I'm a 23 year old backpacker who is always searching for new experiences. I love meeting people and making friends on the road, and am constantly trying to step out of my comfort zone. I bring to you my tiny corner of the internet, where I share Couchsurfing tips, ways to stay healthy on the road, and tips for the budget backpacker and solo female traveler.
I’ve been threatened with a metal pole by a tuk-tuk driver in Cambodia, punctured the petrol tank of the rental car in Kyrgyzstan in the middle of no where, spent a delirious few days sick in a bedroom in India with windows that looked out to brick walls, gotten attacked by a monkey in South Africa, hitchhiked for over 38 hours, and I’ve been groped multiple times. It seems that these experiences are as familiar to me as sketchy accommodation is to a broke backpacker. These are my top 10 worst travel experiences from over 3 years of solo traveling.
I take pride on how much beer I can drink being completely and utterly honest with you guys, which is why I’ve rounded up this list of my top 10 worst travel experiences. These are some of my favorite stories to share when people ask what I’ve been up to, and let’s face it, I’ve never really found myself excitedly talking about that coconut I drank on some island as I chatted to some hot dude… erm, never mind.
It seems that after 3 years of traveling solo I’d get the hang of it, but…. nope. These are my 10 worst travel experiences (a sequel to my 10 biggest fails abroad), plus some embarrassing photos I found on my camera that never made it to social media!
Trying to twirl my skirt while also taking a sh*t?! Almaty, Kazakhstan
Altitude Sickness in Nepal
This has to be one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had. In October 2016, I embarked on the Mount Everest Base Camp & Three Passes trek with two Aussie dudes and an English dude. As I ascended the first pass – the Kongma La, which took us to 5,550 meters – I started to feel woozy and dizzy. After a group in front of me asked me if I was alright, panic started to set in, and I realized I wasn’t just anxious. I had altitude sickness.
Stupidly enough, I kept ascending to the peak of the pass, where I trembled on the top with blue lips and a headache that felt like a tight leather belt around my forehead.
From there we descended, painfully crossed a glacier which took over 2 hours, and reached Lobuche. To our dismay, nearly every single guesthouse was full. I couldn’t walk straight, couldn’t see, and the world spun beneath my feet, all the while I kept telling myself that this was completely normal and I was going to be totally fine.
That night we slept at a lower altitude than we had slept the previous night, so I knew my illness was not an emergency (if it was at a higher altitude, well… I wouldn’t have finished the trek). We got the last room in the last guesthouse in an Eco Lodge, where I then proceeded to throw up, lie down, stare at the wall which spun like a merry go round, and pass out.
I luckily woke up the next morning and felt like I had been reborn.
FASHION POLICE WHERE R U Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Lice in Cambodia
I lived in a hippie beach town in Otres, Cambodia for 7 months. A few months in to my hippie beach bum days of no shoes, no showers, and sleepless nights, my scalp started to feel like it was on fire. I couldn’t stop scratching it, and would find myself having to consciously keep my hand off of my head in public to avoid strange stares. I chocked it up to sweat and my lack of showers.
When it started to get worse, I realized I could have lice. I Googled “nits” and found a photo that closely resembled the sticky white ball I had pulled off of a strand of my hair.
It’s when I pulled another one off, and another one, that I realized my head had become a Newly Built Apartment Complex for Lice, Special Offer Expiring Soon!
Before I knew it, I was searching my friend’s hair for signs of lice when I saw a tiny brown creature scurry across her scalp and disappear into the land of the locks.
I smelled like Listerine, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar for three weeks, a personal attempt to fight off the bugs that decided to call my scalp their home.
Found this gem on my camera… Ziro Valley, India
Bug Stuck in My Ear in Laos
What’s more terrifying than waking up to the feeling of bugs crawling on your skin? The feeling of a bug crawling inside of your ear.
This tiny creature decided to set up camp inside of my ear, set down his Welcome Home door mat, rest his fuzzy feet, sit his scaly bum down on his reclining chair, open up the paper and call it a day.
I woke up in a frenzy at four in the morning with a consistent, and very loud buzzing noise inside of my ear. The bug was flying around, stuck inside. I sprinted to the toilet, called my parents, and poured lavender oil down my ear to try and drown it.
I walked to the hospital the next day drenched in sweat that turned my purple shirt into a hazy gray. After miming “bug” and “ear,” which I still don’t believe they understood (“what in hell is this crazy foreigner saying to us?”), they sprayed a very powerful stream of water into my ear, which released a very large chunk of yellow ear wax… and hopefully the bug too.
Typical tourist photo Meghalaya, India
Harassment in Morocco
As much as I love Morocco, I couldn’t help but find myself despising Marrakech. The men were persistent, aggressive, and angry. One man followed me across the street and shouted profanities in my face because I refused to eat at his restaurant. Another man grabbed his crotch and thrusted it into the air as he howled with laughter to mask his tiny insecurities.
Let’s just not ask why one pant leg is twice the size of my other one. Amritsar, India
Torrential Downpour in Croatia
After downing an entire bottle of wine during a torrential downpour, I decided that a little rain never hurt nobody. Except when that nobody is my entire wardrobe and electronics.
I walked over an hour through the torrential rain to my guesthouse with floods up to my knees. Once I arrived, they handed me a towel and soup. Their facial expressions read pity, concern, and this girl is an idiot, why the hell didn’t she just wait it out?
Stolen iPhone and Hula Hoop in Vietnam
I was caught in another rainstorm, except this one was with an English guy. I thought dancing and prancing in the rain at 3AM was utterly romantic, until I turned to find my bumbag I left on the stoop of my hostel was missing.
Life: 1 Monica: 0
I found my bag halfway down the street with all of my credit cards but no phone.
Because of the pleasurable adrenaline rush that comes with any piercings and tattoos, I decided it would be a great idea to get 8 ear piercings, 1 nose piercing, and a tattoo within the span of a week in India.
Even writing this now is making me cringe.
After I got my final 4 ear piercings, I took an overnight bus from Rishikesh to Dharamshala in the mountains of India. I had my head out of the window the entire ride through dusty lands and polluted air. When I arrived at my destination 14 hours later, I noticed both of my ears were swollen to the size of an Oompa Loompa ear. They were red, leaking puss, and painful to the touch.
Over the course of the next several days, they swelled so much that I had to go on antibiotics, soak my ears in Himalayan sea salt, and use antibiotic cream and peroxide to clear out the infection. It was a stressful, anxiety fueled week until the swelling started to go down and I could actually sleep at night.
Tryin’ to look cute lol no Delhi, India
Breaking the Petrol Tank in Kyrgyzstan
I met two Dutch guys at a hostel in Kyrgyzstan who had rented a state of the art car for $15 a day. It barely made it up a slight incline and had a broken exhaust pipe. I decided to tag along on their road trip around the country, which ended up being one of the most hilarious and fun trips of my life.
They drive on the right side of the road in Kyrgyzstan, and the steering wheel of this particular car was also on the right side.
We were in between cities, trying to make it to the next major city before nightfall. The GPS took us through rocky backroads along landslides and rivers. I was driving the car, when suddenly, we heard a loud pop. When we got out to investigate, we saw a large puddle of gasoline underneath the car which was getting bigger by the second. I had driven over a rock that punctured the petrol tank and left a gaping hole.
We had to wait for a selfless passerby to help us. After one van tried to tow us with a seatbelt, which failed, a man drove by and gave us his tow belt.
Thank you, Universe!
We spent the next 24 hours in the only guesthouse in a tiny village nearby as we waited for the owner of the car to bring down a new petrol tank.
Casually flashing my tour guide nbd Dubai, UAE
The Metal Pole Threat in Cambodia
My friend’s and I tried to pay our tuk-tuk driver the agreed upon price, which he increased at the last second. He reached under his tuk-tuk, grabbed a metal pole, and proceeded to shake it around as a threat and wave it at us as if he were conducting an orchestra. Luckily I wasn’t alone, and we eventually mitigated the situation and paid him the extra few bucks.
Still have no idea why the guy told me to do this “pose” Agra, India
My 17 Hour Adventure from Hell in India
I was in a state called Tripura in India, and wanted to go to the next state over, Mizoram. I couldn’t find any information online on how to get from one capital city to the next, and none of the locals had any clue about how to travel this seemingly popular route. So, I decided to be the first one to figure it out and did it myself.
It took me 17 hours, 3 sumos, 3 taxis, and 1 train. I’m no stranger to long commutes in India, so the time it took wasn’t at all surprising.
What shook me to my core was the lightening storm that struck only a hundred meters away from me while I was traveling in a jeep with cloth flaps for windows. On the next jeep, the driver used the keys of other vehicles and a paperclip to start the ignition of ours. The headlights didn’t work, so once it got dark out, the woman sitting in the front seat used the flashlight of her Nikon flip phone to guide us through winding cliffside mountain roads in pitch black darkness. We almost got hit by a bus.
We’re in this together! I would love to hear about some of your worst travel experiences. Please leave your stories in the comments below!
Boomtown Fair is a festival that immerses you into its creatively glitzed up world of good guy and bad guy, where you can wander around the streets of Old Town and explore the sparkling lights of Metropolis. It’s where hidden rooms and secret parties take place, where neon lights and colorful laser beams light up the sky. It’s where maids walk around in fishnets and slap you with toilet plungers, where drunken townies stumble along Copper County, where secret government officials chase down suspects, and most importantly, it’s where you can express your soul in any way you want to, whether that’s by wearing a bright pink wig, walking around on stilts, or dressing in a blowup dragon costume. It’s at Boomtown Fair where actors bring the characters to life, and it’s up to you to follow the storyline and interact and play along with them inside of their universe.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave McCarthy, an actor at Boomtown Fair who plays the role of Willie The Town’s Drunk in Copper County.
Willie The Town’s Drunk; pc: Derek Bremner
The actors at Boomtown are one of the major reasons why this festival is so special. They truly work their hardest to draw you deeper into Boomtown’s storyline and make this festival incredibly entrancing.
A standard day for an actor at Boomtown is a busy one. McCarthy tells us that “a typical day is a 2 mile walk from camp to venue. I love to walk before getting into character as it helps me go through all the little things I want to put into that performance.” The actors start their day with only Boomtown in mind. McCarthy continues to tell us, “for the last 4 years, me and some of the actors do a thing called breakfast club which is a great way of getting to work through things before you go out on the street. Then it’s in to make up at 12, dressed and ready for one pm, which is followed by an hour playing around with ideas for character development.” And then it’s time to play!
pc: Derek Bremner
“Treat Boomtown with respect and Boomtown will respect you. And have fun!”
This is McCarthy’s fourth year at Boomtown, so he really knows the ins and outs of the festival, as well as how to quickly get into character. He started at Boomtown because “a friend had told me about the festival a good year before I started performing there. To be honest, if you do improvised immersive theatre you need to be at Boomtown. Some of the greatest performances and performers I’ve ever seen have been there.” You know you’ll be in for a treat at Boomtown, as the actors pour their heart and soul into their character and performances around the festival.
Every single day at Boomtown is different, and as a festival attendee, one of the best things to do is to interact and play along with the actors. Whether that’s by letting an actor wrap your head in tinfoil, passing along secret messages, or by posting a letter to a friend at the festival, there are so many fun ways to truly get involved. McCarthy tells us about one of his favorite memories from Boomtown, a good example of how a festival attendee played along. “I think one of the funniest moments was when my character in the first year was obsessed with gold and so the next year one of the public came back with about 30 gold bar biscuits for me. I still find myself laughing about that one.” Who knows, you might end up befriending an actor and coming back year after year to give them gifts. Maybe they’ll even spill some secrets about the storyline for you…
pc: Derek Bremner
McCarthy tells us that his character requires a lot of energy, which is one of the hardest parts about the festival. “It’s different I’m sure for everyone. But for me it’s stamina. My character is very manic and skips and runs everywhere.” You might have the chance to catch Willie prancing and stumbling around Copper County.
It’s amazing to see how the actors are so committed to their characters, which is one of the reasons why it’s so easy for festival attendees to immerse themselves in the storyline. But it’s not only at the festival itself where the actors get into character. McCarthy tells us that “throughout the year I just think “what would Willie do?” when I’m faced with a certain situation. I’ve played the same character for four years now so I’ve had a lot of time to work on the progression of the character and I think this year he is going to take a darker turn – in a slightly comical way of course.”
McCarthy’ tells us that even now he’s starting to get new ideas for his character, and that, “I always get there at least the day before and try and workshop some bits with the directors and other actors.” This is the real deal guys. Make sure you grab a ticket and play along!
pc: Derek Bremner
“Meeting the new and seeing all your old Boomtown family again…. every year there are new things, new ideas and new people. It’s my favourite 4 days of the year.”
Some of the actors go all out for Boomtown, meaning they don’t even break character for the entire day. Their involvement is contagious, and you may find yourself prancing along and sharing whispers with the actors, and if you’re lucky enough, they’ll give you a secret clue to a hidden part of the festival. McCarthy tells us that “I walk in Dave and then walk out as Willie and I also don’t break character for the whole day, even when we have midway breaks.” McCarthy is just one of many actors at the festival. And once he’s in character, there’s no looking back. He says, “as soon as they black my teeth out I start to see Willie staring back at me. Then the walk, he has a very distinctive run that I borrowed off Freddie Kruger.” This is only a small taste of what Boomtown has in store for you for Chapter 11.
Boomtown’s Green Mission
For 2019, Boomtown is making every possible effort to help make the festival greener, reduce waste, and to leave less of a footprint on the environment. Some of the best ways you can help with Boomtown’s Green Mission is to invest in a reusable, durable tent, share resources, and clean up as you go.
Put on your stomping boots, cover yourself in pixie dust, grab your furry pink jacket and join us on a wild escapade that will transport you into another realm where anything is possible. Taking a ride on a genie’s carpet and exploring the lost world of Neverland is a tame adventure in comparison to what Boomtown Fair has in store for you. This festival in Hampshire in the United Kingdom boasts an array of musical genres, from funk, hip-hop, techno, and electronic. But it’s not just the music that makes this festival special, it’s the festival’s immersive storyline that makes it one of the most unique festivals in the world. They work this creative and intricate storyline into Boomtown’s stages, districts, and actors.
One of the best parts about Boomtown is your ability to follow the storyline in between your favorite artist’s sets, through reading newspapers, exploring hidden rooms, and partaking in an Immersive Maze, to name a few. This guide to following Boomtown Fair’s storyline is here to help you with tips on exactly how to get the most out of the storyline this year.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Martin Coat, the Director of Theatre at Boomtown, who gives us the inside scoop to following Boomtown’s storyline.
The Growth of Boomtown
Coat gives us a general recap of the Boomtown storyline, and a bit of a sneak peek into what we have in store for Chapter 11. “This year we enter a whole new era of our ever evolving narrative. At the close of Chapter 10 last year we brought an end to the “Nicholas Boom Chronicles”. This was a story arch that started 10 years ago,” he said.
It’s important to review Boomtown’s storyline and history before coming to the festival. Coat continues to say, “it started from the humble beginnings of a traveling circus moving all the way through to growing a city with elections, oppressive regimes, revolution, the rise of corporate control and importantly the introduction of our Artificial Machine Intelligence character AMI.” Through the years, this progression has allowed Boomtown to grow in size and flourish beyond our imagination. Now is the perfect time to come to Boomtown Fair and get lost in its limitless depths.
“Be inventive! Remember this is your storyline as much as it is ours and there is breathing space for new life and threads to be developed during our time together. It’s all there for you …. you just need to take the first steps and go in!”
Coat explains that over the years, Boomtown’s storyline has gotten more complex. He tells us that “originally, the storyline was a tool being used to try and help explain all the crazy and wonderfully random structures and areas that made up the festival. In fact, it’s the narrative that leads the creative direction of the festival and everything that is built is designed to help push the story further.” Boomtown is an incredibly immersive festival, which is why it’s one of the most creative festivals in the world.
pc: Derek Bremner
A Story That Comes to Life
The actors at Boomtown are remarkably talented, and will lure you into the storyline and help you discover some of the secrets of Boomtown. Coat says, “the storyline is told and presented throughout every opportunity and medium available during the festival.” When you’re not distracted by the flashing lights and intricate stages, keep an eye out for the characters who may be hiding around every corner. Coat continues, “every character in the streets and venues are prepped and ready to draw you in. The sets and stages are designed to incorporate the world laid out by the narrative and the balcony animation and the visuals on the LED screens all portray imagery that pushes the storyline forward.”
One of the best ways to get information about the story is to play along and interact with the actors. Coat tells us that “the show stopping spectacles in the Districts, and events such as the Sunday Carnival Parade, plus every poster, newspaper or piece of literature that is dispersed across the festival all play a key role in progressing the story and give the public another golden nugget of information.” So make sure you keep an eye out for the daily newspaper, literature, and hidden messages throughout the grounds of the festival.
Coat says that the public is actively invited to engage with the storyline and immerse themselves into it. “We have an interactive game that’s called the “The Immersive Maze”. It allows you to become your own character in the city and take part in a role play for a full four days unlocking many secrets and plot twists that take you deeper into the narrative,” Coat says. “The story is so intricate and now encompasses the breadth of the city and I can honestly say that even our most tuned in interactive players are only scratching the surface of it all.” Make sure you don’t miss out on this special part of Boomtown.
It’s up to you to come and play and try your best to unlock
all of the hidden secrets Boomtown has to offer.
pc: Benjamin Paul
“The more characters you engage with and the more doors you knock on, the more the world will open up for you.”
The Best Districts for Theatrics
Coat explains that some districts are better set up for the theatrics than others. He says that “all the characters that reside in the city have their own place in the world we create and any one of them could lead you on an adventure you might not expect.” Coat gives us a good recap of where to keep an eye out for the actors. He says, “when you’re in Hilltop investigate Copper County, Town Centre, Oldtown and Paradise Heights. When you’re Downtown check out Metropolis, The Main Drag and DSTRKT 5; you never know what you might find!” Make sure you really explore these parts of Boomtown. Who knows what could happen…
The Hidden Rooms
Don’t sleep the day away! Boomtown truly set up the festival for exploring and discovering unrevealed and unknown places; places where you may be the only one to unravel its secrets. To find some of the rooms, Coat says “they are out there though and a whole lot of new secret gems have been created this year, so even our long-standing veteran players will have a lot to unlock and discover.”
If this hasn’t convinced you to come to Boomtown yet, then I don’t know what will! Buy your tickets today!
pc: Derek Bremner
“There is so much waiting for the most adventurous to uncover at Boomtown and I’ve never known anybody that has managed to hunt out it all!”
Coat tells us that there is not one specific place to begin following the storyline, but there are things to keep an eye out for that can help you. He says, “an update on the story will be available a month before the city gates open, so make sure you stay tuned to all our social media platforms because there will be clues and game development happening all over the place.”
Download the App
Boomtown is one step ahead of its festival attendees, which is why they’ve created an awesome app to help you out. So, make sure you download the Boomtown app before attending the festival. Coat tells us more about it. “We also have a theatrical app that will be in use over the show. It’s available about a week before the show starts,” Coat says. “Download it onto your phone, and watch out for our online posts. Other than that my top tip though is that if you are really stuck then make enquiries at the Daily Rag Newspaper … They tend to always be working on the inside scoop!”
And last but not least, the closing ceremony on Sunday will give you clues about Chapter 12. Coat says, “all of this culminates on Sunday in the final closing ceremony, which is shown simultaneously over our two main dance stages. This is where our famous “cliffhanger” for the next Chapter is set up.”
The distant realm claims to control Boomtown in an attempt to take over from afar. Then, the Kaptain arrives and tries to organize the disordered Boomtown, since the peaceful town and debauched fair were considered unruly in their eyes. The Pirate Captain, Gypsy King, and Nickolas Boom tie up The Kaptain.
As the Fair expands, it reels in more attention from The Kaptain’s men. And, Boom wants to leave and retrieve a very large jewel, so he can buy the lands for Boomtown to live peacefully and freely. Boom never returned from the mountains. The Kaptain makes a shallow promise that Boomtown will live up to Nickolas Boom’s name.
With the rapid expansion of the town came taxes and lies. A comet from the sky gave every villager euphoric visions and feelings in a child like mania. The Kaptain declares himself mayor, and the citizens find an unusual alien-like machine in Downtown.
The town is now a metropolis, the citizens are being
carefully watched and monitored by this spider like machine. The Mayor declares
Boomtown a democracy with votes in the coming new age. Barrio Loco, Chinatown,
Old Town, DSTRKT 5 were booming.
The Mayor becomes the ex-Mayor, he thinks of a way to gain control of the society he had just freed with elections. Then, the Mayor travels back in time to befriend Badass Bane and become sheriff, which eventually regains his control. He negotiates using alien power to control the new leader Comrade Jose, who ends up in the dungeon.
The divide between rich and poor grow bigger. Comrade Jose, chosen by the people as a faithful leader, is brainwashed and destroyed and slowly detaches from the rest of the world. She uses her propaganda machine to regain control. The Sheriff wants to find the masked man to have control. The rebels seek to destroy the power for the freedom of the future people.
The Masked Man and his followers destroy Sector 6 and the central administration loses its grip on the citizens of Boomtown, who tear down the rich. The citizens have regained control. The leaderless society causes the infrastructure to break down. Bang Hai Tower comes back in and rebuilds Boomtown.
The people are divided, it’s become a world that Nickolas Boom would have despised. The new technology divides the people as Bang Hai slowly grows in power. They create Advanced Machine Intelligence (A.M.I.) to track every thought and desire of its citizens. An old face was spotted in the crowds.
Bang Hai Corporation was destroyed. In the previous year, Nickolas Boom returned to expose the wrongs that have been done. The people were free again to choose their destiny, and Boom returns into the depths of time. But now, in Chapter 11, AMI is everywhere. Sector 6 had a meltdown which is now Area 404, where environmental consequences reek havoc on the place, no one is allowed to enter. This year is a year of survival, and to become the change that we seek.
“Chapter 11 is the start of a new story. AMI is now present and in control of all the city’s digital systems and her prophetic words from last year’s closing ceremony hangs over the city… “Boomtown has no future unless it radically addresses Environment, Consequences and Sustainability”
Looking to travel to Northeast India? Check out this ultimate Northeast India itinerary to help you plan your adventure!
Northeast India is one of the most undiscovered places in India. If you’re looking for adventure, gorgeous mountainous landscapes, lakes, forests, waterfalls, and a taste of unique tribal cultures, then you definitely have to travel here. I hung out in an opium den in Nagaland, drank tea in a homestay that floated on a phumdi on Loktak Lake, cycled through villages on the biggest river island in the world, and traveled on local sumos. This guide is composed of my exact itinerary from 5 weeks in Northeast India. It includes Sikkim and the seven sister states.
Sikkim has a fascinating history, and they only recently became a part of India in 1975. Their two main languages today are English and Nepali, and there is a cultural mix of Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese influence throughout the state. It’s home to the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, which is visible from Gangtok.
Travelers need an Inner Line/Restricted AreaPermit for Sikkim. This can be obtained either in Darjeeling (a two step-process: first you have to visit the Foreigner’s Registration Office next to the ICICI Bank, then the District Magistrate & Collector’s Office where they will stamp your passport) or at the border at Rangpo (make sure you have photo copies of your passport and passport photos).
The beautiful Khechoperi Lake
Gangtok (2-3 days)
Daily sumos depart from Siliguri/ Darjeeling to Gangtok. You can also charter an entire taxi.
Some things to do in Gangtok are Directorate of Handcrafts and Heirlooms, visit the Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel, eat Sikkimese thali at Nimtho Sikkim, and hang out on MG Mall Street.
Ravangla (1-2 days)
A few hour sumo right is a quiet little town famous for ‘Tathagatha Tsal’ or the Buddha Park, a 40 meter tall statue of Buddha. You can also visit a new monastery, the Rabong Monastery, as well as the largest monastery in Sikkim, the Ralang Monastery. Nearby is the Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Sikkim. You can also visit the Chenrezig Skywalk.
Oakhrey (1-2 days)
This gorgeous tiny village in Western Sikkim is located near the Oakhrey Rhododendron Sanctuary. You can visit the gorgeous Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. In March and April, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, you’ll have breathtaking views of vibrant red flowers amongst the green hills.
Jeep to Pelling ~5-6 hours
Pelling & Khechoperi Lake (2-3 days)
Nearby to Pelling is Khechoperi Lake. This lake is considered to be a holy lake that is shaped like a footprint when viewed from above. It’s surrounded by forests, and is said to have curative properties. You can also take a 4 hour roundtrip hike to a cave, offering spectacular views of the lake from above.
Yuksom (2-3 days)
Yuksom is a beautiful village in Western Sikkim that sees very few tourists. If you want a very authentic feel for Sikkim, then definitely put Yuksom on your list.
Take a sumo back to Siliguri and then fly from Bagdogra to Guwahati, Assam. Take a shared sumo from the airport to Shillong.
Meghalaya (6-7 days)
Meghalaya was one of my favorite states, and it might be yours too during this Northeast India itinerary. It’s the wettest place in India, meaning it has the most amount of rainfall. Because of this, it’s also one of the greenest and most lush places in India, with its forests and waterfalls and lakes. It’s quite easy to get around and is a great place if you’re a nature lover.
From Guwahati, take a shared taxi to Shillong for 500 rps, or a shared sumo for 170rps
Shillong (1-2 days)
Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and a good city to visit for a couple of days. Some things to do are visit Elephant Falls,Umiam Lake, and ShillongView Point.
Cherrapunjee (1-2 days)
Cherrapunjee is a good starting point for your trek to the living root bridges. Make sure you visit Nohsngithiang Falls/ Seven Sisters Waterfalls, the fourth highest waterfalls in the world are located in Cherrapunjee, as well as Mawsmai Cave.
Take the 9:30AM bus that leaves from the street in front of By The Way Hostel (opposite side of the road) to Tyrna Village, it costs 30 rupees. You can also grab a taxi for around 250-400 rupees depending on your haggling skills.
From Tyrna, it’s a 4.63 KM walk to the double rooted bridge/ Nongriat Village where you can spend a night or two.
Nongriat Village/Double Decker Living Root Bridge (1-2 days)
Once you reach Nongriat (it’ll take 1-2 hours) you’ll be close to everything.
You definitely have to visit the Living Root Bridges and the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. These spectacular bridges were made from the Khasi people, and can supposedly hold up to 500 people and last up to 500 years. Also visit Rainbow Falls.
A beautiful sunset in Dawki
Dawki/ Mawlynnong (2-3 days)
A crystal clear river runs right through Dawki to Bangladesh, and from Dawki you’ll be able to see Bangladesh. Mawlynnong is deemed the cleanest village in Asia and India.
In order to get to Mawlynnong from Dawki, you have to take a sumo to Pongtung and then find a shared taxi or hitchhike to Mawlynnong. You could also trek there, it’s 18KM so would take around 4.5 hours.
Sumo to Shillong, then a sumo to Guwahati. Fly from Guwahati to Agartala, Tripura
Make sure to always purchase travel insurance before traveling in case of any medical emergencies, lost or stolen items, or sudden trip delays or cancellations. I use World Nomads and can’t recommend them enough. Get a quote today!
The Land of the Mizos/ Highlanders, Mizoram is home to orchids, rhododendrons, Phawngpui Peak and the bustling capital city of Aizawl. It’s mostly covered by forests, and has the highest concentration of tribal people in the entire country
This is a bustling, vibrant, hilly city and the capital of Mizoram. Visit the Mizoram State Museum, Soloman’s Temple, Durtland Road, and the Bara Bizaar (for some shopping). You’ll only need a day or two in Aizawl.
For some traditional Mizo food, eat at Red Pepper. Try the local rice beer as well. For some delicious chocolate, dessert, and coffee, head to the Chocolate Room.
The mountainous city of Aizawl
Also known as Blue Mountain, this is the highest place in the state and a great place to come for trekking and beautiful viewpoints. Check out this page for more information on Phawngpui Peak.
Fly Aizawl to Imphal (Flights depart on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, & Sunday)
Manipur (4-5 days)
Manipur is also known as the Jewel of India. It’s home to the only floating national park in the world, Keibul Lamjao, as well as the Sangai deer and many species of bird. This is the place to come if you want to experience a homestay and relax for a few days on Loktak Lake.
Take a 200 rupee rickshaw to the Woman’s Market and grab a sumo going to Moirang for 60 rupees. From Moirang, walk for about 10 minutes down the road, cross the bridge and make an immediate left turn. Catch a shared rickshaw to Thanga. You could even sit on the roof!
An incredible sunset at Loktak Lake
Loktak Lake is a nice place to come and unwind for a few days. Once you’re at Loktak Lake, rent a bicycle, ride in a boat with a local guide, visit Keibul Lamjao National Park, and indulge in the local Manipurian cuisine.
Head back to Imphal after Loktak to continue your journey in Northeast India.
Imphal to Kohima/ Dimapur: 6 AM sumo from bus stand, 700-800 rupees
Nagaland (6-7 days)
Nagaland is a beautiful state that borders Myanmar with a very interesting history. From the Headhunters, to Christian missionaries, to previous occupation by Assam, Nagaland has a lot to offer.
Dzükou Valley Trek
From Dimapur, take a local sumo (3-4 hours) to Kohima to do the Dzükou Valley Trek. You can start the trek in Viswema and spend a night or two in the Dzuko Guesthouse, then trek back down to Zakhama. Starting the trek from Viswema is easier than starting it from Zakhama (less of an incline) I also recommend bringing your own food, blankets, and mattress pad, since the guesthouse only offers basic food and very basic accommodation.
The beautiful Northeast
From Kohima, you can make your way to Mon District to see the Headhunters.
1 PM bus with Deep Travels from Kohima to Mon, arrives at 5AM
From Mon, catch the 7 AM sumo to Longwa (2-3 hours).
Only several dozen years ago, neighboring rival tribes and villages of Nagaland would choose their strongest fighter to fight one another if an argument ensued. The winner collected the head of the loser, placed it into a basket and kept it as a trophy. The skulls they collected were said to have magic powers, and the Headhunters proudly displayed them.
It was only when the government intervened and they eventually converted to Baptist- based Christianity that this practice stopped.
Once you’re in Longwa, I recommend staying at Traveller’s Inn (+91 98560 15152). The guys that work there are super friendly and helpful. You can go on a tour of the area with one of them (1500-2000rps).
Hanging out with the Headhunters!
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
Every year from the 1-10 of December, the Hornbill Festival takes place in Kisama, Nagaland. All of the tribes of Nagaland participate in an effort to protect the culture of Nagaland. I would highly recommend coming to Nagaland during this time if you’re interested in learning more about their culture.
Every year during the first week of April, the Konyak Tribe in Mon celebrates the arrival of spring. If you want to see the Headhunters of the Konyak tribe in their traditional dress plus a ton of celebrations, then definitely visit Mon during this time.
Assam is a beautiful state that’s home to the only floating river island in the world and the one-horned Rhino. It’s rich with culture and is the most accessible of the Northeastern States.
Waiting for the very rickety canoe to take me and my bike across the river
Kaziranga National Park
Situation along the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River, the Kaziranga National Park is home to one-horned rhinos and elephants. The 430 square kilometer park is a protected area that is full of grasslands and river dolphins. Check out
India never disappoints. I’ve spent nearly one year solo traveling her lands, and have had some of the craziest experiences in my travels to date. These are my top 10 favorite experiences in India so far. I hope that some of these stories inspire you to come travel to this magical land.
Chillin’ in the Himalayas
Experiencing an Indian Wedding in Bundi
Dressed in the glitz and glam of twinkling shoes and a bright orange sari, I draped my arms across elderly women as phones and cameras were held at arms length, freezing the moment in time of my first Indian wedding. I stayed in Bundi for 10 days, and during that time attended a three-day wedding. Horses embellished with ornaments, dance offs with elderly women, crumpled rupee notes shoved in my mouth, and my aching facial muscles from smiling too much were a few of the highlights from those three days.
Hitchhiking the Himalayas for Over 30 Hours in a Truck
I spent the better half of two days hitchhiking with a very frail truck driver who held a hash joint between his lips the entire time. We crossed mountain passes over 5,000 meters high, drove through thick fog and sunshine, and ate daal at tiny mountain villages that weren’t even on a map. This is probably the craziest story I have from traveling in India.
Living in the Desert in Jaisalmer
My mornings were spent washing dishes with dirt from the
earth, my afternoons swirling a paint brush around the walls of a cow dung hut
creating manadala designs, and my evenings making roti under the stars and the
moon. I sat with baba and traversed through the sandy dunes of the Thar Desert
to neighboring farms with wandering camels and goats as company.
Some of the beautiful places in Mama India
Hanging out in an Opium Den in Nagaland
Nagaland is home to the Konyak Tribe and Headhunters. I hung out at night while men around me cooked a spoon with blackened tar over an open fire and inhaled their medicine. Later that evening, I drank whiskey and chatted with the locals as we walked back and forth between Myanmar and India for the hell of it. Read more about my experience meeting the Headhunters of Nagaland. This is definitely one of my favorite experiences in India.
Cycling through the Villages of Assam
High-pitched hellos and squeaky giggles, hands waving with glee and crooked smiles with tooth gaps and little feet scurrying across the dirt to see the foreigner cycling past them were some of the highlights from Assam. My rusty bike took me through villages in Majuli, the only floating river island in the world, and I loved being able to see how the locals live.
Just an adorable cow at Animal Aid in Udaipur
Trekking to the Living Root Bridge of Meghalaya
Deep in the forests of Meghalaya, the contorted, slithering roots are as alive as the slimy tentacles on an animal in the black depths of the sea. Foot paths take you across living root bridges and to secluded turquoise waterfalls gushing off of brown, towering cliffs. The living root bridges of Meghalaya are handmade from the Khasi people, out of the roots of rubber fig trees. They can supposedly hold up to 500 people and last for 500 years. The roots are brought across a river or stream, and then over time gain strength as the roots grow together.
Taking a Road Trip in Nubra Valley, Jammu & Kashmir
Crossing the highest road in the world, meditating along a high altitude lake, and driving through other-worldly valleys with deep canyons and snow capped mountains are only a few of the incredible things I experienced while on a road trip in the most northern part of India.
Frozen at Pangong Lake
Spending my Days on Galgibaga Beach in Goa
I spent several weeks living in Palolem in Goa, spending my days swimming in the blue waters of the ocean, dancing my soul out at a silent disco, and stuffing my face with healthy vegan food at one of the many cafes. But my all time favorite memory was riding my motorbike barefoot to the sandy shores of Galgibaga Beach, a secluded slice of paradise I had all to myself.
White Water Kayaking in Rishikesh
Speeding down the icy rapids of the River Ganges in a kayak is an entirely unique thrill that’s hard to match. I learned a new set of skills I never thought I would learn before, and had an incredible few days experiencing an entirely new activity.
Freezing cold in the icy waters in Rishikesh
Staying in a Homestay in Loktak Lake, Manipur
Falling asleep to the sounds of the frogs and the crickets, and waking up at the break of dawn to the sun peaking above the horizon, eating meals of nutritious vegetables and fish curry and rice with a hilarious local couple, few spoken words but many smiles. I loved my time at a homestay in Manipur, and if you haven’t already, check out why you need to visit Loktak Lake.
This is a story about my experience visiting the Headhunters in Nagaland
“Do you want to go see the guys smoke opium?” my homestay host asked me as casually as if he were asking my dinner order. Would you like a side of vegetables with that?
“Uhm… sure,” I said. I immediately pictured a Fear & Loathing-esque vibe, with long, skinny cigarettes and dilated pupils; people screaming about imaginary bats in the air as they sat around a fire holding a spoon covered in sludge.
He picked up his keys and locked the door. We walked a few minutes to the chief’s house, of which is located in two countries: India and Myanmar. The night was still, dark, cloaked in a heavy silence as if I was on trial to see if I could stay calm.
The room we entered was musky, a blend of a bitter and syrupy aromas blended with spices and cigarette smoke.
One of the last Headhunters of the Konyak Tribe!
“Sit,” my host said. He pulled over a bamboo wicker stool decorated with a knitted green and yellow pillow.
A man sat directly across the fire from me. His skin sagged at his wrists, as if they had melted from years over the fire.
He turned the spoon in a counterclockwise motion, nursing his blissful Burmese medicine. Once the concoction was complete, he took the murky material and moved it into his wooden bong, carved with the face of a Headhunter.
He inhaled the opium, the suction noise sounded like boiling water. A few moments later, he took another package from his box to repeat the process.
Longwa is known for their opium, and it’s as common as coffee. Over the course of a few days, I visited multiple “opium dens” and found the exact same thing: men around a fire, a metal spoon, and a wooden bong.
Longwa is home to the Headhunters. Only several dozen years ago, neighboring rival tribes and villages of Nagaland would choose their strongest fighter to fight one another if an argument ensued. The winner collected the head of the loser, placed it into a basket and kept it as a trophy. The skulls they collected were said to have magic powers, and the Headhunters proudly displayed them.
Four skulls means he has killed 4 people!
It was only when the government intervened and they eventually converted to Baptist- based Christianity that this practice stopped.
The Headhunters have these face tattoos as well as large ear piercings. You don’t necessarily have to defeat a human to become a headhunter, you can also become one by going through the rituals of the headhunters and then sacrificing an animal instead.
Today, the human skulls are buried in secret places to preserve their history and stories. Only about 30 headhunters are left, and it’s only another decade or so until they are all gone, and they, too, are history.
“The Burmese, they are like our brothers,” my homestay owner said the next day as we drove over jagged stones and dusty roads. “The insurgency group in Myanmar refused to sign a cease-fire agreement, so that is why there are a lot of military officers here. But they would never hurt the villagers.”
We were on our way to the one-year anniversary of the passing of one of the villagers. Everyone gets together to feast on a sacrificed animal, elderly women carry rice in bamboo wicker baskets as a gift, and people carve their remembrances into a stone.
We spent that afternoon visiting his brothers and friends around the village, shaking hands and hiding from the thunder and lightning that threw sparks into the skies in one of the villager’s homes. The sizzling fire, the slurp of hot black tea, the patter of rain; all of it a combined into a melodious hum that drowned out the sounds of dogs whining and crying in their constant territorial battle.
“Do you want to eat dog?” My homestay host turned to me as we warmed our hands over the fire. “Frog? We eat dog as a treat, when we get together and drink. It’s an interesting taste. I like it.”
“I’m okay, thank you though,” I said, as I tried not to think about my own dog at home roasting over a fire. I did enjoy learning about the cultural differences first hand, even though I could never bring myself to try dog.
Spending several days in the village of Longwa, with the Headhunters of Nagaland, the Konyak tribe, was one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve ever had.
The oldest living Headhunter at 95 years old
Where to Stay in Longwa
I recommend staying at Traveller’s Inn (+91 98560 15152). The guys that work there are super friendly and helpful. You can go on a tour of the area with one of them (1500-2000rps). Rooms are around 1500 rupees/night and include breakfast. Lunch and dinner costs 250-350 rupees.
How to Get to Longwa
From Kohima, you can make your way to Mon District and then to Longwa to see the Headhunters.
Take the 1 PM bus with Deep Travels from Kohima to Mon, it arrives at 5AM. From Mon, catch the 7 AM sumo to Longwa (2-3 hours).
Have you ever visited the Headhunters in Nagaland? I would love to hear about your experience!
If you’re looking on the easiest way to travel from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh, look no further! Below is a quick guide on how to get from Majuli to Ziro.
Step 1: Take the 930/1130AM Dhunagari Ferry
This is a quick ferry ride that costs about 20rps.
Step 2: Take the sumo to Bongalmora
Once you get off the ferry, ask any sumo driver for the sumo to North Lakhimpur (even though there isn’t a direct sumo). You’ll hop on an incredibly cramped sumo to Bongalmora first. The ride costs around 20-30 rps.
Step 3: Rickshaw to Laluk
Once you arrive in Bongalmora, jump into a shared rickshaw
to Laluk. The ride will be 20-30 rps.
Step 4: Bus from Laluk to North Lakhimpur
Once you’re in Laluk, ask the rickshaw driver/ any driver standing around to bring you to the bus to North Lakhimpur. This ride costs around 50rps (I can’t remember exactly- a very nice local paid for my ride!).