I have transversed from one corner to the other of Arunachal Pradesh for more than 45 days. Amongst all the places I have visited, Basar has my heart. If Arunachal Pradesh is called a Paradise, Basar is its Best Kept Secret.
Where is Basar in Arunachal Pradesh?
Basar is the headquarters of newly formed Leparada District, located in the centre of the state. The town comprises of about 26 villages and is still unexplored which makes it extra special. It is connected to the motorable road via Itanagar, Arunachal and Dibrugarh, Assam passing by Silapathar and .
Why do I call Basar a Secret?
The lesser known town, Basar has dozens of gorgeous and serene trek trails, profound caverns and perilous jungles. All are hidden in the heart of the state, Arunachal. Apart from what Basar has to offer in terms of the places one can explore, the Galo people put all efforts into making the experience even better with their kindliness and endearments for everyone.
There are a few places that make you want to come back, again and again; Basar is one such for me. When I first visited Basar, it was just a transit point. Despite that, I kept coming back for its unsaid mystical aura. According to most of the tourists, Basar has nothing much to see, except being a transit point. I agreed until I visited it for the third time.
The third time I visited the town, it was for Basar Confluence 3.0, an annual festival of celebrations. It is a confluence of contemporary with traditional and folk art, a showcase of the unique culture of the Galo tribe through traditional dance and contemporary Galo music. And a lot more of it, I will talk in a separate post.
Needless to say, staying in a local's house during the confluence and exploring different parts of Basar was a compelling experience that I am going to cherish for a lifetime.
First Impression of Basar
I first happened to visit Basar just a few weeks back, while travelling to Taksing, another corner of Arunachal Pradesh which doesn't even have roads yet. So, Basar was my halting point. I spent the night at a local's place and asked them if there is anything to do around Basar, to which they said, 'hai to bahut kuch par koi dekhne aata nahi hai', and being an addict of unexplored places, I made my mind to be back to Basar soon that very moment.
Basar: One of the Cleanest and Most Hospitable Towns of Arunachal Pradesh
People of Basar have left no stone unturned for me to appreciate them and their efforts towards mother nature. Basar comprises of a few dozen villages to explore, making it a quaint hill destination with a connected motorable road.
' Welcome to plastic-free zone', I happily read on board as we entered. Being a traveller who appreciates minimizing the use of plastic, I was jumping off the excitement to know about it. As we proceeded towards the interior of Basar, I could spot dustbins made of Bamboo. What more, people were careful enough to use them to make surroundings of the town spotless!
Having met and lived with more than 30 tribes of NE India, trust me when I say that Galos are my favourite! They are compassionate, full of smiles, welcoming, affectionate and basically all the adjectives for a good human.
I certainly remember the day when we were to stay at a homestay in Sago Village and were late according to the villagers. They fall asleep by 8 PM and we entered the house around 9.30 PM. I personally wasn't expecting anybody to be awake by then but the entire family of the homestay was gathered to meet us. They were full of smiles! Beautiful, right? I can't even remember the last time I was loved by complete strangers like this. We all chatted through the night and snuggled just by the fireplace.
A little bit of the Tribe - Galo
The Galo tribe are descendants of Abo Tani and speak the Tani language; Gallong or Galo. Abo Tani is considered the primal ancestor of the Tani (tribes) group of people in Arunachal Pradesh who followed the religion. Donyi (Sun) -Polo (Moon) is described as the nature of the universe, as eyes of the human conscience. It represents the way in which the divine principle expresses itself, i.e., eternally veiling, unveiling and then revealing itself in nature by providing harmony and balance to the Universe like the alternation of light and darkness.
Majority of Galos living in Basar still follow Donyi Polo, however, Christianity is rapidly on the rise and being followed especially in foothill areas. Their native language is Galo though almost everyone is multilingual with Assamese, Hindi and English.
Since Galo people had no written language of their own, they follow a patrilineal method of naming which has helped them in remembering their origins. The last syllable of the father's name is used as the first syllable of the child's name. For instance, if the father's name is Tani, then the child named as Nito. Now, this may continue as Tani-nito-topo-poi-ikar-karka-kalom-lombi-biki... etc. What a unique and interesting method!!
There is possibly everything in Basar to fulfil the desire of each kind of traveller and tourist. From village walks for photographers to claustrophobic caverns for avid cavers and treks for the adventure seeker, everyone gets to pick their favourite from the buffet.
Why Basar needs to be on everyone's Travel Bucket list?
Popular for its rice farming, Basar offers the stunning landscape encompassing golden paddies, burbling rivulets and dense settlements of traditional bamboo houses. Charm of the town is further accentuated by the rich tribal history and unique traditions of Galo.
Here you can spend your time blissfully in solitude by the farms, orExplore the wilderness of Amazon look-like
During my week-long stay at Basar, I hopped from one trek to the other. The dense forests, waterfalls and caves, which nobody knows, stole my heart. All the treks in and around Basar are majorly day hikes which give enough time for one to embrace the beauty of journey than just the destination.
We started for the Bat Cave from Padi Village and walked about an hour through the mad jungles, outrageous water streams and slushy trails. Upon reaching the cave, I felt claustrophobic even when I am not one! It was deep and dark and I could hear the noise of Bats, a thousand of bats creaking. After getting inside the cave my nose choked with the foul smell of bat shit and my ears were buzzing bees. But we kept going deep inside until we found that going further is impossible and in fact dangerous. The exploration of this cave left me speechless, gasping in awe of the nerve-wracking mystery I unfolded.
It is best to view sunrise from Odii Puttu and adore the beautiful town of Basar. So we stayed in a very cosy homestay at Sago Village (starting point) to make it easy for us to trek to Odii Puttu as early as possible. However, our trek was delayed due to uninvited rain throughout the previous night. We missed the sunrise and the view since it was cloud covered. Despite that, the journey of about 2 hours through the forest and steep slushy trail was captivating and rare. A few middle-aged men accompanied us to the top of Odii Puttu and shared their knowledge of flora and fauna in the region. This place makes the top in my list of places to visit again when in Basar!
We started the trek a bit too late, which meant we had to run. The sun sets pretty early across North East hence walking with normal pace wasn't an option. From the start point to the falls we didn't stop for once. We ran through the untraceable track, dense jungles, long stretches in the river, bloody leeches sucking our blood, crossing over numerous broken trees. My wet shoes weighed thrice their actual weight and legs were full of leeches, but I couldn't stop.
The jungles of Basar are hands down dense, where one can witness a thousand species of wild fruits, roots, vegetables and whatnot. A local friend even made me eat half a dozen wild fruits and leaves, some of them were tangy, others were weirdly sour. This was my favourite trek! For its untrackable way to the thunderous 40m something waterfall through the lush green life was gorgeous A great place to sink in for hours. Undoubtedly a relishing trek!
It is believed that Yapom lives here, i.e. a Ghost Spirit. There are numerous stories and myths about this place, plus way to the hidden waterfall with footprints of Yapom can take you to a whole new dimension of trekking in the wild.
We descended on a steep 100ft downhill to reach the gorge before wading in the river. While I was walking effortlessly on the river bed and crossing bamboo bridges over deep sections of water, I tilted my head to see the sky and was awestruck. I saw the vinelike aerial roots coming down from various trees, making it look like an undiscovered wonderland.
A certainly easy trek of about half an hour which leaves you with thousands of memories to cherish. It was truly an unheard escapade!
Get to know the Galo and their life
As much as I love trekking, I equally love to help, know and learn from the locals of different regions and tribes. The greatest part of Basar is that the people here are always welcoming and kind. They help you and tell about their lifestyle, traditions and cultures.
Just after we got back from Bumchi Waterfall, I insisted on going to paddy fields and my friend made it happen. We ran through the villages and other paddies to reach Karyom's farm where I had lunch and harvested for about half an hour.
Farming to me is all about getting back to the roots, and I salute each and every person whose primary source of income is still based on Agriculture. They could have easily left farming and opted for easy money making methods, but haven't. Much respect, no?
We were invited for a picnic near Sago Village by the locals which was followed by an attempt to show Traditional Fishing. I was told that fishing and hunting is banned to save marine life across Basar, so they took permission from the authorities to show it to us. It was out of my interest as I am a Vegan but the enthusiasm of locals kept me going to see their traditional ways of fishing. One who loves to eat fishes would love this whole experience!
Knowing about 'Mithoon' and its importance
Mithoon is a hybrid descendant from a crossing of wild gaur and domestic cattle. It is a sign of pride and prosperity for major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Mithoon is not milked or put to work, instead, it is left for grazing in the woods as it is wild and untameable. Each family has an indigenous marking on their mithoons.
The animal also plays a crucial role in social life of people as marriages are fixed only after groom's family gifts minimum two mithoons to bride's family (later to be sacrificed and distributed among the families during the wedding).
I managed to stay in two homestays during my week-long stay in Basar. For one day I was in Sago and the rest of my days were spent in a village called Rege. Families of both the homestays poured in so much love and care that it was difficult to bid adieu.
Finding city-like luxury in Basar won't be easy as the town is in the early stages of receiving tourists. The local administration is taking steps like building toilets in every household to make the villages open-defecation free. They are also training the locals to maintain hygiene so that people from outside can enjoy their stay.
Local cuisine can be best tasted, experienced and explained by non-vegetarians as there's a huge variety of it. I wasn't tempted and had no idea of why everyone was happy while they were tasting local cuisines. I am a 'die-hard-vegetarian-recently-turned-vegan' so I used to love what was being served to me. Possibly the healthiest food one can have! All veggies boiled with only salt and rice. My appetite was very well satisfied.
We were invited for the lunch at Sago Village and had a great time with the locals, authentic cuisines, typical Galo Music, bonfire, Poka and madness with my Basar Family. One of the most memorable moments of this trip! <3
A walk in the village is never a bad idea. Basar has got a handful of beautifully set villages for perfect frames. The villages are spotless and vibrant with different hues of nature. I could easily crack conversations and exchange a smile with the locals while we walked around the villages. Majority of houses are made of bamboo with one or two concrete houses. You can do street and portrait photography during the village walks but I didn't do much of it as I prefer conversations over photographs.
Local Rice Beer- Poka
Poka is like a blessing! I am not a person who drinks but Poka is different. It is a local rice beer made by fermenting the rice, later served in Bamboo tumblers. Poka is a staple drink for everyone in Basar and is always offered generously to the guests in every home. I am so madly in love with Poka that I might learn the art of making this magic potion. I am not kidding, Poka is life!
How to reach Basar, Arunachal Pradesh
Though an unheard place, Basar is well listed on Google Maps and connected by a motorable road. The journey is not for faint-hearted as the roads are meandering and narrow, surrounded by dense forests and sometimes non-existent due to landslides.
The cheapest and best way to reach Basar is to take a train from Delhi to Naharlagun/Itanagar and then a shared taxi to Basar which takes about 8-10 hours depending upon road conditions. Alternately you can take a train/flight from Delhi to Dibrugarh and then a shared taxi till Basar which will take around 6-8 hours. Visit IRCTC for train bookings.
The nearest Airport is Dibrugarh Airport in Assam and the closest major railway station is Naharlagun in Arunachal. However, there is Silapathar Railway Station just 100kms away from Basar but the train frequency is not reliable.
Permits required :
Arunachal Pradesh falls under restricted area; official permission is required to enter the state. I highly recommend anybody who is planning to visit Basar or any part of Arunachal Pradesh to get their Inner Line Permit beforehand to avoid the rush. You can obtain the permit online from Arunachal Pradesh Inner Line Permit which is maintained by the State Govt.
Places to stay at Basar Arunachal Pradesh
I request everyone planning to visit Basar to not expect the luxury of cities. There are very little stay options in Basar and most of them being homestays are with bare minimum facilities. You can connect with GRK (A non-profit organization) overlooking the development and welfare of Basar to know more.
How to Be a Responsible Traveller!
Feel like a local, live like a local. Appreciate the tribal traditions, not just in Basar but everywhere. Take your plastic waste back to your city. Don't litter. Leave no carbon footprints. Try, at least.
All images used in the blog are copyrighted unless mentioned.
This blog was originally published on 'It is in the Name'