Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Beginning of an Amazing Journey

My parents and brother, Ole, all excited in the taxi just after landing in the Northeast.

Back in November 2008 my parents and younger brother came to India and we set off on a trip, which my mother would later describe as the journey of her life, far surpassing the exoticism and adventure of any travel she had done before.

The main purpose of the trip was for Nitoli and I to celebrate our marriage with a celebration in her home state of Nagaland. However, we had decided that this was our chance to show my family more of the largely un-touristy and amazing Indian Northeast surrounded by Burma, Bangladesh, China, Bhutan and Nepal, only connected to mainland India only by a long, narrow land corridor.

Over the following weeks I'll show images from this fantastic trip which took us from the Naga wedding to an amazing tribal festival in Kohima, into Assam for some rhino-hunting (only shooting with cameras though) and back up to the remote villages of Northern Nagaland, where the old head hunters can still be found. We even made an informal crossing just over the border into neighbouring Burma.

First leg of the trip, which I will cover today, was a short flight from Delhi to Guwahati (capital of Assam) followed by a 5-6 hour train ride to Dimapur, which is the largest and most developed town of Nagaland, which is home to Nitoli's parents and therefore also the venue of the wedding celebration.

Lunch in Guwahati at one of the best restaurants in the Northeast (Tandoor at Dynasty Hotel)

On the train to Dimapur. It may look like night, but it was actually a day journey. I still had a nap in the top bunk though.

Unlike the rest of Nagaland, Dimapur is not situated in the hills, but rather on the hot plains making it a bit less "Naga" and a bit less interesting - although living standards are higher here than in the rest of the state. Never the less we spent a day there before the wedding, checking out the local market and some roughly 700 years old ruins left by the Kacharis (a people who ruled area before the Ahoms and later the Nagas conquered it), which are pretty much the only proper tourist sight in Dimapur. If it all looks a bit familiar, it might be because I have written about it all before.

The Kachari ruins of Rajbari Park, dominated by a number phallic pillars, probably serving some cermonial purpose.

The single largest pillar stands oddly alone in the park far away from the others. The reason for this is not known today.

The park also has a nice lotus pond.

Very close to Rajbari park is Dimapur's atmospheric daily market, with small stalls under bamboo-thatch canopies

Naga baby playing with his mother's necklace (photo by my brother Ole Agersnap)

Young vegetable vendor. One kilo of cauliflower would sell at perhaps 40 rupees (aprox. USD 0.84 or EUR 0.60), but this varies greatly depending on season - could go as low as 20 rupees or as high as 60.

One of the very popular local products. Nagaland is home to the hottest chillies in the world, far surpassing anything you'd find in Mexico

Another popular product at the market: Dried seafood - in this case a form of shrimp. This is probably a freshwater shrimp from the rivers of Assam or the lakes of neighbouring state Manipur

Yet another product of the market: Bee larvae. These are considered a delicacy here and are still alive when you buy them. Before eaten they are usually boiled with chili and bamboo shoots, plus possibly some local herbs.

7 comments:

oreneta said...

Sounds like we're going to hear about a great trip....what a treat for your family, and for you to show them!

I think the bee larvae would defeat me. I like to think of myself as a fairly daring eater, but.....

deewane said...

That picture of the baby with his (or her) mother is amazing. Hope your family had a good time on their trip.

Esben said...

@oreneta,

It absolutely was a great trip. Pretty unforgettable in every way, I would say. I had never imagined my old (okay, not THAT old) parents would ever make it so far into unchartered territory.

I stayed far away from the bee larvae. I am generally an adventurous person, but not so much when it comes to food, I must admit.


@deewane

I will pass on your kind words to my younger brother who took that particular picture.

Rest assured that my family had an amazing trip to the Northeast :)

colormesunshine said...

lovely lovely pics. The NE is very charming and quaint, isn't it? or am I just being partial :)

I'm guessing, you're married by now..congrats :)

Esben said...

colormesunshine,

You are right the NE does have a lot of charm - and a lot of unfilfilled tourist potential. Somebody just needs to tap into it. But for now I'm quite happy I don't have to share the place with too many other tourists.

Anthony said...

Hi Esben. What a wonderful journal. I had never even heard of Nagaland, now it's definitely on my list of must-see places. I am writing because I am a volunteer editor at Wikipedia and am about to rewrite the article on "Intersubjectivity" (the sharing of emotions and other feelings between people by exchange of facial expression). Most research on this involves mother-baby interaction. Could you please ask your brother if I can use

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_frdQcrbMFKU/SjSD4OEg3iI/AAAAAAAAHlE/2yZFnIn7oLc/s1600-h/Journey+to+Dimapur+-++Naga+Mother+and+Baby.JPG

to illustrate the Wikipedia article?

If he allows that, he would be assigning a Creative Commons license to the image, so anyone else would be able to use it too, always crediting the photographer.

You might consider replacing the picture of a replica cottage at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naga_people#Art_and_craft

with your pic of at

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_frdQcrbMFKU/Sr5LXnIGyxI/AAAAAAAAH_c/6ZwNvhJ9m0I/s1600-h/Village+Life+Around+Kohima+-++Kigwema+Village+-+Lady+Weaving+Outside+Naga+Wood+Carved+Wall.JPG
\
since yours isn't a replica, it illustrates both traditional carving and weaving and is a better photo!

Wikipedia articles get lots of viewers (Nagaland = 500 per day) so you would be sharing your art with many interested folk. If you or Ole would like to contribute, I can help. Leave a message at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Anthonyhcole (click "edit this page").

Thanks again for your excellent journal.

Anthony Cole

tosha said...

I am pleased to see the photo snaps,those r beautiful,I'm feeling like going back.coz I'm missing North East.