Article: Travels in the Land of Slowly Slowly

The vast, braided and silverish waterway of Brahmaputra, Assam’s heart and artery, is an antecedent river, older than the Himalayas themselves.

Assam: An Unchanged Land is a beautifully written piece by Horatio Clare for Conde Nast Traveller.

Located in a distant corner of India, east of Bangladesh and south of the eastern Himalayas, and separated from the rest of the country by a range of hills, Horatio Clare reports on the sleepy yet majestic land lying in the Brahmaputra valley.   

In this richly written piece, Horatio Clare looks beyond the tea plantations and finds abundant wildlife on the Brahmaputra floodplain, in Assam’s swamps and savannah and in Kaziranga National Park, home to rhino, elephants and tigers.

Clare describes a culture and people which link the Indian subcontinent with Southeast Asia, and finds that the unhurried pace of life, predominantly agrarian lifestyle, and relatively few foreign visitors give Assam a rockpool-like character reminiscent of an older India.  

Horatio Clare is a two-time nominee for the Dolman Best Travel Book Award.  He was shortlisted for A Single Swallow in 2010 and won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year in 2015 with Down to the Sea in Ships.

Horatio Clare spoke at the Hay Festival in May 2015 on the subject “Why I Write”, explaining that:

Setting the world to words as if to music, is the ambition of the writer…I write because I have no wish to live in a world where the sky and the birds and the slants of light and the moods of a day and the tones of the night are of no consequence… If I have any gift, it is to set the people I write about in the actual world and to hymn that world, this precious place, our miraculous blue green bulb.

Clare’s Hay talk is available on the BBC’s website (and below):

High-quality photographs from Alistair Taylor-Young accompany Clare’s article.  More of his images from Assam (and other travels) can be seen on his website

Article & Video: Riding India’s Longest Train Journey

The largest employer in India with 1.4 million employees, Indian Railways is one of the largest railways in the world with over 115,000km or track over a route of 65,808km and 7,112 stations, carrying a staggering 23 million passengers a day, with freight and passenger revenues of US$24 billion. Rolling stock includes 10,499 locomotives and 66,392 passenger coaches. The infrastructure is gargantuan, and at times beautiful.

Great time lapse and stunning photographs of the longest rail journey in India from photographer, film-maker and tabla player, Ed Hanley.  

There is something particularly alluring about travelling by train compared with other forms of transport.  For me its the combination of chatting with other passengers, and having time to read and stare out of the window.  A fellow traveller once told me that the ideal train journey lasted for three hours because it allowed enough time to indulge in all three.   

The Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express travels from a city on the Brahmaputra river in Assam in north east India to the southern tip of India in Tamil Nadu.  The journey lasts three days and four nights and covers 4,273km, so that is definitely a trip with plenty of time to stare out of the window as well as read.  As to the chatting, my experience is that passengers on Indian trains are particularly social, so the shy needn’t worry about how to strike up a conversation with strangers.  

In his time lapse and accompanying photo essay, Ed Hanley perfectly captures the experience of riding trains in India and I especially like the way he takes the opportunity to treat the train not just as a mode of transport but something to be explored and enjoyed in its own right.  A great initiation. 

For further reading about travelling India by train, see Monisha Rajesh’s Around India in 80 Trains: