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A Day With The Secret Carpet-Weavers Of Miao (Arunachal Pradesh)


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Having lived most of my life in a concrete jungle, getting a chance to sneak away to remote, cut-off locations is a treat that I welcome and appreciate greatly. Around 25 km from the Assam border, located in the picturesque state of Arunachal Pradesh, is a small cultural haven — Miao — which is home to a small but global carpet-weaving industry (I use the term loosely) that not many know about.

How did I come about this gem, you ask? Thanks to wives of Army officers posted in the state, who never miss a chance to get their hands on some exotic home decor. If an officer (and his family) have spent even the least amount of time anywhere in Assam or Arunachal, chances are, they own a carpet that was woven in Miao.

Photos of A Day With The Secret Carpet-Weavers Of Miao (Arunachal Pradesh) 1/4 by Lost Passenger
Noa Dihing is a tributary of the Brahmaputra and runs for over 350 km

Located on the banks of the Noa Dihing river, this unexplored town is home to one of the oldest Tibetan refugee settlements—Choephelling, which is now home to over 1500 refugees. It is here that magic is woven.

As you enter the only carpet factory, you are greeted by the constant churring and smacks of small carpet-looms being operated mostly by women sitting on the porch of a cottage. The sound and the motion of thread being interlaced with thread and a magnificent design unfurling in front of you is almost hypnotic. There are just about enough machines that you can count them on your fingers, but as you enter the storage room, you are greeted by rolls after rolls of intricately woven carpets.

With cotton and wool yarn imported from Panipat, Haryana, and some from New Zealand, the carpets are extremely fine in quality and the best part, the weavers can replicate any design you ask for! Though most of them available on display have Buddhist and Tibetan references. These carpets are exported worldwide and the demand is quite high all year round.

Explore the unexplored

Once you are done admiring the carpets and giving orders for your home, the workers are kind enough to offer you refreshment and show you around the rest of the settlement, which also houses a beautiful monastery—a major attraction for the few tourists who do manage to venture into this part of the world

But the Tibetan settlement is only the tip of the iceberg. The small township of Miao has everything—history, art, nature, spiritual guidance, and of course a passageway to Burma. It is unlike anything you've experienced before. "Cultural potpourri" is probably the phrase that comes to mind as you enter the gates of the quaint little township. Despite its small size and chill way of life, there's a lot to do in Miao:

INTO THE WILD: The Namdapha Tiger Project (Wildlife Reserve) is situated here and is actually quite a popular destination for tourists. You can opt for a safari here or spend a few days at the Namdapha Jungle Camp, which is probably the only accommodation, situated a few kilometres from the township.

Photos of Namdapha National Park, Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh, India 1/1 by Lost Passenger

GET HIGH: While the entire region survives primarily on agriculture, a little north to the town of Chowkham, a small region inhabited by Mishmi people, is famous for Opium cultivation. Check out how the crop is grown first hand. They will even give you a pod or two to take home.

GET A DOSE OF HISTORY: The town also houses a small but well-equipped museum that boasts of collections from World War II as well as the local history of the place. If you're up for travelling a little more than you intended, you can also visit the WW-II cemetery in Jairampur (a part of the Chang Lang district itself).

CHANNEL YOUR SPIRITUALITY: Miao boasts of a varied mix of religious ethnicity—Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. You can therefore find a number of churches and temples in the Miao Bazaar and a monastery at the Tibetan settlement.

What to eat?

Miao doesn't boast of a very impressive food culture. In fact, you might be able to find not more than one or two decent eating joints that offer food from the local cuisine. If you are coming here for a day trip, it is advisable to carry edibles with you. And if you plan to stay the night, you will be provided meals at your accommodation, although the cost for the same can get really high.

Where to stay?

Like I mentioned, you need not spend more than a day in the area, but if you do end up doing that, the only decent option in Miao is the eco guest house, Namdapha Holiday Inn. Else you can set up your night camp at nearby towns of Jairampur and Vijoynagar, which fall in the same district.

Accommodation

Photos of Namdapha holiday inn, Miao, Arunachal Pradesh, India 1/1 by Lost Passenger

How to get here?

BY RAIL: The closest railway station is Tinsukia, which is about 120 km away. Buses ply regularly from here to the Changlang District

BY ROAD: Miao is well connected by road. Although the ones leading in from Assam are in better condition than most of the areas in Arunachal.

BY AIR: The closest airport is in Dibrugarh, situated at a distance of about 135 km. Cabs are easily available and so are buses.

Been here already? Share your experiences with us in the comments. Head on over to the community forum for all your queries.

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