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Old 21st September 2010, 01:20   #1
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Default the City travels Gurgaon-Amritsar-Wagah

Since we got our new Honda City, we were itching to take it on a long drive and let its engine free. And when I went home for a vacation, we decided to take a trip to Amritsar-Wagah border. We were aware that the weather and road conditions were not really ideal but a drive in the car was too tempting!

We set off on 8th Sept. from our place (Sector 49-50, South City 2, Gurgaon) at 6.30am. The roads in Gurgaon are in pathetic shape so we connected to the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway in the shortest manageable way (at Rajiv Chowk). From there on, we kept on the expressway passing through Dhaula Kuan and taking the exit to Rohini. There onwards, we got onto the Inner Ring Road and took the road to Mukarba Chowk. After 50km, at 7.30, we reached the Chowk and connected to NH1. A word of advice, if you plan to take this trip, ensure that you reach this point latest by 6.30am because beyond that, traffic starts piling up and on the way you'll pass through a major Sabzi Mandi so chances are you will get stuck between the tempos.

Finally, we were on NH1 : a 4-lane highway with a divider throughout and embarkments on curves. The roads widens up where crossing is allowed. The weather was quite pleasant and so was the road condition. We were comfortably sailing around 100km/hr and I was getting as much as 20-21km/hr mileage. It was raining lightly so it didn't affect my speed significantly. About 50km from Mukarba Chowk, we took a pitstop for breakfast at "Hotel Haveli", a chain of hotels from Jalandhar. Haveli is on both sides of the roads so you can stop while travelling on either lanes. It has quite an elegant ambience, decent service and good food. After a sumptous breakfast, we set off at 9.30. The road was good again until about Panipat where we were stuck in a massive jam. There is immense flyover work going on around Panipat so only 1 lane is operational. That, the rains had ensured a long queue of vehicles. Some vehicles took the service road and went ahead quickly; but it's quite a gamble since you never know where some vehicle could get stuck. Also, the condition of the service road isn't exactly pleasant. My advice, stick to the main NH1 and wait for your turn. After crossing Panipat, the road wasn't particularly good upto Karnal. There again, there are diversions so chances are you'll get stuck again. In this patch, we lost about an hour for just 10-20km. So, by 11.30 we were through Karnal and the roads and weather cleared up quite a bit. Hereon, the condition of the roads is good but there are short diversions (due to pillars for the flyovers) after every 10km. I maintained around 90km/hr after Karnal. We had planned to reach Wagah border the same evening in time for the Retreat Ceremony so we were not keen on any more breaks. There are ample dhabas along the way so one can take a halt at any point. We crossed Ludhiana around 3.30pm, so we had 150km to go for Wagah and 2 hours in hand. In about 45min, we had reached Jalandhar. The condition of roads in Jalandhar is quite bad so we had to slow down considerably till we were out of city limits. Hereon though, the road is 2-lane without a divider. The Punjab Roadways bus drivers or taxi drivers feel they own most of the roads so more often than not, they occupy half of the opposite lane also. Be very careful on these roads for they won't budge a bit! Overtaking on this patch is quite risky. Much to our relief, the 4 lane highway resumed after 20km. The road hereon is beautiful, with lush green scenary. Wagah was roughly 100km and we just had a hour so we abandoned the Wagah plan for the day and decided to go to Amritsar itself. We reached Amritsar around 5.30. The earlier day, we had reserved a room in Hotel City Heart, a decent hotel a lane away from the Golden Temple. However, we took one of the tiny lanes and got lost. When we called the Hotel for directions and reiterate if they had parking facility, he said they did not have a dedicated parking lot but parked the guests' vehicles on the street. Be very careful. Most Hotels inside the City DO NOT have their own parking facility and park vehicles somewhere on the street in front of shops. This is why they have Valet Parking. So we decided to find a place slightly away from the city centre. We headed to Ranjit Avenue and Mall Road where there are plenty luxury hotels. We checked in at Hotel Royal Castle and took a 2-bed A/c deluxe room (Rent 2000 off season, 3000 season, 12 noon check out). We freshened up, had dinner and set off at 8pm for the Golden Temple. It is quite a beautiful sight a night: well-lit and glittering! We walked around the lake, entered the Temple, offered our prayers, saw every room on every floor of the Temple. It was about 10 then so people were not allowed inside the Temple anymore. We sat for 10-15min and then left for the hotel for a good night's sleep. The morning did not start very pleasantly thanks to the ancient bathroom fittings; we waited for 1 hr for a plumber to fix the tap. We were not particularly happy with the room since the carpet appeared very dusty and the bathroom was clean but not well-kept. The complementary breakfast wasn't a very pleasant experience either because the waiter wanted to get what was available and not what we wanted. We checked out, kept the luggage in the car and set off for sight seeing in a rickshaw. The driver offered to show us around all the places for 200 bucks. He first took us to Durgiana Temple, a Hanuman, Ram-Sita Temple. It is quite on the lines of the Golden Temple, ie surrounded by a pond and having gold plates on the outside. It has statues of Hindu Gods on pedestals in the pond. From there, we went to Jallianwala Bagh. Historic places like the Martyrs' Well, where many people jumped in to avoid the bullets, the walls which bear the bullets are quite well managed and information is displayed. Once out of there, the driver took us to a sweet shop; dry fruits are a speciality of Amritsar. "Panjeeri", a mixture of various dry fruits in ghee is quite a delicacy. We had lunch at "Brother's Dhaba", a very famous restaurant in Amritsar. We got back to the hotel by 2.30pm and set off in our car immediately. Our first destination was Ram Tirth Temple, which is about 15km from the city. This is where Luv-Kush were born. It is quite a well-managed area with 2-3 temples, a huge cut-out of Hanuman and a big surrounding lake. At 3.30pm, we set off for the Wagah Border. The highway to Wagah is again very scenic. We covered the 30km distance shortly and reached the common border between India and Pakistan at 4.

Now Wagah border has quite become a tourist destination! There are a few dhabas just outside the gate. There are separate queues for men and women; and the gate to enter the Border area opens at 4.45. There was a huge rush so it took us quite some time to get in. After 2-3 security checks and 200m, we reached the Gallery at the Border. Here again, the seating arrangements for men and women are different; women sit closer to the border. While the Indian side had close to 2500 people, hardly 10 Pakistanis turned up on their side. The excitement and energy in the atmosphere was up to the brim! Patriotic songs were being played in the background, a compere encouraged the crowd to cheer, shout and clap as songs blasted through the PAS. He got 2 large Indian Flags and called people from the crowd to carry the flag to the border gate (a few metres away) and back. Slowly, a huge line of people wanting to carry the flag built up. After this, he invited a few ladies to dance to some patriotic tunes from Bollywood. All this concluded at 5.45 when the Retreat Ceremony began. Loud foot-stomping, aggresive marching and body language and exchange of formal pleasantaries by both BSF and Pakistan Rangers followed. The flags of respective countries were lowered and the ceremony came to an end with flags taken off and border gates closed at about 7pm. Frankly, the whole Ceremony has become more about entertainment rather than patriotism. I was there with a hope of experiencing a surge in patriotism but got none. People might have their own idea of visiting this place so it's entirely on individual opinion. This being said, one should definitely experience it at least once. Inside the border area, there is a Souvenior shop which has things like the Indian Flag for the car dashboard, a pen stand with the flag on it, T-shirts with BSF jawans etc. for sale. We headed back to Amritsar and checked into Mohan International Hotel, a decent luxury hotel. A 2-bed A/c deluxe room was 2300 (off season, 4k during season, 12 noon checkout). The rooms here are quite elegant. We called it a day soon.

The next morning, we set off on the journey back at 8am. The weather was quite pleasant with an occasional drizzle. We reached Jalandhar soon and this was where monsoon had played havoc. The highway was terribly water-logged with half a tyre inside water. Only 1 lane was operational at most places and driving was quite a task. I was mostly on 1st gear, with engine rpm above 2.5k on half-clutch-half-accelerator. All the way to Ludhiana, the highway was badly water logged and in bad condition. Once we crossed Ludhiana, thankfully the road condition improved. Although the road hereon was good, there were still diversions every 10km. We took 2 stops, one for breakfast near Ludhiana and one after it for tea. The journey hereon was largely effortless and we encountered very less traffic. Thankfully, we did not get stuck between Karnal and Panipat on the way back. We stopped at Haveli at about 4 for snacks. Just as we were about to leave, the Lahore-Delhi bus with 2 police cars ahead and behind it crossed us. We then continued till Delhi and took the exit towards Rohini. And here we got stuck in peak traffic. Since it was 6 and all roads would be packed, we decided to take the slightly longer Outer Ring Road. In some time, we reached Dhaula Kuan and got onto the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway. At 7, were finally home!

Overall it had been a fantastic trip. But if any of you would be planning something similar, I'd suggest you wait for a while until the weather is better and the roads are improved.

Statistics :

Home (South City 2, Gurgaon) - Amritsar : 500km
Home - Home : 1078km
Total toll : apprx 250 one-way
Time taken : Home - Amritsar : 11hrs
Amritsar - Home : 9 hrs
Average fuel consumption : 17.8 km/l (2 people, 2 bags, A/c sparingly used)

Looking forward to the next road trip now!
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Old 21st September 2010, 10:04   #2
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Did you take the Ludhiana and Jalandhar bypasses or go through the city? What was the road condition in the bypasses?

I thought the Panipat flyover is already done, what is the new construction that is happening there?
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Old 21st September 2010, 10:07   #3
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we took both the bypasses..
the roads as such are not very bad but heavily water logged..

at turns where they are banked, water kept on accumulating.. half the tyre of most cars was under water.. cars like 800, zen had quite some trouble..
and junctions where there are diversions, there is a heavy flow of water in the service lane..

there are tons of flyovers going on and most have just one pillar erected as of now..
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Old 21st September 2010, 10:07   #4
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Nice teasers,

What happened to Antenna on your car? I own the same beauty, body coloured reverse sensors make it feel good.
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Old 21st September 2010, 10:12   #5
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oh well about that!

we live in gurgaon, not a place where every person is honest..
the antenna was stolen from our society compound (with round the clock security at every point).. and here's the killer.. this happened within 2 weeks of buying the car..

we shelled out 1200 for a new antenna and have kept it at home!
the radio reception is very good even without the antenna so we haven't put it yet..
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Old 22nd September 2010, 00:29   #6
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Default the pictures!

the 1st part of the pictures..
- hotel haveli..
- NH1
- a chowk in Amritsar
- Golden Temple
- Golden Temple
- Durgiana Temple
- Amar Jyoti, Jallianwala Bagh
- Martyrs' Well, Jallianwala Bagh
- Jallianwala Bagh
- Golden Temple
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Old 22nd September 2010, 00:44   #7
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the pictures are as follows :

- Ram Tirth Temple
- Wagah border, Retreat Ceremony
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 22nd September 2010, 17:30   #8
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Nice travelogue. Reminded me of my visit here in 2002. You should have tasted Bansal ki Pinni & the famous Dodha barfi in Ludhiana..
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Old 22nd September 2010, 17:37   #9
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The other side of the gate is so empty
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Old 22nd September 2010, 17:42   #10
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Well, it had been raining so consistently in Punjab when we went.

So, the streets were water logged, it was quite humid; so we were actually not very keen on having too many sweets. The weather dampened a few things.

But nevermind, there's always a next time!
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Old 22nd September 2010, 17:46   #11
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Yes! I think almost everyone who has been there, at any time of the year has had the same observation!

While we were there, a person standing next time to me in the gallery joked; "Just imagine if the soldiers from the other side decide to fire at us; our soldiers would be stuck in a bad situation; wondering if they should protect the citizens first or the border! So, the fact that there are not many people there is better for them".

Albeit he intended it good humour, the thought of it happening wasn't pleasant!
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Old 22nd September 2010, 19:15   #12
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Hi Libran,

Good start to the TL and nice pics. Liked the pics of Golden Temple and Jalianwala Bagh. Waiting for more.
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