Writing this on the Rajdhani Express again, this time on my way out of Assam, headed towards Darjeeling where we will spend two nights.
Let’s get the “I hate Assam” part taken care of first, as it’s shorter. Haven’t heard from me in awhile? Blame Assam. Their policy, for whatever reason I have not learned yet (presumably some security thing), is to disable the use of pre-paid mobile plans throughout the state, something I was unaware of as I sent my wife a “good night, dear” email.
When I woke up in the morning, nothing. For anyone on the train. And with a ton of travel happening throughout Assam, no way to remedy the problem, or even get an email sent. That is the sole reason I hate Assam. Pretty much everything else, I loved.
I love Assam. Have I said that already? I love that it took what I expected of it and flipped it upside down. I had visions of a chilly, rocky place that might fit better in Nepal, but clearly I need some geography lessons, because Assam is downright tropical, full of palm and banana trees. Being so close to Myanmar/Burma, it’s basically a slightly cooler version of what you would expect there. If you had told me we were in Thailand, only the people there would make me question how truthful you were being.
Foreigners are a rarity in Assam. There was at least one station stop where foreigners are literally not allowed to get off. Of course, we got off for a small group photo (which you will have to ask Troy for, it’s on his camera, dammit.) We are used to stares from locals at this point anywhere we go in India, but in Assam they become particularly intense, in a curious way rather than a dangerous one. Many times we were approached with simply a “Hello, how are you?” and whatever answer we gave was not as important as the fact that the man asking was happy to have us there, happy that he knew enough english to ask that question, and now had a story to go tell his friends about.
We took a motorized rickshaw to see one of the last working steam engines in the world. When it turned out to be in the shop being worked on, we didn’t fuss, took what snapshots we were able to, but then the men working there went to a great deal of trouble to pull out the engine in front of it, then haul the steam engine out of the shop so we could get proper pictures. Mark had made a nominal donation to their organization beforehand, but this was above and beyond nice of them to do for us. I don’t consider myself a trainspotter by any remote degree, but I did become slightly more nerdy after that visit.
From there it was a brutal rickshaw ride (I am finding most rides in cars at this point are characterized by being brutal, or just generally kicking my ass) to the Eco Lodge for dinner and my first beer of the trip, a He-Man 9000, which by this point was well deserved.
We headed off in the evening for our train out of Assam and into Darjeeling, and while I did love my time in beautiful Assam, I was happy to get back on another train and get the hell out, to somewhere I might actually be able to contact my wife.
If I am lucky.