One day trip in Guwahati: things to do
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
So you have always wanted to explore the northeastern part of India, but don’t know where to start from. Head to Guwahati, the gateway to the seven sisters (Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh). It is the capital city of the state of Assam and is well connected by railways and airways with the rest of the country, though flights are a bit expensive if travelling from the west or south.
How to reach the mainland
The international airport at Borjhar, “Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport” which caters to international and domestic flights is about 20 km from the main city. Book a cab (Ola or Uber) if you want to be hassle-free. Else you can hop into one of the Assam State Transport Buses for a cheaper ride. But these buses run on schedule and are not quite frequent. Beware of taxi drivers who swarm the arrivals section ready to prey on tourists. Alternatively, there are also shared taxi (locally called tempo) services which drop people off near Jalukbari bus stand. From there you can get on a city bus and reach your destination.
There is a major railway station in the middle of the city at Paltan Bazar. From the station I would recommend walking a few metres to the bus stand if you are not carrying much luggage, otherwise, cabs are always there to the rescue. You can also use auto rickshaws, which is a cheaper option than cabs but costlier than buses.
The Kamakhya railway junction at Maligaon is not well connected by buses. You will need to look for cabs there.
Things to do while in Guwahati if tight on time and money
Though the city has a lot to offer, many a times tourists skip it while making plans to explore the exotic places in the northeastern region. If you are one such traveller, then hold on and go through this list of places which are near to each other and doesn’t cost much. The best way to roam here is to rent a bike for about $10* per day (excluding fuel charges), super cheap and time effective.
Gauhati War Cemetery, Silpukhuri
Situated in Silpukhuri is the Gauhati War Cemetery which dates back to the days of World War II. It houses the graves of Commonwealth soldiers who fought against the Japanese army during the war. Presently, there are 486 graves in this crematorium. It is a very quiet beautiful place, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. You can come here to relax yourself away from the city’s chaos. During winters, you can read a book while sitting on the grass. Though the signboard says that it is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm from Monday to Saturday, it is usually recommended to go either around 10 am or before 4 pm as it gets dark early during winters.
Momo Ghar, Ambari
Momos are an integral part of the Assamese street food culture. Having its origin probably in Tibet, momo was popularised in Guwahati sometime around the late 90s. Initially, there were only pork momos. Later on, other varieties of stuffing were introduced to cater to the Assamese taste. If you visit Guwahati, then you cannot leave it without tasting its momos. And where best to have it than Momo Ghar. Located over 6 different spots throughout the city, the one at Ambari is probably the oldest and most famous. A shack in resemblance, this tiny place holds about 7-8 tables with most of its customers either opting for takeaway or standing while enjoying their snack. It is usually open from 12 pm to 8 pm the entire week. Its menu has limited options containing momos of three stuffings – veg, chicken and pork and a few soft drinks with each item priced about $1 or under.
Not far from the Paltan Bazar railway station and near Momo Ghar is Dighalipukhuri. It is a pond surrounded by a park and a war memorial on two sides. To enter the park, you need to buy a ticket. It is usually open from 10 am to 8 pm though its boating service closes after sunset. A restaurant atop the pond (Prashanti Restaurant), serves decent meals and beverages within budget. It is a good place to hang out with friends or family. At night though, one can see a lot of couples there.
Ethnic Shopping at Purbashree
Just near to Momo Ghar, one can find Purbashree where one can buy northeastern handicrafts and handloom. Whether it be the Jaapi (Assamese traditional hat) or Mekhela Sador (Assamese silk saree), you can buy various ethnic souvenirs for your loved ones. Though the silk sarees are a must have, it can be a bit pricey ranging from $70 to $200*. One can find a lot of bamboo and khadi products showcasing the rural culture. They accept credit and debit cards, so can purchase without worrying about cash.
Belle View Point, Kharghuli
The river Brahmaputra flows right through the city. And you can enjoy its scenic beauty from the Belle View Point at Kharghuli. You can get there from Uzan Bazar via the fish market. Spend some time here away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a peaceful spot atop a hill. Its quietude and fancy bungalows along the way are what makes this place so special. The best time to visit is either at sunrise or sunset; evenings are also pleasant. And the best part is it is open to all and doesn’t need to buy tickets or so.
I have mentioned only a handful of things in this list precisely for those short of time and want to witness something unique. Guwahati is much more than this and a day is too less a time to explore it entirely. It is a culturally and spiritually rich city with its temples and kalakshetras (cultural institutions). Umananda, Kamakhya, Ugro Tara, Nabagraha, Basistha and Doul Govinda are some of the prominent temples. A few among these are also picnic spots suitable for family outings. Surrounded by hills on three sides, one can also experience Assam’s rich flora and fauna on the city’s outskirts. Rani Patgaon, Deepor Beel and Chandrapur are few of the options to try out. One can also avail the river cruise tours provided by restaurants like Alfresco Grand to get an exotic experience of dining in the middle of the river Brahmaputra while enjoying the sunset.
*All prices mentioned are in US Dollars.