How to spend 48 hours in Amritsar

Amritsar, historically also known as Rāmdāspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is a city in north-western India in the Indian state of Punjab. It is situated near Pakistan and the Wagah border. Being the home of the picturesque Golden Temple, It is a popular religious and spiritual destination. It is also very well known for its local food and subsequently various food trails that tourists can cover to get a glimpse into Amritsari food. Amritsar has been witness to some of the most historical events around Partition and houses the Jallianwala bagh too. It is also the birth place of eminent personalities like guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of Sikhs and of course contemporary celebrities like Kapil Sharma, Chef Vikas Khanna to name a few. 🙂
 
A lot of people indulge in shopping in Amritsar for local handwoven Phulkari (embroidery technique from Punjab) dupattas and suits or Punjabi Vadi, Paapad & Achar. Hence Amritsar in short – combines all the attractions of a tourist destination. Spiritualism, Diplomacy between two countries, History, Food, Shopping – what more can one ask for.

So when Vistara Airlines offered to fly me down to Amritsar for an all expense paid trip , I was quite excited. I was to spend 48 hours in Amritsar and cover all possible things that can be done in Amritsar in 2 days. Amritsar is well equipped with world class hotels. Vistara Airlines had made arrangements for our stay at Taj Swarna – a brand new property, not too far from the airport. After a welcome ceremony & quick hi-tea, we rested for a bit in our nice well equipped rooms. In the evening we had a diya lighting ritual. After dinner where the entire group interacted with each other, we awaited the Amritsar itinerary to follow in the next 2 days.

Here are a few things you can do in Amritsar in 48 hours.

Visit the Golden Temple

The main attraction of Amritsar, the magnificent, soothing and calming Golden Temple, is always full of tourists at all times. You can visit it any time but the best times to visit are early morning and late night. Both offer different glimpses of the temple – one of the day and one of the night. The road leading to Golden temple has now become pedestrian only and that area looks pretty much like that in a world class city! Cobble stone paths, fancy lamposts, with flower baskets! Uniform colours, patterns and name plates on all shops .. and VERY clean. Before visiting the Golden temple, keep in mind the fact that your head has to be covered at all times. So one needs to carry a scarf/stole or handkerchief with one. It is also mandatory to take off shoes AND socks both, dip your feet in a pool of water and then walk in to the Golden temple. 

Golden Temple

Golden temple

Once in, you can get into the queue to visit the sanctum sanctorum. If you reach early enough, you may even get a spot to SIT inside for as long as you wish. People can be usually seen meditating there or just reveling in the very tangible calming effect of the place . I did the darshan through the VIP line, thanks to arrangements made by Vistara Airlines.  On exiting one can have Kada Prasad. If you carry an extra box with you, you can get some extra helpings. It is worth the effort.

Over a 100,000 visitors are fed every day at the Golden temple. You can be one of them, or you can help in one of the tasks involved with serving food to such visitors.

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Visit the Jalianwala Bagh

Right outside the Golden temple are various places of interest. One of them is the Jalianwala Bagh which witnessed one of the most horrific massacres that human kind has seen. It is now a memorial with a garden. One can see bullet holes in walls there as well as the well in to which many people jumped to escape firing. A solemn place but one worth visiting.
 
Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

 
 

Walk along Heritage Street

This is the same road that leads to both Jalianwla Bagh as well as the Golden temple. It also has some other smaller temples as well. The place houses various shops for Phulkari, footwear, eatables as well sumptuous street food.
 
Walk along heritage street

Walk along heritage street

 
 

Shopping at Amritsar

You can visit markets like Hall Gate and Katra Jaimal Singh for punjabi juttis and stunning phulkari dupattas.
Phulkari

Phulkari

 

Eating out at Amritsar

Amritsar is one of India’s top most food destinations! One must visit the iconic Bharawan da Dhaba, opposite Town Hall, Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner (Basant Nagar, 21 A, Near Madaan Hospital, Majitha Road). Also try Pal da Dhaba (Hathi Gate) near Golden temple or Kesar da Dhaba. The heritage street outside Golden temple also houses a number of eateries to give you a taste of the local cuisine right after the temple visit. You can also visit Surjit Food Plaza which is popular with celebrities from all over the world. Kachoris, Samosas, Matthi, Firni, Kheer, Jalebi, Amritsari fish tikka, Amritsari kulcha, chur chur naan, sarson da saag, makki di roti, various kinds of lassi to top everything up, and a whole lot more can be indulged in.
Jalebis

Jalebis

witness the Beating Retreat at the Attari–Wagah border

 Leave for the Wagah border well in time to reach there by 3:30pm to get good seats. There is a long walk after a point where vehicles are not allowed any further. You can not carry any bags to the border. Anything you carry has to be in your hands. After security check, you can grab seats at a vantage point to get a good glimpse of the fanfare and the ceremony. I had access to VIP seats thanks to my hosts – Taj Swarna & Vistara Airlines. The parade is held with much fanfare on both sides of the border. Patriotic songs are played interspersed by slogans like “Bharat mata kee jai“, “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram on our side of course. BSF soldiers from India & their counterparts on the other side, put on a display that tries to show them outdoing each other at every step. However beyond the ceremony, the same people are amiable and exchange sweets on important festivals. Thanks to my hosts, I got access to a part of the border where I could stand within a few inches of the border! A Pakistani ranger and an Indian counterpart stand within 3 feet of each other guarding their respective sections. Beyond this spot, only green fields can be seen, reminding one that borders are ONLY man made. I was jealous of the birds flying across both countries and even stray dogs crossing borders casually throughout the time I was there! It was quite amusing to see how humans have imposed these restrictions on themselves.
 
Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat

Beating the retreat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places to Stay in Amritsar

There are a lot of world class hotels that provide comfortable accommodation in Amritsar, not too far off from all the attractions. I stayed at Taj Swarna since they were my hosts for this trip. My stay was very comfortable and the staff very amiable.

The lovely Taj Swarna

The lovely Taj Swarna

 Now that you know what all can be done in Amritsar in 48 hours, what are you waiting for? Book a flight & your stay at a hotel and get going!

 

 

 


Launch of Saffola Aura with Kunal Kapur & Pooja Makhija

Recently I had been invited to the launch of  Saffola Aura- The new Super Oil with Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil, launched with Kunal Kapur & Pooja Makhija. The event took place in Bombay and bloggers from all over India had been invited for the same.

So I found myself at the Smoke House Delhi, BKC one summer afternoon for the new “mysterious launch” of a product that had not been disclosed to us. The new Super Oil was launched with celebrity chef Kunal Kapur and celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija.

Launch of Aura Oil by Chef Kunal & Nutritionist Pooja

Launch of Aura Oil by Chef Kunal & Nutritionist Pooja

A never seen before creation, Aura oil is a unique blend of two super foods – Olive Oil and Flaxseed oil. Hence, this Oil gives you the benefits of both Omega-3 and powerful anti-oxidants that help renew your body cells every day.

The two variants of Aura Oil

The two variants of Aura Oil

Chef Kunal and nutritionist Pooja chatted with us bloggers about how Saffola Aura is the perfect wellness choice for today’s lifestyle. There is a variant with high smoking point, that can be used in Indian cooking, as well as an Extra virgin variant for pouring over salads, pastas etc. 

With the stressful times we live in, this kind of a product with its omega 3 and antioxidant properties is indeed beneficial to add to one’s diet. After the launch, there was a cook-off challenge amongst the bloggers. We were all randomly divided into teams and were given a list of ingredients out of which at least 4 were mandatory. We had to make one dish using the new Super Oil, within 45 minutes.  I started with making an Italian version of Shakshuka and then since there was so much time, I made a quick salad too. My team helped in chopping all the ingredients and helped in plating.

 

Caramelised Pineapple, Tomato, Avocado & Ricotta Salad for the cookoff

Caramelised Pineapple, Tomato, Avocado & Ricotta Salad for the cookoff

Finally, the evening ended with final team getting a masterclass with Chef Kunal Kapur at a later date. And all of us made our way to the airport. It was a nice evening and I hope to try out the oils in my regular cooking soon!



Desi habit of Jugaad

Is the Indian way of thinking, a unique contributor to our success? YES! As Indians we are all aware of how “jugaad” works. For those who are still not aware of what this term implies – it is basically a means to innovate or find a low cost yet quick and effective solution to any problem. This is a very Indian thing. Sometimes the stuff that people come up with is really admirable and they should probably patent and market it. There are innumerable situations where “jugaad” has come to my rescue but in this post, I Am going to highlight a particular situation where jugaad was really helpful when I was outside India and needed to use my Indian skills.This incident is from 2002 when I was in Japan for 2 months, on site , as part of my IT industry life. The very opportunity for going on site to Tokyo had come my way due to the fact that no one, yes NO ONE, in general wanted to go to Tokyo. There were a lot of issues with such a  long stint at Tokyo. Apart from the usual cultural difficulties, most outsiders in Japan face (or at least faced in that “era”) two particular problems the most. The first was the language barrier. There were barely any people who spoke English. And if at all, all of them happened to be working with us. So if we actually needed some help outside of office, it was nearly impossible to communicate anything and one had to be really good at “dumb charades” to attempt communicating anything. The second issue was food. It was really really really difficult to find something palatable, let alone vegetarian. For the Japanese – chicken, egg, pork etc counted as Vegetarian fare and seafood was what was considered Non-vegetarian. Thus even if you would confirm from someone if the thing you were buying was vegetarian, there actually was no guarantee that it really was. So the only way to get through was to cook oneself.

Now comes the interesting part. Most of the time, we used to get by on things like sandwiches & salads or the Japanese versions of “curry”. Trust me you don’t enjoy it especially with sticky rice. So an Indian meal was a luxury and very tough to find. For my own food supplies, I had taken Atta (whole wheat flour) with me from India , since I knew it would be really tough to find there. And I had taken a pressure cooker along. I had been provided accommodation arranged  by the Japanese organisation I was working for and it was available to me till 31st december 2002. Before leaving for new year celebrations, I wanted to exhaust my food supplies and also have a celebratory new year meal. In other words, I had to use ALL the atta I had and also make something really nice. So I invited some of my Indian colleagues over for Aloo ke paranthe. It took them NO time to say yes, because none of us had had a proper Indian meal in months.

The issues started cropping up when I had to actually make them. Not only does the entire world use electric stoves which take painfully slow to heat up, but they also obviously don’t have the usual utensils Indians use. In this case – those were Tawa (flat pan), chakla & belna (Indian style circular board & rolling pin ). So after boiling potatoes, I kneaded the atta in my precious cooker. In lieu of a tawa, I used a shallow pan. And to replace the Chakla, I used a thin chopping board. For belna usage, I needed something evenly cylindrical and at that point all I had was a glass bottle. So I used the glass bottle to roll out the paranthas.

As a result of all these jugaad items, a “lavish” (by our Japanese standards then) Indian meal was prepared for new year celebrations. My colleagues really appreciated the Aloo paranthe they had in Tokyo, and till this date they remember them fondly thanks to this!

Jugaad is certainly one skill that all Indians inherently possess. When the situation comes up, thinking out of the box is all it needs. We are more Indian than we think. Just like this TVC for Lufthansa shows how our Indian values are now being recognised at a global level.

 

** This post is part of a #MoreIndianThanYouThink contest being run by Lufthansa Airlines

 



The new Tata Tigor experience

Some readers of this blog may know that I really enjoy driving (to the extent of taking part in rallies and driving at F1 circuit etc) and I quite enjoy trying out the latest cars out there.

Recently I was invited by Indiblogger and Tata motors to try out their latest addition – Tata Tigor (it was yet to be officially launched then) and they chose a few handpicked bloggers from all over India, for the 2 day soiree. I was quite excited at the prospect because there were a whole lot of fun activities as well as a trip to the Transport museum in store.

So off I set one early afternoon in March to the 1AQ gallery. This gallery is perfect for holding a variety of events what with its manicured lawns with quirky statues and plush interiors. Over sumptuous lunch curated by my friends at Food talk india and catered by Olive kitchen and bar, all the bloggers got a chance to interact with each other, watch lot of interesting performances, try one’s hand at spray painting graffiti, explore the extraordinary coffee blend prepared specifically for us and watch & gulp mesmerising molecular gastronomy appetisers.

Perfumery at 1AQ

Sample perfumes gifted to us

Styling area at 1AQ

So we all got to try out a range of perfumes with notes ranging from woody, to fruity and we were presented whatever suited us best. Next up, at the styling section, were lined up a whole lot of accessories along with the playbooks for various “looks”. I chose the 60’s style look. I was accessorised with a scarf (that matched the colour scheme of Tigor) and a pair of hoops. 

 

The “stage” where performances were held

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we watched the performances we could try out the specific coffee blend made for this event. It consisted of 2 coffees from south India and one Brazilian variety. Overall it tasted super awesome. We were given sachets of the same to try at leisure and I must say I am hooked.

 

Coffee blend made specifically for the Tata Tigor event

Healthy salads

Molecular gastronomy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spray painting graffiti wall

Parmesan buttermilk explosion with lime gel, dehydrated basil snow, faux tomato, avocado mousse

Plethora of desserts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lunch was to be eaten with the eyes and the mouth. There was a whole lot to watch and marvel at apart from wolfing down. The healthy salads, the molecular gastronomy shindig , the curated coffee and of course a plethora of desserts – left everyone satisfied. All this was brought to a plate near you by Olive kitchen and bar. While we had our lunch we watched some upbeat performances. There was a spray painting wall where everyone was encouraged to paint an adjective that came to their mind when they saw the new Tata Tigor.

 

 

Then we were all interviewed by a camera crew and took some group pics , had a lot of fun and left for our place of stay for the next day – Andaz, Delhi. Once we reached Andaz , we were allotted rooms on a sharing basis (now THAT was a first for me because I haven’t had the experience of sharing a room with a stranger and wouldn’t choose  it if it was left to me)!   We signed indemnification documents, copies of driver licenses et al – everything in preparation for the drive early next morning (6:30 am). The hotel rooms were nice, though not quite sound proof. We were welcomed with gujiya and a custom made chocolate for the event.

Welcome Gujiya

Customised chocolate

The room with a view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After settling down all the bloggers congregated for the pre-unveiling of the Tata Tigor. It was done with much fanfare.

Pre-Unveiling of Tata tigor

Pre-unveiling of Tata tigor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the pre-unveiling, we were introduced to the special twitter studio arranged for us that day where attendees could create videos or GIFs of themselves and share instantly. For the drive I was put together by 2 other women (one of whom who drove) and the 3 of us made some funny GIFs at the twitter studio, with the two “driving” women  pretending to drive and the other one sitting it out 🙂

Twitter studio

 

 

 

 

It was an early night for us because the next morning we all were to actually drive the brand new Tata tigor – both petrol and diesel variants. The ETD was 6:30am. So we all got ready, grabbed a very quick small bite (can’t really eat this early in the morning) and we were flagged off by representatives of Tata motors.

 

 

Flag off by Tata motors

The car was really comfortable to drive. Packed with modern features, we had a navigation route already set for us to follow. The route actually crossed my place in gurgaon and had it been on the way back, I would have certainly gone home :). The new Tata tigor is very stylish and comfortable. It is neither a sedan nor a hatchback and hence termed “styleback”. Though looks wise, space wise, and comfort wise, it is nothing short of a sedan. Measurement wise it is barely short of 4 metres. It is very easy to manoeuvre and has loads of boot space. On our drive lot of sound bytes were taken by the camera crew following us. Somewhere half way to the Transport museum at tauru, I exchanged seats and tried my hand at driving. The car has got a lot of power even for the diesel variant. What REALLY stands out are the 8 yes EIGHT Harman speakers in the car! All the more reason for a peppy drive. Tata motors has especially focussed on the car being stylish and it really does look it, going by the way the car was getting stared at during our drive. The colour we were driving (copper dazzle) was also quite eye catching. The car has a lot of little nooks and crannies for additional storage across the interiors. The brakes are also pretty impressive, I specifically checked out the braking system by applying sudden brakes. Soon we reached the Transport museum which actually is pretty close to Gurgaon.

 

There was a food truck waiting for us to serve us proper breakfast on our arrival. We grabbed a quick bite and explored the museum. It is a vast space. There are 4 floors full of lot of quirky stuff, historical stuff and basically has everything to do with transport.  And all of it is owned by  one person! Here’s a brief glimpse of the museum.

Transport Museum, Tauru

Transport museum – Tauru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a car installation

Bajaj – a cult phenomenon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coin car – covered with 1 rupee coins!

Pakistani truck art

Art installation made with discarded parts of a cycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glider hanging at the museum

The reception desk made with a Morris Mini and a chair made with a Vespa scooter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All new Tata Tigor styleback has been launched at the starting price of 4.7 Lakhs.  The Tigor is very well priced and suited for  Indian families that wants to upgrade from an entry level hatchback but still get a bigger car out of it.

 


Review : My Vistara Airlines & premium lounge experience

Vistara Airlines is a New Delhi-based joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines. It marked its second anniversary of operations on 9 January 2017. However I had not used their services till date. Knowing the quality of Singapore airlines, which I consider the best in the world (out of all the ones I have tried), I really wanted to try out flying with Vistara Airlines. My expectations were based on whatever I had experienced with SIA. So when Vistara Airlines reached out to me for a women’s day extravaganza, It took me absolutely no time to get on board. Literally 😉

Vistara has recently launched flights to Amritsar and Leh. So on this women’s day, I was invited to join a group of excited women to try out the Delhi<->Amritsar sector, which included a 3D/2N all inclusive stay for all of us at a plush property (More about this property later). Some women from this group came on the inaugural flight from Bombay<->Amritsar (It’ll always be Bombay for me 🙂 ).

Checkin experience with Vistara airlines

So on 8th March, I reached the T3 terminal, Delhi to board my Vistara flight to Amritsar. I had already done the web checkin and chosen a window seat. So all I had to do was drop my baggage and collect boarding passes. The counter specifically meant for this was busy with one confused passenger. The normal checkin counters were fairly empty, so I got my boarding passes from one of them. The staff was smartly dressed, friendly and swift in their job. I proceeded from here to the Signature lounge of Vistara airlines.

Signature lounge of Vistara Airlines

The Vistara Signature lounge is the only lounge in India, that exists near the boarding gates at the airport, more specifically Vistara’s boarding gates. All others exist in the inner area. So it was a relief to know that one won’t have to trudge all the way to the gates after having a relaxing period. Entry to the lounge is complimentary for Vistara’s Business Class customers, Club Vistara Platinum and Gold members. . Premium Economy Class customers can also use the lounge by purchasing a lounge access pass for INR 1,000 only.

Vistara Signature lounge at T3, Delhi

Seating area at Vistara Signature Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facilities available at SIgnature lounge of Vistara Airlines

The signature lounge packs a lot of stuff into the limited space. This lounge has a dedicated business centre with seamless connectivity, including tele/fax and video conferencing, reserved meeting space, Exclusive VIP room, A ‘Do Not Disturb’ room, Reading zone for the bookworms, Buffet area, a Fancy shmancy bar, standing counters and of course a large seating area with storage and Laptop charging points/USB Ports at every seat! The charging capability is a boon for on the go travellers.

Standing counters

Reading area

Bar at Vistara Signature lounge

 

Mocktails at the bar

The bar at Vistara Signature lounge

Comfy seating

Individual seats with charging points & USB ports

Decor matching the brand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meals at Signature Lounge of Vistara airlines

The meals are complimentary for all the guests who have access to the lounge. There is a lot of choice in the buffet. Ranging from quick bite that can be grabbed immediately to proper meal that can be had leisurely.  Both vegetarian & non-veg options are there. The meals are a mix of Indian and Continental cuisines.

Vistara also offers street food of India at the lounge, which is typically difficult to serve on  flights; this includes Bhel Puri and Golgappe. There are 4 cycles of the menu every day (Breakfast, High Tea, Lunch, Dinner) . They also have a snacks bar and well a “real bar” :). As of now, The liquor license is awaited and will be there soon. I quickly grabbed some Thai curry with rice before my flight was to depart.

The In flight experience

The flight was very comfortable. The economy class leg room was surprisingly a lot! It didn’t feel claustrophobic and my knees didn’t knock on the front seat. The seat was pretty comfortable without having to recline it. I didn’t have to hunch into a convex shape while getting into my seat because there was enough space between two rows. Usually with other airlines, one can simply not stand straight due to lack of space. Here are a few images that describe the experience.

 

Our cabin crew

Sharklets on the wings

Snack during the flight

In-flight magazine

Didn’t get to sit in them but Business class seats do look comfy!

Economy class sits have PRETTY good leg space!

Our cabin crew, pilots and some of my colleagues

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the return flight, we were seated in Premium economy seats. The seats were of course very spacious. The service included a hot towel and a juice box apart from whatever is offered in the Economy class. The meal was same as that in Economy class because it was a very short duration flight (45 minutes). For other sectors meals are more pronounced.

Leg space in premium economy seats

Seats in Premium Economy easily span more than 1 windows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sure look forward to flying Vistara again!

 

Tweet: Review of @airVistara Airlines & their signature lounge - via @twilightfairy #travel https://ctt.ec/68bfs+