Northeast India [2019]

Travels Nov 15, 2019

1 week, 2 people, 5 states, 7 flights, 8 languages, 1000 km (by road)​

Went for a week-long workshop on SOC design, took an extra week to travel across Northeast India (that part spilling beyond Bangladesh). Chinese-looking people, hundreds of tribes, diverse languages, cultures, great food, and amazing sights. India is truly unparalleled in diversity.​

Once I told mom that I applied for this workshop in Assam, she wanted to join. She is passionate about exploring India and its cultures and always wanted to visit the rolling mountains of North-East Asia. She applied as a resource person for a university workshop at Jorhat and joined me.


We landed in Guwahati, took a day's trip to Kaziranga National park to see the one-horned rhinos. My SoC Design Workshop was conducted by ICTP (International Center for Theoretical Physics, Italy) at Guwahati University. I stayed at a 3-star hotel (paid by ICTP) for a week, while mom left for Jorhat.


After my workshop, we took a flight to Bagdogra to read Darjeeling by shared jeep. We spent two days there, then traveled to Gangtok (Sikkim) by taxi, then through Bagdogra we flew back to Guwahati, hired a taxi for a few days (mom's persuasion). We visited Shillong, Mawlynnong, Dawki, Bangladesh borders and returned to Guwahati. We took a flight to Kolkata, mom spent a day shopping for sarees and I spent the day in a plastic chair, took a flight back to Colombo via Chennai.


One of my favorite towns in India, Golden sunrise over the world's 3rd highest peak

A truly unique, compact city full of friendly & helpful Buddhists. I walked around the city at night and it is one of my best experiences from the trip. Houses are built of wood but packed within narrow areas at the cliffs of the mountain. Schoolkids wear cute uniforms and walk to school with clouds moving through them. It was built by the British as a mountain resort, and the city still keeps its Britishness (like Nuwara Eliya) in a good way.

Kanchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world. It was visible from the air as a majestic mountain range above the clouds as week took flight from Assam to Bagdogra.  We took a shared jeep to Darjeeling with a friendly Kannada family we met at the airport. The next day, we woke up early to climb Tiger hill, to see the golden sunrise reflecting on Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest.

Tsongmo Lake

12,300 feet high, China border, Sikkim

We took a hotel in Gangtok and visited Tsongmo Lake, which is next to the China border (Natula pass). 12,300 feet in altitude, the ride there is exhausting.

Yaks, majestic, calm animals. I loved them!

View of Kanchenjunga (3rd highest peak in the world) and an ocean of clouds spilling into the valley below, seen from Tsongmo Lake (14,500 ft altitude) near China border, Sikkim, Northeast India.



The capital of Assam, Brahmaputra river, One-horned rhinos, and Kali's genitals

Kaziranga National park

The capital of Assam, but hot and filthy. The roads reek with sewers and are covered with people spitting with red pan masala (beetle leaves + other stuff).

One-horned rhinos are the state animal of Assam. They were saved from the brink of extinction, and are now thriving, only found in Assam. We took a day to visit the Kaziranga National park, took a safari around it.

Brahmaputra river originates in Tibet, flows along the other side of Nepal, turns south, flows through North East India, then Bangladesh, joins the Ganges, and flows into the Bay of Bengal. It is named 'son of Brahma' and is considered the only masculine river in India due to its aggressiveness. It is wide, fierce and so muddy, several fish have evolved to lose their sight and rely on highly developed sonar capabilities.

Brahmaputra river

Kamakya Temple of Guwahati is one of the primary shakti peetas, where the yoni (genitals) of Sati (Shiva's first wife)'s corpse is believed to have fallen when Shiva danced on her corpse.


Unprotected Bangladesh Border, crystal clear waters

Meghalaya means the abode of clouds. It is a state defined by undulating, green mountain ranges at the edge of the Himalayas. The mountain ranges come to an abrupt stop, from where flat land, full of crop fields begins. That is Bangladesh. On our way to Dawki, our taxi driver took the road at the edge of these mountains.

Unprotected India-Bangladesh border. Flat plains of Bangladesh begin at the foot of the mountains of Meghalaya

We went boating in crystal clear waters in Dowki. We could see the Bangladesh side further down the river, with more people boating there.​​

Living Root Bridges


Khasi and Jaintia tribes of Meghalaya have mastered the art of building living root bridges to cross strams. They wrap thick roots of trees together to form a structure, shaping them over decades into a sturdy bridge that has a capacity to hold more than 50 people.


The beautiful capital of Meghalaya


The cleanest city in Asia is in India (yes!)

Mawlynnong was awarded the cleanest city in Asia and mom wanted to visit it. It is a small town, where the residents have vowed to keep it clean. Beautifully landscaped, it was a unique experience.


City of the sweets

We finished our trip with Kolkata. Mom wanted to go shopping for an entire day and buy sarees. So we took a hotel room, traveled around in a taxi. Kolkata is a post-apocalyptic-looking city with unbearable heat, pollution, and traffic. It was the capital of British India until the Bengal riots.

Our hotel owner started shouting at us for not knowing Hindi, thinking we are South Indians. I did not find anything good to say about Kolkata on this trip. Taxi is not a good mode to explore Kolkata. The next time I visited Kolkata (2020), I spent two days on foot, and it was the best experience I had. Kolkata earned a special place in my heart. Check out that post.

Kolkata [India 2020]
A labyrinth of market stalls: selling street food, flowers, and everything under the sun, it’s the ideal city to explore on foot. I walked 19 km on the first day, 23 on the second, through the maze of narrow alleyways. I loved every second of it.


India is a foodie's paradise!

During my workshop, I was given free accommodation at a 3-star hotel in Guwahati. So, the following was provided from there.  


Chennai Airport

We had a transit at Chennai and managed to get out in Chennai metro for an hour and try kichchadi.

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