Off The Beaten Track
My previous business card said Piya Bose, lawyer. Now it reads Piya Bose, traveller. Having quit my law stint (I'm still a trained lawyer) and started a women-only travel club, I take my job title of compulsive traveller very seriously.
In December 08-Jan 09, I was exploring North-East India - from Assam to Manipur and Mizoram. During this trip, I passed through a city in Manipur's Imphal East district called Jiribam, far, far away from the path of any Lonely Planet-clutching tourist. I managed to gain access to this area through an uncle in the armed forces, who arranged for me to travel with an army convoy. Jiribam is an area known mostly for its unrest, bloodbaths and illegal arms trade from Burma.
A Major Experience
Travelling in the convoy was an amazing experience. Since I was the only woman, I was a little uneasy until we were joined by a Major and his family. The Major had been posted there and showed us his hideout-a tiny hut, hidden under thick foliage-this is something no civilian would ever get to see!
The area was thickly forested with bamboo trees and other local fauna, but I was informed that although the jungles were thick, most of the animals were hunted by the locals.
We then went deeper into Manipur, entering our next stop - Kai Mai, which lies at an elevation. It is strategic because of the army base which controls the Naga and Kookie tribes' rivalry. Jawans are constantly on the watch for signs of trouble from their lookout points.
When you start to see past the army's presence, you realise that Kai Mai is stunning - abundant in natural beauty and cultural life. First, I visited a really old local museum that displayed tribal artefacts and weapons. On my way back, I received an invitation to a local's hut - a typical Naga style dwelling with the bedroom and kitchen rolled into one. A large cauldron on a fire formed the central point of the house.
Nearby, a quaint church was getting ready for Christmas; locals sung hymns, strung streamers. A coat of cheer painted the city despite the tumultuous state of the region. I hoped they'd have a merry Christmas that year, and headed back to Jiribum for the night where I stayed in an army guest house.
My Favourite Travel Websites:
Free loaderscheck out Hospitalityclub.com, Globalfreeloaders.com and Couchsurfing.com. You'll find a fellow traveller who will host you for free.
For general travel-related information visit Indiamike.com and Tripadvisor.com.
Lazy travellerslog on to tripit.com. Give them your flight and hotel details and they'll organise everything for you!