We were brought to a guest house which boasted all- a/c rooms and hot showers, but instead we got dirty diapers stuffed behind the door and under the bed and an army of ants marching along the walls and the floor. The air conditioner, which was a big part of the draw that got us here, was actually just a fan bringing the hot, stale air from outside into the bedroom. The bathroom, which looked remarkably clean with the lights off, was covered in the grayish film of other people's sweat and dirt. The hot water was a lie, too, which was fine, as the cold shower was the only respite from the heat, anyway. It was supposed to be an old English mansion, but sitting outside, in the sad, little courtyard, it felt far from its former glory. The pale, pale blue of the sky directly overhead faded down into the smoggy horizon until it was indistinguishable from the dead gray concrete walls of the guest house.
The Wagah Border ceremony was a very interesting mess, and I wouldn't recommend making the trip to anyone. (You can check it out here, on YouTube if you have four minutes to kill, that's probably the best way to see the most interesting part of it.) The taxi parks a few kilometers away, and then you walk to the entrance. Nobody tells you that you have to get in line until you are far past the end of it, and then you walk all the way back, men on one side, women on the other. Indians are not awesome at lines. They either disregard the whole idea of "waiting their turn" and push/shove/cut until they get what they want, or they form a line so tight and aggressive that the person behind you is holding on tight to your waist or shoulders with both arms and using her whole body to push you forward, right up (and hopefully, it seems, through) the person in front of you. Then when other women would try to use the typical method of infiltrating the line halfway up, there would be no weakness, no room for cutting. But the cutter will try hard, standing there, trying to elbow her way in until a police officer sends her to the back of the line (or until she got in). It was still hot, and all the bodies pressing together were creating a body-odored steaminess that made me want to turn around and leave. But I held my ground! The mounted policemen would periodically charge at the lines, scaring the women and running the men into a barbed-wire fence.
We went through security, where our water was confiscated, and then continued on to the stadium built around the Indian side of the border. There was something blocking the way, so the hoards of people just heaved forward like a giant wave until they were pushed back again, receding violently and nearly trampling me and many small children. I decided to get out. We found the VIP section, also for foreigners (because white skin and VIP seem to be synonymous in India, there's a big business around skin-whitening) where we were allowed in, despite our lack of passports, identification or passes. We went through more security. We were escorted to seats in the front, oe in the concrete bleachers which were so hot that they burned our butts. I was right next to an adorable baby, who was a welcome distraction from the shenanigans of the ceremony.
So, aside from the communal bathrooms and the "foreigners” section, there was just about everything you would need from a town, all inside the complex - internet, hotel, snacks, transportation and the dining hall. The dining hall is an amazing operation, and one of the only choices for eating. We went looking for other food nearby and walked for about forty minutes, finding only one small dhaba (like a small, dirty cafe that only serves one dish) and a mediocre restaurant where we learned that "veg sandwich" mean white bread with thin slices of tomato and mayonnaise.
As you enter, downstairs, there is a sacred-er area in the center, partitioned-off, where important people do important things. When we were there at night, they were carefully wrapping up a sword and putting it away, with lots of ceremony. From there you can go upstairs to see the giant book. It is the Sikh holy book, and someone has to be reading it at all times. It is HUGE. Not just a long book, but bigger than my mom. (Okay, she's not that big, for a person, but for a book, she's enormous!) So you can watch the guy read it. If you're Sikh, it seems like a really good place to pray.
There was another ceremony later, in which something holy (I think it was the sword) was taken out in a big gold palanquin, and everybody tried to touch it and prayed, and then everything was cleaned with orange dusters and went back inside. The Sikhs seem to be a very clean people.
In Amritsar there is also a Silver temple, which is almost exactly the same as the Golden Temple, except its doors are silver. Same gold, same chandeliers inside, same tank, same fish. Oh, and its a Hindu temple. That was a big difference. We were there for evening puja and it was so lively and fun, not like the Golden Temple which was solemn and serious. There were musicians and a big, fat priest who threw water on us. There were candles and shouting and a lady shoving me up front so I could get a better view. And outside there was a sadhu who, when I asked if I could take his picture, carefully arranged his scarf before looking up at me.