From East to West Asia

Trip Start Dec 03, 2005
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43
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Trip End Jun 20, 2006


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Flag of India  ,
Friday, May 12, 2006

Flew out of Bangkok at 11:25am for Singapore, as Singapore airlines route most of their traffic via their international airport - not that I mind, they have a fantastic airport, the best I know of for facilities (incl free Internet, free city tour if over 5 hrs stop) if you have to stopover for any length of time for a connecting flight.
Anyway in Bangkok, I eventually settled the matter I'd been trying since Koh Samui to resolve; ie. changing the route of my final leg, to enable me to fly Bangkok to Northern India instead of Southern (Kerala) India, due to being in the midst of their monsoon season. Also it would be more convenient to return to London from a more northern airport, such as Delhi, but needed someone who could definitively tell me which airports Virgin Atlantic fly from - the assistant in Singapore airline office in Bangkok was very helpful, and was sure that Delhi would be the farthest north i could get for the Virgin Atlantic flight (already I knew there was no Virgin office in Bangkok airport to check directly, and didn't want repeat of the long distance phone call that kept cutting me off the previous time I phoned their UK office).
Ok, now for the flight into India. Amritsar was the farthest north, so it seemed I would be in for some cooler weather after all - Its a place very near the Pakistan border, and where the Sikh religion was founded, the Golden Temple in the city being the place where the Sikhs held a siege, and Indira Ghandi ordered a military attack on the temple, killing hundreds of Sikhs. Later, she was assassinated by one of her Sikh bodyguards.
The Brits made an even more catastrophic attack on Sikh people in a gathering in the same town, where 2 thousand or so were gunned down in a public park trying to hold a rally in protest about the political imprisonment of two of their leaders.
When the flight arrived, the pilot made his usual announcements - "welcome to Amritsar, it is 9.15 PM local time, and the air temperature is 35 degrees" ! - jeez, mid evening is 35, what's it going to be like midday!
Ok, I'll spend a day seeing the golden temple, and the memorial garden, and dodge the midday heat as much as poss. - but i WILL get a room with air con! - is what I decided.
Actually it was not too hot even at 12 noon, being a bit overcast; and I dived back to the guest house for some lunch, and watched TV in the comfort of the air con. When I ventured out again at 3.30, it was baking. Seriously hot. Still made it on foot to the nearest (maybe the only) ice cream parlour, and felt much better for it. Early evening offered another form of entertainment, this time provided by the Indian Army, specifically the border control. Every evening they have a border ceremony, (the border with Pakistan), which militarily, would probably involve no more than taking down the flag, and change of guard. However the Indians, and Pakistanis, have turned it into a fully orchestrated spectacle, with both armies, separated just by two large wrought iron gates, performing almost mirrored stomping and shows of bravado, to audiences of thousands clapping and jeering. They even have an MC to get the spirits fired up, singing anthems, etc etc. and both armies have purpose built terraced seating for everyone. Very interesting.
I met an Australian young lady on the way back from the ceremony, and she was heading further north the following day, like me, wanting to get out of the heat. I hoped to go to Manali, which is properly into the Himalayas, and a good point to head further north into Kashmir (a favourite place is called Leh), and being the Buddhist area of Kashmir, it is considered safe for tourists.
However, Amanda, from Sydney, had already sourced out info on travelling to Dharam Sala, very near to the town of Mcleod Ganji, where the Dali LLama (and the Tibetan government) is exiled. This was also on my list and made more sense to go there first, then cross the state to Manali, which is east of here. So there's the plan for tomorrow, back to sitting on buses for many hours at a time!
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