Why every Indian must visit Northeast India once in a lifetime?
Imagine waking up to a view of one of the mightiest peaks in the world. Or riding a yak on the banks of a frozen lake & then having your first snowball fight.
Or soaring like the eagle whilst paragliding among the wisps of cloud dancing around the hill tops. If either of these seems exciting to you, you certainly don’t need to look for some exotic location in another country.
And you certainly don’t need to plonk down all your savings on a trip backpacking across continents. If you wish to experience all this & more, look no further than the Northeast of our country!!
A region of astonishing cultural & ecological diversity, geological wonders & unusual traditions, the Northeast is often associated with orchids, tea plantations & the one-horned rhinoceros but there is so much more!
From a view of the Kanchenjunga in the charming hill-resort of Darjeeling, to river rafting in Sikkim, to paragliding in Kalimpong, the Northeast has something to offer for every Indian!!
So instead of heading to the usual tourist destinations such as Goa or countries such as Thailand or Malaysia, let me to tell you why you & every other Indian must visit Northeast India once in a lifetime:
1..Environment-friendly destinations for the conscious traveller
From Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, the ‘cleanest village in Asia’, to the slew of breath-taking national parks such as Kaziranga & Manas in Assam, Khangchendzonga in Sikkim, there is reason to believe that nature couldn’t have been as pristine as it is in this region.
From the endangered one-horned rhinoceros to the red panda to the rare dancing deer (Sangai), only found in Manipur to India’s only ape in Assam, the Hoolock Gibbon, the Northeast can truly be called as “God’s own Garden”, replete with living root bridges!!
Also, for those who are eager to experience some hands-on organic farming, fret not!! Sikkim became India’s first & only organic state in 2016!!
2. Cuisine that warms your body & soul!!!
For the curious foodie in you, the Northeast cuisine is a rare culinary experience. Inspired by a variety of cuisines such as Tibetan & Nepalese, Northeast Indian cuisine is characterised by use of boiled vegetables & meat, fermented soybean & bamboo shoot & very, very little use of cooking oils to name a few.
For those of you who relish trying out new cuisines, Northeast is the place to be for it is indeed a unique gastronomic experience!!!
Here are a few must-try dishes:
Laksa: Like its kin in southeast Asia, Laksa is a rice noodle soup blended with coconut milk & mixed with chicken, prawn or fish. This is an Assamese favourite!
Thukpa: Originally from Tibet & now a local favourite in Arunachal Pradesh, Thukpa is prepared with flat noodles along with meat & veggies. It is a comforting dish which will surely keep you warm!
Kelli Chana: Rumoured to have been named after an old lady who used to sell spicy chickpeas under a tree, Kelli Chana is a popular street food of Manipur prepared with herbs, spices & of course chickpeas!!
Kappa: A chicken soup popular on the streets of Shillong, Kappa is the perfect food to keep you warm!!
Kinalas and Smoked Pork stir fry: For pork lovers, Kinala is a noodle dish made from pork head with brown sauce topping. Smoked pork stir fry is another equally mouth-watering dish. Both dishes use the hottest spice in the world – Bhut Jholokia or the Raja Mirch!!
Chikhvi/Pork Bharta: Adding to the pork extravaganza is the pork bharta popular in Tripura. A must try for pork lovers!!
Shapale: Like deep fried momos, Shapale, a samosa with north-eastern flavours popular in Sikkim, is the perfect snack for that cold weather!!
3.Soup for the Spiritual Soul
The eastern-most state of India, Arunachal Pradesh, isn’t called as the ‘Land of the rising sun’ only because of its geographical position. Serene & breath-taking landscapes dotted with several important Buddhist monasteries, Arunachal Pradesh is graced by the largest monastery in India & the second largest in the world, Tawang Monastery. It is an idyllic place which combines awe-inspiring beauty with spiritual fervour to gently guide you on the path to spiritual awakening!!
Apart from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam houses the Kamakhya Temple, one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas. It is absolutely certain that there are many more destinations for the spiritual traveller!
4. Roads less travelled for the eager Trekkie
For a Trekkie, I don’t mean the Star trek ‘Trekkie’ but one who loves trekking, Northeast India offers challenging treks such as the Bailey trail trek in Arunachal Pradesh which follows the ancient trade route connecting India, Tibet & Myanmar or the Goechala Trek in West Sikkim which is considered to be the closest competitor to the famous trekking routes of Nepal!!
Another notable mention is the Sandakphu trek on the borders of West Bengal & Sikkim. It is one of the highest treks in eastern India, offering a remarkable view of Kanchenjunga & Everest!!
5.Yak safari for those not fond of trekking on foot
Riding a yak is a popular attraction when in the Northeast & becomes more of a necessity rather than a choice due to untenable pathways in many parts. Yak Safari in the Dzongri area & the Tsongmo lake trail are popular Yak treks!
6.Cruising along the hills
If you thought the Northeast was only about hills & food, get ready to be surprised by a 10-night river cruise on Brahmaputra, Northeast India’s longest river. The Brahmaputra river cruise is the best way to see Assam & all its sights!!
7.Rafting your way through for that adrenaline pump
On a similar note, rivers in the Northeast present exciting river rafting opportunities, whether it be the Teesta river, which flows through Sikkim, offering Gangtok as a venue & West Bengal, offering Darjeeling as another or the Siang river which flows through Arunachal Pradesh!!
8.Breath-taking mountain passes that can quench your wanderlust
Whether it is the Nathu La pass in East Sikkim, very close to the border of India & China’s Tibet Autonomous Region or the Sela pass in Arunachal Pradesh which connects Tawang with the rest of India, the Northeast offers no dearth of mountain passes & the lakes that reside next to them.
Nathu La pass harbours the Tsongmo (Changu) lake which offers exciting yak riding opportunities. In close proximity is the Baba Mandir, a temple erected in the memory of Capt. Harbhajan Singh, the ‘Hero of Nathula’, whose spirit is said to protect every soldier in the region even today!
9.A hotspot of unique & singular geography
Loktak Lake, in Manipur, is the world’s only floating lake & the largest freshwater(sweet) lake in the world. Majuli island, in Assam, is the world’s largest riverine island. And this is just the beginning!!
10.A veritable paradise for those who love caves
Apart from Mawsmai cave, the most accessible one, there are more than 1300 explored & unexplored caves in the Northeast! You never know, you might just discover one!
11.For that road trip of a lifetime
For those road junkies who want to just step on the gas & pass through rolling hills, forests, national parks, magnificent tea gardens, gushing rivers, awe-inspiring waterfalls & breath-taking mountain passes, the Northeast has the potential to offer you the most memorable road trip of a lifetime!!
For those of you who have lived mainly in North, Central & South India, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. For nowhere else will you find people who are as helpful, friendly & warm as they are in the Northeast. Most of the times, they will grace you with a smile!!
It is impossible to cover all of the Northeast in a few pages as I have barely scratched the surface. And it will probably take a whole lifetime to cover each & every secret of the Northeast. However, if you don’t pay a visit to the Northeast at least once in your lifetime, you will definitely have missed the experience of a lifetime!!
So, get ready & start planning your journey to India’s ‘Paradise in the East’!!
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