Should You Visit Assam? Is It Worth It?
Surrounded by incredible countries on all sides - Tibet, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh, Assam is a world away from the clichéd tourist places that usually comes to mind when you think of India.
Still relatively unexplored, Assam, also known Gateway to the Northeast, is a traveller’s paradise, that is full of beautiful and diverse lands and is home to the most interesting tribes, rare wildlife, and beautiful scenery. Fast growing in popularity, Assam is the perfect destination to head off to, if you want to witness places that are as culturally diverse as the rest of India.
Planning to Shop in Assam? Know Which Places You Should Head to
Over the years, Assam has evolved and it has turned into a gateway for the travellers who want to explore north-eastern India, and the best part is that with their advent, it has become a haven for the travellers who love to shop. Even if you are not able to visit the other states of the region, markets in Guwahati stock a variety of exciting specialities from the other six states of the region.
Today, Assam is bustling with cities that boast of large malls, business centres as well as multiplex cinema halls. The best thing about shopping in Assam is that you, as a shopper, are spoilt with numerous choices, right from the exclusive and luxurious items to the budget goods, there is something for everyone.
Fancy Bazaar, Guwahati
Assam’s capital is known as Dispur and which is located within Guwahati, and which is one of the busiest cities located in Assam.
If you are on a visit to Guwahati, and you are looking for a place to shop, then, you can’t miss out on Fancy Bazaar.
Fancy Bazaar is something of a shoppers hub, known to have shops for practically everything, it is said that there never was any soul who has returned empty-handed from Fancy Bazaar. Right from dresses to jewellery, bags to gifts shops, there is nothing that you won’t find in this bazaar.
If you are looking for something more specific, say, traditional Assamese products such as jaapi hat, gamucha and such, rest assured, that even if you don’t find them elsewhere, you are going to find at least five to six shops in Fancy Bazaar housing those items.
Then, of course, what bazaar is complete without eateries?
Fancy Bazaar, too, has a fair share of eateries – from steamy cheese momos to the refreshing Assamese tea, there are many delicacies to be enjoyed at renowned restaurants such as ‘Khusboo’, JBs and who can forget the Lakshmi Restaurant.
G.S. Road, Guwahati
Also known as Guwahati-Shillong Road, this road houses some of the renowned brands, such as AND, Biba, Zodiac, Mochi and such.
Lined by numerous malls and home to numerous brands, it is said that this place is visited by the influential and the affluent sections of the society. But that doesn’t mean that the budget shoppers are not welcome. No, this place can even be a hub for the budget shoppers, for it has the renowned Big Bazaar mall.
Hong Kong Market, Dimapur
If you have a taste for fashion and spend most of your time browsing the online sites for Asian clothes, nothing can be more fitting for you than Hong Kong Street.
Located in Dimapur and is one of the most popular shopping locations, the place is lined with stalls of housing garments that are imported from China and Southeast Asia. In fact, browse through any stall, and you are going to find important garments, brought from dealers located in either West Bengal or Siliguri.
Paltan Bazaar, Guwahati
Looking for a change of pace – maybe you want to redecorate your room? Or are you planning to change your furniture?
If yes, then, head off to Paltan Bazaar. Located in one of the busiest places within Guwahati, this market area is a haven for those who are into home interiors. Paltan Bazaar is home to numerous stalls lined with furniture and other items for interior decoration. Available for both the budget shoppers as well as for the influential sections of the society, Paltan Bazaar also has a number of malls housing various products made from bamboo and water hyacinth leaves.
However, that being said, there’s one thing that you should do well to remember – if you are planning to visit Paltan Bazaar, make sure that you do so in the afternoon, as this place is located near a railway station, this market place can get very congested during the evening.
Pan Bazaar, Guwahati
Are you by any chance, a bookworm? If you are, then you are in for a treat.
If you are visiting Guwahati, then head off to Paan Bazaar this very instant. Another one of the popular markets and that is located within Guwahati, this market place is a haven for book lovers.
Just name it, novels, academic books, exam books, practically any book that you have heard, or unheard of, you're going to get it here and just because the market place is located within Guwahati, that doesn’t mean that you will only find the books in regional languages. You will find books in numerous languages, though you have to mention it to the shopkeeper as to what languages you are looking for.
But unwilling to buy the book because of its high price tag? Worry not! Paan Bazaar also has numerous shops that sell second-hand books, perfect for those who are on a budget!
Things to Buy in Assam That You Won't Find Anywhere Else, At Least Not This Good!
Organic Tea - Assam Tea
One of the best souvenirs that you can take from Assam is Assamese Tea – having a rich aroma and coupled with a pleasing fragrance, this product is quite sought after, and has rightfully made a name for itself in the global platform.
Assam is one of those places where you will find tea being planted on the plains and as such, there are many local markets in Assam where you will get tea leaves – but among them, the CTC Assam Tea is perhaps the best as they are freshly packed and is known to come in a wide range of flavours.
Assam Silk - Muga, Pat & Eri
Even though, there are many renowned states in India from where you can buy silk products, the silk that is found in Assam is quite different from the others and rightfully so.
Assam is home to the three finest exclusive qualities of silk – Muga, Pat and Eri Silk. While the Muga silk is a product of the silkworm Antheraea assamensis, the Pat silk of Bombyx textor silkworms and the Eri Silk comes from Samia cynthia ricini.
Silk they may be, and hence, they are used to make a variety of traditional Assamese dresses. With Muga silk, you can go for Assamese traditional dresses such as mekhela chador, kurtas, to name a few. Pat silk is quite light than Muga silk, and hence, if you visit Assam during the summers, make sure to go for dresses made with Pat silk. And if you plan to visit Assam during the winters, you can be sure to see shawls made with Eri silk.
If you by chance happen to come upon a shawl with mainly three colours – white, black and red, then, you will know that it is a Naga Shawl.
Once worn by the warriors of the tribal tribes of Assam, these shawls were recognized by their three distinctive colours and their patterns, each having a story of their own. Today, you are going to find the Naga shawls in almost all the boutiques of Nagaland. Go for the handwoven ones if you are planning to buy a Naga shawl, expensive they may be, but they are of a much finer quality that very few can match.
Basically woven out of palm leaves and cane, Jaapi hat is a hat which is conical in shape and has a wide brim at the bottom, though, in some hats, you are going to find a whole lot of embellishments on the top.
The jaapi hat is usually worn by the farmers in order to protect themselves against the weather. Being a traditional item of the Assamese people, the jaapi hat has found many a mention in Assamese folk songs, even today, the jaapi hat has not lost its charm for it is seen to be used by many dancers when performing their traditional dance, known as Bihu.
By the way, do you know that the jaapi hat can also make for wall decor?
Handloom Fabrics - Risa & Riha
It goes without saying that the art of weaving has always played quite an essential part for the people of rural areas.
Since long ago, each and every household in the rural areas of Tripura used to weave and even today, you are not going to miss this part, now even they weave their own garments at home.
Risa and Riha – they are a few of those traditional handwoven fabrics with bright and intricate tribal patterns that you are going to find being woven by the people of Tripura in the rural areas.
Kauna is basically a type of reed that is quite found in abundance in the Imphal Valley of Manipur. The reeds are then dried and after which, the local artisans create products from those reeds, such as bags, baskets, stools and such, but among those, the kauna mats are most sought after.
If you are planning to visit Manipur, we suggest stocking up on kauna mats, not only they would make for a great souvenir but they can also add a charming décor to any room.
Meghum Khoks Basket
Did you know that the climate of Assam is perfect for cultivating bamboo and cane? It is, and that’s why, visit any place in Assam, and you are going to find a whole lot of items that are being used in our daily lives, made purely out of cane and bamboo.
The Garo tribe, found in Meghalaya, are renowned for weaving baskets out of cane and bamboo, known as meghum khoks, they make for an exclusive souvenir and is a definite must-take-back item back home.
Have you heard of a village named ‘Longpi’ that is based in Manipur?
Long been renowned for its expertise in crafting stone pottery and famously called Longpi – the interesting thing about the style of pottery is that it is made entirely by hand and without taking the help of the potter’s wheel. The raw materials that are used in the making of pottery are a black serpentine stone which is ground and then, mixed with a special kind of brown clay that is found only in the village of Longpi, and hence, the name Longpi Pottery.
Visiting Assam without taking a taste of its ethnic pickles is like taking tea without sugar, made with a variety of local herbs and infused with the choicest of ingredients, including dried fish, bamboo shoots, pork, chicken and such, take whatever suits your mood!
Out of them, the pickles made with bamboo shoots have gained worldwide recognition, made with young bamboo shoots, they are either dipped in plain vinegar or mustard oil; after which, salt and black pepper or green chillies are added for taste.
Phulam Gamusa or simply known as ‘Gamusa’ to many is one of the many cultural symbols associated with Assam.
It is basically a long and rectangular white hand-woven piece of cloth with red borders on all the sides, however, the gamusa is also called as ‘phulam gamusa’ by many is because of the so-called hand-woven motifs found on the sides of the cloth.
Considered to be of great significance for the Assamese people, the ‘phulam gamusa’ can also be found in many other colours, but its the red-colored handwoven cloth is the one which has gained much popularity.
Like any other states in India, Assam, too, has its own share of traditional jewellery. Usually hand-made, the jewellery is depicted with floral and fauna designs with its origins dating back to several centuries.
Made with gold and decorated with various coloured stones, usually of red, green and black, they have won the hearts of many, with the gold and the combination of the red-coloured stones gaining quite a reputation amongst the people.
Bring Back the Authentic Assamese Tea
There are a lot of things to be brought back home from Assam, but one thing which stands out is its world-famous tea, from being famous for its rich taste and texture to be one of the most expensive teas in the world, the varieties of tea available there would make you want to bring them all back home to savour them forever.