So far in Assam we have been to two different cities; Guwahati (the capital) and Tezpur. We arrived late at night in Guwahati due to a six hour delay of our train and had a lot of trouble finding a place to sleep. Our first adventure was with a drunk bicycle-rickshaw driver who told us he would charge us 20 rupees to take us to the hotel we wanted and then tried to demand 220 rupees when he dropped us off on some random street because he didn’t actually know where the hotel was. We didn’t realize he was drunk when he agreed to take us but discovered it when a breeze wafted us with the smell of cheap whiskey. After yelling at us and making a big scene I threw the twenty rupees at him and walked away.
Next, we could not find a hotel that would take us in. After visiting ten different hotels that were all magically full (even though half the keys were still on the racks behind the counter), one hotel owner finally told us that the hotels here need a permit to take in foreigners. This seems to be because Assam is a border region between China and Bangladesh and no one wants the responsibility of being the last place a foreigner stayed if they happen to disappear out of the country. We finally managed to find one place that would take us in but was charging 1800 rupees. This is the equivalent of about 45 dollars which doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Canada but we are used to paying between two and three hundred rupees for a room (about 6 dollars) so this was 8 times our usual budget. The actual price of the room was 1400 rupees (which is still too much) so 400 rupees of that was just a “light skin tax” or a “we-don’t-really-have-a-permit-to-let-you-stay-here-so-we-have-to-bribe-the-police tax”. Apart from that though, the room was actually pretty nice with comfortable beds (not to many stains on the sheets) and 24-hour hot water showers.
We’ve never experienced this is any other part of India as the price is always negotiable and always extremely cheap. In Guwahati no one seemed interested in bargaining with us and refused to lower their incredibly inflated prices. This is particularly strange because there are very few foreigners in Guwahati or in Assam for that matter.
We left as soon as we could and after fighting with some bus-stand attendants, managed to get a bus to Tezpur. Tezpur is a city of about 40,000 where everything is within walking distance. It is an attractive city due to the many types of palm, banana and banyan trees as well as the Brahmaputra river that runs beside the city. Oranges are in season right now and are fantastic! We have been eating them on a regular basis and they do not even compare in sweetness to the oranges and tangerines we get back in Canada.
There seem to be so few foreigners coming to Tezpur that we receive stares and requests for pictures wherever we go and we even made it onto the local news. We are currently working on getting our permit to Arunachal Pradesh and will be leaving as soon as tomorrow for the more tribal parts of the country.