As a kid, I spent a good part of my childhood in the Northeastern state of Assam in India. Growing up, I could never get over those fond memories of my years in Assam. Visuals of the unparalleled beauty of Assam, the lush green carpets of tea gardens, blue skies and the opulent Brahmaputra river would often resurface in my mind. So this year, I decided to revisit my roots.
These are few of my absolute favourite things to do in Assam:
Kaziranga National Park: Only home to the world’s one horned rhino
Lush green tea garden of Assam
I am a tea addict, and not visiting a tea garden when in Assam is close to committing a sin because Assam tea is one of the best tea varieties in the world. Lucky for me, on my way back from Guwahati to Kaziranga National Park I stopped by at one of the tea plantation for a tea tasting session. You can choose to sit back and enjoy the various cups of teas while watching the tea pluckers in action or you can also walk among the tea shrubs. The vast expanse of greenery was such a tonic to my tired eyes.
A touch of spirituality at Kamakhya Temple
My visit here helped me refresh my blurry memories of me visiting the Kamakhya Temple when I was still a kid. Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati is perhaps the most famous Hindu temple in Assam. This beautiful Temple is perched high up on a hill and is dated back to the 9th century. The journey up to the temple itself is breathtaking, and once you’re on top of the hill, you can see the entire city below across the fleeting clouds. The architecture of the temple is also equally intriguing — the middle chamber of the temple leads into a cave that has a natural underground spring. It remains a mystery how an underground water spring exists at such heights.
Majuli: The largest river island in the world
Yes, you read it right! Majuli is the world’s largest river island; unfortunately, it is eroding away, though extreme measures are underway to help its survival. I took a ferry ride across the mighty Brahmaputra — by far the best way to explore the areas in and around Majuli. The people on this idyllic island, who are called ‘Misings,’ were really warm and friendly, and it was such a meaningful and memorable experience to observe how they live their lives simply. I would never forget the experience of sitting on the island bank facing the Brahmaputra with the abundance of greenery behind me. On a clear day, it is easy to spot some rare species of birds stopping by for a dip, making it an ideal spot for bird lovers.
Enjoy a memorable dinner on an evening river cruise on Brahmaputra
Brahmaputra River is the soul of Assam, and it just makes sense to spend a lovely evening in the company of the Mighty Brahmaputra. In recent years one of the most sought after things to do in Assam in to enjoy and dine on a river cruise. The sight of the setting sun across the river, accompanied by great music and delicious meals, along with the dance, will remain etched in my mind for a really long time.
Indulge in the Assamese culture in Sivasagar
My next stop was the ancient town, Sivasagar, which was dotted with the cultural heritage of the Ahom rulers. The timeless monuments are proof of the rich cultural past of the state. I spent a day visiting the Rang Ghar, Talatal Ghar, and Kareng Ghar. These monuments showcase the Ahom architecture, and they left me admiring and pondering about how much history of the Axom ruler and how they were wiped out by the Burmese in the 18th century lies behind these walls.
Nothing like a plate of Maasor Tenga and Khar
Assam offers some of the most unique Indian cuisines, usually very tangy and less spicy unlike most Indian dishes. I just had to treat myself to this refreshing Assamese dish called ‘Maasor Tenga’ — a fish curry with a tangy broth made of tomato, lemon, and outenga (elephant apple).
Yes, all the ingredients are tangy and sour, but it is such a refreshing and light dish that is best eaten with rice and Khar, also a unique dish made of raw papayas!
Time to shop!
Just like the past, Assam is still rich with its traditional craftsmanship. It was a delight to shop for souvenirs made of brass, intricate wood carved and bamboo decor. The other most sought-after thing to buy is the centre table stands made of tea roots. I was tempted to buy one of the stunning vibrant Mekhla Sadors (a 3-piece version of the saree) from one of the many shops in the fancy bazaar in Guwahati, which is a popular shopping hub. Besides tea, the world knows Assam for its Assam silk Mekhla Sadors and dress material. It would definitely be a great souvenir to bring home for yourself or friends and relatives. The other interesting souvenir to get is the intricate ‘Assamese Gamosa,’ a traditional woven version of a cloth towel.
The white and gold Mekhla Sadors are usually worn by the Assamese brides
Winters and summers from November to March are the best periods to visit Assam. Monsoons are extremely wet with continuous rains and should be avoided.
Best options to stay in Assam:
There are lots of accommodations here, with some of the great options for hotels such as Novotel, Ginger, and Grand Starline in Guwahati. They are strategically located in the heart of the city and are very well connected to the famous destinations.