Friday, January 8, 2016

Where did December go?

Well this is long overdue and memories of Christmas and New Year are already fading. For anyone reading this I hope the time brought you much joy and happiness. I had a great time but it all came in a bit of a rush after a fabulous holiday venture in the first 2 weeks in Decembar.

The dates wouldn't have been my choosing but they were determined by one of the features of the trip to Assam and Nagaland - the Hornbill Festival. The World Expeditions trip wasn't specifically for textiles as my previous trips, but rather to see and experience Assam culture and tea estates, visit the World heritage Kaziranga Wildlife Park, and then the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland. What a surprise to find that our guide was the same one from my Gujurat trip!

Assam was not so flat, and greener and more tropical than Gujurat where I had been before. The roads were not so good, but the traffic was the usual chaos of honking motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars, trucks and buses. The people were friendly and are more laid back according to our local guide and the culture is linked to that of  Burma (Myanmar) due to the peaceful spread of the Ahom peoples into Assam 700 years ago.

We did visit a lovely silk shop in Jorhat and saw wonderful silks - the natural colour is golden as in the top photo

Also traditional red on white - cottons
 I snapped this chap at a restaurant where we stopped for lunch. I think he was one of a wedding party there at the time. When we stayed near the national park some villagers sang and danced for us in traditional costumes - red and white cotton head bands for the boys and wrapping the drums, and Assam silk woven with red for the girls. The
The shop also had many brilliantly coloured cottons  - what a contrast!. I did see a lot of these about. They tend to be thicker and warmer for the cooler months

We also drove through tea plantations, visiting one estate and a research centre. The 200 year old estate buildings are now part of an exclusive golf resort. I learnt quite a bit at the research centre about the origins and varieties. They propagate from 41 cloned varieities now, and they use soft wood cuttings, say from the fourth or fifth pair of leaves - not the tips as I used for the thousands of carnation and gypsophila plants I propagated when we had our flower nursery.

The trees growing in amongst the bushes are to provide soft filtered shade, which is better for the bushes than full sun. The very tips are picked for white tea (which is why it is expensive) but the first few leaves otherwise. This keeps the bushes fairly well trimmed but they are pruned every 4 or 5 years to keep them at 'table height' and they can grow for about 40 years. The trunks on the old bushes are quite substantial.
From what we saw the women pick and the men pack. The weight of the baskets is bourne by the head.
Sometimes they grow creepers up the trees and get a second crop/income source - black pepper corns. They knock or shake the trees and collect the peppercorns from mats laid underneath.

We visited the largest Shiva temple

Plenty of chances to buy a blessing on the forecourt including from this fellow...
We visited the maidams or burial grounds of the Ahom rulers where they were buried in coffins under the mounds


The sari on the young girl was beautiful, emdroidered with gold thread,  but mother (I assume) wouldn't let me take her picture alone... The green one was nice but not as stunning.

 This is the colosseum built by one of the rulers to watch the games - in true Roman style. I loved the decoration on it.

... and goats were everywhere. Few seemed to be tagged - I have no idea how anyone would know who they belonged too, if indeed they belong to anyone.

That will do for now. Next time, our ferry trip to Majuli, an island where many of the traditional ways are still followed, and our visit to the wildlife park.

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