After living in Guwahati for three months, I pen down 17 Things That Make Guwahati Truly Special.
Guwahati is a tranquil city in Assam located in the north-eastern part of India. It is home to the state’s capital – Dispur and is nestled on the banks of the Brahmaputra river.
It is often referred to as the gateway of north-east India, as many people arrive here first, and travel further to explore other neighboring states such as Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur.
I stayed (or rather lived) in Guwahati for three months. I visited the city for the second time, the first time being in 2019, when I was a part of the Bodoland Ambassador Program.
My visit to Assam unearthed me to a gateway of cultures each vibrant and distinct in its own way. And for this reason, I didn’t think twice before coming to visit the state for the second time.
Here are two posts (from 2019) about two prominent tribal groups in Assam:
When I arrived in Guwahati, I decided to travel slowly and profoundly, and stayed for a few weeks. Weeks turned into months, and soon, I found myself living in the city like a local.
I started to notice all the little things that make Guwahati truly special. In this post, which is my inaugural post to my Guwahati series, I share 17 things that make Guwahati truly special, and unique among other cities in India.
17 Things That Make Guwahati Truly Special
- Ample Greenery, Cosy Hills, and a Dash of Commercialisation
Walled by the Purvanchal range of the Himalayas in the north, and cut through by the deceivingly still waters of the Brahmaputra in the middle, Assam stands gloriously in the green cap of India.
What is even better is that Guwahati, the most developed city in Assam, is close to the Brahmaputra river, fortified by the Himalayan range.
A dash of commercialisation makes the city glow like studded stars in the sky.
A well-connected transport system, easy access to groceries and food, availability of good medical care, snazzy cafes and shopping malls, and a bustling crowd make Guwahati an attractive city to live in.
Having been born and brought up in Bengaluru, I didn’t miss the vibe of my hometown while living here.
2. Fresh, Cheap and High-Quality Local Produce
In a place where fresh Broccoli costs 30/- INR per kilo, and giant lemons taste like Moosambi (sweet lime), staying healthy and fit comes without exercising much effort.
The local produce (fruits and vegetables) in Guwahati is cheap, fresh and of superior quality. The produce is grown on the banks of the Brahmaputra river, so the vitality of the river naturally flows into the produce.
With foods being casually adulterated in big cities, and their organic produce burning a hole in your pockets, living and eating the local produce in Guwahati can improve your well-being significantly without making you spend a fortune.
The open railway market in Bamunimaidan is one of the best places to find fresh produce every morning.
3. Early Morning Tea Stalls Serving ‘lal cha’ and Baked Goodies
An interesting aspect of the Assamese culture is their love for tea and bakery products. Every morning, you will find the owners of small tea shops serving milk tea and ‘lal cha’ (also known as red tea) to their loyal set of customers.
What is even more interesting is that you will find small packets of baked goodies such as biscuits, puffs, cakes, swiss rolls, and papdis hung above. All you have to do is pick one, and let the owner hand it over to you.
One cup of tea and one unit of the snack (like one biscuit) costs only about 5/- INR each.
For those who like starting their day light, with a little dash of sweet and salt and a refreshing cup of piping hot tea, heading to these morning tea stalls is the best option!
4. Robust Inter-Connectivity by Public Transport/Shared Taxis
The public transport network within Guwahati is truly laudable. Almost every neighborhood is well-connected by bus. Some of the popular neighborhoods include Paltan Bazaar, Ganeshguri, Beltola, and Chandmari.
Shared taxis are another means of transport that run extensively within the city. A shared taxi is a 6 – 8 seater private vehicle, that charges you nominally to take you from one part of the city to another.
Shared taxis are usually jam-packed. At first, one might feel a bit uncomfortable to be crammed with other strangers (think traveling with family and cousins in a packed Sumo) but eventually, you get used to the culture, and riding one becomes a gleeful experience!
5. Bike Rental Options for Brief Trips (Uber Moto/Rapido/Local)
One of the coolest and the most convenient transport options available in Guwahati, are bike rental options like Uber Moto and Rapido for timely trips.
Renting cabs in Guwahati can burn a hole in your pockets (Uber and Ola charge horrendously for a cab ride). In such cases, booking a bike on Uber (Moto) or Rapido can save you a lot of money and help you reach the destination faster.
In addition to this, one can also rent bikes from local shops on a per day basis. The cost for the same would be around 400/- to 600/- based on the model.
Here are some of the popular bike rental companies in Guwahati:
6. Rare Traffic Signals, But Very Handsome Traffic Cops!
My, my, the traffic cops in Guwahati sure know how to execute their jobs meticulously while making you swoon over their chivalry.
I haven’t seen more fit, athletic, and dapper traffic cops!
I always wondered why Guwahati did not have a system of traffic lights in place, but now I ask, “Does it really matter?!”
7. A Fetish for all Things Sweet
Be prepared to be welcomed by a myriad of sweet shops (or Mishtan Bhandaars) in Guwahati. Yes, the Assamese like all things sweet.
As you walk on the stone-laden paths of Guwahati, you will find a line of snug sweet shops selling an assortment of moist sweets. Bite into one of these big, succulent treats, and you will surely enjoy the slow release of ambrosial flavors!
Most of the treats sold at these sweet shops are dairy-rich. However, a few of them are vegan (you need to specifically ask for them).
8. A Departmental Store Every 50 metres or so
One of the most fascinating things that I have come across in Guwahati is the presence of departmental stores (provision stores/supermarkets) every 50 metres or so!
Now, this might not be something that tourists pay heed to, but after living here like a local, I simply couldn’t forego of this observation.
You are most likely to find a departmental store or a small grocery story every 50 metres or so in Guwahati. And these stores are well-equipped with all the essential items so you do not have to break a sweat to buy a bag of oats or a jar of peanut butter.
9. A Smiling Woman Greeting Namaste, on Restaurant Billboards
The Assamese are known for their gracious hospitality so much so that they have extended it to their advertisement hoardings as well!
Do not be surprised if you find a smiling woman, sending you warm greetings with a namaste, as you look above at a huge restaurant billboard. It is simply a part of their culture.
While restaurants in other cities brazenly highlight their names and the cuisines they serve on advertisement hoardings, restaurants in Guwahati simply display a gleeful face with an amiable greeting to attract customers!
10. Mini Food Stalls Serving Puri Bhaji and Fried Snacks by the Pavement
Finding food stalls serving delicious lunch/fried snacks by the pavement is not something new. But finding food stalls with a table that extends to one side, and mini chairs to seat people while they indulge in the local delicacies, is definitely uncommon!
The mini food stalls in Guwahati are distinct, and offer a wide variety of dishes ranging from puri bhaji to chowmein. A few of them even offer fried pakoras made with eggs, onions, and green chillies.
Foodies can enjoy the local delicacies in Guwahati without expending a lot of money. Eating local is also one of the best ways to contribute to the local economy.
11. A Place Where Finding Veg Momos is Next to Impossible!
The chilly weather in Guwahati during the winter months incites satiety in one to consume hot, tender, and steaming momos from the local momowales!
But those who are on a vegetarian or a vegan diet might be in for a state of disappointment.
Finding veg momos in Guwahati is next to impossible! In fact, finding vegetarian or vegan food as such is a bit tricky and requires plentiful research.
12. Traditional Assamese-Style Homes with Spacious Front Yards
While commercialisation has influenced Guwahati to take up housing projects in the form of apartments, most of the independent houses still retain their traditional architecture.
In a traditional assamese-style home, you will find a spacious front yard with ample flower pots, and a variety of plants and shrubs of which some yield edible produce.
Be sure to spot these uniquely styled homes as they still embody the traditions of the Assamese culture.
13. The Unique Concept of Paths and Bylanes
In Guwahati, the network of roads is divided into Paths and Bylanes. A Path is an entry from the main road into a residential locality while a Bylane is a cross road on the Path.
You will notice several Paths with unique names as is evident in the addresses of several shops. I found this concept to be unique and it reminded me of my trip to Manhattan in New York, where the entire road system is divided into Streets and Avenues.
If you would like to read more about my trip to New York, I’m sharing a few links below:
14. Frequent Cultural Expos Depicting the Tribal Cultures of NE-India
North-East India (NE-India) is home to several indigenous tribal groups, each unique in its culture. Some of the predominant tribes are the Bodo, Khasi, Garo, Jaintia, Tiwa, and Mishing, to name a few.
The government and several organisations in NE-India actively promote the handlooms and handicrafts of their cultures. One can find regular festivals, exhibitions, emporiums, and expos depicting the tribal cultures of NE-India in Guwahati.
While I was here, I attended about three to four such cultural exhibitions. It was a wonderful way to learn about the different tribal groups, shop for authentic handlooms and handicrafts, and appreciate the stark differences in the cultures.
15. An Early Night for All
The locals in Guwahati love to pack up early and leave for home. All shops and restaurants (including most of the medical shops) shut down between 9 – 9:30 PM.
You will rarely find shops open till 10 PM or beyond which makes it a bit difficult to buy things late in the night. But nonetheless, once you start living here, you will start to appreciate the early take off, and eventually make it a part of your routine.
Note that pubs, and restaurants with bars, do stay open beyond 10 PM.
16. A Deadly Battle Between Man and Mosquitoes
After living in Guwahati for three months, I still cannot find a way to protect myself from the bloodthirsty mosquitoes! Somebody, save me!
There is a constant battle between man and mosquitoes in Guwahati. Stay outdoors beyond 5 PM and your legs are likely to be hijacked by these vicious, insatiable creatures.
The most common way the locals fight these mosquitoes is by either setting meshed doors or using mosquito nets before sleep. Even the repellents don’t seem to vanquish them! So, beware.
17. Where Hospitality Lies in the Roots of the Assamese Culture
The Assamese are one of the most hospitable people. Although initially, the way they talk might seem a bit rustic, eventually, you will realise that it really stems from their dialect and has got nothing to do with what they think/feel about you.
Most of the locals here, in Guwahati, are helpful. I can recall several instances where the locals have been kind to me – one of them was when a vegetable vendor agreed to let me take the vegetables home, and pay him the next day when I had run out of money.
Guwahati also seemed safe to me. No gaping looks or lewd remarks by men. People like to carry on with their day-to-day business.
This brings me to the end of my post. Although I have penned down about 2,000 words describing all the little things that make Guwahati truly special, I still cannot express how I really feel about Guwahati.
Perhaps my prolonged stay will speak for itself.
Disclaimer: Some of the pics were shot by my dear friend, Deepak Dubey. I thank him, a ton!