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Sikkim, Bhutan and Northeast India Blog

Welcome to the undiscovered paradise of India – Sikkim and the North East! Often referred to as the hidden gem of India, this region is a kaleidoscope of picturesque landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history waiting to be explored.
Blog Titelbild zu "Northeast India cultural tour"

Northeast India cultural tour

With fascinating visits to the tribal festivals!

INDIA, fragrant spices, colorful saris, majestic mountains everyone has their own idea of the country. India is not only a very large country, but also an extremely diverse one.

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An old Indian proverb says:
Silence is not on the top of the mountains, noise is not in the markets of the cities, both are in the hearts of the people.

Experience the different regions, the different people and their cultures and let unforgettable encounters come into your heart and build a bridge between the worlds on our cultural tour North East India, which can be booked now.

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At a glance:
Northeast India tour with indigenous festivals
22 days – optional extension Tripura +4 days

27.03.2019 – 17.04.2019
Tripura extension: until 21.04.2019

We travel to the following regions:
Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya & Arunachal Pradesh optional: Tripura

Do you know the meaning of the original Indian flag? It says a lot about the Indian people, the fascinating contrasts and lived opposites that make up and characterize India: The orange represents Hinduism, green represents Islam and the center stripe in white stands for the remaining faiths and serves as a peace buffer between the religions.

As there is no official state religion, the flag symbolizes the diversity of religions. On our India culture tour, we experience time and again how intensely the everyday life of the Indian population is shaped by faith and tradition.

This tour of India focuses on the various indigenous peoples between Tibet, Myanmar and Bangladesh and their tribal festivals. We visit the north-eastern part of India and go on a very special cultural journey. The federal states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Tripura are still little developed for tourism, which is why this part of India is very pristine and influenced by the neighboring countries of Bhutan, Tibet and Bangladesh. You will get to know a very different India on this tour.

You can especially look forward to the tribal festivals. The indigenous festivals only take place once a year and are so original, fascinating and unique that you will later say you have never experienced anything like them before. And you probably won’t experience these festivals in such abundance again. Not only are some of the tribal festivals becoming rarer, it is also not often that the indigenous festivals are so close together.

Let us build bridges together to the indigenous peoples
between Bhutan and Bangladesh:

First, we will celebrate the Aoling Festival with the Konyak tribe.
This festival originally lasted 6 full days and honors the spring and asks for the blessing of the gods for the harvest. Each day of the festival week has its own significance and is celebrated with ancient rites, dances, musical performances and special dishes. Over the next three days, we will experience the Aoling festival together in different tribes and learn a lot about the cultural differences between the tribes.

Next, we will get to know the Mopin Festival.
It is a traditional festival of the Adi Gallo tribe to drive away evil spirits and bring luck and happiness to the people. Traditional dances such as the “popir” performed by the women, music and expressive singing lend the rites a special luminosity. We will also experience and attend the Mopin festival on several days.

We experience the beliefs and different cultures up close, listen to the folk music of the indigenous peoples and accompany people who make sacrifices to their gods and honor their gods. Sometimes with a silent prayer and sometimes with exuberant dances.

India is a spiritual country with incredible allure. Experience this magic and visit the original tribal festivals in March and April 2019.

The tour is organized by Terralaya Travels, a very experienced tour operator in India, led by Helen Kämpf, a Swiss woman who lived in Northeast India for many years and not only knows the culture but also has many contacts with the locals. This is evident in the organization of the tour. Everything is prepared and organized for you and you will get a deep insight into the culture and life in North East India. Terralaya Travels will of course take care of all entry formalities. The tour is led by an experienced local tour guide in English.

If you have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to answer your questions and discuss the tour with you.

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Please note that the tour can be booked immediately and only has a limited contingent available.

As a special service, we also offer this tour as a private trip:You can also book this tour as a private trip, adapted to your personal time window, and visit the festivals with your guide.

Bookable from 1 person, ideally from November – March, or by arrangement.

We look forward to your booking and the unforgettable encounters we will have with the original and diverse indigenous people and the fascinating natural landscape.

Assam Majuli dance

Blog Titelbild zu "Sikkim’s traditional millet beer “Chang”"

Sikkim’s traditional millet beer “Chang”

Sikkim is incredible, just like its “Chang” beer.

It is always the traditional and original food and drinks that bring people closer together, and only with a good meal can you really get to know a country and its culture. It’s the same in India.

I still remember the funny conversations I had with the local people about “Chang”. Until my last day in Sikkim, I enjoyed the delicious and typical dishes of the local restaurants (like momos, thupkas or my favorite, the Nepalese curry) with an enchanting chang.

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FINGER HIRSE

The type of Chang beer I learned about from my friends is actually called Tongba. It is named after the vessel in which the fermented drink is brewed. Chang beer is millet beer and is made from the seeds of millet. The correct scientific name of millet is “Eleusine Coracana“.

Hirsebier - Sikkim - DSC_0742 Millet Beer
HIRSE SAMEN “CHANG”

First, the seeds are boiled in hot water for about 2-3 hours. The seeds remain in the water until the shell comes off easily.
The shells are then sorted out. The remaining seeds are collected, boiled again and then spread out on a clean surface or collected in a woven bamboo basket. The seeds must now cool there.

Murcha, (a mixture of bacteria and yeast needed for fermentation) is then sprinkled on the seeds and mixed well with the cooked millet. This mixture is then sealed in a cauldron or ceramic pot for at least 4 days. Fermentation can influence the strength of the beer. The longer the mixture of millet and murcha remains sealed, the stronger the chang will be. When your “Chang” is ready, you will clearly notice the smell of fermentation!

In addition to the beguiling taste of “Chang”, there is something else that makes the beer so special. The unusual way in which Chang beer is drunk:

Locals drink “chang” from a bamboo container, also known as a “tongba” or “dungro”. They use a special bamboo straw as a kind of filter. With its perforated end, you only get to drink the filtered drink through the straw (or pipsey). Make sure you try it out. You will agree that it is something very special to drink such a freshly fermented beer.

In Sikkim, millet beer is also often used as an offering to the gods.
So before you try your first sip of Chang beer, traditionally offer the first drop to the gods!

3 SKM Homestay Lady Serving Millet Beer
How the Chang beer is served

At the Bamboo Retreat Hotel, we are happy to organize tours to original villages in India in cooperation with terralaya.com. Our guests taste the traditionally brewed Chang beer and learn how to drink from the Tongba. Only natural ingredients are used in the villages and the beer is served in the traditional way.

 

Blog Titelbild zu "Nagaland – Travelogue of tea plantations and the Hornbill Festival – Information for your trip to India"

Nagaland – Travelogue of tea plantations and the Hornbill Festival – Information for your trip to India

TRIP TO KOHIMA (30.11.2018)

Today we left Assam and thus the Kaziranga National Park again. Teiso said that the journey would be long. The distance would still be okay, but the roads to Kohima are very dusty and there is a lot of construction going on. So we set off at the usual time and made our first stop after a few kilometers.

TEE PLANTAGE

I was interested in the many famous and large tea plantations here. So we decided to visit a group of tea women who were busy plucking the delicate leaves in the morning hours. A little reticent at first, Teiso managed to win my trust again so that I could take my pictures in peace. The women had a good time with each other and their solidarity was palpable … I think they had a lot of fun when we two green beaks suddenly appeared on the scene.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu BlogTea pickers Nagaland India

Only the light green, fresh leaf with the so-called bud (or tip) is collected from the tea. The dark green leaves are unsuitable for tea. Harvest time is generally between March and October, twice a day. However, we have still seen tea being harvested at the end of November or even later in December. Later, the bushes are cut back and we wait for spring in March.

In addition to the tea, black pepper grows here on the shady trees, which sells very well and makes a good profit. Tea has tended to lose value in recent years.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu BlogPepper tree – Nagaland India

After this wonderful encounter, it was now time to settle in comfortably for the long drive. I was sure that I would enjoy the ride and was looking forward to the adventurous section to Dimpur, the border town to Nagaland.

DEOPAHAR ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

After just an hour, Mon stopped again, this time in Numaligarh. Apparently there was still an ancient temple complex here, but not much is known about its history. So we climbed up the steep path, a good place to relieve ourselves briefly, and then made our way to the archaeological site, the Deopahar Archaeological Site. There must have been a round altar/tower in the center of the site, which shows several faces from the Gupda era. Parts of it are still clearly recognizable. There are many smaller and larger wall stones around the center, many of which point to Indian scenes of dance, battle and gods, described in the Sanscrit. Shiva is also there. The tranquil place is surrounded by tall trees in which pairs of birds (red and yellow) cavort. Large beehives also hang high up on the trunk.

WELCOME TO HILL AREA NAGALAND

After visiting the temple, it was time to move on quickly. There was still a long way to go. As we drove through the villages, I noticed the many schools we passed. The pupils here still wear uniform clothing, which often differs from place to place.

We only reached Dimapur in the early afternoon and after a quick check of our papers, we were finally in Nagaland. From here on it was rather dusty, as there were many construction sites due to the expansion of the highway. The next checkpoint was still to come as soon as we entered the hills. An hour later, we had to show our papers again. Done, Kohima, here we come.

From now on, the road winds its way up the hills in countless bends, everything is under construction. Entire mountain sides are being removed to make way for the highway. The construction work will probably take a few more years. Every now and then the view was so “dusty” that every caution was required. In any case, it’s much easier to drive with the windows closed.

We reached the top of the pass just in time for sunset and were enchanted by the sunset. We also had delicious Momo’s and a masala tea in the nearby teahouse. That’s how it should be, relaxing and taking time for the important things in life … Enjoying nature for a moment, treating yourself to something good. 

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu BlogKohima, Nagaland North East India

As so often before, we reached our destination, this time the hill town of Kohima, in the dark. Just before the town, there were dozens of trucks in a convoy. At first I thought, no, not a traffic jam … Well, Teiso reassured me that the trucks are only allowed to drive through the narrow streets after 17:30 to avoid any more traffic chaos. Yes, we did indeed have to be patient as we drove to the Hotel Vivor, a better address in Kohima. The hotel is well guarded, is locked at night and when we arrived there were government vehicles in the form of larger 4×4 SUVs. It seems that this hotel is also popular with respected government and military leaders and businessmen, especially with the Hornbill Festival coming up. That’s fine by me, we were well protected by armed security guards. This was probably also the reason why I had a smaller adjoining room for the night.

KOHIMA (30.11.2018 – 02.12.2018)

Kohima, the capital and second largest of Nagaland with around 100,000 inhabitants, stretches over several hills at 1382 m above sea level. Accordingly, it was pleasantly warm during the day with sunshine and quite cool in the evening. This afternoon was the opening ceremony of the 10-day annual Hornbill Festival. There should be lots of visitors, and on today’s first day there will also be well-known names from government and business who will give their speeches.

As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm …

KOHIMA CATHEDRAL CHURCH

To bridge the time until the opening, we first visited Kohima Cathedral in the morning. Nagaland is over 80% Christian. The cathedral is located in the southern part of the city, my hotel about 5k north, and offers a fantastic view of the city. It is a newer building, so the interior is more modern than you are used to from other cathedrals.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu BlogView of Kohima, North East India, experienced with Terralaya Travels

NAGALAND HERITAGE VILLAGE

There was still plenty of time before the festival opened and we decided to drive to the festival site or Heritage Village to secure a parking space.

As usual, the 16 tribes took part and each tribe represented itself in this village with its morung (community house), showed how it traditionally dresses and spoiled the guests with delicious meals. Naturally, the rice wine flowed in large quantities and the exuberance, joy and pride were clearly palpable.

So Teiso and I made a pilgrimage through the village. Some members of the various tribes, dressed in their traditional costumes, were already in the village preparing various things for the festivities. The houses were decorated, stalls were set up and delicious food was already being prepared over the open fires. I was impressed by the colorful impressions I saw. I was particularly moved by the young women and men in their traditional dress. They were proud, sometimes a little reserved. The atmosphere at this time was calm and relaxed. There were only a few tourists in the village. Entering the Morung, which is both living room and kitchen, was a little strange at first … Typical Swiss reserve. However, we were always welcome and I felt very much at home among these people. The action always takes place around the fire. I soon came into contact with my first delicacies, be it wrapped rice with pork or a sip of rice wine from a bamboo cup … really delicious. The cooking area was very interesting. On the one hand, the food is prepared on the open fire, on the other hand it is used to smoke meat on a device hanging above it … and again above it to store the cooking pots and other crockery. So everything has its place in a small space.

19TH HORNBILL FESTIVAL 2018 – OPENING

Gradually, the forecourts of the Morungs filled up with their fellow tribesmen, people greeted each other, laughed, patted each other on the shoulders and hugged. There were the Konyak, the Sema, Ao, Lotha, Chakhesang, Angami, Phom, Sangtam, Yimchungrü, Zeliang, Chang, Rengma, Khiamniungan, Pochury, Tikhir and Chirr. They will all be present at the opening of the festival today.

As usual at festivals of this kind, the first part consisted of the opening speech by a respected politician, the Governor of Nagaland Shri P. B. Acharya. In addition, the Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singhji had also arrived, who virtually rang in the festival with a gong. Their arrival was an event in itself. Various tribes lined up early along the path to welcome the Governor and the Minister. The very late arrival after sunset was accompanied by many security officers and military personnel. Wow, really a big reception. By now the temperatures were really dropping noticeably. I felt for the half-naked men and women who stood there and were still allowed to listen to the speech. It then took an extremely long time for them to warm up.

After the long speech was over, everyone was enchanted, accompanied by dance performances – also with guests from Sikkim and other parts of India – and songs. The chilly night was forgotten and all the warming colors contributed to a great atmosphere. The arena turned into a place of togetherness, especially when the well-known singer took the stage, I didn’t know her. She got the crowd going and everyone danced to the twinkling stars and the beat of her music. A worthy end to the opening … I was looking forward to tomorrow, to the real stars … the Tribes.

19TH HORNBILL FESTIVAL 2018 – DAY 2

Full of enthusiasm, we arrived back at the village early to experience the awakening of the village. Today things really got going. At the center of the arena were group and dance performances by various actors, who performed from 10:00 to 12:00.

Beforehand, we strolled through the village and many tribes were already performing their traditional dances in their squares. Accordingly, many tourists and photographers were present to capture these ancient and traditional dances in the form of pictures … including me.

In beautiful weather we then enjoyed the official part in the arena … there was a group from South India in their colorful robes, the choreography was impressive, then a lovely performance by couples. Later we saw swordsmen, solo artists, fire spitters and many more. At the end of the morning block, the Nagaland Tribes gathered in the arena and celebrated all together in a rhythmic procession around the visitors. It was a fantastic and moving moment to witness.

The afternoon performance was essentially the same as in the morning, easy with slightly different costumes for the actors. I therefore decided to devote myself to village life and visit the various places again. It was easy to be fascinated by these tribes with their colorful and expressive members. And I love taking photos that are not posed. They then reflect their true nature, proud, playful, laughing and sometimes serious, thoughtful, shy … Maybe a little annoying from all the photographers, which I understood.

I always say, other peoples, other cultures. A pig has just been killed, just in the way that we would probably turn away from, it was beaten to death. But it belongs in this life. To condemn it would be arrogant. There, the young ‘warriors’ loaded their muzzle-loading rifles with black powder and fired into the air. These rifles are still made in villages today and used for hunting. Even the visitors could try them out. I kept my hands off it, it was easy for me to be too loud without ear protection, but it was still exciting to watch.

The day gave me incredibly great and profound impressions of these tribes. So we left this place of festivity after nightfall. I will definitely be back. A balloon seller overtook us on the way to the hotel. It’s funny what is transported here. The festival also takes place outside the village. There are night parades, markets in Kohima, hikes, car rallies, pony rides and so on. A huge program is put together here and I think it is expanded every year. There is something for everyone.

See you next time, off to bed, tomorrow I’m heading for Jorhat, so back to Assam for a short while.

FAHRT NACH MON & MON (04.12.2018 – 06.12.2018)

Wonderfully well-rested in my prince’s bed, after a short walk in the park of the estate in Jorhat, I enjoyed a really sumptuous morning meal consisting of scrambled eggs, toast, fresh fruit, butter and jam … this time once again typically British, continental. It was delicious, although a little unusual for India. Afterwards, I took the time to marvel at the ancestral gallery in the hallway. You could really feel the history of the building.

At the usual time, Teiso and Mon, who slept in the building next door, drove up and we set off towards Jorhat. It was already very busy in the town, the locals were out shopping, there were lots of stores on every corner and the road was shared by cars, bicycles, rickshaws and other roadworthy vehicles. At first glance, you might think it was just chaos. However, thanks to the hub signs, everyone finds their place in the traffic and people treat each other with consideration.

Nevertheless, I was glad to leave the city behind us and return to the countryside. To my left and right, the familiar rice fields opened up again. Past Teok and along the Dikhow River with its fishnet constructions, we reached Sivasagar, formerly known as Sibsagar, the former capital of the Ahom Kingdom in the 17th century.

HINDU TEMPLE SHIVA DOL (04.12.2018)

We were interested in the Hindu temple Shiva Dol (Temple of Lord Shiva), one of the three temple towers located on an artificial lake, the Sivasagar. With its 32m high tower, it is the highest Shiva temple in India. Its interior is a round, dark chamber, lit with a little light from the oil lamps, where priests and visitors gather for prayers. Every now and then a pigeon fluttered through the narrow corridor into the interior. Outside the entrance portal, I was blessed by a priest for a small fee, a nice tradition.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu BlogHindu Temple Shiva Dol, North East India with Terralaya Travels

BACK IN NAGALAND (04.12.2018)

The border to Nagaland via Sonari was the same distance away as to Jorhat. It was already past midday when we set off again after feeding the ducks at the tank.

After a short paper stop at the border, the journey continued on dusty roads into the Naga hills belonging to the Arakan Range in the direction of Mon, the land of the Konyak Naga people, who are often still ruled by a king in the village, the so-called Angh. Several bends led us up to Longponshing, just in time to enjoy the setting sun in a sea of flames. A little further down in a small neighboring village, the boys are playing volleyball, a popular sport here.

Tia, in the dark, we finally reached the village of Mon, situated at an altitude of 1,000 meters, and with it our guest house, a multi-storey house, brightly painted and with around 4-6 guest rooms. After a brief inspection of the room, I went to the warmest place, the kitchen, greeted the hosts, sat down on a typical stool and sipped the wonderfully fragrant masala tea that was offered to me.

MON MARKET (05.12.2018)

A visit to the Angh, the king, sounds exciting, doesn’t it? That was exactly the plan for today. In fact, we wanted to visit the two Konyak villages of Longzang and Longwa, the first of which could turn into a bit of an expedition. Let’s see…

Like the delicious dinner, I enjoyed purely Indian meals here again. For breakfast I had flatbread, curry vegetables, tea and also some toast with butter and jam. I got into the habit of tasting the butter first before spreading it … rancid is not my thing, although nothing happens, just the taste is different. The hostess’s daughters served me the food on the balcony right outside my room. The sun was already warming my face, so the fresh night and the cold shower were quickly forgotten. They would have brought me warm water, but I preferred the short, refreshing option. A good morning visit to the kitchen and then watching the village wake up all around is always a special experience for me and a great way to start the day.

So we set off later and visited the local market here in Mon as our first stop. We had an additional guide, his name was Adniang, in the area with us. He also showed me the various souvenir stores. They had great and colorful souvenirs. I was more interested in the people and the market with its colorful fruits and spices. The first time I saw smoked forest rats on sale here, 5-8 pieces bundled together. Teiso explained to me that the distortion of city rats is rather unsuitable … for well-known reasons. Insects were also on sale again, packed in bamboo tubes.

LONGWA ON THE BORDER WITH MYANMAR (05.12.2018)

Then we finally set off. We set off in the direction of Longwa, a well-known place for tourists as it is located right on the border with Myanmar. Shortly before Pomching, we turned off. The first impression of the path, road would probably be too much of a good thing, promised an adventure. Deep, washed-out ruts were clearly visible right from the start. As everything was dry, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem for Mon. So we followed the sloping path at walking pace. We were captivated by our first view of the village high above. We were very excited to make the acquaintance of the king of the village.

After a few more bends, we entered shady terrain, further down we could see a river or stream, which we probably had to bridge before climbing steeply up a sunny slope. Tia, one thing at a time. The shade meant that the path turned out to be more and more of a muddy track. It got to the point where we all left the vehicle to inspect the next few meters and measure the depth of the mud. I think Mon was starting to feel queasy. Nevertheless, we ventured another few 100m, Mon in the vehicle and us watching. He showed off-road driving skills.

After a few meters, another mud hole. It got steeper and I wondered whether we would get back up here. Hm, it always goes downhill and we reached the bridge. It didn’t look any better on the other side for the time being. My two friends therefore decided to abandon the project for safety reasons and we turned back. Adniang and I went ahead and collected stones and branches, as we would need them in one particular place. There was a small step in the path that needed to be overcome. It turned out as expected… the jeep got stuck and to make matters worse, it slowly slid towards the abyss with its wheels spinning. A small concrete ledge finally stopped the vehicle from falling, even though the lower edge of the plate was dented a little. Phuu, what now. After inspecting the path, Mon began to remove the step using a jack pole. It was a special kind of pickling. Then we made a gentle ramp with the material we had collected. I was very excited. Once again we marveled at the work of art and Mon decided it was now or never. Teiso and I hung on to the vehicle on the opposite side of the slope to put more weight on the ground there. It worked, the concrete ledge still scratched the sheet metal a little and then the jeep was over the spot. From then on, we managed to get back on the original route.

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Longwa is a fantastically beautiful place high up in the mountains. On one side you can see the cleared slopes of Nagaland and on the other the protected forest of Myanmar. The Konyak are taking more and more of the original forest for their agriculture such as potatoes, pineapples and also coriander. It is difficult for them to estimate what this means for the system in ecological terms. However, there is already a certain negative impact on the climate. I was told that the authorities are working with the local people to find ways to make it possible for forest and agriculture to coexist. For example, coriander can also be grown between the trees in the forest.

sikkim.ch | Nordostinidien und Sikkim Reisen - Bild zu Blog

Every year, this type of land reclamation results in entire areas being set on fire in February so that the land can be used later. The fires cause so much smoke that the sun is often no longer visible, not to mention the impact this has on the health of the tribes here… Everything is shrouded in smoke. Along the way, I saw several new fields where felled bushes and tree branches were lying around waiting to be set on fire in the spring.

Back to the village, on the hill we wanted to visit the king in his longhouse right at the beginning and also present him with the gifts we had brought with us in the form of gifts in kind (e.g. tea, cookies etc.). A king’s house is characterized by its size and the many animal trophies in the entrance area. We were in the right place. We entered the palm-straw palace without hesitation. Inside was the reception room first, followed by a corridor with various rooms to the left and right. Straight ahead was the kitchen.

In the first room we came across relatives of the royal family (uncles etc.). They were sitting in a circle around a small fire and were probably smoking the peace pipe, or rather they were enjoying tea and some opium. I gratefully gave up the pipe, but a sip of tea was very welcome. So we joined them and chatted as best we could in English.

Later, we were greeted by the Angh’s wife, the queen. Her husband was just going about his duties outside the village. She invited us for tea and cookies, which she cooked for us over an open fire in the huge kitchen. A delicious meal could easily be prepared here for several visitors. We sat around the fire and Teiso showed her some pictures of the country on her notebook. It was a pleasant, informal atmosphere and a natural closeness was palpable, really great and beautiful. Her 3 children were playing in the next room.

The house really seemed to be open to the public. Soon a motorcyclist from Delhi sat down next to me and we exchanged our various vacation experiences. It was really exciting and impressive. That’s exactly what I love about touring. You never know who you will meet in the next moment.

After this refreshment and saying goodbye, Adniang showed me around the village. We strolled through the village for a few hours and I got to know some of the local crafts. I also met countless children on my tour. They were happy to have fun, playing here and there in various corners or helping out with everyday tasks such as collecting wood, carrying their siblings around and much more.

Half the village was working together to replace a family’s roof over 2 days. Apparently, every roof has to be re-roofed after 5 years so that it remains rainproof.

Later we visited the village gunsmith, who still makes the rifles entirely by hand, and I had the opportunity to meet an elder of the village who still wears the traditional facial tattoos. What a gift! Yes, this is how everyone pursues their talents. We also visited the home of the village artist and were able to watch him casting his works of art.

Without realizing it, the day was soon drawing to a close and the sun was already turning the hills of Nagaland red. Surprise! At the end of the village, Mon conjured up a table and chairs from the car. He served home-made masala tea, accompanied by wonderfully tasty cookies. What could be better than enjoying the sunset with a cup of tea? The residents also returned from collecting wood or a young hunter set out to kill a piece of game … with a muzzle-loading double-barrel shotgun from the village’s own workshop, of course.

Satisfied and with incredibly beautiful impressions, we left the village and set off on the night journey home to Mon. On the way, we were later stopped by locals because an accident had occurred there. The two occupants of a car were standing on the road and needed medical assistance. At first glance, they got away with scratches. Their car was lying on its roof about 150 meters down the slope. The driver had probably had a little too much alcohol. Teiso treated them both as best he could and we took them back to Mon. However, the journey took another 1.5 hours and the younger of the two kept the driver awake. They insisted on getting off at the hostel there and not at the hospital. We hoped that they had both recovered. So after a sumptuous dinner, a rice dish of course, I drifted off to sleep, content and full of pictures. Namaste for the day, the warm encounters, the kids and the hospitality of all the Konyaks.

Many thanks dear Patrick. We always find it incredibly difficult to choose the right ones from your many touching pictures. It is not possible to get so close to people on every tour. That’s why we at Terralaya Travels are very proud that this is possible on our tours and that we can respond individually to the wishes of our guests. Conscious and sustainable tours are our priority!

Would you also like to spend an unforgettable tour in India? Then please get in touch with us. The Terralaya Travels team will be happy to help you. Together we will plan your vacation in India.

Blog Titelbild zu "Journey to the land of sunrise: Arunachal Pradesh, India"

Journey to the land of sunrise: Arunachal Pradesh, India

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

TRIP TO PASIGATH (07.12.2018)

Today was a special day. We were going to take the ferry across the Brahmaputra and I was excited to see what it would be like and what kind of ferry would be waiting for us. The drive from Dibrugarh to the port was relatively short, passing through huge tea plantations. To my astonishment, I recognized a long bridge from afar. My guide said that after 16 years of construction, the end of the ferry service was in sight. The bridge was actually opened in mid-December and this would make the ships here superfluous.

We reached the “harbor” via a temporary sandy road. Depending on the water level, there are different places on the sandbank where you can cast off. There were easy huts by the water and half a dozen ships. Each one could hold two to three cars parked across the loading area, several motorcycles and of course all the passengers, who simply looked for a free space on the ship. The loading process was extremely leisurely and required some courage on the part of the driver. Mon seemed to master this challenge with ease. There was just enough room for our jeep on the deck. And after an Indian while, we were ready to cast off.

The crossing took about an hour and as the water level was relatively low, the captain had to choose a strict route. We sailed more or less along the bridge past large sandbanks, which change their position after each monsoon, to the other side. It was a relaxed crossing, during which tea and snacks were served for cash. Unloading was very quick and the free-roaming pigs seemed to care little about what was happening.

We were soon on our way again, this time with a guest on board who must have cozied up to Teiso on the crossing. That was fine with me, as I had a nice chat with him for the next few kilometers. The area didn’t change much except that there were hardly any tea plantations on this side, but all the more tours. Even toddlers play with the sharp harvesting knives, so natural, wow.

Also new were the pot-bellied pigs or domestic pigs running around everywhere. We found dozens of them everywhere in the villages. Another striking feature was the houses built on stilts. Probably the logical consequence when the Brahmaputra or its tributaries carry massively more water in spring. This brings a lot of rock from the mountains to the plains in this area, which is now collected in winter for building work, as in Simen Chapori. So they use everything that nature gives them.

After the Assam – Arunachal Pradesh border, we stopped in a typical Adi-Gallo village with a view of the distant foothills of the Himalayas to immerse ourselves in the village life of these tribes. The Adi-Gallo is one of the largest tribes and consists of over 100 sub-groups. Here, too, I was fascinated by village life, e.g. the rice flour machine, and the children, who play games with easy things, are cheerful and open to foreign visitors. Truly a warm encounter.

After the village, we soon reached Pasighat, one of the first towns built over 100 years ago, and thus my hotel “Serene Abode”. A short visit to the local market rounded off my fulfilling day.

FAHRT NACH AALO & AALO (08.12.2018 – 10.12.2018)

The next morning we set off earlier than usual. This was because the roads would now deteriorate drastically, at the latest from Komsing onwards, and it would take a lot of time, as they could only drive at walking pace on average. At the hotel, they were just starting to drill a deep hole. A normal umbrella was enough to protect the drill master from the flying stones … Why buy something expensive when it’s easy?

Initially and after the checkpoint, the route went quickly up the mountain on a newly paved road. The sponsor was the nearby Power Company.

We stopped relatively early on this stretch along the Brahmaputra to stroll through another Adi village. It was great to stretch our legs again. Mandarins and oranges grow naturally everywhere in this area. This is also the case here in the village, where super practical mesh carrier bags are produced for sale. What a satisfying activity to weave the inexpensive bags at 100RP (0.70 CHF) in the morning sun. All around, the kids had plenty of space to run around and make a camera lens.

Most of the inhabitants of this area follow the Donyi-Polo religion. This means sun-moon and that everything is attributed to a god (Sedi) who brings forth and creates the whole universe. So all things and all existence are part of this … his hair is the plants, his tears are the water and the rain, his bones are the mountains and rocks and his two eyes are the moon and the sun. Seen in this way, we are all part of one whole … which is in line with my own philosophy, put in a slightly different way. As human beings, we temporarily come from the same source and go back to it, so we are never separate from ALL.

So, after this philosophical interlude, we continued on our way … to Komsing and along the Siyom River on an unparalleled bumpy road. If we had been carrying full cream, it would certainly have been stiff at the end. In between, we stopped every now and then to take a few pictures or walk across a suspension bridge. Its construction was very interesting, all the more so as it is also used by scooter riders. Although there were some significant holes in the bamboo. No problem for the driver, even if there were others coming towards them. With mutual consideration, everything is feasible, respect is the key word.

Of course, another village visit was not to be missed. It seemed that rice wine was being prepared in many places for the coming festive season. For this purpose, the rice husks are roasted until dark brown to black, mixed with cooked rice and yeast and everything is poured into a large bucket with water. After a few weeks of cooking, the wine is ready.

We finally reach Aalo. The sun has already gone and we drive through the town. There is often only light from the stores and car headlights. I was looking forward to the guest house. Maybe it was in the distance from the village so I could have a look around. Tia. We left the village behind us and the night enveloped us again. After half an hour, we stopped in front of a sturdy iron gate and were allowed through. I wondered where I had ended up. It was a large, beautiful estate with a huge guest house. The owner greeted us warmly and my visit to the village was forgotten in an instant. We ended the day in good spirits and enjoyed a delicious traditional dinner in the common room by the open fire.

SIYOM RIVER HIKE & VILLAGE (09.12.2018)

I was up early as usual and took a tour of the property before breakfast. I first got a picture of it on the balcony. Oh, there was fog everywhere. Hm, must be the low night-time temperatures and the nearby river. I saw streams, a small lake there and wonderful plants everywhere, tangerine trees, mangoes and flower beds.

Today was a day of relaxation and recreation. On the program was a hike along the Siyom River and visits to villages, completely informal.

So after breakfast – an English breakfast with a group of hungry Indians from the south of the country – we set off. After a short drive, we spontaneously decided to visit a nearby village. A Gauer bull (also known as Gayal, Mithun) crossed our path in front of us. This largest representative of the cattle species weighs over 1 ton and can grow up to 3.3m long and 2.2m high. It was a magnificent specimen.

In the village itself, Teiso knew the wife of one of the residents. After a short chat, we walked on. A young man was carving a handle for his axe and others were building a new house.

Mon waited patiently for us and after another stretch on the road we reached the starting point and crossed the river.

On the other side, we discovered a group of Bengali fishermen who lived here on the river during the winter, not entirely to everyone’s satisfaction. Naturally, we were interested and quickly struck up a conversation with them.

We were accompanied by glorious sunshine on this day too. Only now did I realize that it had never rained and never would. The hiking trail was well developed. Along the river, we spotted other fishermen and a group of young people having a picnic. They had brought rice, a whole chicken and, of course, rice wine. Everything was plucked, cooked and shared, even with us. There was an exuberant atmosphere in the square. One or two older people looked after the younger ones, just as they do in the village.

The two of us soon walked on, resting among the mandarins, and finally reached our destination after a few hours. A village was visible further up and so we climbed up the path, unsure of what to expect. The palm thatch houses were scattered all over the hillside and we didn’t see too many inhabitants. At some point we met a group of women who were busy preparing rice wine. We immediately joined them and were able to move freely around the house, which was a kind of multi-purpose room for the village. Here, too, we handed out some sweets to the kids and they really enjoyed it. We moved on and said our goodbyes.

We didn’t get very far. We had barely descended a hundred meters when we found ourselves in a party. Everything happened very quickly and we sat on the owner’s veranda, drank rice wine and ate delicious grilled chicken, fish, pork and beef, accompanied by rice wrapped in leaves. The wine flowed everywhere in quantities. In the house itself, a priest blessed the home and visitors, I was also invited and my face was smeared with a rice paste as a sign. The cheerful mood intensified over time … and I think the copious amounts of wine I drank were the reason for what happened next. The paste was no longer spread gently on my cheeks, no, it was emptied over my head and clothes. They didn’t spare me and after a while many of them were dripping with it, their clothes newly dyed white. Wow, a mega party, I just made sure that the lens glass didn’t get smeared … In the end, this resulted in pictures of great personal value.

Tia, buzzed and happy, we left the party and Mon brought us safely home to the guest house after nightfall.

FAHRT NACH DAPORIJO (10.12.2018)

A little groggy from the previous evening, we set off today. The mood in the car was correspondingly calm. The fresh air did us good as we visited a village. Teiso even managed to chop some wood for an elderly resident. In return, he showed us his home. His wife, who is paralyzed on one side, and his daughter were also there.

By the end of the village, we were feeling noticeably better. Another conversation with a local concluded the walk. We would spend the next 7 hours in the car … the road was similar to yesterday’s, if not a little more challenging.

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In any case, we reached the town of Daporijo again in the dark, which was under construction and therefore had countless building sites. My easy place to stay, the Singhik Hotel, with a huge room on the 3rd floor was more than enough for me. Somehow I had the feeling that this floor was being developed for tourists and that the rooms on the floors below were still in a different state. However, after a freshly prepared à la carte dinner and the patience to eat it, it was time for a deep sleep.

TRIP TO ZIRO & ZIRO (11/12/2018 – 13/12/2018)

Wisps of mist roamed the land and the sky. Daporijo was also overcast in the morning hours. This natural spectacle often provides mystical images. As so often before, I took to the streets before breakfast. Here and there, the easy-living inhabitants lit their small fires in front of their corrugated iron huts to dispose of their garbage and do their morning ablutions, such as brushing their teeth, by the warm fire.

We were expecting a similarly long journey today. Accordingly, we set off early so that we might arrive at our destination before dark. As we only arrived in the dark yesterday, we went back a little today to take a closer look at the bridge in the village. We also took the time for a quick visit to the local market.

The jungle along the way was densely forested with lots of ferns, bushes, banana trees, bamboo and giant poinsettias – a real rainforest. The journey first took us up into the heights, where a veritable sea of fog spread out before us.

We moved along the hills in countless bends. It seemed to me that a new valley opened up around every bend. Every now and then it was easy to stop to enjoy the view or watch a tree picker. It was also amazing that at some point the rainforest turned into a pine forest. There were only fir trees like in Canada. It was a very special moment and I wondered how these forests got here.

A tea break in Raga was good to stretch our legs and take a closer look at the poinsettias. In Tamen, we crossed a massive steel bridge that could probably tell a few stories. From here on, the road improved a lot and we made rapid progress.

Tia, we reached Ziro at 6pm, so nothing before dark J. It was cold here. My attached room promised a fresh, if not very cool, night. It did have electric heating, but I was reluctant to use it. Two blankets should be enough. So we spent the evening in the warm dining room of the “Abasa Homestay” host family, enjoying the best food on my tour and chatting animatedly. I only left this warm room with its familiar atmosphere when I was definitely going to sleep. It was too cold in the room before then. Even though I was wrapped up tightly, I could still feel the cold in my short pyjamas. As a result, I only had a light sleep and was glad when it slowly became daytime.

VILLAGES FROM ZIRO (12.12.2018)

Ziro is located on a high plateau and the Abatani tribe is widespread here. The special feature of these people is that the women used to have their noses pierced in the form of a 1 cm wide wooden plate and also had their faces tattooed. The men buttoned their hair into a knot. I looked forward to these encounters.

When I got up, I had to decide whether to take a shower or leave it for once. I opted for the cool water, which felt about 4 degrees. It was more than an effort for me. So standing completely under the shower was out of the question. It was enough to lather my head and then wash it out, bending my upper body forward so that not too much cold water flowed down my back. As my room was around 6-8 degrees, I told myself that I would be very warm when I got dressed. Well, it was warmer than in the shower. I could hardly feel my fingers at first.

Well, I saw the rising sun outside and it motivated me to take some pictures of the morning spectacle with the fog. To save my batteries, my cameras were allowed to spend the night under the blanket with me. I went for a walk at around 7 a.m. and the grass and leaves had ice crystals on them. So it was 0 degrees or colder at night. The sun was already beginning to embrace nature with its warming rays, a beautiful sight

Breakfast was delicious and the toast with tea was very tasty after my walk in the cold. Then we set off, as we had a full program ahead of us, visiting 4 villages in the area: Dutta, Hija, Bamin Michi and Mudang Tage, then to the Ziro Putu observation tower and finally local crafts and the market in Ziro.

We started with the villages. A special feature are the special speaker’s podiums, where village men’s meetings on important topics are still held today.

If you stroll through the village, you will notice strange arrangements containing feathers, empty eggshells and small baskets. I was told that the village shaman is consulted in the event of illness in a house to check whether the person has been attacked by a spirit that wants to suck their blood. He then swings an egg over the body. If it breaks, a ghost is very likely. If not, the person should be taken to hospital for further examination. An afflicted person is cured by means of rituals and such arrangements are placed outside the house as further protection. A similar one is placed in a sacred place in the nearby forest. The flower arrangements distract the spirit from taking possession as they have been activated by a blood sacrifice (chicken, pig, cow).

We also met the expressive older women with their nose plugs in the villages. As I have already read, they avoid being photographed these days. However, Teiso, with his empathetic nature, almost always managed to get us to take a picture after a little patience. Sometimes it meant giving them a small gift in the form of rupees. He also explained to me where this tradition came from. There are two stories about this:

  1. As other tribes, such as the Nashi, practiced polygamy and it could be quite expensive for a Nashi man, they used to take wives from other tribes. To keep them recognizable, they had tattoos and nose plugs.
  2. There was a beautiful daughter of a family. It is customary for the woman to choose her husband. However, the daughter did not receive any offers because of her beauty, so she had herself “disfigured” a little so that she would receive offers.

Either way, I find it impressive and a certain pride is palpable. Speaking of pride … some villagers maintain their own bamboo forests. These forests are full of relatively thin bamboo poles. We were lucky enough to be shown such a forest. He proudly felled one for us. The bamboo grows to a height of 5 meters within a year, but then needs another 2 years to reach the quality that allows the poles to be used.

There is a kind of viewpoint near the airport, the Ziro Putu. At the end of our several-hour tour of the village, we settled down there to internalize what we had experienced and simply enjoy the silence. Especially in the evening, the light is perfect for immersing yourself in this beautiful area.

It was time, the local craft factory and the market were waiting. So we set off. Unfortunately there were only a few artists in the factory, one was making the stools, another was painting bamboo cups and in another room women were weaving the typical capes and shawls. I love this kind of color and garments.

Slowly tiring from the full day and the walks, we visited the market after a tea break. I was particularly impressed by the production of bush knives. In this country, each knife has its own appearance and ornamentation, depending on the tribe to which it belongs. However, the metal underneath remains the same.

Back at the homestay, we met a family from the south. They were photographers looking for bird motifs. As I was feeling a bit fitter again, we played a round of badminton outside before heading into the warm living room to enjoy a tasty meal.

A really intense day was coming to an end. That night I took 3 blankets and my silk sleeping bag. That was the solution, I slept wonderfully soundly. Namaste to Ziro and its inhabitants!

SCHLUCLOSING WORDS (08.02.2019)SSWORT (08.02.2019)

Looking back, this tour was worth every minute. What remains are heart-touching memories with 5000 pictures, encounters and moments with nature and above all with the people, especially the children, in this corner of India, close to the Himalayan mountains and surrounded by Myanmar, Sikkim and Bhutan. Countries that I have had the pleasure of visiting before. So the circle closes, the picture is complete and I am infinitely grateful for the time I was able to spend here.

I would like to thank Teiso Yhokha, my guide, my driver Manoranjan Rhaba and Helen Kämpf from Terralaya Travels for all the organization and their valuable tips and support. It is a pleasure to write this report for all of them and the people of North East India.

May it inspire you, dear readers, to go on tours, let go of the ropes, set sail and encounter other cultures, including yourselves. If you travel with your heart, you will be given a lot. It was an all-round feel-good package for me and I am sure that we will all meet again. Namaste to life!!

Link collection:
www.terralaya.com for unforgettable travel planning

Sikkim.ch – more information about North East India

Auswärtiges Amt.de for information about the country and its people and safety instructions

Blog Titelbild zu "India: Meghalaya, criss-crossed – a fascinating journey through the “seven sisters” of north-east India."

India: Meghalaya, criss-crossed – a fascinating journey through the “seven sisters” of north-east India.

Last month we published our dear guest Patrick’s detailed report on the Assam region.

Now we are pleased to be able to tell you even more about this tour. This travel diary is about the Meghalaya region. Do you know what Meghalaya means

Meghalaya – home of the clouds
-No wonder, because this Indian region consists mainly of mountains and hills, into which gorges and small valleys are carved.

We received such an abundance of beautiful and impressive photos of Meghalaya India from Patrick that we just couldn’t make up our minds. Therefore, the article is really about pictures and we hope that you get a great impression of the country, the culture and especially the people!

Come with us on a very special tour through North East India

In this travel report you will find lots of inspiration, information about India and pictures to give you a first impression. Do you have any questions? Please give us a call. We would also be happy to plan your personal tour of India www.terralaya.com

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Blog Titelbild zu "Travel Info Discover Assam – Immerse yourself in cultural India!"

Travel Info Discover Assam – Immerse yourself in cultural India!

I am delighted to be able to publish such a detailed travel report today. Terralaya Travels has created a very individual tour for Patrick. For 3,5 weeks he traveled with guides, organized by Terralaya Travels, through North East India.
And here you can experience one stage of the tour up close, ASSAM.

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How I discovered the Assam region

From Zurich via Dubai and Kalkota, I reached Guwahati airport the next day. The flight with Emirates was very pleasant and the stopovers were short enough for my luggage to make it. One of the flights was on the Boeing A380, which had rows and rows of empty seats. So it was even possible to doze lightly stretched out on 4 seats, what a grateful luxury.

At the airport in Guwahati, we first had to change money, as it is no longer permitted to bring in Indian rupees. An exchange office in the baggage hall was very welcome for changing a few thousand rupees. My Swiss francs were no problem. Only later did I realize that there were also ATMs outside. ATMs are available in many larger places and accept VISA and Mastercards.

I could already feel the Indian time at baggage claim. I waited patiently for my wheeled suitcase, which eventually found its way to me. I was already beginning to imagine how the Lost & Found procedure would work here.

I left the arrivals hall happy and ready for the adventure. As a European, you already stand out here. And so it was not surprising that Teiso recognized me very quickly and greeted me warmly. My luggage was quickly stowed in the white car and I was off in the direction of Guwahati City, a city of millions and very spacious. I love being chauffeured along the roads of India. The friendly honking will accompany me for many days to come.

In general, the roads in Assam are in very good condition. We drove on secondary roads as well as on the Asian Highway 2 (AH2), which is currently being converted into a multi-lane highway with a length of over 13,000 km from Indonesia to Iran. In some places it is already finished. In many places, however, construction work is still in full swing. An interesting project to which various countries have committed themselves.

Assam at a glance

Assam impresses with its large, wide and flat tea and rice fields. They stretch for kilometers along the Brahmaputra, the most water-rich river in Asia and with its 3100 km one of the longest rivers in the world. The land is fertile and often flooded during the monsoon. The level of the river then rises easily by 2-3 m, which has a significant impact on the appearance, the wildlife and, above all, the living conditions of the population. Adaptation for all life here is very relevant in this situation. In addition to agriculture, fishing is therefore also widespread.

So my tour often took me back to Assam to reach another state.

Kamakhya temple in Guwahati
and the history of the 51 holy places

22.11.2018 Within the first few kilometers after the airport, Teiso mentioned that we would be visiting an important temple complex in Guwahati. It was one of the 51st holiest places, the most in India. I was amazed at the number … according to a legend, the deceased wife of the immensely grieving Lord Shiva was divided into 51 parts by Vishnu (God of protection, preservation) and distributed on the earth, one ‘fell’ here in Guwahati.

On the footpath up to the temple, we passed many stalls, showing that this must be a special place. Even today, 4 goats are sacrificed every day. This took some getting used to, but is part of the cultural heritage.

It is a place where many believers make a daily pilgrimage and queue in long lines to get inside the temple.

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Drive to Kazirange National Park

28.11.2018 As usual, we set off at 08:30 and my two friends picked me up. We had become a real dream team in the meantime and I got on really well with both of them. We were on the same wavelength and when I needed time to myself … or she needed time for herself, it was a matter of course. That’s how I like it, leaving space for everyone.

So, shortly after Shillong, we made another “tourist” stop at Umiam Lake View Point, this time with many other Indians (= those from central India). We had a wonderful view over to the Barapani Boathouse. The barrier was quickly bypassed so as not to have any unwanted railings in the picture.

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Von da an ging es stetig bergab Richtung Ebene und somit dem Brahmaputra.  Die kurvenreiche Strasse vorbei an Jyntru und weiter nach Pahammawleiñ lässt nur ein gemächlicheres Tempo zu. So war nach einer langen Sitzpause ein erfrischender Halt mit Früchten sehr willkommen. Weiter des Weges säumten sich dann und wann typisch farbenfrohe indische Lastwagen an Tankstellen. Überhaupt wurde hier in der Ebene wieder viel mehr transportiert. 

Brick distillery SBI, Indian craftsmanship

At some point, I noticed the smoking chimneys that kept appearing nearby. When I asked what they were, we spontaneously left the highway and looked for a way to one of these huge chimneys. Then my question was answered … bricks are made and then “baked” at the end. We set off to see the whole thing up close. Entire families are scattered around the work area, big and small, fathers, mothers and children, most of them of Bengali descent, as I was told. They work here during the dry season. Some of the kids were having a playful break, others were busy shaping the clay into blocks.

The clay blocks are then left to dry in the sun. In the evening, when it is cooler, everyone gathers and carries 6-8 dried stones on their heads to the open pit, where they are stacked in rows. The pit is then covered and glowing and burning coal is poured into the aisles of the rows through a hole from above. The stones remain underground for 15 days until they have cooled down. The whole area around the fireplace is divided into various pits so that cooled bricks can be carried out while the others remain in place.

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Fisherman in Morigaon

After these interesting impressions and another great encounter with the locals, especially the open-minded children, we drove on. What would a river be without fishermen? Near Morigaon, we took a break to watch the fishermen at work. Wading through the swamp, they cast their nets into the river at regular intervals, hoping for a good catch. I was fascinated by the casting technique.

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Watching people at work makes you a little tired yourself. Subsequently, and after a tea break at a Dhaba Highway restaurant (good food for originally long-distance drivers), we traveled swiftly to the national park. The closer we got, the greener the fauna became again. Palm trees, pineapples and mangoes lined the road again. And there it was, right at the start of the park we saw it from a distance, the famous and protected rhino. Wow, just arrived and already such a sight.

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Kaziranga National Park

28.11-30.11.2018 I happily made my way to my accommodation, Diphlu River Lodge, which is privately owned and located right on the edge of Kaziranga National Park, with only a narrow river in between. I was advised not to go to the river after nightfall. Apparently tigers had already been spotted.

Ranesh, the owner/general manager or something, is a great host and we had an exciting conversation over a glass of fine wine.

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Elephant riding in India

The day started early this morning. I was up at 5:00 a.m., it was still dark, and I got ready for the morning game drive with the elephants in the nearby national park. I was registered for the second group this morning. The meeting point was 5:45 am at the reception with the park guide and, of course, Teiso. There were four of us and Toni, another Swiss from Basel, joined us. He also loves taking pictures of nature. We quickly made friends and then we set off in an open jeep to the park entrance, 20 minutes away. It was chilly and I was glad I had taken a jacket with me.

It was slowly getting dark as we drove along the road. Finally we turned left off the main road and soon we stopped at the park entrance, the gate was still closed for us. Several tourist jeeps were waiting there and different languages from all over the world reached our ears. The stop allowed us to capture the rising sun and some wonderful atmospheric pictures.

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After about half an hour, we were granted passage and drove a few minutes off-road to the assembly point where the elephants were mounted. It had a kind of high stand so that you could easily get onto the elephants’ backs. Toni and I got in line and waited, I was very excited. A few minutes passed before we spotted the elephants through the morning mist and the first group returned. What a joy! Everyone quickly dismounted and it was our turn. Surprisingly, our guide picked us up from the queue and we quickly mounted our elephant cow. Everyone must have been a bit excited, some wanted the best seats. I took a seat behind the mahout and Toni behind me. So there were three of us on our lady. I was excited.

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Soon we were off, there must have been 8-12 elephant cows including a few young ones … and it wasn’t even minutes before a rustling sound caught our attention … there, a rhino about 10m away from us. It didn’t let itself be disturbed at all, didn’t even lift its head and continued to eat without a care in the world. Wow, that’s great!

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The group was already walking on through the mist and the man-high elephant grass and we were still with our guide at the rhino … very nice, that suited me very well. We had a great mahout in general, as we were mostly away from the group later on. We really appreciated this, it gave us space for encounters with the animals and for taking photos. At one point we even crossed a small lake on our own … it was very special to have water all around us. A very queasy feeling, but we still had complete confidence in our lady.

Tia, the 1-hour ride was totally worth it. The mystical experience of moving through the mist and getting up close to the wildlife was fantastic. We encountered many rhinos, some with their young, deer, wild boar, storks and other birds. One of the pigs even followed the elephant … I think that such a large bunch of elephants might be tasty food for the boar. Oh well, we didn’t find out.

I felt disoriented when we reached our destination after what felt like a long time and thanked both the elephant guide and his lady. It was so easy and beautiful. We also learned that after the morning rides, the elephants can move freely in the park. So they also have a pleasant existence here. That made me happy!

After these joyful impressions, we had breakfast with eggs, sandwiches and o-jus, accompanied by my beloved masala tea. Wonderful!

Jeep safari – wild India with rhino, eagle, deer and many other animals!

29.11.2018 After a well-deserved break, the four of us set off again to experience the eastern national park by jeep in a 3-hour drive. In the afternoon, the western part was on the agenda. We weren’t the only ones on both trips in very pleasantly warm temperatures. Quite a few vehicles had the same program, understandably. But even now, we made sure to be at the beginning or end of the caravan, especially as some visitors love to enjoy nature with loud comments. The rides were a dream, even if the tiger remained hidden from us. Instead, we saw pairs of otters, probably around 30 rhinos, lots of wild buffalo, wild boar, banded sea eagles, Barasingha deer, iguanas, a gigantic black squirrel, water turtles, a bull elephant and lots of birds, including kingfishers, ducks and storks.

It was strictly forbidden to leave the vehicle during the entire journey (not even to go to the toilet). So make sure you pee beforehand. The evening hours in the park were just as expressive as those in the morning. The evening sun bathes the landscape in a warm light before sealing the day behind the horizon. It was already dark when we left the park full of happiness and returned to the lodge. A magnificent evening dinner was waiting for me there. All typical Indian dishes, soup, curry dishes with vegetables, various meats and fish with tours. In the meantime, I ate everything, including raw vegetables. I had complete confidence in the careful preparation for us Europeans.

Journey to Jorhat

03.12.2018 Intoxicated by the past few days in Kohima at the festival, today I had to say goodbye and drive back along the dusty road to Dimapur and then head for Jorhat. It was going to be a long day and I said to myself today, let me consciously take in the journey.

Along the dusty pass road, there were often corrugated iron huts where the families of the construction workers live while the road is being built. Every now and then there was a broken-down truck, probably waiting for spare parts to come from somewhere. Or it was simply parked and everyone helped themselves to usable parts until all that was left was a skeleton.

In Damipur, I realized once again how everything is still made by hand here. A young man was cutting wood for furniture next to the road, a man was skillfully assembling ‘silver’ metal boxes without a plan. Or, a little later, a typical Indian sewing machine, which is still set in motion by legwork with a belt, just like in the old days. All artists of their kind.

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Fancy a cup of tea? This was a must during the long hours in the car. The small tea houses always provide great images where light effects appear together with the smoke from the fire.

The rest of the journey on the Assam plain took us past rice fields where the stalks were being busily gathered. I was told that the rice is either beaten by hand or they lead 2-3 cows in circles over the stalk bushes scattered on the ground.

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The visit to another market near Hanjanglangso was a nice change. Young men, students, often asked me for a selfie with them at such stops. I don’t think I’ve ever been photographed so much together. Which is always very funny and shows that they are very open-minded. By the way, have you ever tried insects? Me neither, not yet. Interesting, the lively, yellowish caterpillars. I don’t think it will be the last time they sell them at markets. Who knows, maybe in a few years it will be normal here too.

On the further way we made a detour, it was supposed to have been a shortcut … but I had my doubts. We drove through a Karbi tribal area. Their houses are very interesting and beautifully built. The walls are logically made of bamboo and plastered with fine, white clay, with a palm thatched roof. Each house had its own garden, separated by a woven bamboo hag.

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The day was soon drawing to a close and we crossed a river at just the right moment at sunset to take a few more worthwhile pictures. My accommodation was not far away. I reached the former and restored British tea manor Thengal Manor by Night. As a surprise, a wedding was winding down and the groom welcomed me with a friendly invitation to join them later. Oh, what a surprise. After a great Indian dinner with a personal attendant, I briefly met some guests by the fire, but soon said goodbye as I was completely tired … from sitting in the car ;-). And I also wanted to enjoy my oversized and luxurious room a little.

Drive to Dibrugarh

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06.12.2018 In some places, it is not a matter of course to have running water in the house and it can be fetched from the nearby draw well, as here at the guesthouse. After breakfast, we left Mon and thus Nagaland. I will definitely return to this jewel of north-east India with its murongs. The journey today took us back to Assam, to Dibrugarh.

We stopped off again near Tuimei to visit another small Konyak murong. It stands somewhat elevated in the center of the village and is probably still used as a place to sleep, judging by the belongings inside. Teiso told me more about the Konyak tribe and the headhunters at this place.

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Young aspiring Konyak warriors leave their families to live in the Morung and learn the knowledge and customs of their tribe. To a certain extent, this is the stage before becoming an adult and joining the ranks of warriors. But what are headhunters? The Konyak have or had the belief that if they cut off the head of a foreign tribe member, they take over his spirit and thus become stronger, gaining possession of his knowledge and spiritual strength. This was generally practiced until the 1970s, the last time in 2004, so not so long ago. It was not a matter of arbitrarily chopping off heads. There were often far-reaching reasons for the decision (e.g. land ownership, threats), but rarely revenge, and the tribal shaman released the time by means of a ritual.

In those days, the severed heads were displayed on stakes in front of the Morung and ‘dried’ before being moved inside. The higher the victim was in the hierarchy of the other tribe or even had tribal tattoos due to exceptional merit, the more spiritual power was believed to have been captured. To avoid revenge in such actions, the victors smeared pig fat over the eyes of the victims to avoid revenge and to prevent the perpetrator from being seen mentally.

Today, this is no longer practiced. On the contrary, 80% of the inhabitants of Nagaland are Christians. In the run-up to Christmas, we were able to see nativity scenes lovingly set up and decorated in many villages.

We met a tribal elder in the square after our lesson on headhunters. What a ‘coincidence’ that he appeared on the scene at that very moment. A portrait was of course a must, even if it cost me a little. Such expressive pictures mean a lot to me and if he can make a living with this small income, it’s a win-win situation, thank you my friend.

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After this lesson, we made our way to Dibrugarh. In addition to the nativity scenes, the locals also decorated entire stretches of road with white branches at this time of year. Who knows, maybe it was the landmark for St. Nicholas so that he knew where to bring the presents.

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Shortly after the border in Assam, I asked for a stop to finally take a few pictures of the many rice workers. It was a cheerful group, as soon as they saw me, they greeted me warmly from a distance and must have enjoyed it … It’s wonderful to receive such greetings.

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We continued on side roads, past the usual rice and tea fields, where people were still busy harvesting. Later we visited another market. It was noticeable that it was mainly men who offered their goods for sale here. I wandered through the stalls, had a chat here and there with boys and was asked several times for a selfie.

On the rest of the tour through Assam, we again encountered fishermen who were either trying their luck with a rod or going about their work with large nets. It must have been a muddy affair. These small fish are grilled whole or dried in the air.

I don’t know how Teiso always did it, but we reached Dibrugarh and thus the Brahmaputra again exactly at sunset. The sun set behind the river bed, glowing red and atmospheric, creating a peaceful silence. Relaxed and somewhat lost in thought, we then made our way to the well-known market hall in the city. I quickly got a first impression and before we drove to the “Tea County” hotel, it was clear to me that I would spend my time here in the alleyways instead of having dinner. I therefore memorized exactly where I had to go. So I set off alone to experience the hustle and bustle of this corner of the city at night. I felt very safe walking along the streets in the dark. Many craftsmen were still at work. They were busy cutting or welding metal. Safety precautions for such activities are rare here. I immersed myself in the alleyways and let myself be enchanted. For dinner, I had two portions of momos at a stall. Wow, I just love these things!

Another day was gone.

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Trip to Majuli & Majuli

13-15.12.2018 I will remember Ziro forever. This plateau with its wonderful people and misty mornings has touched my heart. Well, after a typical Indian breakfast, I headed to Majuli today, my last stop in this corner of the world.

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We stopped again near Yazali to make another detour on foot to a Nashi village. We didn’t get far and we heard voices from the village longhouse telling us to join them. Half or all of the village had gathered there. We climbed the steps to the entrance and were greeted warmly. We learned that everyone present was practically from the same family. The grandfather had 15 wives and this resulted in a clan with 100 grandchildren. So the whole village was one family, wow. That was beyond my imagination at first and felt wonderful. The house itself had 3 open fireplaces, normally one for each woman … with 15 women it would probably have been a mega long house. It was already very big as it was.

We stayed for a while, talked to people, had selfies taken with us and then continued our walk down to the other houses and on to Mon, who was already waiting for us. It was an unusual experience for me as I was brought up very differently. The drive continued through the dense jungle to the Lower Subansiri District View Point, with a view of the dam below us with the Ranganadi Hydro Electric Power Station. The view was impressively beautiful. From a distance, we spotted a family of Mithun cows with young and a bull on the bank.

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Assam came closer and with it the warm plain. We took one last break to buy a few wicker baskets of mandarins. Teiso and Mon wanted to bring them home as Christmas presents. They also tasted super delicious, very different from what I know from home, of course, fresh from the trees.

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With the taste of mandarin oranges in our mouths, we passed mustard seed fields and reached the ferry that would take us to the island of Majuli. Incidentally, it is the largest river island in the world, as was just confirmed in 2018. Well the ferry still looked the same, same procedure and we set off in no time. The crossing didn’t take long, the sun was already setting.

Once we arrived, we had to step on the gas. Majuli has a long bridge made of wood and bamboo, just like in Myanmar, which is an incredibly beautiful motif at sunset. We only had 15 minutes. In situations like this, I often say to myself, we’ll make it … we can do it … a mantra that helps and yes, we made it to the minute. It always works, one way or another.

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After that, we allowed ourselves a more leisurely pace, watching cows being brought home here and there, the smoke from a fire expanding mystically instead of rising into the air and simply enjoying the twilight on the drive to our accommodation Mepo Okum, an eco camp with my own hut. Jujui, another cottage for me. Tired from sitting and the experiences, I was glad to be able to go to bed soon. Tomorrow morning Teiso said we wanted to experience the sunrise with mist on the nearby river … that meant getting up at 5i. Ok, “let’s do it”, I thought, let’s see.

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More craftsmanship in North East India… Potteries

14.12.2018 I got up again at midnight to search the clear starry sky for the predicted meteor storm. A few shooting stars flitted past from time to time, but there was no sign of a storm. Well, it was worth a try.

So I went back under the mosquito net and slept until my next appointment. At 5 o’clock on the dot, I was in the square in front of the eating house waiting for Teiso. Equipped with headlamps, we marched to the river a short time later. Hm, I guess the fog didn’t materialize this morning. We decided to abandon the exercise. I then went back, but couldn’t sleep and set off to look for some motifs along the river and found what I was looking for. The silence was also incredibly good for me in view of my imminent departure, it was almost meditative.

Strengthened by a great Indian breakfast, we set off later in the morning to explore the surrounding area, where mainly Mishing tribes have settled. It was to be a very varied program, first we drove to the famous potteries, I think it was near the Tuni River in the Doria Gaon area. In any case, there were whole family businesses making clay pots and sharing the kilns. We were happy to be shown how it was done and in no time at all, uniform pots of different sizes were being produced, dozens of which were then fired. Each pot is then checked for quality and repaired if necessary. The clay came from the banks of the rivers. They really offer a lot and are the lifeline for many inhabitants. During the monsoon, this area is flooded and many homeowners stay, we were told. Their houses are constructed in such a way that their easy facilities such as fireplaces, beds could be moved to higher ground.

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We continued on foot and came across two men sawing wooden planks out of a log … all by hand with a saw blade that must have been 2 meters long. A really exciting place. Youngsters were further up the river catching fish by hand and there an older man was recycling an old boat, removing the ancient nails and prising the heavy planks apart. Within a few meters we encountered a variety of activities, each completely focused on their work, really great.

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Touched by our sweet gifts to her children, a resident took us into her home at the end, proudly presented her pots and served betel nut with glue leaf at the end. Tia, now I couldn’t say no. Teiso, my guide, told me in easy English not to swallow the spit, which I did. As soon as we were out of range with the vehicle, it was time to part with the nut.

Sri Sri Samaguri Sara Monastery and the most beautiful masks from India

14.12.2018 The next attraction we visited was the “Sri Sri Samaguri Satra” monastery, where masks of Shiva in his various guises are made. What was special about this monastery was that the members are allowed to marry and live in their own houses. There we met the son of the priest Sri Koshakanta Dev Goswami, the recipient of the Sangeet Natok Academy award in 2003. He told us this with great pride and then showed us around the mask hall. A mask basically requires 4 production steps: 1. making the basic structure with bamboo / 2. applying a kind of paste / 3. shaping the face with mortar / 4. applying the color

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These masks are ordered from all over India. He had just shipped 14 pieces for Mumbai.

Visit to the mustard oil factory

14.12.2018 After these colorful impressions, my next visit took me to the mustard oil factory. I had already seen the huge yellow mustard seed fields at the very beginning of my tour. Here, the seeds were cold-pressed in two different ways. One method uses pistons to press the seeds in a kind of funnel and the oil drips out at the bottom. This is the more intensive method and one pass is enough. In the other case, the grains are tipped into a trough and an auger pushes the mass into the compaction area. Behind this, the pressed mass comes out again and is fed back into the trough.

While I was looking around the factory, my two companions bought a few canisters of oil for friends and relatives back home. It must be very popular.

Ute Kamalabari Sara Monastery

14.12.2018 So, the day was soon over. The visit to the Uttar Kamalabari Satra monastery was our last stop today. Around 200 unmarried monks live there. We also saw a number of children and young people. They are admitted to the monastery at the age of 5 after passing the aptitude test and are placed under the care of an experienced monk. From then on, both live together in the same apartment. So a monk doesn’t just have one room, no, he lives in several rooms, including the kitchen.

The peaceful and relaxed atmosphere was truly palpable. The monastery also owns some land, which is leased to local residents. In return, the tenants supply the monastery with tours. As we walked through the empty corridors, bales of rice were piled up here and there, ready to be threshed. A door opened and a 90-year-old monk made himself comfortable on the cold stone floor … When asked what the secret of growing old is, he simply said: “Through serenity and prayer. What a wonderful answer, as we in the western world are always on the go, driven by goals that are imposed on us. Why not leave everything behind for once and look inside ourselves, because there is so much to discover.

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We soon finished our tour of the monastery and headed back to camp. It was time to process our impressions and take a break so that we could later walk to the market in Majuli. But that didn’t happen, a spontaneous volleyball match with the locals required our full assistance … Great, we had fun and everyone quickly found their place in the game. The subsequent dinner was also highly recommended, grilled fish in a bamboo tube … wow, it was delicious. Of course, it was accompanied by tours, chili peppers and well-seasoned vegetables. I loved it like that.

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Sidrad Har Village

15.12.2018 As usual, I was up early and went to the river again. I had seen a Kingfisher bird there yesterday and thought to myself that it would surely greet the sun in the same place today. And that’s exactly what happened. They have their habits too. An owl (Spotted Owl) also crossed my path, what a joy.

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As my departure was not planned until later, Teiso and I went for a walk around the village after a hearty breakfast in the sun. We were sure to find some great motifs at this hour of the morning. The day was still young, fresh, like the children playing with rice sacks. Further along the way, we came across women at looms weaving their colorful cloths. The initial conversation eventually turned into an invitation into the house so that we could look at other cloths, with the wish that we might buy something. Unfortunately, the colors were not quite to my taste, otherwise I would probably have bought myself a nice souvenir.

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The village had much more to offer if you are mindful and present. There was a young woman sitting in the sunlight brushing her teeth in front of her house built on stilts. Or children on bicycles whizzed past happily, the bikes were just too big … They knew how to help themselves. In these communities, people looked at each other, there was a wise older woman squatting on the ground with kids and they were playing a game. At one point, we saw a young mother chopping wood and the little one just wanted his mother’s full attention at that moment and was accordingly indignant. Without further ado, Teiso took the axe so that the little one got the affection he wanted. In general, Teiso was very helpful on the whole tour. Wherever two hands were needed, he lent a hand without thinking twice.

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The largest monastery complex

15.12.2018 After the village visit, it was time to slowly leave the camp. We packed everything up. However, before we left the river island by ferry, we visited one of the many monasteries, which is said to be the largest here. The name was something like “Onjatti Monastery” or similar and is home to around 350 monks, 150 of whom are children. It also contained a small museum with antiques. As yesterday, we first went to the prayer house, the Namghar, and then we walked sensually through the square corridors. The many corridor doors led to the elongated apartments of the monks and we were sometimes given a glimpse into the rooms when the door was open. Here, too, we rarely met any monks except for one who had just sat down in the sun and regularly invited us in for a chat. He was around 70 years old and had chosen this monastery in 1975. Towards the end of our tour, we came across a 7-year-old monk. Bright as he was, he was keen to take a photo and took a really good shot of Teiso. He accompanied us to the exit, where we said goodbye to him. A special rule is that visitors are not allowed to touch the monks. The little boy, however, gave little importance to this rule.

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Journey to Jorhat

15.12.2018 Tia, now the time had come, after this visit to the monastery, we set off on the ferry. Lost in thought, my senses once again took in the beautiful surroundings and I reminisced about the past few days in Arunachal Pradesh. A really big ship awaited us at the harbor, with room for several vehicles. Many passengers stood there and admired the modern vehicle. The loading of the boat was very exciting and there was also a wait for the last passengers, who had probably registered by telephone. So the captain lowered the bridge again, as a latecomer was probably expected. Later, we cast off for good and the crossing took around 1.5 hours. Watching the sunset on the Brahmaputra was a worthy end to the day and to a fantastic tour.

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The arrival on the other side was very spectacular. The ship slid into the sandbank at some speed, stopped abruptly and then had to be righted with roaring engines before the bridge was lowered. The trip to the famous “Thengal Manor” tea house in Jorhat was short and after a last hearty Indian dinner I went to my room.

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Goodbye North East India and thank you very much I will definitely be back!

16.12.2018 Yes, the time had really come, today I was leaving this wonderful country with all its enchanting people and tribes. As my flight didn’t leave until lunchtime, I had enough time to look around the estate and chat with another guest, a tour guide from Delhi.

In the end, Teiso and Mon brought me safely to the airport, from where I traveled back to Zurich via Guwahati and Delhi. I didn’t have a day of rain in almost four weeks, always sunshine … both outside and in my heart. My only regret at the end was that our jeep broke down after I left and Mon had to stay a little longer in Jorhat.

Would you like to read more travel reports? This was just the beginning for Patrick, the next part of his tour , Meghalaya is already in preparation! Here you can find more travel reports

Would you also like to travel India individually? Then get in touch with us. We will put together your personal tour according to your wishes. We look forward to your inquiry!
Or browse through our existing tours, divided according to interests and regions, you are sure to find your India tour. See you soon, your Terralaya Travels team.

Blog Titelbild zu "Come with us on an extraordinary journey through North India!"

Come with us on an extraordinary journey through North India!

A varied journey through India’s north – “Tea in Darjeeling” and “Pure fascination” in the kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan

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Experience the Himalayas with their mighty peaks and the unique landscape with tea gardens and terraced rice fields in Darjeeling as well as Buddhist monasteries and sacred lakes in Sikkim. The ascent to the sacred Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery in Bhutan at an altitude of 3,100 m will certainly remain unforgettable. This monastery clinging to a vertical rock face is the impressive highlight and expression of the Buddhist way of life.

This tour is different, especially fascinating!

Which highlights of this very special tour should we highlight?

You will experience one highlight after another during this 23-day round trip through Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan. This tour is different, special and fascinating. In addition to the special enjoyment of this spectacular landscape – always surrounded by the mountain giants of the Himalayas – we at Terralaya Travels attach particular importance to ensuring that you understand the different culture with its different people.

Meeting people in Asia is our top priority!

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Our local guides, with their knowledge and patience, ensure encounters with people, guide you through the initially confusing diversity and otherness of a culture strongly influenced by Buddhism and thus build bridges between people and worlds.

This varied tour through the Kingdom of Sikkim and Bhutan is now available to book.

Darjeeling – Up into the mountains

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From Delhi, you fly along the Himalayas and over the green tea plantations to Bagdogra. If the weather is fine, you can already see the majestic peaks of the 8,000-metre peaks of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Everest and Kangchendzönga. In Darjeeling – at an altitude of 2,100 m – the whole attitude to life and flair is much quieter and more relaxed than in lively and colorful Delhi, the first overnight stop after your flight.

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Darjeeling has been one of the most popular “hill stations” for escaping the heat of the plains since the time of the British colonial power.
the heat of the lowlands.

The famous “Toy Train” was already used to transport the “English” to the cool mountains, where they enjoyed their “team time”. You can do the same as the colonial masters, because you too can enjoy the special pleasure of a ride on the “Toy Train”, this 120-year-old narrow-gauge railroad. The steam locomotive puffs its way through the narrow valleys and up the serpentines into the mountains. During your “4 o’clock tea”, find out what makes a good Darjeeling tea and how much manual work is still required to get it steaming in your teacup.

Sikkim – hikes against a fantastic mountain backdrop and encounters with Tibetan Buddhism

In the former kingdom of Sikkim – located between Bhutan and Nepal – encounters with people and Buddhism in the monasteries are an essential part of the tour. The people here are still untouched by mass tourism and a stay with a host family will give you a good insight into the everyday life of the locals. On daily optional hikes (approx. 2 – 4 hours), for example, you will experience the rural and natural way of life of the small Himalayan farmers in their traditional, old Lepcha houses. On all hikes, the picturesque mountain massifs will always catch your eye.

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Everything is dominated by the white summit of Kangchendzönga (8,586 m), the third highest mountain in the world.

This sight alone will remain unforgettable for you forever. But you will experience much, much more on this tour. You will visit remote temples and monasteries and see the monks praying in their wine-red robes in the temples during their evening ceremony. The views of the surrounding valleys from the temple sites will always put you in a wonderfully meditative mood. You go on wonderful hikes past small villages, terraced fields and forests with cardamom plantations.

Unforgettable impressions of a special kind: The Kingdom of Bhutan

traditionelles Farmhaus, Bhutan

One of the highlights of this tour is the stay in Bhutan. The kingdom in the middle of the Himalayas is one of the most mysterious places and is still difficult for individual tourists to reach. However, the good organization and planning of an experienced tour operator such as Terralaya Travels enables you to travel through this country and get to know many remote monasteries.


Typical of Bhutan are the dzongs, mystical mountain monasteries that seem to literally cling to the mountain slopes and rocks.

You will visit imposing dzongs, ancient monasteries and small villages. Landscapes and religion have a unique connection here – everything is magical and spiritual.

Most beautiful dzong, school and family life

You visit the Punakha Dzong, architecturally probably the most beautiful dzong in the whole of Bhutan. Built in 1638, it was the second dzong in Bhutan. Punakha was the capital and administrative center of Bhutan until 60 years ago, when the capital was moved to Thimphu.

Reise mit Terralaya Travels

After a short hike, you will cross the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and visit a village school in the village on the other side. During lunch with a local family, you will learn all about family life in the countryside.

The Tiger’s Nest, spectacular and unique, Bhutan

On the penultimate day of your tour, you set off for one of the holiest monasteries in Bhutan, the famous Tiger’s Nest in the Paro Valley. This monastery clings spectacularly to a steep rock face, hundreds of meters above the valley floor. It owes its name to the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the greatest tantric master in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. He landed here in the 8th century on his flight from Tibet on the back of a tigress.

Bhutan Taksang Monastery

You will visit more imposing dzongs, ancient monasteries and small villages. Landscapes and religion have a unique connection to each other – everything is magical and spiritual.









Bei Fragen melden Sie sich gerne bei uns. Die Reise ist ab sofort buchbar und verfügt nur über ein begrenztes Kontingent.

These are just some of the highlights of this very special tour. You can read all about what there is to see and experience on the Terralaya.com website or directly in the detailed travel description.

This tour is organized by Terralaya Travels, a very experienced tour operator in India, led by Helen Kämpf, a Swiss national. Helen Kämpf lived in North East India for many years and is therefore familiar with the culture. Her many years of good contacts with the locals help her to plan and organize the tour. Every tour is therefore perfectly prepared and organized for you and you get a deep insight into the culture and life. Terralaya Travels will of course take care of all entry formalities. The tour is conducted in English by experienced local tour guides.

Wir erstellen gern Ihr persönliches und unverbindliches Reiseangebot – mit viel Erfahrung, Kompetenz und Herz.
Blog Titelbild zu "How I climbed to 4200 m in India and was so close to the mountains – experience trekking up close"

How I climbed to 4200 m in India and was so close to the mountains – experience trekking up close

My tour to Dzongri & Goechela, India

Sachen-Thokha (3000hm):

We are greeted by a cloudy morning, which is why I pack a few more warm items of clothing in my hiking rucksack. As the altitude increases, it is supposed to get cold on this trekking tour in October.

No wonder, as we are now at an altitude of around 3000 m in Khangchendzonga National Park.

After a tasty lunch, the trail leads us – through lush green rhododendron and oak forests – up a steep zig-zag path to Tshoka. In fact, it has now become foggy and cold, so not only are the extra items of clothing from our rucksacks needed, but we also gratefully accept a warming cup of tea from the hands of our cook. Throughout our trek, we are pampered by our local Indian support team. Our cook takes care of our physical well-being with tasty local dishes (also vegetarian on request) and plenty of drinks as desired.

Tshoka – Dzongri (4100hm):

I slept reasonably well, although I admit that I first have to get used to this “tent or hut luxury”. We set off at 9.30 a.m. and today we hike through the rhododendron forest to above the tree line, which we reach at 3,800 meters. The fog has cleared and we have a fantastic view of the furrowed valleys below us. The first white mountain peaks can be seen to the north. However, the climbs are long and steep and I can increasingly feel the altitude: my pulse is pounding in my neck, so I have to take frequent breaks. After 4 p.m. and 16 km of hiking, we finally reach Dzongri . Rarely have I been so happy when someone welcomes me with a hot cup of tea.

Unfortunately, a cold tent awaits us instead of a warm and comfortable room.

Everything is already set up and warm tea and cookies are ready.

After our first refreshment and breather, we inflate our air mattresses and quickly retire to the tents to warm up and rest a little before dinner.

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Dinner – consisting of soup, main course with various vegetables and dessert – is served in the “dining tent”, where a table and stools covered with sleeping mats are ready and waiting. A kerosene stove radiates warmth.

After the delicious meal, we sit together for a while in the light of the headlamps and candles, reviewing the day and writing down what we have experienced.

The night is freezing cold and starry here in the far north-east of India!

and I put on ALL the available layers when I finally crawl into the sleeping tent. I have spread an aluminum emergency blanket over the sleeping bag, which stores the heat. A hot water bottle is placed at my feet and I fall asleep relatively quickly.

Dzongri

We have set our alarm clock for four o’clock. It’s still starry and minus 8 degrees. The objects on the table in the dining tent are covered in a layer of frost. Thanks to a deliciously sweet masala chai, our spirits are slowly awakening. It is still dark when our small group climbs up to the nearby viewpoint at 4200 m with headlamps.

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At 05.30 a.m. the sun scratches Mt. Kanchenjunga – what an exhilarating and unique experience we have in the Himalayas!

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Minutes later, the sun reaches the Kabru (7400 m) on the left and the Pandim (6700 m) on the right, as well as other mountain giants one after the other. The sky is steel blue, the sun makes the mountain giants shine in all their beauty and the colorful prayer flags flutter in the wind. I am deeply touched and would never want to miss this moment of happiness in my life. The mountains in the Himalayas create a magical atmosphere.

Before we hike back to camp, where a hearty breakfast awaits us in the sun, we take a short detour to the stupa.

Well fortified, we set off on a four-hour hike to Ginggey-La at an altitude of almost 4,500 meters. My heart is pounding, the altitude is now clearly noticeable.

Dzongri – Tshoka 3000hm:

The night is over by 6 a.m. and the temperature is around -10 degrees. Nevertheless, we have breakfast outside, even though the sun has not yet reached our spot. The kerosene stove under the table warms us up a little, otherwise it is the steaming teacups that awaken our spirits. At 8.30 a.m. we hike back towards Tshoka. To be honest, we are relieved to get back to lower altitudes. We continue to feel the thin air with every short ascent. The lush alpine vegetation of dwarf rhododendrons, mountain herbs and alpine flowers in the mist seems mystical and enchants me.

We meet many groups with horses and dzoos (a cross between yak and cattle); most of the trekkers here are Indians from Calcutta. It seems to us that hundreds of people are making a pilgrimage towards Goetcha-La; Dzongri will be totally overcrowded today. How lucky we were to have been so lonely and alone up there with ourselves and this gigantic mountain world!

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After 4 hours we reach Tshoka and we are very much looking forward to this overnight stay in a permanent dwelling. At the final dinner, our cook outdoes himself once again with wonderful delicacies. As a big surprise, there is a chocolate cake for dessert, baked without an oven, of course…!

Tshoka – Yuksam 1700hm:

When we get up, the last wafts of mist are just disappearing and making way for the morning sun. One last cat wash and morning packing, followed by breakfast in the warm sun! We have porridge – great energy food before the long descent to Yuksam. The endless ups and downs sap my strength, especially in my calves. Regular breaks with power bars and trail mix are the order of the day.

After five and a half hours and a change into shorts due to the weather, we arrive back at the starting point of our trekking tour.

Perfectly organized to the end by Terralaya Travels, our driver is already waiting for us and after a small tea invitation and the enjoyment of delicious momos (speciality) we are taken to our hotel.

I have never enjoyed a warm shower so much, an absolute blessing after five days of cat washing!!!! Afterwards, we celebrated with beer and snacks, reliving the last few days with all our efforts and experiences.

img_7799We hiked through the lush green rhododendron forests into the barren alpine zone. On more than one occasion, we enjoyed the snow-capped Himalayan giants and the mountain slopes of Khangchendzonga National Park covered in dense, untouched forest.

The Khangchendzonga mountain was close enough to touch at times and the sight of it in the morning sun compensated us for all our efforts and exertions.

Those who want more can extend this trek to the Goechela Pass (4950 m). This challenging tour takes you to even more remote high altitudes and alpine vegetation. You can request any desired individualization or extension of the routes at any time.

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We would especially like to thank the helpers who accompanied us, who always ensured a good atmosphere with small local treats, hot water bottles, extra blankets and hot drinks.

During this tour, we visited the children’s charity in Sikkim, which I support privately. It was a great pleasure to see how the donations are used and the joy these children radiate. Perhaps you would also like to get socially involved during a tour? The Children of Sikkim Foundation is looking forward to your visit!

The team of Terralya Travels and the Bamboo Retrat Hotel says thank you very much for this beautiful article!

General:

Best time to visit: mid-March to May and October to mid-November.

Temperatures: Depending on altitude, between approx. +5 and +15 °C during the day and between -10 and +5 °C at night. Snowfall must be expected, especially from mid-November to February!

Please send inquiries for this tour to: info@sikkim.ch

Trekking Module: Goechela Trekking zum Khangchendzonga Sikkim,

India – 5 – 12 days – 3 – 8 hours walking time/day – moderately difficult – challenging – trekking trail, open terrain, scree slopes – overnight in tent & fixed accommodation (3 – 4 x) – max. altitude: 4000 – 4950 m above sea level – company: trekking guide, kitchen crew/ porters/carrying animals (pony/zo/dzomo)
Information about this tour can be found here:
Terralaya.com

Group trips from Zurich to Kanchengdoza, 20 days

from/to Europe: 05. – 24.10.2019 (from CHF 5’130.-)

“Classic Sikkim trekking tour to the Goechela Pass (max. 4950 MHN) with cultural travel days in Sikkim & Darjeeling. 8-day trekking with overnight stays in fixed accommodation and in tents. Benefit from our many years of cooperation with the local people and our local trekking team from Yoksum.”

Please contact us for further information or a private tours. We will be happy to modify the tour according to your wishes and requirements.

Blog Titelbild zu "India – Facts for the journey"

India – Facts for the journey

Facts, figures and data for your tour of India
A first overview of India as a travel destination

Food and drink in India

Indian cuisine is varied and excitingly spiced. In restaurants, the basic choice is between “meat” or “vegetarian food”. The main difference between the regions:

North India: It is typical for North Indian cuisine to eat more bread than rice, and much more meat, especially goat and lamb. Tandoori dishes from the clay oven and samosas, stuffed dumplings, are a specialty.

East Indian cuisine: a lot of thalis is eaten here, pots with chicken, fish, lentil dishes and vegetable curries. Rice and naan are also served. Thalis means that the pots are refilled until you are full. Finally, there is khir, an aromatic rice pudding.

South Indian cuisine: Rice is the staple food here, along with lots of fish and coconut milk. Away from the coast, people mainly eat biryanis, rice dishes with vegetables, nuts, chili, sometimes raisins and, of course, meat.

West Indian cuisine is characterized by minorities depending on the region. Christians eat pork and beef, otherwise millet, lentils or more vegetarian dishes are served.

Mineral water is the preferred drink in India, alongside soft drinks and juices. Beer and wine cost almost as much as the whole meal. Not every restaurant is allowed to serve alcohol. Chai is often drunk after a meal.
Ganz viele Infos zu den typischen indischen Getränken gibt es gleich hier.

Money and credit cards in India

The Indian currency unit is the rupee. One euro is equivalent to around 80 INR. Rupees may neither be imported nor exported! ATMs can only be found in cities, credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and restaurants. However, as the internet is not well developed or fluctuates greatly, especially in rural areas, credit card payments cannot always be guaranteed!

Health, Vaccinations for India

  • Vaccinations are not compulsory. Protection against tetanus and polio is good.
  • Don’t drink open water, “Boil it, peel it or leave it!” This is the rule for fruit and vegetables.
  • Don’t forget sun protection.
  • We always recommend that you discuss which vaccinations are important and necessary with a tropical medicine specialist well in advance of your tour. This also depends very much on the areas you want to travel to and the choice of hotels.
  • Initial information on safety and the latest news is always available from the Federal Foreign Office.

Geography and inhabitants of India

India is almost 3.3 million km2 in size and the sixth largest country in the world. India has 15200 km of borders and 7516 km of coastline. India is home to 1.3 billion people, making it the most populous country in the world after China. The average age in India is 24.7 years. More than 80% are Hindus, a good 10% Muslims, 2.6% Christians, the rest are Sikhs, Buddhists and 0.4% Jains.

Politics and economy Facts about India

India, consisting of 28 federal states, has been the world’s largest parliamentary democracy since its independence. The Indian parliament was divided into lower and upper houses based on the British model and has legislative power. Eligibility to vote applies from the age of 18 and the head of state is the president.
In terms of gross domestic product, India is the 7th largest economy in the world with more than € 2400 billion. The master is generated in Mumbai. The most important economic sectors are the service sector including IT, heavy industry and agriculture.

Security in India

It is best to leave valuables at the hotel, women should not dress too provocatively and should not travel alone at night. Further information is always available from the Federal Foreign Office.

Telephone and Internet

The Internet works in India (mostly :-)) without any problems, many hotels already have WLAN. Roaming charges must be clarified in advance with the telephone provider. In rural areas, the internet usually fluctuates a lot and it is often not possible to establish a stable connection.

Behavior

When dressing, one should avoid short and revealing clothing. Beggars are a profession in India. Children should not be given anything, as they will not go to school if they earn money in this way. Drugs are an absolute taboo subject in India.

The family is the center of life in India. Three generations often live in one house. If you are invited to a family home, you always bring a gift. In traditional families, the guest eats first, then the host, and the rest of the family at the end. Photography is allowed in India, but you should always ask the person if it is okay. However, showmen or snake charmers earn their income from this. Couples should not walk hand in hand in public, nor should they kiss or exchange caresses.

Blog Titelbild zu "Traveling in India – what means of transport are available?"

Traveling in India – what means of transport are available?

In India, getting around is always and everywhere a big issue. Here is a list of how you can get around in India. 

animal transportation

Dusty roads can be found everywhere in India. The destination wouldn’t be that far away, but the next bus doesn’t leave for another hour. So the farmer with the nice turban and the cow comes just in time. A real experience. On the steep path up to Fort Amber, on the other hand, you sit comfortably on a padded bench weighing 3 tons. A camel safari, for example in the Thar desert, has the advantage of adventure, uniqueness and relaxation.

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pure nostalgia – train ride

65,000 km of tracks run through the country. It is certainly cheap, but you should reserve seats in advance. The Mountain Railways of India has held the award since 1999 and travels to the various regions and what’s more all the trains were built during the British colonial era.

3. Kettuvalam – The sewn boat.

There are many types of boats in India, which is no wonder with 900 km of waterways. “Stitched boat” because the planks used to be tied together with coconut fiber ropes and sealed with cashew oil, without nails or composite materials. Back then, tours and building materials were still transported through the Kettuvalam. Today, every boat is fitted with nails, but the ride is still romantic.

4. Ambassador-Taxi 

Built 4 million times and frequently used as a cab, the Abby chugs through India like the Beetle once did through Germany. In many cases, the cabs are equipped with very old-fashioned taximeters, so there is no need for tiresome negotiations with the driver. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that the driver knows the destination.

5. Trishaw

Moped cab, motorized cab, trike cab or tuk-tuk. Almost always a great experience. But there’s no need to be afraid, because the drivers are in control of their vehicles, even if it’s sometimes quite close.

6. Rikscha 

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India has the most rickshaws in the world. The means of transportation was invented by the Japanese. Many of the cycle rickshaws have been removed from the big cities. For many Indians, the rickshaw is the family’s source of income.

My conclusion about the means of transportation in India:

Each of these vehicles is a real experience, and I was particularly impressed by the tuk-tuk rides. You quickly get used to the speedy driving style, even if it was sometimes quite close, I always had the feeling that an accident wouldn’t happen so quickly here. So, into the adventure! If you are looking for a really good organization for your tour, I heartily recommend Terralaya Travels!