Sometimes it takes more than an idea to keep guests coming in through the doors of an accommodation and leaving behind minimum negative impact on the environment. Unbinding from the mere concept of visiting ecological sites and engaging in conversations about conservation efforts, a more programmed affair that culminates into a mass habit is what is needed. India’s northeastern states have always been hotbeds of government-sponsored sustainable tourism efforts. While most of the government schemes present a sordid picture due to the lack of success data, a lot of individual and non-governmental players have been quite successful. Here is a list of fourteen accommodations in North East India that has been quite successful. Of course there are many more examples that will be followed up in later episodes.
THE MAPLE PINE FARMS, Mawmyrsiang, Meghalaya
Set in a picturesque valley, about 15 kilometers from Shillong town, and about 145 kilometers from Guwahati International Airport, Maple Pine Farms is a conservation unit in progress. While most of the accommodation in nearby Cherrapunjee and Shillong have succumbed to perils of mass tourism and rapid commercialization, this farm, along the road to Mawsynram, is standing strong in terms of private efforts to preserve the environment and not giving into popular commercial demands. With four cabins, Maple Pine Farms is serenity amidst all the chaos. With its strong affinity to renewable energy systems this place operates as a family-owned bed and breakfast unit. The food is simple and the owner follows a strict schedule on ordering and serving food. The farm is bordered on two sides by a small river and is surrounded by paddy fields. The property was imitated in 2011 and is a delightful place if you are looking for some peaceful time amidst a natural set up. Recent conservation efforts include recycling wastewater from showers etc and using it for irrigating lawns and gardens, post a filtration process.
OKEGIGA HOMES, Majuli River Island, Assam
Across the majestic Brahmaputra River in Assam and just 40 km from Jorhat Airport, Okegiga Homes is considered a space to live, work, and share. The brainchild of Mr. Dipmoina Dowarah and Ms. Madhumita Devi, this accommodation consists of traditional Mishing tribal bamboo cottages, Swiss cottages on a bamboo platform, and camping tents. If you have a skill, you can share and if you want to learn a skill, you can try your hands at anything the stay has to offer. Okegiga Homes has its farm and garden and guests can try donning their farming skills here. The food is traditional Assamese and Mishing cuisine. People who have a penchant for cooking can try their culinary skills in the firewood kitchen with locally available ingredients. The menus also serve local beer priced in gallons and I am assuming it’s not the American gallon weigh metrics but a jar. If you would like to discover the river island, cycling is a great option. It is worth mentioning that Okegiga Homes has been instrumental in providing relief to flood-affected natives of Majuli River Island. Majuli River Island is prone to the havoc of the annual floods in the plains of Assam and a lot of people are rendered homeless every year.
Blessed are those who live with Nature. And I am blessed for this cause, leaving behind the corporate tenure indeed made me come closer to the Nature; this has given a new dimension to my life- the ‘dimension of Passion’. Now, most of my days are spent either on the bank of a river near a lovely woods or in the mountain range, where I enjoy the world of my dream. – Dipamoina Dowarah , Co Founder Okegiga Homes
MUNLOM RESORTS, Dzongu Sikkim
Travel, to a traveler, needs to be reciprocated by the destination. And Munlom Resort in North Sikkim echoes this temperament well. Situated in Gyathang, approximately 70 kilometers from Pakyong Airport in Sikkim, this stay is a progressive one at 5100 feet altitude. Most of the materials used in the construction of this accommodation have been sourced locally focusing on local employment and traditional “Lepcha” building style. With just one single cottage and a double cottage, it is always advisable to contact the property first and make a booking then directly walking in. Dzongu, where Munlom Resort is located, is home to the Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim. Dzongu was designated a special reserve for the Lepcha community since the 1960s. This is the last bastion of the community in Sikkim and possibly one of the few places where one could meet the local Shamans referred to locally as the “boonthing”, who still practice ancient animistic rituals. The meals are cooked on-site using locally sourced products. If you are planning to stay here for a few days, you should try out the riverside camping tour and the fishing excursions. They also organize day tours to the hot springs of Lingdem with picnic lunches.
ABOR COUNTRY RIVER CAMP, Pasighat Arunachal Pradesh
Cradled between the Mechuka Peaks and the plains of Pasighat, Abor Country River camp is nestled on the banks of River Siang, about 160 kilometers from Dibrugarh Airport. With a cluster of rooms and tented accommodation, this river camp is an angler’s base camp. Locally manufactured wooden beds, wooden dustbins, lamps made of fishing nets, solar heaters, natural water source, driftwood logs, and traditional building techniques – the visual list is endless when it comes to ecological conservation. The location of the river camp is itself a painting harmonized by nature. Amidst a tropical forest, on the banks of Siang River, thus stay sways away from artificial resources. The kitchen relies on fresh ingredients that grow in the local garden. The food is nonchalantly traditional, fresh, and always a delight. It is a place best suited for the adventure junkies as well as the lazy bones who love to see the world go by. Some of the finest avian life that calls the Eastern Himalayas their home hovers above the camp. As day long trek along the camp is photographer’s muse in the making.
When a community welcomes you with warm smiles, you sample local cuisine, see an ancient historic site – you may not be the only one to do so – but you can ensure it is preserved and protected for future travelers and customs and people respected.
GEORGIE’S RETREAT ECO CAMP, Guwahati, Assam
Georgie’s Retreat in Hatimura village, on the outskirts of Guwahati city and approximately 45 kilometers from Guwahati Airport is a family-owned property. Blessed by nature and kept in a natural setting by its owners, it gives you the vibe of being in the wilderness amidst all the urban chaos. The food cooked in the traditional style is a pure bliss. If sitting beside an open-air bonfire in the evening, listening to low decibel acoustic music, or just sharing stories quietly with close friends is your style, then this place is where you should spend your night or nights. Large groups of people and loud music is not allowed at the property. The father-son duo, George and Pattrick, who manages the accommodation, have very well kept alive a natural space amidst all the ever-growing urban jungle surrounding it. George’s approach, in theory, and practice, to sustainable livelihood modes, causing minimum disturbance to an l natural set up, has been very well received and implemented by young Pattrick. It is an example which we should all try to mirror in our own available space, if we indeed are serious about retaining our planet for our future generation.
KANOKA VILLAGE RETREAT, Tezpur, Assam
It would take you around four and a half hours from Guwahati Airport to reach Kanoka Tea Estate where this rural getaway is located. It is in Panchoi village near Tezpur in Central Assam. What lures people into this property is its quest for organic farming, particularly tea. My take on this accommodation is fishing, the rural style, and the evening walk across the vast paddy fields. Of course, for the more active ones, a bicycle ride across the sparsely populated villages nearby could be more indulging. The accommodation includes two traditional Assamese cottages and five classic tents. Kanoka Village Resort is more of a farm stays experience with a common garden area, a kitchen, and a play zone. I loved interacting with the local artisans, especially the ones involved with bamboo crafts and hand-woven clothes. The food is made to order and mostly local Assamese dishes. The pristine environment is bliss for the ones roughed up by urban weather. At least we breathe in oxygen here.
THE GIVING TREE, Imphal Manipur
The “Sacred Fig Tree” or the “peepul tree” as known natively across many parts of India, is what inspired the formation of The Giving Tree in Sangaiprou, Imphal in the state of Manipur. Hardly six kilometers from Imphal Airport, is the Giving Tree more of an experience. It has evolved into an organization that nurtures and promotes ecological conservation, contemporary art, and artists. It is a space for people with a warm heart. This humble homestay in Imphal houses a private library with a sizeable amount of books. This is a different kind of accommodation where a guest blends in with the culture of the stay. There is a lot of creative vibes ringing in your mind as you interact with the space and its people. Under the active guidance of Bobby Laishram, who himself is deeply connected with the cultural roots of Manipur, team members of this stay engage in a lot of community conservation work. Guests of this accommodation; do also have the option of participating in such endeavors.
MISHIMI HILL CAMP, Roing, Arunachal Pradesh
Approximately 145 kilometers from Dibrugarh Airport, in lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh, lies Roing. And in Roing is where Mishmi Hill Camp is located on the Ridge of Deopani River. Three cottages overlook the mountains of the Mishmi Hills and Mayudia peaks. The cottages are built in traditional Mishmi houses that stand on stilts. Made out of bamboo, thatch, and wood, the rooms of these cottages are furnished with bamboo mats. There is a large dining area, with a fireplace at the center and the property boasts of a grass lawn studded with local flowers and trees. Minimizing carbon footprint has been the approach of this hill camp. The possibilities of a cultural knowledge exchange are immense at this camp. You can try your hand at traditional weaving from the local women or sample locally brewed rice beer or even try roasting meats and other vegetables in the true Idu tribal style. The night sky is amazing here and offers a lot of photo opportunities. If nothing hits you, you can sit by the fire and listen to stories of Idu shamans communicating with powerful spirits.
KONYAK TEA RETREAT, Mon Nagaland
Approximately 145 kilometers from Dibrugarh Airport, Shiyong village, up in the hills of Mon district in Nagaland is home to the Konyak Tea Retreat. There are just two double rooms in this farmhouse, but the amalgamation of tea leaves; the origin of coffee and erstwhile headhunters is poetically lethal and mesmerizing. Konyak Tea Retreat is located at an isolated part of the privately-owned tea plantation. Food ingredients are locally sourced and the adjacent gardens grow all sorts of edible vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Sharing experiences across cultures is what the property thrives on achieving. The weather is dry from October to April and wet from May till September. And since the retreat is located in a remote area, guests are advised to carry their basic requirements. The retreat, managed and owned by Phejin Konyak, is a personal voyage of a Konyak woman, who traces the roots of her ancestors. She documents the tattoo practice of the Konyaks in her book “The Last of the tattooed headhunters” and she explores the Konyak’s concept of beautification of the body through tattoos. It seems like most ardent tattoo fans across the world, the erstwhile headhunters viewed the human body as a canvas.
TOUPHEMA TOURIST VILLAGE, Kohima, Nagaland
Touphema village is 100 kilometers away from Dimapur Airport and is the last bastion on the Angami tribe in the state of Nagaland. Touphema Tourist Village is a community effort. Apart from the accommodation, other services like a bus service to the capital of Nagaland: Kohima is a community enterprise. The accommodation with a series of huts, built by each clan from the tribe, houses a common kitchen with facades displaying Naga symbols like a “Mithun”, swords, spears and wooden cups. The villagers added a museum to promote the Angami tribal way of life. Exhibits were collected from each household to fill up the museum. An open-air amphitheater was added to be used for football matches and celebrating the annual Sekrenyi Festival in February. The cuisine is local in the stay and food is prepared by local youths, the mixture of corn and honey in your breakfast table is a specialty. The village allows one to relax within the natural confinements of a traditional naga village.
DOVIPIE INN, Khonoma, Nagaland
A mixture of an erstwhile battlefield and lush valley of paddy fields, Khonoma is 78 Km from Dimapur Airport, southwest of Kohima town in Nagaland. And in Khonoma is where Dovipie Inn is located. With soothing traditional decor, this inn has six rooms and perhaps the café, known as Zievo Coffee Café is one of the best located in Nagaland. There are two double rooms and a four bedded dormitory. Interesting one of the rooms is called Naga Babbler. The food is traditional Naga cuisine, although the tomato egg omelet and French fries are one of the best I had here in Nagaland. If you prefer mainland India food, that can be done with a prior notice. The staff is a humble lot and the woodwork at the inn is very remarkable. The village of Khonoma has an unwritten history of the Nagas and the natives of this village gave one of the bloodiest resistances to the British forces from 1859 to 1879. The change from a battle zone to Asia’s first green village is a story in itself. This quaint little naga village of more than 700 years in existence is surrounded by farmlands that produce 60 varieties of rice in a year.
CHANDUBI JUNGLE CAMP, Chandubi, Assam
Approximately 38 kilometers from Guwahati Airport, Chandubi Jungle Camp is located in Joramukhoria village, amidst the natural Chandubi Lake. Winter evenings are the perfect time to curl up by the fire here, relax, and have a good time with friends or family. If you have decided to spend a weekend here, you have the option of engaging in a jungle trek or you choose to take a lazy boat ride in the lake. The ambiance has been kept typically rustic and the food served is traditional Assamese and Rabha cuisine. Significantly, in winters, this place turns out to be a haven for migratory birds. And with strong local conservation practices, it is a bird watchers paradise.
LALI MOU CAMP , Nameri National Park, Assam
Nameri National Park, sharing its boundary with Pakke Wildlife sanctuary is about 203 km from Guwahati Airport. And right on the fringes of Nameri National Park is Lalimou Camp. The camp originated from an idea between a few friends who shared a common interest in syncing nature with tourism without disturbing nature. It is a partnership enterprise with nature. Lali Mou has three types of accommodation – cottage stay, luxury tents, and alpine tents. Blending well into the national park and the communities residing around it, Lalimou camp has a self-sufficient kitchen that serves local as well as Indian cuisines. The bonfires, especially in winters, are a garnish in the pudding. One can undertake a lot of adventure and jungle activities in this property. River rafting, adventure trekking, a visit to the Tipi orchid sanctuary, day trips to Bamuni Hills overlooking the Brahmaputra River, or the Maha Bhairav Temple and the Agnigarh Hills in Tezpur town are a host of activities you can engage. A minimum stay of three nights is advised in this accommodation.
RAZHU PRU HOTEL , Kohima, Nagaland
A 70-year-old family bungalow, refurbished to cater to the modern accommodation needs of today, Razhu Pru Hotel is located in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, some 75 km away from Dimapur Airport. Razhu Pru was converted to a nine double bedded heritage hotel in the year 2007. Amidst all the focus on Nagaland’s tryst with insurgency, it is significant that this very bungalow was also used as a meeting place for the first Naga insurgent group. It is ironic, as owing to its transition to a heritage hotel, Rahzhu Pru has been hosting guests from different cultures and countries, something naga insurgents took a strong dislike for. The wooden floors as well as the attic are unchanged and a mango tree, older than the bungalow, still exists. Razhu Pru has a common dining area, a common sitting area by the fireplace and the cuisine is both traditional naga and global. It is centrally located and overlooks the town of Kohima. In Kohima, it’s your home with the services of a heritage hotel.