It was the time for our epic journey from Itanagar to reach Tawang – Our Destination. Tawang is one of those fabulous places for any tourist but rarely finds its way to their checklist. But we were lucky enough to have finally visiting the place which we always dreamed off. With long hauls due to landslides and road construction, we couldn’t enjoy the first leg of our journey much. We took almost 18 hours of drive to begin our real trip and reached Tawang around 11:30 PM. By the time we reached everything seemed shut. There was a grim silence everywhere. Winter has already come and you could feel the kind of chill that goes right through your coat and all other layers of clothing you might be wearing just to keep your teeth from chattering.
It seemed like a dull beginning to a trip but the morning seemed promising. Woke up about 6:00 AM and while removing the curtain from the window, you wouldn’t believe the majesty of the place. If there was heaven on earth, this was it. Tawang is magical. It’s full of monasteries and mystical gompas and undoubtedly beautiful landscapes. It was a double treat to our trip with Tawang Festival on the card as well. Had it on our minds that day would be spent on sightseeing and the evening on festival.
It is always a humble beginning to start your trip in prayer before the day’s noise and busy-ness intrudes. We had the privilege of having a local friend Choikyang Tsering who accompanied us throughout the stay. Tawang Monastery was our first interest of visit. He took us then to the monastery, a hidden treasure, deep in the Himalayas, being the cultural epicenter of Buddhism and Tibetan ethnicity. He introduced us to one of the learned Professor, Thupten Shastri, who guided and enlightened us with the insights of Tawang Monastery. The museum, gompa and the school are the few things to visit at the monastery. Photography is absolutely free everywhere.
Next was the War Memorial in Tawang town which is a must visit place, and you must also witness the light and sound show in the evening. It starts from 5:30 PM – 6:00 PM. It is build in memory of over 2420 officers and soldiers who laid down their lives in Kameng Sector during the 1962 Indo-China War. It would be of deep interest to people who find wars or history interesting. We then went to the market to get ourselves some warm cloths and get ready for the next couple of days.
Please don’t forget to try the local dishes. It’s delicious and organic. Ashum Thukpa is one to be recommended.
We spend the next day enjoying the “Best Cultural Festival” of the country, Tawang Festival. Street/Carnival Show in the morning is the attraction not to be missed. Various local dances like Yak Dance, Lion Dance, Warrior Dance and many more are performed in the main bazaar of the Tawang town. During evening the stage lights up with performances from artists from different Arunachalee tribes and many international artists as well. And if you have been planning a trip to Tawang, this is an ideal time to backpack. A double treat to your trip with Tawang Festival on the card.
Next morning we had our plans ready for the other leg of our trip and had our cab booked for PT Tso Lake and Shungatser Lake. (Reserved Sumo or SUV, costs around 3,500 – 4,000 INR). If you are planning for Bumla Pass, you will need a permit issued by the DC office and signed by brigade commander.
Heading towards PT Tso Lake, thick layer of mist hung over the roads as we drove up the hills. Well as we gained altitude, the mist descended even thicker and many times we stopped dead in our tracks wondering if there was a curve ahead or if we were at a cliff. Visibility was at zero. We kept soaring uphill till we came to the first lake – the Patang Teng Tso Lake. It was 20 km from Tawang but it seemed like never ending journey. While Indian Army conducts live-fire drills near the PT Tso Lake, all vehicles were put on hold. Sound of fire echo’s to the furthest mountain, while we got the perfect timing to spend ample amount of time in the lake with the firing sound hovering on our head. Having experience anything like this seemed to be scary at the same time exciting. Almost about half an hour, drill went on and then we set for Shungatser Lake.
Driving to Shungatser Lake is a surreal experience. Colors change with every curve in the mountains along with scenery. And anything that you see is an attraction in itself. One word to Heaven is Tawang. I had not seen anything so majestic, peaceful and wonderful. I wanted to capture every single image into my lens, but a lot is still in my mind’s eye. On our way ahead, we saw several bunkers used by the Indian Army during the 1962 war. We also crossed several tombstones on the way. It is a scary thought that this peaceful and beautiful place was once a battle field.
The road to Shungatser Lake was curvy and topsy turvy. The roads are not so friendly and it is believed to be a strategy in not maintaining the roads properly, conjuring in times of Chinese aggression. But as closer we were getting towards the lake, from the top of the mountain you could get the first glimpse of the lake and it was cherry on the cake and a treat for eyes. It was amazingly beautiful.
Shungatser Lake was formed as a result of earthquake and the tree still stands tall in the middle of the lake. And this is what makes this lake captivating. We walked along the lake which is rapturous and ecstatic. Took many picture to memory. There is also a small army run cafeteria, where you get Maggie and Momos, tea and coffee. You could spend whole day admiring the beauty of the lake and the surroundings. And I swear nothing could feel in the space. It’s that prodigious!
While heading back to Tawang, we stopped at the Nagula Lake. This is undoubtedly one of the understated lakes in Tawang. It’s extremely beautiful and definitely deserves a stop-over while you take the road back to Tawang. One can also take a snapshot of Lamai Zhabse, a significant landmark for the Buddhist in Tawang. And as closure we were getting towards Tawang town, landscape starting changing its color.
And sadly it was the time to board on the return leg of the trip, but we were already excited to see the things that we had missed on our first leg. There is a place called RA-1 just few kilometers before Sela Pass, where most of the vehicles stop-over for a cup of tea. I swear the tea test well. Trust me you should definitely give a try. And few minutes later finally we were at the World’s Second Highest Motor-able road, Sela Pass at 13,700 ft. It’s a must stop to soak in the beauty and the amazing scene around. Sela Lake is one that’s not to be missed. One can behold the lake whole day and would not get fatigued by its beauty.
As there was shortage of time we couldn’t cover the stretch of Dirang, Bomdila, Sessa or Tipi but the entire journey have been an exotic experience. Pictures full of memory, bags unpacked but the memory remains alive. Each day has been a memorable experience. And by far the best trip of my life.
Amazing Arunachal welcomes everyone to the Kingdom of Heaven – Exotic Tawang!!!
Do spare some time of your life in adventure and make sure Tawang is on your Bucket List!! ENJOY!!!