My Love Affair with 'North-East'

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By Shibani Vig 


North-East India has always fascinated me - The distant untouched land. The long drives through the clouds with not a soul in sight. The big ferns that you drive past in some areas - aah - it's magical. My love affair with the north-east began when my father was posted in Dimapur, Nagaland and I spent a few months there. Things were a bit unstable there at that point as an army vehicle had just been shot at a few months before we were there. So each time that would venture out to the market we would have a cavalcade of cars escorting us, and the market place would be cordoned off and we were the only ones who were allowed to be there. All civilians were asked to leave the area for a few hours! So, I saw the beautiful land but never got the chance to experience the people and the culture. I was dying to go there on my own - without the protection of the army!


Finally in 2007, I ventured out myself and started from Arunachal Pradesh. I went with a friend and all we did was booked tickets to Guwahati and back. We made no other plans - except we would go up to Tawang - and stay with the army along the way (We were poor students then and needed the cheap accomodation !! :)) 

And I can never forget - the minute we crossed the border at Bhalukpong - the topography changed, the clouds rolled in and we lost all phone signal. It was simply incredible! The next few days were fun; we hired a car to take us up to Tawang.  Back then hardly anyone went to Arunachal and there wasn't too much literature on the place. The information we had was mainly from contacts in the army. And while travelling in Western Arunachal we heard about Central Arunachal and decided that we must visit Aalong (now called Aalo). We did the journey from Tawang to Tezpur in one day - 12 hours straight. (To enter different parts of Arunachal - you need to drive back to Assam and then begin the journey up). By this time - we were out of money and didn't have enough to hire a car for us. There was no bus and we finally took a bus from Tezpur to North Lakhimpur and then a shared taxi from North Lakhimpur to Aalong.



There were 12 people in that Sumo and I was in the front between the driver and a lady with the gear stick between my legs! Moreover, there seemed to be no road from North Lakhimpur to Aalong - just a bumpy dirt track! 


That ride and how my bums hurt after that; I will never forget. Once we reached Aalong; every pain and discomfort was worthwhile. It was incredibly beautiful and the tribal villages were picture perfect.  And everywhere we went - people were so proud to be Indian! 


The drive from Aalong to Ziro albeit in a shared taxi was more comfortable. Driving through the rain forests of central Arunachal, passing small tribal villages along the way, hearing stories about

the 26 different tribes that live in Arunachal - with no practically no other vehicles on the road felt very surreal.


This was my first true experience of the North-East and since then there has been no looking back.


Travelling in Meghalaya - and hearing stories of a matrilineal society - really warmed my heart and filled me with hope. Such a distant dream for us North Indians - fighting patriarchy at every level. Another experience which stands out in my memory is my trip to Cherapunjee. Each time I travel to a new place by myself (and now mainly on research trips for my company) I don't book hotels. I just show up and look at hotels or home-stays and decide where I would stay then and there.


When I was in Cherapunjee to plan our company trip, I didn’t realise that Cherapunjee had such a paucity of hotels and that they would be fully booked! I spent the night in a tiny tent - with some car drivers for company. I was exhausted and there was no choice. That was an adventure I will never  forget ! The drivers were more freaked out than me.



People often ask me if I am scared travelling alone while I explore these destinations and my answer to that is, "Never”. People 

are friendly and welcoming - they are curious -  but that's it simply curiosity. I haven't felt unsafe for even a minute.


With Wonderful World I have many trips planned over the year to parts of the north-east India - Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. I fell in love with Mechuka (central Arunachal) on my last visit there. Now that Ziro has gained in popularity and both Ziro and Aalong towns have seen some concrete eye sores spring up; Mechuka is refreshing and completely untouched - my big dream is to plan a trip there soon. Other destination where I would be planning trips would be Changlang and Lohit in Eastern Arunachal and Manipur and Mizoram too. 




Shibani has been always on the move as far as she can remember, as as daughter of an army officer. Travelling , discovering new places, meeting new people, observing nature and indulging in nature’s beauty is not only her hobby but an “obsession”. An avid planner of vacations and itineraries, Shibani started the Wonderful World – women on their own trip with like minded women who would set out on a trip to north-east and various other places in India and across the world.