Monday, 12 November 2012

Aizawl - Wild Wooded Wonderland

Geographically Mizoram is the remotest state in India. You will be genuinely appreciated by locals for coming all the way from the southernmost part of India travelling 4000+ km. Shillong to Aizawl bus takes 16hrs to cover less than 400 km which speaks of the road condition in the hills. Network Travels buses start from Dhanketi at Shillong and charge 700 for an overnight bone crushing ride. If you stop at Silchar en route Sumos are the only option to go further. The roads are bad between ML-MZ borders through Assam. Once you cross the border you will see endless dense forest thickened by bamboo and teak holding cotton clouds at its branches. Every one kilometre takes two minutes to climb up by the bus because of the steep gradient.

Aizawl is situated at an altitude of 1132m, surrounded by Tuiral and Tlawng rivers. Inner Line Permit for the entire state can be obtained by paying Rs.140 per person at the Mizoram House, Christian Basti, GS Road, Guwahati (Ph:0361 529626/224087), Sonai Road, Silchar (0146 256823), Tripura Castle Road, Shillong (0364 520315/520149). As we had planned for a seven day trekking and caving expedition, our destination was the Youth Hostel at Luangmual, near Chhunga High School (0389 2332243, 9862223095, dm/dbl 100/400). The Secretary Zodinsanga was very helpful to guide us and a taxi dropped us at the Youth Hostel without any hiccups. Our base camp leader Mr.Lalduhkima Sailo (9862712367) introduced details of the program and about Mizoram in general. Later camp leader Mr.Manoj Sahu (9238588126, 9583186177) explained the itinerary of the program in detail. He is an avid trekker with 24 years of experience and very helpful for any traveller in India. We visited The Martyrs Cemetery erected in memory of 1,563 persons died during the bloody insurgency period 1966-1986 whose names inscribed on the marble blocks. The martyrs included MNF rebels and civilians. After breakfast with the help of description and map of the city from the warden Mr.Lalmwai we visited the areas spread around Zodin Square, Bazar, Zarkawt and Chanmari. The swanky new shopping mall Millenium Centre is a pride factor for young Mizos. There are frequent city buses from YH to Vaivakawn, from where the Bazar is a short walk. Long distance buses start from Thuampui though you can get tickets from KT travels (2345280) at Zarkawt. There are numerous Sumo counters for long distance trips at Zarkawt. We visited Salvation Army Temple and the caretaker Issac was kind enough to show us around and took us to the clock tower for an aerial view of the city.

Mizo in local language means a highlander (Mi=man, Zo=high altitude). The ever helpful Mizo people are very friendly and women are highly respected. The women are very liberated and industrious - line up on the streets selling vegetables and handicrafts throughout the town. You will find women running big shops in the Bara Bazar selling automobile parts, electrical appliances and confectionery. Women smoking in public does not seem to be a taboo. You can shake hands with opposite gender without any inhibitions. A young mother feeding her baby in public does not attract stares. Christians make up 84% of Mizo population, everything shutdown on Sunday.

In the evening, a bunch of traditionally dressed boys and girls performed Cheraw- six boys squat on the ground holding bamboo poles while six other girls dance in between the shifting bamboo poles which are rhythmically shifted and struck against one another, drums are used to maintain the rhythm. Multi-talented warden Mr.Lalmwai entertained us with his guitar and songs.

Next  morning we were dropped by two mini buses near 1 MW mini hydel project site from where we trekked 4 km to our first camp at Vaipuanpho. Two is a company but forty four (!) is more than a crowd. Not so agreeable crowd and inclement weather made us rethink about continuing our trek further. Following our intuition we called off the trek and returned to YH. Rest of the day was spent with lovely and entertaining Peter and Rebecca who work at YH reception. The Sunday service at the next door Presbyterian Church was simple and spiritual. Rebecca lent us clothes to dress up to suit the church attire. We thoroughly enjoyed the hymns accompanied by drums, rest of the Sunday was spent chattering gaily with Rebecca and Peter and the second batch participants.

We played the local guides by taking seven of the participants with us to a few local sites. KV paradise-built in memory of Varte by her husband Khawlhring dubbed as Mizoram's Taj Mahal. Take a city bus from Temple Square to Bawngkawn, hire a taxi or bus from Zasanga Point to Durtlang, the narrow mud road leads to KV paradise. The nearby high rises are polytechnic, hospital and women's college. Go down the steps from the parking lot to find the caretaker if the entrance is locked. Enterprising Soni runs LNS restaurant near the ATM-handy for lunch at Bawngkawn. State Museum at Zarkawt (admn fee 10) was our next stop-a vast collection of anthropological/textile/historical exhibits on Mizo people and culture are displayed here. Loitering around Bara Bazar through the evening crowds of Aizawl munching a few local delicacies was fun. Betel leaf with dry coconut is a novelty here. Highly disciplined drivers keep the traffic smooth though slow, following traffic rules strictly. After 5pm you may not get any buses, taxis are the only resort.

For a peaceful stay away from the bustling city, Berawtlang Tourist Home(0389 2352067, dbl 450-650, Zemabawk near Mizoram Science Centre) is an ideal choice. Most of the buses end at Zemabawk via Chandmari-Chatlang-Zasanga Point- past Pushpak Mandir. Walk up the steep hill for 15 minutes where a sign board says Science Centre just before the bus station. The rooms are very spacious though the ceiling is peeled off and toilet is moldy. Cafeteria cooks up decent meals and it is the only option. Walk up the grassy hill in front of the tourist complex to watch the contrasting views of the sprawling city skyline on the west side and lush green mountains on other sides. Mizoram Science Centre (admn fee 10, 10am-4pm) is right after the tourist complex frequented by the students. Basic principles of science are explained well by simple practical and interactive devices. The 3D theatre (Rs.10, 11.30 am, 1 pm and 2.30pm) offers an exciting 3D experience with two ten minute shows.

Though we didn't get a chance to experience rural Mizoram life, it wouldn't be wrong to say Aizawl city is not so urbanized. The simplicity and innocence of village life still persists in this capital city.


  1. Pity you could not complete the trek!
    Place names are real tongue-twisters!
    I heard that Aizwal is a singing & a swinging city - they told me when I was there, that it was the Shimla of East India, and is very lively by night, is that so?

  2. It's a lively city and almost everyone is a singer-mostly rock music. We can't comment about night life, since we did not spend much time inside the city after dark. We did not find any modern bar/pubs.