Thursday, 22 April 2010


This is going to be a long one- after 3 months in India, there's a lot to say! So if you want the condensed version, here goes:  

Calcutta- mad
Darjeeling hills- cold
Assam- friendly
Megalaya- wet
Sikkim-  mountainous

These are still used in Calcutta.

Now, the details..... we were so happy when we arrived in Calcutta and had a mad taxi drive from Dum Dum airport. We checked into a Sudder street dive, (with the local public urinal out the front ), and wandered around in a happy daze for two days, eating everything we'd missed, and enjoying the crumbling old raj buildings, parks, ghats, river, and the general chaos.

Chicken man

Flower stall. market

Latest blockbuster!

Calcutta street

Then we got sick and were stuck in our scungy room for 2 weeks being sick from both ends. Ahhhhhh..... now we remembered what India is REALLY like!! We dragged ourselves out of the hole now and again to chat with the many foreigners- mostly Koreans working at Mother Theresa's. One guy had been in charge of picking maggots out of homeless people's wounds for the last 3 years. Mmmmm.

Sick Richard

The journey continued with an overnight train and jeep to northern West Bengal and Mirik, near the Nepal border, the perfect antidote to Calcutta. we spent a week enjoying the peace and quiet, cute, neat village houses and gardens, a fantastic value room, cool climate, walks around the lake, and eating steaming hot momos (Tibetan dumplings) and chilli sauce from vendors in the evenings. Good place to recover.

Cuties, Mirik

Mirik view
Tea by the lake, in the rain

A bit overloaded

Nandi at a temple

From here we hit the big town of Darjeeling. We were a bit unsure at first, but once we discovered the great area known as Chow Rasta- a big square in the middle of town, with seats all around, where we could sit with a cup of chai, look at amazing Himalayan views and people watch, we were more than happy to stay here a week.

Beautiful views

View of Darjeeling town

Japanese peace pagoda

Some scary toilets

It was COLD here, and we had to buy hats- Richard had to go for one of those daggy ones with flaps over the ears! We were glad of the fleeces we had dragged all over South-east Asia. The people here are ghorkas- same as Nepalese, and want a separate state- Ghorkaland. There are slogans everywhere on walls in this area, and every day there are big protests in the streets with schoolkids (in their English-style uniforms, complete with ties and blazers), women and business owners. We even caught "Miss Sherpa" on TV, which was pretty hilarious! Porters walk up and down Darjeeling's hilly street with massive loads on their heads- up to 100kgs. It's amazing to see them carrying two gas canisters, or 30 bricks or six crates of soft drinks. The good thing about leaving Darjeeling was the toy train, which took six hours, although it was pretty misty and we couldn't see much.

A chilly Richard

Toy train Darjeeling

Next, we entered Assam, via the horrible city of Guwahati, which doesn't let foreigners stay in it's budget hotels, which we discovered after three grumpy hours of searching, and we ended up in a expensive government hotel. We soon bussed out of here, passing through big farming areas to get to Tezpur, a small town on the banks of the mighty Bhramaputra river. It's a town with few "sights", but we loved it! It was quiet and relaxed, and we found one little stall for our 75 cent breakfast of omlette, bread, curry and tea (for the 2 of us!), and a second for our AU$1 dinner of bread, boiled egg, chutney, dahl and tea. The people in the north east are so friendly and honest, but particularly here in Tezpur. We had gifts in shops, people running after us with 1 rupee change, waiting in lines, refusing tiny tips and never overcharging for anything. SO not like India! Sal bought some new glasses, and with a new short haircut (by Richard ) has a new look!

Bhramaputra river, Guwahati
Holy man, Guwahati
Richard cooking our breakfast
New friends
Richard's handy work

Great bus rides in Assam (so much for the man in Calcutta's Assam tourism office telling me there was nothing to see in Assam!), and the one to Sibsagar through tea plantations, with elephants at the side of the road was no exception. Sibsagar is an interesting town set around a picturesque lake, that used to be the capital of the Ahom dynasty. There are some crazy looking, beehive shaped temples here, that would be major tourist attractions if they weren't so far away from the tourist trail. Travellers don't get to Assam, for some reason- we only saw two other foreigners while we were there- and the second guy already knew who we were from the first guy!

Sibsagar temples

Holy man, Sibsagar

We then bussed it to Shillong, the capital of Megalaya- a big town with more colonial buildings (but mostly ugly concrete ones), GREAT food to pig out on, which we made the most of (including the best tasting strawberries), a lovely lake/garden area with pedalos (yes, we did!), good internet (a rarity in India, hence three months and no update!), and a TV to watch the IPL cricket finals on. Religion had been a bit of a mixed bag up until now, with Buddhism, Christian and Hinduism being the most apparent, but in Megalaya things turned very Christian- the missionaries have been very successful here! The local people are Kharsi, and are are quite distinct with their clothing and culture.

Shillong woman

OK, that's enough typing for my two little fingers for a while...... to be continued.................

Richard shave

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