Nagaland has always been a mystery to the outside world, with a very little being known about this as-often-termed ‘godforsaken’ place. Considered as the ‘wild east’ Nagaland is home to some 16-odd headhunting tribes, who, until very recently, valiantly fought off any intruders. They would chop-off their enemy’s head and ostentatiously hang it on the entrance of their house as a showpiece, with a simple belief that more heads one claimed the better is his reputation. And to tell you the truth, this was prevalent in many places in Nagaland until the late 20th century, before the British missionaries came and finally turned the entire state into a big Christian community.
Though of course, Nagaland, as we know it today, is only a remaining shadow of its once fierce self, and much of the south of the state has already been fairly developed, in the north, however, one can still find tribespeople in exotic attire who continue to live a traditional lifestyle (minus the headhunting ritual of course).
And in search of ‘that’ exotic, I visited the border town of Longwa, in the district of Mon.
A King With 60 Wives
It is said that the king of Longwa (locally known as ‘Angh) eats in Myanmar and sleeps in India because a part of his house is located in India, and apart, in Myanmar. He has 60 wives in total and he rules over more than 70 villages extended to Myanmar and Arunachal Pradesh — a lavish life indeed!
And that’s not it, the king, in addition to all the residents of Longwa, hold dual citizenship for India and Myanmar, though it’s a different thing that most of them mustn’t have stepped outside of the tiny boundaries of Mon in their life.
Five Reasons For Visiting Longwa. And My Biggest Fascination
There are many reasons for Longwa to be falling under the tourist radar. For one, Longwa is home to an influential king, and his house (I repeat, a part of which is located in India and a part in Myanmar) remains a dominating attraction. Accessible without any prior permission and without for any cost, the king’s house in Longwa takes you back in time and through some of the rare artefacts of a losing Naga (and the local Konyak tribe’s) culture.
Two, Longwa is one of the biggest villages in Mon and a rather ‘tourist friendly’ one, with enough information on it and enough tourist homes for anyone to spend a night or two. Compared to the main town of Mon, it’s also much cheaper to stay in Longwa. So all in all, if you’re visiting Mon and want to experience Nagaland’s culture, there can’t be a better & a safer place.
Three, the town is known for being India’s opium den, where tourists can enjoy the company of opium sucking locals (though not advised, as it’s illegal to do so) and be merry. One can also see the complete process of cooking the opium and locals sucking it through bamboo pipes with tribal engravings on it.
And last but not the least, it’s one of the rare places in Nagaland where spotting the last of the tattooed hunters is an underlying possibility. Tourists can moreover photograph them, though of course at a fixed price of 100 Rupees per photograph, and if one wants them to show off their tattooed bare-chest, they always have the option of paying a little more.
But among all the reasons, why I wanted to visit Longwa, at first place, was because of its distinction as being the last border town. At Longwa, India concludes its territory to Myanmar. Tourists are, however, free to trespass, walk into Myanmar for a day, and return. There’s also a viewpoint right outside the town, with a milestone installed over it. The milestone mentions the name of the two countries, and with that, divides them with an invisible borderline.
My Visit To Longwa: Long Story Short
Public transportation in Nagaland is a nightmare and to make sure you get a seat on a bus, you’re required to book it several days in advance. Moreover, if you happen to travel on a Sunday, consider it your biggest misfortune. Because when Britishers left Nagaland, they taught the local Nagamese to not do anything on a Sunday and only visit the church and relax, and it seems everyone in Nagaland took it just too seriously. Nagaland+Sunday = A Dead World!
Since I didn’t book a bus ticket in advance and decided to travel from Kohima to Mon (and then to Longwa) as my heart fancied, it took me a long long way and a couple of days to reach Longwa. After getting lucky with hitching from Kohima to Dimapur, I took a train to Bhojo in Assam, followed by a sleepless night at the train station in Bhojo. The next morning, as it happened to be a Sunday, I travelled from Bhojo to Nagaland’s northern entry-point of Namza. From Namza another lucky hitchhiking effort (though after 4 hours of waiting) took me to Mon. Where a bus would have taken 800 Rupees and a little over 12 hours to reach Mon, from Kohima, I spent one-third of the price but bled an unnecessary 48 hours — a kind of experience that doesn’t make you feel very proud. After a night in Mon, I made my way to Longwa in a shared 150 Rupee taxi the next morning.
Tip: If travelling from Kohima, book your ticket at least 24 hours in advance. Don’t try to break the journey, and make it long and tiring. The bus leaves on 1 pm every day (except for Sundays) and reaches Mon early next morning. From Mon, you can get a shared taxi.
Longwa: An Ideal Place To Understand The Rural Nagaland
Despite being a popular tourist trail, Longwa offers an unparallel experience for tourists to understand the village culture in Nagaland. Come here for spotting the last of the tattooed headhunters or getting closer to the border on Myanmar, travelling with locals in a shared taxi or driving your own car, come here for anything, because if you happen to spend a day or two in Longwa, you will get a good idea about the everyday life in this part of the world, where most families have no money to survive and where younger generation still thrive on no employment, yet everyone, as a society, live beautifully, eat well and be merry.
Where To Stay In Longwa
As far as I know, there are two tourist homes in Longwa. One belonging to the community offering a more tourist-like experience, and the other, to a local (but influential) family. The homestay of Jeilei (who happen to be a distant relative of the king of Longwa) is a perfect place for tourists and backpackers alike and enjoy the village culture.
Jeilei’s homestay is moreover an incredible place for experiencing the Konyak lifestyle, in its more truer and more conscious form. Their massive kitchen has a central fireplace where food is slow cooked and is the ideal place to continuously sip black tea, have lengthy (and often confusing) conversations and get to know one another. An extensive collection of rural and traditional artefacts such as the real beak of a hornbill, wooden carvings, and a muzzleloader gun makes is also available for a purchase.
The food is moreover as organic as it can get and their service is excellent.
With their homestay being a good source of income, they take great care of the guest. The rooms and sheets can be expected to be clean, with thick duvets to keep you warm. The rooms moreover have incredible views of the neighbourhood.
The homestay charges around Rs 500 per bed per person. Food is Rs 150 and 200 per person per meal for vegetarian and non-vegetarian respectively. All in all, the experience is great, and Jeilei’s is a perfect village home with basic amenities, but kind and welcoming hearts.
Have you been to Longwa? Would you like to add anything to the article? Spill in comments!