I’ve been told that no trip to Amritsar is complete without visiting the Waggah border to watch the closing ceremony, so of course I went.
Waggah is village in Punjab and has been divided into a Pakistani and an Indian side. Waggah contains the only road crossing from India to Pakistan and connects Amritsar to Lahore.
Waggah is about 30km from central Amritsar, so I got the hotel to hire me a driver for the afternoon. The drive was fun, especially because the driver didn’t speak a word of English, luckily my Hindi was sufficient enough to have a reasonable conversation.
When I arrived I was shocked to see how many local people had attended at 16:30 on a Friday. Apparently this is a common occurrence and the viewing gallery gets filled every day.
Once I had cleared security (no bags allowed), I had no idea where to go. A few meters ahead I saw a few American chaps go through a gated area which was being guarded by a soldier. I decided to approach the gate and the soldier (not so) kindly told me that I cannot go through, so I joined the crowd of Indian people who appeared to be standing around waiting for something.
Suddenly, another gate opened and the crowd swarmed towards the entrance carrying me with them like a strong tide. During this complete lack of order I saw one man get trampled and another loose his sandals. Luckily I am slightly bigger than the average in India and was not easily run over. Once I was through the gate it wasn’t so bad, people took their seats and waited for the show to start. This experience made me appreciate one English thing in particular, the orderly queue.
The ceremony consisted of patriotic chants from both sides of the border, some dancing from the crowd and some fancy marching by the soldiers. Granted I could only partially see into Pakistan, but from what I could see there were many more people on the Indian side of the border, and plenty of noise was made.
The next day I met another (American) tourist who told me that if I had shown my passport to the soldier I could have gone through the mysterious gate, behind which exists an orderly queue for foreigners. So if any Indian, or Indian looking, tourists plan on visiting Waggah, I would recommend speaking no Hindi and just flash your passport for some VIP treatment.