Are you planning your next holiday in the exotic North East of India? Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. The seven sisters of the region -Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal, and Manipur is an experience like no other. The North East is breathtaking and rivers crisscross valleys, the forests rich in rare flora and fauna and wildlife is diverse. The people here are hospitable and trusting while the difference in customs and culture is mind-boggling. To get the most out of your trip to this interesting place here is a list of things to keep in mind so you enjoy this paradise on earth.
Start with the Kamakhya temple
Most famous among the 51 Shakti Peeths of Goddess Durga, your visit to the North East should definitely start with the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. The temple architecture is in Nilachal style. Legend says that the Asura king Narakasura, built a stairway to the temple within a night to woo her. But the Goddess killed him. The legendary temple is a hallowed tantric site. The Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple holds the Yoni of Sati herself. The temple is most visited during the annual Ambubachi Mela when ardent devotees believe that the Goddess goes through her menstrual cycle. Devotees camp at the place a week before the cycle and eagerly wait for the temple doors to open after purification of the temple on the fourth day of the cycle.
The mighty Brahmaputra river
The Brahmaputra river is the largest in India and looks like a sea when it roars in all its glory during the monsoons. Assam lives and breathes along the banks of this legendary river. It is the face and metaphor of the civilization of Assam, so how can you not take a river cruise on it. You can spend a fun evening in one of the floating restaurants, Just book your tickets ahead and catch the magnificent sunset and enjoy the view. Better make a plan to see the exotic places along the river banks in the newly introduced river cruises.
Delicious local food
Fish is the most preferred non-veg item in the Assamese Thali. You may not know the names of the different greens on your plate but the taste is divine. The thali offers mildly spiced veg and non-veg food items with a choice of rice and chapatis( if you ask). I would say do not say no to duck meat and smoked pork if you love non-veg food. And if you are open to experimenting try out bamboo shoot and pork and rice cooked in bamboo. If you are in the region during January you will like eating the various festive food which is like no other in the country. Be sure to taste the sticky rice preparations.
Root Bridges of Nongriat
The Mecca of trekkers and adventurists in North East, the Double Decker Root Bridges are a must stop in Meghalaya. Just take a deep breath, wear your trekking shoes and go on to dare it’s 3000 steps each way, believe me, it’s a trek you will never regret. If you have time spend the night at Nongriat. I am sure you will love getting lost in this remote village and find a new you. The living root bridges are actually the living roots of fig rubber trees and the locals use them to cross streams or smalls gorges. The twining roots grow with time as local people plaster the path with mud and stones. The roots grow stronger and the bridge lives for eternity.
Never miss trekking in Meghalaya it is the best way to enjoy the paradise of the North East. You will be enchanted with the expanse of green, wildflowers, streams and never-ending cliffs here in the Scotland of the North East. While in Meghalaya be sure to visit Sohra or Cherrapunjee to see the majestic waterfalls. To get the feel of the wettest place on earth to be here during the monsoons and the rains will make a poet out of you.
Dazzling waters of Dawki
Plan a day trip to Dawki from Shillong or be adventurous and plan an overnight stay at the numerous campsites at Dawki itself. Whatever you decide I will say that you will be amazed at the clear waters of the lake at Dawki near the border of Bangladesh. You can even see the coloured pebbles in the water and the view of the craggy cliffs and huge trees lining the banks is a sight to behold. For the adventurous, there are ziplining and diving dares. You can also explore the lake in a small country boat for a Rs 100 per head. The place is best enjoyed if you stay the night out here with a group of friends. Surely you would wish to experience the thrill of camping in the North East.
Shopping and Shillong
The hub of shopping is Police bazaar area where you can get smuggled goods and local handicrafts all at once. Do not be surprised at orchids being sold at throwaway prices and rabbits put up on sale too. The place is also good to grab the street food along with tea of coffee. Pick up wicker handicrafts or beads of just enjoy the smells and sights. For a good dining experience you can choose from the many affordable or high end eateries that are located here.
November is the season of pink and purple blooms all around the Scotland of the East. Yes it is Cherry Blossom time and festival in Shillong. If you are here at this time leave all your worries behind and click away to glory. I am sure your comment box on Facebook or Instagram will run over with likes.
Kaziranga National Park: The Crown of North East
The one-horned rhinoceros and the Kaziranga National Park in Assam are not to be missed. It is one experience you will remember for a long time, so gear up for an elephant or jeep safari here that will take you through the interiors. The safaris are scheduled for early morning, the best time to spot the beasts.
Experience Tea Estates
The land of the famous cup that cheers- Assam tea. It is more than just green tea estates it is a whole culture. So be sure to book a tea tour and experience life in the tea estates. You can stay in hundred-year-old bungalows and even pluck tea leaves with the estate workers. Evenings are enjoyable with Jhumur dancers entertaining you and a taste of local cuisine.
Mesmerizing Majuli Island
Majuli Island the cultural hub of Assam and a world renowned centre of Satriya culture. The Satras here have continued the Vaishnavite way of life and religious culture shown by the Saint Srimanta Shankardeva. Majuli is also facing erosion due to annual floods and may soon disappear from the face of the earth. Make the most of your visit here and enjoy the beauty of the island, the Satra’s the art and theatre houses and mask making workshops. Try and spend a few days here and have an immersive experience.
Exotic Hornbill Festival
Do not miss the Hornbill Festival( 1 to 10 Dec) in the land land of the Nagas -Nagaland. This must see jamboree brings together the 17 tribes of Nagaland and it showcases everything from exotic food, crafts, costumes, dances, and a lifestyle that you cannot see anywhere else. This is also the place where you also get to meet the last surviving headhunters of Nagaland.While you are in Nagaland don’t miss out on Rice beer and bizarre insects as food.You will love the smoked pork and various other food prepared with local spices and in combination with bamboo shoot.
Be amazed at the monasteries at Bomdila,the Himalayan town sits high in the hills and you would do good to reach it by Sumo Jeep.
Feel a rush of adrenaline as you head on over to Tawang, and cross over the Sela Pass at 13,500 ft high above sea level. Believe me it’s stunning at the top.
The awesome hidden gem of a bamboo bridge in Tawang. One of a kind in India-Chaksam Bridge built in the 14th Century and still going strong!
Tawang monastery is the biggest monastery outside of Lhasa in Tibet and it is the largest active one. The monastery houses around 600 monks and is functional with the main temple, kitchens, classrooms, smaller temples, and a library. One of the most memorable experience you can collect here is the chanting of the Buddhist monks at dawn. You will cherish the ethereal moments. Apart from the Tawang Monastery, there is Ugyenling Monastery, Thukje Choeling nunnery and Thegtse Sang-ngag Choekhorling Monastery to explore.
Meet the Apatanis
This tribe is famous for there tattooed faces and bodies and unique motifs on clothes. The tribe from Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, focuses on living in harmony with nature and practise sustainable farming The new generation have stopped practising the use of tattoos but there are old women who sport the nose plugs and facial tattoos.