Assam Despatch 4:
From USD 2,100 per person
Arrive at Dibrugarh, a typical colonial town and major American base in WWII, then drive for 2 ½ hrs to Dikhou Mukh and embark on our ship. Alternatively, arrive at Jorhat airport and drive for 1 ½ hrs to Dikhou Mukh. (Dependent on river conditions, it may be necessary to board at Neamati, closer to Jorhat.)
Go on an excursion by road to Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the Ahom kings of Assam. Shan by origin but converts to Hinduism, the Ahoms ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820s, and their culture and architecture is a strange and delightful amalgam of India and Southeast Asia. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces of distinctive form. For the record book, the temple tank here is claimed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. Lunch is taken at Horu Charai, a tea estate. Return to the ship and cruise downstream for three hours to Majuli island, one of the world’s largest river islands.
A microcosm of Assamese culture, Majuli represents rural idyll in Assam. A stronghold of the peaceful religion of neo-Vaishnavism, the elegant island satras — some for celibate monks, some for families — showcase a unique way of life where the faithful live simply, offering worship through gayan-bayan (songs and musical instruments) and readings.
Visit Auniati monastery and its eclectic museum and, in the afternoon, attend a dance performance at Kamalabari monastery. Later, return to the ship and cruise downstream for one or two hours.
A day spent mostly on the river, though we shall stop and make a short visit to a tribal village by the river. By afternoon, Kaziranga National Park will be on our left – wild elephants are sometimes visible from the boat and once, memorably, a tiger.
This morning, you will arrive at the little temple town of Vishnath, known for its fine Ahom-period temple. Take a walk ashore before continuing the voyage down to a delightful mooring at Silghat, with butterflies abounding in the surrounding jungle.
Those taking Assam Despatch 4A will disembark from the ship and transferred to the Kaziranga lodge of their choice. Cruise 4A terminates.
Those remaining on board will go on their first safari through Kaziranga National Park, a jeep ride through its Western Range, with good woodland as well as grassland and wetlands.
Today, drive to Kaziranga’s Central Range for a morning jeep safari.
Covering an area of approximately 430 sq kms, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros as well as the Indian Wild Water Buffalo. It has also earned the distinction of having the highest density of Royal Bengal Tigers (one every five sq. km.) making this park an incredibly rich biodiversity hotspot. With its marshy swamps and thickets of elephant grass, this park supports large populations of Indian elephants, Indian bison, swamp deer, and Capped Langurs.
Besides wildlife, Kaziranga National Park is also a birding paradise. A few of the bird species found here are the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Himalayan Griffon and so on.
Kaziranga National Park also frequently draws comparisons to the Serengeti in Africa due to the park's abundance of wildlife and birds.
In the afternoon, go inside the Kaziranga National Park for another jeep safari.
Cruise downstream under the seemingly endless new bridge to dock at Tezpur. Those taking Assam Despatch 4B are transferred this morning from a Kaziranga lodge to board the ship at Tezpur in time for lunch.
After lunch on board, we visit the remains of the the 6th century Da Parbatia temple with its exquisitely carved portal. Board cycle rickshaws to take us through the bazaars to Cole Park with its collection of medieval stone carvings. Later, reboard our ship and cruise downstream to moor for the night near the isolated Singri Hill.
The day is spent on the river, traversing a lunar landscape of sand islands then closing in on the range of hills beyond which lies Guwahati. Moor for the night not far from Ganesh Pahar.
This morning’s voyage is particularly pretty, with jungle-covered hills in the south bank. Reaching Guwahati by midday, we moor opposite the city and climb up to the pretty Aswaklanta temple before driving out to the temple ruins of Madan Kamdev, their erotic carvings being an indicator of the strong tantric traditions of the area. Return to the ship and cruise downstream to Sualkuchi either this very evening or the following morning.
Walk through Sualkuchi, a bustling little town that is the centre of Assamese silk production, to visit weaving workshops. Witness the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon and spinning to dyeing and hand-weaving into exquisite mekhela chadars (a two-piece sari, the traditional attire of an Assamese woman). We then sail up to dock close to the great Saraighat bridge and take a tour of Guwahati, driving up Nilachal Hill to the Kamakhya temple. With its tantric rites and animal sacrifices, the more squeamish among us may prefer to content themselves with its exteriors. Visit the poignant Commonwealth War Graves, the museum and the bazaars.
Disembark this morning and transfer to Guwahati airport for final departure.
This itinerary, including the cruise and approximate driving durations, is subject to river and weather conditions. Kaziranga National Park comprises low-lying grassland, which may not be visitable when the river is at or near flood level.
The 'Brahmaputra Taster' cruise is offered in the Boutique Expedition cruising style.
BOUTIQUE EXPEDITION CRUISING
with ABN Charaidew II
Our selection of boutique cruise ships are comfortable, contemporary, and celebratory of Assam and Bengal's rich regional heritage. They are designed to reflect a sense of homecoming to the region: the unique objets d'art and handicrafts aboard the ships have been carefully collected and curated over the years, and the locally made furniture and textiles are a product of traditional craftsmanship and modern design intervention.
As such, each boutique ship was designed to be purposefully distinct in its style, with interesting stories that accompany each ship's décor.
ABN Charaidew II has 18 cabins: two spacious deluxe double-bedded cabins and 12 twin/double-bedded cabins on the upper deck, and four cabins with queen size beds on the main deck, for which we charge no supplement.
All cabins have en suites with W.C., a writing desk and chair, mini-fridge, individual climate control, and storage space. The standard cabins have French balconies, while the two deluxe cabins have a private balcony.
There are three cabin categories on ABN Charaidew II:
UPPER DECK DELUXE DOUBLE-BEDDED CABIN
This cabin (350 sq. ft.) is located on the upper deck. The spacious cabin opens out to a comfortable sit-out, offering guests a better vantage point from which to watch rural India glide by.
UPPER DECK TWIN/DOUBLE-BEDDED CABIN
This cabin (240 sq. ft.) is located on the upper deck, and can be converted into twin or double beds.
MAIN DECK CABIN WITH QUEEN BED
Featuring a queen bed, this cabin (170 sq. ft.) is ideal for solo travellers, for which we charge no supplement.