The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh

Tripoto
23rd Sep 2014
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 1/19 by Salim Islam
Stuck in a landslide
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 2/19 by Salim Islam
At Tawang Monastery
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 3/19 by Salim Islam
The Tawang Monastery
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 4/19 by Salim Islam
Ani Gompa embedded into the mountain
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 5/19 by Salim Islam
Tawang buddhist School
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 6/19 by Salim Islam
Bylanes of Tawang Monastery
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 7/19 by Salim Islam
Shonga tser lake
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 8/19 by Salim Islam
Shungester Lake / Madhuri Lake
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 9/19 by Salim Islam
Pankang Teng Tso lake
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 10/19 by Salim Islam
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 11/19 by Salim Islam
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 12/19 by Salim Islam
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 13/19 by Salim Islam
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 14/19 by Salim Islam
Tawang Monastery
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 15/19 by Salim Islam
On the way to Tawang
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 16/19 by Salim Islam
Sela Lake
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 17/19 by Salim Islam
Dirang Valley
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 18/19 by Salim Islam
Dirang Valley
Photo of The far east of India : Arunachal Pradesh 19/19 by Salim Islam
At Bomdila

Effervescence of the first trip lingered on. Fairytales from the grand old folks in my village were studded with mighty mountains; brave, yet humble people resided in houses perched on the top of those mountains. Pictured, yet forever eluding.

Through those treacherous roads, in two Tata Sumos, we set out. School kids we were, not even pushing 14, when our school principal decided to take us to see Arunachal Pradesh in all its glory. There was no going back on the spell it cast and the mighty mountains have haunted me ever since. I went again with my family when I was 16. Now I had the chance of reliving the route and visiting my Disneyland.

I took a bus from Guwahati to Tezpur in the afternoon. To my dismay, there weren’t any seats left on the shared taxis. I had made friends with one of the tour operators and he informed me that many taxis were stuck in Tawang because of the bad weather and horrible road conditions. He said that he could book me a ticket in 2 days. At 4 am, my phone rang. Pinku called to inform that one of his passengers had cancelled his ticket and he kept it for me. A cup of tea and conversations at 11 in the night with Pinku and his friends did the trick. I boarded the taxi at around 7 in the morning and thanked Pinku for all his efforts.

A lama, a convert Christian and his wife, a young couple, a woman with two kids and a homebound college student; all cramped up in the sumo and off we went. One just doesn’t start conversations except for small talk. Situations allow strangers to interact. A punctured Tyre and a landslide was all it took to bond. In no time, we were a small family haggling to pay for the roadside tea.

We halted at Bhalukpong, Bomdila and at the last cafe just before the dreaded Sela Pass. Waded through the pass and beyond at almost zero visibility. By the time we reached Tawang, it was way past midnight. They booked me a room in a hotel and were kind enough to drop me off at the doorstep. The dogs in Tawang can be quite ferocious at night.

Photo of Bomdila by Salim Islam

On the way to Tawang

Though the journey was tough, the views coupled with the adventures of encountering live landslides and the fear of the sumo falling off into the river below, helped me reinvigorate my insatiable hunger of getting up early in the morning as fresh as a freshwater dolphin and strolling around in content and happiness. I strolled up to the Tawang Monastery which is considered to be the largest monastery in India and also the largest vihara with more than 60 residential buildings. I managed to reach just in time for the morning prayers with all the lamas and the monks reciting prayers. I then made friends with the little lamas and enjoyed a day full of gully cricket, talks of IPL teams and lunch alongside them. The small alleys filled with the little lamas, criss-crossing the residences, foster warmth even when the sun refuses to shine.

The Tawang Monastery

The old structure on the left and the new temple on the right

I also visited the Ani Gompa. It’s a monastery that houses female lamas. Tugged on to the corner of a mountain opposite to the Tawang Monastery, it takes about 3.5 hours to reach. You have to depend on your legs to get you up there.

Ani Gompa, nestled in the mountain

Photo of Tawang Gompa by Salim Islam
Photo of Tawang Gompa by Salim Islam
Photo of Tawang Gompa by Salim Islam

Next day, I booked myself an Omni Van to visit the famous string of lakes upwards of Tawang. A word of caution; never take an Omni up the mountain. It has small tyres, low power and it slips like it’s perpetually rolling on a banana skin. After a lot of getting down and pushing the Omni and a plethora of lakes, we reached the checkpost at Y junction. Y junction, as the name suggests, is a two way split, one leads to Bum-La; the Indo-China Border and the other leads to Shonga-tser lake (popularly known as Madhuri lake after the shooting of the film Koyla). In 1962, the Chinese infiltrated through this route. I spoke to the jawan at the checkpost and he introduced me to his senior. We talked about Delhi and how difficult it is to man this side of the border.

People connect and you need to trust the goodness in them. All of a sudden, the officer got up and offered me to take to Bum-la in an army jeep. He stared at my camera and I got the sign. I left it at the checkpost with the jawan I had met. As we were leaving, the jawan offered me his Ray-Ban and said “Sir, barf zyaada hai, kuch nahi dikhega. Ghoomne ke baad mujhe waapis de dena (Sir, you wouldn’t be able to see with so much snow. Hand them to me after you are done sight-seeing)”. Humbled!

There is literally no road up to the pass. The officer, whom I’ll not name, suggested that India has never been an offensive country. I was left to understand the rest. I came back and headed out to Shonga-tser lake. I met with a local there who informed me that there existed a thriving village, however, after the 1950 earthquake the river/stream changed its course and the lake was formed. One can still see the trees in the middle of the lake.

First view of the Shonga-tser Lake

Every lake has a name. However, I don't remember the name of this lake

Banggachang Lake

...and this too

...and this too

Another view of the Pankang Teng Tso Lake

I spent 2 more days in Tawang complying with lunch and dinner invitations from the friends that I met in the shared Taxi. They insisted that I stay with them but I stayed at my hotel saving them from what I felt would be an inconvenience.

Sela Lake

Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam
Photo of Madhuri Lake by Salim Islam

My next stay was at Dirang, a valley known for its orchards and hot-springs. There’s another valley called Sangti Valley some 8 kilometres from Dirang. It’s pristine to say the least. The valley, the forests and the eastern Himalayas are a treat to your eyes and even Poo would find his inner peace here.

Dirang Valley

Photo of Sela Lake, Tawang by Salim Islam
Photo of Sela Lake, Tawang by Salim Islam

My travel to the north-east ended abruptly. My plans to visit Mechuka and Namdapha National Park were thwarted owing to the bad weather. I waited for 2 days at Bomdila in the hope that the weather would improve. In the meanwhile, I visited the Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Lling monastery at Bomdila.

It is said to be a replica of the Tsona Gontse monastery at Tsona in southern Tibet. I remembered the path as I had visited it earlier during my school trip. I was so confident of the route that I failed to take into account the term “urban development”. I had lost my way. I did not ask for the way to the monastery as people passed me by though I ultimately visited it. I sat down, overlooking the town, what it had grown to be. All those memories of the fables of remote mountains and villages seemed distant. We will grow and as we do so, we will consume everything that stands in our way. We will build great concrete jungles and chip away at all the greens. My children will never see my Disneyland.

Mickey & Minnie

Photo of Bomdila Monastery, Bomdila by Salim Islam

The trip started here, when I took a bus to Tawang so I could go ahead with the plans of exploring the far east.

Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam
Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam
Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam
Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam
Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam
Photo of Tezpur, Assam, India by Salim Islam

The place is the epitome of beauty. It has a string of lakes in its locality, surrounded by snow capped mountains. Tawang road leads one to either ways, one which leads a person to the Indo China border or two the Shonga tser lake. Both of which are beautiful sights. This place is also populated with Buddhist monasteries and the whole town is a mini monastery in itself which gives a tourist a sense of peace and serenity.

Photo of Tawang Monastery, Tawang by Salim Islam
Photo of Tawang Monastery, Tawang by Salim Islam

This place is very well known for its hot springs and orchards. One can see the eatern Himalayas from here which is wonderful when clubbed with the beautiful orchards and water bodies around.

Photo of Dirang by Salim Islam
1 Comment(s)
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Photo of Panna Putnam
Panna Putnam
Beautiful trip. How safe is it to travel in this area? Do fly in from Delhi?
Fri 01 30 15, 07:09 · Reply · Edit · Delete ·
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