FLYING IN TO GUWAHATI
After three days in Kolkata it was time to go east. Our flight to Guwahati was on the 23rd morning, a Monday. However much we plan ahead, getting late is something which we can never avoid! As usual, we were late to the airport, where two of us checked in and the other two went to scan our luggage. But soon we were checked in and ready to go. Once on the flight we were pleasantly surprised by an upgrade to business class. Our trip to Assam was off to a great start.
The flight was great, we managed to see some Himalayan peaks in the distance. It was such a great sight as the peaks rose above the clouds. I was told that they were at least a few hundred kilometers away, which was surprising as they barely looked further than maybe 50 km. That is how big the Himalayan mountains are!
We landed at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi airport at around 1.30 pm. After collecting our luggage and getting a taxi, it hit me, we were in Assam! Finally, after the months of talking, planning and arguing, we were here. The ride to the hotel took about an hour. The airport is located in the outskirts of the city so initially the scenery was very rural. Our hotel, Silk Route was located in a part of Guwahati called ‘Fancy Bazaar’. It is a busy centrally located commercial area with the Brahmaputra on one side and the railway station and tracks on the other. Our hotel was so close to the station that every time a train passed, we could feel it.
THE CITY CENTRE
On reaching, checking in and freshening up a bit it was time to head out and explore the city. As our hotel was right in the centre of the market we just had to go downstairs and it was all right there. We were a bit hungry so the first thing to be done was get some food. There were many street food vendors and we went to one and had pani puri. It was okay, nothing great but not bad.
We then went to a sweet shop to try some local sweets. I remembered an Assamese sweet called pitha but the shopkeeper looked at us quite amused and said they don’t carry it here. There were two local ladies in the shop and they said you don’t get pitha in a lot of places. On asking about the local specialty they told us to have jalebi and ghevar, which is as Rajasthani as they get! We realized later that the ladies were Marwadi who lived in Guwahati. Yay national integration!
Being a tea lover I was thankful to be travelling with a group of people who love it as much as I do. So the next step was to find a good chaiwalla. We were told to go to a chai gully where you get really good tea. That sounded like the place for us. But after a long time trying to find it and going around in circles, we accepted that we have been fooled! So we settled for a chai walla near our hotel. The tea wasn’t bad. So it was okay!
BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER CRUISE
We had read about the Brahmaputra river cruise and the floating restaurants so decided to go there. By that time it was around 5 pm. That in Assam means it is pitch dark. It was a little unsettling as we weren’t used to it. We walked to the main road and after a google search got the address of the place. Since there is one main road, MG Road that runs along the river it wasn’t too difficult to reach the place.
Once we were there, the place looked empty and on asking the man there we were told the cruise is in some other place! So we asked an auto rickshaw guy who quoted a huge price to take us somewhere 5 km away. We walked for a while and then caught a bus. I am in love with Guwahati buses. They are quite frequent, well connected and the best part is they will stop for you anywhere on the road. You just stand and wave and they stop. I found that fascinating. Once on the bus we asked a local lady and she told us the right address. We reached the place and ran to the cruise as we were late. It left as soon as we got on.
The boat itself was a normal cruise boat, very similar to the ones in Goa. It had a couple of decks for the restaurant, a bar and a dance floor. It was dark at the time so we couldn’t see anything. Oh well, that called for a drink! And then some. We had a nice time eating, drinking and staring at the lights of Guwahati (which weren’t that many). After an hour the cruise was over and it was time to head back to the hotel.
The area of the cruise was quite secluded and there seemed no transportation facilities around. Luckily we found some cycle rickshaws. So we enjoyed a cycle rickshaw ride through Guwahati. It was around 8 pm but it looked and felt like midnight. There was hardly anyone on the roads and our bodies weren’t used to the early sunsets so it felt a little different. We came back to fancy bazaar, did some souvenir shopping and headed to the hotel.
It was time for a few drinks, dinner and bed as we had a long day tomorrow.