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Published: November 9th 2011
After much deliberation with, well, with myself on endless bus and train rides throughout India these past few months, I have decided I just can't catch up with my email blasts (and as you know I am well behind) and will have to scrap everything I have done this past year and wait until further ado to write about my journey leading up to the present. I think what is best, is when I get a chance I will post the past blasts directly onto my blog site and if you are interested, you may log on to the site directly to receive them.
I have done so much, seen so much and met so many memorable people (travelers and locals, alike), I am finding it really difficult for me to play catch up. I just spent 6 days on a lovely river island (supposedly the largest inhabited riverine island in the world, but you know India, they love to have the "largest, fastest, only" for everything. I have yet to Google search Majuli Island to find out if indeed this is the truth) where my prime focus was to write. Okay, that may have been the prime focus for
This Is A More Typical Look
This is what a full ferry looks like
staying nearly a week on the island but the main reason for going was for the food. Yes, motivated by food. That's yours truly, speaking from above her expanding tummy. I had spent a few days on this island 3 1/2 years ago and was so amazed and thrilled by the most exquisite Assamese thalis the lovely gal next door made I have talked about and I have dreamt about them ever since and vowed to go back if I was ever again "in the neighborhood." Her food was quite possibly the best I have ever eaten in India, or anywhere in the world for that matter. There was no way I was going to be in India and not going back to Majuli, no matter the tediousness or difficulty in getting there. When I left the Himalayas in train’s black exhaust, I was excited to be heading to my final Indian destination, the state of Assam, once again. Majuli was so close I could almost taste it. It only took 2 1/2 straight days on the train to get there, or, to the capital of Assam anyway. It was another full day and half before I would actually get
My Home For A Week
The "Bamboo House," La Maison de Ananda
to the island. Now, I hope this woman next door was still in the land of the living and the bamboo place hadn’t burned down. I had no way of knowing and was just going to get there and wing it.
First, however, I had to fight my way though thirty-one painstaking hours in Guwahati, the least desirable and quite possibly the absolute worst city I have ever stepped foot it. In 2008 I spent two punishing and extremely scorching hours looking for a guesthouse in that filthy town to no avail. No one would take me, despite my red splotchy face, the sweat pooling below me, the foul language coming out of my mouth, and my legs about to buckle from hauling my pack all over town, up and
down multi-storied staircases in the searing heat. In simple terms, the locals just didn't care. This time, I encountered the same ungratefulness, thanklessness and the brusque manner of kicking me out of each and every guesthouse to which I attempted to check in. I have never heard the words "NO!" and "FULL!" screamed in my face unprovoked so many times than in this retched town. This curt attitude by
everyone I came across made me seriously disheveled and I found myself screaming obscenities at anyone who so much as looked me or crossed my path. I lashed out at a pesky, persistent taxi driver, pummeling his back and arm until his buddies were too stunned to laugh anymore. I was on foot, damn it and I was determined to find somewhere to stay on my own accord. Sod paying someone to take me somewhere only for me to hear those nasty, negative words yelled in my face once again. I could get that royal treatment on my own, thank you very much. After huffing and puffing my way down the stairs of yet another bombed attempt at getting a room, an innocent man sitting on a red plastic chair outside the accommodation took one look at me, decided it best not to be sitting in my way, got up quickly and I kid you not, picked up the chair and protectively covered his face, like a lion tamer might do with his trained lion. I was in hysterics. I felt like a madwoman. I vowed to get out of town as quickly as humanly possible. I was not me.
It took over three hours after first setting off (and mind you I started at 5am just after my multi-day train pulled in to the station), before I found a place that would take me, only to discover the (supposed) only room they had available was three times my budget and it was for a cruddy little single room. I took it - what choice did I have? Ok, so that was Guwahati. I don't recommend anyone going there any time soon, especially if you want to stay overnight, unless you have a glutton for punishment. I met some wonderful, kind people from the city itself but never when in the city. Figures. If there is one place in this world I despise, it would be the capital of the lovely state of Assam. The question that keeps me baffled is this: All over India people want tourist money, from adult beggars who send their snotty nosed little kids running up with their grubby little hands outstretched to the kindly elderly man just trying to scrape by by selling bananas or mangoes on the side of the road. Hotels, restaurants, shop keepers scream for travelers to come in and
Yummy Meal Cooked Up By "Mama"
Eating lunch with some neighbors across the path
pay for things, overpriced and then often one doesn't even get what one is promised. I don't shop but I have been offered "just have a look, madam, no buy, just look," more times than you can imagine. Guwahati is on the other end of the spectrum; they have a lot to learn from their tourism board. Oh but wait, the Tourism Board office was closed. Perhaps that explains something.
Majuli Island. My beautiful Majuli. Quiet, serene, calm and full of all over loveliness. Like the Himalayas in northern India, when one is there it doesn't seem like India at all. The people are lovely, kind, calm and affable. I stayed at La Maison de Ananda, a small bamboo stilt house, if you will, near the town of Garamur, under an hour by bus from the ferry launch. If you ever go to Majuli and need rest and a place to do nothing for a while, please consider this gem.
I was there for six days and wrote as much as I was able despite frequent power cuts and a temperamental laptop (my poor Mac is getting tired after nearly 4 years of continual usage and a few times around the globe). I was mainly transferring my handwritten notes and journals onto my laptop and let me tell you, I’m not only slow, I’m also a pretty piss poor typist. It took me a week, but many of my notes and one entire notebook itself is gone from existence, burned after reading, er, typing. That’s big progress for me.
The first afternoon I arrived I found out the woman next door, the best chef in the whole damn universe (except you, mom, of course!) was indeed still living and indeed, thankfully, still cooking for the guests of La Maison. Whew. The problem was.... she just so happened to have been off the island for the majority of the days I was on it! I patiently wired and then, the night before I left the island, she came back. The first few days I had to eat in the scruffy two-block town of Garamur in a place that made chow mein with only spaghetti noodles and ketchup. Uh, yuck. I managed to get by once I found out the woman's mother in law cooked as well, which definitely satisfied and pacified me. Once Top Chef arrived back to her home, I was rewarded with a fabulous and mouthwatering send off dinner the night before I departed. I couldn't have been happier.
My two months spent in India was definitely whirlwind and as mentioned before, had it's highs and lows and everything in between. I recommend a journey there, for a minimum of two months, no quicker, to get a basic understanding of how the country works.
I will write more about my time in India at a later date. Thanks, everyone for all your patience.
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