Tuesday, 5 May 2009

So why Assam?

I have been thinking of travelling to India for a long time. As a regular visitor to Ceylon and having tavelled the length of Pakistan, it would only be a matter of time before I visited South Asia's 'big one'. But 'where' in India was the elusive question. I like two places: deserts and hill country/mountains. In other words, landscapes that are not dominant in the UK or in either Seychelles or Sri Lanka. I also wanted a part of India that was compact enough to fit into three weeks. It is a vast country so traveling across the sub-continent from Mumbai to Chennai would have been unfeasible. And so I focused my attentions on the North-East, a little explored part of the country.

That is a big plus in its advantage, few people have traveled there. Check out the literature for India. There is loads of information about The North West (Rajasthan) Goa, Kashmir, the big cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, and a little bit on the south of India, especially Tamil Nadu. However, there is diddly squat on the seven states that are surrounded by Bangladesh, Burma, China and Bhutan. While most people have heard of the tea estates of Assam, beyond that, there is very little known about the region once outside India. So my sense of curiosity was stimulated by this, a sense of 'where the hell is that?' sprung to mind.

It's culture is completely different to that of the rest of the country, the linguistic diversity is astonishing and the landscape is lush with the monsoon hitting the Himalayan foothills that will dominate my views of the area.

And yes, it is a difficult area to travel in. Four of the seven North Eastern states are closed to independent travelers, only being accessible via tour groups. So that means my visit will be limited to Assam, Meghalaya and if I can reach it, little Tripura. And thanks to the idiots at the Indian visa service, I cannot short cut it across Bangladesh, as they only gave me a single entry visa (there is no way I am queueing up at the Dhaka embassy). Railways have penetrated parts of the North East, but most of my treks will be via the road network; in the monsoon. For those that have not experienced a monsoon, it looks something like this and I am off to the wettest place on Earth. But hey, I want to see this, nature at its most extreme...

So yeah, it is the sense of exploration, of curiosity that draws me to India's North East. To see a little visited part of a vast country. To taste a culturally fascinating part of the world, to witness a climatically wild part of Asia. My curiosity has never got me into trouble before, or has never got me in a pickle that I could not get out of. Relaxing beach holidays are not for me. I enjoy the rough and ready when I go abroad, an assault on the senses rather than a pacification of them. After all, isn't that what life is all about - to capture new experiences? Although we may need it, none of us remembers a good night's sleep. It is those waking moments that keep us alive! And I will be very much awake for those three weeks...

2 comments:

Asad said...

I guess in these circumstances, a brolly is going to be useless...simpler to embrace the wet...

Caution Wet Paint said...

feel your inner monsoon ;)