A series of posts to follow will trace my journey in Meghalaya and Assam between the 24th to 31st of December 2011.
Episode 1 – Four cities in a day!
24th December 2011
Bangalore, 5:00 AM - 6:40 AM
My neighborhood was asleep and perhaps thus it looked so beautiful at that early hour of dawn; so looked rest of the city as our Meru cab glided its way to the airport, at times ignoring the “exceeding speed limit" warning.
The Bangalore international airport was crowded with many people flying to their home or on a vacation. One learning I have had with frequent flying is - Never be late to an airport if you are flying out. Time just flies here in getting your boarding pass and the security checks. Preethi and I had some expensive (Rs100) dosa for breakfast inside the airport. Our flight to Guwahati was on time and the flight was uneventful.
Kolkata. 11:00 AM – 12:00AM
Before we could hit our destination, we had one stop at Kolkata. We waited in the aircraft as the flight was cleaned and new passengers boarded. I remembered the previous bad experience we had had in this city visiting a kali temple three years back and lightly, with a non-traveler attitude, was lucky about being inside the aeroplane. Of course the city and its surroundings are beautiful but like any other growing city with its very visible class differences, it pressurizes a sect of people to behave in a weird way to take advantage of tourists or relatively wealthy people.
The takeoff was delayed due to bad visibility in Guwahati. As the crew awaited improvement in the weather, a funny flight executive, (Or was he the pilot?) in a very sentimental fashion, apologized for the delay. He sounded very sympathetic that made us smile during his talk.
The delay did good to me. I booted my newly bought tablet to browse through the pdf’s which had information on my travel destinations for the week. I could not resist the thought about how new technologies makes things so easy and if one fails to catch-up with it, one only loses time. Instead of wasting hours on the internet, I could make use of the flight delay to read through the downloaded material on my travel destinations. And this also means, I can write my experiences as they occur and before time, circumstance and experience judge the important from unimportant.
After reading the information on Shillong and a short story by Virginia Woolf, I had just begun watching the movie – 12 angry men, when the flight executive announced the take-off with some cheerfulness in his voice.
Guwahati. 1:30 PM -4:00 PM
Once we had our luggage’s claimed, we stepped out of the airport and heard several voices call out on availability of taxis to the city and Shillong. One could find shared taxi from the airport but to be safe we took a bus service, run by Assam Government, which took us to Paltan bazaar for Rs100. During what seemed like a journey of an hour, we saw Guwahati covered in a thin veil of mist. We passed through the capital Dispur and saw the mighty Brahmaputra River. Paltan Bazaar on the other hand was filled with mist, shops and people. It is part of the old city and is a hub for people moving in and out of Guwahati. I restrained myself from having any opinion about the place as our real visit to the city would be on the 30th.
Thankfully the bus stopped in front of a vegetarian restaurant and we had our much needed lunch. North Indian food served here was very tasty and gave us some strength to continue our travel.
At Paltan bazaar, is the taxi stand where one can find shared taxis to Shillong. To rent a taxi means Rs1200 but with four people sharing it, one needs to pay only Rs300. After a wait for half an hour we had one more addition. We requested the driver to get going and told him that he would find another customer on the way, which he did in a short while. The sky was dark by 5:00PM.
Abdul, our taxi driver was a generous man; not by kind words but the gestures that come habitually to certain people of the good kind. But his car was in a bad shape. The headlights were dim and the shock absorbers were of no use. Due to bad light, he hit a wooden construction while taking a reverse. The dim front lights did not allow him to speed on the road that is busy with construction work over a four lane between the two cities. It was very nice of Abdul to offer us tea and a local snack called Nimki at a small tea shop. Nimki resembles samosa but without the bajji in it. We also tried a local sweet called Gajja; main ingredient to which is maida.
Shillong. 7:00 PM
When we arrived at Shillong, we were bowled by the liveliness of the city, with its beautifully lit shops and its people shopping for the festival next day. GS road is the main street, filled with shops selling attractive items. Our hotel Pegasus crown, which is at the heart of the city, near Police Bazaar was neat but a little too expensive to what it boasted of. Anyway, during this holiday season, we had hard time booking hotel so we had to compromise.
Abdul dropped us at the hotel and while leaving, said that if we wished to book his taxi for Cherapunji and Kaziranga he would get his wife along and would charge us less for that reason. He also offered a stay in his relative’s house in Kaziranga, which we thought was generous of him to say. We quickly freshened up and walked out of the hotel, to Police bazaar and the streets adjoining it. So begins our exploration of our first travel destination – Shillong!
To be continued…