A Journey - For me By me and With Me To Tawang...

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Travel not to find yourself but to remember who you've been all along.

When someone asks me, what my hobbies are, the first things that come to my mind are travelling, writing and trying different food.

They say, every traveler should do a solo trip at least once in their lifetime and as a passionate traveler I thought of celebrating my 30th birthday all alone, just with myself, away from those typical 12'o clock cutting of the cake, being wished by everyone, the birthday bumps and next evening dinner party and all other routine stuffs.

(Of course wanted my near and dear ones to wish me)

Are you planning on a Solo trip? You mean all alone without anyone along with you? Are you Insane??

Wow! Are you travelling solo? That would be very exciting! Lucky you. Hope you have fun.

These were few frequent comments which I got when I told my parents and friends about my Solo trip. But frankly I had already made up my mind. I wanted to give it a try just to be alone and live my passion.

North or South India or some other exotic location.... No it’s the North- East, the beautiful but barely touched part of India that I chose as my destination. I did a lot of research for a couple of months as to where should I go? What could I do etc. and finally after all ifs and buts I decided to spend my birthday at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh (suggested by my friend Yash).

My life has been very happening, in both good and bad ways. It has been constantly surprising me and just like always this time as well it had to have a memorable start.

On 13th April just a day before my travel date, we decided to have our code deployment (Yes, I m a software engineer stuck in the wrong profession)

And it wasn't a perfect pre travel day. Things went from bad to worse as my code started malfunctioning post deployment. Drama all around with lot of escalations, tension but support from teammates; after endless discussions we somehow managed to take care of the situation and I rushed from office at 11:30 PM to chase my dream.

Day one: Pune to Kolkata.

Kolkata was the first baby step, preparing me for the bigger steps for the latter part of my journey.

My journey to Kolkata began at 6:00 AM from Pune Airport and reached the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport at 8:00 AM. I only had 4 hrs. in Kolkata as my next train to New Jaipalguri from Kolkata was at 2:00 PM so I decided to make the most of it.

First, I went to the Victoria Memorial, beautiful creation (by the British) showing history of India. There were some truly amazing paintings by Thomas and Johann portraying beauty from north to south and west to east India. As a food lover I wanted to try the local delicacies so had the famous Bengali breakfast of Kachori Sabji. Kolkatians love their 'Mishti'. I tried their famous Kolkata rosogulla and Mishti Doi.

From there headed to park street to dine at the famous cafe Flurys (Thanks to My friend Richa who suggested me this awesome place). Then visited a famous bridge of Kolkata and finally bade adieu to the beautiful city of Kolkata as I headed to the station.

In all, Kolkata is a place worth visiting if u can ignore its humidity (well, not to forget I visited during summer)

"Ami tomake bhalo bashi Kolkata".

My journey towards NJP continued in Shatabdi express; Seating chairs and food, ah! Never ending food.

I was fortunate to get an awesome company of two army personnel Col.Kuldeep Mehara and Br. Narendar. I whiled away time by listening to their stories and in exchange sharing mine. It was battle field vs IT field. Just kidding, they had much more interesting stories to share than me.

The train journey also proved to be memorable, thanks to their company and me being a chatterbox.

And there ends my day one. Awaiting for new day with new excitement.

Day 2 from Kolkata to Darjeeling via NJP

Being alone can be daunting at first, but soon it will turn to the most comforting situation to be in. Oft times, it is noticed that we change as the people around us do. Travelling solo, will make you come to terms with who you truly are. With all your flaws, beauties and drawbacks, you are complete! When you come back, you will start realizing the comfort of just being yourself, no matter where you are. (These are not my words, copied from Internet☺)

Meeting new people is always fun, knowing them, chatting with them as if you know them for ages. People often say being solo is so boring, no one to talk to, no one to take photographs etc. But my second day of the trip was exactly the opposite. I met 10 new people, all coming from different cities, countries and culture. I might not meet them again in this lifetime but for that single day, they were my friends. They were my company to chat, to click my super pics. They were part of my joyful journey.

After 8 hours of journey from Kolkata, I exited at NJP at 11:30 PM and to my complete surprise, it was buzzing with activity even at that hour. There was good crowd on the station and on the streets. My hotel was just 15 mins by Auto from the station but I preferred to go by the Cycle Rickshaw just to experience that time of night in an unknown place.

My plan was to get up at 5:30AM so that I can start for Darjeeling at 6:00 or 6:30AM and reach there by 9:30AM but unfortunately I woke up at 6.30AM. When I reached station to catch a shared cab, unfortunately there was only one cab going to Darjeeling due to elections and it got full before I could reach. I asked around and found that the only way to reach Darjeeling was to take personal cab for 1200 INR.

Not wanting to spend so much, I looked around for other options and luckily met a lady, Vendy from Australia and a couple, Rohit and Pooja, who were also travelling to Darjeeling. We shared a cab for1600 (400 each) and started our journey at 8:00 am. I regretted wasting those 2 hours but later accepted it as an inevitable part of an unplanned trip.

Vendy, a lady in her late 50s was a solo traveler just like me. She told us her experiences in India, how much she loved the country and its culture. And frankly, her knowledge about India was more than mine. Rohit was a banker in his early 30's from Varanasi. He also shared his travel experiences. And of course I did my part of the sharing. I always have lot of stories to tell. (a person listens to those every day :P ). After a slightly tiring journey of 3 hours, we reached Darjeeling.

I am a big foodie and so the first thing I did in Darjeeling was to eat delicious Momos... and they were really yummy...

Now what next?? I got a cab driver, Anmol who took me all around Darjeeling. Places he showed were Japanese temple, rope way tea garden etc. but the best place at Darjeeling was the Mall Road. I just loved it. Very happening place. I missed out the very famous Tiger Hill and toy train because of bad weather and unavailability of reservation respectively.

Anmol also told me about the culture of Darjeeling, and to my surprise the local language is Nepali. He played some Nepali songs too.

At mall road I did some shopping and headed back to catch my shared cab for NJP.

I was accompanied by two brothers from UP, Shubham and Vilas in the cab. We all started talking about our trip. We were not so happy with our Darjeeling trip and as we were cribbing about this to the driver, he suggested to take us to a place called Mirik.

If you are nature lover, you have to visit Mirik. On our way to Mirik , he took us to a place which actually belongs to Nepal but the road belongs to India. I found it very exciting. The place was simply heavenly, surrounded by clouds and mountains, and curved roads with Tea garden all around. I have no words to express the beauty. It was like watching a movie.

It was time to say Tata to Darjeeling.

Now time for North East, the place I was eagerly waiting for. # keep watching for this space.

Day 3 NJP to Guwahati

Travelling solo is fun and it teaches you many things. Right from managing time to managing budget. Day 3 brought new learning lessons for me.

My journey started from NJP 2:00 AM and reached beautiful Guwahati at 9:30 AM with pleasant weather welcoming me. Guwahati is the only gateway to Northeast. To be more precise if you want to visit places like Arunachal and Nagaland one needs to get In Line Permit (ILP). And for that there are only two ways.

Either you can apply online or you may get it from different locations like Kolkata or Guwahati. Unfortunately, my online application got rejected so the only option was to get it offline.

After checking with few people around one auto Wala told me that I may get it in Passport office. We went there but it was closed. Learning #1 for day "always keep backup plan ready".

But with help of my friend who had visited AP few days ago, I got the address for Arunachal Pradesh tourism office. After lot of hassles, I got my ILP. One more thing I learned during process of getting ILP was always keep enough Cash while travelling.

In Guwahati I visited Balaji temple, Basistha ashram, it is believed to be the home of famous sage Basistha, also known as "Vasishtha".

The Kamakhya Temple also Kamrup-Kamakhya is a Hindu temple dedicated to the mother goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas. Beautiful Brahmaputra river.

After roaming around for 5-6 hours in Guwahati. It was time to say “Bhal hoi” Guwahati.

Next two days including my birthday (17th April) was my dream destination of this Solo trip. The thrill, the fun and the excitement was on its peak for THE DAY.

Day 4 Tejpur to Tawang

Tawang is about 16-hours’ drive from Guwahati. However, it is best to hire a Tata Sumo from Tezpur , 4 hr. drive from Guwahati by local Bus. I reached Tezpur at around 10:30 PM from Guwahati.

At About 5:30 AM in morning cab came to pick me up. It takes 12-14 hours if you go at a stretch to Tawang From Tezpur.

At Bhalukpong (border of Assam and Arunachal) Indian and Non-Indian (except non-Arunachalis) tourists have to show in permit (ILP) to proceed to this beautiful but rough drive up the mountains.

At the beginning of this long Journey, I started feeling a bit bored as no one was talking with each other. Unfortunately, my iPod was also dead (even though I hardly used it).

But that’s exactly how I wanted my Birthday to be; with Me.

As I looked outside the window, I was amazed with beautiful cradle of the Himalayas. All I could see were tall mountains, glittering white snow, deep blue lakes, small houses, and the mountain’s curve as River Kameng flowing along with us. It felt as if I could touch the clouds (like our childhood dream).

That moment reminded me beautiful lines from the movie "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara"

"Pighle neelam sa behta hua ye sama,Neeli-Neeli si khamoshiyaan

Na kahin hai zameen, na kahin Aasmaan,Sarsarati hui tehniyaan, pattiyaan

Keh raheen hai ki bas ek tum ho yahaan,Sirf main hoon

Meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein,Aisi gehraiyaan, aisi tanhaiyaan

Aur main sirf main,Apne hone par mujhko yaqeen aa gaya "

At Lunch, I met three Mumbaikars Vinay, Nilesh and Peter. I also came to know about most amazing but toughest road Sela pass.

The Sela Pass (more appropriately called Se La, as La means Pass) is the high-altitude mountain pass. It is cold and there is snow scattered all around me.

I looked around and thought if there is heaven on earth, then this should be it (apart from Kashmir of course). Surrounding me were cotton candy snow that have descended from the sky to earth covering everything from mountain peaks to grasslands, flowers and birds. The view was breathtaking I was wrapped in a world of white and the Sun coming out from two hills.

As we continued on our way snow-clad mountains gave us company until we reached a glacier which opens to a gate guarded by dragons with bright colored flags fluttering all around.

At around 6:00 PM, we reached to Tawang. At end of the day, had my Birthday Dinner with my new friends.

Day 5 Tawang

My driver cum guide John told at night that we would be starting for Bumla (China Border at 7:00 AM sharp). To get ready I woke up at around 5:30AM. It was too cold even after stuffing myself with winter wears I was freezing. I somehow managed to take bath and at sharp 7:00 AM we started for China border.

Bumla Pass is located 37 kms away from Tawang. It is one of the most off-beat passes in the world and is also known as the pass from where Dalai Lama entered India escaping from Tibet.

The road to Bum-la is also historical route in the sense that it is from here that the Chinese marched into India during the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

On my journey I met one Solider, he told us that Tawang is Asia's largest base camp for any army.

Fortunately weather was good. It took almost 3hours to reach Bumla Pass. The road to Bumla from Tawang was very picturesque. I am short of words. Snow all around and small lakes in between, it felt like to be part of an animation movie.

At around 10:30 AM I reached to Bumla. After doing all security checks, one Soldier escorted us to border. On the way to border there were some pictures of all the states of India showing their culture. As the oxygen was less, soldier escorting us continuously instructed to walk slowly.

After 15 mins of walk I reached to Indo- China border, two more soldiers explained about the borders, Indian and Chinese check posts. He showed China post through binoculars. It was simply amazing. After clicking some pics and thanking the soldiers I came down to the office. I took certificate, and also had chat with 2nd in Line brigadier. He told he was posted there for last 2 years and it's tough for them in winters as the temp goes below - 30℃.

I also visited "Tawang Monastery". A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Gelugpa sect - constructed in 1681. It was the birth place of the celebrated 6th Dalai Lama, and is home to more than 500 lamas.

"Jaswant Garh" An Indian Army War Memorial, commemorating the bravery of hundreds of soldiers who successively fought in the 1962 war against the Chinese. Jaswant Singh Rawat, who along with two other soldiers bravely fought of the Chinese Army invading Tawang, during the battle of Nuranang. For his outstanding act of gallantry Rfn. Jaswant Singh Rawat was posthumously awarded with the Mahavir Chakra. His two colleagues L Nk. Trilok Singh Negi, along with Rfn Gopal Singh Gusain, were awarded with the Vir Chakra.

So the best part of my Solo trip North East was coming to end. It was most beautiful trip of my life. I will cherish this whole my life.

Last Day: - Delhi and then back to Pune.

In Delhi, I visited Hauz Khass Village, Chandani Chowk, Connaught place, Lotus temple, and Akshradham temple. It was pretty much end of my first solo trip.

Few things I learned during Solo trip.

You’re great company to yourself, if you spend significant time with you, and may get surprised at how enjoyable it can be. When was the last time you truly listened to only your thoughts and entertained only your dreams? A solo trip can be a powerful, introspective, life-changing experience. A solo trip is never really spent completely in solitude because you will meet other travelers just like yourself. You will share stories and realize how much you all have in common and you'll realize, you're not ever really alone at all.

Venturing out alone renews your spirit in the most positive way. It changes your energy, your perspective of the world, the way you view others and the way you view yourself. You become a bit more fearless and more confident in your abilities to figure things out on your own.

When you get good at traveling alone, you can stop waiting for “someone” to take on vacation. Instead, you can continue to go alone until someone really worthy comes along to help you make some brilliant new memories.

At last I want to thank a few people, my parents and Sister allows me to do my Solo trip, Yukti for inspiring/motivating to give a try for Solo trip, Richa and Suditi for helping me in writing my blog, Yash for helping me in finalizing my itinerary, last but not least Sachin and Abhishek and my team to take care of my office work for 7 days.

Photo of Arunachal Pradesh Tourist Lodge, Tawang by Tusharsn
Photo of china border by Tusharsn
Photo of China Border,Arunachal by Tusharsn
Photo of Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Delhi, Delhi, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Guwahati, Assam, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Kolkata, Kolkata, West Bengal 700001, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Mirik, West Bengal, India by Tusharsn
Photo of Tawang, Tawang by Tusharsn
Photo of Tawang, Tawang by Tusharsn

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