Nokao Konyak, a self-taught guide at Longwa is favourite among tourists

Nokao Konyak is seen here sitting with his grandfather in their kitchen doorway at Longwa village, Mon District. (Morung Photo)

Nokao Konyak is seen here sitting with his grandfather in their kitchen doorway at Longwa village, Mon District. (Morung Photo)

Limasenla Jamir 
Mokokchung | March 15

Meet Nokao Wangnao, a 27-year-old tourist guide from Longwa village, Mon district. Nokao has been a full-time tourist guide for the past 8 years now. For Nokao, meeting foreigners from other countries is an everyday affair. He deals with an average of about 30-40 tourists in a month and an average of 30-40 travellers every month and proudly claims to have met tourists from 90 countries.

Longwa is the largest village of Konyak Nagas in Nagaland's Mon district and the village lies on both sides of India and Myanmar. The Angship and the existence of the last headhunters in Nagaland attract a lot of tourists into the state. Though remotely located, tourism in the village has grown so much and much of it is because of the effort of the villagers. 

Nokao and his family run a homestay in the village called the Longshah Homestay. Despite just having completed class 10, Nokao is fluent in English and can communicate with it with ease. Nokao had to come home from Mon town without completing his higher education since his parents needed him in the village. Another factor was that he was not really interested in furthering his education. 

Nokao recounted how his career as a tourist guide began with the support of his brother, N Longshah Konyak, who first guided an American tourist to Longwa in 1998 and then seven German tourists to Longwa in 2002. They suggested that his brother open a homestay, which he did, and since then, more tourists have begun to visit Longwa. With his brother away from the village and shouldering other responsibilities, Nokao was assigned the task of managing the homestay and becoming a tourist guide.

Surprisingly, Nokao has never gone outside of Mon district. He has spent the last several years entertaining and educating tourists about his home village. Being a tourist guide is now a full-time job. “There have been many job opportunities given to me, but I chose to stay in the village and be a tourist guide instead,” he told The Morung Express.

On a usual day, he would take his guests around the village showing the Angh’s residence, the Indo-Myanmar border area and the Arunachal and Nagaland border area. He would then take the tourists to the local gunsmiths and make the visitors shoot a round or two with the local muzzle loading gun. He would also introduce the visitors to the local metalsmiths and the homes of the last headhunters from the Konyak tribe. 

Nokao is very popular with tourists and has been named the best tourist guide five times by several travel companies. 

“10 years ago, many of my villagers were scared of cameras and they would either run or shy away when they meet tourists. But the scene has completely changed now,” Nokao stated when asked how tourism has helped the village over the years.

“Many villagers are now dependent on tourists that visit our village. We have three homestays in the village, the women-folk make and sell our local jewellery which is loved by all, then we have the gunsmiths and the metalsmiths who sell their handiworks or showcase the process of their work and earn from it,” he added. 

“April and December are peak months for tourists to visit our village mainly because we celebrate Aoleang festival in April and because of Hornbill festival in the month of December. But we have tourists in large number visiting the village whole year round,” Nokao further explained. Another interesting fact which Nokao cited was that almost all of his villagers now understand a little bit of English. His parents are uneducated but they can both understand and speak English.

Nokao has not attended any training on how to be a tour guide nor has he any certificates but he has gained the trust of many tourists visiting his village and has become very professional at it. “It was a struggle for me in the initial years trying to know the interests and likes of the many tourists visiting the village. But with the mentorship of my brother and also by learning through experiences, I am now able to handle as many tourists as possible,” he said. 

“We do not get regular cellular reception and I don’t have much social media skills so we can’t publicize as much but I get ten to twenty calls and messages in a day from people who want to visit Longwa. They get my contact mostly through references from visitors and from the many reviews in goggle maps,” he said.

Nokao is currently building a resort and he hopes that his resort will attract more tourists.