With the Indian tourist visa duly approved, I went ahead with the ticket booking. There are currently 34 airports in India catering to International (which is a massive number in comparison to my own country’s 3). This is probably why it is required in the tourist visa application to specify one’s port of entry and exit would be. Tracking the people coming in and going out of the country through a huge number of ports can be quite a task. Going back to my own trip, the nearest international airport to my sponsor’s home in the country is both Amritsar and Chandigarh, which are both around 2 hours away from Phagwara. Chandigarh is technically the capital city of the state of Punjab. Amritsar, on the other hand, is probably the most famous and loved among the Indian Punjabis especially the Sikh population as it houses the Golden Temple, the holiest gurudwara (more on that later).
The Sri Guru Ram Dass International Airport is located in the northwest part of Amritsar, sitting right on Amritsar-Anjala Road. It is named after the fourth guru, Guru Ram Dass, who is also the founder of the city of Amritsar. It presently caters to 7 International carriers, 2 of which are from Dubai. I decided to go with Spicejet because most people from the area prefers it as per my indirect interviews and discreet research *spy-grin*, and I like low-cost options in general (spendthrift wannabe!).
Booking the flight on the Spicejet website is fairly easy. There is only one Dubai-Amritsar flight daily, which leaves at 5AM. Since my leave officially starts on a Sunday and I was off from work on Friday and Saturday, I opted to take the Friday flight and was at the airport as early as 11pm on Thursday in order to (1) save on transportation costs coz I had a free ride with a colleague at 10pm, (2) avoid dozing off and not missing the flight and (3) get comfortable for a flight with mostly, if not all, foreign-speaking fellow passengers.
Spicejet was quite prompt and punctual. It was my first time to travel to another country from the UAE and on a tourist visa, so I think the jitters were quite understandable, but I definitely loved the experience and am very proud of myself *grins*. There was a very quick holdup at the boarding area as they double checked my details, but it did not take more than 10 minutes.
The flight departed on time. I booked the cheapest fare, which comes without food onboard. I usually do not buy food onboard because I believe they are most likely overpriced and rightfully so considering the current location (high up in the sky). The cabin crew were very professional and friendly. I was drifting between sleep and consciousness the entire flight, which was not hard to do considering how smooth the trip was. Breakfast was chai (hot Indian tea with milk) paired with jeera (cumin) cookie priced at INR100 or AED10. Not bad considering I had no other choice, and they tasted nice as well.
Arrival was at around 10AM. The airport was quite small, even smaller than my own island’s airport back home with lesser traffic, too. Going through immigration was a bit hard at first because most of the people, if not everyone, did not speak English or were too shy to get back to me. After around 30 minutes of queueing withe rest of the locals, I saw the desk assigned for those entering the country on visit visa and an empty queue in front of the Immigration Officer’s desk. Very nice!
The Immigration Officer worked well. He asked a few questions about the frequency of my visit to India and where I will be staying. After the fingerprint, I was sent off to pick up my luggage. Stepping out of the building, I was welcomed in a chorus of a foreign tongue that sounded familiar but I really did not understand. Good thing my sponsor was within a few steps from the door as well, so my heart stopped beating so hard upon seeing his familiar face.
After a few minutes of ki hal chal (how are you), we proceeded with the (around) 2 hour drive to their home, where I will be staying for my entire time in India.
The journey has been hassle-free, so far. It has been exciting, and I am ready for more. See you for the next part of my India visit in 2016!