Phejin Konyak is an “on the spur of the moment traveler” and lives in a remote village called Shiyong, one hour’s drive away from Mon town, Nagaland. For the last 10 years, she has travelled to many off beat destinations within the country and the subcontinent.
At Shiyong, she is traced by travelers – people she befriended on her travels, college friends, couch surfers (www.couchsurfing.com), her friend’s friends, or even strangers and unknown individuals who heard of her through word of mouth. World renowned celebrity master chef Gordon Ramsay of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” fame, along with his film crew stayed 2 nights and 3 days with Phejin at Shiyong.
He was on a mission for his independent production One Potato Two Potato- “Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape Series – India” for Optomen Television in collaboration with channel 4, UK. A lot of Naga style cooking was done and filmed in the huge family kitchen with the fire place in the centre. They were served fish in ferns, Naga pork sausages and dried bamboo shoot with red rice and red tea.
Every month or once in every 2 months, Phejin finds herself hosting visitors and guests at her home in Shiyong. Travelers from Australia, Japan, Singapore, US, France, Brussels, UK, Greece and France have come to stay with her. From the Indian metros, she has had visitors from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata etc. They consisted of writers, photographers, astronomers, IT professionals etc. She recently received a call from Lonely Planet Television, Melbourne, for a shoot which is still pending.
Phejin says that the “get away” at Shiyong village and the “home stay” hospitality she offers is a “luxury” for westerners; the idyllic community lifestyle is refreshing and even therapeutic for weary minds. A man from UK milked a cow for the first time in his life; another tasted food cooked over the fire place for the first time ever. Waking up at sun rise or taking moonlight walks in the tea garden slopes is an experience of a life time for many. Her visitors help in cooking, working in the farm or picking oranges in the orchard. According to her, “Westerners have no problem with the food. Indians tend to be finicky.”
With her wide experience in travel, Phejin is the ideal person to contact for travel related queries. She will tell you things that the internet or travel catalogues cannot cover. She is also open to have people accompany her on her trips. With years of hands-on experience in sharing hospitality with travelers, she is now gearing up to establish this travel profession and life calling at Shiyong - to celebrate travel and travelers!
From the love of travel to the love of travelers, from following her heart to finally tailoring her own lifestyle and profession, this lady sure has great things going for her. Indeed, how is it possible not to admire such ingenuity?
(Susan Waten, Founder of HAWA, Dimapur, Nagaland.)