“Traveling does not become a adventure unless you leave yourself behind”
My fascination with the enchanting north-east continues.I had my first taste of the mersmerising seven sisters of the North-east in 2017 when I made a family trip to Assam and Meghalaya and waited for an opportunity to visit Arunachal Pradesh for I had seen pictures and heard stories of its mystical beauty.I wanted to make an exclusive trip to Arunachal and enjoy its beauty with leisure.
The opportunity was presented when I got a call from Krishna of Dark Green Adventures I immediately forwarded the itinerary to my travel mate Jessy and we were both excited about the trip.We quickly paid the booking amount and booked our flights to Guwahati. Vamsi and Ankit also joined in.The trip was booked in October 2018 and the trip was in March 2019.It looked so far away but we had some smaller trips in between and soon we were a week away from the trip.There were excited discussions on packing tips in the group and the much awaited morning of the flight to Guwahati dawned.We took a cab to the airport at 4 am and reached the airport at 5 am.A friend of Jessy,Manasi who lives nearby also joined.the trip.
The flight took off at 0710 hrs bang on time and we landed at Guwahati 40 minutes early !! instead of the scheduled 10.10 hrs we landed at 09.30 hrs.I had fixed up the cab driver Robin( of my earlier trip) to pick us up from the airport.Although we were early he was there at the airport.Since we had to meet the group at 7 pm at ISBT Guawhati we had the whole day to ourselves.I had decided to visit the places in Guwahati which I had earlier missed.
Day 1 (!6th March) Revisiting Guhawati
We left the airport around 10.10 hrs and reached Deepor Beel a wetland near the airport around 10.40 hrs.Our stomachs were growling so the first stop was a roadside eatery opposite the Wetland.There was not much choice so we ordered parathas,omellete and tea.The Parathas cost Rs 15 and Omellete Rs 20 and tea was for Rs 10.
After quietening our protesting tummies we headed to the wetland, to our disappointment we could spot only a few egrets but the bobbing lotuses on the green wetlands was very soothing to the eyes of a Mumbaikar.
Robin hurried us as he had booked the tickets for a special darshan at Kamkhya Temple.During my last visit due to time constraints we did the darshan from outside so I was keen to take the deity’s blessings this time first hand. We started at about 1140 hrs from Deepor Beel and reached at 1220 hrs much to the annoyance of the local pandit who had arranged our tickets, we paid him Rs 1500 for three tickets.After joining the queue Jessy and Manasi decided to leave the queue since they found it claustrophobic. After waiting for half an hour the queue started moving and I found myself in a very narrow corridor which was indeed very claustrophobic but I survived and in about an hour I was successful in getting the divine blessings first hand. I called up Jessy after exiting from the temple and headed to the car parking.It was 1330 hrs and it was lunch time but our next destination Pobitora Wild Life Sanctuary would close at 4 pm.It was a good two hour drive from the temple so we had to forget about lunch and head towards Pobitora.We reached Pobitora at 3.30 pm We purchased the tickets for the full jeep since there were no other tourists to share the jeep.The safari cost us a total of Rs 1650(inclusive Rs 200 tip to the driver and guard).
About Pobitora Wild life Sanctuary– Pobitora is a wildlife reserve in the Morigaon district of the state of Assam.It is located about 30 km east of Guwahati. The Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary is about 48 km by road from Guawhati. It is a 1 hour drive through a road passing by river Brahmaputa, and a small portion of the village of Mayong. It has a dense population of the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. It covers 38.8 sq km. Though the total notified area of the park is 38.80 sq km, only 16 sq km is the effective rhino habitat. Pobitora was declared a reserved forest in 1971 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1987. It covers flat flood plains and a hillock. Pobitora is also home to 375 species of birds.
We started our safari and 10 minutes into it we spotted Rhinos.I had already seen a lot of them in Kaziranga, what enamoured me more was the drive through the woods and the beautiful wild pink orchids hugging the trees.
We had our WOW moment when we found a kingfisher perching amongst the orchids.We spotted many birds like the Grey Egret,Black Necked Storks,Grey Herons and the beautiful Kingfishers.
We finished our safari by 5 pm and were soon on our way to ISBT. Since we had missed our lunch on the way we stopped at a Rajasthani restaurant for a quick bite.We had Pakoras and tea and then we decided to have dinner so we ordered Kadhee, Rice and Sangri curry( a kind of beans).
We started for ISBT at 6.40 pm and reached around 7.30 pm the scheduled time for departure of the bus was 8 pm.After loading our luggage and securing our seats we had a quick introduction round.We were 14 of us including Krishna the trip leader.I met Bohita Mittal Juhi ,Hitesh Manasi for the first time and I had met Jessy Ankit Vamsi,Vishal and Vrushali earlier. Soon the strangers became close friends and we had fun during the trip.
The Gang at ISBT
The bus chugged out of ISBT at the scheduled time and we reached to a very chilly cold Bomdilla the next morning.
Day 2 (17th March) Arunachal Here I come…..First stop Dirang
Arunachal Pradesh – one of the seven sisters of the mesmerising north-east India. It is the eastern most state of India that allures everyone to explore its breath-taking destinations. Arunachal Pradesh till a few years ago eluded most of the travel enthusiasts, but with the government’s efforts to promote tourism, it now has 12 tourist circuits. Arunachal Pradesh has been blessed with abundant natural beauty with the green eastern Himalayas covering most of the region. From mountains to valleys to monasteries to orchids, this state takes pride in being one of the top three greenest states of India with almost 80% green cover.
The Beautiful Flowers of Arunachal Pradesh
We reached Bomdilla our destination at 6 in the morning(10 hrs of bus journey) We pulled out our warm jackets,gloves and caps from our bags to brace the cold weather. After freshening up at a nearby hotel it was time for the morning cuppa. After that we piled up on the waiting Innova and Sumo and soon we were on the way to Dirang.A tyre puncture was the cause of a minor delay so by the time we left Bomdilla it was 07.15 hrs and an hours drive took us to the home stay at Dirang.
Snow-clad Himalayan ranges, a rustic charm and spirituality filled in the air; all these ingredients make Dirang a perfect hideout to spend some tranquil holidays in the lap of Mother Nature. The little village lies hidden in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and stands as a gateway to the state’s much celebrated tourist destination, Tawang. This quaint hill town’s picturesque scenic beauty and simplicity of the ever smiling people is sure to take any visitor’s heart in no time While Dirang is no less than a paradise for nature lovers, landscape photographers and adventure seekers.
A refreshing hot water bath,change and breakfast rejuvenated us and we were all set for the day’s sightseeing which was the Thupsung Dhargyeling Monastery.There was some delay for the vehicles to arrive so on the advice of Sonam the owner of the homestay we used this opportunity to explore the Nyingmapa Monastery which is just a 10 minutes walk from the homestay. A common sight in any Buddhist place fluttering prayer flags greeted us.The Buddhist Prayer Flags essentially carry our prayers via the wind to be answered.The red,blue,white,green and yellow represent elements like air,fire,water and earth.They also represent the directions.
Although the monastery was closed we soaked into the calm and peaceful ambience of the place.After clicking a few photographs we headed to Thupsung Dhargye ling monastery. It was a short drive of 20 minutes.
Thupsung Dhargye Ling is a temple and learning institute for the study of Tibetan Buddhism by lay people,and monks.The name was given by His Holiness,The Dalai Lama and means: “Place of Flourishing of the Buddha’s Speech”.His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the temple on April 2017.
We drove through the colourful gate to the parking lot. A beautiful stupa like structure greeted us and we clicked many photographs with it as the backdrop.
We spinned the prayer wheels which were at the entrance of the monastery.The prayer wheel is a part of Buddhist culture and is ubiquitous in a place where Buddhism is prevalent.They are used to accumulate wisdom and merit (good karma) and to purify negativities(bad karma)
A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal ,wood stone,leather or coarse cotton.One must rotate it clockwise and spinning the wheel in the correct manner grants one of the same meritorious effects as orally reciting the prayers.The steps of the monastery were decorated with colourful flower pots making the place look ethereal in its beauty.
The monastery was quiet and peaceful with no one around except our group.We sat and meditated for a while,the peace and tranquility of the place will calm the frayed nerves of the city people.
Buddha, inside the Monastery
It was lunch time by the time we came out of the monastery and we found a nondescript eatery Maa Hotel located in the bazaar area.The fish thali turned out to be delicious.We also tried out some pastries and puffs from the shop next to the restaurant,the puffs were cold since there was a power cut so could not be warmed.
After lunch we made our way to the hot spring.The Rhodendrons and Cherry trees were in full bloom along side the roads.
On reaching the spring we found the tank to be crowded so we made our way to the inviting Dirang river bank a tributary of the Kameng river.Vamsi,Jessy and Ankit took a dip in the chilling waters and the rest of us sat and enjoyed and clicked photographs.
Later they also enjoyed the hot water in the tank with some enthusiastic locals sipping some wine and the less enthusiastic watching over their belongings. 🙂 I wish the local administration would do more to maintain cleanliness in and around the Hot spring.
We returned at around 4.30 pm and with nothing much to do it was time for our favourite game to pass time.Yes you guessed it right – UNO. As the sun set, it got cold in the balcony the older ones Jessy and myself snuggled inside the blankets and the younger lot went for a walk.
Meanwhile dinner was ready and we polished off the rotis,rice,sabjee and egg curry.It was only 7 pm !! the rest of the gang returned and they too finished dinner by 8.30 and we all knocked off as we had an early start the next day.
Day 3 (18th March) On the way to Tawang through the Sela Pass.Places visited Jaswantgarh Memorial,Jang Waterfalls & Chakzam Iron Bridge
We woke up early and in our mayhem woke up Sonam too,many group photos were clicked and some also with our petite host Sonam.
The home stay was comfortable and the hostess is courteous and polite.It has two small rooms and one large room on the ground floor.With a common washbasin and toilet with geyser.One of the smaller rooms has an attached toilet.The upstairs room did not have a geyser.The food is simple and hygienic.We had access to the kitchen so we could make tea/coffee.At around 6 am we started our onward journey.
Although it was too early for breakfast we nevertheless stopped for one.We walked into hotel Samjhana,the eatery is run by Bengalis hence the food was Bengali.We had roti, potatoe sabjee,Omelettes and tea.Some of us went to another eatery next door.and tasted Momos.
We bought delicious oranges for only Rs 20 a kg from the shops nearby the restaurants.There are also reasonably clean washrooms near the eateries.Due to the cold weather you would need one quite often 🙂 After breakfast we started for Sela Pass,on the way we stopped at a pictursque spot for photography some tried acrobatic poses atop a rock which looked quite challenging to me.
We reached the frozen Lake also known as the Sela lake at about 08.30 hrs.The temperature was below zero degree and it was freezing.
The Sela pass is a high -altitude mountain pass located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng Districts of Arunachal Pradesh.It has an elevation of 4170 m and connects the Buddhist town of Tawang to Dirang and Guhwati.It is the main road connecting Tawang with the rest of the country.The picturesque pass is open throughout the year unless landslides or snowfall closes it temporarily.
The air is thin and oxygen is less.One gets tired easily but being there is so exhilirating that you would not notice the discomfort.Those of you have been to Ladakh the height is less than the Khardungla Pass,the Oxygen level is more so one can spend more time here.After spending about half an hour we walked up to the bridge and clicked some photos.
Later we paid our homage to Jaswantgarh Memorial.Jaswant Garh memorial which is a temple for the army is built in memory of Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat designated Maha Vir Chakra of 4 Garhwal Rifle, who laid down his life resisting the Chinese Army’s march along with Trilok Singh Negi and Gopal Singh Gosain during the 1962 War.
Jaswant Garh memorial which is a temple for the army is built in memory of Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat designated Maha Vir Chakra of 4 Garhwal Rifle, who laid down his life resisting the Chinese Army’s march along with Trilok Singh Negi and Gopal Singh Gosain during the 1962 War.
The 1962 Indo-China war was totally one sided and India was at the receiving end of it. This place shows that had Indian army matched resources for resources, the course of Indian history would have been different. After capture of Tawang and Chinese juggernaut marching on, they were tested for the first time here. A bunch of Indian soldiers repulsed massive onslaughts one after another and when confronted these brave soldiers, Jaswant Singh Rawat, Trilok Singh Negi and Gopal Singh Gosain showed what bravery is all about !!!
There are many legends which have come up over a period of time, including Jaswant’s hanging, his head being taken away and brought back, his spirit camping at the place and what not, what is important is this was a place where bravery of the highest order was displayed. Presently the attraction has a display of statue of Jaswant Singh, a memorial which displays personal artifacts including his clothing, gun, bunkers of that time, kitchen, mess, the history of the battle, even Chinese grave site as they lost about 300 people here and a temple which has a tree of that time as well.After visiting the memorial we gorged on the snacks at the Blazing Sword Cafe which are very reasonably priced.We particularly enjoyed the Patties and Dilkhush.( a kind of baked sweet).The patties and Dilkhush cost Rs 11 We are very thankful to the free hot water and tea served by the Army.
We left the memorial at about 11.45 pm and now we were on our way to the spectacular Jang Falls.Its about 45 minutes from the memorial. Nuranang Falls (also known as Bong Bong Falls), some 100 metres high, is located in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in this part of the country, yet is unknown to many travelers. It lies some 2 kilometres away from the town of Jang on the road connecting Tawang and Bomdila so it is also known as the Jang Falls. There is a small hydel plant located near the base that generates electricity for local use.
The Nuranang river originates from the Northern slopes of the Sela Pass. Just below the waterfall it falls into the Tawang river.We spent about an hour at the spectacular falls trying to capture this marvellous phenomenon of mother nature in our cameras.
We also spent some exhilarating moments by the river side.
Our next destination was the Chakzam Iron Bridge it took us about 30 minutes to reach the bridge.
Chakzam Bridge is a remarkable architectural achievement, its an iron suspension bridge over 600 years old it was constructed in the 14th century, by a disciple of the Dalai Lama Tangton Gyalpo.It was designed to provide safe crossing over the Tawang Chu river and connects Kitpi and Mukto. and is about 100 m in length.There are two bridges,we found the entry to the older bridge locked ,the reason being crores worth of iron could be stolen.We requested the local if they could open it and thereafter proceeded to the adjacent bridge to cross the raging Tawang river, we could see Gompa at a distance and we all walked towards it after spending some time.
We spotted another small structure which looked like a Gompa we made our way towards it on the way we met a local who said that the keys are kept on the top of the doorway.We retrieved the key and went inside it looked like the priest’s home however we found butter lamps and incense sticks.We lit the lamps and incense sticks we( Ankit,Jessy,Vamsi and Mittal and self) sat down meditated for a while and chanted OM.We enjoyed the blissful atmosphere and felt the positive vibrations of the place.
After spending some time we descended down and to our delight the older bridge was opened by the caretaker of the place.Crossing the bridge is no less an adventure,the bridge is wobbly and looking down at the gushing waters of the river gives you goose bumps,but that didn’t stop us from posing and clicking innumerable photos.
While the group was taking photos I thought of exploring the place and took the other bridge to cross and as I was going up I found Jessy waving to me to come back as they were heading back.So I quickly retraced my steps and joined them.It was only 4.30 but it was already getting dark,on our way we made a stop at Neema’s place for tea.
Neema and her humble Abode(PC Jessy)
A smiling Neema welcomed us to her humble home, bereft of modern amenities yet it was neat and clean also had a gas stove.Jessy and Vamsi helped Krishna in making and serving the tea
.We warmed ourselves with the hot cup of tea in this very cold home.We had missed lunch and were very hungry and satisfied our hunger with the snacks that we had carried and some left over bread from breakfast.After somewhat quietening our rumbling stomachs we clicked some photos of Neema and her home.I marvelled at these hardy mountain people who daily battle the harsh climate and go about their chores with a smile on their face.Before we left we clicked a group photo with her.
We resumed our journey at 5 pm with the foot tapping songs from Mittal’s phone.Although we were tired and famished that didn’t stop us from pulling each other’s legs (especially Vamsi) and having fun,the driver Sunil too joined in the fun.He is a competent driver and very assured of his charms :).The sun was already going down as we headed to Tawang and by the time we reached our lodge at Tawang it was 6 pm.
We were tired and hungry and after settling in our room we met for dinner at 7.15 pm.We explored the place,one must remember in Arunachal restaurants close early and one must endeavour to order by 7 pm,as we were exploring we found a place had already finished the food !! we were now desperate and we quickly found a restaurant which was still serving food, after making ourselves comfortable we ordered a bottle of wine and the guys had beer and of course food.The service was very slow but the food was good.By the time we finished dinner it was 9.30 pm,after reaching our rooms we crashed into our beds and soon fell asleep.
Day 4 Tawang Monastery and a local Gompa
We got up early and visited the Gompa which was walking distance from the lodge.We spent some time and returned around 7.45 later we had breakfast consisting of Roti,potatoe sabjee(vegetable) and boiled eggs.
We started for Tawang monastery at 9 am and reached about 9.30 am.We rejuvenated ourselves by the positive vibrations of the place and felt a kind of inner peace,Mukesh our guide for the day took us around all the three floors.
After that we visited the Museum the entry ticket is a nominal Rs 15 per person.
We marvelled at the architecture and beauty of the place.It not only gave pleasure to the eyes but also soothed the soul with its peace and positive vibrations.
Arunachal Pradesh’s tourist gem, the Tawang Monastery is India’s largest monastery, and the world’s second largest known as the Golden Namghyal Lhatse literally means “celestial paradise in a clear sky”.It has ravines in the west and south and a narrow ridge on the north and a slope on the east. It offers a panaromic view of the Tawang-Chu valley that is spread with snow capped lofty mountains and lush green thickets of coniferous trees. Situated on a mountain in the town of Tawang at an altitude of over 3000 m. Tawang Monastery is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world.The monastery is the centre of the Gelug school (Yellow Hat) of Mahayana Buddhism, and is bordered with a 282 m long compound wall. It has 65 residential buildings for the monks, as well as other structures for different uses.
Tawang Monastery was established in 1680-81, at the request of the 5th Dalai Lama, by his contemporary Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso. It has the capacity for housing about 700 monks but presently around 300 monks live here. This monastery is the source of the spiritual life of the people of this area..The Chinese occupied it in the 1962 war but did not harm it.The present Dalai lama also took refuge here when he fled Tibet.
The Structure of the Monastery
Dukhang –The Assembly Hall
The assembly hall, which is known as ‘Dukhang‘ is the most imposing building of the monastery. Standing on the northern side of the court, it is a three-storied building that houses the temple as well as the ‘Labrang’ (The establishment of the Abbot).
The inside walls of the hall are painted with murals of different divinities and saints. The altar envelops the whole northern wall of the hall. There is the silver casket that holds the Thankas. Standing in the middle of the northern side, a massive statue of Lord Buddha captivates the onlookers.We spent about an hour and a half and left the place at 10.45 hrs.On our way we went through a beautiful road with tall coniferous trees on both sides of the road,it became a must stop for some photography.
Only few of us got down from the vehicle to click the pics,rest of us enjoyed the view sitting in the vehicle.Later we resumed our onward journey.
The Beautiful Home of Mr Lopsung & Krishna posing with the host
After about half an hour’s drive Mukesh took us to his uncle’s place Mr Lopsung for butter tea at about 11.30 am.We relished the tea with some local snacks and spend time in the beautiful home till 12.15 pm.
The Butter tea in colourful Mugs
We were now on our way to Zemitang.We stopped at Lumla for lunch at around 1 pm.We ate at a small restaurant run by Anita devi a Bengali lady and her daughter-in-law.She has come and settled here from all the way from Begusarai,Bihar.The fish Thali was delicious and the fish fry was hot and tasty.The Fish thali cost only Rs 130 and the Veg thali Rs 80 and the Fish fry Rs 15.
The delecious fish Thali ,Anita with her daughter-in-Law
The food was fresh and tasty.We bought caps with Indian Army written on it and suddenly it became the hottest selling item much to the amusement of the lethargic shop keeper.After Lunch we continued with our onward travel to Zemitang.Know more about Zemitang and our tryst with the high altitude frozen lakes in my concluding post.
……………..To Be Continued
An apt quote to end “A Traveller sees what he sees,a tourist sees what he has come to see”