Visit Longwa, in Mon, Nagaland, and experience the life of headhunting Naga tribes.
Considered as the ‘wild east’ Nagaland is home to many headhunting tribes, who, until very recently and valiantly, fought off intruders. They would chop-off their enemy’s head and ostentatiously hang it on the entrance. And this was prevalent in many places across Nagaland until the late 20th century.
Village Longwa, in the district of Mon, was no different.
Though of course, Nagaland, as we know it today, is only a remaining shadow of its once fierce self, we can still find tribal Naga people in exotic attire looking just as dangerous (minus the headhunting ritual of course).
And in search of ‘that’ exotic, I visited the border village Longwa, on Mon.
A lot of people still fear while visiting many parts of northeast India, especially Nagaland. If you too are repeatedly questioning your safety yet want to visit Nagaland, read my other blog on Is Nagaland Safe To Travel?
A King With 60 Wives
It is said that the king of Longwa (locally known as ‘Angh) eats in Myanmar and sleeps in India. And that is because a part of his house is located in India, and apart, in Myanmar.
He has 60 wives 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.
What To See And Do In Longwa, Mon
As interesting as the rest of Nagaland, there are many things to see and experiences to behold in the village of Longwa.
For one, Longwa is home to an influential king, and his house remains a dominating attraction.
Accessible without any prior permission and without any cost, the king’s house in will take you back in time and through some of the rare artefacts of losing Naga (and of the local Konyak tribe’s) culture. Many tourists visit Mon to only visit the King’s house.
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 (there is a town called Mon and the entire district is also called with the same name) 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 & safer place.
Three, Longwa is known as 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 headhunters is a possibility.
Tourists can moreover photograph them, though, of course, against a cost. And if you want them to show their tattooed bare-chest, that is possible too.
But among all the reasons, why I wanted to visit Longwa, in the first place, was because of its distinction as the last border town.
Here, India concludes its territory and open gates 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 of Longwa, with a milestone installed over it. The milestone mentions the name of the two countries, and with that, divides them with an invisible borderline.
How To Travel To Mon
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. And if you happen to travel on a Sunday, as was the case with me, consider it your biggest misfortune.
When Britishers left Nagaland, they taught the local Nagamese to not do anything on a Sunday and only visit the church and relax. And seems everyone in Nagaland took it just too seriously. Nagaland+Sunday = A Deserted World!
About My Visit From Kohima to Longwa
Since I didn’t book a bus ticket in advance, it took me a long way and two days to travel all the way from Kohima to Longwa.
After getting lucky with hitching from Kohima to Dimapur, I took a train from Dimapur 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 at 1 pm every day (except for Sundays) and reaches Mon early next morning. From Mon, you can get a shared taxi.
If you are visiting Kohima, you may also be interested in reading about my Dimapur to Kohima Nagaland Road Trip and about visiting Khonoma from Kohima. If you happen to be there in December, read my Hornbill Festival guide.
Mon District: Best Place In Nagaland
Despite being a popular tourist trail, the district of Mon is one of the best places to visit in Nagaland.
It offers an unparalleled experience for tourists to understand the village culture in Nagaland. And Longwa just happens to be a popular and comfortable place to do so.
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.
Here most families have no money to survive and where the younger generation still thrive on no employment, yet everyone, as a society, lives beautifully, eats well and be merry.
It is also worth visiting Mon district during the Aoling Festival.
Where To Stay In Longwa
As far as I know, there are two tourist homes in Longwa.
One of them belongs to the community offering a more tourist-like experience, and the other, to a local (but influential) family.
The homestay of Jeilei (who happens to be a distant relative of the king of Longwa) is a perfect place for tourists and backpackers alike and enjoys the village culture.
Jeilei’s homestay is an incredible place for experiencing the Konyak lifestyle, in its 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 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 village Longwa.
The homestay charges around Rs 600 per bed per person. Food is Rs 180 and 200 per person per meal for vegetarians 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 or someplace else around Mon? Would you agree that it was one of the best places to visit in Nagaland?