Arunachal Pradesh is home to 36 major tribes and over 100 sub-tribes, including the Galo, Memba, Apatani, and Adi tribes, to name a few. Our hosts belonged to the Memba tribe, a subgroup of the Tibetan people. While each tribe has its own variations in culture, food, attire, and religious beliefs and practices, each one is as rich as the other, although a few are more well-known than others.
The Memba tribe's religious life revolves around the Mechuka Gompa located in the village. Most families reside around it, and it exhibits a quaint atmosphere, unlike popular elsewhere.
We didn't get to interact with members of any other tribes on this trip, but living with our hosts definitely made us realize how much there is to see and learn about the people of Arunachal!
On our last night in Mechuka, our hosts were kind enough to dress up in their traditional attire and explain the significance of their jewellery, colourful headgear and embroidered dresses. While I usually hate to ask this off hosts while staying with them, the excitement of the teenage girls of the house as they got dressed, giggling away and even performing a traditional dance for us post-dinner ensured that our ten-day trip to this dreamy village ended on a warm and fuzzy note :)
Chalohoppo is an experiential travel company in Northeast India and they helped me with the itinerary, bookings and inner line permit for this trip. They're generally my go-to people for anything Northeast-travel related.
How to get there
We took a direct flight (Vistara Airlines) from Delhi to Guwahati in the wee hours of the morning. Since we were flexible with our dates, we planned our trip around securing cheap flights.
From Guwahati (Kamakhya station) , we took the overnight train (Lachit Express) to Murkongselek (Jonai). We reached around 8 AM and took a shared taxi to Pasighat (costs ~INR 100 per person).
At Pasighat, we took another shared taxi to Aalo (formerly Along). Our tickets were already booked by our hosts (costs ~INR 500 per person), but you can also purchase tickets on the spot as there are plenty of operators (though pre-booking is recommended to avoid waiting).
We broke our journey at Aalo and took another shared cab the next day to Mechuka (costs ~INR 550 per person).
We followed the same sequence on our way back as well, leaving Mechuka early morning, halting at Aalo for the night, heading to Pasighat the following morning, and then catching the train back to Guwahati that evening, followed by the flight back to Delhi the day after (phew!).
Shared taxis are typically 11-seater Sumos and can get a bit stuffy when full, but otherwise quite comfortable and the drivers are very good (they drive safe, are polite and helpful, break for food and refreshments periodically).
Where to stay
Lovely property in Aalo, a bit cut off from the main town (about 20 mins by rickshaw), but overlooks rice fields, orange orchards, a duck pond, and has a great view of the mountains. It is an ideal place for a pit stop on your way to and back from Mechuka. There's not much to do there except for a short walk around their orchard, so carry a book and enjoy the view from the balcony!
DD Homestay (aka Khandu's Homestay)
There are plenty of homestays in Mechuka. This is the one I stayed at so recommending it here. Khandu's family is extremely hospitable, the rooms are basic but comfortable, and they have a lovely kitchen that is the ideal place to bond over some hot food and ghee chai! Their house is walking distance from most places (such as taxi stand, monastery, riverside, etc.)
Best time to visit
October to May is considered a good time to visit this region. Monsoon period starts towards the end of May, and while the valley is lush green during this time, the rain may ruin your plans. We also got stuck in a landslide for 7 hours on our way back. However, I don't regret doing this trip in May because of the greenery and waterfalls we got to experience. In fact, a few friends who have visited the valley in the winters were amazed by the photos and said the valley looks very different in dry/cold weather.
Things to keep in mind
You need an Inner Line Permit to enter Arunachal Pradesh. This can be made in Guwahati or you can apply for it online (suggest doing so well in advance).
BSNL is the only phone network that works in Mechuka, so either get yourself a BSNL SIM or even better, say bye to all external communication while you're visiting!
The weather can be quite unpredictable at times (like any other mountain region). So even if you're traveling during the summer months, it's advisable to carry warm clothes and rain gear.
There's pretty much a town-wide shutdown during and right after elections (including the election results time), so it's better to avoid visiting during this time.
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