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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Friday, October 17, 2014 19:57:16

INDIA & BANGLADESH 2014: 8 From Imphal to Agartala, India

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Classic Hotel in Guwahati turned out to not only be excellent, but very reasonable. When we checked out the bill was 100 rupees, or about $2, and that included laundry. The airport was clean and efficient, with A/C and TV in the waiting area, however no food or drinks. The Air India flight was late arriving, so left over half and hour late for the 40 minute flight to Aizawl, where weather prevented landing. We circled for about half an hour before being cleared to land between high hills. We'd learned out lesson on the last Air India flight, so this time got front row bulkhead seats for leg room, but still not even a glass of water was available.

We are in another wannabe independent state, so forms had to be filled out and our passports stamped. While doing this, a policeman came to say that the honourable so and so has sent a message that we go to the toilet as it is over an hour to drive to our hotel. We assume this is the fellow who was sitting next to Marilynn. We were told we must go to the CID police station in Aizawl for more paperwork as well.

We were met by Mary and our driver, Zaua, who drove well. This is mountainous country, so it wasn't easy to find a flat bit on which to build an airport or a level bit for a straight road. Once in Aizawl we had to drive in heavy traffic for 45 minutes to get to the police office. While the office door was open, and we wandered around inside, Mary was told they were closed. We then fought our way 45 minutes back to the quite good Regency Hotel. Mary volunteered to take our passports back to CID in the morning while we were touring.

Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram Pradesh, is a hill town of about 300,000 people at an altitude of about 1,300 m (4,264 ft), giving them winter temperatures between 11 and 21C and summer between 20 and 29 degrees. They also have phenomenal all day traffic jams on the narrow hill roads in spite of many traffic police in circular boxes in intersections. The city was founded 112 years ago, and is situated on the Tropic of Cancer.. The literacy rate in Mizoram is 91.58%, well up from Manipur where it is only 79.85%. Mizoram is very heavily Christian, and the literacy rate is attributed to a large number of religious schools and colleges. Many Christian faiths are represented, but Presbyterian and Baptist are the most numerous. Their enormous political influence is the reason for prohibition of both alcohol and the head hunting they used to do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mary showed up on time to collect our passports, but our guide and driver were almost 45 minutes late. The guide (RR) claimed he hadn't been notified he was working until this morning, something I found unlikely as Samir had given us his name and cell phone in Imphal. He tells us this is his first attempt at being a guide. He tried very hard to cover the highlights, something that takes only a few hours. There is currently a gasoline shortage, so any station that has product has cars lined up for blocks.

In the course of the morning we visited what they call the mini Taj Mahal, an impressive mausoleum on a hill top to the wife of a wealthy man who was killed in a car crash, then the Presbyterian Theological College which is perched on another hilltop with a spectacular view of Aizawi and the airport, which looks to be about 10 minutes away. We also toured the largest shopping mall, which is really a bazaar with a large number of individual small shops. Back at the hotel we lunched and took the afternoon off. We had our first rain today, although just showers, so it was not inconvenient. Samir has kept in touch with us by texting on their drive back to Guwahati, including confirm he'd picked up the two shirts I left in Kohima.

We haven't seen a foreign tourist since entering the East India tribal states, but there are lots of missionaries. The tribal system in Mizoram has been pretty much eliminated, and movements here are watched closely by police and government. Even after having long forms (including parents information) filled at the airport and Mary filing more data with the police, we received a phone call in the room from the department of foreign affairs wanting to know how we knew our guide and driver, where we met them and a lot of other personal information. It sounds like it is becoming a bit of a police state.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We were picked up by Zaua at the hotel at 10 AM for the airport drive. He owns the vehicle in which we have been touring and for anyone heading this way his phone is 8575181959 and email is * *. He speaks enough English to get by, has good knowledge of the area and is a very good driver.

Checking in, security and passport control were all very straightforward and quick. There has been no problem taking bottles of water through security anywhere in India. The Jet Airways ATR72 was underway for Guwahati 10 minutes before departure time. Once again we had bulkhead seats. The flight was smooth, comfortable and they even served water. On arrival we boarded a bus for the terminal where kind souls gave up their bus seats insisting Marilynn and I accept them. I guess age has some advantages!

Samir and Kamal were there to greet us, bearing all Marilynn's favourite things – wine, diet coke, boxed juice and soda water! On the drive to the good looking Kiranshree Portico Hotel we found we were back in the land of beggars, they banged on the car when traffic stopped, and we are also back to continuous horn honking, neither of which we had in the tribal states. On the other hand, liquor was served in the bar and restaurant for the first time in days.

The hotel is overstaffed, and inefficient. We were the only people in the dining room where two guys in suites and 3 waiters were huddled around talking. They seemed quite annoyed if we wanted anything, including a menu. When we settled into the room the doorbell rang regularly – 2 guys delivering a small fruit plate, then 3 women delivering a little bag with two chocolates and again delivery of a travel magazine.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Samir, who is flying to Agartala with us, picked us up with another driver after a pretty sleepless night. Check-in with IndiGo Airlines was easy and friendly. The agent gave us window and aisle seats and blocked off the centre seat for my legs. Formalities were straightforward. The A320 took off right on schedule, arriving in Agartala, the capital of Tripura Pradesh, early. Water was available, other items were for sale and overhead bins are big.. This is the best airline we've flown in India so far, it is no wonder they are expanding while others are trying to pay off debt. They just gave Airbus their largest order ever, 250 more A320 planes.

Agartala is only 12.8 m (42 ft) above sea level, so is hot. The population is 375,000 and the literacy rate 87.75%. It was settled in 1600 BC and had a 1,364 year chain of 179 Hindu rulers from 585 BC to 1949. The English East India Company took over in 1808 but supported the maharaja . Hindu is the main religion with 87.7%, Muslim 8.27%, Christian & Buddhist 1.89% each. It is the 2nd largest city in NE India after Guwahati.

After settling into the fairly basic Hotel Ginger we headed off to the Ujjavanta palace, a very impressive building built by the maharaja from 1899 to 1901. It is now a first class museum with about 2 km of hallways. We also went to the Fourteen Goddess Temple, and the Venuban Buddha Vihar Temple before returning to the hotel for dinner. The hotel rooms are clean, reasonably well equipped, the food is great and the staff provide excellent service. It also has good free wifi.

Friday, October 17, 2014

We covered a lot of ground today, starting at 8 AM and driving to Neermahal, or the water palace, built by the maharajah in 1930 on an island in a 5.3 km sq lake. Samir hired a boat to take us to the palace, which is being renovated with the idea of turning it into a 24 room deluxe hotel.

In the same area we passed a number of plantations of rubber trees, stopping to watch the white coloured liquid dripping into the collection pots. These are poured into trays to flatten the rubber and allow it to harden before going through two sets of rollers, the first one smooth and the second patterned. It is then put in the sun on a line, or laid on the road, to dry before being sold. The final product is light brown hard rubber.

We stopped at Gunavati to check out a group of temples from 1668, and further along to see a much older one of indeterminate date. After quite a bit of driving we arrived at the Jompey River, where a boat was hired for the hour and a half ride down river to see huge prehistoric carvings on sheer cliffs that tower above the river. Another few miles along were a second set of giant carvings. We saw photos of them in the museum, but nothing had the impact of seeing them first hand in the pristine jungle setting. The river winds between high, steep hills densely covered with unspoiled jungle on both sides – it gave a definite "Raiders of the Lost Ark" sensation! That was amplified when one of the boatmen spotted a big snake and wanted to go in after it, much to Marilynn's horror. Apparently they caught and ate a 5 foot one last week. In the end the snake left and the boatman was persuaded to stay on board.

The ride home after dark was brutal in the most uncomfortable vehicle to date. Traffic was heavy on the narrow roads. Marilynn was frantic, but after about 3 hours we reached the hotel where we had a good dinner accompanied by wine disguised in a soda water bottle.

Tomorrow we cross into Bangladesh.