River cruising has emerged as a popular style of holidaying for luxury travellers. In Europe, cruising the Danube or Rhine has been popular for quite some time while journeying along other key rivers of the world, from the Nile and Amazon to the Yangtze, Irrawaddy and the Mekong are also gaining momentum. Indian river cruising is in its infancy. On a river cruise in India, you can cruise the Ganges and backwaters of Kerala in luxury ships. But of all the Indian river cruises, the spotlight is on a Brahmaputra River cruise in northeast India aboard luxury vessel MV Mahabaahu.
Originating from a glacier in the Himalayas in Tibet, the 2900 km Brahmaputra River drifts through northeast India.
The river passes through the valleys of Assam before emptying into the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh.
Assam is a state of India famous for its unspoilt natural beauty, friendly people of Tibeto-Burman origin, colourful culture and wildlife.
Assam black tea has placed the region on the world map.
The eight-day Brahmaputra River cruise between Guwahati to Jorhat introduces you to all of these delights in a relaxing and comfortable way.
Brahmaputra River Cruise Ship
MV Mahabaahu is a 55m five-deck boutique ship with 23 staterooms (fortunately air conditioned!).
The cruise ship’s elegant décor reflects the flavours of Assam.
Rooms have everything a luxury traveller would need, from a well-stocked minibar to satellite television to an in-room safe.
Beds are very comfortable and decked out with luxurious linen and there are nice touches like slippers, hair dryer and quality toiletries in the ensuite.
Recreational facilities include a library, spa and outdoor swimming pool.
On the menu are local and international delicacies. And the well-stocked bar is always busy with guests socialising over a cocktail or chilled Kingfisher beer.
Regular lecture programs held before the shore excursions prepare guests with information about the history and culture of Assam.
History and Culture
Shore excursions to villages and towns along the river bank offer fascinating insights into Assam’s rich heritage and lifestyle.
History and culture become our constant companions when exploring the ancient town of Sibasagar, which has well-preserved monuments and temples of the Ahom Kings.
The Ahom Dynasty ruled the region for 600 years during the medieval period, until Assam was annexed to British India in 1826.
Another destination in Assam is Majuli, which was once the world’s largest river island and the cultural soul of Assam.
We rub shoulders with Mishing tribal people and visit satras (or monasteries) of the Neo-Vaishnavite cult. And our shore excursions offer us a glimpse of centuries-old cultural traditions through exotic Assam dance performances.
Another highlight this Indian river cruise odyssey is the visit to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kaziranga National Park.
Kaziranga National Park has over 2000 one-horned rhinoceros as well as Asian elephants, Royal Bengal tigers, water buffalos, swamp deer and a huge variety of avian species.
Our itinerary includes an early morning elephant safari followed by a jeep expedition where we ride through the tall-grass laden forest to spot wildlife.
Because of their abundance, it’s easy to track the rhinos but tiger sightings are not as common. Tigers are shy and easily camouflaged by the dry yellow grass. There are a few types of tigers and India is the home of the Bengal tiger, which is an endangered species.
No visit to Assam is complete without visiting a lush green tea estate.
During our visit, we see how the green leaves are picked. We also enjoy learning about the process of turning them into drinkable tea. The best part is sipping a hot cup of Assam tea in the estate manager’s bungalow.
British planters built these bungalows when they ran tea farms in Assam in the early 19th century.
Life on Board
Life on board is super cool. There’s plenty of time to relax, socialise and chill out with other fellow passengers on this Indian river cruise.
Our days start with yoga sessions, on a deserted sandy island or wherever the ship is moored overnight.
In between shore excursions, bar time and meals, we attend informative talks about Assam and its treasures.
Shopaholics are not disappointed, as the reception area turns into a boutique store offering plenty of Asam silk fashions.
Assam silk is famous and highly sought after. One of the services offered on this river cruise is an onboard dressmaker, who can skillfully turn a piece of Assam silk into an adorable dress within a day.
Getting to Assam
If you’re flying Business Class, you’ll be impressed with the Pier Business Class lounge. After an almost year-long makeover, it’s now the largest lounge in the Cathay Pacific network.
Brahmaputra River cruise details:
Before or after your Brahmaputra River cruise, it’s worth spending a few days in vibrant Kolkata. Kolkata the ‘Second City of the Empire” when it was the nation’s capital during British Raj era.
The best place to stay there is at the plush Taj Bengal Hotel from where iconic sights such as the National Library, Victoria Memorial, National Museum, New Market and the Flower Market are close by.
Sandip Hor travelled as a guest of MV Mahabaahu.