Seeing images of the Golden Temple for years, did not prepare us for the experience of being there nor the welcome we received.
The main reason for going to Amritsar, in India’s State of Punjab, is to visit the Sikh’s spiritual centre, the Harmandir Sahib; referred to by westerners as the ‘Golden Temple’. It welcomes over 100,000 visitors daily. Introduce yourself to the sights and sounds around the Golden Temple; as well as the only land border crossing between India and Pakistan, the Wagah Border Crossing where each night’s closing ceremony (aka performances) is an “over-the-top” display of patriotic fervor on both sides of the gate.
Address: Sethi Building, Chowk Baba Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab
Phone: (Toll Free) 1-800-137-09-32 / +91-9888088932
Travelin’Ted review for Trip Advisor
“VALUE in LOCATION & CLEANLINESS – NOT FOOD.”
Akaal Residency’s location is ideal for those wishing a short .4 km walk to the Golden Temple.
Room 104 was small, clean, with basic décor and, uncomfortably, from a safety perspective, no window. It held a short length, queen width bed with crisp white linens, wardrobe with 4 hangers, bar fridge, luggage bench, small wall desk with mirror, a slatted chair, air conditioning and flat screen tv; no wifi. The clean bathroom featured western toilet and sizable shower with curtain. The room’s individual hot water tank guaranteed limited hot water. No toilet paper, no soap.
Bend low if you are of average height or taller entering the breakfast room. Our advice is don’t bother with the breakfast room at all and seek meals outside this hotel. Your wait will be shorter, the food will be better, the utensils cleaner and the service, if but mediocre, will top Akaal’s. When asked for feedback, we shared our findings (including the actual dirty cutlery) with the owner/manager but she appeared to be in a deep state of denial.
If you plan to stay only one or two nights, don’t mind a windowless room and refrain from eating here, we can recommend this establishment.
Room Tip: Rooms we had did not have windows. Ask when booking so you are aware.
SIGHTSEEING IN AMRITSAR
The reason most people travel to Amritsar is to visit Harmandir Sahib, know to Westerners as the Golden Temple, the spiritual and cultural center for the Sikh religion. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally.
A distant runner-up in things-to-do is the closing ceremony at the Wagah Border Crossing; the only land crossing between India and Pakistan. The closing ceremony (aka performance) is an “over-the-top”, high-kicking, enthusiastic shouting, hand and flag waving display of patriotic fervor on both sides of the gate.
FOOD & DRINK IN AMRITSAR
To the palate of many Westerners, the highly flavourful, spiciness of Indian cuisine can be unagreeable. But even for those who prefer a blander diet, India is still doable.
India’s population has the lowest individual consumption of meat in the world and animal based ingredients, other than milk products and honey, are seldom used in traditional dishes. Ghee (clarified butter) is the traditional cooking medium. For the traveller who wants their animal protein most restaurants have meat options unless they advertise themselves as vegetarian. Most popular meats are chicken, lamb and goat as religious practices forbid beef products to Hindus and pork to Muslims. Finding truly fresh fish in Northern India may be challenging. In place of animal protein most of India turns to dhal (curried lentils or pulses). Yogurt and other dairy products also play a big part in providing protein.
If a steady diet of Indian spices and dhal are not appealing the traveller will find, on most menus, an oriental style noodle dish with influences from Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
In Northern India, flat bread and rice are the staple starches. Bread, more commonly referred to as roti and chapati (the latter being a thinner unleavened, whole-wheat version). They are often used as a vehicle to get food, such as dhal, from plate to mouth.
Vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive. Other than in American style hotels, salads are a rarity and the savvy traveller would be best to avoid anything which is not cooked or, in the case of fruit, peeled.
Vegetable pakoras are a popular finger food in India and can be ordered spicy or non-spicy. Made from chickpea flour and a variety of vegetables, then deep fried, pakoras are a tasty option for the non-spicy traveller and can be accompanied by yogurt or sweet & sour sauce for dipping.
For some excellent recommendations on restaurants consult a Lonely Planet guidebook – money well spent.
It is advisable for travellers in India to consume only bottled water. A nice change, when available, is bottled carbonated water. Buying water in large two litre bottles from a small vendor is usually the least expensive. With the proprietor watching, check the cap to ensure it is sealed.
Chai (tea) is a much consumed beverage often accompanied by heaps of sugar and generous pours of milk. Although tea is by far the most popular drink, coffee is gaining in acceptance.
Street stands offering fresh squeezed juices can seem tempting however lax hygiene practices – reusing cups which have been sloshed through a basin of tepid water – can ruin a vacation.
Lassi is a traditional drink of blended yogurt and water available ‘savory’ or ‘sweet’. The savory contains spices such as ground roasted cumin, whereas, sweet is made with sugar, honey or fruit. Sweet lemon, a variety of citrus, tastes more like orange to Western taste buds than lemon.
GETTING AROUND AMRITSAR
Train travel is a great way to experience India. Day travel will allow you to see the countryside as it whizzes (sometime plods) by. Night travel can get you to where you are going and provide an inexpensive place to sleep. If you have limited time in India it may be best to make reservations prior to leaving your home country.
Lonely Planet India
Note: There are very convincing scam artists at railway station entrances ready to ‘help‘ you by telling you the ticket office for foreigners has changed locations, after which they put you in a rickshaw and then hop in for the ride to their ‘travel office’ some distance away. The real foreign office was exactly where it should be, inside the railway station.
The motorized auto-rickshaw provides an exhilarating experience and offers a wonderful way to get around a city while affording some protection from the elements. The driver is supposed to use a meter but generally a bartering exchange is carried out before you get in … if the price is not agreed to BEFORE the cost at the end of the ride could be substantial. We were often able to squeeze four people and four backpacks into an auto-rickshaw.
Bicycle-rickshaws offer a slower paced view of a city and are good for short distances. They have limited protection from poor weather. The pedal-drivers work hard for their money.
Taxis are best for longer distances, wet weather conditions or for transporting over-luggaged tourists. Like the auto-rickshaws, taxis have meters which are seldom used. Before getting in, or putting luggage in the trunk, agree on the total cost to get to your destination.
Insisting on hiring another cab or rickshaw usually either “fixes” the meter or lowers the price. If your hotel offers to make transportation arrangements for you, it may be cheaper to decline and walk out to the street and flag down a rickshaw or taxi.
If you like your driver you can make arrangement to have him pick you up at another time and/or place; most often they will be there, particularly if you paid them fairly or tipped above the agreed price. For sightseeing you can arrange to be taken from place to place for the day at an agreed price payable at the conclusion of the day’s travels. Drivers may also be a good source of information as to where to go and what to see.