When most travelers seek advice on the sights, sounds and other fodder for a pleasant jaunt in a foreign city, they look to their Lonely Planet. Are they a bunch of mindless yuppy sheep with no real sense of adventure, experiencing rose-tinted, culturally-filtered versions of local communities and culture? Or is Lonely Planet a truly excellent source of travel tips deserving every gleam of its stellar reputation? Only God and haughty, shoeless, “citizen-of-the-world” self-identifying travel snobs can judge.
All we know is, in Amritsar, we didn’t read it, and from our time there we can conclusively prove that nobody else needs ever read it, because we managed — in a city as historic and replete with sights as Amritsar — to lure four strangers on a long, sweaty walk to four gun shops, a store selling short-shorts and a grimy ball bearing shop whose sole selling point was that written on its awning was the word FAG four times. And now, following this transition sentence, allow us to guide you through how it happened…
It actually started with our copy of Lonely Planet India, which informed us that as penny pinching non-Sikhs we could stay at the Golden Temple for free. But after arriving, we quickly thrust the helpful tome deep into the recesses of Devon’s bag (mostly because it weighs, like, four pounds and is a real bitch to lug about) and joined a group of kids going to the Wagah Border Ceremony. The next day, Nate, a Floridian who embraced his Americanness through the sporting of a Orlando Magic hat and was thus alright by us, suggested after actually reading his LPI that we go to the Mata Temple, a loopy, swastika-filled funhouse devoted to getting local ladies fertile. It was great. Then we took LP’s advice and asked our driver to take us to a fried fish stand, which was also great.
LONELY PLANET – 2 HERRO ASIA – 0
But our anti-guidebook rebellion was already brewing, for the day before, on the way to the border ceremony, we’d noticed a store with an awning that said ‘Fag’ on it. Our favorite word in the entire world, on a storefront, and not just once or even twice but four times. Something clicked. Mostly the shutter of Devon’s camera, as we stopped by there for some photos.
See, unlike other, more financially-motivated dickhead tour guides who shan’t be named but will rather be linked to, and travel writers who overemphasize cultural sensitivity and understanding, we easily grasp the basic routes to a fun vacation – namely, by following the three G’s of traveling: “guns, gay jokes, and gals”. On our third day in Amritsar we managed to combine all of these and sell four whole fellow travelers — inexplicably, three of them girls, members of a vast demographic typically loathe to expend energy on us beyond banal chit-chat — on one hell of a tour.
Stop #1: See the Wonders of Amritsar’s Pellet Gun Alley!
We’d also spotted, on our way to Wagah, a line of gun shops that, judging from the giant models of assault rifles hanging outside the doors, promised us a dazzling array of killing machines and a less tactful staff (“yes sir, this will tear someone apart very easily”) than the kind you’d find at an American store. We giggled and gushed all about the gun store and their imagined glories to the residents of the dorm, and lo and behold, the day had a purpose. Grabbing our sweatrags, we, Nate, Sashi the Aussie, Xialin the Frenchy and, without even telling her where we were going, Cloudy the Chinese Gal set off and the Tour began.
A long, pore-draining walk past a removable-teeth cleaning station and some baby dick posters later, we were lost. A few streets later when we admitted it to the group, we nabbed an autorickshaw, haggled him down, crammed us six inside, and took off towards the train station, since that was easier to communicate than “Take us to that street with the gun shops.”
With the giant rifles in sight, we hopped out, paid and flooded into the small shop, our eyes scanning excitedly about for Kalashnikovs, AKs, RPGs and other fun man-snuffing toys. Well, they didn’t locate any. All they spotted were spring-powered pellet pistols and a handful of .22s. But before reality could set in — both that we’d have to go to Peshawar, Pakistan for the good stuff and that this plan for the day totally blew — in strode two tall, amply-bearded Sikh warrior dudes to pick up a double-barrel side-by-side shotgun as long as Steve is tall. Confused by our presence there and unable to speak to us, the Sikhs and the proprietor nonetheless proudly posed with their new boomstick, their huge kirpans, and an obviously brand-new pair of Ray Bans (the sticker was still on).
With that, the momentum rose back up and carried us into three more nearby gun shops that were progressively more disappointing, save for a cartoon Batman brand pistol, an employee who dry fired it at the girls as they approached, and a heated negotiation in a shotgun store that six sweaty white kids barging in with cameras clearly and very annoyingly disrupted.
With nothing left for us there, the group haphazardly scattered and sprinted through traffic towards our next destination…
Stop #2: FAG FAG FAG FAG
Just to clarify, this grimy shop sells German-made FAG-brand products. However, those products happen to be ball bearings — FAG ball bearings. Say that out loud and it’s even funnier. Beyond that, well, we’ll let the pictures flambouyantly lisp, pout and shriek for themselves.
Stop #3: Short-Short Shopping
On our way back via a book shop we’d possibly seen the day before, and which may have been the main reason Sashi came with us, Steve recognized a storefront. It wasn’t a bookshop, but it certainly was the place he’d bought a snazzy green pair of short-shorts for about fifty cents. “Hey, this place sells short-shorts,” he informed the tour group, and in we all went. Not expecting such a run on his short-shorts supply, the owner had packed up yesterday’s goods, but gladly retrieved a whole boxful from the back. Our tour-takers left him two tanktops and at least one pair of short-shorts worth of rupees richer.
The Return Journey
On the way back to the Temple, we found the bookshop, spotted a chemist’s selling “natural sex oil”, watched Cloudy the Chinese Gal scoop up and throttle a small and unsuspecting Sikh boy in front of his parents, commandeered a bicycle rickshaw and piloted the driver nearly onto a closed street and into a wall, and arrived back at the GT’s Whitey Dorm in time for a free meal.
LONELY PLANET – 2 HERRO ASIA – let’s call it 4 to 8
Giddy after our solid touchdown of a tour, we decided to go for the two-point conversion. And by “two-points” we mean babes, and by “conversion” we mean a horse farm 30 minutes from the city.
Back in the Whitey Dorm we shared our evening’s plan to autorickshaw out to the alleged family farm and horse studding operation of one Narinderjit Singh and CouchSurf for a couple days. We highlighted our suspicion that we’d somehow be forced to manually stimulate some stallions, making two-handed gesticulations not unlike that of rocking a baby, because that’s the kind of stuff we do to impress girls.
Well, it worked.
The next day Sashi and Xialin joined us — their arrival made known by the whooping and catcalling of the nearby village men — at what we’d discovered the night before was in fact a castle-like former Moghul pleasure palace converted into an expensive destination for wealthy Indian businessmen seeking a spot to cascade through endless supplies of booze, swim in enormous pools decorated with mosaics of a mermaid and a Carl’s Jr. star, occasionally shoot off shotguns, and watch what the owner half-abashedly reported as simply “girls dancing”, while a young live-in staff cares for thirteen feces-smeared albino horses and a piss-guzzling Dalmatian goat.
Tour highlights included:
- Gazing down a 40-foot garbage well
- Watching Rajma the grandmother-aged caretaker do fully-clothed flips into the pool
- Visiting the local rebar-cutting facilities, aka Rajma the Caretaker’s house, where Rajma somehow bit her pouty infant granddaughter into a happy mood
- Were presented with a screaming child followed by a fat naked boy on a walk through the village
- Getting creeped out by a bunch of Punjabi men whose stated and unstated goals were to drink with us boys and then stare through Xialin’s bikini, respectively
- Sweating our balls off and emptying our DEET on the first mosquitoes we’d encountered in months
- Watching The Transporter 3 on cable TV
LONELY PLANET – 2 HERRO ASIA – around 15
But if you count this:
In Jallianwalla Memorial Park a couple days before, we ditched a salivating mob of Whitey-loving men and boys — whom we’d theretofore entertained shooting their soda bottle cap at each other’s asses before remembering we were in a park honoring the thousand-plus unarmed Indians gorily gunned down by the British Army in 1919 — by leading them to our until then peacefully and inconspicuously book-consumed Whitey Dorm-mate, Laura. The last we saw of this first tour group was all of them swarming Laura and bombarding her with lascivious stares, poorly-grammaticized questions about her origins, and the soda bottle from earlier.