Make the most of a long weekend with a eat-sight-see-eat blitzkrieg through the happiest, heartiest city in Punjab #longlivewhiskey #butterchickenftw
There’s a certain poetry in returning to a place that remains unchanged, to see the ways in which you have changed—and Amritsar, she of the Golden Temple, Wagah Border, Patiala pegs and endless meals may have more malls than it did 10 years ago, and even a Walmart (yeah!)—but a visit three years after my last proves its larger-than-life spirit remains untouched. Join me through three days of kulchas for breakfast, double-dinners, midnight dessert drives and roaming the dusty streets, discovering a place where time freezes but somehow life still moves on.
Day 1: Food factory
It’s next to impossible to avoid going on a frenzied food trail when visiting the town but luckily being related to 90 per cent of the population and years of visiting made it easy to narrow down and focus on the favourites. We began with a bang, with classic poori –aloo- chana, steaming kada and lassi at Kanha’s (Lawrence Road) for brunch.
To no one’s surprise, we ended with a frozen fruit cream from Sukhram Fruit Ice cream & Juice Bar. Yes, we took a half-kilo home.
With the rest of the day spent in a food coma-induced haze, it was only the lure of Lonely Planet-recommended Surjit Food Plaza that ensured we left the bed. The tandoori chicken, mutton and even paneer tikkas were definitely worth the trudge there.
Day 2: Border (No) Control
The day started out nobly, with us attempting to keep it light with tea and malai-covered toasts for breakfast, but our resolve quickly went downhill when confronted with hot aloo kulchas at Chungi crossing, Maqbool Road’s KulchaWala—the sun beating down on us warming our cold faces, made the outdoor meal that much sweeter.
Ask any Amritsari, and they’ll proudly share the urban legend that there’s something in the water that makes food taste sweeter, and hunger appear every couple of hours. Whether it was this mystical quality, the cold weather, warm hospitality or just plain greed, we gorged on freshly fried samosas and melt-in-your mouth phirnis later that day. While our appetites were out of control, there was definitely control at the Wagah Border, a 45-min distance from the main town centre. Stopped by GI Joe-looking SWAT commandos on our way, an hour spent watching the India-Pakistan retreat ceremony and a sunset drive back ensured an increased appetite for dinner: at the nearly 100-year old Kesar Da Dhaba. Cue loaded ma ki daal, masale-daar palak paneer, steaming parathas and the inability to stay up for much longer.
Day 3: Sacred heart
In an attempt to keep things ‘healthy,’ we stuck to tea and Malai toast before we headed out to unleash our inner devotees at the Golden Temple. Three hours of exploring the beautifully peaceful space sure worked up an appetite and we returned home to eat our fill of homemade parathas and meat tikkas. Naptime, followed by shopping for beautiful Phulkari duppatas at Raghav Madhav shop helped us tie our three day-long mini-break with a perfect little ribbon. Our last meal was a casual one at The Amritsar Club, where we saw how the locals unwind on a Saturday night. And then, it was time to go home.
An unhurried air where people still use cycle-rickshaws to go hardcore vegetable shopping, enjoy leisurely breakfasts and tea-time, endless gedis (drives) and lazy afternoons doing nothing; holidays may bring out the sloth in all of us, but something tells me the locals prefer this laidback approach to life—and after three days of actually chewing my breakfast instead of rushing out of the door with it, and watching locals come home to lunch makes me want to slow down a little, too. And the cold, pollution-free air making my skin clear, and malai turning my cheeks plump and rosy, certainly didn’t hurt. Bombay may own my heart, but Amritsar will always have a place in it.
Location – Amristar, Punjab
Famous for/as: Golden Temple, Jalianwallah Bagh; Wagah Border; eateries
Route: Direct flight from Delhi and other metro cities. Airport/ Train station available
Best Season: Nov-Feb