Assam being the entry point to North East India, it was by default the first place that I travelled to while visiting this part of India. This was way back in August 2014, I was 23 back then and still pretty raw, on my first outing to the North East.
I remember landing at Guwahati from Delhi with some serious turbulence. Guwahati back then used to give me the goosebumps. It’s just something about Paltan Bazaar. This was sadly the only part of the state that I actually saw on that trip and my impression of Assam was pretty grim.
After my first trip to the North East, I understood that if I wanted to get around and explore beyond the usual, I needed to start with the basic. I tried backpacking across Nagaland for a month to start, which was an amateur mistake.
The plan was to try getting into conversations with the locals about generall stuff and to see if that helped. A few months later in January 2015, I was back to the North East. But this time around, I spared some time and went around Assam.
The only place on my list was Majuli. It claimed to be the largest river island in the world. Before going there, whatever information I had gathered from the internet was limited to just the basic.
I remember the minute the bus left the crowded streets of Guwahati, things started to change. From open fields and plenty of greenery, my impression of Assam was slowly starting to change with every passing kilometre.
I reached Johrat, another bustling town which is a lot cleaner than Guwahati and was also the gateway to Majuli. A rickshaw ride to Niyamati Ghat and then an over crowded ferry ride over the mighty Brahmapurta River and I had made it to the white sands of Majuli.
During the boat ride, locals told me about a place which was run by a local from the Mishing community. A place which they termed as heavenly. Bamboo huts, is what they described the stay as.
The stay was exactly as described by the locals and infact, a lot better than what I had initially imagined it to be. All the rooms came with attached washrooms and western toilets. For a place which had very little mentioned about it, this was beyond what I expected.
Since, I had four days to my return flight, I had time to spend. Majuli in Assam as a place simply blew me away from the travel point of view. So much to see and experience, the hope of doing Majuli and Kaziranga was soon out of the picture.
The first thing that actually caught my attention was that all the local markets were run by candle light post sun down. Life was very very basic and yet everyone seemed content.
Nearly 90% of the people in the village use a cycle as the primary mode of transportation even to this day. It’s still the preferred mode of getting around.
As I moved around the island, I realised that majority of the houses were made of simple bamboo frame work with stilts to prevent the river from washing them away during the monsoon.
I remember walking through one of the Mishing tribal villages and everyone was so happy and chirpy. One family even invited me over for a bowl of rice beer, something they offered as a welcome drink.
I found it so strange that everyone in mainland India to this date has a million preset fears about a place where I found people to be nothing but nice.
A few of the younger men were happy to take me around the catchment area. Lunch was served in the middle of nowhere in a small dhaba. It was easily the best dal, rice and jacket potatoes I had eaten in a long long time.
After a good four days on the largest river island, I finally realised that Assam beyond Paltan Bazaar in Guwahati is worth every second on the road.
If you haven’t been to Majuli, your experience in Assam is incomplete. It opens your eyes to the beauty of the state like no other place.
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