Northeast India: Redefining cool, one experience at a time

There are endless reasons why Northeast India is the coolest region of the country. We name a few.

It’s hardly a secret that Northeast India is a treasure chest of natural gems. Thick forests, a rugged system of rivers, and rolling ridges frame the area. The scintillating Sikkim and her seven sisters (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura) are home to hundreds of tribes and subtribes that are slowly ceding to modernity, while still being extremely diverse. So diverse and unique that the region seems to have developed a rare upbeat personality. Probably that’s the reason why the global crowd is now taking notice of the region’s cutting edge fashion, westernised culture, surprising cuisines, the overall vibe, and the coolest experiences that it has to offer.

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For the love of fashion

More than anything else, the Northeast Indians are stylish. You won’t find them hanging back on faux pas or playing safe when it comes to fashion. All the more reason why their unique, chic, out-of-the-box sense of style stands out each time. And with each of its state boasting a plethora of craft traditions, the region is a sartorial treasure chest!

The world is talking about designers like Nixon Bui, Tara Bhuyan, Sanjukta Dutta, Lusano Zakiesato and Daniel Syiem who are busy giving a contemporary twist to traditional wear from back home. Artisanal fashion and lifestyle labels are coming up with everything from upcycled textiles, urban streetwear, to modern jewellery. Keep a look at The Silk Concept dealing with Assam silk,  Aizawl-based Tribe Fiction, Otsü Clothing Co for ethical Naga clothing, and delicate casual jewels by D’Ana. Instagrammers/vloggers like Aien Jamir, Kuvelu Tetseo, and Pryanca Talukdar are also acing the chic quotient, while setting a trend in the world of fashion.

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Gastronomy galore

Northeast India is quite popular for its distinctive culinary legacy, layered with tribal influences. True. But the region is receiving equal popularity for its constantly evolving gastronomical landscape, that envelops quirky cafes and fine-dining restaurants, comforting innovations by home chefs and bloggers, and street foods. YouTube and Instagram, for instance, are full of food enthusiasts and bloggers taking their audiences on delightful culinary trips through their feeds brimming with Northeastern delicacies (check out The Oo-Morok Trail for indigenous Manipur cuisine, Eat Your Kappa for food from Garo tribe, and Nagaland Foodies for fusion recipes from all over the region).

For an authentic culinary experience paired with good vibe and great music, visit Terra Mayaa in Guwahati (serving dishes like Stuffed Artichoke with Greens Vedura, Tandoori New Zealand Lamb Chops, and Tandoor Roast Pork), Fire & Ice in Itanagar with tasteful woodwork, smart upholstery, and Chinese fare), and Aizawl’s Octangle for Asian and Continental spread. There’s no dearth of chic European-style cafes either — Tio Cafe in Kohima, Royal Enfield-inspired ML 05 Cafe and Dylan’s Cafe (named after Bob Dylan) in music-obsessed Shillong, and Chopstyx serving Tibetan, Korean, Chinese, and American dishes in Aizawl are to name a few.

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Dylan’s Cafe is a popular hangout in Shillong. Image: Courtesy Dylan’s Cafe.

But in your zeal to explore upscale eateries, do not forget to give street staples a chance. For laksa (spicy noodle soup) from Assam, Tripura’s chikvi (fragrant stir fry of bamboo shoots and sliced pork), Mizo’s sanpiau (spice rice porridge), Nagaland’s smoked pork stir fry with ingredients like fermented soy bean (akhuni), fermented yam leaves (anishi) or bamboo shoot, and Raja Mirchi or Bhut Jolokia (hottest chilli in the world) can simply not be missed.

Celebrating music, culture, and more

Undoubtedly, music is an inherent part of the Northeastern lands. Be it underrated musicians inspired by western music or bands slowly taking over the industry by storm, the region brims with impeccable mellifluous talent found in every other household. More precisely, Shillong aka ‘the rock music capital of India’ is where some of the country’s finest homegrown bands like Soulmate have originated. Tetseo Sisters who are on a mission to revive the folklore of the Chakhesang Tribe, are from Nagaland. The metal rock band, Lucid Recess is from Guwahati. Legendary musician Lou Majaw hails from Meghalaya.

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Musical band The NION performing at the Ziro Festival of Music. Image: Shutterstock/AP Club.

If you wish to experience the best of both worlds (think soulful covers, tribal renditions, as well as western songs), make sure to attend the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh, a highly sought-after musical fixtures in the country. Bacardi NH Weekender in Guwahati brings to table performances by global music stalwarts as well as local talents. The Hornbill Festival brings all the 16 major tribes of Nagaland down from the hills for a 10-day celebration of food, music, dance, cultural, and crafts. 

A paradise for party hounds

It might come off as a surprise to many, but the colourful nightlife is the newly found side that is attracting crowds far to the eastern corners of India. Pulsating pubs, discotheques, lounges, musical concerts, and vibrant restaurants have found their way into the thriving nightlife of the region’s young population.

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The rooftop lounge of Cloud 9 in Shillong is a great option to party with friends. Image: Courtesy Cloud 9.

Shillong, again, is the place to be if you wish to let your hair down and dance the night away. Sing karaoke, chug freshly-brewed beer, go club hopping, and shake a leg to the beats of a live band — bookmark Cloud 9 in Hotel Center Point, Club Tango and Mikado Lounge in Police Bazaar, and Heritage Club at Tripura Castle. Guwahati, too, is full of places where you can dance the night away. You can count on dim and buzzy Trafik Lounge & Bar, Topaz, and Kamikaze for a great time.

From gully matches to Olympics

Northeast India is well-known for producing champion sportspersons and athletes. Over the last three decades, football has emerged as a major sport in the states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Manipur. The global sport has continued to thrive, with the region producing no less than 100 professional footballers currently in the circuit. Manipur-born Jeakson Singh is the first and only Indian to-date to score a goal in a FIFA tournament. Halicharan Narzary, from Assam, is currently playing for Hyderabad FC and  has made 26 appearances for the Blue Tigers, the Indian national football team, to-date. Hailing from Manipur, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem has become a household name among Indian football fans due to his continuous stellar performances.

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Mirabai Chanu at Tokyo Olympics 2021. Image: Courtesy Twitter.

On the other hand, a plethora of other sports, like boxing, weightlifting, hockey, and athletics, have also caught the imagination of the youth in the region in recent times. Manipur is home to the oldest polo ground in the world, known as the Imphal Polo Ground.

Right from Manipur boxer Mary Kom (a five-time world amateur Olympics champion), and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu who recently lifted spirits by bagging a silver in Tokyo, to Tripura’s Dipa Karmakar who made history as the first Indian female gymnast to compete in the Olympics, Northeastern women athletes have proven their mettle time and again. Anshu Jamsenpa from Arunachal Pradesh is is the first woman to scale Mount Everest twice within five days!

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