NORTHEAST INDIA GUIDEBOOK
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
(Lonely Planet) ISBN 978-1741790955
Lonely Planet's Northeast India provides travel information on Orissa, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and the northeastern states of India. The 376-page guidebook reveals a diversity that encompasses swamps, hill stations, seaside cities, the Himalayas, tea gardens, national parks, monasteries, waterfalls, hill tribes and cultural festivals.
Straightforward details identify the pros and cons of travel to northeastern India. For example, the Assam national parks sidebar notes that you can see wild rhinos in Kaziranga, the most popular park, but there are hordes of tourists.
Nameri is the best park in Northeast India for peace and scenery, but you won't see the largest animals there. Although elephant rides bring you closer to big animals than jeeps, they last only an hour and can be crowded with four riders.
Information about West Bengal
Each section contains details about Northeast India tours, accommodations, food, drink, entertainment, shopping and how to get around. For example, the West Bengal section begins with highlights, e.g., Singalila National Park and the ancient terracotta temples of Bishnupur. Fast facts state that West Bengal's population is 80.2 million and the best time to go to West Bengal hills is October to December and March to May.
Sidebars describe tea grades in Darjeeling, which produces 25 per cent of India's tea, and festivals like the mid-August Jhapan Festival, which features snake charmers. It lists restaurants in Darjeeling for Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Bengali food and places to buy Darjeeling tea (Nathmull's Tea Rooms, Goodricke, The House of Tea and Chowk Bazaar).
High quality but small India images are grouped three or four to a page. Photos depict pilgrimages like Makar Sankranti which celebrates the winter rice harvest in Kolkata, Naga dancers, the sunrise from Tiger Hill and other highlights from Northeastern India.
Black-and-white regional and town maps of Northeast India provide useful travel information like locations of restaurants, shops, hotels, train stations and attractions.
What are castes?
The Culture chapter of the Lonely Planet guidebook helps readers understand Northeast India's traditional lifestyle and caste system. A margin note states that there are 573 scheduled tribes in India, 23 in Assam and 65 in Arunachal Pradesh.
A Northeast India sidebar explains religious, eating and photography etiquette, and Indian greetings (handshakes and bowing with the hands brought together at the chest).
Readers learn that one-third of India's population lives on less than one dollar a day even though India has 85,000 millionaires.
The Religion section discusses Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Animism and Christianity. It describes Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and some of the other 330 million gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion.
The Northeast India Arts section describes the Tamil Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi and Satriya Assamese dance forms, linked to mythology and classical literature. Readers learn that Indian classical music originated from Vedic religious poems, chanted by priests, and Indian literature dates back to the days of the great Sanskrit poets.
The India Music section describes filmi (Indian film music), bhangari (Punjab harvest music), shabad (Sikh devotional songs) and Indian musical instruments such as the tanpura (fretless sitar), the sarangi (two-stringed instrument) and the sarod (a lute).
The front of the guidebook provides details on three types of itineraries:
Classic India Routes:
- a one week overland fly/drive from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Darjeeling and Sikkim, with panoramic views of Khangchendzonga from Tiger Hill and visits to gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries)
- a one-month grand tour from Kolkata to the Brahmaputra River, with bus travel to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, Iew Duh tribal market, Kaziranga National Park in Assam for rhino viewing, followed by the train to Siliguri, Kalimpong and Gangtok, the Rumtek and Lingdum monasteries, the gompas of the Monastery Loop and the toy train in Darjeeling
- a three-month tour, North and South, with a tribal tour in Arunachal Pradesh, tiger-spotting boat cruise in Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, rail excursion to Bhubaneswar and its many temples at Puri and Konark, migratory birdwatching at Chilika Lake, then north to West Bengal and jeep excursions from Gangtok to northern villages of Lachen and Lachung
- a six-month excursion, All The Northeast and More, includes Agartala in Tripura, Kaziranga National Park, off the beaten path places like the ecocamp at Potasali, tea plantations around Jorhat, Manas National Park, hill stations of Mirik, Darjeeling and Kalimpong, the Goecha La trek from Yuksom, Bodhgaya for following the footsteps of Buddha, the sacred Hindu city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Sunderbans Tiger Reserve for tiger spotting
- a Northeast Safari in an unspoiled region with tigers, leopards, elephants, deer, one-horned Indian rhinos and rare birds like the great Indian hornbill
- the Tribal Circuit, which requires a few months, permits and attention to security details, includes primitive Hindu rock art at Kailasahar, Mizo villages, Khasi culture in Smit and Cherrapunjee, tribal encounters in Nagaland and Adivasi areas near Jeypore in Orissa
- a Spiritual Sights tour, which highlights Buddhism to Animism and includes Kamakhya Mandir in Guwahati, devoted to female spiritual power, Majuli Island with its tranquil Vaishnavite satras (monasteries), temples in the Ahom king capital of Sivasagar, Buddhist gompas in Tawang Valley, Tibetan Buddhist centers of Gangtok and Rumtek, gompas in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, the sun temple of Konark and the Jagannath Mandir in Puri, for the Rath Yatra chariot festival in June/July
- Northeast India Highlights
- The Authors
- Destination Northeast India
- Getting Started
- The Culture
- Food and Drink
- Kolkata (Calcutta)
- West Bengal
- South of Kolkata
- North of Kolkata
- West Bengal Hills
- East Sikkim
- South Sikkim
- West Sikkim
- North Sikkim
- Northeast States
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Southeastern Orissa
- Western Orissa
- Northeastern Orissa
- Excursions in India
- Excursions around India
- Behind the Scenes
- World Time Zones
- Map Legend
Joe Bindloss, the coordinating author, has visited India more than a dozen times.