The state capital GUWAHATI (or Gauhati) lies on the banks of the Brahmaputra, whose swollen sandy channel is so wide that the far shore is often invisible. It's a dirty and crowded city, but as it's the main gateway to the region you will probably need to stay here for at least a night or two. The busy downtown market area contrasts sharply with the rural riverside northeast of the centre, and the surrounding hills beyond. The main attractions are the Kamakhya, Navagraha and Umananda temples. Northwest of Guwahati are the famous silk village of Sualkachi, the pilgrimage site of Hajo and Manas National Park.
The bustling markets of Paltan Bazaar, Pan Bazaar and Fancy Bazaar, Guwahati's main shopping areas, are bunched in the centre on either side of the railway, with the older residential areas north of the tracks. Most of the bazaars deal simply in provisions; Assamese silk, basketware and other crafts are sold at several good shops on GNB Road, including the State Emporium. Assam's main business is tea, and tourists can visit the Assam Tea Auction Centre (Tues 9.30am–1pm & 2.30–6pm), in the Dispur suburb, with special permission from the Senior Manager (T0361/233 1845).