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May 2020

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In my little travel history, I have learned many new things. Sometimes it is good, sometimes bad. But all my experiences always helped me a lot to pursue another adventure. I am not a hero, rather a diplomatic, fearful human being. And I know it. In any new situation, I tend to overthink and make it more difficult in my mind, even before facing it. But most of the times it had become a good memorable experience for me. Here today I am going to share one such story with you. Many of you may have experienced or heard the same. My experience had happened in Pondicherry.

Pondicherry is one of the coolest city I had visited. And the only problem there was the language problem. Mainly when I had to communicate with the locals. Most of them speak Tamil as it is their ‘s official language, along with Telugu and Malayalam. They also speak Mahe and Yanam . And none of them I know. Despite this big problem, I enjoyed my solo travel in Pondy. And the experience I wanted to share had happened with me on my last day in Pondy when I checked out from my hostel at 11:30 pm.

Also Read The Green Grandmother

The start

I was partying with my hostel friends as we were going to part away in a few hours. When we realised the moment had come, it was 11:30 pm and my bus for Chennai was at 12:15am. My emotional vulnerable roommates decided to drop me at the bus stop. But I was reluctant as they all were drunk and I did not want them to fall in any trouble for me in a new city. But they forced me and in two bikes they dropped me at the bus stop. There I insisted them to go back and not to wait for the bus to come. As they left, at that hour, I realised it was an isolated, empty bus stop. I had planned to take the bus ride from Pondy to Chennai for a new pocket-friendly experience. And the bus ride takes only 3 and half an hour. I had a flight for Mumbai at 9 AM. Everything looked perfect, until that moment of isolation arrived.

So I was sitting and waiting for my bus to come. All the shops were closed, one or two people were looking at me while passing from there. Only street lights were giving company. At that moment I realised a bus stop is a big place if it is empty. It is also the quietest place if there are no honks, engine sounds, no people with heavy luggage, no big buses waiting for the passengers and ready to hit the road, no hurried people. Few buses, trucks sometimes were breaking my chain of thoughts and the silence while crossing the high way. I was enjoying the time until I saw those two people. They were sitting on a bike and chatting and looking at me. Their presence made me concerned. Both of them were almost 6 feet tall, well build and dark.

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The trouble

I startled when suddenly my phone rang. The conductor of my bus called to inform me that the bus was arriving in 10 minutes. I checked the watch, the bus was 10 minutes early. Thank god. He told me to wait near Indira Gandhi statue. I looked behind me, in front of me, right and left of me, there was no sign of our ex-prime minister’s statue. I asked him about the situation of the statue. But he had learned to say a few set things in English. According to his vocabulary, my question was out of his syllabus. He started to explain things in his mother tongue. I could not understand a word. I had no option but to ask those two men about Indira Gandhi statue’s location. They looked at me and said “wrong side”. All I could understand was that I was on the wrong side, and I did not know the right side.

I looked at them confusingly. He tried to explain in their language, that the correct place was 3/4 minutes away from my current location. And I needed to go from the outside as the middle connected gate was closed at that hour. I did not know whether to trust them or not. The outside was dark and empty. And they were constantly checking me out and my bag pack. Above that, I had already spend 3/4 minutes to understand their instructions. So I picked up my bag pack and started walking outside. Suddenly they called me and pointed at their bike. I did not feel comfortable at that hour, so I kept on walking. And I heard the start sound of that bike. That came near me, those men tapped hard on my bag pack and pointed at their back seat again. I thought they asked me to put my bag pack at their back seat and leave. I tried to ignore them and started walking again. That time they grabbed my bag pack.

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The end

Instantly I made my survival plan. If the bag pack could save me the trouble, better I gave it to them without any fight. I had my tickets, a few bucks and passport in my small pouch. Hopefully, they did not notice that yet. I needed to catch the bus, at any cost, or else things could turn worse at that time for a stranger like me. I released my bag pack and placed it on their bike’s back seat and started walking in a hurry. My phone started ringing again.

He stopped me again, I thought now they would take the phone. He said “Inke Irukkai” (Seat Here) and pointed at the back seat. I thought of running, but by the time he snatched the mobile from me and started talking with the conductor, he cut the call, gave me back my phone and showed me the back seat again. When I got back my phone, a relief ran down. I climbed on the back seat for two reasons. I had no option, they did not let me go. Secondly, they returned the phone so I could take a chance with them.

Safe journey

They took me in front of our ex-prime minister’s statue. The Volvo bus was waiting for me. I was ashamed of my thoughts. I hugged him and said, “thank you anna”. He did not expect a hug. He smiled and said “Patukappana Payanam”. I thought he was asking for money for the favour. As I put the hand inside my pocket, he said “Safe journey, and started his bike and left.

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When I planned my first Nagaland visit, at that time many people gave me a lot of advice. Like Nagaland is not a safe state. Nagas are not ordinary people like us. Naga cuisine is very bad, even they eat dog and sometimes human also. Culturally they are wild. Nagaland does not have law and order. The most ridiculous part was these people never been in Nagaland.

So I asked to my those well-wishers one simple question. ‘HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN NAGALAND’. They confidently answered, “No, we hear all sort of stories”.I understood that these are popular believes about the beautiful Indian state NAGALAND. When we think about Nagaland, we tend to think about negative things only. As nobody has told them the positive story of this state. The believes are mostly like ghost stories. Nobody has seen it but heard a lot about it. So today I’m excited to give you a glimpse of what I had experienced in the beautiful state.

Also Read When I met little God in Shantiniketan

My First Visit

I visited Nagaland in 2019, December, for the great Hornbill festival . And trust me, Nagaland is extremely safe, like any other cities of India, with the most friendly people I’ve ever met. They went out of their ways to ensure my safety and a good time. Until you visit the state you will never know what was missing in your life. So make your first move.

In this blog post, I’m going to share with you my top 5 favorite things about NAGALAND

The People

I interacted with as many locals as I could. And not once on any occasion, I was disrespected or even looked funny or disappointed. I was invited dozens of times by the locals into their houses for a cup of naga tea or rice beers and even been offered a bed to sleep in. I accepted the offer and stayed there with one of them for 4 days. They prepared food for me, even they gave me a tour in Kohima city and nearby cities. And believe me, I was feeling so ashamed as they were not letting me pay a single penny for anything. I was trying to pay them for their hospitality, on the other hand, all they care about their hospitality. Such a difference. They truly believe that the guest is The God. I made many good friends at the Hornbill festival, and I can’t wait to go back and visit them all someday soon. All over Nagaland people are very friendly and helpful. They are also very colour full and concern about the tourist.

Sumi Tribe Girl
Chang People

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The Hornbill festival

The ‘Hornbill Festival’ is held every year from December 1 to 10 at the Kisama village. More than 2.39 lakh people witness Nagaland’s annual cultural function. The festival was conceptualized to showcase Naga culture,  traditional and contemporary, in the spirit of unity in diversity. The  10-days cultural extravaganza celebrating the age-old traditions of the 16 tribes of Nagaland through art, dance, music and obesely food. Since its inception in the year 2000, it has brought about radical changes in the tourism scenario of the state. This colour full festival is connected Nagaland to all over the world.

The Ground of Hornbill

The Beauty

Nagaland is an unexplored beauty.  Nagaland is also a place of abundant beauty evident in its mystifying hills and valleys spread everywhere. A land engulfed in mystery, inhabited by vibrant people zealously guarding their culture – dancer, warriors head hunters mountain, valleys, forests, all these from the portrait of Nagaland the moment the word is uttered. The cultural and the scenic merge is the main quintessence of this place. This is the land of Colour, rituals and festival. The untouched beauty of tribal history and customs is the added grandeur of this state. The river Doyang and Diphu pass through the place and create a mesmerising effect with the amalgamation with the hills. Nagaland has come a long way over the year and etched a name for itself in the world’s tourist destination map. So don’t listen to people about  Nagaland, just listen to your soul.

Saramati peak

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The Food

We are always curious about naga cuisine. As per popular belief, we think naga people eat almost every eatable thing which actually they do. But every community and culture have their own survival struggle. History will tell us many incidents like this. When people are out of food, then they used to hunt everything to eat. Nagaland is not the exception. Naga people geographically and economically went through such time, which made a diverse change in their food habits. There are sixteen main tribes in Nagaland, each with similar yet unique traditions and practices. While food from each tribe overlaps, there are also certain dishes that are specifically known from a certain tribe. Rice, pork, chicken, dog, insects and worms, vegetables, and famous chilli sauces are essential in the Naga diet.  For real Naga food, it’s best to eat it at someone’s home. A normal Naga food meal would include rice, some kind of meat either dry or gravy, pork with bamboo shoots, boiled vegetables, and spicy chilli sauces. 

During the Hornbill festival, I had seen people all over the world enjoying authentic naga food like dried Pork, smoked pork stew, Nagaland pork w/dry Bamboo Shoots, Bamboo Steamed Fish and Roasted Intestines and Boiled Vegetables. And The rice beer is the topmost booze in Nagaland. Any house party to all over the hornbill festival the only drink you got this is rice beer. Naga people call Zutho.

Naga Food

The Culture

The Falcon Capital of The World, Nagaland supports a flamboyant tribal culture which leaves anybody visiting the place amazed and dazzled. Nagaland has an ancient history of tribes whose count sums to be as much as 66 including the sub-tribes. Out of these, 16 are considered as major tribes. With a difference in language, all tribes have a similar leafy dress code, eating habits and traditional laws. Nagas are mostly Christians. The state is regarded as the most Baptist state in the world as 75% of it is dominated by them. Soft-heartedness and hospitality of Nagas leave anyone visiting the place astounded. They have a zest for life and are very exuberant when it comes to celebrating festivals or any other day of equal significance.

But naga people like western cultures very much. They like any kind of music but they like most western music. It made me feel sometimes that I was in China or Japan. In my eye, Nagaland is one of the beautiful places in India though it’s little neglected. But this land is pure gold.

Tagline ….

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Green Grandmother

A few years back I was busy doing a project in Lonavala, Maharashtra. And one Friday evening, I met this lady there, “Hirava Aaji’ means “grandmother in green”. Every Friday evening in Lonavala Bajar, a weekend market used to run. Clothes, fancy items, chikki, vegies, fudge, decorative pieces, it used to be a carnival. That evening I had no work, so went for little trolling. The moment I reach in the weekend market I got stuck. Seeing people buying things, family, couples, friends were enjoying the nice and breezy weather, I felt a little lonely.

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And I saw her

Slowly I moved to a nearer tea stall and asked for a cup. Meanwhile, in a corner, I saw greenery. It was so green that one could not move their sight.

An old lady, in green sari and blouse, green bangles in her both wrists, chains in her neck, and a red vermillion round tika on her forehead, was selling all kinds of green leaves; mint, pudina, methi, green chillies. She was sitting in front of a closed shop, with a grumpy expression on her face. She was looking right through me.

I was surprised and started thinking, “How did I offend her?” The tea seller understood my confusion and said, “She is asking for a tea, I am busy here with the customers. I asked her to come and collect but she wants it served there.” I said, “oh it is not a big deal then, give me the tea, I will give it to her”. The tea seller warned me, “no Saheb, rehun de, she is not nice to people. Her husband has left her and never returned for more than 5 years. Since then she turned really rude”. Still, I took the cup and went to her.

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The interaction

She asked rudely, “Tu Kona ahesa?” (Who are you). I showed her the teacup in my hand. She took it and said, “tumko kaun lane ke liye bola” ( Who asked you to get the tea for me). I just smiled, thinking that she would be soft post this. But she did not smile back. I tried to start a conversation, “Aaji why you all green?” She looked at me and asked, “why, majhe?” “Why are you in jeans and a t-shirt?”. I did not know what to say. I fumbled and said, “no what I meant that you are so green, it’s good to see that. Is this for some religious belief? I am just curious.” I smiled.

Her expressions became more aggressive when she uttered these words, “this is the problem of you people. You join religion with every colour”. She was way more progressive than I am. I felt ashamed. She looked at me, and that time she spoke with me quite mildly. I got to know how she is being judged every day in her village by her people, for not looking for the husband who left her behind. None of her children took care of her. In this situation, like any human being, I felt compassionate. And like any human being, we show compassion by making a compensate. I did the same mistake.

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The learning

“500?… Do you want 500 rupees coriander? What will you do with so much dhaniya? Take your money, I can earn. I take this money today, people will observe it and judge this. They will ask silly questions and irritate me. And I don’t want to spoil my habit of earning money” I turned and about to go back, then she called me again, and smiled that time and said, “yeh Dhaniya leke jao, ma ko bolna mast chatni banake khilaye”. Take the coriander, ask your mother to make a nice chutney out of it.

IF YOU CAN TRUST MY VAGUE MEMORIES I HAVE A STORY TO TELL

The way

The fair is known as “Sonajhurir haat” or “Shonibarer haat” on the banks of khoai river. Sonajhuri is a rural area of Shantiniketan, in Birbhum District of West Bengal, India. In this open air market you can buy handicrafts like lamp shades, sarees, clothes, bed sheets, pillow and cushion covers, bags, ornaments, decorative items, clay dolls, cane furnitures and show pieces and many more. These are made by the tribals and university students. Entire world is selling these products at big prices, but here you can get the things at 1/3 of thar prices. Besides this, you can enjoy the fair with a wonderful ambience of “baul” songs and colorful authentic Bengali tribal dance. And also learn their moves while matching your footsteps with them. This is the place where you can find great handcrafts and the soul of Bengal.

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The great poet Rabindranath Thakur started this fair, so that the tribals can get a place to exhibit their talents and earn.

The Baul Singer

COLOUR OF HAPPINESS

I buy two dolls, two birds, and a tortoise. A 6 years old with her 9 years old elder sister were selling these with the purest smile one can ever see. Here I mentioned by buying list because all these cost me two plates of momos only.

When everyone around you is happy and smiling there is no other option than to give in and become one of them. Doesn’t matter what problems or conflict you are in, your energy will melt into them. Sonajhuri makes the traveler enjoy the lost charm of themselves. Specially when one journey across the winding village roads, untouched beauty, not spoilt forests, tribal villages, Kopai River and Khoai area.

Two Sisters
sonajhuri haat
The Fair

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A WEEKLY AFFAIR

This is a weekly fair held on every Saturday around 12 O’clock and last till daylight. Because the entire fair runs under the sunlight only, no power supply. So by the time it’s dusk, the sellers have to wind up their stuffs before it’s dark. Please don’t blame the Government and infrastructure for no power supply in the fair. The administrators want to restore the rural rawness by maintaining eco friendly system. I assure you that this fair will give you a fair flavor of old 70’s or 80’s.

Sonajhuri fair is the perfect landscape where you can let loose your imaginations, meet new people and explore unknown territories.This fair provides the platform for Baul (Bengal folk song) singers, the folk dancers and the handicrafters to display their talents and creativity in a crazy landscape by pushing the boundaries of reality.

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Tribal Dance Artist

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The Sonajhuri Haat:

I do believe in GOD. GOD for me is there like the air; sometimes breezy, sometimes still, sometimes stormy. God is like my heartbeat too which goes fast, faster or the fastest like the graph of my emotions. Or like the tiny hand which suddenly holds my pinkie finger on a sunny day in Sonajhuri Haat, Shantiniketan on a random day of a winter morning. That sudden warm, unexpected touch make me see the Goddess Kali stand beside me. 

The Goddess

My first reaction

The Goddess surprises me not only with her unexpected occurrence but also with her 4 feet height and a purple sweater underneath her gorgeous blue dress. Goddess look at my poker face also. For a moment, doubt overpowers me, how can I see a God, that too, so small, a childlike. After few moments of doubt, something inside me slams me saying, I am killing a lifetime opportunity of meeting the God. I together all my slept devotions, and think of asking a boon. But the surprise does not end for me yet. Before I Can, the Goddess asks, “Can you give me 5 rupees? I will have pickles”. Few moments ago, my mind used all its energy in thinking, clearing doubts, mounting my devotions, smashing my central logic, so it decides to take a break after hearing this question. What else I can expect? God wants money! 5 rupees! for pickles! So, I can’t not answer anything and keep staring.

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And the start:

God is kind, as she thinks of giving me another chance. She must know well that People don’t see God’s everyday like cattle, so they tend to confuse. She shrugs me and asks again but with now little command, “Give 5 rupees”. And my hand itself slips inside my pocket and comes out with 10 rupees note. As I stretch it towards her, I experience the difference. We want more than we need, but the Goddess knows what exactly she wants. As, she takes the note and tells me, “oh, you don’t have a change, wait here, from the pickle seller I will bring you the change”. I look at the pickle seller, who is doing fail attempts at protecting pickles from the flies.

After she buys some pickles, she comes to return my money. And the sight touches me. That’s the power of simplicity and purity. My heart suddenly feels lighter when I see her coming towards me with the change in one hand, and licking the pickles from the other. All thoughts release my mind and hurt from its clutch. And I kneel in front of her and asks: “can you please spend the day with me at the fair? We will roam around, and I will feed you on time”. After a moment’s thought she says: “Okay, but my brother will join me in an hour. Can you feed both of us?”. Goddess Kali’s brother? I never heard or read about him. Should I dare to ask? What if my ignorance upsets the Goddess? But the God is Omniscient. She says, “My brother’s name is Rohit, you will see him”. Excuse me, what! Isn’t “Rohit” a modern name? She starts walking by my side while licking the pickle. GOD is the big prankster, I must say.

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The experience:

In the fair, the bauls (Bengal’s folk singers) are singing loud in colloquial phrases, but the rhythm and the music are so soothing that we could not resist ourselves to go there. They welcome us, one of them wave his hand to the Goddess and say: “Pinky, is everything alright at home?”. And hearing this, my mind speaks again, “PINKY! The Goddess has a nickname too! Why all the Bengalis have to keep a nickname, and that to the Goddess too. No wonder her brother’s name is Rohit”. Pinky smiles and tells them to sing a song.

Now the Goddess tells me her story that she stays very far, in an interior village. And she loves this Sonajhuri fair, so every week Saturday and Sunday she visits here, sometimes as Goddess Kali, sometimes as Lord Krishna, sometimes as Shiva. Not only that, she bunks her Saturday school every week to come here. She is an artist, a polymorphous.

Rohit:

I feel like offering her some food. But the Goddess is little reluctant to have anything else; she refuses ice-cream, chocolate, more pickles, rice and fish curry until Rohit comes and joins us. Rohit has no Godly elements, he is an 11 years old, cool dude, in the winter he has unbuttoned his upper chest. He sits calmly under a tree with a hesitant smile on his face.

Now we eat together, listens to the baul songs. I am feeling enlightened, never felt that pure ever. End of the day Rohit’s hesitant smile changes.

The end:

Our time ends like a magic. Finally, Goddess tells me, “We will leave now”, it feels like a Dashami day, I again kneel in front of her, asks her, “can I give you something, whatever you want”. She nods a no, then she says, “if you come tomorrow, then we will meet again”. But I have to return, but one part of me wanted to ignore all the responsibilities and stay for one extra day, but that was just not possible. The Goddess understands me again without me uttering a single word. She gives a smile and about to leave. Then suddenly she comes back, holds my pinkie finger again and asks: “can you buy me a small size Saree?”

pinky and Rohit

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Hanoi is a perfect blend of history and contemporary. The city is being developed for over 1000 years since 1010, because of the constant destructions by the different invaders from time to time. It inspires the visitors with its combination of oriental lifestyle, French colonial construction, tree-lined roads and peaceful lakes. 

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Found yourself in Old Quarter:

In Hanoi, make sure to head to the Old Quarter. This is the historic heart and commercial centre of the city. It’s noisy with heavy traffic, but it is a collection of about 36 streets, which all specialize in selling goods like jewellery, pillows, shirts, baskets, toys, shoes, sunglasses etc. You can find many bars; restaurants and the biggest demonstration of street food places and the travel agencies, which are selling tours to Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Perfume Pagoda etc.

TIP: 

Make sure to survey online before booking a tour in one of the agencies. In Old Quarter make your landmark St. Joseph’s Cathedral church it’s been there since the late 1886s. It’s popular and a meeting place in the city. Be careful with the directions as the difference of language may create confusion for you. 

Train Street

Train Street: 

Just before the train speeds past, with a couple of feet of clearance, drying clothes are carried inside, children ushered indoors and the bikes pulled to the side of the road. The train passes the narrow road early in the route that connects Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. It is located between Le Duan and Kham Tien street in the Old Quarter. Homes and business go side by side of the railway lines. You can enjoy your snacks and coffee while experiencing a train to pass an inch away. 

Hoan Kiem Lake

Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake:

In the centre of the Old Quarter, beautiful and charming Hoan Kiem Lake (also known as Turtle Lake) is one of the unmissable things with amazing views. The best part is that there are no cars and no scooters, so it’s a nice break from the terrible traffic of Hanoi. You just need to cross the red bridge which leads to the island at the centre of the lake, as this is where the lovely Ngon temple is located. The Turtle God’s figure is persevered there, which makes you believe the myth. It costs 20000 Vietnamese Dong (VDN), which is less than $1.

Temple of Literature

Visit the Temple of Literature:

Dedicated to Confucius, the temple was built in 1070. It then became a male university for Mandarin students. Around the temple, there are stelae which are dedicated to the students. To know the civilization and, presently, you just need to know their past. 

Take a Ride: 

On the sidewalks, you will find many drivers with their motorbikes, who are ready to take you anywhere around the city if you ask. You can also use the apps Grab or Uber to book a ride. It’s cheap.

Ta Hien street PC- levitalks.com

Be in the Beer street:

Known as “Beer Street” Ta Hien street is THE place to party on any night of the week. In this area, everyone is sitting outside on small chairs, drinking beer and eating BBQ with their friends before heading to the clubs until the early hours of the morning. Grab a local beer and wander around Ta Hien to see street performers!

One pillar Pagoda

Visit Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda:

Hanoi has a variety of museum. Check out Hoa Lo Prison, Ho Chi Minh Museum and Fine Arts Museum. Uncle Ho’s figure is preserved in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Close to that, there also is Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and the One Pillar Pagoda, which are two of the utmost famous Hanoi attractions. 

Please note: 

The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is closed after 10:30 A.M and on Monday and Friday.

Hanoi Opera House:

One of the most beautiful buildings in Hanoi is the Opera House, which was built in 1911 under French rule, now known as the French Quarter. The Opera House was pretty much left to the elements when the French left Vietnam, but it was renovated in 1997. You can experience Vietnamese opera performances, concerts and even ballet. The prices start at around $4.

Go to the Water Puppet Show:

The Water Puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is a huge tourist attraction. The “classic puppet show” in water, consists of strange instruments and entirely held in Vietnamese, showcases Vietnamese way of life, culture and even religion. The show lasts about one hour and it costs around $10.

Go shopping:

Vietnam is an excellent shopping destination. There are various markets around Hanoi. One of the most famous ones is the Dong Xuan Market. The building is anything but charming, but if you passed the fish section, it can be a cool place to shop. The market closes at 7:00 pm.

Weekend Night Market:

Open only on weekends, starting at about 7 PM and going until about midnight, you will find hundreds of mini vendors side by side in tents selling everything from shirts to Shoes to lamps. You should bargain for everything. 

TIP: 

Sharpen your bargaining skills well!

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“THE WORLD IS A BOOK AND THOSE WHO DO NOT TRAVEL READ ONLY A PAGE.” ~ SAINT AUGUSTINE

We will find hundreds of tour agencies on the Hanoi streets. We can explore and book any of these tours. It is not necessary to book in advance. These tours mostly are all-inclusive, which will cover all transportation, accommodation, and food costs. Any kind of extra activities will be at your own cost. The following are the best day trips around Hanoi.

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Ninh Binh –

Ninh Binh is a small but beautiful city just 50 miles south of Hanoi. It is an hour about ride each way, it’s best known for its stunning landscape, which is comparable to Ha Long Bay with regards to tall mountains, caves, and greenery. A suitable day trip from Hanoi with the range from $10 – 40 is a must.

 Ha Long Bay –

Ha Long Bay is the main reason why people visit Vietnam. It was first listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, in recognition of its outstanding, universal aesthetic value. You can take either a day trip, or a 2-3-day trip from Hanoi. It’s about a 4 hour drive each way from Hanoi. If you take a 2-day trip, you will sleep overnight on the boat and wake up to the best sunrise you’ve ever seen. Day Trips to Halong Bay are about $40, and 2-day trips are around $100 depending on your ride.

Ha Long Bay

Sapa Valley –

Sapa Valley is 7 hour driving each way on a sleeper bus, famous for its green countryside and rice terraces, which are alongside steep hills. While trekking (half day, full day or 2+ days), you will visit several villages. The locals who live there are part of the Hmong tribe – they speak their own dialect and look physically different than people in Hanoi. It’s really a great experience!

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Perfume Pagoda –

The journey to the Perfume Pagoda is itself an interesting experience. Located about 60 km southwest of Hanoi in the Huong Son Mountain range you will need to take a car for around two hours before boarding a wooden or iron boat to reach the temple complex.

The boat journeys down a narrow flowing steam fringed by rice fields, temples and grass and you will have the option to stop and visit some of these temples. However, if you are short of time its best to head straight to Huong Tich Cave. It’s an uphill walk to the Perfume Pagoda which will take around one hour. Things can get slippery, so remember to bring walking shoes or boots.

Perfume Pagoda

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I was thinking about visiting Afghanistan from a long time and till date eagerly waiting for the moment. But then I came to know about an address: Duxbury Lane, Near Navy Nagar, S.B.S Road, Colaba, Mumbai– 400005. At first, I could not believe that this address is connected with Afghanistan. But now I can prove it logically and historically to you in few moments.

The Church

Actually, it’s a church, namely Church of St. John the Evangelist, better known as the AFGHAN CHURCH. It is situated in an isolated enclave of Colaba, Mumbai within the defence establishment areas. It is less visited by locals. However, it is still operational but in a limited manner. Because this church was constructed by East India Company in the mid-18th century, in honour of all the lives lost during the First Afghan War and the Battle of Kabul of 1838. That’s why it becomes a symbol of magnificent architecture from the mid-1800s with high rise pillars, colourful mosaics.

The Name:

I was surprised and intrigued by this name at first. Because logically the war was placed in Afghanistan, it happened between Afghans and British; then why India has a memento of that war? Then I decide to find the answers by my
own.

The History:

During the first Anglo-Afghan war, India was ruled by EAST INDIA COMPANY. It was in the year 1838. At that time British emperor send a troupe of 16000 soldiers which include Bengal regiment, Bombay regiment, and Madras regiment
along with British soldiers. This army of around 16,000 men was annihilated by the Afghan Warriors and only one survived, Dr William Brydon. I don’t doubt that after surviving the revulsion, the doctor had an amazing story
to tell to the world.

(Remnants of an Army’ by Elizabeth Butler portraying William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842; Source – Wikipedia)

First Gothic Church of India:

When I came to know about the above history, I was overwhelmed. Such big war happened, so many soldiers died but only person managed to survive. During my visit when I looked around, I saw a notice board, which told me that the foundation of this church was laid in 1847. It was completed in 1858 while the spire completed in 1865. Not only that, it was only in 1995 that the building was declared a heritage building. Also, it was considered to be the first Gothic Church of India.

Unlike most probably any church in India, one unique thing about this church is the benches, which are from that mid-1800’s era and it includes rifles holders as well for troops that came for service to the church.

Also Read Hampi – A morning in the lap of History

                                                             
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