Kohima, Nagaland’s Capital: First Impressions

After three flights (Kathmandu – Delhi, Delhi – Kolkata, Kolkata – Dimapur), an expensive stopover in one of the poorest cities I’ve ever been to and a stressful taxi ride (costing 650% of the usual rate as it was a Sunday) I arrived in Kohima, Nagaland’s Capital.

The two and a half hour drive, despite the bumpy, windy, nauseating roads, and the loud, aggressive whiskey guzzling Naga’s who high jacked my taxi and left me to foot the bill, was actually a pleasant one. The landscape is green and forestry and the roads are lined with Pinterest worthy quotes in placement of road signs. “Daughters are flowers that are forever in bloom” , “We love our children – please drive carefully” and “Accidents hurt – stay alert” we’re amongst the ones I could recall.
Having been accosted by the customs official at Dehli airport about exactly where I was staying – apparently ‘Kohima’ isn’t a good enough answer. And I’m not allowed to go there without a permit. I hesitantly scrawled this out and replaced it with ‘Kolkata Guest House’ when he insisted I needed a full address, I’m not sure he was any more convinced than I was that this place even existed.
Not wanting a repeat performance, I used 6 of my valuable 45 free wifi minutes to actually book a guesthouse in Kohima. And to check whether I needed a permit as this was the second person of the day that told me I did – turns out they dropped that rule a year or two back to encourage tourism in the North East.
I regretted using a few more mins to Google image the place I was flying into (Dimapur). Bombings and mob lynchings seemed to be it’s main attractions.

Thoughts of skipping the next two flights, getting out at Dehli and catching the train to Goa where I could but my bikini on, my feet up and join the ‘do nothing club’ for two weeks were dominating my mind.
Of all the places I’ve ever travelled to, it’s the ones that are hard work to get to/around that are the most rewarding and memorable. I kept having to remind myself.

I checked into Central Guesthouse (located next to the State Transport Service, but down a level), the lady was nice, the room was not. The blanket reeked of smelly feet and sweaty dog, I had to use half a bottle of Febreeze to bear sitting in the same room as it. I went for a wander and in search of food, being a Sunday in a devoted Christian/lazy town I didn’t find too much.

About to lose hope and head back to the guesthouse I spotted a bright light above a closed shutter, a side stairwell led to the entrance of Aurora. The place was clean, the staff were friendly and the food was delicious, if not a tad expensive. (Mind, the portions were generous). They also have rooms from 500rps.
Even on a weeknight, businesses (including restaurants) shut down when the sun goes down (4.30/5pm) leaving evenings to reading or staring at the wall and meals to be had in your guesthouse or from one of the few street food vendors who come out past dark. (I had a dish of a boiled egg and some kind of dumpling broken up and covered in a chickpea stew from a street vendor for a mere 30rps – although it was a quarter of the size of any meal that would actually fill you up.

Considering I hadn’t seen a single other Westerner there, and tourism has only been permit free for a year or two, nobody seemed particularly surprised to see me. Of course I’ve had the odd stare and one guy actually asked me if I was a “foreigner” which was, I guess, as curious as he got of my existence, as he was satisfied with a simple ‘yes’ and left me alone after that.
If I’m honest with you I half expected to be walking through a small village, being summoned into family’s homes every time I tried to walk down the street to share a cup of tea and be shown a boastful collection of skulls from their headhunting days. I guess that’s what the villages are for, my hopes remain high.
Nevertheless, people are friendly, they look more Burmese/Tibetan/Nepali than Indian with light skin and Almond eyes, most speak English (as its the medium language) and the city’s main focus seems to be keeping it clean, of both rubbish and sexual diseases. 

I’ve found it to be more expensive than the rest of India, and even more so now the Pound to Rupee conversion rate is so bad. But that’s to be expected when demand and competition is low.

(Note: I paid 500rps/night for a single room with shared ‘bathroom’ – (which was just a squat toilet and a tap with a bucket, no sink, shower or drain for that matter) at Central Guesthouse Kohima – book able on booking.com and stayzilla.com)

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