is called India Gate.
On asking why, our driver explained that this is the first glimpse of India anyone coming from Lahore gets. And is also the entry point to a city in India.
Hence the name.

As our flight took off, I looked down and tried to get a glimpse of the beautiful countryside of Punjab that I had fallen in love with, in the last 3 days.
I do not know if I will be able to visit it again ... I would love to though.

best places to eat in amritsar

On the suggestions of friends, I am summing up some pointers regarding a trip to Amritsar.

Some dos;  some don'ts. 

What to do when in Amritsar:

Food :
Do try out the local cuisine. And I don't mean just Kulche chole by that.
If you ask me, Kulcha is over hyped and over rated.
Do try it at one or two places but don't try to fit in as many Kulche chole places as you can in your iteranery.
In the process you lose out on the beautiful, rustic local flavours like fresh sarson ka saag (only if you are visiting in winter), slow cooked dal makhani ... that is so much different and simple from the cream drenched stuff we get in the rest of the places around the country.

Do try their stuffed parathas cooked in tandoor, too. They are much better than the kulchas anyday.
Most people do not know the real difference between a kulcha and a stuffed paratha. A kulcha is made of maida , has layers and a very light stuffing. The layers should be crispy and flaky and can be almost peeled one by one.
A stuffed paratha on the other hand has a single layer, made of wheat flour and stuffed well up to the edges. May be cooked in a tandoor or a tawa.
The chole accompanying the kulcha should be simple ... no overwhelming masalas except lots of ginger and anardana or pomegranate powder.  And should never ever have baking soda in it.
Sadly, most place do not follow these norms ... thanks to the lack of knowledge of tourists and the rush. Hence you can see numerous kulche chole outlets all over Amritsar.

But when we asked people where would a local person of Amritsar go to if he wanted good kulche chole, the answer was always the same ... the handcart sellers on the streets .... most of them near Kapda market, around the Golden temple. They make the best and authentic Kulche and chole. And you can have stuffings of your choice too.
The best way to find out however is through experience.
So there.

Do not, however, ever, ask a rickshaw wala or a cab driver to suggest or take you to a good place.
They almost always have tie ups with local restaurants where they get commission on bringing in customers.
I have no problems with it except that the places always turn out to be a huge disappointment and you lose out on precious time, not to mention a bad tummy.

Do talk to local peole ... if you  need guidance  ... people walking on the road, small shop owners, street food vendors, ... they are the best guides.

Best places to eat in Amritsar -

Do try the Kulcha at the Amritsari Kulcha wala near the Golden temple.
Do try the Poori chole at Kanha sweets.
Do try the food at Bharawan da dhaba as well as Kesar da dhaba. 
Do try the chicken roast at Beera chicken house.
Do try the lassi at Gianchand lassi center.
Do try the Gulab jamuns at Sharma's, near Kanha sweets.

You can avoid the All India Famous kulcha on Maqbool road. Kulcha - not good.
Butter - not good; not real butter. Chole - not good, full of soda.

You may avoid Monu Kulcha joint. Same reasons and too much of rush. Over hyped.

best place to shop in amritsar

Shopping :
Do shop for hand embroidered Phulkari and Wari things. The best place to shop in Amritsar is the Katra mall market,  a clothes bazaar and is full of cloth shops.
Do bargain.
Do buy some Pakistani salwar suits ... they come in awesome designs and fabrics.
Do buy Punjabi jootis. The temple road has some very good shops.
Do buy Punjabi vadis and papads. And from good shops and not small shops.

what to buy in amritsar

Insist on local made papads ... they are more robust in texture and flavours than the ones made in machines.
Garlic, Anardana, Methi are some good flavours to get home with you.

The same goes for the vadis too.
They have whole masalas in them and are very,very spicy.

vadis and papads in amritsar

Do get some locally made  Punjabi masalas for your kitchen too. 

beautiful punjab

Cab and taxi services are very unreliable and slow in Amritsar.
You can call and book a cab but do make sure you have at least an hour in your hand.
Punctuality is an option there. So as a time pressed tourist, you will need to keep that in mind.

Where to stay

Most people prefer to stay near the Golden temple as almost everything, from food joints to markets, are  spread around a radius of only 2-3 kms.
There are many types of hotels ... budget, mid budget and higher ranges.
Take your pick.
places to visit in punjab

Signing off with a snapshot of Pind Punjab!

If you are interested in any details or have any questions regarding a trip, please feel free to write to me.
I'll be happy to be of any help.

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