NE Diaries – A backpacker's account

#1 Apr 22nd, 2014, 23:07
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#1
I had the fortune to backpack around the NE states of India sometime back. I had been a bit nervous in the beginning (given my impressions about “NE States”), but I absolutely loved it. Highly recommend it to people, especially those who like going off the beaten track. NE states have still not become a tourist hot spot, so you can find some peace and quiet, and actually get a feel of the local culture there. The purpose of this post to is to dispel some common misconceptions about those states, and provide some general information to those who are interested in going there.

1) Overall - At various points there has been all kinds of negative news about NE. They have been classified as unsafe, infact many countries issue travel advisory against the NE states to their citizens. Personally, I did not face any issue while travelling. Life there is as normal and as bustling as any other city. On the contrary, being matriarchal societies, I felt a higher sense of safety while travelling alone. The people I met (who live there) also mention that situation has improved significantly over the years, and the states are much safer to travel now. This is not to say that travellers should throw caution to the wind. Travelling anywhere has to be done with some common sense. Just don’t get affected by the negative perception around the NE states. Approach them as any other travel destination, do your research (make sure you contact people who have actually gone there) and go if you get a good feeling about it

2)Transportation - A word of caution to the people who suffer from motion sickness - Unfortunately there is very little rail road connection in NE. You have a few stations like Guwhati, Dimapur etc, but the majority of travel is done via cars – shared sumos (with 11 to a sumo) if you are a budget traveler and private cars if you are not. Roads are mostly hilly (especially between states, and especially to Tawang Valley), so those who suffer from motion sickness might find it difficult to manage.

3)Accommodation – I did not book my accommodation in advance anywhere. I just landed up and looked around for budget acco, and there was absolutely no issue in it. If you land up during some popular festival (I did in Nagaland for Hornbill), then you might struggle a bit, but even then its not impossible. The level of budget acco is quite basic. Foreigners tend to travel less to NE, so it has benefited less from the advantages of a robust backpacking culture (as compared to places like Ladhak, Manali etc). Budget acco starts anywhere from INR 200-300 upwards. Rooms are basic, but livable. I did not try any higher end places, so can’t comment about them, but I felt less of them existed as compared to other destinations. Many hotels are just families who have added a few rooms to their house for guests. For those not wanting to look around much, all the main tourist destinations have Government Tourist Lodges; you can even book in advance there. Typical to all Government lodges, their locations are amazing, but the facilities themselves average, however you are assured of standardized prices.

4)Permits – No issues for Indians. The only place in my travels where a permit was needed was Arunachal (due to nearness to China border. I would like to add that apart from having to get a permit, I did not face any real or perceived danger or hassle for being near the border). Got the permit made at the border only (Assam – AP border), takes less than half hour. You need a photo id proof and a few photos. I was later told that Kohima (in Nagaland) also requires a permit. Apparently during Hornbill they get more lenient (given the number of tourists who turn up), so that’s why I was never asked for one. However, if you are going then check up on this before you land up.
For foreigners its more difficult. I think technically you can get a permit once you land there and on your own, but as per LP it is painful (cant say this with any authority since didn’t experience it myself). The LP even mentioned that foreigners need to get some pre-booked deal in NE, for Indians nothing is required.

5)Safety –Personally faced no issues myself. People were very friendly (especially in the interiors). Guys also stare less… big relief for a girl. Twice I even took an overnight bus, faced no issue there.

6)Food – Non vegetarian food is a big component of their diet, but there is absolutely no hassle in finding vegetarian food. You also get regular dal, chawal, sabji etc there, so no issues for the less adventurous. For the daring, Nagaland is an amazing place to try all kinds of interesting food stuffs (silk worms, frogs, grasshoppers, and even dog meat).

7)Alcohol – This is something I did not know – many NE states are dry states. Nagaland is a dry state and so is Manipur. Parts of Assam are also dry. So just find out before you land up and start demanding alcohol. Where you do get alcohol, it is quite cheap (some tax benefit I guess). Rice beer is very common there and from what I could make out, consumed openly even in the dry states. For those who do drink, I would recommend trying it out.

8)Language – English is more predominant than Hindi, especially the more NE you go (in Assam Hindi is widely spoken). I did not face any issues language wise. People are also very willing to try and understand and help you.

9)Time to visit – This is a bit tricky. Ideally the best time to visit is in the monsoon, the place just erupts in a riot of greenery (from what I heard, I travelled in Nov / Dec). Obviously, sightseeing will be more of a hassle then and the roads might become difficult. In that case, mid September should be a good time, as you will get the greenery, but hopefully less rain. NE has many festivals; each state has some special festival which is celebrated on a grand scale, so travellers might want to time their visit as per their preferred festival. From what I could make out, many of those festivals happen mid October onwards, so your trip might be delayed and the places you visit will be quite dry. Those who are very interested in going to Kaziranga, I think the best time is supposed to be January onwards when they cut the elephant grass, enabling you to have more Rhino sightings (I went in Dec when elephant grass was quite high, but still had plenty of sightings). Note – I have not done any research on this, this is just based on my travels there. I would advise you to pick up a guide book and get more factual information regarding the time to visit.

My itinerary (not planned in the beginning, but as it developed over time) was Sikkim - Assam – Meghalya – Arunachal Pradesh – Nagaland. By the end of the month I was quite tired so did not continue on to Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura. I travelled with some fellow travel enthusiasts (did my AMC from HMI, met some more people interested in visiting NE, so travelled with them in part). However travelling solo is absolutely no issue there, you will just find less backpackers (the friendliness of the locals does make up for it in parts). In my coming posts, I will mention the travel across the states in more details, including the sightseeing places. In the meanwhile, if anyone is making any imminent plan to go there and has some queries, feel free to ask.
#2 Apr 23rd, 2014, 16:44
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
London
Posts:
517
  • greenears is offline
#2
mkhanna, thanks a lot for this very insightful and interesting post of your experiences. Travelogues from solo Indian budget travellers are less common here, especially those with an open plan rather than a fixed day-to-day itinerary and with one-month plus to spare... much enjoyed reading yours!

Out of interest what were your main activities/interests while there? Notice you mentioned AMC, so did you do a lot of climbing, or trekking? Did you find the women open up to you (your post suggests you are female)? And how about the men?

As an Indian man who backpacked solo in the 'hilly states' (not in NE, more in Uttaranchal/HP), I found the men extremely open and friendly but two months into my trip I realised I hadn't had an opportunity to exchange more than five words with a woman in my entire time there.
#3 Apr 23rd, 2014, 16:47
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
Join Date:
Dec 2005
Location:
over a 'wine-dark sea'
Posts:
16,375
  • theyyamdancer is offline
#3
Thanks for a great post, except for one thing - important detail - foreigners no longer require any permit to visit Nagaland.
#4 Apr 23rd, 2014, 17:07
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
Want to live enerywhere
Posts:
3,564
  • Duronto Jajabar is offline
#4
What a TR, solo Indian female backpacker in NE !!!! [Gitanjali, another IMer on that route, in Arunachal I can remember, was another such fantastic traveler and presenter) I adore and ... ah!!! I envy

Quote:
Originally Posted by mkhanna View Post .... The purpose of this post to is to dispel some common misconceptions about those states, and provide some general information to those who are interested in going there.
Purpose served definitely and very nicely. So far I traveled there (very few parts actually) found /experienced similar facts but your presentation is awesome


Quote:
... People were very friendly (especially in the interiors). Guys also stare less… big relief for a girl.


Quote:
In my coming posts, I will mention the travel across the states in more details, including the sightseeing places. .
Eagerly waiting for it.

Fantastic start, I must say.
aamar payer tolai sorshe...(I have wheels under my feet)
#5 Apr 23rd, 2014, 17:10
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#5
hi greenears. Yep, i am a female . name is medha. i didnt have any plan for the NE, just wanted to explore around. didnt do much climbing and trekking as I had got plenty of that in my AMC. more like just landed up in a place and walked around (rarely took a taxi anytime) and saw the main attractions, or just walked around generally. i think men tend to be more outgoing and friendly, though the few women i approached and talked to were no less so (think its a matter of you approaching them, they on their own stay out of the way). even though women are less house bound there as compared to other parts of the countries, most of the lodges i stayed in were run by men, so by default you end up talking to them more. the women who were running the odd lodge in a place were very businesslike and quite forbidding, do didnt talk to them much
#6 Apr 24th, 2014, 11:53
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#6
thanks Duronto Jabalpur. Will try to make the rest of my posts as interesting . i was not completely alone the entire time. I mentioned in my post that there were some fellow AMC students whom i also travelled with in part. that was fun, not because of safety issues. but more so because given the lack of backpacking culture in NE, good company was not that easy to get.
not sure what you envy... ?
I travelled around for a month in the NE, that too only 4-5 of the 7 sisters, even then i felt pressed for time. thats because each state requires a month in itself to do it justice, and also because the lack of rail transportation makes its very time consuming to travel between any 2 destinations
#7 Apr 25th, 2014, 22:09
Join Date:
May 2012
Location:
Mon-Khmer Land (Shillong)
Posts:
3,290
  • karikor is online now
#7
I travelled around for a month in the NE, that too only 4-5 of the 7 sisters, even then i felt pressed for time. thats because each state requires a month in itself to do it justice, and also because the lack of rail transportation makes its very time consuming to travel between any 2 destinations

Can't agree with you more, Medha. Hoping to see pics soon.
#8 May 6th, 2014, 15:36
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#8
Hi All. Sorry for the delay in posting the second part of my trip. My computer crashed in between and after that I was travelling. I am posting the second part today and will post the final part shortly. Its a long post (given the long journey), so please bear with it.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my itinerary was Sikkim - Assam – Meghalaya – Arunachal Pradesh – Nagaland. I have described my travels through these states in more detail below.

Darjeeling
The institute (HMI) is in Darjeeling, so I was there for about a month and had the chance to visit the main town a few times. Darjeeling is like your regular hill station. It has a main square which branches off into many side lanes which sell anything from tea to trekking gear to household items (the trekking gear was mostly fake but appeared to be of decent quality and quite cheap). The view from the main square is quite stunning; you get a great view of the Himalayan range from there. Accommodation is not a problem as there are a number of hotels across price brackets. Quality of hotels is also better as Darjeeling attracts a lot of tourists. To get there you have to catch a shared sumo from NJP (nearest train head). Don’t waste your time looking for a bus – none run on that route. You can get the taxis from NJP station (more expensive), or catch a shared auto to Siliguri bus station and catch a shared sumo from there (cheaper and standardized rates). Just tell the auto guy that you want to go to Darjeeling and he will drop you off at the right place. The main attractions in Darjeeling are the toy train (its cute though tediously slow), the cable car (apparently the longest in India), the museum in the HMI institute, a zoo (I think the only one where you have a snow leopard) and Tiger hill. Interesting trivia about Tiger hill – apparently Tiger hill is the name given to the highest point in a hill station, so many hill stations are likely to have this (in case anybody was thinking that this was the same Tiger hill as the Kargil war). To get the best views at the Tiger hill you should be there at sunrise. Taxis are available from the main square. Hiking to the hill is also possible (we did it as part of our training), but it takes a 2-3 hours, and you are likely to miss the sunrise in that case. Food in Darjeeling is great; try this place called Boneys for gooey cheesy and yummy fast food. Overall I think you can spend a leisurely couple of days in Darjeeling, walking around and taking it easy.

Sikkim
I went to Sikkim as part of my AMC training, so I did not go to the regular touristy places. But some of my friends went to the Nathu La and Gurudongmar lake and really liked it. Since the areas are near the border, I don’t think foreigners are allowed. Indians also need permits, we got ours at the border itself (do research on this more though). Travel in Sikkim is via shared sumo or private taxis. Gangtok is again one of your regular hill stations, but it has an interesting differentiator in the form of a large casino there. Accommodation is not an issue, with plenty of budget options available. I have heard that the Government rest house in Gangtok is well built and has spectacular views. Didn’t go there myself so can’t vouch for it, but if anyone if going there, worth checking it out. All of the above information is on the basis of friends who went there. The part I did go and can definitely vouch for is the mountains. Part of the HMI training route coincides with the famous Goech La trek. The trek is beautiful and the views spectacular. For those interested in trekking I would definitely recommend the route. It is a camping trek the entire way so you will need to contact an agency or guide. I was told by someone that trekking in Sikkim Himalayas is supposed to be tougher because of the terrain and wet climate (you fall ill faster). I am not very sure of that, but the Goech La trek has a fair bit of ups and downs. One part of the trek is predominantly over cement steps, so watch out for your knees.

Assam
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by Assam. I cant say why, but it left me with a vague feeling that something was missing.

Guwahati - To travel anywhere in Assam, or for that matter anywhere in NE, you have to go to Guwahati. I would just advise you to close your eyes and ears and pass through the place. It is an industrial town and appeared noisy, crowded and polluted. Admittedly I was staying near the Railway station, not the best area in any town, but what I saw of the rest of the city did not give me a very favorable impression. Getting there is easy – lots of trains from Calcutta and NJP. Acco was also not an issue, right next to the railway station is the Paltan Bazaar which has plenty of budget options (the particular lane is Manipuribasti East road). You don’t need to take an auto, just walk out of the station. Staying near the railway station is advantageous because all shared sumos (to Meghalaya, AP etc) start from there. You also have a bus stand there, where you get regular buses to Kaziranga and other places. I booked the tickets through Network Travels as they have a large office cum stand near the station (there are plenty of other travel agents to choose from). Charges for all these modes of transportation are standard, ranging from INR 100 per person to INR 700, depending upon distance. Just keep your eyes and ears open to make sure you are not being fleeced (especially if you are a foreigner). Since rates are standardized, there is not much scope for bargaining (I am talking about shared sumos, for buses rates are fixed). I didn’t do any sightseeing in Guwahati, but apparently the Kamakhya temple is very popular, with devotees from all over the country coming there. A boat ride on the Brahmaputra around sunset is also highly recommended by people. Food was a disappointment there; I found it a bit insipid for my spiced up Punjabi pallet. I even went to one of their popular restaurants to give it a proper go, but was left a bit high and dry.

National Parks in Assam – This was one part of the trip I was truly cheesed out about. Got a variety of conflicting views about which national park to go to, people kept giving conflicting views between Kaziranga, Manas and Pobitoro (Manas is in between NJP and Guwahati, Kaziranga further ahead and Pobitoro a few hours by car from Guwahati). We (was with my fellow AMC friends then) initially went to Pobitoro national park. There are no shared taxis or buses there (the buses leave you a good way off from the park and getting back can be difficult), so we had to hire a private taxi. There are multiple tour operators in Paltan Bazar who can arrange for this, just ask around and go for the cheapest one. It takes 2-3 hours to get to the park, so start early. We didn’t and ended up missing the morning safari. Enroute our driver convinced us that the park was no great shakes and he could show us the rhinos from outside only (!!!). Unfortunately we agreed and he drove us to another spot about 1-2 km further and showed us a few rhinos from afar. Not exactly our moment of glory! At this point we were quite fed up with the entire thing so just decided to go back. Learning – do more research on where to go next time and not get convinced by drivers who probably just wanted to get back early and not hang around waiting for us.

Two of us then decided to go to Kaziranga (I couldn’t get this far and just go away seeing a rhino’s ass ). You can get a bus from Guwahati to Kaziranga (falls enroute to Jorhat). You will get dropped outside the main gate (the bus driver will know where to drop you, but just in case there is a confusion, the bus stand is called Kohora). There are plenty of (somewhat seedy looking) hotels outside. They are livable for a night, but first go check inside the park. There is a Government guesthouse there and the rooms there are much nicer, and the location of the lodge is also much better. Price starts from INR 600 for a double room onwards. You will have to walk from the main gate to the guesthouse inside (around a km). We hitchhiked with an empty Jeep going back to the park. You will anyways have to go inside eventually as that is where the booking counter (for both jeeps and elephant safaris) is located. Don’t remember the cost exactly, but I think hiring a Jeep costs around INR 2000 (if you are solo then just hang around at the counter and tell the guys that you are looking to share. They will let you know if someone else also turns up). For elephant safaris you have to go at around 6 in the evening to another counter nearby and book for the next day. This is a bit tedious as the counter doesn’t always open on time, and mostly its travel agents hanging around for their guests. Ask the lodge owner at the Govt. guesthouse, he will get you in touch with a travel agent. The agent doesn’t charge any money for the booking; he makes money on the car hiring (you have to hire a car for getting to and fro from the safari spot, which is a quite some distance away). Since you anyways have to hire a car, whether you book on your own or through an agent, its not a bad deal. You have 3 time slots for the safari (5am, 6am and 7am I think). You can give your preference for the time slot but not guaranteed if you will get it. During peak season you will probably have to book a few days in advance for the elephant safari. We went both for the jeep and elephant safari. Saw plenty of rhinos in both. I love jungles so I loved the jeep safari, the jeep takes you well inside for a few hours. The elephant safari lasts for about 45minutes and is a quick tour of the park, so is less peaceful. Going back to Guwahati or any other major city is pretty easy. No need to book any seat in advance. There is a bus stop outside the main gate of the park (near where you get dropped off). Just ask the shopkeepers if a bus goes to your desired destination and ask them to point it to you when it comes (the names will be written in Assamese, so you won’t be able to identify them yourself). They won’t be your luxury buses, but reasonably comfortable for a few hours journey.

Meghalaya – The land of mountains.
Of all places I liked Meghalaya the best. No concrete reason, just that the feel of the entire place is amazing, it seems more magical and mystical as compared to the other places.

Shillong - I went to Shillong and then Cherrapunji. Fell in love with Shillong right away. The way to Shillong from Guwahati (shared sumo) is beautiful, and entering Shillong from the dusty city of Guwahati will seem like a breath of fresh air. Acco quality was better here than all the other places I stayed in. The main hub is at police Bazaar. If you walk around there and in the side streets, you should be able to find plenty of acco options. Shillong is a beautiful place to walk around, its like a mixture of a modern hill station plus an old one frozen in time. You can get a panoramic view of the place from Shillong peak. To get there, take a shared tax or walk it. I walked it there. People made it sound like a very long and arduous walk, but it was not that bad. It took just over an hour and was through a foresty area so was quite nice (a bit steep in the end). If you do plan to walk it then ask in the main square for the way, and keep re-checking with people whenever you are in doubt. If some people tell you that there is no such way or that it is dangerous (happened to me), don’t believe them. There is also Don Bosco museum (showcasing local culture) which is supposed to be quite nice, but the day I went there it was closed, so can’t say anything more. If you like wholesale markets, there is a big one there called Bara Bazaar. Built over a hillock, you will find everything from fresh meat to fresh vegetables to (probably) any household item under the sun there (interestingly, there were more women than men running the shops there). There is also a bus stand next to it (sorry, have forgotten the name. Ask around and you should be able to find out)), from where buses and taxis go all over. There is a tourist information office near the main market. The people seemed fairly friendly, so hop in there if you need more info.

Cherrapunji (local name Sohra) – This is probably the only place I had to struggle to find the local means of transportation. Cherrapunji is a few hours drive from Shillong. The private taxi guys said that there was no other means except their taxis (!!!) and other people kept giving directions to all sorts of places for getting a bus. Finally found out (after spending the first half of day in investigation), that I needed to go to the bus-stand near Bara Bazaar. Didn’t get any info on buses to Cherrapunji, but got a shared sumo (think it was INR 300 per person). The bus stand and the market place are quite big and very chaotic, so you will need to keep asking for directions to the Cherrapunji shared sumo stand. If you are short on time then take the Govt. run bus tour. It takes you to Cherra, shows you the major sights and brings you back the next day. The drive is very beautiful. You feel like you have gone back in time and are travelling through some remote, un-inhabited part of the country (think LOTR or Scotland). Staying options are limited there. After wandering around for some time I stayed in the Govt. rest house right next to the taxi stand. Cherra is quite spread out, so if you don’t have your private taxi then moving around will be difficult. I would advice staying the Govt guest house (its pretty much the town center), and you can get shared taxis from outside the lodge. The local tourism dept. has done their job thoroughly in Cherra. They list about 8-9 sightseeing places to go, though only half of them sound remotely exciting. The ones I went to have been listed below

Waterfalls - There are quite a few waterfalls there (including Nohkalikai Falls, world’s 4th largest falls), but if you don’t go there during the monsoon then the waterfalls will be mere trickles (there is a waterfall called as seven sisters waterfall i.e. 7 waterfalls merged into 1. When I went in end Nov only 3 of the 7 sisters were to be found, the rest were vacationing till the monsoon). However, given the terrain (steep valleys and ravines), I have no doubt that the view will be pretty awesome during the monsoon.

Caving – This is very popular in Cherra, as the countryside is dotted with caves. If you are a regular sightseer then go to the Mawsmai caves. They give you the feel of what an inside of a cave is like, without making you struggle too hard (in and out in less than an hour).For the more adventurous, companies offer 1-2 day caving packages. They provide you with all the necessary gear and take you deeper inside the caves (Expect some crawling and basic climbing or rappelling). This is more expensive, charges are upwards of INR 3000k per person (from what I remember). I didn’t go myself, but a friend who did, mentioned it as one of the best experiences of his life.

Root Bridges – This is the part which I would recommend everyone to go to. Based on what I was told, it seems that the villagers pulled and extended the roots of the trees there till they became long enough to become like small bridges to cross rivers. I liked it because it was something different and more importantly very secluded. You have to climb down and then back up 2000 steps to get to these bridges, so naturally very few people actually end up doing the hike (I didn’t see any other vehicular way to these bridges). Just before you hit the bridges, you reach this picture perfect pool of crystal clear and blue water under a natural waterfall. If you can swim then do take a dip, it was by far the best experience of my trip. The root bridges themselves are an interesting sight to see. You have both single and double-decker bridges. Their setting is in river beds among a foresty area, so for the nature lover this is definitely a must do.

Post Cherra I moved onwards to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and then back to Majuli Island in Assam. More on that on my next post.
#9 May 6th, 2014, 15:59
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
Want to live enerywhere
Posts:
3,564
  • Duronto Jajabar is offline
#9
Another great one

In Sikkim, there are now many offbeat places besides touristy spots of Gnagtok and popular Goechala trek .... close to nature and less tourists make those places awesome. Hope you'll like to land there someday.

In Maghalaya you traveled to Shillong and Sohra only and fell in love with Maghalaya. This little state have so many beautiful places to make you happy

'll wait for Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and then back to Majuli Island part
#10 May 6th, 2014, 16:18
Join Date:
Feb 2014
Location:
Not set
Posts:
158
  • Morichika is offline
#10
excellent trip report.... I wanted to do a backpacking trip too after college ends maybe I'll end up here
#11 May 6th, 2014, 16:20
Join Date:
May 2012
Location:
Mon-Khmer Land (Shillong)
Posts:
3,290
  • karikor is online now
#11
mkhanna,

Nice start to the thread. Looking forward to more, especially the pics.

Anyway do come back to Meghalaya, I will show you so many more hidden gems that you will enjoy.(You can check out my signatures for a few of them)

Regards,

Karikor Kharkongor
#12 May 6th, 2014, 22:05
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#12
Karikor. I definitely plan to come back to Meghalaya. People did tell me about some offbeat places, but going there would have meant missing out on travelling to some of the other states; and i really wanted to do that once.
Will get in touch with you when i do come back.

Duronto Jajabar - to be honest, given the paucity of time (one month, but among 5 states), this trip was more touristy. now that i have gone to the places once, next time i go, i plan to to avoid the touristy ones and go off the beaten track.
#13 May 6th, 2014, 23:39
Join Date:
May 2012
Location:
Mon-Khmer Land (Shillong)
Posts:
3,290
  • karikor is online now
#13
You are always welcome. Drop me a message and I will see to it that your planning is well taken care of.
#14 May 14th, 2014, 20:10
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
48
  • mkhanna is offline
#14
and my final leg of the journey...

Arunachal Pradesh
If you are going to AP then be prepared for long taxi rides, ranging from 6 hours to 16 hours. If you do not like car rides or suffer from motion sickness then this might be a difficult stretch for you.

Travel – To go to Tawang valley the main transport hub is Tezpur. Since I was in Kaziranga I got a local bus from there to Tezpur (regular buses go from Guwhati also). The main transport hub in Tezpur is near the bus stand. The bus from Kaziranga drops you a little way off from the bus stand so you will need to take a shared auto to get there (just ask around and you will be pointed in the right direction). I think theoretically Tezpur to Tawang can be done in a day, but it will be extremely painful with a very early start and past mid night arrival. Most people break their journey at Bomdilla, where plenty of cheap accommodation options are also available. There are regular buses which go from Tezpur to Bomdilla, however they mostly start in the morning. Since I was coming from Kaziranga I only reached there by 11/12. Most shared sumos also start early in the morning, but I was lucky enough to get one which was starting at 12-30 (one of my friends had reached Tezpur the night before and asked around for that). The journey takes about 6-7 hours, and is quite picturesque (you will see the views which Tawang is famous for, the circuitous U-curves which climb up the mountain side). Since its uphill there is lower chance of getting motion sickness.

Bomdilla is a small town / village. It has one main road around which all the lodges and shops are situated. Not only is it a regular stop-over for the Tawang leg, it also has an important monastery. This regular tourist flow ensures that it has a fair number of lodges and hotels (including an APTDC guest house and some upper end lodges and rooms). If you have time then you can take a days rest at Bomdilla. It is a nice place to walk around, plus it gives you a chance to stretch your legs before the next lengthy leg of the journey. You can get shared sumos easily from Bomdilla to Tawang. Just ask anyone where to go to books a ride and you will be pointed in the right direction (Rates are standardized so don’t waste too much breadth haggling). Word of caution – don’t postpone your booking till the last moment, the sumos can fill up fast at times. Furthermore, try and book the middle row or failing that, the front row. The sumos have been built for endurance, not comfort. They are mere shells with no shock absorbers to talk off and worn-off tyres. The last row seems to have been squeezed in, giving you very little space length, breath or height wise). The journey again is very beautiful, and you cross the Bomdilla Pass at 8000 feet and Sela Pass at 13700 feet. The road from Bomdilla to Tawang becomes rockier. It consists largely of mud and loose gravel rather than solid tarmac. You are pretty glad when you reach your destination!

Tawang Valley – To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with Tawang Valley (but then I had just come off spending 1 month high up in the Sikkim Himalayas, and had seen my fill of hills and valleys). As the name denotes, the town is spread over the hillside and the valley, and from various points in the place you can see the whole settlement spread out. The most famous tourist spot is the Tawang Monastery (largest in India). It’s a bit far-off from the main town area, but I would recommend you walk it (it will give you a chance to see the countryside a bit more). There are quite a few trekking options also in Tawang (I didn’t explore any myself), and it’s a nice place to just walk around. I would also suggest a visit to the war memorial. The walk is nice and the memorial itself is quite well made and well represented. I stayed in the Govt. tourist resort there; it has a nice location and is good value for money. Surprisingly, even the service is not that bad and the food is decent. To re-iterate a point in my previous post, apart from the army presence and structures, there was no other indication of being near the China danger, and definitely no sense of danger!

Going back is again via the same way, and this time more painful because there is (generally) no night stop-over at Bomdilla. I started at around 6am and reached Tezpur around 8pm. Since its downhill the drivers go faster over the bumpy and rocky roads, making you thank your stars that you are able to walk once you get-off.

From Tezpur I headed to Itanagar (I wanted to go to Ziro valley from there). You can get both buses and shared vans to Itanagar. This is the one route where I found something similar to deluxe buses plying. I took a bus which goes from Dimapur in Nagaland to Itanagar in AP, and crosses Tezpur in between (most modes of transport cross over from Nagaland to Itanagar via Tezpur in Assam). This bus actually had cushioned and reclining seats – I felt I was in the lap of luxury after the bumpy rides of the sumo. On reaching Itanagar, I wanted to head off to Ziro the same day, but couldn’t as there was some strike going on enroute. Itanagar is a regular city, except that it is picturesquely surrounded by mountain ranges. I was not interested in exploring Itamagar much, so I just walked round in the area where I was staying (near the shared sumo stand). My shared sumo to Ziro was booked for next day early morning (across NE, all shared sumos start early, i.e. between 5am to 7am).

Ziro Valley -It is a small collection of village nestled in the Arunachal valley. The area has managed to preserve some of its indigenous culture and you can find a variety of tribes living in their traditional settings (though with each subsequent generation, it is becoming more difficult to resist the onset of the modern way of life). The most famous of these tribes is the Apatani tribe (women with facial tattoos and large black stone on each side of their nose). Ziro is also known for its unique form of cultivation – combining farming with pisciculture. The farmers primarily grow paddy in that region. Since this requires submerging the fields in water, they utilize this doubly by breeding fish in the water stagnated fields. I went in the winter, so was unable to witness this myself. However I still loved the place, it was an oasis of peacefulness. The primary village or town there is called Hapoli (the sumos end there), it must have a population of less than 20,000 people. The main area in Hapoli is a small bazaar street which contains the main eating places and shops. Acco places are spread out all over; you can just walk around and see what kind of place you like. As the name “Ziro valley” goes, the place is a valley and is surrounded by mountains. If you like walking I would highly recommend you just choose a hill and start. You will eventually hit some foresty area where you will be able to get a good view of the valley and be able to relax in solitude (be prepared to walk 10-15km though). That’s just what I did in Ziro – walked around the local area and to the local Apatani villages, sat outside their then empty cottages and fields (being winter, the harvest was over and the farming villages were practically deserted), and talked to the locals there. LP recommends that people take a local guide with them for a village visit. The guide will introduce you to the local culture better. I did not do this, but then I am not that interested in an in-depth exploration of the cultural side of a place, I stick to nature. If someone is going and needs some reference for guides, I can pass on the numbers mentioned in LP (IM me). There is also a famous Shiva temple (Sidheshvar Nath temple) there, and during Shivratri the place gets very crowded with tourists from all over. When I went, the temple complex was deserted (excepting the pujari). The walk is nice – about 10km I guess – alternatively you can take a taxi from the main bazaar. Make sure you carry sufficient cash as Hapoli has only 1 SBI ATM, and it may not always be working.
Getting to and fro from Ziro is very easy. Regular shared sumos go from Itanagar. Don’t be surprised if you find a few local tribal people in your sumo (and try not to stare).

Onwards - My original plan had been to go to Namdapha natural reserve from Ziro Valley. It is the 3rd largest reserve in India, with good sightings, and the opportunity to trek through the forest to visit the Lisu tribes living on one side. However, I was running out of time (I wanted to be in Nagaland in time for Hornbill) and was a bit tried from all the travelling. Thus I skipped the forest, spent an extra day in Ziro and headed to Kohima in Nagaland. I highly recommend the forest to nature and forest lovers (based on reports from my friends). Namdapha is near the AP Nagalnd border. You can get there by sumo/ bus or train. The nearest train station to the forest is called Margherita and you will have to take a shared taxi from there to the forest.

Nagaland
To get to Kohima take the night deluxe bus from Itnagar to Dimapur (reasonably comfortable for spending the night). Bus tickets can be obtained from travel agents in Itanagar. Book a few days in advance as this bus tends to fill up fast. From Dimpaur you can get plenty of shared sumos to Kohima. At the Dimapur bus station you will find plenty of touts trying to pawn off a private car ride on you. If you are not able to get a shared sumo from there, take an auto to the train station. Ask the auto guy to drop you off where the shared sumo stand is.

I went to Kohima during Hornbill, so the place was abuzz with activity. But I got the feeling that during non-festival day it would be a quieter place. Plenty of acco options are available, so no need to book in advance (unless you are going during Hornbill). I think Hornbill is one of the most famous festivals in NE, and people from all over the country and world come there. Hotels and lodges become full weeks in advance. I did not book anything in advance (since I didn’t know when I would be reaching there), and got something by sheer luck (some friends had vacated a place that same morning). I would not advise doing this. The festival itself is held in a village called Kisama Heritage Village (14km from Kohima). This was one of the pain points for me. Since only artists and shop owners are allowed to stay at the festival premise, visitors have to have to travel everyday to Kisama. Shared taxis are available, but they charge you Rs 50 each way, and if you leave after 4-30pm in evening then you might have to wait up to an hour till your sumo fills up. The events at the festival keep going late into the night (and get more merrier also ), so unless you have a pvt. car, you will have to move out by 5.

Hornbill Festival -The festival itself is amazing. Basically it is a place where tribes across Nagaland come and showcase their local culture (dance, food, customs etc). The festival is spread over a hillside. There are permanent cottage like structures (called Murungs) built on the hillside - one for each tribe. In the middle of the avenue there is a small arena where tribes come and perform their local dances All sorts of other events are also held there - from greased pole climbing to face painting to chili eating. On the other side of the arena there are alleyways with shops selling knick knacks and local tribal items (think wild boar pickle, local wine and bamboo products). Nagaland is a dry state but rice beer and local fruits wine is available in plenty (atleast during the festival). The festival also has large horticulture, vegetables and paintings display. If you like history then check out the museum where you have Naga history on display. During the nights you have daily rock shows. Nagaland has a vibrant rock culture, and Hornbill provides a platform for many such bands to showcase their talent. On the final night there is a rock competition of all the participating bands. However, here also distance plays truant. The stadium for the rock concert is on the other end of Kohima, and getting transportation there is very difficult (no shared sumos). Plus, for some reason, the venue is not very well known to the local people (I had a hell of a time trying to get directions). At night Kohima is lit up like a Christmas tree. There are night food bazaars held in different parts of Kohima, where you can try all sorts of different loal delicacies (I tried grasshopper, silkworm, snails and … even dog intestine). For non-vegetarians I would highly recommend sampling the pork ribs. Overall it is a festive atmosphere and everyone is super friendly. You can spend a happy few days just roaming around from one place to another. It’s a 10 day long festival and people try to time it such that they reach at the beginning (for the opening ceremony) or for the end (for the rock finale).

After about 3 days at Kohima I was ready to move on. My original plan had to be to visit Dzukou valley and Japfu Peak in Nagaland (recommended by local friends from there). However by this time I had seen enough of mountains and was tired of travelling. Two friends of mine (from AMC), had gone to a place called Majuli Island in Assam a few days before. They described the place as ‘peaceful and idyllic’ and I decided to give the place a shot.

Majuli Island
I had never heard of Majuli Island before this, so imagine my surprise when I heard that it is the largest river island in the world, created by earthquakes in the Brahmaputra river bed (why doesn't our tourism industry publicize this more !!!). To get there you have to catch a train from Dimapur to Jorhat in Assam. From there you can get a bus to Nimati Ghat, the jetty from which a ferry will take you to the island. The last ferry is around 2, so make sure you reach there on time. From Kamlabari (the jetty on the other side) you can get taxis (or even a lift) to the main town or village (Garamur). Majuli Island comprises of many villages with lush green and yellow fields in between (mustard is grown their extensively). Since its an island you are never very far from the river, and can watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Distances between villages are on the higher side for walking, so I would recommend hiring cycles (there is a tourist center in Garamur where you can get information about the island and also hire cycles ). It’s a lovely peaceful place. You can walk or cycle around, chill out next to the river, go drink rice wine with the local fisherman, and just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of a small village. There are hardly any tourists present there (people looked at us as we were from outer space, but in a curious manner and not a rude ogling manner). The people there are absolutely amazing – warm, friendly, happy to just talk to you and invite you into their lives (we got invited to a wedding, a badminton game and a local weekend outing). To get to one place from another we were mostly waving cars and mini trucks down (otherwise you have shared autos and taxis). If you are culturally inclined then you can visit the local temples called Satras. Set up in the 15th century, they are quite famous for their art (masks in particular) and their dance. There are a few acco options there, ranging from the basic to more upscale cottages (catering largely to foreigners). We stayed at the Garamur Satra (basic but clean rooms, very cost effective). The caretaker there was a very sweet guy. ood was not served there, but he would still provide us with tea in the mornings. Majuli is a dry area but ,as in all other places, knowing or asking the right people can get you basic stuff.
Majuli was one of the most favorite part of my trip. I was quite tired by then and the peaceful island suited me perfectly. My days were spent in walking or cycling around in the day and chilling by the river or in the mustard fields in the evening (my favorite memory is of sitting in the middle of a mustard field watching the farmers go by singing, as they were taking home their cattle, all pictured against a reddish pink setting sun).

Post Majuli I went back home, via Calcutta (train from Jorhat to Guwhati and then from Guwhati to Calcutta). Point to note – ferries back to Jorhat start early in the morning, but the last one for the morning is at around 8 or 9am. After that there are only afternoon ferries. The Guwhati train (Shatabdi) leaves from Jorhat in the afternoon, so you will have to catch the morning ferry for making the train.

The end - This was the end of my journey (and now my super long post). I had wanted to go to Manipur (and maybe even Burma ), but the 2 months really took it out of me, and I just wanted to go somewhere where I no longer had to see or travel in a shared sumo!. I’ll end by saying what I started with – NE part of the country is huge and beautiful. It is not so touristy yet, so it gives you ample opportunities to go off the beaten track and find tucked away treasures. I did not face any safety issues there. While they must exist, the extent appears to have been overstated in the media. The regular tourist destinations were free from them. Given the size I would advise taking on 1-2 states at a time to really be able to absorb their culture and environment. And finally, if you are going there, be prepared for some serious car journeys . Happy travelling and IM me if you have any queries.
#15 May 15th, 2014, 18:09
Join Date:
Oct 2011
Location:
Want to live enerywhere
Posts:
3,564
  • Duronto Jajabar is offline
#15
So you missed the beauty of mother nature in Namdapha ...... (wish, next time 'll not ).

Well, Mkhanna very nice sharing But why in black 'n white only !!! Do post some photos

Similar Threads

Title, Username, & Date Last Post Replies Views Forum
Cycle Diaries- A journey across the country Dec 13th, 2014 01:06 6 4918 Off the Beaten Trail in India
Pakistan Diaries Jan 9th, 2013 13:01 28 7547 Crossing the Border
Pujo Diaries '12 - A Road Trip and More Nov 14th, 2012 21:02 39 4973 Sikkim
Indore – Mathura - Agra – Varanasi – Sarnath tour itinerary Oct 20th, 2012 17:27 5 3476 Uttar Pradesh
Sikkim Diaries Mar 11th, 2010 21:57 4 3366 Sikkim


Posting Rules

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Forum Rules»
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.3.2
© IndiaMike.com 2018
Page Load Success