Tag Archives: Damro

Secret Seven: 7 hideaways in the North East

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ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY go off the beaten track in India’s North East to come up with some hidden gems

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So you’ve done the Tibetan monastery trail from Tawang to Gangtok, the train ride on the DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway), tea bungalow stays in Upper Assam, the orchids of Sikkim, wildlife safaris at Kaziranga, and now wonder if the Seven Sisters have anything else to offer. You’d be surprised that there are still a few secret nooks in India’s exotic North East that remain shy of the teeming masses.

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Mechuka
Tucked away in the upper mountain folds of Arunachal’s West Siang district, Mechuka lies closer to the Chinese border than any town in India. Named after the hot springs in the area (men means medicine, chu is water while kha literally means snow or mouth), Mechuka is reached after a circuitous drive from Aalo. The Siyom or Yargyap chu river snakes across the wide plateau surrounded by an amphitheater of hills with bamboo bridges lined with Tibetan prayer flags. Being an advanced landing ground (ALG) for the Indian Army, you wake up to the sound of bagpipes and military drills as wild horses neigh in the fields. Before the road was built, the airstrip was the only access to the village. Stay at Nehnang Guest House and visit Tibetan monasteries like Samden Yongjhar gompa and Dorjeling gompa; the latter has a mud statue spanning two floors, besides the cave where Guru Nanak is believed to have meditated 500 years ago on his journey to Tibet.

Getting there: 180 km from Aalong (Aalo)

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Damro
Located on the back road from Pasighat to Yingkiong, the tiny hamlet of Damro is home to the longest hanging bridge in Arunachal Pradesh swaying over the Yamne river. Surrounded by terraced fields is Yamne Eco Lodge, a cluster of thatched bamboo houses run by Oken Tayeng of Abor Country Travels & Expeditions. Hike 40 minutes to the bridge and encounter Adi Padam herders heading to the forests to tend to their mithun, a semi-domesticated bovine. Visit the original village of the Adi Padam tribe and get an insight into their unusual Donyi-Polo culture dictated by sun and moon worship. Watch sprightly men wield daos (machetes) with ease as women carry firewood or harvested crops in beyen (cane baskets). Try the local staple of smoked pork, lai (leafs), raja chili chutney, apong (rice beer) and if you are lucky, experience their local festivals like Sollung or Etor livened by song and dance.

Getting there: 74 km from Pasighat
Ph 9863553243 Email aborcountry@gmail.com www.aborcountrytravels.com

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Nongriat
While Mawlynnong has gained much acclaim for its tag as the ‘cleanest village in Asia’ and its pretty living root bridge Jing Kieng Jri, Meghalaya has a huge wealth of natural wonders. At Nongriat, a deep descent from Laitkynsew down 2500 steep steps, past aquamarine pools set in a boulderscape, lies a double-decker bridge. It was shaped over centuries by entwining the fast growing aerial roots of the Ficus elastica tree. Every local passerby would spontaneously twirl new wiry tendrils around older ones, in keeping with an unwritten ancient code of strengthening the natural latticed structure over time. Dangling above a pretty pool, like a tiered necklace swinging in the tree canopy, Umshiang, the double-decker living root bridge, never fails to leave any visitor awestruck. Dip your feet in the pool for a natural fish spa with butterflies wafting around. If you are up for another hour of trekking, you can catch the Rainbow Falls, another major highlight in Nongriat. While there are pocket-friendly community-run guesthouses in Nongriat, Cherrapunji Resort in Laitkynsew is a good base. Run by Dennis Rayen, an old-timer in hospitality, he’s well versed in birding, local excursions and meteorological data of the region, displayed on the walls.

Getting there: Cherrapunji (called Sohra locally) is a 56km drive from Shillong
Cherrapunjee Resort, Laitkynsew www.cherrapunjee.com

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Hoollongopar Gibbon Sanctuary
Named after the profusion of hoolong trees (Dipterocarpus macrocarpus) in the area, the Hoollongopar sanctuary is the only one in the country dedicated to the protection of India’s sole ape species, the Hoolock Gibbon. Surrounded by tea plantations and a railway line, this tiny pocket was once connected to larger tracts of forests in neighbouring Nagaland. Despite its shrinking habitat, the park is a good place to spot Hoolock Gibbons besides troupes of Stump-tailed Macaque, Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, Pig-tailed Macaque, Capped Langur and Bengal Slow Loris. There’s also a Forest Rest House where visitors can stay overnight and set out for an early morning nature trail. For a more luxurious stay, try Thengal Manor at Jalukonibari on the outskirts of Jorhat.

Getting there: 27km from Jorhat
Heritage North East Ph 18001239801 www.heritagetourismindia.com

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Siiro
While Ziro has garnered much attention for its music festival, nearby Siiro leads a life of relative obscurity. The pretty little village is home to an organic farmstay called Abasa, run by a charming couple Kago Kampu and Kago Habung. Staying with an Apatani family helps guests gain insights into the centuries-old techniques of paddy cultivation of the fascinating tribe, recognizable by their facial tattoos and cane nose plugs. The facial mutilation was apparently done to deter raiding tribes from abducting the beautiful women! Stay on the 10-hectare farm growing kiwi, tomato, cabbage, babycorn and rice as you get a crash course on the paddy-cum-fish farming of the Apatanis. Fish and rice form the staple with unique dishes like suddu yo, a mixture of chicken mince and egg yolk cooked on fire in tender bamboo stems, dani apu komoh or kormo pila, a chutney made of roasted sunflower seeds, yokhung chutney made of Xanthallum berries, peeke, a dish of bamboo shoots, pork and tapiyo (local vegetarian salt made from charred lai or maize leaf which is their secret to being slim) besides the local brew apong, made of fermented millet and rice.

Getting there: Siiro is 3km from the old town of Hapoli near Ziro, district headquarters of Lower Subansiri, 118 km from the capital Itanagar via NH-229.
Ph 03788-225561, 94024 60483 Email abasahomestay@gmail.com

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Dzukou Valley
Cradled between the borders of Manipur and Nagaland above 2000m, Dzukou Valley is an ecological haven that is home to the endemic Dzukou lily. Named dzukou or ‘soul-less and dull’ by disillusioned Angami ancestors after a disappointing harvest; others contend it means ‘cold water’ in the local dialect, ascribing it to the icy streams that run through it. The beauty of Dzukou Valley is unsurpassed, earning its more popular tag as the Valley of Flowers of the North East. Accessed by a tough hike across the Japfu Peak from the heritage village of Khonoma in Nagaland, the valley is a pristine paradise that attracts birders and trekkers alike. En route stop at the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary, set up to protect the endangered Blyth’s Tragopan. Khonoma is incidentally the country’s first green village where hunting and tree logging are strictly banned. Other access points are the villages of Viswema and Jakhama. Entry to Dzukou valley (Rs 50 for Indians, Rs 100 for foreigners) is paid at the Rest House, which also offers basic accommodation for a reasonable fee. A better option is staying at Meru Homestay in Khonoma run by Angami couple Krieni and Megongui who happily rustle up traditional Naga cuisine. Go on heritage walks around the 700-year-old village and listen to stories of valour in the land of headhunters.

Getting there: Khonoma lies 20km south west of Kohima which can be reached via NH39 from Dimapur, 74km away.
Ph Meru’s Homestay Ph 0370-2340061, Baby’s Homestay Ph 9436071046, Michael Megorissa local co-ordinator and guide Ph 9856125553

Sikkim Bon Farmhouse

Kewzing
Overlooking snowy peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, Kewzing is a scenic village in Sikkim perched at 1700m and surrounded by cardamom fields and forested tracts. Hike to hot water springs in the area or head on walking trails to Doling, Barfung, Bakhim and Mambru villages, besides birdwatching trips to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary and the monastery trail to Kewzing and Ravangla. The altitudinal variation between the Rangit river valley (350m) and the highest hill Maenam (3500m) harbours nearly 200 bird species, including the Satyr Tragopan and Fire-tailed Myzornis. Bon Farmhouse, a 6-acre family-run farm helmed by brothers Chewang and Sonam Bonpo is the perfect roost where farm produce like maize, buckwheat, finger millet, green peas, rice, wheat, potato, pumpkin, beans and lettuce is stirred up into delicious home-cooked meals. Fresh eggs and milk, butter, cottage cheese, curd and buttermilk from the farm’s Jersey cows also land up at the table. The forest abounds with wild edible foods and the monsoon adds seasonal delights like tusa (bamboo shoots), kew (mushrooms) and ningro (wild ferns). Try Sikkimese delicacies like kinama (fermented soyabean), gundruk (fermented spinach) and fisnu (stinking nettles). Enjoy a hot stone herbal steam bath in a dotho, infused with wild medicinal plants collected from the forest.

Getting there: 127 km from Bagdogra Airport
Ph +91 9735900165, 9547667788, 9434318496 www.sikkimbonfarmhouse.com

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in The New Indian Express Indulge in December 2018. 

 

 

10 New Indian Destinations: You’ve not heard of

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From a Tibetan colony in central India, artist villages, a riverine island to a luxe leopard safari camp, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY walk the less-travelled path to present 10 new travel destinations before they go mainstream 

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Amadubi (Jharkhand)
Though India is known for its rich art forms, the unsung Chitrakars of Jharkhand paint on scrolls made from leaves and barks as they relate ancient legends through a series of pictures. At Amadubi artist village, 65 km from Jamshedpur, watch the pictorial storytellers develop these Pyatkar paintings. Experience Village Tourism in rustic huts, dine on local steamed dumplings like ud-pitha (lentils), gud-pitha (jaggery) or zil-pitha (non veg) and watch traditional dances at the akhara (open stage) during festivals.  

Biponi Handicrafts Ph 0657-2320109. Email kalamandir.jsr@gmail.com http://www.kala-mandir.org

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Bhogwe/Parule (Maharashtra)
In the Konkani settlement of Parule, enjoy farm tourism with the Samants at Maachli – milk a cow, get a fish spa in natural streams, do a plantation walk, use a laath (traditional irrigation method) and relish Malvani cuisine. At Bhogwe, lying in the shadow of Tarkarli nearby, stay in eco bamboo cottages, visit a devrai (sacred grove) and cashew processing units, go birdwatching in mangroves in country crafts, enjoy sunsets at Kille Nivti fort or take a boat ride to Golden Rocks. 

Maachli Ph 02366-269531, 9637333284 Email prathamesh.samant@maachli.in http://www.maachli.in
Bhogwe Ph 94230 52022 Email a.samant4530@gmail.com

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Damro (Arunachal)
Surrounded by terraced fields and a short hike from the longest hanging bridge in Arunachal Pradesh, Yamne Abor is a cluster of thatched bamboo houses at Damro, between Pasighat and Yingkiong. Visit Damro,  the original village of the Adi Padam tribe and get an insight into their unusual Donyi-Polo culture centered around the worship of the sun and the moon. Don’t miss the local staple of smoked pork, lai (leafs), raja chili chutney and apong (rice beer). 

Ph 9863553243 Email aborcountry@gmail.com http://www.aborcountrytravels.com

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Garamur (Majuli, Assam)

One of the largest riverine islands in the world, Majuli’s geographic isolation and serene atmosphere provides sanctuary to many satras (monastic centres). Slowly eroded by the Brahmaputra, Majuli’s fragile environment and unique cultural landscape make it an aspirant for the UNESCO World Heritage tag. At Garamur, stay in bamboo chang ghars, ethnic huts of the Mishing tribe. Feast on Mishing cuisine like fish, duck and bamboo shoot, catch blazing sunsets at Luit Ghat and witness the raas festival in Oct-Nov.  

La Maison D’Ananda Ph 9957186356 (Manjeet) Email danny002in@yahoo.com Me:Po Okum Ph 9435203165

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Hankon (Karnataka)

A 12km diversion from Karwar towards Dandeli on SH-95 leads past agricultural fields, Konkan railway crossings and Asnoti village to the riverside hamlet of Hankon. Spread over 5 acres by the gently flowing Kali, River Edge Paradise Resort is an eco-adventure camp that offers a range of water sports – kayaking, canoeing, rafting, tubing and river crossing – right on the property!  

Ph 08382–266 742, 9449006742 http://www.paradiseadventureresorts.com

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Jawai (Rajasthan)
Equidistant from Udaipur and Jodhpur and an hour’s drive away from Ranakpur and Kumbhalgarh Fort, lies Jawai Leopard Camp. Located upstream of Jawai Bandh, one of western Rajasthan’s largest reservoirs, the camp is virtually enclosed by leopard country. Stay in luxurious tents with private viewing deck and 4×4 jeep safaris across a dramatic landscape of granite, scrub and riverbeds.

Ph 011 4617 2700 Email reservations@sujanluxury.com http://www.sujanluxury.com

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Mainpat (Chhattisgarh)

After a group of Tibetan refugees working in road construction at Sitapur stumbled upon the cool climes of Mainpat (now in Chhattisgarh), they were resettled on 3000 acres of wild tract. A 30km ascent from the base of the hill through forests of sal and bauxite mines leads to Mainpat, with its 7 camps, the Thakpo Shedupling Monastery, scenic viewpoints like Mehta Point, Tiger Point and Jaljali with farms of potato and tau (buckwheat). 

Chhattisgarh Tourism Board Ph 0771 4028635/6 http://www.chhattisgarhtourism.net

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Neduncheri T Puthur (Tamil Nadu)
Just 12 km from Chidambaram and 2km east of Veeranam lake, Lakshmi Vilas is a heritage hotel run by the Saradharam group at Neduncheri T Puthur. Housed in a traditional 1927 pannaiyar bangla (landlord’s bungalow) on Sivankoil Street, the 4½-acre property has 20 heritage rooms and a restaurant in a coconut grove. Get your fortune read by a parrot (Kili jyotisam) or play traditional games like Pallankuzhi, Adu Puli (tiger hunt), Goli Gundu (marble balls), Pambaram (top spinning) and Uri Adithal (blindfold pot breaking). 

Ph 04144 256555/56/66 Email lakshmivilasheritage@gmail.com http://www.lakshmivilas.co.in

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Poppalwadi (Goa)
With no electricity, phones or roads, Off The Grid is a unique homestay experience in the Western Ghats run by whitewater specialist John Pollard and his wife Sylvia Kerkar, a pottery artist. Eco-friendly, small, organic, rustic and ultra low impact, the camp offers teepee tents, oven-fired pizzas and homemade breads, guided walks to a private waterfall, nature treks, night safaris and offroad drives to Dudhsagar waterfall. 

Ph 0832-3258928, 9623451758 Email info@kalirafting.com, sylviakerkar@yahoo.com http://www.farmoffthegrid.com

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Urakam (Kerala)

A 10km drive from Thrissur takes you to Urakam where Clayfingers Pottery teaches you to shape earth into things of beauty. Set in peaceful rustic surroundings by a river, this multi-disciplinary 15,000 sq ft pottery studio is a resurrected brick and tile factory that was built in the 1950s. Offering Artist in Residence programmes and Internship courses, Clayfingers allows you to discover or hone your skills at claymodelling and glazing from experts. 

Ph 0480 2792234 Email info@clayfingerspottery.com http://www.clayfingerspottery.com 

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is an abridged version of the article that appeared on 7 May 2014 in Conde Nast Traveller online. Read the full story here: http://www.cntraveller.in/story/10-hot-new-indian-destinations-you-ve-not-heard