Come Diwali and you all must be wondering what to do once you finish all the cleaning, cooking and calling related to the pooja. Here’s a great suggestion related to 05 Places to visit in Diwali Vacations in the Northeast India and try to understand how tribes in India celebrate and welcome the change in seasons.
Instead of being exhaustive and elaborate, this list would be just the beginning to lure the traveler in you to explore further in each of these states of the Northeast. I have just tried to cover some practices that are tourist friendly and some that would be totally unique for most of the mainlanders. Hope you do try to venture in the alleys, valleys and hills of some of these cities:
The capital city of Assam, the most popular gateway to most of the states of Northeast, Guwahati is bubbling with energy of different types of Indians: those who speak Assamese, predominantly, some Bangla and some Manipuri speakers too. This city has something for everyone.
Places to visit: The metro city brats can enjoy at the theme parks such as Acoland and Frozen World, the sea lords can take cruises around the Majuli Island (situated on Brahmaputra), the religious ones can go worship at the famous Kamakhya and Balaji Temples, while the sporty ones can enjoy the nature in general.
Weather: This city is always warm and sunny, hence pack your bags accordingly.
Food: The food available in the city contains all kinds of cuisines. The favourite dishes being: rice and fish, milk based sweets.
Be careful of the Assamese driving, cattle on the road and Rain.
Things to buy: tea leaves, cotton clothes especially Assamese gamosa(scarves/stoles for gents) and mekhala-chador sets for ladies, jute and bamboo items such as caps, baskets and trays
Also known as the Scotland of East, this capital city of Meghalaya is where one can stay for as many days as one wants without ever getting bored of its good weather, people and serene environment. If you are someone who loves to trek and venture alone in the laps of virgin roads and rivers, this is the Paradise on earth in India. From Rhododendron treks to visit to Orchidarium; from hunting down deep, dark caves to long steep waterfalls, from paying tributes through Monoliths and Sacred Forests to listening to the harmonious Orchestra, from ferocious football fans to persistent fishing enthusiasts; travellers will find everything in this city.
Weather: The city does got cold in the evenings and if you venture out to places nearby, you will need those warm gloves, caps and stockings in addition to the warm hugs of loved ones. Sun rises quite early in the mornings here and sets too soon as compared to northern parts of the country, hence one needs to be prepared to spend long yet very interesting rides during the day.
My sincere advice for all those who want to actually relax and reboot yourselves, refrain from getting into a travel package with any guide or travel agency, choose your own spots and enjoy the places at your own pace.
Places to visit can include: Cherapunji, the cleanest village, Mawsawami caves, Mawphlang, Caves Garden, Laitkor peak and Dawki River, Don Bosco Museum(a must visit before you venture out of Shillong city, it can even be the first place you visit in Shillong). If you have young toddlers or infants with you, then a must visit place can be: Lady Hydari Park in the city and the Ward’s Lake. Also for the brave hearts, the Eastern Air Command Museum at Upper Shillong is a must see experience.
Things to buy: Warm woolen Ponchos, Skirts and Shawls for all and a very special traditional dress called Dhara or Jainsam.
Dishes to eat: nothing special but all boiled broths/stews. There isn’t much variety available although the dining experiences one must enjoy can be had at the famous DYLON’s CAFE and MLO5 Café(on the way from the city to Laitkor Peak).
Things to feel and enjoy: Peace, Freedom and, of course, local wines. Being one of the few remaining matriarchies in the world, female travellers can be totally at peace when it comes to roaming around the cities and villages. Ladies are respected and revered by all and hence can travel freely without any fear or anxiety of the Unknown.
The best time to visit this city is definitely during the winters, especially during the Cherry Blossom Festival in November followed by the Weekender’s Music Festival.
Although a metro city in Nagaland, Kohima offers unlimited adventures and thrills to everyone who wants to experience life beyond the four walls of an apartment and the tar roads of a metro city. Kohima offers an opportunity to witness the lifestyle of seasoned huntsmen Nagas as well as the sophisticated, sensitive artistic tribesmen. There are nearly 15 major tribes such as Konyak, Ao, Angami,Sema, Lotha, Chang, Phom, Rengma, Zelieng and so on living together in villages at the hill tops or steep slopes or ridges.
Weather: The weather is extremely cold from November to February, and one needs complete protection to stand the breeze which sends chills to innermost parts of human body. Frost at night and dense fog during the day are quite common. Without any warning, you might at times have a rainfall in the winter season occasionally. Also, if you are lucky you might see some clouds near you if you are roaming in the hills of Jakhama near Kohima. Before you can take any precaution, you might find your clothes moist due to the clouds.
Places to visit: One of the most interesting site to visit is the Hornbill Village which showcases the living of all the tribes of Nagaland, the next one would be the Second World War Cemetery. Those interested in religious architecture could also visit some magnificent designs in the old churches in the city. A walk through the local market would give a feel of the tribal vibes of the state. For all those interested in the nature, could sit down anywhere on the high bank of a stream to throw the line down and at the same time keep a gun loaded to fire at any wild fowl
Food to eat: The Nagas are famous for their capability to eat anything and everything that walks on two/four legs ranging from small insects to birds like eagles to big animals such as dogs, from fowls to a mithun (bison- possibly related to both the cow and the buffalo, it is a prestige animal in Nagaland and is rarely used for milking). Similarly in vegan products they can cook and consume anything from rice to young bamboo shoots. With the increase in the tourists due to the Hornbill Festival, one can also get vegetarian options such as Poori-sabji and jalebi.
Things to buy: Nagas are famous for their handicrafts, such as beaded jewellery, woolen shawls, jackets, rugs, bags, caps. Organic product lovers would find the local variety of pineapple very juicy and sweet; and the King Chilly most hot and spicy. On hunting in the local flea markets, one can also find some rare musical instruments resembling flutes, drums and board games made out of wood and bamboo. Those interested in beverages would find the local beer made out of rice interesting.
Things to feel and enjoy: Definitely, the first thing would be the fresh air in the lofty hills and low valleys. As some say, it takes a lion’s heart and a bull’s stamina to climb the steep slopes of Nagaland without stopping for rest every now and then. Sometimes, on your way to the country side you may also witness some of the Jhum fields where the tribes men try to grow paddy.
Situated in the Amazing Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang is a spiritual Paradise for all who love the vegan way of life and believe in the teachings of Gautam Buddha. Surrounded by lofty, snow-laden mountains and circuitous routes, the city is located at a height of nearly 8000 plus feet.
Weather: Throughout the year weather remains pleasantly cold. One definitely needs appropriate clothes to face the playtime of Sun and Wind Gods.
Places to visit: Tawang Monastery and Museum,(there are many other monasteries too which can be visited according to your interest and time constraint), Sela Pass, Madhuri Lake, Jaswant Garh( on the way to Tawang), Buddha Park
Food to eat: Since most of the locals preach and practice Buddhism, the most popular food is vegan, such as Rice thali wherein you will get veggies, dal and rice; pork will also be available and Tibetan dishes such as Thukpa (a soup with boiled veggies and noodles),a sweet called Churfi (made out of Yak milk and fat), a Butter milk tea made especially using Yak milk, salt and tea leaves is also available for feeling warm while travelling in the cold mountains.
A word of caution: the food joints in this city are run normally by local families within their houses hence the menu is restricted to items which can be made easily and remain hot without much ado. Chinese food items such as Noodles and Soups, Poori-Bhaji and Rice with veggies/Chicken/ Pork and of course, Maggi and momos will be your options at the most.
Things to buy: Tibetan flags and robes, Local Jackets, shawls for gents & skirts for ladies, Chinese items such as Tea cup sets, incense sticks, stone and beads jewellery, Buddha idols in all shapes and sizes and patterns, flasks, blankets and so on. A word of caution, all the items are very costly due to the cost of heavy costs of transportation
Things to feel and enjoy: Peace and Tranquility in each Monastery, immaculate Hindi spoken by the locals and the innocence of nature. Even when the monasteries are heavily loaded with worshippers and monks, there is a sense of respect for life, in general. One doesn’t find peddlers trying to woo the tourists, neither do they bargain over the prices; instead they would simply confess that the prices are a little more due to the distance the goods travel to reach Tawang. One can definitely find young boys in Monk’s robes trying to study, worship and play football at their leisurely hours. This place reminds us of how RELIGION can actually be nothing more or less than just a way of life.
For fish lovers, this is another God’s own country in India. Also known as the Jewel of India, Manipur, in general and Imphal, in particular, is still an untouched travel destination. Manipur is home to various tribes living in the Imphal valley and the adjoining hills, such as the Meiteis who practice Sanamahism and the kuki, Nagas, Kabui and others who follow the indigenous religions or Christianity.
Weather: The best weather to visit Manipur is in winters, at other times the weather is hot, humid and sultry.
Places to visit: Ima Keithel (Asia’s largest market complex run by women), Loktak Lake (one of the few floating fresh water lakes in the world), INA Museum at Moirang (where Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the first flag of Azad Hind Fauj/INA), Peace Museum, Kangla Fort and Museum, Govindji Temple, Khongjom War Memorial, Thoubal, Andro Theme Park.
Dishes to eat: The Manipuri cuisine is full of many dishes made out of fish, paneer (cottage cheese) and green/yellow peas. These dishes are generally eaten with the Manipuri rice and lots of side dishes prepared by using seasonal fruits and vegetables, dessert is usually made with black rice.
Things to buy: Bamboo items, Black Rice products, especially gulab jamun and kheer (desserts), Handloom Fabric made of lotus leaves, threads of muga(silk)/wangkhai(cotton) cut into traditional Manipuri dress for ladies called Phanek (a wrap around skirt) and Phees(upper cloth/shawl), dhoti/ Kurtas/stoles for gents, Bedsheets, tribal shawls and stoles, bags, purses and baskets made out of Bamboo.
Things to feel and enjoy: of course the mesmerising beauty of Manipuri ladies, their hand movements during the Manipuri dance form Jagoi, the vigour of the drummers during the Nat-Sankirtan, the finesse of the Polo Riders and the delicious taste of dishes made out of fish. The feeling of freedom and belongingness in the women vendors at the Ima Keithels (literally meaning: markets run by mothers): all of it is to be felt and enjoyed here in the Jewel of India.
Hope you read my reviews of 05 Places to visit during Diwali Vacation in Northeast India and venture on some new journeys.