Category Archives: NorthEast of India

To Spit or Not to Spit?

Spit in Meghalaya

Spitting is such a frequent thing in India, everyone spits everywhere and anywhere, even in nice government hotels. From the Rich to the Poor, everyone here spits pretty much openly on the streets and anywhere public except their homes. You can see those horrid red betal nut stains on walls all over, even on hotel walls.

In Meghalaya where English is pretty much the main language, this is one of the walls that often gets that horrid red stains of dried saliva.  Urgh

 

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Living tree bridges of Cherrapunjee – slice of heaven

Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, one of the rainest places in the world also inhabits one of secret locations of the tree bridges. If you watched Lord of the Rings, imagine this is what Tolkien’s land of the Ents would be like. Those tree giant creatures definately be walking among us.

Back in the days before climate change, this area experienced a lot of rain almost on a daily basis. Recent years, the cutting down of jungle forests and coal mining has changed the area. This year 2013 saw a series of droughts and water shortages, an unknown phenomena to Megahalaya.
Megahalaya is also famous for its matrilineal culture, call the Khasis, indigenous people. In this state of NorthEast India, women-power rule here, unlike much of the rest of India, known for their recent treatment of women. The Khasis tradition states that all wealth and property goes to the last daughter of the family. The children takes after the woman’s name and belongs to the family. The Khasis women are allowed many husbands and lovers, and there is even a special all female queue in all government offices. You can see why I would want to come visit.

This would be my final spot after a long exhaustive tour around North East of India. Since then has become one of my top favorite places to spend time in the world.

Cherrapunjee, or to be exact, Nongkriat village is what heaven feels like, clean, pristine, quiet and magical, very tolkienesque. For those into the spiritual side of things, you could almost feel that fairies and elves roam this magical place.

A fairly strenuous climb down along with a series of bridge crossings and more climbing up and down stone paved stairs, I finally reached this magical village of Nongkriat surrounded by gorgeous tree bridges that take at least 50 years to grow. Generations are needed to grow these bridges, some tree bridges have claimed to be 500 years old.

I loved staying here at the community village guesthouse, it was a quiet season and practically had the whole area to myself, along with the series of water pools that I was in every day that are just a few minutes away from my guesthouse.

The Khasis people of this area lived closely with nature, their intricate beliefs and their communal with nature can be a great anthropical study. They had the great foresight and patience to grow bridges with trees which are self renewing, as the tree grows and ages, the bridges strengthen and grows along with it.

The locals saw trees are spirit beings and cutting them down for resources were forbidden, rituals and prayers were needed in order to even cut down a tree. Their relationship with the trees were deep and often incorporated into their spiritual beliefs and practise. Prayers were chanted should they need to harvest from certain trees,  should a plant or a tree be harmed, their future generations might be harmed.  Over time, gradually the Khasis had lost the art of bridge growing when the government built steel bridges across the many rivers and streams surrounding this area. With the introduction of Christianity, many of their relationships with nature were lost, deemed too paganistic for the modern world.  Many old living bridges were abandoned and were in disrepair.

Most tourists would spend only a day walking around the village, but I would recommend spending a few days here, doing little treks around the many sub-villages to discover many other root bridges. The local Khasis are great gentle spirits who would be glad share their stories on their ancestors and talk about their knowledge on the root bridges. Come during the harvest season of April and you will be celebrating the Thanksgiving festival with them.

A few years back, a Japanese documentary crew visited the area and along with some tourist interest few years back, the locals became interested in their old traditions and have relearnt the ways of the ancients on growing bridges and have started passing down their traditions to the younger generation.

My images cannot do justice to this magical area, maybe this video would.

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

The famous double decker bridge in Cherrapunjee. This is the only one that still exists in working condition. The popular place to visit for many curious tourists.

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

The newer bridges in process of being grown. It would take at least 50 – 100 years before a bridge is full developed. It takes 2 to 3 generations to tend to these bridges, frequently needing to shape and develop the vines and branches. Bridges do not grow on their own, careful tending needed on a regular basis!

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

That’s me on the first day after a long hike down to this magical realm, could not wait dashing into the rock pools after a sweaty climb down.

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

Stepping onto the bridges require some careful concentration, especially on a rainy day, mossed covered stones can be quite slippery.

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

View from the top bridge! Can be scary for those with height phobias, including me!

Cherrapunjee living tree bridges

The famous double decker bridge in Cherrapunjee. This is the only one that still exists. Great rockpools to just relax from all that heat!

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India finally lifts tourist permit for North East India

Finally the Indian government lifted the restricted access permit for North East states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Getting to these places use to be such a pain as tourist permits to these places involve hideous red tapes or irritating tourist companies that charges you incredible amounts for the permit fee.  This is with the exception of Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh which they still consider as sensitive border areas to Bangladesh and China.

If you ever dream of visiting these elusive and mostly difficult places, I strongly suggest to abandon all your other travel plans and race yourself to these states before the other tourists erode the whole place or even much worse, the ever erratic Indian government decides change its mind.

The Indian govt previously permitted independent travellers to Arunachal Pradesh (2 to a group instead of 4) without a state approved guide and had changed it due to the politicking of the Arunachal tourist association.

To independent travellers : Rest assured this will happen to Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur that erratic changes will be implemented, so visit these places as soon as possible.  In case you are visiting these places, be sure to print out all the various newspaper articles on the permits issues and be prepared to show them to the border guards as they would surely not be updated on such news. This comes from experience.

For more details, this info was taken from The Telegraph Calcutta

Land of the Naga – last of the headhunters

I dreamt about Nagaland after I saw it on the map one day. Obsessed about the place, it took me a few years before I finally visited this strip of land between Burma and NorthEast India.

Continue reading

Permit Info : Getting to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

I visited Arunachal Pradesh in April 2008 for 30 days. It is a pain to get a permit to get there.

After googling all the official travel websites of  Arunachal Pradesh and followed their crappy  advice, calling my indian embassy, going to the foreign registration office in Kolkata, emailing and calling other departments,  it was such a time waster, that I am now publishing my own way of getting it done… finally, through paying us$20 to a Travel Agent just to apply that us$50 Restricted Travel Permit (RAP) for  Arunachal Pradesh.

You would probably gotten the same details on google,

Here’s what the official travel websites say about getting a Arunachal Pradesh Restricted Travel Permit (RAP), they tend to repeat the same crap without actually verifying that it works. All the departments do not know what the hell is going on. and answers vary like the wind changes directions (yea I am still kinda pissed about it)

“Copy and Pasted From all those crappy official Arunachal Pradesh websites”

The foreign tourists can obtain the Protected Area Permit from:

All India Missions abroad – Don’t EVEN BOTHER, Your India mission (in Singapore and London) don’t even know crap about it. They would just retort  paranoid questions to you instead. Time Waster!

All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata – Best chance of  success is at New Delhi, Forget the rest, they would just send your application direct to Delhi anyways, unless you have plenty of time to sit around and wait for approval while they take their own sweet time.

Chief Immigration Officers, Chennai – Huh?

Home Ministry, Govt. of India – Double Huh?

Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar – By now should you even bother to contact them!

Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi-110001 – Another read for entertainment purposes, dont waste your time contacting them.

This is REALLY HOW YOU SHOULD BE

Getting a permit to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

1. If you have 4 persons travelling

 

Apply via :

Calcutta Foreigners Regional Registration Office

237 Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road (AJC Bose Road), Kolkata – 700 020

(nearest train station : Rabindra Sadan station)

or

New Delhi Foreigner’s Registration

East Block-VIII, Level-II, Sector-1, R.K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 066

Cost : us$50 per person per permit application for 30 days

Processing time varies from 1 day – 3days, to  7 – 14days or more,  as they will be sending your approval to New Delhi, you need to submit your application with passport photo, copy of indian visa, passport, and go for an interview should the current govt official decides you should do it. (total of 2-3 trips to the Kolkata office to get it done)

Non Indian Nationals : Do not apply in Guwahati.

Only Indian nationals application will be accepted in Arunachal Pradesh House in Guwahati

 

Of course there is always exception to the ruling (if you know what to do) The question is how much are you willing to donate/contribute your cash, who you talk to, which officer in charge is currently in attendance, and what mood that govt official is in.  etc.. Results will vary from Individual applications

 

2. For 2 person travelling or more, you need to use a Travel Agent (Best chance of success and highly recommended if you don’t want the headache)

Cost : us$20 per person (agent charges this for their ‘services’)

Permit : us$50 per person (Arunachal Pradesh Govt fee)

Total permit cost : us$70 per person

Duration : 1 month travel permit

3. For 1 person travelling solo (apply with Travel Agent)

 

You would still need to get someone’s passport details, pay $20+50 X 2 person for the permit. That person need not be travelling with you for the permit. You could technically submit a person’s details without that person actually visiting the state. Not recommended because it is not worth paying a total of us$140 for your permits. Find someone who might be interested in travelling with you, or travelling the same dates as you, but you could both go on your separate ways.  -> I did this, but somehow ended up travelling with the same person on my permit.

Other Information

The official website http://arunachalpradesh.nic.in/enter_ap.htm to be used for information and entertainment purposes only.

 

Notes :

Don’t waste your time applying through your local Indian mission as they don’t even know of such ruling.

I used a Travel Agent, thru a local naga contact, his replies will be incredibly slow as internet is not often accessible.

You can contact Oken Tayeng,  You might get away from not paying him prior to arrival. BUT Make sure you do pay him for his effort.

Mode: Payment of permit can be done in Itanagar, Arunachal pradesh, permit given over Email.

Oken’s Contact :

ABORCOUNTRY TRAVELS & EXPEDITIONS

B Sector, Itanagar , Arunachal Pradesh – 791111

Tel : +91 360 2211722 Fax : +91 360 2292969

Mobile : +91 9436053870

Email : aborcountry@yahoo.com/kentayeng@yahoo.com

Failing to contact the guy above, you can contact the rest of the tour operators here.

Update: Oken is now charging us$50 for his services, total $100 per person for permit. Find another travel agent to help you on it. They should charge you only us$20 for their services!

The travel operators would be all be too willing to sell you a travel package as well. -> By suggesting that you REALLY should need a guide to take you around the State, because it is really not safe, blah blah blah…

Travelling around Arunachal Pradesh is easy, just a little time consuming as road conditions are quite bad, there are plenty of public jeeps or Sumos that the locals use to transport themselves from town to town on a daily basis.

I did all my travels via public buses and jeeps, I do find the buses more comfortable for longer rides, as the public jeeps often packed like sardines. A 6 seater jeep could be filled with 10 person or more!

If you are on a time constraint, then it is highly recommended to take up the travel agents services, mostly they are pretty generic, so it really comes down to who you wanna go for.

Application Details :

You need –

1. Digital Copy of Passport WITH current Indian Visa

2. Two  Passport photo (2 digital photos organised  side by side)

3. Permit Application : filled with your itinerary and suggested dates of Entry and Exit Dates

4. Processing time : min. 7 days – 14days depends on where your travel operator apply it from.

IMPORTANT!
Make sure you fill in ALL the TOWN Names of Arunachal Pradesh in your itinerary, the permit will be issued according to all the towns you apply for in your itinerary, else you might incur problems when you register yourself with the local police in the various towns. It is mandatory that you report or declare your presence in the various towns.

However, I didn’t have visit to the local police station, the hotels would do that for you, or the police officers would approach you when they see you along the streets in your backpacks.

After you get your permit Make sure you have tons of duplicate copies of the permit, every official (from police to the army to govt official) who approaches you, somehow wants a copy of it.

The Long winded story

In Menchuka, the police commissioner approached me in the same shop as I was, while he was shopping for his daily local vegetables. In another town, one of the policeman asked me for my permit rather casually over dinner while sharing his nightly whiskey  shots with me at the local tea house, he happen to see me there, while he was having his daily drink,

And yet another town, i was asked again for the permit over a cuppa Indian chai and samosas, compliments of the police chap.

They were all pretty friendly bunch, but somehow they are pretty obsessed about that Restriction Permit. So you get my long winded drift, MAKE TONS OF RAP PERMIT DUPLICATES

Attached is the permit application form here :

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap2-copy.jpg

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap1-copy.jpg

Update me on how you got your permit done, I am interested to know, as this whole permit issue changes like your regular curry masala.

The Rickshaw Run

While visiting Shillong, city of Meghalaya in NorthEast India, I happen to come across a whole series of Australians in these cute little Indian Auto-Rickshaws which are little more than a scooter with a roof and a 2-seater built around it. They were doing this crazy adventure raising money for SOS Children’s Villages and Frank Water charity
This event was organised by Rickshaw Run, a company which call themselves The Adventurist, they organise fund raising events like this for the chosen charity of that season.

note : Their website says “The Adventurists is all about getting out into the world, getting yourself into as much shit as possible, then hoping to God you can find a way out. Glorious mayhem if you will.”

I was with a Khasis (one of the main tribes of Meghalaya) family who were taking me to visit a festival and along came these cute little colorful auto-rickshaws,  we asked them where they were going and they told us, but we didn’t have the heart to tell them they were going in the wrong direction because they were quite stressed out already.  heh heh

The Meghalaya Tourism commission had sponsored their adventure and off they went exploring Meghalaya all in the name of their chosen charity! How cool is that,  raise money for your favorite charity by driving your very own auto-rickshaw all over these exotic locales of India! The roads here are mean and nasty, and you probably spend more time pushing your rickshaw uphill then sitting in it!

Am pretty much tempted  to get into this Rickshaw Run in Spring 2010!

Rickshaw run here I come?

survived Cyclone Aila in Calcutta, now in Delhi for the weekend, heading up to Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, maybe to Spiti valley then Lakdah. Pakistan is out ftm, Iran is definately on after Ramadan. No internet access from monday onwards for awhile. Kinda homesick for the very first time.

is in Calcutta for a few days, doing some street photography and eating as much bengali street food as my tiny tummy can handle. Incredibly hot humid weather 40oC but the monsoon has come early and giving some relief. Not good for street photography thought.

My Photo of Nagaland got posted in Reader’s Digest India

A photo of mine got published in Reader’s Digest India.
Photo taken from last christmas 2008  in my first trip to Nagaland.
Unfortunately my name and credits was not mentioned in the magazine.

Notes :
Really inaccurate article, the photo was taken during Christmas and not during the Aoling Festival as mentioned.

‘The India You don’t know’
10 charming Destinations that reveal the real Bharat
by Sheila Sivanand
Reader’s Digest India April 2009 Issue

www.rd-india.com/newsite/other/facetoface_april09.asp

The PDF copy of Reader’s Digest article of my photo in Nagaland
Readers Digest April 2009 of Nagaland

Readers Digest April 2009 of Nagaland

Bookmark https://ihavetravellust.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/my-photo-of-nagaland-got-posted-in-readers-digest-india/

A Couple from Konyak Tribe

Place : Mon District , WanCheng Village
Nagaland , NorthEast India

Nagaland - Konyak CoupleNagaland - Konyak Couple

Bookmark https://ihavetravellust.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/a-couple-from-konyak-tribe/