The State of Arunachal Pradesh is among the 29 States of India and holds the North Eastern most position in the Country. The most picturesque among the Seven Sister States of India, Arunachal Pradesh is a land of undulating hills and valleys, simple and hospitable people and Indigenous arts and crafts. A Land of colorful festivals, the name Arunachal Pradesh means the Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains. In Sanskrit, it is also referred to as the Orchid State of India.
Arunachal Pradesh is a land of breath taking natural beauty with its snow clad peaks, towering mountains, roaring rivers, high altitude meadows and vast unspoiled sub-tropical forests. Arunachal Pradesh shares its International borders touching China, Bhutan and Myanmar. Arunachal has been endowed with a natural landscape that is awe inspiring and majestic with only a few other places in the world that come close its raw and rugged beauty. Arunachal Pradesh can surely be called as the wildest frontier of India. Falling almost entirely under the Eastern Himalayan landscape, Arunachal Pradesh is indeed a land of unmatchable natural beauty, heritage and ancient traditions. The forests of Arunachal Pradesh are considered to be among the best bio-diversity hotspots across the World!
Himalayan rivers and their major tributaries meander across the State of Arunachal Pradesh covering valleys which have remained disconnected from the rest of the modern world due to poor infrastructure and densely populated mountains giving Arunachal Pradesh its unique identity of rough and rugged natural beauty. Nine major rivers flow across the State that harbors a wide variety of flora and fauna. Across the single State, inhabit over a group of 40 tribes and their sub tribes who speak fairly over 90 languages. The rich culture and heritage of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh makes the State one of the most sought after destinations for any offbeat traveller.
The first rays of the sun greets India in Arunachal Pradesh at Dong Village which is why Arunachal Pradesh is called the land of rising sun in India. Arunachal Pradesh is predominantly tribal and sparsely populated. There is a strong Buddhist presence in the region that border Bhutan with splendid relics of Buddhist art an architecture. Arunachal Pradesh shares its borders with China in the north, Myanmar in the east and the kingdom of Bhutan in the west. Almost 80% of the state is covered with a canopy of impenetrable deciduous forests.
Location, Climate and Biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh ~
The State of Arunachal Pradesh is mostly surrounded by Mountain ranges. The Himalayan Mountain Range covers most of the State barring exceptions at Lohit, Changlang and Tirap districts that are covered by the Patkai hills. Kangto, Nyegi Kangsang and the Eastern Gorichen peak are some of the highest peaks of Arunachal Pradesh. The State is divided into five (5) river valleys ~ the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit and the Tirap. All these are fed by snow from the Himalayas and countless rivers and rivulets. The mightiest of these rivers is Siang, called the Tsangpo in Tibet, which becomes the Brahmaputra after it is joined by the Dibang and the Lohit in the plains of Assam.
The climate of Arunachal Pradesh varies with elevation. Areas that are at a very high elevation in the Upper Himalaya close to the Tibetan border have a cold climate the year around. Below the Upper Himalayas are the Middle Himalayas, where people experience a moderate climate and the areas at the sub-Himalayan and sea-level elevation generally experience humid, subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters.
Arunachal Pradesh receives heavy rainfall of 2,000 to 4,100 millimeters (79 to 161 in) annually, most of it between May and September. The mountain slopes and hills are covered with alpine, temperate, and subtropical forests of dwarf rhododendron, oak, pine, maple, fir, sal and teak.
Arunachal Pradesh has one of the richest bio geographical province of the Himalayan zone which is also classified as the biodiversity hot-spot. The State is endowed with diverse forests and magnificent wildlife that harbors over 5000 plants, about 85 terrestrial mammals, over 500 birds and a large number of butterflies, insects and reptiles. The vast forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh, as mentioned earlier, harbors a wide range of varied fauna species. Arunachal Pradesh is the only State in India where seven (7) of the wild cat species are found together viz. tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, snow leopards, golden cats, leopard cats and the marbled cats. The Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the best bio-diversity hotspots in the World and is home to the big four cat species. Some of the most unique primate species of India viz. Hollock Gibbon, Assamese macaque, pig-tailed macaque, slow lorris, rhesus macaque, stumped tailed macaque and the capped langur have made the forests of Arunachal Pradesh their home. Migratory bird species flock to various destinations of Arunachal Pradesh during the winter season making the State one of the most sought after destinations for bird watching in India. Rare bird species to be spotted in Arunachal Pradesh are the Indian Hornbill, Bengal florican, Mishmi wren, White winged wood duck, Termincks tragopan, etc. Smaller mammals like the squirrel, porcupine, civets, mongoose, shrew, bats, etc. are also to be spotted in Arunachal Pradesh. The higher altitudes are home to unique and exotic species like the Himalayan black bear, Red Panda and the Goral.
Most of Arunachal, including the Himalayan foothills and the Patkai hills, are home to Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests. Arunachal is also home to a large number of medicinal plants and within Ziro valley where 158 medicinal plants are being used by its inhabitants.
People of Arunachal Pradesh ~
The State of Arunachal Pradesh is home to many distinct ethnic groups, most of which are in some ways related to the peoples of Tibet and the region of western Myanmar. Arunachal Pradesh can be roughly divided into a set of semi-distinct cultural spheres, on the basis of tribal identity, language, religion and culture ~ the Tibetic area bordering Bhutan in the west, the Tani area in the centre of the state, the Mishmi area to the east of the Tani area, the Tai/Singpho/Tangsa area bordering Myanmar, and the “Naga” area to the south. Arunachal Pradesh is home to over 26 indigenous tribes and over 100 sub-tribes. Having a rich cultural heritage, these ancient tribes have dwelled Arunachal Pradesh for the past several hundred years preserving their age old customs and religious practices. The presence of a large number of tribes in Arunachal Pradesh has resulted in over 90 languages being spoken across the State.
The major Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are ~
- Tai Khamti
- Tai Phake
These tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are mostly an agrarian community. Unadapted to the major transformations of the modern world, these tribes mostly living in the remote areas of Arunachal Pradesh have been successful in preserving their age old religious beliefs, practices and customs. The tribal dresses and ornaments of the people of Arunachal Pradesh are very exquisite. For instance, the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh are characterized with special facial tattoos and nose plugs. The Miri men wear unique headgears while the women wear special blouses made of cane. Most the the people of Arunachal Pradesh are expert in handicrafts of bamboo and cane and weave out exquisite products made of bamboo. The unique bamboo bridges of Arunachal Pradesh are a sight to behold! The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh celebrate many traditional festivals which are characterized by different dance rituals and colorful rituals.
Arunachal Pradesh celebrates some unique festival across the year; Losar Festival (January/February) celebrates the Tibetan New Year. Losar Festival is celebrated generally for 5 days and on the 5th day evening people clean their homes to welcome the new year and say goodbye to the previous year. Losar Festival has a major influence of Buddhism, therefore during the festival days Buddhist scriptures are read. Losar is celebrated with great pomp and vigour at the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India ~ the Tawang Monastery. The Torgya festival of Arunachal Pradesh celebrated at the Tawang Monastery is again a three day celebration and it signifies the destruction of evil spirits. The Saka Dawa festival marks Buddha’s transition to nirvana and is celebrated in the fourth month of lunar calendar. The Choekhor festival of Arunachal Pradesh is the festival of harvest and crop. It is celebrated in the seventh month of Lunar calendar with huge pomp and show.
Rice is a staple diet across Arunachal Pradesh and is usually served with vegetarian and nonvegetarian delights. The food habits of the people of Arunachal Pradesh have a tribal influence. The most famous traditional drink made from fermented rice or millet is Apong. The prominent feature of the cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh is indigenous herbs and meat.
Places of Interest in Arunachal Pradesh ~
- Tawang ~ Home to the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India, Tawang is surrounded by snow clad mountains the year around. Other places of interest at Tawang are the Madhuri Lake and the Jung Waterfall. Tawang also has many centers of Handicrafts and Handlooms
- Sela Pass and Jaswatgarh ~ Among the highest motor able passes in India, the Sela Pass provides a majestic view of the Snow Clad mountains of Arunachal Pradesh
- Bomdila ~ Has a famous Monastery and is a hub of Handicrafts and Handlooms of Arunachal Pradesh
- Dirang and Sangti Valley ~ a Bird watcher’s paradise
- Itanagar ~ the Capital of Arunachal Pradesh
- Ziro Valley ~ the Land of the Legendary Apatani Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and home to the World’s Tallest naturally formed Shivalinga
- Daporijo ~ the Land of the Tagin Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
- Namsai ~ Home to the Golden Pagoda Temple
- Walong ~ the Land where India fought China in 1962
- Dong Village ~ First rays of the Sun in India are received at Dong Village
- Kibithu ~ the Eastern most part of India
- Mayodia ~ Covered with snow clad mountains, Mayodia provides a picteresque view of the Patkai mountain range of Arunachal Pradesh
- Anini ~ Home to the Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
- Miao ~ Center of Tibetian settlement in Arunachal Pradesh
- Namdapha National Park ~ Home to the Big Four (4) Cat Species and the 3rd Largest National Park of India
- Jairampur ~ The World War II cemetery at Jairampur is the only one in India that has burials of soldiers of the Chinese Army
- Nampong ~ Host to the Pangsau Pass Winter Festival
- Pangsau Pass ~ the Border of India and Myanmar. Every month on the 10th, 20th and 30th, Indian Nationals are allowed to cross the border and travel to the market at Myanmar
- Stilwell Road ~ Built by the American Army during the World War II under the able guidance of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell
- Lake of No Return ~ Dubbed as the Bermuda Triangle this Lake shot into fame during the World War II when Aircraft of the Allies disappeared mysteriously in the Lake.
To Plan your visit to Arunachal Pradesh please fill the form below ~
On the banks of the Bhoroli river in Dirang lies Asia’s third largest orchid garden popularly known as Tipi. At Tipi orchard in Arunachal Pradesh, around 500 species of orchids can be seen. Bomdila, a breathtakingly beautiful town with an awesome view of the snow capped mountains of the Eastern Himalayas is the headquarters of west Kameng and has a large number of apple orchards. Sela Pass, the second highest pass in Arunachal Pradesh runs through a small ride along the paradise Sela lake. Most visitors to Arunachal Pradesh visit to sight the Buddhist Monasteries here. Tawang, popularly termed as the Land of Monpas is famous for the Tawang Monastery, which is the largest Buddhist Monastery in India and the second largest in the world after Potala in Tibet. The picturesque Ziro Valley is a tourist’s delight with its stunning landscapes and the Apatani tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The Namdapha National Park is a famous tiger reserve accessible from Dibrugarh via its entry point Miao. The majority portion of the Namdapha National Park is mountainous and across its flows the majestic river Nao Dehing, Deban and the Namdapha rivers which paves way for a rich diversity of flora and fauna here at Namdapha National Park. This park in Arunachal Pradesh is home to the big four cat species of the likes of the tigers, the leopards, the clouded leopards and the snow leopards. An important pilgrimage center of Arunachal Pradesh is Parashuram Kund which is believed to be the place where Parashuram washed away the sin of killing his mother in the waters of Brahma Kund. The tribal hamlet of Tezu is located close by dominated most;y by the Mishmi hill tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Other places of interest across Arunachal Pradesh are Bhalukpong, Mechuka, Pasighat, Along, Roing, Mayodia, etc. Arunachal Pradesh is haven to explore Buddhism with many Monasteries being home here.
Among the northeasternmost State of India, Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful States in the Country. The first rays of the sun in India, touch the soil of Arunachal Pradesh at a tinsel village of Dong and hence the name Arunachal Pradesh in Sanskrit translates to the ‘Land of the Dawn Lit Mountains’. Many other feathers dawn the hat of Arunachal Pradesh in it being the Orchid State of India, the Paradise for all Botanists and also it being the largest among all the north eastern States in India. Arunachal Pradesh is one of the North East States that enjoys a temperate climate around the year and can be visited across the year. Covered with snowy mountains, steep cliffs, gorgeous rivers and glorious waterfalls, Arunachal Pradesh harbors a very diverse biodiversity. The widely scattered Archaeological remains across Arunachal Pradesh stands a testament to its rich heritage and glory. Some of the main Archaeological State of Arunachal Pradesh are Tawang Monastery, Malinithan Temple, Likabali, Dirang Dzong, Ita Fort, Dimachung-Betali, Bhismaknagar Fort, Tezu Fort, Bolung Fort, Gomsi Fort, Rukmini Fort, Naksha Parbat ruins, etc.
The State of Arunachal Pradesh is situated in extreme north east corner of India with close proximity to the border of China. Arunachal Pradesh is nearly 84,000 sq km in area and has a long international border with the Kingdom of Bhutan to its west, Republic of China to the north and north-east and Republic of the Union of Myanmar to its east. Arunachal Pradesh stretches from snow-capped mountains in the north to the plains of Brahmaputra valley to its south. Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state area wise in the north-eastern region.
The State of Arunachal Pradesh is a place of lush green forests, deep river valleys and beautiful plateaus. The land is mostly mountainous with Himalayan ranges along the northern borders criss-crossed with mountain ranges running north-south. These divide the state into five river valleys: the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit and the Tirap. All these rivers are fed by snows from the Himalayas and countless rivers and rivulets except Tirap which is fed by Patkai Range.The mightiest of these river is Siang, called Tsangpo in Tibet, which becomes Brahmaputra after it is joined by the Dibang and the Lohit in the plains of Assam.
High mountains and dense forests have prevented intercommunication between tribes living in different river valleys of Arunachal Pradesh. The geographical isolation thus imposed has led different tribes to evolve their own dialects and grow with their distinct identities. Nature has endowed the Arunachal people with a deep sense of beauty which finds delightful expression in their songs, dances and crafts.
Arunachal Pradesh is the Easternmost State of North East India and is a Land of rich culture and ancient heritage. The first rays of the Sun in India falls on the Lands of the State of Arunachal Pradesh and hence this State is often referred to as the Land of the Rising Sun in India. Nestled in the Border between the countries of India, Tibet and China, Arunachal Pradesh is among the most picturesque of the Eight Sister States of North East India!
Arunachal Pradesh has been bestowed and endowed with natural landscapes that is awe inspiring and majestic with only a few other places in the World that come close to its raw and rugged natural beauty. Surrounded by the Himalayan Mountain Range and criss crossed by the Siang and Lohit Rivers, Arunachal Pradesh enjoys a mild and temperate weather condition across the year, with snowfall to be sighted across the places of Sela, Tawang, Mechula and Mayodia. Being located in the Himalayan Zone, Arunachal Pradesh is a Biodiversity hotspot harbouring over 5000 plants, 85 mammal species, 500 avifauna species and a large number of reptiles and butterfly species.
Being a land of a large number of residing ethnic groups, the primary inhabitants of Arunachal Pradesh are the Monpas, Nishis, Apatanis, Noctes, Wanchos, Singphos, Adis, Tangsas, Tai Phakes, Chakmas, Buguns and the Mishmi Tribes.
Festivals of Arunachal Pradesh ~
1| Losar Festival ~ Tawang Monastery ~ Tawang ~ Arunachal Pradesh
Celebrating the Tibetan New Year ~ Losar Festival ~ Tawang Monastery ~ Late February/Early March every year
Losar is the Tibetan word for ‘New Year’. LO stands for the semantic field ‘Year, Age’; SAR holds the semantic field ‘New, Fresh’. Losar Festival is a festival of the Buddhist Community in Tawang and it marks the Monpa New Year which is celebrated with great Splendor and Grandeur every year during the End of February or Early March at the Largest Buddhist Monastery in India ~ the Tawang Monastery.
The Losar Festival is believed to ward off evel spirits and welcome the arrival of the New Year filled with happiness and prosperity. Although the Losar Festival is celebrated every year on the first day of the first month of the Tibetian Lunar Calendar, the dates vary each year. The local people are busy with cleaning, painting and decorating their houses. The local Monpa community houses are adorned with different decorations and offerings are made known as LAMA LOSAR.
On the New Year’s eve, a traditional noodle soup is made which is known as Guthnk. It contains dumplings made of flour and water. The dumplings are stuffed with each of nine different fortune symbols that determine the fortune of the person for the next year. They also make offerings to the households shrine to pay homage to the Lord. This day is restricted to the immediate family only. On the second day, people move out of their homes and visit their friends and relatives. They exchange greetings and wish one another ‘Tashi Delek’ meaning Good Luck! In the evenings, people light torches and move around their homes warding off evil spirits from their abode. The third day is marked by visits to the Monastery, Shrines and Stupas. On this day, the Monpa people also donate clothes and foods to the Monks of the Monasteries.
2| Tawang Festival ~ Tawang ~ Arunachal Pradesh
The Tawang Festival ~21st to 23rd October every year
In the land of early sunrise, on India’s eastern most frontier, with China to its northern side, the land of Thunder Dragon Bhutan, to its southwest, and Myanmar to its Eastern side. Tawang is situated at 10,000 feet above sea level with snow capped mountains, monasteries & waterfalls. A place where you might not find Nirvana, but the Experience will surely be like that if not less. Tawang is a place for those who search their Souls. With an initiative of showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the state, the festival also promote adventure tourism. It’s the festival, where you will not only witness the rich culture of Monpas the prime inhabitants of Tawang, but also of all other tribes of the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang Festival was introduced in 2012 as a tourism festival after celebration of Buddha Mahotsova since 2004, with a three-day routine including cycling expeditions, cultural shows, Ethnic Fashion Show and a lot more.
In this festival, a mega fair is constructed to showcase the brilliant culture of the monastic tribes. With religious chants by monks from the Tawang monastery, folk dances, tribal dances, and other forms of culture it is sure to get peace and entertained. The Celebrations resonate the Eastern skies as colorful culture spills to the streets, there is an opera which in act street plays based on Buddhist stories of ancient times. In the land of Last Shangri-La that only creates magic but engulfs one in an unending bond, one can surely be at calm and enjoy the warm hospitality of the people of Arunach Pradesh.
What you can do when you are visiting Tawang ~
- You can visit the tallest road pass, the Sela pass.
- Take a tour of the famed Tawang monastery (Largest in India)
- Visit the popular Songa-Tser lake or see the Tawang War Memorial
- Try the roadside delicacies like Momos and Thukpa’s
3| The Ziro Festival of Music ~ Ziro Valley ~ Arunachal Pradesh
To what is described as India’s Greatest outdoor Music Festival, the Ziro festival of Music is held every year in the month of September at the tinsel town of Ziro in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Situated at around 115 kms from the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar is the small town of Ziro. Even though this town is far atop the hills but people from across the world know Ziro as the place the hosts India’s largest outdoor Music Festival – ‘the Ziro Festival of Music’. Although this may suggest Ziro as a modern place where the parties and festivities cease to come to an end but it’s completely the other way around. Ziro is a quaint and silent place that is home to the ‘Apatani’ tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It is only during September when the festival is held you see people from across the world coming to dance to the tunes of the renowned artists both local and global to an atmosphere very similar to ‘Sunburn Festival’ across the various Tier I cities of India!
The Ziro Festival of Music showcases the independent music scene in India. The festival was founded in 2012 by Bobby Hano and Menwhopause guitarist Anup Kutty, and has featured artists like Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley, Louw Majaw, Sha’air n Func, Indus Creed, Peter Cat Recording Co, Menwhopause, Guru Rewben Mashangva, and Barmer Boys among others. The festival is spread over four days and is hosted by members of the Apatani people in Ziro.
Ziro is primarily home to the ‘Apatani’ Tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh –friendly, simple and hospitable people with an interesting culture and legacy. They are a non-nomadic, agrarian tribe who share a responsible relationship with nature. ‘Apatani’ people cultivate permanent wet land cultivation instead of dry land cultivation which involves burning forests. Ziro valley is lush with paddy farms and is known for its unique paddy cum fi sh cultivation where using traditional irrigation methods, farmers rear fish in the knee-deep water. Keeping them company are the adorable, shy, and harmless Indian Bison. Around here, they are called ‘Mithun’ and considered auspicious and are very tasty too!
Back in the olden days, there was a strange custom of facial tattoos for ‘Apatani’ women and you can still see a few old women with tattoos. A highlight of this place and people and shy to pose for a picture and hence do ask for their permission before you take pictures.
4| Dree Festival ~ Ziro Valley ~ Arunachal Pradesh
Situated at around 115 kms from the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar is the small town of Ziro. Even though this town is far atop the hills but people from across the world know Ziro as the place the hosts India’s largest outdoor Music Festival – ‘the Ziro Festival of Music’. Although this may suggest Ziro as a modern place where the parties and festivities cease to come to an end but it’s completely the other way around. Ziro is a quaint and silent place that is home to the ‘Apatani’ tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It is only during September when the festival is held you see people from across the world coming to dance to the tunes of the renowned artists both local and global to an atmosphere very similar to ‘Sunburn Festival’ across the various Tier I cities of India!
The ‘Dree Festival’ is an ‘Apatani’ agricultural rite. It involves the sacrifice of fowls, eggs and animals to the Gods – ‘Tamu’, ‘Metii’ and ‘Danyi Pilo’ (Sun and Moon God). The purpose of the festival is to appease these Gods so that famine could be avoided. This rite is observed by the ‘Apatanis’ in Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘Apatanis’, who inhabit a tranquil pine clad valley called Ziro at the core of Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh, are famous for their unique practice of wet rice cultivation. One would wonder as to how the early ‘Apatanis’ had brilliantly discovered the magnificent irrigated rice cultivation without help of scientific technologies. Rice is the staple food of the ‘Apatanis’, as such for its bumper harvest the nature God and goddesses are prayed during the ‘Dree’ Festival from 4 to 7 July of each year.
Although ‘Dree’ is the festival of the ‘Apatani’ Tribe, it has gained in popularity amongst other tribes in Arunachal Pradesh as well. The festival takes place on July 5 each year; however celebrations associated with the festival begin from July 4 itself. ‘Dree’ is the biggest festival of the Ziro Valley and is celebrated to ensure a good harvest. During the festival, people offer prayers to their Gods and seek the blessings of the four mighty Gods who are thought to bring in peace, prosperity and fruitful harvest to the Ziro Valley. Traditional dance is performed and as a symbol of good harvest cucumber is distributed to all. Women brew wine and people also savor various delicacies and rice/millet beer.
5| Pangsau Pass Winter Festival ~ Nampong ~ Arunachal Pradesh
Pangsau Pass Winter Festival ~ a Conglomeration of the Legendary Tribes of two Nations ~ India & Myanmar
Amazing Arunachal Pradesh Tourism welcomes you to the International Border of India and Myanmar at the Pangsau Pass ~ the host to the famous Pangsau Pass Winter Festival of Arunachal Pradesh (January 20th – 22nd every year).
Located on the plains of the Lush Green Patkai Mountain Range, Pangsau Pass offers one of the easiest routes to Burma from the Assam plains through Jairampur town of Arunachal Pradesh. Also known as the Hells Pass from the era of the World War II, this Pass gradient came into limelight from the construction of the famous Stilwell Road (built by the American Army under the able guidance of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell) through it along with the presence of the Lake of No Return. The memoirs of the World War II can be seen here at War Cemetery at Jairampur (the only War Cemetery in India with burials of soldiers from the Chinese Army). A 2 hour drive by road from Margherita (the Coal Queen of Assam) across the scenic view of the Tirap River and the Patkai Mountain Range will reach you to the Pangsau Pass.
The Pangsau Pass Winter Festival is a global village event organized every year at Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh. Pangsau Pass Winter Festival is the Second most popular Tourism festival of Arunachal Pradesh organized and supported by the Department of Tourism ~ a Festival that is sure to allow you to fall in love with the moment, the place, the people, the food, and just about everything!
Pangsau Pass Winter Festival is a platform to showcase the rich Culture and Heritage of the Indigenous Tribes across the borders of the two Nations with a special focus on the Tangsa Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. This Festival provides a platform to promote their Indigenous Traditions, Culture, Handlooms, Handicrafts, Food habits, etc. It is a change for the tourists from across the World to savor their rich Tribal Cuisines and Local Beverages. In short, the Pangsau Pass Winter Festival unearths the magnificent isle of Culture of the Tribes, their Cuisines, the Exotic Countryside and Ethnic extravaganza of Arunchal Pradesh and Myanmar at Nampong and the Pangsau Pass.
6| Golden Pagoda Festival ~ Namsai ~ Arunachal Pradesh
The Golden Pagoda Temple at Choukham is a major tourist destination in the Namsai district of Arunachal Pradesh. Known as ‘Kongmu Kham’ in the local Tai-Khamti language, Golden Pagoda is one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in North East India after the Tawang Monastery.
The Golden Pagoda Temple complex is built in Burmese architectural design with a beautiful garden around it.The temple complex has a shrine hall which has a huge Buddha statue in meditating pose inside it.On four corners of the outer base of the main shrine are a bell,Vasundri or the witness to the offerings made in the temple, a monk and four deties. The Golden Pagoda complex houses a spacious shrine hall,a meditation hall,a multipurpose hall,a guest house,a library,a monastery to accommodate around 100 Bhikkhus and living quarter for the monks.
The Golden Pagoda Temple is host to the 2 famous festivals of the Tai-Phake Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh namely the Kathina Chibar Dena and the Poi Pee Mau Festival.
The Kathina Chibar Dena/ Poi Khating Festival (Golden Pagoda Festival- Namsai Arunachal Pradesh)
The majestic Golden Pagoda at Tengapani hosts the month-long Poi Khating Festival or Kathina Chibar Dena Festival from November 5. Buddhists in China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka celebrate it with traditional fervour. The followers at family level or community level weave new cloth manually and dye it overnight for offering it to the revered monk as per tradition. The Hindi substitute is ‘kathin’ or ‘kathina’ for the difficult process, ‘Chibar’ for making the cloth and ‘dena’ for offering, hence the name Kathina Chibar Dena Festival is into being. Tengapani which houses the Golden Pagoda is ready to celebrate the festival, where Buddhists from all over the country, particularly from North Eastern region take part. Aimed at promoting the rich cultural heritage of Tai Khamti, the centre is contemplating to reform its Khamti script.
Poi Pee Mau Festival (Tai Khamti New Year)
The annual New Year celebration of the Tai Khamti community in India is held at the festival ground in Nalung, near the Golden Pagoda of Namsai district. The Poi Pee Mau festival is celebrated by the Tai people worldwide marking the advent of a new year as per their lunar calendar. The attraction of the day is the traditional boat race where teams compete in the initial rounds in wooden boats which are manually crafted. The boats are a unique feature in this part of North Eastern India. The culture, cuisine and colourful Tai Khamti way of life are being showcased in the fest. Apart from the cultural displays, the delicious food is something to look out for. Poi Pee Mau – is the celebration of the advent of a new dawn for the community to usher a fresh era of socio-cultural development.
It usually takes place in November or December. The common platform in the form of Poi Pee Mau Khamti provides the youth with relevant change of mind-set and helped them see the brighter side of life. The Poi (festival) has in the true sense made the younger generations more acquainted with at least the names of different games and sports disciplines, and also rescued the Tai Khamti culture from the threat of possible extinction. The celebration of Poi Pee Mau is designed in such a way that it gives a platform to develop and display the talents of the budding artists and writers of the society. It gives exposure to the tourism potentiality of the area to the outer world and helps the unemployed youth get employment under the tourism sector.
It also sustains the prospects of tourism and ultimately helps in strengthening the society, the state and the nation as a whole. It represents the cultural ethos, providing sustenance to it and ultimately promotes tourism and provides continuity to customs, tradition and culture.
So why wait?! Plan your visit to India’s Land of the Rising Sun at the Amazing Destinations of the State of Arunachal Pradesh, Incredible India!
Phone: +91 7086009708
Majestic Mountains and beautiful valley at Mechuka ~ Mechuka ~ Arunachal Pradesh ~ India
Exploring Arunachal Pradesh ~
I had just completed my journey travelling across Assam covering most of the places of tourist interest and ended my journey at the beautiful countryside and mineral rich areas of Upper Assam. As I was halting at Margherita at my mother’s quarters so I thought to explore the places around this part of eastern Arunachal Pradesh where I would start exploring the Pangsau Pass at the border of India and Myanmar in Arunachal Pradesh, continue to the fourth largest National park in India (in terms of area) at the Namdapha National Park, continue to the eastern most destinations of India at Walong, Dong and Kibithoo and further to the other destinations in Arunachal Pradesh. I had some of the friends who were staying at Margherita as well as a few of the friends of my younger brother who agreed to accompany me to certain destinations around the area and as they had contacts with the people who had SUVs so this meant it would be easier to borrow these heavy vehicle to tackle the roads of Arunachal Pradesh which are yet to be fully built in these eastern fronts. I already visited the Deomali area in the Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh where I explored the beautiful countryside and visited the villages of the Nocte and Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, I also visited the Ramakrishna Mission at Deomali and the local market where I got to see some of the very fresh produce of vegetables and fruits that I had not seen earlier across Assam. It was a short visit to Deomali in Arunachal Pradesh but with my stay here extending I hoped to visit the place again soon.
The visit to Pangsau Pass and further up to Myanmar at the Pangsau pass market and the Lake of No Return was planned when my brother took me to meet one of his friends at Tipong Colliery township area and we were discussing the tourism potential in the area. Over a round of beer we decided to visit the Pangsau Pass after crossing Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh where we would visit the World War II Cemetery at Nampong that is the only war cemetery in India that had burials of Chinese soldiers from the Burma Campaign of World War II and this cemetery also houses a botanical garden here. Thrice a month on the 10th, 20th and 30th, Indian Nationals are allowed to pass the international border and travel to Myanmar via the Pangsau Pass and visit the Lake of No Return and the Pangsau Pass market. This is allowed to encourage and facilitate cross border trade and promote tourism activity at these places of rich historical interest. But visitors need to obtain valid permits and pay certain nominal entry fees to cross the place and the have to return back to India by later afternoon. I knew an uncle of mine who could help me arrange for the permission from the SDO office at Margherita and I approached him to help me arrange the required documentation for the travel of two people to the Pangsau Pass from Margherita. It was a quick process and the very next day, the uncle handed me the documentation and told me that a copy had been sent via registered post to the SDO office at Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh.
So the next day we started on our drive to Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh from Margherita. My friend had arranged for a Mahindra Bolero vehicle from his uncle and the vehicle was in a new condition and he came to pick me up from my house as he too was halting at Margherita since a few days. We crossed Margherita, Baragolai, Ledo, Lekhapani and finally reached Jagun in Assam. As mentioned in the blog on my explorations of Assam, Jagun is an important trade town along the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and lots of cross border trade with food supplies happens here and this is an offload point of various truck and busses that carry goods from locations like Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and as far off as Guwahati. The Marwari community inhabits the areas of Jagun and they deal in a lot of business options here bringing in goods and transporting them to other destinations with a decent profit. Numerous business establishments can be seen across this tinsel town and very remote as well. We stopped at Jagun to have our breakfast as we left home early as we did not know exactly how long it would take us to reach the Pangsau Pass and also the time needed to spend at the check gates for the verification of our documents. We stopped at a small hotel that was making some hot puri sabji and we ordered ourselves a plate each along with tea. The puris were hot and the curry was spicy a perfect combination for a morning breakfast and we quickly finished our plates and ordered for more.
Soon we left Jagun to take a right diversion to travel towards Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh. To our surprise the roads were in a good condition and with the occasional pot holes. We were driving a little scared because this places were earlier marred with terrorism activities and the main terror outfit of Assam ULFA had their camps in the villages around this place. But with the establishment of an army camp at Nampong after Lekhapani those activities reduced considerably and nowadays it is considered almost nil. Yet we felt a little scared because everywhere there was forest around with very less human habitation. These places in Arunachal Pradesh are inhabited by the Tangsa tribes and we could see their unique homes built with bamboo when we drove along. Shorty we reached the site of the World War II Cemetery cum Botanical gardens at Nampong and it was a sad sight to view it because the place had almost fallen into ruins with no maintenance as could be viewed from the outside. As we were short on time we decided to at first travel to Myanmar and later on our way back we could visit this place. We continued on our drive and in sometime reached the border check post at the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh border. There were three uniformed police personnel here and we alighted from our car and went in to their office to verify our documents before we proceeded further. This was at the entrance of Nampong town and we could finally see human settlements around and it was mostly an army area with a big cantonment area.
The policemen took our documents and cross verified the authority seal and signature and in some time they allowed us to cross the interstate border and pass into Arunachal Pradesh. This is a strict policy that no person without valid documentation is allowed to cross the border and we got proof of it as two boys who had come on their bikes without a valid documentation were not allowed to cross into Arunachal Pradesh even though they just wanted to cross the checkpoint and go to a friend’s home nearby but instead their friend had to come to the check post to meet them. After crossing the check post we headed straight to and a military base welcomed us to Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh. There were beautifully painted slogans on the walls of the buildings speaking of the bravery of the Indian soldiers who guard our frontiers across the toughest terrains and the harshest climatic conditions and a sense of patriotism dawns into a person after reading these slogans. A little further were stopped by army soldiers who checked our vehicle to see that we were not carrying anything suspicious in our vehicles and after making an entry they welcomed us to Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh and showed us the directions to the SDO office where we had to validate our documents and pay the nominal government fees towards our entry to the Pangsau Pass in Myanmar at the Lake of No Return from Arunachal Pradesh. The officials at the SDO office were yet to arrive to work as we were early at around 8 AM and it hardly took us about an hour to reach Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh from Margherita in Assam.
We were both wondering as to how long it would take for the officials to arrive and just then a man and a lady walked into the office and asked us our purpose of visit to Nampong in Arunachal Pradesh and we explained our purpose with the SDO Office letter in our hand. The lady checked the calendar and told us that she had forgotten that it was the 10th of the month and today visitors would be allowed to go into the Myanmar area and she immediately got to prepare our passes and we paid our fees of around INR 340 for the two of us. We were instructed to return back by early afternoon as the rule was permissible for visit only that time. We thanked the officials and started again on our drive to the Pangsau Pass. A little up ahead we had to drive atop a hill and here again we were stopped by army officials who checked our passes and asked us our purpose of visit to the Pangsau pass and I told them we were tourists who wanted to simply explore this historic place and also explore the Republic of the Union of Myanmar from India’s Land of the Rising Sun – Arunachal Pradesh. The army officials allowed us to pass through and shortly after we reached Pangsau Pass. The legendary Pangsau Pass was a route that was used by the mighty Ahoms to come from Myanmar to India and establish their huge kingdom here. The Pangsau pass is named after the local village in Myanmar where we were headed to and it is at an altitude of 3700 feet on the Patkai mountain range and is the easiest access to Myanmar from Arunachal Pradesh in India.
Pangsau Pass had shot to fame mostly during the times of the World War II when the American Army under the brave general Vinegar Joe Stilwell started the construction of the Ledo road aka the Stilwell road to connect India with China after the land route (Burma road) was cut off by the Japanese forces and this alternate route was needed as a supply route to China from India. The construction along the Pangsau Pass was one of the toughest instances faced by the American army along with locals as this pass had a steep gradient loaded with stony surface and mud and this caused them to called the Pangsau Pass as the Hell’s Pass. I couldn’t believe my eyes that I was standing at the historic Pangsau Pass and it also made me feel pity as many people didn’t have any idea about the history of this place that had once proved one of the prime factors that led the Allied forces march towards victory over the Imperial Japanese Army during the Burma Campaign of World War II. Just across it was a huge signage welcoming us to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The roads up to this place was in very good condition but a road block stuck us ahead when we saw that they were no roads and only a muddy stretch of road and with additional rainfall this stretch had become completely muddy and there was no way we could reach the other side driving our cars.
So we took time exploring the area as we were told that we could hire the services of dirt bikes that are operated by Myanmar locals who ferry passengers on these bikes across these muddy roads and help people to reach the other side of the border and bring them back to the Pangsau Pass in Arunachal Pradesh as well. As we walked around we could see a big market complex being built by Myanmar govt. that would allow the traders to setup shops here as at present the Pangsau Pass market was a temporary setup and people set up stalls in makeshift stalls (this is came to know after visiting the market at Pangsau). In sometime we saw these dirt bikes coming towards us and the Myanmar locals were manoeuvring them easily with passengers behind them. We contacted one of these bike owners who agreed to ferry two of us in one bike meaning three of us would be sitting and travelling on one bike. At first glance I thought it was an impossible task but some of the local people here assured us that nothing would happen and this was a simple task for these riders and so we obliged and began our journey from Pangsau Pass to Myanmar at Pangsau market. It was simply amazing to witness the driving skills of this person as he drive across the muddy road bearing the weight of two bulky individuals behind his bike and drive along easily.
After driving for a while the mud road ended and we reached the International check post where we had to cross the Indian side where we were provided a token and this had to be handed over to the Burma side to the officials who would allow us to travel to Myanmar. Our passes were verified and we passed to reach the Myanmar outpost and here we were welcomed by the officials of Myanmar who accepted the token and gave us a piece of paper with the token number and asked us to take back the token on our way back. The bike owner picked us up again and we started to drive again to the Pangsau market. It was fascinating to us because just in a matter of 2 hours we had entered a different country without any passport or visa and it was an amazing experience. Shortly we reached the Pangsau market in Myanmar. We were dropped at the entrance of the Pangsau market and the bike owner agreed to drop us back to Arunachal Pradesh as well at an additional price and told us to come find him here after we were done exploring the traditional and vibrant Pangsau market in Myanmar. We told him that we would take much time and should be done exploring within an hour’s time because we did not have much to shop but only to look about. So we started to explore by at first viewing the Pangsau view point from where we got a very clear view of the famous Lake of No Return that was once considered as the Bermuda triangle of the east as many had lost control while flying over the lake and got crashed in the process. It was also believed that an army of men too lost their lives while crossing this huge lake and were never heard off again. Though there have been many instances of such reports of men and machines disappearing but no one could explain the mysteries of the infamous lake of no return till date precisely. The entire area was looking so green and with the sunlight falling on the waters of the lake the place was looking absolutely magical and I couldn’t believe that the waters of this calm lake could prove so devastating to the troops who fought and battled their lives during the Burma campaign of World War II. We clicked our pictures here and later went to explore the Pangsau market which was more or less similar to any traditional market in Arunachal Pradesh with vendors selling all sorts of goods from fruits, vegetables, electronic goods, cosmetics, knifes, daggers and most importantly booze.
It was hardly 9.30 AM in the morning and people were flocking to the shops that sold liquor and having a gala time drinking beer, whiskey and savouring on local preparations of meat and fish. One important thing that was to be noted at the Pangsau market was that women were mostly the shop owners and they were indulging in the day to day business activities pretty much similar to the culture in Meghalaya and Manipur and even some parts in Arunachal Pradesh where women area equally empowered as men in the society. We took small strides and examined the goods that were being sold in the market area and one unique thing we found we locally made knives and daggers that had very detailed craftsmanship put into it while designing the blade and handle of the knife. My friend was utmost impressed with this and he soon made a decision to purchase one of the knives. It was a good deal and it was interesting as the traders at the market accepted Indian currency happily. We walked across the market admiring the various local products and produce available and the sight was very unique. The motorbikes were all around and it looked to me that they were custom built in Myanmar and I must admit that these bikes were very powerful and could tackle even the toughest terrains. We are allowed to walk a little further as the Stilwell Road continued further into the heart of Myanmar and there was a local village ahead.
In the interest of time we did not go further and decided to try our time with some local beer from Myanmar along with the local savouries of pork meat. Women folks were busy in the meat preparations and the meat was being prepared in a unique process where there was a sauce broth and the meat chunks were pierced in bamboo skewers and allowed to cook in the flavour of the sauce. One lady was stirring the sauce occasionally and poured the sauce over the meat and it was a continuous process. We took our seats in one of the restaurants cum bar that was built completely with wooden planks and had various offerings from beer, whiskey, vodka and other drinks and on offering were the pork and some sort of dried fish with herbs. I wondered how the fish would taste and so we ordered a plate of the pork and the fish. I must admit that the food was not as flavourful as we have it in Assam because the meat was just placed to us without any garnishings of onions, chillies and coriander and also the fish wasn’t heated up and it were about 3 small catfishes that was mixed with salt and some herbs paste and allowed to dry in the sun and perhaps stored some place and it was served to us just like that. The salt was a bit too much in the fish and a little too less in the pork. So with reluctance we had to leave these dishes unattended and we simply enjoyed the beer.
Although we had just ordered a small can of beer each, yet the beer was strong and I was already feeling a little high after finishing half of the can. We cleared the bill after finishing our beer and as I had heard that the coffee from Burma is very popular I bought a few packets to take back home. We came back from the market and looked for the guy with the motorbike and to take us back and he was waiting at the end of the market and he picked us up and we started on our ride back to Arunachal Pradesh thereby ending our visit to the Pangsau market and the Lake of No Return in Myanmar. It was around 11 AM and we crossed the check posts at both the Myanmar and Indian sides and reached the mud track to finally reach the Pangsau Pass and it was a sigh of relief at least to me to reach back safely on one of the deadliest track I drive across in my life. We paid the bike owner and thanked him for his assistance to ferry us across safely and finally boarded our vehicle to drive back to Assam from Arunachal Pradesh. We were yet to make our stop at the World War II cemetery near Nampong before heading back to Margherita. My friend asked me to drive the SUV this time as he planned on drinking more beer that we would pick up at the Nampong market. There was a wine store once we crossed the check post at Nampong and we stopped here to pick up a few beers for him while I would drive the vehicle back.
We shortly reached the Jairampur World War II cemetery in Arunachal Pradesh and as mentioned earlier this is the only war cemetery in India that had burials of Chinese soldiers who had laid down their lives during the World War II. The cemetery needed maintenance as it was not properly maintained with grass and jungle around and the graves barely being visible due to grass. Still some of the graves were visible and the burials here had larger tombs as compared to the other war cemeteries with the names of the soldiers and their cavalry mentioned. I went around the cemetery admiring the bravery of these young souls who laid down their lives so that we had a better tomorrow. As this place was also a botanical garden so there were numerous plants and orchid species around and while some of them had tags with their names on some didn’t have it. This marked the end of my visit to Nampong and Jairampur in Arunachal Pradesh and we headed on our drive back to Margherita in Assam. I was feeling hungry on the way and as I had not asked at home to prepare any lunch as well so we decided to have our lunch at the famous Gobinda hotel at Margherita. This place serves an awesome veg thali with accompaniments of meat or fish and is renowned for its mutton curry. We reached and ordered our food along with mutton curry and it was very delicious.. My friend dropped me home and this worked the end of our visits a different country, being a part of history at the Pangsau Pass and ending our day at Arunachal Pradesh.
Earlier I had planned on visiting Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh with one of my friend and as the best time to visit this magnificent rainforest and the third largest National Park in India was during the months of January and February so we had made our plans towards the end of January to visit the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. I was staying at Margherita and towards the year’s end I had five guests who were visiting the National Park and so I thought that I would go along first to explore the place before I could explore the place with guests. Many years back I had visited Deban in Arunachal Pradesh which is the last habitat before we embark in the dense jungles of Namdapha National Park and there is a forest rest house here and I had visited along with my family when I was young and I did not have much of an idea of what exactly a National Park was and certainly not a rainforest. We had been on a picnic outing by the banks of the Nao Dehing River at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh and we had spent a night at the forest rest house here. So it was decided that the two of us would be staying at the forest rest house at Deban and I asked an uncle to help us get a reservation at this place. As he was a good friend and colleague of my father’s he arranged for our reservations at the forest rest house at Deban and also our passes to cross the interstate border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as well as the Inner Line Permit would take a while to reach.
So with the documents and reservations in place we also knew one of the local Singpho persons at Miao in Arunachal Pradesh who would assist us with our guide once we reached Deban and would accompany us on our trek inside the rainforests of Namdapha National Park and show us around this varied species of flora and fauna especially the birds that Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh is famous for along with the big five cat species. We packed our stuff needed for our three night stay at the place and as we would be camping for a night as well inside the forest reserves so we ensured to pack all requisites at this National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. I was told that the roads from Jagun to Deban were not in good condition so taking my small car would not be a good choice and I asked my friend to help me arrange for an SUV to tackle these roads and he happily arranged for a 4 x4 for us to drive along to Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. It was on a Thursday and we had planned on staying for three nights and be back by Sunday afternoon as this friend of mine had a job and he had to report to work on Monday at Tinsukia and so we started on our drive to Ledo where we would drop my car with my friend and pick up the SUV from his office and later travel o Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. It was quite early that we had started because the roads had to be tackled with care and so we thought it would be better to reach as early as possible as we would lose access to our phone networks once we crossed Miao and then to establish communication we would need to use the services of the phone present at the Forest rest house.
At Ledo, my friend who comes early to office welcomed us and he took my car to work and gave me his company SUV to take along to Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh. We continued via to Stilwell Road to go to Lekhapani and further to Jagun. At Jagun we made our stop for breakfast of puri sabji and this time we headed straight on our drive to Kharsang from Jagun. A beautiful forest cover greeted us once we crossed Jagun and the road conditions started deteriorating and our drive became quite slow. I was hoping the roads would have occasional potholes but here it was totally opposite as there was only the occasional road and more of potholes. We crossed one pot hole to land into another and one reason for this condition would be because it rains heavily across this place due to a tropical climate and the continuous movement of oil tankers and heavy oil drilling trucks takes a toll on the road especially during the monsoon times. The road conditions in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh demanded very good drainage facilities along the roads that was lacking and this was the perfect analysis to have roads that would last for longer duration in the eastern and mountainous parts of Arunachal Pradesh. We kept driving slowly and the beautiful forest cover was a sparkling way to rejuvenate a person’s body and mind and even though the roads were bad the nature around us drove us to keep continuing on our drive to Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. In sometime we reached the border check post at the interstate border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. As Arunachal Pradesh is a protected state and to protect the interests of the local people here, the government had deployed a mechanism of not allowing any outsiders to visit the state without a valid permit and this permit is issued for a fixed duration only and needs to be renewed. This document is called as an Inner Line Permit (for Indian Nationals) and Protected Area Permit (for Foreign Nationals). We had applied for permission from the SDO Office at Margherita and this is also valid as it’s a permission from a government authority to allow us to pass to visit the state of Arunachal Pradesh and come back within a stipulated duration. The officials at the check post verified our documents and then allowed us to pass into Arunachal Pradesh from Assam. We continued on our drive and shortly we reached the town of Kharsang.
In sometime we reached the township of Kharsang in Arunachal Pradesh and it is a nice little town known for its coal and oil reserves. The entire North Eastern region of India is blessed with hydrocarbon energy reserves and lots of coal and crude oil reserves is found here as can be predicted looking at the vast vegetation of the region that makes it prone to be turned into fossil fuels once they had died away. Kharsang in Arunachal Pradesh is the drilling centre of Oil India Limited and they have big drilling units here from where they extract crude oil from underground and send it across the refineries in Assam to produce the fossil fuels. Earlier CIL too had their operations under NECF here at Kharsang but due to man power constraints these coal mines were abandoned and now only the locals play a role in excavating coal in small amounts and selling it to local factories and for home use. A dominant population here were Christians and this could be figured out with the many number of churches around. We had got along sufficient cash with us because we were sceptical of being able to find an ATM in these remote places but to our surprise there was a branch of SBI at the Kharsang market area here in Arunachal Pradesh. We stopped here for a while to give the vehicle some rest after it helped us tackle the roads and we too took time to explore the Kharsang market and have some tea and snacks.
The Kharsang market is spread across a big area and it has traders from various communities selling traditional and modern goods. A lot of Nepali people are present here who own small shops and business establishments in this market. We took our seats at a small restaurant that was selling sweets, veg pakoras and tea and we ordered ourselves tea and pakoras by the time the car engine got some rest. The tea was very soothing and the hot pakoras cooked with cabbage and peas mix was equally delicious served with spicy green chutney. We would be stopping for lunch at Miao and so we did not overeat as it about another hour and half drive to Miao town and after an early lunch we would head to Deban. After spending some time looking around the shops at the Kharsang market in Arunachal Pradesh we started on our drive to Miao that is the last town along the eastern frontier of Arunachal Pradesh on this side of the area. The roads were now a little better and though it was narrow yet it was manageable to have a smooth drive. The forest cover continued along our way and we crossed the small places and after about an hour of drive we reached the settlement of the Tibetan Buddhist colony here at Miao where they have a nice Tibetan carpet weaving and handloom centre that is famous across the area for manufacturing handmade carpets and people from across Upper Assam visit here to purchase these carpets.
We thought of visiting the place in Arunachal Pradesh but then again we decided against it in the interest of time and planned on visiting the place on our way back to Margherita from Miao in Arunachal Pradesh as that day we would have sufficient time in our schedule. Next up we reached the tinsel town of Miao in Arunachal Pradesh where a beautiful yellow gate welcomes its visitors to Miao and all around one can see people from various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and other communities residing here at Miao with the dominant ones being that of Tangsa, Singpho, Lisu and Chakma people. Many of the people from these communities practice different faith and this can be witnessed as there are churches, monasteries and temples around the tinsel town of Miao in Arunachal Pradesh. We were schedule dot meet a person near the Miao market who was the uncle of one of my friend’s from Margherita and was a Singpho person who was an influential business person of Miao and he agreed to provide us a local person who would guide us across the Namdapha National park. The uncle called us to his restaurant that was located at Miao market and it was one of the most decent restaurants in the place along with this it provided lodging facilities at a nice huge building as well. Uncle welcomed us in to the restaurant and asked us for lunch and we thought it would be better to have our early lunch here because we did not place any food order at the forest rest house at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh in the afternoon.
Uncle ordered for two veg thali for us and along with it nice pork boiled curry with lots of vegetables. One thing about the food people eat in Arunachal Pradesh is that they mostly prefer boiled food with very less or no oil at all. This helps a lot in their metabolism and this is one reason that they have a lean body built though they consume large portions of rice. The ingredients they use in their food preparations are completely natural and with ingredients like pepper, lemon, ginger and garlic this aids in the weight loss and perfect metabolism of the body. The food arrived and the thali had rice, dal, veg sabji, a green boiled curry, lots of different varieties of spicy chutney and the boiled pork along with bamboo shoot and herbs and vegetables. It was a wonderful feast for us and by the time we finished lunch a local person arrived as well. His name was Babu and he would take us in to the forests along with certain gears that were necessary for our night camping. Exploring the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh requires a lot of trekking as no vehicles are allowed inside the park except the ones used by the forest authorities and so services of a local guide or an operator is necessary to tackle one of the densest forest reserves in India or rather the world with one of the richest biodiversity’s present.
Babu helped us to load the luggage into our vehicle and after thanking uncle the three of us started on our drive to Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. The roads were again bad and it was like driving on a pebble surface and the roads were narrow as well. The drive was a little scary as well as there were very few vehicles plying on the roads and there was a forest cover all around. Thankfully it was during the day time or else we would never have had the courage to drive on these roads during the night time. After driving for another hour we finally reached the Deban Forest Rest House at around 2 PM and even though the distance we travelled was not too far yet with the road conditions in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh we were thoroughly exhausted and we just went and checked into our room and took a shower. Later we stepped out of the Forest rest house to the banks of the Nao Dehing river that flows across Deban.
The beautiful river looked even more stunning with the setting sun’s rays falling on the crystal clear river waters and the stony banks had some of the most crystalline stones to be seen. We took a walk along the river bank admiring the sunset and the lovely bamboo bridge that was built on the river Nao Dehing here at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. Babu became friends with a local fisherman and he went out on his boat for a fishing trip while we admired the beautiful forest cover all around us and the breath of clean and fresh air. It was around 3.30 PM and gradually it was beginning to get dark as we were more towards the eastern side with early sunrise and early sunset. We went back to the forest rest house at 4 PM and the dinner menu was some sort of fixed as the caretaker here goes to shop once in three days and brings along the supply of food that comprises mostly of rice, dal, veg sabji, eggs and fish and with no access to a big town close by it was lucky for us to be able to find this food itself. On our day it was mostly eggs and as we were the only guests this being a weekday we had the place to ourselves while Babu would spend his night at a dormitory meant for local guides and drivers who come along to Deban and Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh with their guests from across India and abroad. Dinner would be served early as there is literally nothing much to do in the evenings here apart from gazing at the stars, listening to the sounds of the insects and the occasional roar of a tiger or an elephant and also with no access to our mobile network we had to refrain ourselves from using our mobile phone which served as a boon for me at least because it was here I realized how addicted I had become to my mobile phone and kept staring at the small screen spending time watching various videos and also spending time on work as well.
Babu came back soon with a nice big fish in his hands. It seemed they were able to find quite some fishes in a small crevice in the river and they successfully caught some of the bigger ones with the net while allowed the younger ones to go back into the water so that the ecology is not disturbed in the area. It was nice to have people in such remote places know how to live in harmony with their surroundings and who did not believe in consuming everything in a single day. Babu got ready to setup a fire at the backyard of the place to roast up the fish and some pork that he had brought along with him and so now we would be having a grand dinner at the Forest rest house at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. A nice fire was lit and as there were no other guests, the caretaker assisted us with the preparations as well. My friend had brought along some stock of rum and he kept it as a surprise for me and Babu too had brought some local wine along with him as he told us that this helps him to beat the cold weather in the winters and also help him to brave the stay in the jungle reserves. The fire was started and pieces of bricks were laid across it so that the fish could be put over the fire to be roasted along with the chicken meat. The caretaker of the forest rest house at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh helped to chop up onions, ginger, chillies and coriander for the garnish and the fish and meat were topped with little oil so that the surface didn’t get charred completely with the fire roasting. It is to be noted that slits were made with a knife on the body of the meat so that the heat would enter the meat pieces evenly and roast it to perfection. The people across Arunachal Pradesh have a different way of roasting the meat than the people in Assam who put them up on bamboo skewers while they have a metal mesh net placed on the fire and roast the meat while in Assam they roast it over bamboo skewers.
Babu spread out the roasted meat and fish over a banana leaf and this way of serving food is very popular among the local people living around the jungle areas of Deban in Arunachal Pradesh. The banana leaf has a special healing property for the stomach and not only in these areas but also across South India this is a popular method of serving food. The meat was chopped into bit sized pieces and mixed with fresh herbs like coriander and green chillies, ginger and onions and the chilly amount was substantiated as this helps to beat the cold and we savoured our meat and the fish was to be had by sprinkling some lime and salt over it. The cook prepared our dinner and joined us and brought along some hot water to be had with our rum. Babu discussed the next day’s plan with us where we would need to start early into the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh by hiking and we would be making our trek to the Hornbill Camp to view along our way the varied and rich flora and avifauna of these forest reserves of Arunachal Pradesh. This would mean that we had high chances of coming across certain animal species that form a part of the habitation of these areas and so we had to be careful with our steps. Babu is a very experienced hiker in this area and he knows the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh inside out and he had been a part of several expeditions inside the forest leading groups from India and abroad and also being a part of teams of many survey groups who often come here to discover the various facets of life inside these forests reserve of Arunachal Pradesh. He generally doesn’t come with individual groups coming here but on the uncle’s request at Miao he joined us to help us to explore these hidden biodiversity secrets of Arunachal Pradesh.
So Babu chalked out the plan and told us that we would be starting sharp at 7 AM to go inside the forest and this would mean we would be trekking for about four hours to reach the Hornbill camp by 11 AM and later check the site of the camp to see some of the fascinating bird species in the region. We would be setting up our camp there and halt the night in the open grounds of the most pristine rainforest in India here in Arunachal Pradesh. We listened to him with utmost concentration and agreed to his condition of leading the trek at all times so that he could clean the path of the trek. Generally the trek inside the forest reserves of Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh is attempted by first starting on the trek to the Hornbill Camp from Deban and halting here for the night. The trek further goes up to Firmbase and Embeong and the Bulbulia Camp and later visitors need to return back to Deban and this marks the end of the trek and explorations of Namdapha but we took the shorter one as we didn’t have much time in our hands. There are however various other routes that go into the forest reserves but these are attempted mostly by experienced naturalists as it requires precision to be able to halt in these harsh conditions.
We finished our food and drinks and went to the dining hall at the Forest rest house at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh to have our dinner. The food was kept warm by keeping it in the kitchen where a fire was burning and as access to cooking gas is limited but with plenty of dead wood reserves available fire in the kitchen was not a problem here. Dinner was very delicious as it was cooked over the wood fore and a pleasant small of smoke had filled the dishes that made it all the more delicious. It was hardly 8 PM and we returned to our rooms while Babu did some final checks with the gear before we started on our trek into the forest reserves of Namdapha National park in Arunachal Pradesh the next day. It was a chilly night and we could feel the chill because even with the thick blanket we were having a tough time keeping our selves warm and wondered what would happen the next night when we would be camping inside the forest reserves. The next morning we got up at 5.30 AM and began our preparations for the four hour long hike to the Hornbill Camp at Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. Babu had packed up the stuff and we too filled our backpacks with the requisite things including the sleeping bags that would be of utmost necessity for the night halt. We had a quick breakfast of Maggi noodles and boiled eggs and also carried some cup noodles and eggs for the way and at sharp 7 AM we started on our hike into the forest reserves.
At first we had to cross the river Nao Dehing at Deban in Arunachal Pradesh over a foot bridge constructed using bamboo and the entire structure looks so naturally beautiful reminding me of how versatile bamboo is as a plant here across North East India and people use this grass to construct and build so many things including houses and even use it as a natural food of the bamboo shoot that is known to have many medicinal properties as well. The water of the Nao Dehing river looked absolutely crystal clear and this was an impression of how with less human habitat, the surrounding environment remains so pure and natural. In sometime the dense forest reserves of Namdapha National park started to appear in front of us and we started on our trek across the only rainforest in India here in Arunachal Pradesh. The tall canopy of trees welcomed us in to this pristine forest and our luck favoured us because just a little into the forest interiors we spotted the first hornbill bird species perched atop a tall tree and Babu spotted it and showed it to us. Arunachal Pradesh hosts a varied birdlife in the forest areas of the state and along with it some of the most diverse animal and plant life as well. The noteworthy among them are the big four cat species that are to be found in the forest reserves of Namdapha of the likes of the tigers, leopards, snow leopards and clouded snow leopards. We prayed not to come face to face with any of these four as we were hiking into a forest reserve without any proper protection like armed guards but Babu assured us it was nothing to worry because he knew that spotting or rather coming face to face with any of these cat species was a very slim chance and this was from all his years of experience trekking through these forest reserves.
Many bird species were sighted by our team during our long trek inside Namdapha National park in Arunachal Pradesh and after about two hours we took a break to catch our breath and have some refreshments. We carried with us packets of biscuits, chips and energy drinks to keep ourselves hydrated and Babu ensured that we did not leave any thrash around and he carefully picked up the wrappers in a packet to be disposed of at the site near the Hornbill camp. We continued on our trek and at around 11.30 AM we reached the site of the Hornbill Camp at Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. Perched atop a mountain clearance this site is renowned for the nests of the Hornbill bird species and numerous sightings are reported of not only Hornbills but many other bird species as well. A nice clearance area is present that allows visitors to catch a panorama view of the rainforest of Namdapha National Park and the only sounds one can heat are the chirping of the birds and no honking of cars and vehicles. The breath of fresh air is so calm and soothing here that you would surely want to stay for a while here in the forest reserves of Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh.
Babu helped us to segregate our stuff and keep the things ready before we walked further to the view point at the Hornbill Camp and the surrounding areas and later came back for our lunch and spend the rest of the day at leisure here at the Namdapha National park in Arunachal Pradesh. The Hornbill camp sees visitors from around the country and abroad and the site serves as a breakpoint from Deban before one heads deeper into the forest reserves of Arunachal Pradesh at Firmbase and Embeong which are some of the last local villages in this area inhabited by the Lisu people of Arunachal Pradesh. We did not have time to venture deep into the forest to check out the villages but on my second visit to Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh I did visit these places and the details are mentioned in the below link:
After unpacking we hiked a little further from the Hornbill camp to sight the nesting grounds of these magnificent Hornbill bird species. Namdapha National park in Arunachal Pradesh hosts about five species of the Hornbill birds and the noted among them is the Rufous-necked Hornbill which is an endangered species. The majestic sky looked completely blue in colour and the tall trees looked like a carpet in the skies. We reached the place where the Hornbill birds rest and Babu asked us to maintain a note of silence for a while and he pointed on top of a tree where we spotted many number of birds perched atop a tree. The beautiful colour of this bird species made me feel so wonderful and I wondered how the bounties of Mother Nature are to be found in abundance here in the forest reserves of Arunachal Pradesh.
When these birds started flying around making a distinctive sound it was a feel that a person can easily say is once in a lifetime experience. Babu told us an interesting story about these Hornbill birds and I did not know whether it is a fact or not but owing to his experiences inside these jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, I thought it to be true wherein the female hornbill bird before it lays its eggs builds a nest by pulling out its feathers from its body and then it builds its nest and it stays in the nest as long as the chicks are completely grown and on their own. She doesn’t step out of the nest all this time and it is the duty of the male bird to find the food and take care of the family. The female looks out for the flight path of the male hornbill and it seems the female would eat the food brought in by the make only if it had followed the same flight path that it took while leaving the nest or else it would go hungry suspecting the male to have spent time with other birds in the area while she stayed back at home taking care of the chicks. It was hard to believe that such discipline and order would be followed by a bird species but we listened to his story as there was nothing else to do as well. We spotted some small animals like flying squirrels, jungle fowls and many other bird species during our short time here.
We came back to the Hornbill camp to our place of halt while Babu got to preparation of hot water for our food. It was around 2 PN and we were hungry after our long day of trekking in the forest reserves of Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh. We had our cup noodles and boiled eggs and Babu had brought some fish to be roasted along with the food. Dinner would be another simple affair and Babu assured he would have something simple yet delicious for us. Our lunch was ready soon and after a long day we setup our tents and took rest for a while and Babu stepped away to a local village that was a little away and he told us he would be back in an hour’s time. I must admit staying without him even for ten minutes was scary inside this dense forest in Arunachal Pradesh and the constant fear of being confronted with a wild animal was behind my mind. Yet as these were the two of us it was a little consoling. Babu came back soon and he had brought along with him some chicken meat that he found in the village and he got to cleaning it at the stream waters nearby and also took the rice along with him and he would be preparing all these items in a hollow bamboo trunk that he had cut from a bamboo tree and this would be an interesting thing to watch as this form of cooking was first to be seen by me here in Arunachal Pradesh. He came back and lit the fire with the bamboo wood and dead branches of trees and he carved out a spatula with the bamboo as well and this would be used to stir the meat and rice that would be put in the bamboo trunk.
The bamboo poles were set slanting near the fire so that the heat would strike the body of the bamboo trunk and even the rice and meat. To ensure that we had sufficient gravy to go along with the rice he added a good amount of water to the meat and mixed all the spices together and allowed everything to boil in one go. All the fresh herbs and the garlic ginger and chillies were coming to a boil along with the meat and the aroma was filling the place. The rice was an organic locally grown rice that didn’t need much of boiling and it was a sticky rice with a distinct flavour from the farmlands of Arunachal Pradesh and Babu told us about his family who were into agriculture and were mostly self-dependant on the food reserves and did not rely on anything to be brought from the markets. He told us that we would retire early to bed and turn off the fire as it attracts some wild animals and use the sleeping bags to keep ourselves warm during the night. The food was served in banana leaves and I must admit it was one of the tastiest meals I had even though it was simple yet all the local herbs and spices powered the flavour of the meat and the sticky rice had a unique sort of sweet flavour to it as well. We retired to our tents after an early dinner and this ended our day of exploring the Hornbill camp at Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh. The next morning we packed our stuff and after having some fruits and tea we started on our hike back to Deban in Arunachal Pradesh and we reached the forest rest house at 9 AM and we thanked the caretaker and the three of us started on our drive back to Miao where we would drop Babu and later head to the Miao carpet factory to continue on our drive to Margherita to reach by early evening.
We soon reached Miao and went to the Singpho uncle’s place to drop Babu and thank uncle for requesting Babu to accompany us into the forest reserves of Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh. Uncle welcomed us and asked us to eat something at his restaurant before we left to Margherita and he had a few things packed to be taken to be given to his family in Margherita like locally grown rice, fresh organic vegetables and some traditional rice wine as well. By the time we ordered for our food of roti sabji and a chicken curry all the things were loaded into the car. I paid Babu the amount towards the guide services and uncle at first did not allow me to pay it but after I had insisted he allowed me to pay Babu who too reluctantly accepted the money and asked me if I wanted to visit the Miao museum before we left. As we had time in hands we agreed to visit the museum at Miao in Arunachal Pradesh after we finished our food. We left our car at uncle’s place as the museum was a short distance ahead in the heart of Miao town. Miao Township is quite clean compared to many other towns and has a unique topography wherein it is located on a picturesque mountain with the river Nao Dehing of Arunachal Pradesh flowing across the town. Miao has a few stay options for visitors as well and the well renowned one is owned by one of the promoters of Namdapha Mr Singpho who owns the Namdapha Jungle Camp at Miao in Arunachal Pradesh. Along with it there are government circuit houses as well.
We reached the Miao museum in Arunachal Pradesh and it was a small museum that had a display of the various cultural facets of the local people of Miao and Arunachal Pradesh who were the Chakmas, Singphos, Tangsas and the Lisu people along with the Tibetan refugees who stayed here. The museum kept on display the traditional attires and ornaments adorned by these indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh and along with it the various tools and hunting weapons they used in the primitive times. This along with certain relics from the times of the World War II is also present here. We spent some time at the Miao museum and later went back to start on our drive to the Tibetan Camp near Miao and continue on our journey to Margherita. We thanked Babu and uncle and commenced on our drive bidding farewell to Namdapha and Miao in Arunachal Pradesh. We reached the Tibetan settlement near Miao in sometime and from the road we had to take a left diversion to travel inside the premises of the carpet factory here. The place is located midway between Miao and Kharsang and all around we could see the religious Buddhist flags on display. It was around 11.30 AM we reached here and the ladies were all busy weaving carpets on their traditional looms. What is unique about the place is that the carpets are woven completely with hands and so this provides and exquisite finish to the final products. The Tibetan ladies looked adept in their weaving techniques and were having brisk hand movements on the loom and giving intricate designs on these carpets.
The carpets woven here in Arunachal Pradesh are known across the world as these people participate in exhibitions and trade fairs and so they get an opportunity to showcase their hand made exquisite products on an international platform and this makes this weaving form a livelihood for these people as well. We looked around the well-organized carpet factory at Miao and later started on our drive to Margherita to make a stop at Jagun for lunch. We reached the border check post at Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and this time we were allowed to cross over to the side of Assam and the road conditions started getting bad again. We kept driving to reach Jagun at 2 PM where we made a stop for lunch at a traditional Singpho hotel where we ordered for tupula bhat, boiled country chicken, roasted vegetables and roasted fish and the lunch was indeed very tasty. After lunch we continued on our drive to reach Margherita at about 4 PM where we first went to my friend’s home as it was a Sunday and he didn’t go to office today to drop his SUV and pick up my car. My friend welcomed us and we thanked him for all his help by lending us this SUV vehicle otherwise our journey to Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh wouldn’t have been possible. My friend had made plans to visit the eastern most frontiers of Arunachal Pradesh at Walong and Kibithoo with me next and so I would come to his house again to make our place before I dropped the other friend back at his house.
The following week I came by to this friend’s house and we planned on our visit to Kibithoo across the following circuit:
Margherita – Namsai – Chowkham – Wakro – Walong – Dong – Kibithoo
These places are on the most eastern side of Indi and there is a small village here called as Dong village that receives the first sunlight in India and hence Arunachal Pradesh is often referred to as the India’s Land of the Rising Sun and also the Land of the Dawn lit Mountains as well. We planned on starting from Margherita early in the morning and travelling to Namsai via Doomdooma after crossing the border check post at Dirak gate in Arunachal Pradesh. The land of the Mishmi people Namsai is a beautiful town nestled in the eastern Himalayas from where we would travel to Chowkham to visit the Golden Pagoda temple that is one of the most beautiful Buddhist architectures in Arunachal Pradesh and continue further to Wakro where we would make a night halt. From Wakro we planned on heading to Walong that was the site renowned for the India China war in 1971 and from here we would trek to Dong village to catch the glimpse of the early morning sunrise and from Walong we drive to Kibithoo to view the border of India and China and come back to Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh. From Tezu we travel to Roing and further up to Anini to come back and explore the other beautiful places in Arunachal Pradesh at Pasighat, Daporijo and Mechuka.
So we decided on this plan and made the Itinerary shorter where we would explore the places quickly as my friend had to report back to work and we just had three nights to halt at Wakro and Walong and then we had to come back to Margherita and later again travel another day to Mayodia and Anini to catch the snowfall there. It was the month of January towards the end and so our chances of sighting snowfall at Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh looked good but for that we had to wait for another weekend as this time it would be Namsai-Wakro-Walong-Dong and Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh. As the options of stay are limited at these places in Arunachal Pradesh so we had to ensure to make our bookings prior to our arrival at these destinations. At Wakro we planned on our halt at the Orange resort at Wakro and I called up the place to make our reservations for one room with extra bed to accommodate the three of us who would be travelling on these eastern most fronts of Arunachal Pradesh. At Walong we had to make our bookings at the Inspection Bungalow (IB) at Walong as these was only another option of a circuit house and it needed that we get touch with officials to have a confirm booking here. So I contacted the same uncle of mine who had arranged for my visit to the Pangsau Pass and as he had contacts with officials in the Arunachal Pradesh government so he could find us a confirmed booking there and he made the arrangements quite easily for us.
With the things in place we started on a Friday morning to go to Wakro from Margherita. We had to travel to Makum and take a right diversion here to travel to Doomdooma and from here we would take a further right from the Rupai Siding area to go towards the Dirak Gate at the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where our Inner Line Permit (ILP) would be verified and we crossed into Arunachal Pradesh from Assam. The roads were repaired recently and so the highway stretch was in a very good condition with new painted dividers demarcating the right and left sides of the road. Even though we were officially in Arunachal Pradesh but the area had resemblance to the countryside of Assam. The backdrop of the eastern Himalayas looked very beautiful and we could see the snow-capped mountain peaks along our drive. The population is quite sparse in these areas of Arunachal Pradesh and we could spot small townships after certain intervals on our drive. The Mishmi people could be seen working in the fields across the roads and they are the main inhabitants of this part of Arunachal Pradesh along with other tribal people like the Tai Phake, Lisu, Singpho and the Chakma people as well. We reached Namsai at around 9.30 AM and it was a decent sized town with small business establishments and daily needs shops around. We stopped here to have our breakfast as we just had tea and biscuits at home and left on our journey and with a stop planned at the Golden Pagoda temple at Choukham our drive to Wakro would take us a good three more hours at least so that we reached in time for a late lunch at our resort.
The manager of the place was informed of our arrival and he would keep the food ready for us. Wakro is a place in Arunachal Pradesh very famous for its oranges and I was really looking forward for trying this delicious fruit to be picked up from our resort garden itself. We took our seats at a small restaurant that was owned by a Bihari person and he was preparing some hot roti and sabji along with dal. We ordered for a plate each and got a chance of tasting bihari cuisine in Arunachal Pradesh. The rotis were quite soft and the sabji was made with potatoes and carrots and tasted wonderful on a cold day. After our quick breakfast we hit the road again and started on our drive to Choukham in Arunachal Pradesh. Choukham is gradually gaining popularity in the tourist circuit of Arunachal Pradesh mostly due to the presence of the Golden Pakoda Temple here. We drove across the scenic roads of Arunachal Pradesh admiring the forest cover around us and we could see the APSRTRC busses plying on the roads ferrying passengers from these remote locations to the nearest city of Tinsukia in Assam and the vehicular movements along these roads are quite less. The Indian Army and BSF are stationed at the borders here at Walong and no wonder we could see movements of army trucks along the way.
The beautiful structure of the Golden Pagoda temple at Choukham started to get visible to our eyes and it was a sight to behold making us wonder as to how the people thought of the idea of creating one of the finest Buddhist temples in this remote part of Arunachal Pradesh. We reached the parking spot of the Golden pagoda temple and it is spread across a sprawling lush and green campus. There is a resort inside the premises as well where visitors could spend an evening admiring the beauty of the construction of this temple and also perhaps spend their time in meditation in the calm wilderness at the International meditation centre that was being constructed at the area of the Golden pagoda temple at Choukham in Arunachal Pradesh. We took our steps inside the premises of the Golden Pagoda temple and the beautiful golden structure immediately filled our mind in calm. The entire temple structure is painted in golden colour and looks grand with a huge statue of Lord Buddha present at the temple altar here in Arunachal Pradesh. Today we were the only visitors present here and along with us there were a few Buddhist monks present in the premises of the temple and they were busy offering their prayers and lighting incense sticks at the temple altar and courtyard. One of the monks asked us from where we had come and surprisingly he knew Assamese language as well and he told us that he was well versed in ten different languages both Indian and foreign languages.
He helped in offering our prayers at the Golden Pagoda temple in Arunachal Pradesh and we lit the incense sticks and prayed before the statue of Lord Buddha and seeked the Lord’s blessings. After spending about 45 minutes at the premises of the Golden pagoda temple we headed on our drive to Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. We came across a small township here and one of my friends asked to stop here as he wanted to pack up a few bottles of drinking water before continuing on the drive. In a small shop here we bought the water bottles and came to know that the shop was selling liquor as well and we decided to pick up some stock with us for the evening and to our surprise the rum bottle price was quite less compared to that in Assam because the duty is less in Arunachal Pradesh and hence the price is low compared to the other states in India. No wonder people were drinking here in the shop at 11.30 AM in the morning itself. We picked the stuff and later headed on our drive to Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. The roads are not very good from here on during our time of visit and one of my friends who was working with a construction firm at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh had told me that their company was building the roads in this stretch and occasionally the road conditions were bad and I had planned my visit to Ziro, Itanagar and Naharlagun with him once I went back there during the monsoon time. We kept driving admiring the lush forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh wondering of the adventures that lay ahead of us during this visit to the easternmost fronts of Arunachal Pradesh and the orange cultivations of Wakro started welcoming us to the place.
We reached the Wakro Eco Resort at around 12.30 PM and it was nice that we could make our drive on time and it was mostly because of the SUV vehicle we had brought along or else if it was for a smaller car we would have had taken much longer tackling these roads of Arunachal Pradesh in these parts especially. Wakro is a tiny town in the eastern part of India and is known for the Mishmi people who since long have cultivated oranges and opium on the fertile soils of the places around here. Due to the opium cultivation the people around this small place are quite rich and are self-sufficient. But due to the growing concerns of the opium cultivation people have become concerned about the health and the future generations and so gradually they are shifting to other modes of cultivation mostly of citrus fruits and a herbal tea variety of the Mishmi hills of Arunachal Pradesh that is known to be cure to various body ailments. The huge hectares of cultivation land could be seen all around and we enjoyed the scenic drive to the Wakro Eco Resort in Arunachal Pradesh. Here we were welcomed by the manager who showed us our room and the extra bed would be in the room before we retired for the night and we freshened up and went to the dining hall for our lunch. There were no other guests today as it was a weekday and the next day the place was full as it was a weekend and visitors were coming to spend their weekend here at Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh.
Before lunch I went in the nearby orchard owned by the resort and picked up a few oranges to be had after our lunch but the manager told me that after lunch we had ample time to explore the orange orchards and the nearby tea gardens and also perhaps take a drive to the Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary near Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. Our lunch was a nice presentation and it was more or less of an assamese cuisine as most of the guests who visit here are from Assam who prefer to have such food and the cook and the manager both belonged to Assam. We asked if there were any specialities of Arunachal Pradesh available to eat and the manager told me that the cook would prepare a boiled meat recipe for dinner as the people of Arunachal Pradesh mostly prefer to eat boiled food that explains their good health and lean physique. The fish curry was prepared in mustard gravy and the fish was very fresh and it could be felt in the taste of the fish. The rice was an organic local one that had a sticky texture and a sweet taste to it and the vegetables were all organic brought from the local gardens. After a hearty lunch we stepped out of the Wakro eco resort and took a walk across the beautiful orange orchards and the fruit gardens all around us along with the Mishmi tea cultivations. It was already 2 PM and we were not sure whether we had time to visit the interiors of the Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary at Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh but we thought it was no use staying at the resort when we had come to explore the natural beauty of Arunachal Pradesh and so we took the car and thought of exploring the outskirts of the Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary and also the local market at Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh.
The opium cultivations became visible to us and the smell of the fresh leaves of the trees of the opium was filling the entire area. It was surprising how a normal looking leaf could turn out to be so potent when treated with certain chemicals and become powerful enough that with over dosage could kill a person. We drove around and reached the local market at Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. Sunset is early in these eastern most fronts and due to winter season it would be dark by 4.30 PM and the manager had asked us to be back before sundown as we were not locals and so it was better not to roam about around these forest areas of Arunachal Pradesh because there might be altercations with the local people who are very particular about the sanctity of their place and so they do not like people walking around the place at night and creating any nuisance. Also we understood that there was nothing much to see around in the evening time as there was less lighting around the place as well so it would be better to return to the resort and savour our rum by the bonfire and enjoy some fresh roasted meat here at Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. The market was a small area with the locals sitting in a shed and selling their various local produce to the people of Wakro. The people of Arunachal Pradesh love meat in their diet and they have a unique way of drying their meat and fish as well and this helps to prepare a spicy chutney by pounding the meat in a hand grinder and mix herbs and lots of chillies to be had with their meals.
Also the dried meat helps to make some dry roast recipes as well. This is mostly done to elongate the life of the meat and some vendors even smoke the meat in their kitchen as well. The market had various vegetables on offering as well and off course the oranges. We spent some time at the Wakro market and later headed back to the resort. It was almost getting dark when we arrived and preparations were on to begin the bonfire at 5 PM and the meat skewers were being made ready to roast the pork meat at the resort. Bonfire was ready at 5 PM and we discussed our plan for the next day because we had to reach Walong by afternoon and the manager told us that it would take a good 7 hours’ drive to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh keeping in mind the road conditions and the mountain terrain. We also had a plan to stop for a while at Parashuram Kund that is one of the holy sites for Hindus here in Arunachal Pradesh as it is believed that the holy sage Parashuram washed himself off his sin of killing his mother here and so every year thousands of pilgrims come here to take a sip in the holy waters here. It would meat we would need to halt for lunch along the way and the manager told us that as the population is sparse along the way so there would be options of only small tea stalls serving snacks and maggi and so we planned accordingly to reach Walong in Arunachal Pradesh by around 3 PM.
One of the friends started roasting the meat over the fire and the cook sent for us a plate full of chopped onions, green chillies, coriander and lemon to be mixed along with the meat chunks. It was getting quite chilly as we were at an elevation and so we asked for some hot water to be poured on the rum that would have some soothing effect on the body. Dinner was served at 7.30 PM and things in most parts of Arunachal Pradesh are an early affair where people eat their dinner early and it seemed 7.30 was a little late for the local people who finish off dinner by 7 and retire to bed by 9PM to begin their day early next morning. The cook prepared a boiled curry with bamboo shoot and some vegetables added with pork and the pork meat was a local one so it tasted much better than the ones we got to eat from the farms. The people in Arunachal Pradesh believe in eating the things in an organic manner and so they have lots of fresh vegetables and meat in their diet as well thereby allowing them to stay lean and fit even after eating generous amounts of rice that we people in cities have a tough time as we eat adulterated food and lack physical activity. We finished our dinner and retired to our room thereby ending our visit to Wakro and preparing ourselves to head more east to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh.
The next morning we started at 6.30 AM from the Wakro eco resort to head to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh via Parashuram Kund. We picked up some oranges and bananas to be had on the way before we could find a place near Parashuram Kund for breakfast and we paid our bill at the resort and started on our drive. The roads now were on an uphill and so we drove cautiously and we crossed across a beautiful forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh. The river Lohit that flows across these eastern fronts of Arunachal Pradesh and continues into Assam as Brahmaputra was flowing alongside us and it was surprising to see the crystal clear waters of the river in Arunachal Pradesh while in Assam the waters get muddy and it must be mostly because now the river was flowing on a downstream hill while in Assam it flows mostly in a horizontal trajectory. We reached a viewpoint area from where we could get an aerial view of the plains of the Lohit River and it was an amazing view from this place. This place is also referred to as the Namti plains and the picture one sees is like a blue carpet spread across the land with the sand delta cutting across the river and reminds a person how beautiful the natural bounties of Arunachal Pradesh are and one has to explore these remote destinations to witness them. We clicked our pictures at the viewpoint and continued on our drive to Parashuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh. Parashuram Kund is one of the very holy sites for Hindus and every year thousands of pilgrims come here to take a dip in the pure waters of the river Lohit as it is believed that bathing in the holy waters of the Lohit River during the festival of Makar Sankranti helps to cleanse oneself of past sins.
The legend goes that the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu had viz. Sage Parashuram had committed a heinous act of beheading his mother upon the instructions of his father and after committing the act the axe that he had used to behead his mother got stuck in his hands. His father pleased with him offered him any boon he wished to which he wished his mother be brought back to life again and his wish was granted. Even after his mother came back to life the axe was still stuck in his hands and so Parashuram travelled around and tried various means to get rid of the axe. It so happened when he was crossing across this place he wanted to wash his hands and so he dipped his hands in the waters of the Lohit river and to his surprise the axe got itself detached from his hands signalling Parashuram that the waters here had some magical healing properties and so he spent his time in meditation here and made a place within the river waters where he continued his meditation and that stone was called as the Kund of Parashuram which however was washed away in the earthquake of 1950. Surprisingly the river current brought in boulders and stones and these stones circled around the waters where the Kund was earlier present making people believe that there was indeed some magical powers in the waters of the river Lohit here at Parashuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh and that makes this place holy and people come here to take a dip as a symbol of penance.
We stopped at Parashuram Kund and spend some time looking about the area. As today was a weekend many visitors were expected to come here and vendors were setting up shops to sell good here. We decided to have our breakfast here and one stall was serving puri sabji and boiled eggs and we sat down along with the fruits we had brought over from Wakro in Arunachal Pradesh. The hot puris along with the peas and potato sabji was indeed quite tasty and we relished our breakfast after the early dinner we had last evening and as we were in the habit of having a late dinner this was new to us and our breakfast timing too was a little late today. After our breakfast we started on our drive towards Walong in Arunachal Pradesh and the roads were not quite good and the drive was across a mountain terrain allowing reaching speeds of only around 40 km/hr. dense forests were around us and the occasional vehicular movement made us feel safe driving through these forests. Human settlement was very less to be seen and we had entered the Anjaw district in Arunachal Pradesh which is supposedly the least populous district in India with population of slightly above 20,000 people. The major dwellers are the Mishmi and the Meyor tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in these parts. The uphill drive was taking a toll on the vehicle engine and we had to make a stop to give the car engine a break before we continued on our drive and in some time we reached the Anjaw Township.
Being a district, Anjaw holds an administrative office and so the township is of a fair size and the Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh mostly inhabit the township. There were army bases as well as these areas are close to the border of India and China and movement of troops of the Indian Army and BSF are required to stop any infiltrations. We stopped at this township and allowed the car to rest for a while and we took a walk across the market area to see if we could find anything traditional to take back home. The Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh are adept weavers as well and they are known to weave using traditional fibre that gives the products a beautiful texture and their products are very bright in colour as well. Certain of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh wear elaborate head gears made out with feathers of certain birds and as these forest reserves here are filled with abundance of flora and fauna so the people in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh practice their faith as Dony Polo wherein they worship the sun, moon, stars and the nature around them as this they believe gives life to everything in the planet and so they worship them. We did find some nice traditional attire of the Mishmi people at one of the shops and we made our purchase. We had tea and snacks at a small shop and planned our lunch at Hayuliang before reaching Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. Our mobile phone network was erratic and BSNL was a good provider here and my friend was carrying it connection with him. We finished our tea and the car engine got sufficient time to rest as well and we started on our drive to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh.
From Anjaw we started again on our drive to Hayuliang in Arunachal Pradesh across the dense forests and mountain terrain. The drive was tougher now with the steep curves along the mountains and the sudden rise and down along the path. My friend was used to driving in such conditions as he was born and brought up in the Deomali area of Arunachal Pradesh that has a similar terrain and so he was able to tackle the road curves and bends easily. The other friend too was adept with the condition and he would be driving the vehicle from Hayuliang to the final stretch up to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. We could hear the sounds of various animals and birds along the way as the vehicular movements along these roads are quite less and so the animals do not feel threatened to be closer along the road sides. One particular animal that is to be seen all around these parts of Arunachal Pradesh is the Mithun which is a cattle breed that is reared by the people for its milk and meat and also as a pet sometimes. As mentioned earlier, the Mishmi and Meyor people living in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh revere the nature around them a lot and so they live in tandem with the various animals around them rearing them and using their meat for survival. Before they slaughter an animal for its meat they offer prayers and thank the animal for allowing it to be slaughtered so that it could feed them. After driving for a sometime an army convoy approached us and it was a long line of vehicles ferrying the brave soldiers of the Indian army across these parts of Arunachal Pradesh and to other locations as well.
Arunachal Pradesh shares a strategic border with China and since many decades the state has been a matter of dialogue between India and China as China claims Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of its territory while it is clearly demarcated to be in the Indian Territory. Often news of the Chinese army infiltrating the area of Arunachal Pradesh could be heard and in the 1962 war between India and China, the Chinese army had advanced and captured quite some territory up to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. After much dialogue the army retreated but the loss of life was immense and the battle of Walong would forever remain as a memoir for India. So to strengthen the border forces along these parts of Arunachal Pradesh a huge strength of army is deployed across the major borders at Kibithoo, Mechuka and Bumla Pass and certain other strategic locations between India and China here in Arunachal Pradesh. The convoy of around 15 trucks and the soldiers smiled at us and perhaps were grateful that we and stopped our vehicle and allowed them to pass at first as a sign of gratitude to them for keeping our borders and in turn us safe. The occasional Arunachal Pradesh road transport busses and private jeeps could also be seen ferrying passengers to locations like Tezu and Tinsukia in Assam. We drive for another hour and finally reached Hayuliang which again was a decent sized village and had a decent market as well. We stopped here for our lunch and our drive to Walong was about another two and half hours left.
We had to make our lunch and stop brief as we planned to reach Walong before 3 PM and it meant we had to leave Hayuliang by 12.30 PM and we were told the some road construction was going on ahead so our arrival might get a but delayed to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh as well. We stopped at a small shop that was serving rice with meat and vegetables and thought this to be an apt meal for us as rice is a part of our diet while my friend decided to eat rotis and he would be driving from now and rice makes him feel drowsy. The meat was a boiled recipe as preferred by the locals and as Hayuliang acts as a stopover for all the busses and private jeeps ferrying passengers so shop owner does some brisk business during the day as well. Most of the other members are primarily engaged in agriculture and life out here is as different from the ones in cities as it is mostly a laid back like where people indulge in farming activities and rely on nature for all their food needs. The rice served was quite different from the ones we get in Assam and they were a little larger grains and a little chewy as well. We finished our lunch and continued on our drive to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh at 12.30 PM. After about and hours’ drive we saw the bull dozers working on the road and they were making the road wider for the heavy army vehicles to easily cross but by the time we and reached the workers had taken a break for lunch and so the machines we pulled one side and we did not have to wait to cross this stretch of road thereby saving our time and putting us back on schedule. After another hour and half of drive through the mountain stretch we finally reached Walong in Arunachal Pradesh and checked into the IB that was booked for us. The caretaker of the IB took our ID cards and made copies and allowed us to check into our room and I must admit it was a huge room big enough to accommodate 10 persons. These IBs are used by the government officials for their stay when they visit these remote places for work and inspection and so care is taken to make their stay a comfortable one. During our time of visit there was no one and we were the only ones staying at the place. It was a long drive today especially for my friends who drove the car and they were in no mood to step out of the room and so I freshened up and went to enquire what could be done here at Walong.
The caretaker told me that to travel to Dong village in Arunachal Pradesh at the millennium point we had to seek prior permission from the Indian army as the Meyor people here are protected and hence they do not like intrusion so the army needs to scrutinize visitors before they go to Dong village and we clearly didn’t have the permission to go to Dong and also to reach the millennium point at Dong village to watch the early morning sunrise one has to start trekking as early as 3 AM in the morning to catch the first rays of the sun falling at around 4.30 AM and keeping in mind the health conditions of the two friends who acted as drivers today it was a sure thing they couldn’t get up at 2 AM to start the hike the next morning to Ding village in Arunachal Pradesh. So I thought it would be better to drop the idea to visit Dong village but this was one of the prime highlights of the things we had planned on seeing here at the easternmost fronts of India in Arunachal Pradesh. To add to our woes, the cook was not present at the IB and it meant that we had to prepare our own dinner as the caretaker would need to leave today evening and so he left the kitchen to us. The local market at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh was nearby and I went ahead to the market to see what I could get there and bring it back as I would need to cook myself today evening. The Walong market was nearby and I walked to the place and to my surprise it was a nice market with most of the modern amenities available in the shops here and as basically this is an army cantonment the people cater to the needs of the army personnel.
I wanted to buy some meat and vegetables to prepare dinner and so I picked them up and went back to the IB. I told my friends that our plan to Dong in Arunachal Pradesh had to be cancelled because of the criteria associated with visiting the place and they too breathed a sigh of relief as they were in no mood to wake up at 2 AM in the morning and go for a hike just to catch the glimpse of sunrise at a local village. Anyways being a part of witnessing the first rays of the sun falling in my country here in Arunachal Pradesh was still a dream to me and I decided to perhaps come back again one day to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh to witness this phenomenon. It was dark already at 4.30 PM and we thought of what to do so we got to our dinner preparations. The kitchen was very unique as food was prepared over fire owing to the fact the supply of LPG was a challenge and they had to rely on natural methods to prepare food here at the IB at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. So we started the fire and I decided to prepare a simple dinner of chicken curry with vegetables and rice. The vegetable I would put in the chicken curry would be potatoes, papaya, turnips, tomatoes, onions and coriander and all this I found readily available in the Walong market in Arunachal Pradesh. The fire started well and my friend helped to clean up the meat, rice and vegetables and one of them chopped the things and I started the preparations of food. The firewood cooking technique I had learnt at Majuli in Assam where I helped my friends fry fish at their home and it is a very tricky technique as the fire needed to be controlled or else the heat becomes too much and burns the food. I followed a simple cooking process where I fried the chicken and later added the vegetables and after frying for a while added water and brought the mix to a boil.
After our dinner we thought of whether we should halt at Walong or leave to Tezu after an early morning visit to Kibithoo and later stopping at the Walong War memorial to pay our respects to the brave soldiers who laid down their lives in the 1962 war here at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. It would be better to plan our visit to eastern most fronts of Arunachal Pradesh this way as we were not visiting Dong village and the drive from Walong to Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh would take us about 45 minutes and after visiting the border of India and China we could start early by 8 AM from Kibithoo to reach Tezu by later afternoon and the next day we could explore around Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh and later return back home to Margherita in Upper Assam. Keeping in mind this plan of ours we retired early to bed and to get up the next morning and proceed to the final frontier of India at Kibithoo and if possible at Kaho village in Arunachal Pradesh. The next morning we started at 6 AM to travel to Kibithoo and although we had made reservations for 2 nights at the IB we had to cancel the second night as we were heading to Tezu. Surprisingly the caretaker did not take any money from us as he had been instructed by the official not to take any money as my uncle would be bearing our stay expenses here from his office and it was indeed a kind gesture and I assured to keep in mind to take with me something from this place to his family as a token of gratitude for all his help in my explorations across Arunachal Pradesh.
We thanked the caretaker and started on our drive to Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh. The distance from Walong to Kibithoo is not much though the road condition takes a little while to reach the place and all across here are many cantonments that guard these frontiers of the border of India and China here in Arunachal Pradesh. The drive was scenic and the mountains were filled with abundance of flora, fauna and avifauna. At about 7 AM we reached Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh and the brave soldiers of the Indian army were patrolling the borders here and a sense of patriotism dawned into us looking at them braving all harsh conditions and standing tall guarding these final frontiers of India. We stopped our vehicle at a check point and went to seek permission to move ahead to Kibithoo village. These places do not see much of tourist footfalls and so the army men were happy to see us and they asked us our purpose of visit to Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh and how long we planned on staying at the village. We just would stay for about an hour and so they told us to move forward and visit the viewpoint from where we could view the border if China from India and we ahead. Kibithoo in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh is the place where the Lohit river enters India from China and later flows into Assam as the mighty Brahmaputra. Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh is located at the centre point with China to its north and Myanmar to its east. Kibithoo is also one among the five officially agreed border meeting points between the soldiers of the Indian army and the People’s liberation army of China to discuss border control as well.
We reached the Kibithoo village and it too was home of the Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh and they welcomed us to Kibithoo and we went to the viewpoint area from where the Indian soldiers were patrolling the borders and we could see the distant view of Chinese army as well to which one of the soldiers called us and asked us to take a better view with his binoculars as well. We thanked them for their kind gesture and after spending some time at the village we came back to the cantonment area where we asked one of the army men where we could find something to eat and he allowed us to visit their mess where we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast. I realized how open hearted these brave soldiers of the Indian army were and a sense of gratitude and pride dawned in me towards them. It was so hard to believe that these soldiers who were belonging to the most western parts of the country were now stationed at the most eastern part in Arunachal Pradesh thousands of kilometres away from their friends and families and yet they had a smile on their faces and bravery in their heart to put down their lives towards the services of the nation. After our sumptuous breakfast we left Kibithoo thereby ending our visit to the easternmost fronts of India here in Arunachal Pradesh and started on our drive to Tezu. We crossed via the same route we had taken from Walong and as not it was a downhill drive it was easier compared to uphill and my friend was now enjoying his drive more.
We had last refuelled our vehicle tanks at Namsai itself and as it was an SUV it had a much larger fuel tank capacity than smaller cars and so we had planned to reach Tezu with the fuel reserve. We were almost half out of fuel stock and we hoped to reach safely with fuel to spare at the next fuel bunk in Tezu. Now with the downhill drive we would be spending less fuel as well. We reached back at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh but we did not stop here in the interest of time as we thought of reaching Tezu as soon as we could. We kept driving and reached Hayuliang by 11.30 AM and we stopped here for lunch at the same place we had visited earlier and we had the rice and boiled meat and vegetables and with another three hours to Tezu we quickly finished our lunch and started on our drive again. We reached Parashuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh and this time we had to take a right to go towards Tezu. Normal human settlement started to get visible again and we reached Tezu town at around 3 PM. At Tezu we checked into the Hotel Shivam near Tezu market that is a decent budget accommodation here.
We checked into our room here at the Hotel Shivam at Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh and the room was quite budget but decent sized and as we just had to spend one night here at Tezu so we didn’t mind spending a night here as we would be checking out early next morning and travel to Margherita where my friends could join work from the afternoon. After freshening up we went downstairs to visit the local market at Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh as I had to buy some traditional souvenirs of the Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh to carry back home as a gift for my family members and also the Uncle’s family who had helped me arrange for my permits and accommodations at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. Tezu is the district headquarters of the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh and once again the home to the Mishmi people who are believed to be the local inhabitants here from the as early as the times of the Mahabharata itself. Tezu today is the fourth largest town of the state of Arunachal Pradesh and being a business hub there are other people from origins across India also inhabiting Tezu and all the people dwell in harmony here. In addition to the Mishmi, Singpho, Chakma and the Tibetan diaspora also inhabit around Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh as well. We went to have tea at a local stall here before we visited the market and as it would get dark soon we had to ensure make our work faster because the markets close early as well and we planned on having a small celebration at our room today after buying some drinks and snacks at the market and ordering in dinner at our room itself.
With this plan in our mind we started to explore the Tezu local market. It was a decent sized market with various vendors selling their produce from vegetables, meat, groceries, hardware to eatables. At first we went to the traditional Mishmi shop vendor to find their traditional souvenirs to carry back home. These vendors had an elaborate shop that sold the Mishmi handlooms, handicrafts, the Mishmi organic tea and other food items as well. We explored the stall and found some nice souvenirs depicting a Mishmi couple in their traditional attire and it would be nice to put them up on display at the living room. Also the nice handlooms that are adorned by the local Mishmi women that were made to fit the needs of the other ladies as well and so I brought two of these things and also a few packs of the Mishmi organic tea to be gifted to my relatives as well. We explored the market area for a while and then went in to one of the restaurants here to pick up our snacks for the evening and we were famished as well so we stepped in the grab a bite. The restaurant was packed with people who were having liquor as well and I understood that this was a local bar and hence the rush to fill the tables here. We took our seats here and placed our order for pork momos and we could buy our drinks here itself and we did not have to go looking for a wine shop.
The steaming hot moms arrived at the table and it was served with two big bowls of hot chicken soup and the momos had the inner filling of pork meat here at Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh. We were famished and we shared the two plates of momos among the three of us and we picked up some potato fries and pork dry fry to be had with the bottle of rum we brought here and headed back to our hotel. It was around 6.30 PM and the hotel boy asked us to place our order for dinner as well as they close their restaurant services by 9 PM and so they would serve us dinner by 8 PM and so we ordered for rice, dal, brinjal fry and an egg curry to end our day here at Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh. The pork dry fry was quite spicy with the added chillies and capsicums and people in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh add a lot of natural spices to their food. The potato fries had gone cold and so they did not taste very nice. Anyways our food arrived at 8 PM and we savoured the meal and with the prices on the menu it was a decent meal. We stayed up watching television for some time and later retired to bed. The next morning we started on our drive from Tezu to Margherita and we crossed the Dirak check gate to go via Doomdooma to reach Margherita by 11 AM. My friends reported back to work and I went back home thereby ending another successful visit to the easternmost frontiers of India here in Arunachal Pradesh.
After completing my notes for a few days writing about my travel experiences around Arunachal Pradesh my friend called me to on Wednesday and asked me to accompany him to Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh as he had some machines deployed for the road construction from Margherita to Changlang and so he had to check on the servicing of these machines just a little ahead of Changlang and so he took me along to see the vast natural beauty of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh and also the local people here. Changlang is a small town that serves as the district headquarters of the Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh and is the district administrative offices here. We started at around 9 AM and to visit Changlang from Margherita we had to take the road via Namdang that happened to be one of the sites of the underground coal mines under the operations of NECF that has now been abandoned and the mines here have run their life and out of coal stock. Namdang is also the place of the beautiful tea gardens of the Namdang tea estate and the Margherita Club at Namdang. We drove past the beautiful lush tea gardens here at Namdang crossing the Namdang Bibi Majhar and the remains of the site of the underground coal mining operations of NECF and our driver at home Mr. Barua’s residence to reach areas with less human habitation surrounded by forest cover. The landscape is very beautiful with the rolling Patkai mountain range and the river Namdang flowing alongside the road.
Beautiful valleys with the evergreen forest cover looked very beautiful. This road is used by the people of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh to commute to Margherita and other towns in Assam at Tinsukia and Dibrugarh to avail business opportunities and also healthcare services as the district of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh lacks good infrastructure hospitals and has ones with basic healthcare facilities so for everything the local people use this road and so the local government was putting in their efforts of improving the road condition of the roads to allow the local people to commute comfortably on the roads here. I remember my visit to the Margherita bazar on Sundays when the local people from Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh used to come to Margherita to setup their stalls for the day and they would bring along with them various local produce of vegetables, fruits, organic rice, meat, etc. to sell in the Sunday bazar and my father used to specifically visit these stalls as the food was completely organically grown with minimal use of artificial fertilizers. This was evident as along the roads we could see the local people making efficient use of the mountains to do terrace cultivations and grow various crops. We reached the site of the road construction and my friend’s organization as a part of its CSR activities had helped the construction company by lending them two bulldozers and two tipper trucks to help the construction of the roads connecting Margherita with Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh. My friend stopped here for a while and went in to speak to the supervisor engaged in the construction and he came back soon and we proceeded to visit Changlang town in Arunachal Pradesh.
We reached the border check post and we had to validate our IDs and purpose of visit and my friend flashed his ID card and told the guards we had to meet someone at the DC office to collect a few documents regarding the machines used in the road construction. The guard allowed us to pass through and we entered Arunachal Pradesh again today and this time at the Changlang district. Arunachal Pradesh is bordering the state of Assam and so to reach the various parts of this state one has to pass via Assam and many destinations of Arunachal Pradesh are to be reached via these parts in Upper Assam like to access Pasighat one has to cross via Dibrugarh and to access Tawang, Bomdila, Ziro, etc. one has to access via Tezpur. Finally we arrived at Changlang town and it was a nice tinsel town located atop a mountain and the beautiful view of the Patkai mountain range and the land of the Nocte and Chakma people of Arunachal Pradesh. Compared as a district with the other districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Changlang is the second most populous district. The dehing river flows across the Changlang town and it flows towards Margherita to finally join the Brahmaputra and most of the plain areas around here are called as the valley of Dehing that harbours rich flora and abundance of fauna as well. Agriculture and animal husbandry are major occupation of the local people along with fresh water fishing and the river fishes caught from the dehing are very much in demand across the places around Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh.
We reached the DC office at Changlang town and my friend asked me to wait in the car while he got the documents he had come to take. These government offices here have restrictions as to who can enter the premises and so as my friend had already called the concerned person and informed of his visit so the pass was created for him to visit the place and it was not there for me so I had to wait and admire the nature around me. I took a walk outside the office campus and saw the local inhabitants of Changlang going about their daily activities. Small shops were set up outside the office serving food to the visitors and the employees along with betel nuts, betel leaves, tea and cigarettes. I stopped at one of the shops to eat some local food of rice and boiled meat recipes. My friend was taking a while and so I savoured a bowl of the local sticky rice and pork meat that was boiled with vegetables like potatoes, turnip, coriander and lots of green chillies here at Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh. The flavour of the fresh vegetables in the meat broth was indeed quite wonderful and the chunks of pork meat was perfectly cooked adding to the delight in the recipe. My friend arrived and his work was done and so we set out to explore the beautiful countryside of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh. We visited a place that was by the banks of the river dehing and was a favoured picnic spot in the area and visitors from various parts of Arunachal Pradesh and even Assam as well came here to spend their winter time to enjoy a day of picnic with friends and families.
We visited the Changlang market in Arunachal Pradesh following this to witness the various local offerings of the people here. The market here was similar to the one at Deomali in Arunachal Pradesh as the demographics of both these areas were similar and the local people were selling their various produce from vegetables, meat, natural spices, fruits, groceries and daily need items. The daily needs and groceries were mostly brought in from the market at Margherita while the vegetables and meat were mostly to be found from the Changlang area along with the fishes that was brought in from the Dehing river. We walked across the market at Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh and what was eye catching was the meat market as certain animals that are not found to be butchered in other places could be found here and most of these were caught in the wild and brought to be sold here like wild boar meat that was on sale along with bats as well. I was surprised with what not the people around the world taste and eat and with this thought we went to another section that was selling hand woven traditional shawls of the local people of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh and the bright coloured attires made me feel quite intrigued and we walked around the section looking at these shawls and other forms of traditional attires. My friend’s parents had come to visit him and he brought one of the shawls for his mother and looking at him I too took this opportunity to buy one for my mother as well.
After exploring the market we took our seats at a restaurant to have our lunch and though I had eaten a bowl of rice a while ago, the walking across the market made me feel hungry and also the fact that I always take the opportunity of trying out local recipes and cuisines whenever I visit a new place. The small restaurant had various offerings from the Chinese specials to traditional food of Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh. We decided to try a special noodle that they had on menu with a tinge of bamboo shoot flavour, pork and other herbs and the owner of the place asked us how spicy we would like our noodles to which I asked him to make it moderate because I knew that the people from these parts believed on eating a lot of chillies and it was surely tough for me to handle it and especially my friend who though was born and brought up in Arunachal Pradesh but as his roots was from central India he was not used to so much of natural spices in the food. Our food arrived soon and the first look at the dish made me understand it was spicy and the fresh chillies and coriander was visible. The coriander used was of a special local variety that is found across North east India and is called as the ‘Naga dhania’ as it is known to be grown extensively across the forests of Nagaland but is also grown in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam as well. It has a very strong flavour compared the the general coriander and has many medicinal qualities as well. The combination of the noodles and herbs was simply flavourful to the utmost and after our lunch we started on our drive back to Margherita from Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh.
We reached home by 4 PM and my friend planned on our next visit to Roing and Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh the next weekend and two of our other friends too would join us. It was later February and we were sceptical whether we would have the opportunity of sighting the snowfall at Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh or not but yet we planned on visiting making our visit to try our luck and visit the land of the legendary Adi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Roing is the district headquarters of the Lower Dibang Valley and is known for numerous tourist attractions like the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, Mehao Lake, and Bhismaknagar fort and of course the Mayodia Pass that remains covered with snow during the winter season. This is the easiest accessible place to witness snowfall in North East India as the other place is the Sela Pass and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh that needs a long drive across winding roads atop mountains to access. As the Dhola Sadiya bridge was not yet complete so it meant we would need to cross the Brahmaputra on board a ferry at Dhola ghat to go to Sadiya in Assam from where we would reach Roing. We started on a Friday to travel to Roing in Arunachal Pradesh and we would halt there for an evening and later travel to Mayodia. We wanted to plan our visit to Anini in Arunachal Pradesh as well but we came to know that driving on the roads from Mayodia to Anini requires utmost precision and as the roads are narrow and along the roads there is the edge of the mountain and without proper guard railings alongside we did not have the guts to brave this adventure and also to cover the distance from Roing to Anini of around 223 km it would take us 12 hours of continuous driving. So we opted against our visit to Anini in Arunachal Pradesh as this meant my friends would need to take much longer leave from their work and this didn’t seem feasible. So the plan to visit the picturesque Anini in the Dibang valley district that is one of the most remote parts in Arunachal Pradesh and home to the Idu Mishmi people who had migrated here way back in the 1st millennium from Tibet had to be dropped this time for us.
We reached the Dhola Ghat at around 8.30 AM in the morning and ferry boat that would take us to the other side of the river Brahmaputra was yet to arrive and so we stopped at the ghat after parking our car in line and admired the vast beauty of the Brahmaputra river that flows into Assam as the Lohit river from Arunachal Pradesh. Surprisingly the waters here look so clean and blue because the river flows in from a higher elevation and from across less populated areas so no major concern of waste being dumped into the river waters but gradually as it starts flowing across the plains of Assam along with the carrying of silt and the pollution wastes, the waters become quite muddy when one sees the Brahmaputra at Dibrugarh, Majuli and Guwahati. At the Dhola ghat various vendors had set up their stalls having begun their business for the day preparing food for the travellers coming in and travelling to Sadia and the local fisherman catching fish with nets and bringing in their catch to these shops to sell that would fry these fishes and offer them to their customers. However, the future and business of these small time traders looked glim once the Dhola Sadiya bridge was scheduled to open in the month of May 2017 as the vehicles and people who came to the ghat every day to avail the ferry services would no longer need to cross the river on a boat and they would cross the river over the bridge itself. The Dhola Sadiya bridge when completed would span across a distance of 9.15 km making it the longest bridge in India and the longest river bridge in Asia eliminating the travel time from Dhola to Sadiya by almost an hour and a half thereby allowing people to have easy access to the facilities in towns like Tinsukia and Dibrugarh and also for the rapid movement of armed forces along the border of Arunachal Pradesh via Assam.
At present our ferry ride would last about an hour and half and our ferry was there to board the vehicles and people travelling across the river waters. We boarded our vehicle on the ferry and three other vehicles too were loaded on the ferry boat and we were waiting for the passengers to fill the boat and we explored the construction and machinery of this boat that would take us over the waters of one of the most powerful rivers in the world that is a lifeline to the people of Assam but also causes much of damage to property and life during the monsoon season. At around 9.30 our boat ride started and we expected to reach Sadiya town by around 11.30 AM where we would have our lunch and moved to Roing to reach by afternoon and check into the circuit house at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh and alter explore the market area around and other places of attraction and return back to the circuit house by sundown as we were advised not to travel across the area of Roing in the evening. We started our ferry ride and the vast waters of the Brahmaputra river welcomed us along with the beautiful crystal clear winter skies. The ferry drove past the waters and it was a beautiful view to witness the waters. A little into the waters and we had a bad luck as the boat got stuck in the sand on the river bed and the driver had to try out some manoeuvres to pull out the boat of this and we successfully managed to cross this hurdle and continued on our ride to Sadiya and further to Roing in Arunachal Pradesh. We saw many local fishermen who followed a unique technique of fishing wherein they had set up camps on the river banks where the sandy shore had come up due to the drying up of the river waters and they would set up their nets in the evening and in the morning they would collect their nets.
They ensure to stay at the place so that no one could steal their nets or the fish catch. We steered gradually and reached the ghat at Sadiya at around 11.30 AM and the ferry driver did a commendable job to reach us on time. By the time we disembarked from the ferry to hit the road again it was 12 PM and we reached Sadiya town at 12.30 PM. We planned for a quick half an hour lunch break at Sadiya market area to reach Roing in Arunachal Pradesh by 2 PM and explore the area and later returning to our place of stay at the circuit house. At the Sadiya market we checked into a nice ethnic Assamese restaurant where we ordered ourselves assamese thali and fish curry and the meal was utmost delicious with the various offerings of rice, dal, black dal, brinjal fry, mashed potatoes, herbs fry, salad, chutney, small potatoes fry, the fish curry with sour herb, etc. We enjoyed our meal and the restaurant owner happened to know my parents quite well as he earlier worked at Margherita and later started his own restaurant here. We left Sadiya to travel to Roing and stopped at the border check post at Arunachal Pradesh where we had to produce our documentation that allowed us to travel into Arunachal Pradesh. Our formalities were done and we continued to drive to reach Roing town by 2 PM and we first went to check into the circuit house at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh. This was necessary as there are limited accommodation options at Roing and the reservations are on a first come first serve basis even though you book your accommodations priorly here.
The circuit house is quite a property to halt at a place like Roing in Arunachal Pradesh as the property is under the government and the rooms are quite spacious and clean as well. It was easily comparable to the one at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh where we had stayed and there is a new building also coming up to accommodate more guests comfortably here. We spoke to the caretaker here who checked our IDs and allowed us into our room and it was a big room easy enough to accommodate the four of us for two nights. We asked him what we could explore around and he told us to take time today to explore the market and come back before sundown to our room while the next morning we could travel to Mayodia and after witnessing the beauty of the snowfall there we could come back and spend our day at the local park and go to visit the fort at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh. We were alright with the plan and as we were not travelling to Anini in Arunachal Pradesh and halting at Roing itself we thought to take this opportunity at leisure and not rushing across every spot of interest in the stipulated time. We freshened up to go to the market area and the caretaker joined us too as he wanted to do his shopping for our dinner and the other guests who were staying tonight at the circuit house at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh. The market was not quite far as the town itself is small in area and inhabited by the Adi and the Idu Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh.
We reached the market at 3 PM and a lot of bustling activities were going on as the people finished their work and came out to the market at this time to either sell their produce or buy groceries to take back home and retire for the evening. The Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh mostly practice agriculture as their profession and this can be seen all along the drive to Roing where the land across are used for the cultivation of various crops mostly rice as this is the staple food in the area. The Adi people here at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh have a peculiar taste viz rat meat that is considered to be a delicacy around here. As the area is filled with cultivation land it is common for rats to come and destroy the fields so these people have found a unique way to trap these rats and use it in their cuisine and as the area is not polluted there are minimal chances of rats spreading any diseases. Various other meat delicacies are to be found including bats and squirrels. The meat section is a place to visit here at the Roing market if you would want to see what the people here eat and experience it In front of your eyes. We explored the more of the market where we saw traditional handicrafts and handlooms of the Adi and the Idu Mishmi people of Arunachal Pradesh and also the various varieties of rice that are grown across the paddy fields in the region. The vegetable and fruits that were being sold were very fresh and were brought in from the local fields and forests as well.
After spending about an hour at the market area we started on our drive back to the circuit house along with the caretaker who bought in his needed stuff for dinner and we asked him where we could find some rum and he said that there was as shop in the market where we could buy it and on the way we picked a bottle of rum and headed back to the place. The caretaker came to know that there had been a cancellation in the arrival of a guest family and so that meant only us along with another traveller group would be staying tonight and so he did not have to cook much food along with his helpers. He arranged for our meat for the evening and we retired to our rooms. The food here is served in the dining hall and it is not served in the rooms here so he told us that he would finish attending to the other guests at first and then call us for dinner and mind you dinner at these parts of Arunachal Pradesh are an early affair and by 8 PM we were o free the staff as they would get up early to begin preparations for the following day. We served our drinks and spoke about how the culture is different for the people here with the people in the mainland and of how if we had even heard of people eating rats it would be simply impossible for anyone to believe. By the time we finished it was 7.30 and the caretaker called us for our dinner that had rice, dal, potato fry, fish curry, papad, salad and some mixed vegetables curry and it was surprisingly delicious moreover we were quite hungry as well. We planned to leave to Mayodia at 7.30 AM and the caretaker would let us take some bread and biscuits along to have on the way and serve us tea at 7 AM.
We got ready the next morning and started on our drive to Mayodia Pass in Arunachal Pradesh. We crossed Roing and gradually started on an uphill climb to go to Mayodia and the roads were narrow but well-pitched. It would take us close to an hour and a half to reach Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh and we drove slowly and carefully. In sometime we reached a river crossing that did not have a bridge over it and it was under construction during the time we had visited. As it was during the winter season so the level of water was not much and with the SUV we easily crossed it to hit the road again. Now it was an uphill climb completely and after driving for half an hour we reached a small place where there was a small restaurant catering to the tourists at the Mayodia Pass in Arunachal Pradesh. The place also had a tourist lodge here at Mayodia and so we stopped here to eat our breakfast before we headed further on top to sight the snowfall at Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh. Mayodia is located at an altitude of 2655 m above the sea level and is a renowned destination to witness snowfall. In the Deori Chutia dialect ‘Mayodia’ means the shrine of Mother Goddess. Heavy snowfall occurs here in the months of January and February and so we were here at the right time towards the end of February to witness the snowfall here. The small restaurant was serving maggi noodles and coffee and we ordered for maggi, omelette and coffee for us and also the bread we brought along. The weather was quite cold here at Mayodia in Arunachal Pradesh and the food was almost cold in about 2 minutes.
We finished our breakfast and headed on our drive again further uphill towards Mayodia Pass and along the way we spotted the Mithun animals of Arunachal Pradesh. Shortly we could spot the blankets of snowfall along the roads and we got excited to what lay ahead of us and as we drove further up towards Mayodia Pass the entire stretch of roads started to get filled with snow. We finally reached atop the Mayodia Pass in Arunachal Pradesh and an amazing view of Mother Nature caught us here. The lovely view of the snow clad Eastern Himalayas here at the Mayodia Pass was a unique sight to behold and the road ahead that led to Hunli and Anini were completely covered with snow and a few sumo vehicles were moving ahead ferrying passengers to Anini. There is a Shiva temple here at the Mayodia Pass and it is believed to pray here before continuing on your journey further and the blessings help to undertake the journey safely. We spend some time admiring the awe of nature here at Mayodia Pass in Arunachal Pradesh and continued on our drive back to Roing exploring the Mehao Lake and the fort that is a very old fort during the time of the Chutia kingdom and returned back to the circuit house at Roing and the next morning we continued on our drive back to Margherita thereby ending another wonderful expedition of the beauty of the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Now I had to plan my expeditions on my own to travel to at first Pasighat and further up to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh and continuing up to Itanagar and Naharlagun where I would be joined by another friend who worked with a very prominent local road construction company and the would help we explore the places like Ziro Valley, Bomdila, Dirang, Tawang, etc. before I would up my visit exploring the various frontiers of Arunachal Pradesh. To go to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh I would need to travel to Dibrugarh at first and as the Bogibeel bridge was still under construction scheduled to be open for public use the year 2018 so I had to catch a ferry from Dibrugarh to cross the Brahmaputra and reach the other side to travel to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. As the roads were not in the best of conditions so I had opted not to take my own vehicle and avail the services of shared taxi and busses until I reached Itanagar where I would meet my friend and he would pick me up and help explore the final frontiers of Arunachal Pradesh with his car. Keeping this is mind I started my journey to Dibrugarh by car where I would keep the car in my aunt’s place to be picked up by another friend who would take the car to Guwahati where I would meet him after exploring these parts of Arunachal Pradesh. I reached my aunt’s place in Dibrugarh in Upper Assam and decided to halt the night before embarking on the journey to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. My aunt and uncle stayed at the Milan Nagar area in Dibrugarh and as I reached their home to spend an evening in Dibrugarh before continuing my journey to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.
The next day I took a bus from the ASTC bus stand at Dibrugarh to travel to the site of the ghat from where I would travel to the other side of the Brahmaputra via ferry boat to travel to Pasighat. My friend in Itanagar had arranged for an all Arunachal Pradesh ILP valid for a month so that I could travel to the various districts as I did not want to trouble my uncle any further and the online system of ILP application for Arunachal Pradesh was not yet operational. With everything in hand I started on the journey and got down at the point where I had to into a shared vehicle along with other passengers to travel to the Ghat that was similar to the one we had seen at the Dhola Ghat and I got down here to board the ferry. The ferry had not yet arrived and so I sat in one of the small shops that was serving hot food to the passengers who were travelling to the other parts of the river and also for the ones who were crossing in from the Arunachal Pradesh side. This ghat is accessed by the people from the other side to Dibrugarh as this is one of the established towns of Upper Assam with advanced medical facilities and so the people come here to get their check-up done with the advanced body scanning units. I planned on eating my lunch early as I didn’t know at what time I would reach at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh so I ordered for a veg thali and the freshly fried fishes from the river and it was simply fired with salt and turmeric and tasted so fresh and delicious.
I boarded the ferry and slowly the boat started to fill with passengers and vehicles all to be travelling to other side of the river to go to places in Assam like Jonai and Dhemaji and also to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. The ferry started the ride and it would take about an hour and half to cross over to the other side and I enjoyed the view of the waters of the Brahmaputra river and gradually cruising across the river waters. At around 12 PM we reached the other shore and the people and vehicles alighted from the ferry boat. Here I sat in a shared taxi to travel to Jonai from where I would take a bus to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. On reaching Jonai I went to the bus stand to catch a state transport bus to Pasighat and the bus fares were quite reasonable. Pasighat is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh and home to the Adi people and is blessed with vast natural beauty and untamed ruggedness. It is situated at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 155 m above the mean sea level. Agriculture is the primary occupation of the local people here and tea cultivation is gradually catching up as a source of livelihood as well. All across the roads I could see the various rice cultivations and the area looked entirely green. I reached the border check post where we had to validate our ILPs and the officials checked my documentation and our bus crossed into Arunachal Pradesh. I reached Pasighat at around 1.30 PM and headed to check into a hotel that I found decently priced named as Hotel Oman at the market area.
After finishing up I went out to explore the beautiful area of Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. The Pasighat town has an ancient British colonial past as this place was founded by erstwhile British to act as a gateway to the great Abor hills in Arunachal Pradesh. Post the Anglo Abor was fought between the Adi tribesmen and the British helped establish the administration headquarters that led to further establishment of the General Hospital, cooperative society, Nurse training college, first college in Arunachal Pradesh, All India Radio station of the state leading to the notion that this could easily be established as the capital of the state of Arunachal Pradesh until the special privilege was given to Itanagar mostly due to the connectivity of the place. But today with the infrastructure being developed across the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh gradually Pasighat now has very decent connectivity by roads and airways with commercial flights operating from its military airport base as well. Road infrastructure is being developed and a lot of effort is being put to promote the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh as a global tourism destination not just limited to Tawang circuit. I went to the Buddhist Monastery here at Pasighat that is also the only monastery in the area and so I went in to pay my respects to the lord and also admire the beautiful architecture of the monastery. There is an old Buddhist temple that serves as a worship place for the Buddhist temple that serves as a worship place for the Buddhist community living in the Pasighat area of Arunachal Pradesh with beautiful constructions that are dating back to several years and could be known to help hold the tabs of the history of the Pasighat region.
I explored the monastery and the calm and peace in the area made me feel close to nature all around. Next up I went to visit the Siang district museum here at Pasighat that illustrates the rich history and traditions of the Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh. The Adi people as mentioned earlier had migrated from Tibet to the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh as early as the 1st Millennium and since then have preserved their history and culture across these years. They were primarily hunters who used to foray into the dense jungles of Arunachal Pradesh to wander in search of food but across the years now they have adopted to agriculture as their primary occupation. The Adi people nowadays are well educated and hold reputable positions in the government services of Arunachal Pradesh. The museum had various artefacts from the ancient times of the Adi way of living along with various other traditional items like attires and traditional ornaments. After finishing exploring the museum I saw the time was 3 PM and I decided to quickly visit the local market at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh before returning back to my hotel as today I was travelling all alone and I did not want to get into any altercations with the local people by walking on the streets after dark and felt better to relax in the warmth of my hotel room. The weather was quite cold today and as it was the month of March was gradually fading away of the winter season was felt in Assam but not so much in Arunachal Pradesh as the temperature were far below the ones in Assam.
The Pasighat local market was close to the hotel where I was staying and at first I walked into a restaurant to eat something as I had quite an early lunch at the ghat itself and all the travel made me feel quite hungry. I walked in to a local restaurant to try some traditional Adi cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh and I was served with rice, a colocasia curry with dried fish, a boiled pork meat curry with taro roots and it was an amazing food recipe loaded with nutrients. After this I walked across the market area of Pasighat town in Arunachal Pradesh identifying the various different local produce that were on display and the richness of the greens and vegetables told me that life’s pleasures was to be found in eating such healthy greens and not in leading a life filling one’s body with artificially created food. The Pasighat market was very much similar to the ones I had visited at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh and this was because it was the home of the Adi people and the food habits were mostly the same in both these places. The meat and fish section of the market was another unique thing to witness because here also a lot of meat to be found was from animals that were hunted in the forests and brought to the market for sale. Rat meat was a delicacy to be found here as well and dried rats were sold in the market that had a unique flavour. After exploring the market I went back to the hotel to my room and spent the rest of the evening planning my journey to other destinations of Arunachal Pradesh and arranging the photographs I had clicked.
The next morning the beautiful sunrise showed me the way to explore more of the areas around Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh and I headed to have my breakfast and then pay a visit to the famous hanging cum suspension bridge over the river Siang near the Pasighat area that is a well renowned tourist destination. Pasighat has not yet gained much prominence in the tourist circuit of Arunachal Pradesh and although there are numerous backpackers who come to witness the Adi culture here but the place serves as a halt over point on the way to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. Mechuka is another border town of India and China located in Arunachal Pradesh and is known for its vast untamed natural beauty all covered with snow-capped mountains peaks as well. The hanging bridge is located about 15 km away from Pasighat town and I hired the services of a shared Tata sumo vehicle to reach this Adi village and the people here are known for their simplicity and hospitality. The river Siang flows across this place and this later merges with the Brahmaputra River that flows across Assam. The Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh is known to be a river with the cleanest waters in India and the bamboo bridge at the Bodak village has been constructed over this river itself. I reached the Bodak village in Arunachal Pradesh and the beautiful countryside made me feel so much at peace and tranquillity. The Adi people of Bodak village in Arunachal Pradesh were so simple and welcoming and I could see some of them sitting in a shop chewing on betel nuts and getting ready to move to other parts near Pasighat in search of work carrying bamboo baskets on their heads.
I stopped to have a cup of tea at one of the shops and the owner was preparing some fresh rice cakes that made it look very tempting and as I had a short trek to reach the river Siang after crossing the bamboo bridge I ordered for a rice cake to fuel up the energy reservoir in my body. The Adi people are very much similar to the Mishing people of Assam when it comes to their hospitality and their small build as well and they were eagerly speaking to me as to from where I had come and how I was feeling as a whole travelling across Arunachal Pradesh to which I couldn’t have a better answer than ‘Excellent’! I thanked them and asked for the directions to the bamboo bridge and a person who belonged to a local village there was kind enough to guide me along the way as he was going to his village as well as he had come to his house as he was working at a firm at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. We started on the trek discussing about the places to see around here and he took me across the small stairway that led to the base of the Siang river here. The beauty of the nature around me was exhilarating and if for anything one need to visit Arunachal Pradesh to witness the bounties of nature here. We climbed down the stairway and reached the bamboo bridge that was swinging by the means of a suspension wires and also there were wooden planks on the walkway to provide additional strength to the bridge while crossing it. The man told me that the bridge was strong enough to handle the weight of five fully grown adult men but I was very sceptical to cross it alone but he told me it was nothing to worry and both of us started crossing the bridge.
The suspension bridge at Bodak village in Arunachal Pradesh started swinging once we had started walking on it and I felt the fear in my mind of falling down and being washed away by the strong currents of the Siang river however the man told me that this was the everyday life of the people living in villages around here and I gained confidence and crossed the hanging bridge easily. We reached the local village and the man invited me over to his home and have some rice beer and I was surprised as they were offering rice beer so early in the morning yet with his eager hospitality I couldn’t refuse as well and so I went to his home at the Bodak village in Arunachal Pradesh. His was a small house built with bamboo and on an elevation reminding me of the various homes in Majuli that have a similar structure to ward away the monsoon waters from entering the houses and his mother and father welcomed me in. The language had some similarity to assamese and I could understand what they were speaking to me and vice versa. I was offered a glass of rice beer and some fish fry that the family had caught from the river last evening and it was one of the tastiest fish I ever had. It was fried up with certain herbs and some garlic that imparted a wonderful natural flavour to the fish and the rice beer was very much similar to the ‘Apong’ of the Mishing people.
I thanked the family for their hospitality and bid farewell to them to continue to the banks of the river Siang to feel the waters here and it was extremely cold and fresh. I sat by river banks for a while and later left the Bodak village in Arunachal Pradesh to travel to the Midor Lereng stone monolith at the Bodak scenic area that happened to be a popular picnic spot in the area. It was nice wandering around the place admiring the crystal clear waters of the Siang river and the natural beauty all across and I finally left Bodak village to travel to the Adi Bare Kebeng headquarters at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. This place happened to be the cultural parliament of the Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh that helped in protecting and preserving the cultural, traditional, historic and linguistic aspects of the Adi society. On the way back to Pasighat as I had to return back early I stopped at Gomsi that happened to be another place of historic interest in the Pasighat region of Arunachal Pradesh as it had evidence of the past culture of the medieval period. Ancient structures could be seen here made with old bricks and special mortar and it is believed to be of the pre-Ahom period. I reached the site of the Pasighat airport that is a military airstrip and now is also in operations for civilian traffic and of the news I had heard that certain airlines were in talks to operate direct flights from Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh to Kolkata in West Bengal in a move to boost tourism across the state.
I was however interested in the East Siang district museum that was present here that preserved the ancient relics of the Adi culture and traditions and I went in to explore the place. Thankfully the museum was open during the time I visited as I was told that as it doesn’t see many visitors each day so the museum at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh is often shut down after lunch. I purchased a nominal priced entry ticket and went in to explore the ancient heritage of the Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh. Inside the museum ancient artefacts and sculptures depicting the Adi way of life was present and along with it the traditional attires and jewellery. A nice depiction of the Adi people’s life from the early times to the modern day as to how they used ancient tools and have now migrated to new technologies could also be seen. I wrapped up my visit at Pasighat and I realized that visiting these parts of Arunachal Pradesh is mostly to enjoy the bounties of nature and learn about the rich traditions and cultures of the indigenous people these places. I went back to the Pasighat market to have my lunch and I thought of trying some Chinese food today and I ordered myself a hot steaming bowl of noodles and a pork dry recipe and savoured the meal after a long day of travelling. I went back to my hotel room to order in for the evening and prepare my next day visit to Mechuka via Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh.
The next morning I started quite early to travel to another one of the final frontiers of India in the eastern side at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. The drive from Pasighat to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh would take about eight hours by shared taxi and so I had to ensure to start early to be able to reach the place on time. I would at first travel to Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh from Pasighat and from there I would need to change the taxi to travel further to Mechuka. So I left the hotel at 5.30 AM to go to the taxi stand nearby to book my seats. There are some taxis plying directly to Mechuka but I did not want to continue the entire 8 hour journey on one taxi and so I thought of changing seats by hopping on another taxi at Aalo and travel to Mechuka. I boarded one of the taxis and thankfully I got the seat at front and to have a comfortable drive I paid the driver some extra money not to allow anyone to sit along with me because these vehicles stuff their entire body with goods and people and that’s the only way they are able to make a decent profit on their drives. The driver who was a Adi person from Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh smiled at me and we agreed to this and in some time we started on our drive to Aalo. I had a plan to halt at Aalo before going on to Mechuka as this would break the journey and it wouldn’t be this long but in the interest of time I had to somehow travel to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh today itself and on the way back I would halt at Aalo before continuing to North Lakhimpur in Assam where I would visit my relatives and further proceed to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh.
The drive from Pasighat to Aalo would take about 3 and a half hours to cover a distance of about 100 km making the average speed of only 35 km/hrr and this is mostly because of the mountain terrain of Arunachal Pradesh and the journey would mostly be across the pristine forests of Arunachal Pradesh. I expected to reach Aalo by around 9.30 AM as we had started at 6 AM and if everything went right and by the book then we would be able to be on time. The driver looked confident while driving and the fellow passengers were all mostly traders who were travelling to Aalo to attend the market there and sell their produce there and come back to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. The roads are not very good and the driver maneuverer his vehicle carefully avoiding the potholes and he looked quite experienced driving on these terrains of Arunachal Pradesh. The forest cover was very alluring and we could hear the chirping of various birds and the roars of the resident animals of Arunachal Pradesh as well. We crossed certain villages and small townships like that of Pangin and the drive gradually came on the level roads to which the driver caught up with the speed. Thankfully everyone was travelling directly to Aalo and we didn’t have to make frequent stops to allow passengers to get down and wait to pick up other passengers. At around 9.30 AM we finally reached Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh and it was again a small township of the Adi people as well as the Galo people of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Sumo driver took us to the local taxi stand at Aalo and we all got down from our vehicle to catch other vehicles and some who had come to Aalo went about their business after paying our fare to the taxi driver. Aalo is a small business township with a population of above 20,000 and the dominant people inhabiting the place are the Galo tribes of Arunachal Pradesh who have been staying here since times immemorial. Aalo is gradually gaining importance in the tourist track of Arunachal Pradesh and hosts a festival every year in January that sees visitors from far and near. I would be coming back to Aalo on my drive back towards Lakhimpur and at that time I would have some time to spend here and perhaps explore the local market and learn more about the Galo people of Arunachal Pradesh. I had to rush as I didn’t know where I would be staying in Mechuka as I didn’t have any reservations and I had asked one of my friends to help me with reservations there as he had visited Mechuka earlier but he had lost the contact number of the owner of the place he had stayed that happened to be the Potala homestay and he told me that I shouldn’t have a problem finding a room there and also that there were a few homestays there in Mechuka in case I didn’t find my reservations at the Potala homestay. I boarded the taxi and the driver told me to eat something as we had a nice four hour drive ahead of us to reach Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh and there would be no shops on the way so by the time we arrived at Mechuka it would be almost after 3 PM and far later than the regular lunch time.
I grabbed a seat at a small restaurant that served noodles and tea and had my share of it because during travel especially on these mountain terrains I do not eat much as I feel nauseous and it was better to avoid it by filling myself with too much food. I did enjoy the tea and it refuelled me after the long ride from Pasighat to Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh. At 10 AM we started on our drive to Mechuka and the distance to be covered was around 180 km from Aalo. Aalo was earlier called as Along and so people often refer to the place as Along as well during your journey across Arunachal Pradesh. The roads were good and as Mechuka is being promoted as an important tourist destination of Arunachal Pradesh so the efforts have been put to build the road infrastructure across for the tourists to have an enjoyable ride. Again the roads are surrounded by forest cover and we gradually approached the area of the Mouling National Park that happened to be a famous place to sight some of the rare and endemic wildlife of Arunachal Pradesh. The beauty of the place was simply exhilarating and the driver was speaking to me about how the tourist influx is now on a steady increase to this part of Arunachal Pradesh and with the construction of the Bogibeel bridge in Assam, the accessibility to Pasighat would get better and with the presence of an airport in Dibrugarh more number of tourists would travel to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh as well. It was nice to know that even though he was a simple taxi driver he was aware of the things going around him and looked eagerly towards the development of tourism infrastructure at the place he lived.
I reached Mechuka at 3 PM and the beauty of the nature and the snow-capped mountain peaks around indeed made sure that Mechuka is the Switzerland of the North East inhabited by the Memba tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. The breath of fresh air admiring the snowy hills of Mechuka made me indeed feel that the atmosphere here sure had some healing power and city dwellers could come to Mechuka just to detoxify their lungs from the polluted air and water of the city environment. God had indeed created a life of balance in the World viz where people in cities have access to all modern amenities and the latest technologies with lots of money having access to the best healthcare facilities but they do not have the pure and basic things in life like fresh air to breather, clean water to drink, the beauty of nature around them and the most important thing viz. time for oneself. While the people living in these remote areas not only in Arunachal Pradesh but across the World even though they might not have a 4G connectivity they have everything what God intended a person to have. Keeping these things in mind I stepped out of the vehicle and went to explore the final frontier of India at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. I thanked the taxi driver and he asked me to wait and was kind enough to drive me to the Potala homestay here at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh where he helped me find a room and the owner graciously welcomed me in and I told him about my friend who had visited here with a group of tourists about a year back here at Mechuka in V and he recollected their visit.
I got a nice room for myself here at the Potala homestay at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. It was a nicely built homestay with the touch of traditional and modern touch to it as well. The kitchen was built in a traditional memba architecture here with bamboo on an elevated platform with a fire burning at the centre and chunks of meat kept up on the ceiling for smoking. As it was already evening so I just took a short walk around the place admiring the mountains of Mechuka and the snow cover that was visible from a distance here in the Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh. My cell phone connectivity had lost network after I crossed Aalo and I was told that the only descent connectivity to be found is that of BSNL so in case you plan to visit Mechuka and at the same time need to stay connected with the World then ensure to have a BSNL sim card in your mobile slot. The beautiful Yargyapchu river flows across the Mechuka valley thereby allows the place to have a fertile soil and hence the cultivation of various crops are possible here that are acclaimed with the cold weather conditions and one important crop grown by the Memba people of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh is that of millet and it could be seen everywhere. I walked across the area close by and to my surprise I found a wine shop here and it was quite surprising to see a wine store in such a remote location and to beat the cold weather I picked up a bottle of rum to share with the members of the family at the homestay in case they were interested.
A chilly breeze was blowing and I should have brought more of adequate warm clothes to beat the weather I thought. There were a few homestays around the place and I could see a few foreign tourists walking around the area as well. I went back to my homestay as it was getting dark and it was hardly 4.30 PM and I decided to explore the other parts of the Mechuka valley in Arunachal Pradesh the next day as I would be halting here itself. At the Potala homestay at Mechuka the owners were getting ready to serve their guests with some evening snacks of steaming momos and butter tea. Yak is a domestic animal favouring the weather conditions here at Mechuka and the Yak milk is used for preparations of dairy items that include butter and the tea made from the milk when topped with butter becomes very rich to savour. The guest at the homestay were offered an opportunity to make the momos and everyone was enjoying the task of filling the small dough with a mixture of meat and onions that were stuffed inside the dough and later putting it into a steamer where the momos would get steamed and ready to eat with the hot butter tea here at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. I decided to try the millet beer that the owners prepare on their own and it is practice across the local tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh and North East India to brew their own alcoholic beverage at home either with miller or rice. Across most parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh rice cultivation is quite popular but not so in the case of Mechuka as the weather conditions here is favourable for the growth of millet only and millet is used as an ingredient to brew the beer.
The beer had quite a different taste to when compared to the rice beers I had across Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and it had a sour taste to it that made me feel a little high as well. Meat is an essential component of the diet of the Memba people of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh and they have unique preparations where they hang the meat in their kitchen and allow it to get smoked and later prepare some nice chutneys and curries with the meat along with the seasonal vegetables they have here. I enjoyed the beer and the owner of the Potala homestay poke to us about the history of Mechuka and that the name literally means is that Mechuka is often referred to as Menchuka by the locals that translate to Men-Chu-Kha meaning medicinal water of the snow. The locals believe that once the snow starts melting from the mountain peaks here flowing in to the Yargyapchu river that flows across the Mechuka valley in Yargyapchu the water that flows with the melted snow has certain medicinal properties and are believed to heal the local people of certain ailments. He also mentioned that nowadays with the connectivity of roads to Mechuka from other parts of Yargyapchu it has become easier for the people as the supply of goods have gotten easier by trucks because earlier the only means of access was via the airstrip here that was used by the Indian Air Force to supply goods of daily needs to the local people of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. Mechuka today is mostly inhabited by the Memba people as well as the Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh and also the Tangin tribes as well. All these people have different religious practices viz. while some practice Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism some even follow the Dony Polyism. Some of the Memba people speak the language if the Tawang Monpa people while the common languages are Hindi, English, Tangin, Adi and Tsangla.
Mechuka valley in Arunachal Pradesh is known for the presence of a 400 year old Buddhist Monastery that speaks highly about the religious and historical importance of this place in Arunachal Pradesh. This monastery that I would be visiting tomorrow is called as the Samten Yongcha monastery that is a part of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism and is contemporary of the largest Buddhist Monastery in India that also happened to be situated in Arunachal Pradesh and is called the Tawang Monastery located in a place as picturesque as Mechuka valley in Tawang. With this our dinner was ready and we would be eating rice, a boiled vegetable soup, a chicken curry with turnip, a spicy meat chutney that was made by pounding the meat chunks along with garlic, herbs and chillies on a stone mortar and the meal was absolutely delicious. I even took a second helping of rice as well and the owner liked the fact the all the guests enjoyed the dinner. The hospitality of the memba people of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh was absolutely delightful and they took pride in feeding their guests and catering to all their needs. After an early dinner we stayed by the fire for some time sipping in a drink or two and later I retired to bed to explore the beauty of the Mechuka valley in Arunachal Pradesh the following day.
The next morning I hired a bicycle from the homestay itself and went to explore the area of the airstrip at Mechuka that was a little ahead from the homestay to get a chance to view aircrafts of the Indian Air Force from up close. This airstrip at Mechuka happens to be one among the many ALGs across Arunachal Pradesh and is used by the Indian Air Force for the quick movement of armed troops and along with it supplies of daily need items to the army as well as the people of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. There is a significant presence of armed troops near Mechuka as this happens to be a strategic border between India and China. The ALG at Mechuka has Antonov-32 and helicopters taking flight to and from the place to carry supply and troops. I got lucky to spot an Antonov-32 that was preparing to take off to bring in supplies and also twice a week there are helicopter services under the UDAN scheme to bring in passengers and also tourists to Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh. I stood there for a while admiring the vast beauty of the eastern Himalayas here and later went back to the homestay at have breakfast and spend the rest of the day exploring the mysteries of Mechuka valley.
Breakfast had bread butter, cornflakes and fruits and the owner told me to check out the berry plantation here around Mechuka and as the winters had almost ended it would be time for the berry trees to bear fruit. I took his advice and set out to explore certain parts of Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh and informed the owner that I would have my lunch some place outside and so not to wait for me. I started by at first visiting one of the hanging bridges over the Yargyapchu River that allows locals to cross the river and move onto other remote villages in the Mechuka valley in Arunachal Pradesh. There bridge was similar to the one in Pasighat constructed with wood, bamboo and suspension wires that provided the bridge with amazing strength to carry the weight of adult men to cross the river. The picturesque surroundings looked perfect from this bridge and I stopped a while to click pictures and travel to the village on the other side where I could see stray horses running around. This is what makes Mechuka different from other parts of India where we don’t get to see horses running around in open fields. The various houses here were brightly painted and built mostly with wood that gives a true sense of nature here. I found a garden area that had wild berries growing that looked somewhat similar to red flakes on the greens here and I picked some of these and put in my pockets. Next up I headed to the Buddhist Monastery at Mechuka and this 400 year old monastery speaks highly about the ancient and rich heritage of the Mechuka valley in Arunachal Pradesh. This is located atop a hill and needed a bit of hike to reach on top. Inside the monastery I could see various ancient relics of canvas and murals and also beautifully done paintings on the walls of the monastery. With this I saw it was already afternoon and I went to the town to have my lunch and I savoured some noodles and meat and explored the banks of the river Yargyapchu and later returned to my homestay. I spent the evening here and the next day I bid goodbye to Mechuka to head back to Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh where I found the same taxi driver and he took me to Aalo.
I reached the Aalo town by 12 noon and I had the day to explore the place before I continued on my journey to explore further of Arunachal Pradesh travelling via Lakhimpur in Assam. Next up I would meet my friend at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh and he would be showing me around the rest of the places. The driver who brought me to Aalo from Mechuka and the same guy who had driven me to Mechuka earlier belonged from Aalo and he said the he would take me home today evening to witness the Galo tribe’s culture at his kitchen and so at first he took me to a hotel where he helped me find a room. Across Arunachal Pradesh you will find these taxi drivers trying to help you to arrange for your accommodations and this way they earn a commission from the hotel owners as well based on the number of guests they help to check in and this is an augmented income for them. He had another trip to a place close by and he would be back soon to take me to his home. As Aalo is a small town so there are not many stay options around and the place I checked in was more or less like a lodge with only lodging facilities and no fooding but it was not a problem as would be staying here just for an evening and there were food stalls at the market close by where I could eat food. I freshened up and went down to visit the market here at Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh or primarily Along to get a glimpse of the culture and traditions of the Galo people here.
The market was small and it was filled with local and organic produce all brought in from the local villages around Aalo town and the Galo people were sitting here in their traditional attires and selling the produce to the people in the town. Aalo has a population of around 20,000 people and most of the people are engaged in agricultural activities as their primary profession that allows them to be able to sell their produce to the people. There were vegetables, meat; fish caught from the local river and the fruits especially the oranges. These areas of Arunachal Pradesh especially around Dambuk is very famous for its citrus fruits especially the oranges and one can see carious orchards around that grow these fruits and the entire atmosphere here smells citrusy. I walked around the place and picked up some oranges to be gifted to the family’s home I would be visiting in the evening. I stopped for lunch at one of the small joints here that was serving some traditional Galo cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh and I thought this way I could learn something about the food habits of the local people so that I could strike a conversation with the folks in the evening. Rice is a staple diet here as well as it is across most of the plain areas of Arunachal Pradesh and along with it I was served with pork meat and a fish curry as well that had some vegetables added to it. The meal was spicy and the green chillies added to the fish and meat were visible across the platter as well. I finished my food and after spending some more time at the Aalo market I headed back to the hotel to rest for a while before the taxi driver came to pick me up to go to his home.
All these days of travelling had made me feel tired and I dozed off for a while to be awoken by the knocking on my room door and I realized it was almost about evening and the driver had already reached to pick me up. We left the lodge to go to his house that was nearby the place about 10 minutes walking distance and it was a nice village house built with bamboo and wood and there were a lot of hens, chicks, pigs around the house as they use these animals for their meat. One nice thing about the place Aalo is that people believe here in sustainability with minimal use of plastics and across the town one will not find any plastic thrash lying about. This gave a lot to learn from the people in cities from such remote places that indeed plastic is dangerous and hazardous and its use is to be avoided and even if used then proper disposal should be done so that it causes less harm to the environment. I entered their home and it gave a feel of a traditional environment with two small rooms where the family lived and a kitchen where the family got together in the evening to discuss the affairs of the day over a glass of Poka that is a local alcoholic beverage of the Galo people of Arunachal Pradesh. All across Arunachal Pradesh as I mentioned earlier the local people are adept in brewing their own local alcoholic beverage that are mostly made with a variety of rice and along with it various herbs are mixed to make the rice ferment and the resulting liquid is used as an alcoholic beverage.
These drinks are very strong however and needs to be had in moderation as it gives a high upon consumption of a little of the drink. As I entered the kitchen they offered me a bit of this rice wine in a bamboo mug and I could feel the sweet taste to it along with the flavour of the herbs as well. They had prepared a chicken curry with a black dal and this is a common preparation in the winter time as this helps the body heat to go up thereby keeping the local people of Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh warm and the meat was cooked to perfection. The potatoes they had added in the curry were grown in the local villages and it had a sweet taste to it that made the broth of the curry much more flavourful. It was hardly around 7 PM and the family was ready to have their dinner and they offered me the food as well and I felt so embarrassed as to just coming to visit them with some oranges because as I had known that when people visit homes across this region in North East India it is a practice to carry along few things so that the family could eat it. But this family didn’t look disappointed at all and they were rather very eager to know as to how I liked the food not only at their home but across Arunachal Pradesh as well. I had my share of rice and the chicken curry with dal and after spending some more time at the their house the person dropped me back at my hotel and thanked me for dropping by at his house and wished me the best for my future endeavours and asked me to surely contact him once I visited Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh again.
With this I ended my day at Aalo and next day I woke up to travel to Lakhimpur in Assam where I would meet my family members and halt there for a night before leaving to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. The next day I boarded one of the shared taxis travelling to Lakhimpur and the journey would take me about 7 hours to cover a distance of a little less than 300 km speaking about the road conditions where the average speed would be just about 30 km/hr. and the slow journey back to Assam started. I paid the driver a little extra money and reserved the front seat of the vehicle for myself and gradually we kept moving towards Lakhimpur to arrive at 3 PM. I went to my family home to meet my distant uncle and aunt and spent an evening here at Lakhimpur. The next day I started on my journey again to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh where I would first reach Banderdawa and they my friend would pick me up and we would travel further into the frontiers of Arunachal Pradesh to discover more places and indigenous people at Ziro, Bomdila and Tawang which area again mountainous roads and my friend who worked at a big construction firm had projects running across these places and so he would travel on work and I would get a chance to explore these beautiful places in Arunachal Pradesh as well.
I reached the border checkpoint at Banderdawa in Arunachal Pradesh after coming from North Lakhimpur in Assam. The Banderdawa area is a nice market area that has many business establishments and a major part of the place lies in Assam with only the border check post in Arunachal Pradesh. I had called my friend who works at a big construction company at Naharlagun who came with his vehicle to pick me up at Banderdawa thereby ending my journey on busses and shared taxis. I was meeting him after a long time and we had studied engineering together way back in 2003-2007 batch in Karnataka and as I had stayed back there to continue my job at Bangalore he came down here to start working with local companies and today he held a reputable position in this company as a senior engineer looking after the inventory and maintenance of the odd 1500 heavy machineries deployed by his company across road and building construction across North East India and mostly in Arunachal Pradesh. The security personnel checked the vehicle and our ILPs and let us pass into Arunachal Pradesh once again from Assam. The town of Naharlagun and Itanagar are both twin cities in Arunachal Pradesh and from the Banderdawa entrance, the first we reach is that of Naharlagun and Itanagar is about another 15 minutes’ drive from Naharlagun. Itanagar is the state capital and both these places are home to the Nyshi people of Arunachal Pradesh as the major population followed by the Adi and Apatani people and other local groups as well. We would be continuing on our visit to Ziro valley that happened to be the home of the legendary Apatani people of Arunachal Pradesh the next day and my friend had a construction site there as well and this would give him an opportunity to check the operations being undertaken there as well while I explored the vast natural beauty of the proposed UNESCO World Heritage site of Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
Naharlagun was about a short drive away from the border checkpost at Banderdawa and we reached Naharlagun to at first check into my friend’s office that is located at the entrance of the Naharlagun market in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a nice office building under construction and yet to be completely operational. The compound houses the Director’s house, the office building and the bachelor’s hostel along with the canteen and the workshop of breakdown vehicles. The campus is spread across a sprawling area and the view from the first floor looked very appealing with the backdrop of the tall mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and the clear blue skies. As it was in the month of March so the monsoon had not set in and the skies remained clear with the afternoon sunshine lighting up the entire place. My friend took me to their canteen to have lunch as he too didn’t have it waiting for my arrival and we took our seats at the big canteen that caters to the food requirements of 150 staff members every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The company provides accommodation and food to the employees free of cost and this is helpful for the many employees who work here. Similarly they had construction sites across Arunachal Pradesh and about a hundred workers, supervisors and engineers work at these sites as well and the company takes the responsibility of providing food to all the workers at these remote locations as well and this was one good thing about the place.
We enjoyed our meal of roti, rice, dal, potato sabji and chicken curry and later went back to the office as my friend had to collect some documents for our visit to Ziro valley tomorrow and we soon left the office to travel to my friend’s home that was located a little away from the office at an apartment that too again was provided by the office itself. My friend’s house was at the second floor and we were welcomed by his wife and young daughter who offered us tea once we reached and we relaxed at his house watching television and discussing our plan for the next day. My friend wanted to welcome me in a grand way and for night’s dinner he said that he would prepare a special mutton curry and treat me to a fine scotch whiskey as well. We stepped out of the house to buy the ingredients for the food and to get the whiskey as well. Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh has a number of wine outlets that are spread across the town and there was one close to my friend’s house as well. There was a market nearby as well and we went to buy the mutton and the spices from the market. We came back home and the friend asked me to sit while he prepared the meat and as his wife was a strict vegetarian so she did not know how much of meat preparations. We started our evening treat and planned to leave next morning at 7 AM to Ziro valley.
At first the plan was to halt for an evening here at Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh but then my friend got a call that he had to report to office at the morning the day after tomorrow and so we planned on returning by evening to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. We finished our drive and retired to bed to prepare our visit for the next morning. The next morning we started at 7.30 AM as my friend is not much of a morning person and I had a lot of trouble getting him out of bed and start by 7.30 AM. As there were no good restaurants on the way my friend’s wife packed us some puri sabji to be had on the way. To go to Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh we had to take the route via Hapoli and it is across a mountain terrain that goes uphill and the roads were not in proper condition with the numerous potholes and the narrow width of the road structure. We took a right diversion to travel towards the Naharlagun railway station and reached the site of the workshop where the company had a stockyard of the various materials used in road constructions and it was a big site with various heavy machineries lying around and all used to send across various sites of road construction in Arunachal Pradesh. There was an office here as well and we stopped for a while to have our breakfast here while friend took a stock of the operations going on and later continued on our drive to Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh. The roads along this stretch were smooth and we easily cruised across past the mountains admiring the vast natural beauty of Arunachal Pradesh. This entire road stretch construction was done by me friend’s company and my friend was in charge of the operations of the machines at this site and so travelling on the roads built by the person himself. In sometime we reached Hapoli and it is a small township with a few shops and houses of the local people.
After crossing Hapoli it was an uphill drive completely and the roads were narrow and meandering across the lush green mountains of Arunachal Pradesh. My friend knew the terrain quite well as he had been driving in this area for the past few years and due to the construction projects of his company going on about these places and even though we were not driving an SUV this time and his private car which happened to be an old Tata Indica vehicle he managed well to keep the vehicle out of the occasional pot holes. We reached another small township and we stopped here for a break to have a cup of tea. There were numerous Tata sumo vehicles passing across these roads ferrying passengers from Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh to Itanagar as being the state capital, Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh has access to better healthcare facilities and also the modern markets. The local people who are small traders do not rely on supply of good trucks to bring in produce for them to sell at the local markets and instead they go all the way to larger towns to buy stuff at wholesale price and later bring them to their local shops to be sold at retail prices. At a small shop we stopped to have tea and some snacks and the old lady who was running the shop served to recognize my friend as he often stopped here to have tea during the past few years and she asked us to come and take the seat at the place and served us some black tea and rice cakes that were considered as a delicacy in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The place itself was located in a very picturesque location with the tall trees and the flowering of the plants around with the backdrop of the towering eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh.
After tea we continued on our drive and our next stop was at Ziro town in Arunachal Pradesh. The lovely town of Ziro appeared out of nowhere and after hours of driving across mountains with the forests all around we somehow landed into a nice township. The Ziro Township is a combination of modern and traditional buildings because one can see buildings made with brick and mortar and also one can see traditional Apatani tribal homes of Arunachal Pradesh built with bamboo. After reaching Ziro township we headed to the site of my friend’s company that was located a bit away from the main centre towards the paddy cultivations of Ziro. At the site there were huge machines kept that were used in the construction of the ALG here and this would serve for the armed forces of the country to make quick landing and take-off for supplies. For long Ziro has been proposed as an iconic site looking for the tag of the UNESCO World Heritage site but still it has not received it and efforts are on by the official agencies to get this coveted status tag for Ziro. The lush greenery all around especially the well cultivated paddy fields looked so green and they were aligned quite orderly and the Apatanis believe in passing the land from one generation to another which they consider to be one of their prime possessions. We were scheduled to meet a local Apatani person at our guest house who would explain to me about the various rituals and practices of the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh and the places to explore around before we started on our drive back to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh.
The guest house was again in the heart of Ziro town and we were welcomed by the caretaker who took the trouble to prepare lunch for us. One unique thing I had noticed about the place was that there was no ceiling fans attached to the roof or as such any table fan as well symbolizing that Ziro has a pleasant climate across the year as the place is located at an elevation and so even during summers the maximum temperatures do not rise to an extent that one would need fans and let alone air-conditioning which is a symbol as to why in the cities the temperatures soar that people can’t stay without air-conditioning owing to the pollution all around. One of the local people from the place had joined us to help explore the bounties of Ziro and Arunachal Pradesh as well. He welcomes to the beautiful valleys of Arunachal Pradesh and told us how the Apatani culture was since long been known to have inhabited the areas here at Ziro and how they celebrated their various traditional festivals and worshipped the sun, moon and nature around them. Though across the years agriculture, handlooms and handicrafts have been the major professions and source of livelihood for the Apatani people, today the Apatanis are well educated and hold reputable positions working as government officials in the department of the state government of Arunachal Pradesh. The Apatanis of Ziro have a very well laid out and systematic practices of land management where they know about the ecological and natural resources management that has led to efficient conservation of land around the area. They have secret pockets of land that they consider sacred and are known as the sacred groves that have trees that were planted ever since their ancestors had migrated to Arunachal Pradesh.
The women folks are well known for their artistic handloom products that they weave on large handmade looms that are to be found in most of the traditional Apatani homes in Arunachal Pradesh. One unique thing about the Apatani women is the use of nose plugs and certain facial tattoos that they bear that spoke about a traditional history where the Apatani women were considered to be the most beautiful in Arunachal Pradesh and so invaders who used to come for conquest to Ziro often would take these Apatani women along with them during invasions. So to protect the women of Ziro the Apatanis came with a unique way of disfiguring their faces by putting nose plugs on their noses and also marking their faces with black tattoos that disfigured their faces so that invaders do not take any of the women along with them and the idea worked and today the women folks form an integral part of the culture of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. However this practice has now been stopped and young girls no longer were these plug or facial tattoos. He also told us about the traditional Apatani homes and how they are constructed on elevated platforms on bamboo changes and the rooms are built on an elongated manner with the kitchen towards the end. One unique thing he told was that of the toilet they that that were used to be hollowed out portions on the cottages and they would use the toilet on top and below there would be the pigs they rear who would feed on the excreta and I had a tough time believing it. Anyways it was their culture that they have been following since many years and I had to appreciate it once I was here at Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh.
He also spoke to us about the traditional festivals and it seemed that there was a celebration every month held on some occasion here at Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. Apart from the well-known harvest festival of Dree that is celebrated by the Apatanis of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh in the month of July every year and the modern music festival viz. the Ziro Festival of Music held in September that sees popular local and International bands perform at India’s largest outdoor Music festival there are numerous other festivals of the Apatanis that revolve around their agricultural practices. And in these festivals eating, drinking and merry making are an integral part as it marks the end of a month long hard work of toiling in the fields and generating the agricultural harvest. Rice beer is very common among the Apatanis and they brew it locally in their homes and make it available for everyone in their village during such festivals. Meat too is an integral part of their diet and they feast on a lot of pork and Mithun that are slaughtered and prepared at a community feast in the village where people gather and celebrate and dine. One family takes the lead and they start the procession festivities and go from home to home where people go on adding to the procession and they finally get together at a common ground to begin their festivities. People take part in cooking process and they spend their day in merriment singing songs and dancing thus marking a successful harvest.
With this we were running out of time and the caretaker also had to rush out so we walked to the dining hall to have our lunch. The meal had rice, dal, green sabji, salad, pickle and omelette and we were famished as well so we finished our lunch and went out to explore the beauty of Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh. We thanked the caretaker and at first we headed to a hilltop to get an aerial view of the Ziro ALG and the beautiful countryside along with the paddy cultivations. The drive was so scenic and the road was narrow but very well pitched and the sides along the road were all covered with green paddy fields and the complete picture of the pitch black road, the beautiful eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh as the backdrop and the green cover looked mesmerizing. We reached a spot on top where there was a guest house and from here we could spot the beautiful town of Ziro surrounded with paddy fields and the newly constructed Advanced Landing Grounds of Ziro that would be commissioned soon and military grade aircrafts would be able to take off and land here. The construction of several ALGs across Arunachal Pradesh for the brisk movement of armed troops will prove as a boon for the defence of the country and my friend’s company took pride in construction of few of these ALGs across Arunachal Pradesh. We admired the beauty of the place here and the local person asked one of the boys at the guest house to prepare a strong cup of tea for us as we were feeling drowsy after a nice lunch and we had plans to explore and then drive back to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh as well.
He showed us a mountain top and told us that during earlier times Ziro used to witness snowfall but for the past several years due to climate change snowfall has stopped happening and this is a cause of concern not only for climate change here but across the World as well. We finished our tea and later headed to a local Apatani village where could catch a glimpse of the Apatani way of living in Arunachal Pradesh. The place also had the Hari Rantu sacred groves of Ziro and we continued on our drive to reach the village soon. The traditional Apatani homes became visible and the unique structure was made with bamboo and tin sheet roofs that were inclined to allow the heavy rainfall not to be present on the roof but drain away and this was a similar construction across all the homes here at Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. The Apatani women could be seen here with the customary nose plugs and the facial tattoos and everyone was busy with their daily chores carrying firewood from the nearby forests to take to their home for the evening dinner preparations. We got the opportunity to visit one of the local homes here and the owner was a friend of the local person who eagerly welcomed us in. And the house was built with wood and bamboo and it had a nice big kitchen at the back of the house just as it was explained to us. At fire was burning and some of the other friends of the man were smoking a pipe and drinking rice beer. It is a usual custom here to welcome guests with rice beer and something to eat whatever must have been cooked in the kitchen and this practice is very much similar to the practice the Mishing people of Majuli in Assam follow. We were offered the rice beer and some pork meat and even though we were full after our lunch we tasted a bit of both as people here do not like getting offended by visitors not taking the food they offer. After this we went to explore the sacred groves at Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh and this was the place where the Apatani ancestors had first planted trees during their arrival here and the practice continued over the years thereby earning the place a repute of being a holy land and the pockets are called as sacred groves. The entire place is filled with tall canopy of trees and various species of orchids present as well.
We explore the sacred groves and came back to the village where we saw a village courtyard where the men folks had gathered for a meeting. In the interest of time as we had to drive back three and half hours to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh and it was already around 3 PM so we decided to make a final stop at the Shivalinga at Kardeo at Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh and bidding farewell to a fruitful visit to Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. Located at the entrance of the Ziro town this Shivalinga at Kardeo is considered to be the tallest naturally formed Shivalinga in the World and we went to explore the place. We had to walk across a small jungle to reach the site of this place considered to be a holy shrine among the Hindus and every year thousands of people gather here to worship the Shivalinga on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. The place of the Shivalinga was cleared out across a mountain and here we could see the beautiful stone structure and there were two other smaller stone structures as well. A pujari was present at the place and he helped us offer our worship here at the Shivalinga at Kardeo in Arunachal Pradesh. It was a very spiritual experience spending our time here and the entire place filled our mind with calm. We thanked Mr Chizing the local person who helped us see around Ziro in a nutshell and experience a bit of everything including the rich culture of the of the Apatani people and we started on our drive back to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. We took the same route we had come as the other route was not very good and this time the downhill drive was easier to approach and the drive was much better. We crossed the places we had visited earlier and we made a stop to refuel the vehicle. After we finished driving downhill and reached the plain we stopped for tea and snacks at the same workshop we had visited in the morning and continued to Naharlagun to my friend’s home thereby winding up the visit to the magical land of the legendary Apatani people of Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
My friend would be spending a couple of days with official work at Naharlagun and so I had the time to explore the places nearby and I visited the capital city of Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. Itanagar has a potential of a metropolitan and offers opportunities to various people from Arunachal Pradesh to come and settle here in search of better prospects so this place has now become the settling area of various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and some of the indigenous tribal people inhabiting Itanagar are Nyshis, Adis, Apatanis, Tagins, Galo, Monpa, Idu Mishmi, Sinpho, Khamti, Nocte, etc. with the Nyshis being the primary dwellers. So if I had to witness the various cultures in the form of food habits, fusion foods, traditional attires, music then Itanagar market in Arunachal Pradesh is the must visit place on my list and so I prepared to spend a day admiring the rich culture of the people of Arunachal Pradesh here at Itanagar. In addition there are few places of tourist interest as well including the Ita fort, the Jawaharlal Nehru museum and the Gaya lake to be explored here in Itanagar. As both Naharlagun and Itanagar is twin cities of Arunachal Pradesh so the distance is not far and I hired the services of an auto rickshaw to take me to Itanagar from Naharlagun. My friend was at office and he wanted to come and take me but I asked him not to bother and I would look around for myself here. The high rise buildings could be spotted once you reach Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and the Nyshi people are easily one of the most stylishly dressed people in Arunachal Pradesh.
I could see the market area brimming with youth both boys and girls who were dressed in some very nice modern attires and spending their day after college walking across the markets of Itanagar. As there are two very famous universities in Itanagar mostly the NERIST and the Rajiv Gandhi University along with the NIT Arunachal Pradesh so the students crowd at Itanagar is not only limited from Arunachal Pradesh but also from other states of North East India and well and some parts of India as well. This blend of various ethnicities of the students make Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh a very bustling town with various cultures merging and this has given rise to fusion foods that combine the tradition of the ancient tribal cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh along with the modern taste of fried recipes filled with flavourings of MSG, tomato and chilli sauce that are loved by the younger generations. I got down from the auto at the market area and travelling in an auto here at Arunachal Pradesh turned out to be expensive as the auto driver charged me INR 300 for a ride from Naharlagun to Itanagar but still as my friend was bearing the other expenses of my travel now onwards so I had money to spare and arguing with a local person at his territory was not a choice I was ready to make. I walked towards the Itanagar market to discover the various traditions and cultural prospects of the Nyshi tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.
There were numerous shops here at the market all selling traditional goods from handlooms and handicrafts and each of these products were handmade thereby illustrating the detailed craftsmanship. I went to one store to pick up a souvenir to gift it to my friend and his family for hosting me here at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh and another for my family as well. Next up I went to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru museum that showcases the rich culture and traditions of the tribal life of the people of Arunachal Pradesh in the various forms like clothing’s, attires, headgears, jewellery, handicrafts and other artefacts of daily use. Today this is a primary tourist destination in Itanagar and people visiting Arunachal Pradesh ensure to pay a visit to witness the entire state’s indigenous people’s culture and heritage under one roof. There are two floors at this museum at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and the ground floor here has various collections of artefacts from the palces around Arunachal Pradesh of the like of traditional art, handicrafts, musical instruments, wood carvings, cane products, handlooms, etc. while the first floor had various remnants of the archaeological discoveries from the Ita fort, Malinitheram in West Siang district, etc. Within the premises of the Itanagar museum of Arunachal Pradesh there is a section that runs a workshop from traditional cane and bamboo products and these handicrafts are also on sale for the visitors who come to visit the Itanagar museum.
I spent some time here at the museum admiring the rich artefacts from the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh dating to times immemorial and later stepped to the market to have my lunch. There were numerous fast food stalls at this place and the noodles was one thing I thought would be a hearty meal for me before I headed out to explore the Ita fort and winding up my visit at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. At the stall there were other fusion foods like the roast pork that happened to be cooked with smoked meat. The tribal people in Arunachal Pradesh have a tradition of smoking the meat in their kitchen by hanging the meat on the ceiling with the fire burning in the kitchen and this allows the pre boiled meat to soak in the aroma of the wood fire smoke that gives a unique texture to the meat as well and the meat chunks become slightly hard and when cooked up again it soaks up the flavours of the broth that it is cooked in and the resulting flavour is simply superb. For me the stall owner picked the choice of spring onions and certain herbs to be mixed with the smoked meat and he made a sauce by adding soya and the meat had a vibrant colour to it after it was some and served with freshly cooked egg fried noodles with a lot of vegetables of the day. After lunch I headed to the Ita fort that happened to be one of the remnants of the ancient Chutia kingdom of Arunachal Pradesh dating back to 14-15th century The beauty of the construction of the Ita fort greeted me and the fort was built with granite stones and lime mortar and the Chutia king had married a local Nyshi lady and built this fort in her honour. After exploring the Ita fort I headed back to Naharlagun ending my day of visit Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh.
I spent the next two days at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh staying back at my friend’s house and also visiting his office and the Naharlagun market trying to find out more about the Nyishi culture as both across Naharlagun and Itanagar the Nyishi people are the primary dwellers. Through their handicrafts, attires, jewellery, food habits, handlooms, traditional attires it was easily understood that the Nyishi people of Arunachal Pradesh have been living here since times immemorial and they constitute the largest ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh. The word Nyishi has a simple meaning when translated were ‘Nyi’ refers to ‘human’ and ‘Shi’ denotes a ‘being’ thereby translating to a human being. Apart from inhabiting major districts in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the Nyishi people also inhabit the Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur districts of Assam as well. During the earlier times the Nyishis were primarily agriculturalists who had good knowledge of the jhum cultivation and they grew a wide variety of cereals and vegetables. During the earlier times the Nyishis practiced barter system but after the arrival of the western market economic system they shifted to this and as the Nyishis inhabited the capital areas and districts of Arunachal Pradesh today they have come a long way on terms of education and learning and some of the most wealthy people in Arunachal Pradesh belong to the Nyishi tribe inhabiting the Papumpare district. During the earlier time the Nyishis of Arunachal Pradesh also practiced polygamy and this was a symbol of social status and the ability of a person that defined his being able to support the extended family but this practice had since long been stopped.
Earlier the Nyishi men of Arunachal Pradesh practiced wearing a traditional attire with a helmet that had the beak of the Great Indian Hornbill and due to the rampant hunting of this bird species their numbers dwindled and today there are strict laws against the practice of hunting and several conservation sites have been introduced to restore the number of these Hornbill species across Arunachal Pradesh. The Nyishis are now some of the most influential people in Arunachal Pradesh holding reputable positions in the Government as well as the government services. The construction company my friend worked for is one of the largest and most reputed in North East India providing direct and indirect employment to over 5000 people based out of Naharlagun is owned by a Nyishi person as well who is the MD of the firm telling us that they even have a sense of entrepreneurship and are ready to take risks for a greater gain not only for their own success but also for the livelihood of many others as well. Today most of the Nyishis have converted to Christianity but still believe in their ancient practices of Donyi Poloism as well and their major festival is that of Nyokum that is a celebration to commemorate their ancestors. Learning about their ancient culture and traditions was indeed a prize on my visit to across Arunachal Pradesh. We set out to explore the other parts of Arunachal Pradesh as my friend got his documents ready to check the progress of their construction work at the various sites and he took his official SUV vehicle and we set out to explore the various parts of Arunachal Pradesh where he would stay at the site to visit and take a survey of the works completed and pending and I would leave him to his work and explore the places of interest in Arunachal Pradesh.
We started from Naharlagun to travel to Balipara in Assam where the construction of the road to a four way lane connecting Nagaon to Gohpur was being undertaken and my friend’s company was awarded with the contract and the woe was under progress in full swing and the site in charges were monitoring the work at the respective locations and my friend was in charge of the machinery used in these construction and he had to report the various requirements and breakdown of these machines and get them operational as soon as possible. We crossed into Assam from Arunachal Pradesh via Banderdawa and continued to reach Gohpur and further to Biswanath Charali and finally to Balipara area near Tezpur in Assam. My friend would check out his work schedule here and later we would visit the Pakke Tiger Reserve where we would halt for the night at Bhalukpong and I would go for a morning walk into the forest reserves of the Pakke Tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh and later we would travel to another of his site areas a little ahead of Bomdila and we would continue further to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. My friend wound up his work by late afternoon and we headed to Bhalukpong near the Pakke Tiger Reserve that is in continuation with the Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam.
We reached Bhalukpong in the later afternoon after crossing the border check post and my friend had booked our room at their guest house a little ahead of Bhalukpong town in Arunachal Pradesh. As they have operations across many places across the state so they ensure to have guest houses at respective locations so that their supervisors and employees can stay during their routine inspections and monitoring and the next one would be only neat Tawang which meant we would need to look for other stay options where when we are at places like Bomdila and Dirang and it was not a problem because I would share the accommodation costs with him. Bhalukpong in Arunachal Pradesh is a nice picnic spot where the beautiful Kameng river flows by and the clean waters makes the place very inviting. Angling is a major sport here at Bhalukpong along with river rafting drawing tourists from across the World here. We checked into the guest house and after a while stepped out to visit the Bhalukpong market in Arunachal Pradesh that is a renowned market where the local people bring in various kinds of produce to be sold especially certain handicrafts and meat crafts that are unique to this place itself. We stopped here to eat something as we had an early lunch and the place was serving sticky rice with a special pork intestine recipe that was cooked with a lot of herbs and chillies and I could easily identify the dish to be loaded with flavours. It was a hearty meal and the sticky rice especially had a nice sweet taste to it as it was grown organically.
With this we wrapped our visit at the Bhalukpong market and headed back to our guest house to retire early as we would have an early morning wake up to travel to Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh and then on head further to Bomdila. I was up at 5 AM and I got my friend to get up as well because as mentioned earlier he is not a morning person and his regular wake up time is after 7.30 AM only. We got ready and started on our drive to go to the Pakke Tiger reserve that is about ten kilometres from Bhalukpong towards the banks of the Kameng River here in Arunachal Pradesh. Pakke Tiger reserve was earlier known as the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary and is located in the East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and covers an area of approximately 862 sq. km. In addition to being a tiger reserve the place also has a conservation site for the Great Indian Hornbill as well. We reached the forest office at 6.15 AM and the officials explained to us the entry formalities along with few of the other guests who too were about to enter the forest reserves. There is a forest rest house here that provides accommodation and fooding to the visitors here at Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the activities that can be undertaken here at the Pakke Tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh are:
- A walk across the forest with local guides
- Jeep safari ride into the Pakke Tiger Reserve interiors
- Tribal village walks
- Bird watching and Educational visits
- Cultural performances along with the self-help groups
We chose the Jeep ride in the interest of time and we wanted to leave early to travel to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. With this we started on our journey of exploring one of the most pristine and protected areas here in Arunachal Pradesh at the Pakke Tiger Reserve. Located at the foothills of the towering Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh, the Pakke Tiger Reserve is bounded by the Kameng and Pakke rivers and has the contiguous forest cover on all sides bounded by the Nameri National Park and the Papum reserve forest areas along with the Doimara forest reserve and the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary. Declared as a Tiger reserve in 2002, the place was earlier constituted as the Pakhui reserve forest in 1966 and became to be known as the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary in 2001. The stretch of area around the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary is rugged and with mountainous ranges with rolling hills and sloping valleys. With a subtropical climate of Arunachal Pradesh that has a moderate temperature during the summers and cold temperatures during the winters. May across September are mostly the monsoons with heavy rainfall lashing across Arunachal Pradesh and North East India and during this time the entry into the forest reserves for tourists are restricted and reopened from late October through April once the weather is dry. Our visit during the month of March was an ideal time to explore the forest reserves of Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.
The predominant flora at the Pakke Tiger Reserve comprises of evergreen, semi evergreen and Eastern Himalayan broad leaf forests and comprises of 343 woody species of flowering plants. Pakke Tiger reserve is also a paradise for orchid lovers because as many as 600 species of orchids of Arunachal Pradesh and nearby ones are reported to be found here at Pakke Tiger reserve. These forest cover is found across the Pakke harbours life to various fauna species as well. Bamboo plantations are found in abundance in these parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Pakke Tiger Reserve has about 8 species of bamboo to be found here along with 5 species of cane as well. Fauna species here include the likes of the three famous cats Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian leopard and Clouded Leopard. The herbivorous mammal species are elephants, barking deer, guar, sambar deer, etc. Various primate species to be found at the Pakke Tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh are Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque and Capped Langur. Himalayan Black bear, hog deer, giant squirrel, binturongs, Flying squirrel, squirrel are the common fauna species to be spotted at the Pakke Tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition to the flora and fauna species Pakke has a varied population of 296 species of birds with the likes of Pied falconet, grey peacock-pheasant, ibisbill, red-headed trogon, green pigeon spp., forest eagle owl, wreathed hornbill, great hornbill, collared broadbill, blue-naped pitta, lesser shortwing, Daurian redstart, Leschenault’s forktail, lesser necklaced laughing-thrush, silver-eared leiothrix, white-bellied yuhina, yellow-bellied flycatcher warbler, sultan tit, ruby-cheeked sunbird, etc. Around 500 species of butterflies are also recorded here along with 36 retiles and 30 amphibians species like Assam Roofed Top turtle, King Cobra, Pied water frogs, etc.
To protect the flora and fauna at the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh there are 27 anti-poaching camps that allow 104 locally employed youth to guard the flora and fauna of this Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. For movement inside the forest reserve the village heads have worked with certain self-help groups and the forest department staffs to build a 41 km long road that allows these forest protectors to travel deep inside the Pakke Tiger Reserve and keep a close vigil on any unscrupulous activities. The Nyishi community of Arunachal Pradesh who earlier hunted the hornbill birds for their beaks to be worn in their headgear have been educated about the disappearance of this bird species and now they have switched to an alternate of wearing beaks made out of fibre glass and have completely joined hands with the local authorities towards the protection of the Great Indian Hornbills at the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition a group of 12 village heads called as the Ghore Aabhe society have worked closely with the forest department since 2006 towards the conservation efforts at Pakke Tiger Reserve by enforcing customary laws, penalizing against logging and hunting and spreading awareness about the Pakke Tiger Reserve. We completed our round of safari here at the Pakke Tiger reserve and successfully sighting many of the flora, fauna and avifauna species here.
We thanked the staff members and the forest department official for arranging our visit here and they asked us whether we had our breakfast or not and we didn’t actually so they welcomed us to eat breakfast at the forest camp run by the local village women is association with an NGO that caters to the lodging and fooding options of visitors here at Pakke. We had a four hour drive ahead of us to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh and my friend suggested that we eat at this palace itself because he had to inspect a road construction along the way and we might not find time and so we readily had our breakfast here. We were served with hot roti sabji, bread butter, boiled eggs, oranges and tea and it was a hearty meal and I didn’t know that the local people here could cook the roti sabji so well because this is mostly a north Indian delight and people here basically prefer rice as their meal over roti and they knowing to prepare it so well here in Arunachal Pradesh amazed me. With this we wound up our visit at the Pakke Tiger Reserve and continued on our journey to Bomdila. My friend had ensured to pick up all our stuff from the guest house at Bhalukpong and so we did not have to go back to pick our stuff again. We were to halt at Tenga Valley in Arunachal Pradesh where the road works were going on and machinery was deployed to continue the operations. After crossing the Bhalukpong area we reached the Tippi Orchard that is a place that houses various species of orchids of Arunachal Pradesh and North East India under one roof and we decided to make a quick stop here before we started on our drive to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh again.
A beautiful glass building welcomes visitors here at the Tippi orchid garden cum research centre and the place is located along the banks of the river Kameng that flows across the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and flowing into Assam as the Jia Bhoreli river to finally merge with the Brahmaputra. The beautiful campus stretches across an area of 10 hectares that houses the orchid garden, office buildings, tissue culture laboratory and a museum as well. We walked into the orchid garden after purchasing our tickets and went to explore the beautiful glass house and the green room that had been constructed using fibre glass and has over 100 species of flowering orchids across Arunachal Pradesh and North East India all put up in pots, hanging baskets, etc and some of these are flowering as well. The total number of plants here at the Tippi Orchid center are easily over 10,000 and some of the species to be found here are Cheirostylis gunnarii, Eria connata, Cleisostoma tricallosum, Sarcoglyphis arunachalensis, Oberonia kamlangensis etc. Rare and endangered orchids like Vanda ceorulea, Renanthera imschootiana, Dendrobium densiflorum, Vanda bicolor, Paphiopedilum venustum, Paphiopedilumfairienum, Acanthephippium sylhettense, etc. It was so nice to get a feel of the floral wealth of the region and witness them especially in the form of beautiful orchids that instils ones faith in the ecosystem. We also explored the museum here that details the further species of orchids in the form of colour pictures, black and white photographs, specimens, etc. The garden area here is also very beautiful with the sound of the gushing waters of the Kameng river to be heard.
We wound up our visit here at the Tippi orchard and began on our drive towards the Tenga valley. The roads are now on an uphill and the roads are narrow as well so we had to drive slowly to make way for other vehicles that were coming from the other direction. The beauty of the Kameng river could be felt across the drive as the river just flows below the road alongside and the beautiful forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh welcomes you along the way. The SUV helped to easily tackle these mountainous roads and the certain patches of road that were under construction were crossed easily. During the monsoon season landslides are a common occurrence along these roads as the torrential downpour makes the boulders fall from top easily slide down and this creates road blockades that needs to be cleared by the authorities of the PWD of Arunachal Pradesh along with the brave soldiers of the Indian Army who are posted across these harsh terrain across the region of Arunachal Pradesh as it shares a strategic border with China. Along the drive we could see army outposts keeping a vigil on the traffic movement and we finally reached the construction site at Tenga valley where the operation of my friend’s company was going on. Along with road construction there were constructing barriers alongside the road to prevent the occurrence of landslides and heavy machinery were deployed here. My friend went to visit the site to check the progress of the work and note down the requirements while I stood at the edge of the valley admiring the beauty of the Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Tenga valley is perched at an altitude of 6500 feet above MSL and is located on the way to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. This is mostly an army base and hence di not be surprised if you are stopped by an army jawan here to enquire about where you are going because as mentioned earlier these places share a border with China and vehicular movements are monitored for national security. Due to the lack of urbanization around the place is filled with the awe of Mother Nature and all around you can see the snow covered mountains of Arunachal Pradesh. If you are an admirer of the gifts of nature then a halt at Tenga valley is a must for you on your further journey to Bomdila, Dirang and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Tourism as a revenue earner to the place is yet a far cry because not many people are aware of the area around this place in Arunachal Pradesh and prefer Bomdila or Dirang as a midway point halt on their journey to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh from Tezpur or Guwahati in Assam so some advertisement and awareness needs to be spread for the Tenga valley to become a popular offbeat tourist destination. In addition to the beautiful view of the nature all around the valley along with the snow-capped mountains of the eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh not to forget the breath of fresh air and an environment free from noise pollution, Tenga valley in Arunachal Pradesh also offers a few tourist attractions as well where one can visit.
The Naag Mandir before entering the Tenga town is a temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva that was built in 1966 and is located atop a small hillock. Once can also visit the Buddhist Monasteries around the valley and the most noteworthy is the Chilipam Monastery that is located at the top of a hill about an hour’s drive from the Tenga valley in Arunachal Pradesh. The Monastery has two storeys that are designed in beautiful Tibetan artwork and paintings that are to look out for. A beautiful waterfall that is located near the zero point at Tenga Valley is also a beautiful place to visit and the waterfall is visible from the road. The Tenga market is also a noteworthy place to visit as this is the meeting point of traders from different villages who come here to sell their freshly grown produce of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat at the market. Not only here at Tenga valley but across most of the markets of Arunachal Pradesh one is to find locally grown fresh organic produce as most of the people in parts of Arunachal Pradesh are mostly farmers catering to grow pulses and vegetables from ancient times. Apart from the modern towns like Itanagar and Naharlagun where one can get to see high rise malls and departmental stores across the smaller towns these traditional markets are the main source to buy and bring vegetables and fruits and the local farmers do not believe in mass production and they grow their produce enough to sustain themselves that ensures the best quality vegetables and fruits. Due to the temperate climate across these regions of Arunachal Pradesh citrus fruits are a common crop and especially the oranges are to be found in most of the places that are along the valleys.
I walked towards the construction site and my friend was almost done with his work and we walked to the Tenga Valley market to grab a bite to eat before we continued to Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. The beautiful colours of the vegetables and fruits here at the Tenga market were indeed a treat to the eyes and my friend bought oranges to have on the way. We went to a food stall to taste some traditional cuisine of the Monpa people and the food in these parts have an influence from Tiber as people here are descendants from the part and they have common meals of momos, thupkas, Zan, etc. While I was aware of momo (a dumpling filled with onions, vegetables and meat and steamed and served with hot soup) and Thupkas (a flat noodle soup with lots of garlic, ginger, spring onions and choice of meat) as I had tasted these foods in Assam and some parts of Arunachal Pradesh as well that intrigued me was the Zan that I had never tasted before. Zan is a special porridge preparation that is made with millet and lots of natural spices are added to it. The Zan has a slight spicy taste to it and this is suitable to beat the cold temperature in this region. It is to be had with smoked meat and vegetables that are offered along with it. While my friend decided to have momos I tried the Zam and I must admit it was quite spicy. But the flavours elevated my body temperature and I was able to withstand the cold weather at the Tenga valley on Arunachal Pradesh with ease now. With this we wound up our visit at the Tenga valley and started on our drive to Bomdila again.
The roads are now even more difficult to drive on with sharp bends on climb and it is not for everyone to drive across these winding roads of the mountain terrain of Arunachal Pradesh. Thankfully my friend had the experience of driving across these areas and I had faith in him that he could drive me safely. He told me that this was nothing compared to the roads we would encounter on our way to Sela Pass and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. At the Sela Pass it gets dark as early as 1.30 PM in the afternoon and so he told me to ensure that on our journey from Dirang to Tawang we had to leave as early as possible to cross the Sela Pass during the day light present or else driving becomes a challenge once the snow starts covering the roads. After about an hour’s drive we finally arrived at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. Our accommodation was booked at the Hotel Seagull there that is located behind the main market near the SBI building. Bomdila is a favourite destination for a night halt for tourists travelling to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and people breakdown their journey while travelling from Guwahati here at Bomdila and enjoy the beauty of the place before heading on further to Tawang. We checked into our hotel and the manager knew my friend well as he often stayed here during his travel to Tawang from Naharlagun that made him a regular visitor here. We quickly freshened up and headed out to explore the Bomdila Monastery that is a renowned Buddhist Monastery in this area and visitors ensure to pay a visit to seek the blessings before continuing onwards to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
These parts of Arunachal Pradesh are inhabited by the Monpa people who are followers of Buddhism and hence the presence of many Monasteries around. We drove a little away from our hotel to reach the Bomdila monastery and the beautiful shrine painted in bright colours welcomed us here. The Bomdila Monastery was founded by the 12th reincarnation of Tsona Gomtse Rimpoche in 1965 and this Bomdila monastery is the imitation of the similar one that is the Tsona Gontse located at Tsona in South Tibet. The monastery basically comprises of the prayer hall and the quarters of the monks that surround the prayer hall much similar to the Assamese Neo Vaishnavite monasteries or the Satras renowned for their presence in the largest river island in the World of Majuli. The Bomdila monastery is one of the very important centres of the Lamaistic faith of Mahayana Buddhism and this is often referred to as the Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Lling Monastery of Arunachal Pradesh as well. The Monastery was blessed by the presence of his holiness Dalai Lama in the year 1997. We entered the prayer hall and a large statue of Lord Buddha was present at the altar ornated with gold colour and several candles were burning at the altar as well.
After our visit at the Bomdila Monastery we went to explore the Bomdila market as this is one of the most renowned markets across Arunachal Pradesh for the handloom products of the Monpa people. The Monpa people have their roots in Tibet and they had migrated to the West and East Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh many years ago and settled themselves here bringing along with them their ancient heritage and culture and later blending into the society and passing on their culture across the generations. This has made the people learn about these ancient techniques of weaving on the loom especially of the woollen products and the carpets and this can be seen spread across the market at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. We went in to the market to explore these wonderful art and craft products of the Monpa people and my friend selected a carpet to be taken home along with him. It was already sundown and we headed back to our hotel to wind up our day travelling from Bhalukpong to Bomdila and I must admit it was a long day and we both were quite tired especially my friend who also drove all the way and completed his official work as well.
At the hotel we ordered our food in and the manager had ensured utmost care to be taken for our needs. Hotel Seagull is a budget friendly accommodation at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh with very clean and neat rooms and being located at the vicinity of the market area one has availability to most of the stuff one needs here. We ordered for a small bottle of rum to be had to end our long day and to keep us warm as well in the cold weather of Arunachal Pradesh and along with it a plate of hot French fries and later for dinner we had ordered for rice, dal, a chicken curry cooked with a lot of local herbs and vegetables from the Bomdila market in Arunachal Pradesh and some salad as well. The next morning we would be heading to Dirang valley after visiting some of the places of interest here at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh and further onwards we move to Tawang on the final leg of my explorations of Arunachal Pradesh post which I would be returning back to Guwahati in Assam and my friend would head back to Naharlagun with the proceedings of the operations and consolidating a final report on the work progress. The manager invited us to a place behind the property where the staff had lit a small bonfire and were spending time here to beat the cold. As this part of time there were only two other families who were staying and the occupancy was not full and hence the hotel staff cooked dinner for them and they had retired to their rooms and so we had the place to ourselves here at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. We savoured our rum and finished our dinner at the dining hall thanking everyone at the hotel for their utmost hospitality and planned our day tomorrow to Dirang via Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh.
There was another Monastery and a museum at Bomdila that we decided to explore and later proceed to Dirang. The beauty of the snow laden mountains of Arunachal Pradesh was so enthralling that even in my dream I could picture myself alone in the surroundings and enjoying the breath of fresh air amidst the rolling valleys. My thoughts about exploring more of the beauty of nature kept me awake and I got up early in the morning to get ready to explore more of Arunachal Pradesh. Again it was a struggle to wake my friend who somehow managed to get up at 7 AM and we quickly got ready to have our breakfast at a stall near the market area as we did not want to wake the kitchen staff early to prepare breakfast for us. We settled the bill and drove to the market to have our breakfast and there was one particular stall that served hot maggi noodles with vegetables and we had planned on eating here yesterday itself. As we would be entering another monastery we did not stick to anything non veg to respect the sanctity of the place. It was a nice and healthy breakfast we had and we continued on our exploration of the Lower Gompa Monastery at Bomdila that was located about 2 km away from the market area. A lot of influence of Buddhism could be seen across these parts of Arunachal Pradesh as these parts earlier were under the rule of Tibet and also some time by the kingdom of Bhutan as well. The Ahom rulers of Assam did not interfere with the governance of the local rulers in these parts of Bomdila but often worked towards the safeguarding of the territory and it was only when the Britishers came to control these parts that they united the entire area and brought it under the control of the Indian Territory. China still believes these parts to be part of their territory and in 1962 they had captured these parts only to recall their troops later. So the Tibetan influence is present that tells us as to why many people here practice Buddhism as their faith and hence the presence of many Monasteries. The Lower Gompa Monastery at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh had a similar appearance as the other Monastery we had visited yesterday and had the customary flags hoisted all across the entrance. The walls were painted in bright colours and had paintings depicting the preaching of Lord Buddha that led us to the altar area inside and the statue of Lord Buddha was present here. Beautiful candles were lit all across the altar and the monks here had just finished offering their prayers and had dispersed to their quarters to spend the day in meditation and we met one of the monks who spoke to us about the Lower Gompa Monastery and how it was different in the sect of Buddhism as compared to the other Monasteries of Arunachal Pradesh and we listened to him with keen interest.
We explored the area of the Monastery at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh and then went to visit the District Craft centre and Ethnographic museum here that was located on our drive towards Dirang and we had heard about the various artefacts of ancient crafts and masks that were present here to be seen first-hand. The Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh have a special festival of Losar – that is the Tibetan New Year celebrations that occurs in the month of February and the people have a grand celebration especially at the Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh where they perform a religious dance wearing certain traditional masks and these masks are a symbol of their ancient traditions that were practices since long. These masks were to be seen on display here at the museum and I especially wanted to view them in person. The museum was located in a two house building on the outskirts of Bomdila town and we entered the museum to admire the rich traditions and culture of the Monpa people of Arunachal Pradesh. A wide variety of traditional masks in various sizes were kept here at the museum and each of these masks had a different story to tell. The museum here manufactures fine carpets as well that are a major handicrafts of the Tibetan people and these carpets have special dragon designs on them as well that is a prime attraction at this museum at Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh. The masks too were made here and so well the Buddhist Thangkas that are religious wall hangings that are also found here. We spent about 45 minutes at the museum and started on our drive towards Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh with a planned stopover at Thembang village.
It was a short drive about an hour to Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh and this is a popular destination as well for the offbeat travellers who can enjoy the glimpse of the Monpa way of life in Arunachal Pradesh here at Thembang in one of the many homestays present here. The locals of Thembang have realized the potential of tourism and are now coming up with various ways to promote hereby making the village a prime ecotourism destination here in Arunachal Pradesh. We reached the village and contacted a local person whom my friend knew as he used to work with his company earlier but now works towards the development of tourism in this area. We welcomed us to the Thembang village and briefed us about the palace and it happened that Thembang is a historic fortified village in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh that is inhabited by the Monpa people. Thembang village is perched at an altitude of 2200 m above MSL and is blessed with the bounties of Mother Nature with lush green mountain peaks, deep gorges and mountain streams flowing across the village. The Dzong at Thembang is one of the oldest village here in Arunachal Pradesh and was once under the rule of a powerful king who was the descendant of the King of Tibet who had fought many wars here trying to protect the village that resulted in a fort construction around the village with entry and exit gates on the northern and southern sides that used to be guarded with young warriors. Even in the modern era Thembang had seen the war of 1962 between India and China and the Chinese troops had come down via the Bailey trail to Thembang and moved towards Bomdila encircling the Indian army at Bomdila and Sela Pass. Recently a war memorial has been built at the Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh to pay tribute to the brave soldiers of the Indian Army who laid down their lives protecting their country.
After a brief history about the place we went around to have a glimpse of the life here at the Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh. Urbanization is unheard of in these parts and the Monpa people still live here in stone houses within the area of the fort that are built in their traditional architecture. The lifestyle of the people here has an influence of the Tibetan, Bhutanese and the indigenous culture of the north east as well. The people here still practice ancient customs of agricultural farming with the use of bullocks and use everything organic for their crops like cow dung and sheep urine as manure. They also rear these animals for their dairy products and meat as well. On top of the village these is a Buddhist temple built in an ancient architecture and this place houses their ancient manuscripts and wood carvings that have been preserved here at the Thembang Village in Arunachal Pradesh. People here celebrate three major festivals of Losar, Hoishina and Choikor. Beautiful forest cover of Arunachal Pradesh surrounds the Thembang village that are rich in flora and fauna and one can find rare orchids, primula, rhododendrons and various medicinal plants. The animals inhabiting these forests are of the likes of Red panda, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Blue sheep, Chinese Pangolin, etc. The forest area is also home to various bird species like bamboo partridge, blood pheasant, khalij pheasant, satyr Tragopan, etc.
The person told us that WWF has taken adequate measures in collaboration with the local people to conserve the forests and wildlife especially in the West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh as their forest pockets here are home to some rare and endemic species of flora and fauna. For the areas around Thembang village, WWF has formed the Thembang Babu CCA Management community to help protect and preserve these endemic species. The unique solution to help the villagers in their conservation efforts was the option of community based tourism here that would help the villagers to have a livelihood option and people here were trained to be homestay owners, guide, cook, porters, cultural troops and it has paid off with Thembang village earning the award of the Best Ecotourism Project around by the Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh. Visitors to Thembang village can indulge in a host of activities that ranges from trekking and camping in the forest reserves around the place and learn about the ecosystem around here and get a chance to spot some of the rare and endemic species of flora and fauna of the region. Visitors to Thembang village can choose to stay at one of the four homestays here that are run by the local Monpa people and witness the various traditions and lifestyles of the people here. These homestays are accompanied by a kitchen where one can get to taste the local cuisine of the Monpa people that are prepared with locally grown food crops and taste the local delicacies like Dresea, Putang Khaji, Bangchhay that is a fermented wine made with rice or maize and much more. For the adventure seekers who plan to come to Thembang in Arunachal Pradesh they can choose to go for cycling across the vast countryside area, go on nature trails identifying varied species of flora, fauna and avifauna and perhaps also enjoy a day of horse riding as well. Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh is a perfect getaway for visitors who come to take the off beaten path and travel to places that are yet to be discovered completely. The Bailey trail trek is one such example that takes you on an experience of a lifetime.
The person invited us to his house for some rice wine and to have our lunch as well and we didn’t have much to do in Dirang today and it was another short drive ahead so we agreed to have lunch here and this would be a chance for us to witness the real Monpa way of life here in Arunachal Pradesh. His home also served as a homestay and they would host visitors coming to Thembang and to savour some delicious cuisine of the local people here. We were surprised when we were about to enter his house as the family had gathered at the porch to offer us a warm welcome that spoke highly of their hospitality here and they followed their age old traditions where they welcomed us by putting a traditional scarf called as ‘Khata’ around our neck and they invited us to their home. We took our seats at the kitchen where they had a system of low seating one there were slightly elevated platforms where the food would be served reminding me of the Singpho and Mishing traditional style of Assam. We were offered the rice wine once we took our seats and the person explained to us as to how it was brewed locally by fermenting rice and preparing it with certain herbs. We spoke for some time about the future plan of Thembang village in the tourism circuit of Arunachal Pradesh and our lunch was served that had rice porridge, a meat curry, vegetables boiled and a spicy chutney and the meal was delicious.
After lunch we walked across the beautiful valley that was present near the homestay and we got a chance to sight some horses and sheep herd that we being taken for grazing. We walked into the pristine forest cover and spotted some orchids and bird species perched atop the trees and the diverse flora and fauna of Thembang village in Arunachal Pradesh is a must to be visited on your itinerary across here. We came back to the homestay and took leave from the family and thanked them for their utmost hospitality and continued on our journey to Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. The winding roads welcomed us back and the drive was even more beautiful overlooking the valleys and deep gorges with a beautiful backdrop of the snow-capped Eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh. The river was flowing alongside the valley and a calm breeze was blowing as well reminding me of how crazy the life in a city is with so much of air and noise pollution and here in Arunachal Pradesh the atmosphere was altogether so different. We reached the tinsel town of Dirang in the afternoon and here we checked into the Ao resort that happened to be a new property that was built and had just started welcoming guests the last season. Overlooking the beautiful valley of Dirang, the Ao resort is a very good stay option at Dirang and should be the option of stay at Dirang while visitors are here in Arunachal Pradesh continuing on their journey to Tawang. I had heard of a place called as Sangti valley that is close to Dirang and is endowed with the vast natural beauty and the awe of Mother Nature inspires one to visit the Sangti valley. We would be having an easy four hour drive or more to Tawang tomorrow and so we planned on visiting the Sangti valley early and proceed on the drive to Tawang after the visit. We checked into the Ao resort and the place had nice big rooms with comfortable stay for three people and the bathroom were clean and neat with running hot water option available.
We didn’t have a long drive today and so my friend was full of energy and he took me out to visit the local market at Dirang valley in Arunachal Pradesh and also we would visit the Dirang Dzong which was a fort basically and also the newly built monastery here that has of late become a prime tourist attraction of the place. The Dirang market was a similar market compared to the other markets in the beautiful places of Arunachal Pradesh and the organic produce could be seen handled by the traders here. We stopped at a small restaurant that my friend often visited here at Dirang for its delicious momos and the hot soup that they served as an accompaniment. The momos were stuffed with meat and vegetables and was indeed very juicy and delicious. It is so surprising as to how a same dish is prepared so well by some people while at some places it is not good at all. The soup was topped with a local variety of coriander called as the Naga Dhania and it was so flavourful that the entire broth was so aromatic. The momos were quite juicy with the meat stuffed inside and I felt the difference between the authentic taste of momo compared to the other joints I have had across Assam and other parts of Arunachal Pradesh as well.
We finished the food and went around exploring the Dirang market and maize was to be found in abundance across the place. The soil at the place is favourable for the growth of maize and this has turned to be a prime crop of the region here in Arunachal Pradesh and maize from Dirang is transported across North East India. My friend’s father was a teacher at a government school at Dirang and he recollected his early days at Dirang valley in Arunachal Pradesh when he used to come here for his holidays as he was studying at the Ramakrishna Mission at Deomali in Arunachal Pradesh. During those days the roads to Dirang were not good and during the monsoon season because of landslides the roads would often get blocked and supplies via trucks would come to a standstill and his family would have a tough time during those days to have access to basic things like rice and oil and he recollected once having spent almost 15 days surviving on maize and maggi noodles. But with time things have become quite improved especially when it comes to connectivity and nowadays road blockades due to landslides are cleared within a few hours to allow the flow of vehicular movement along the roads to Dirang and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. There were special handlooms present at the market and the beautiful hand worked craftsmanship could be seen here at the small shops at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. It was late afternoon and we had to wind up our visit before it got dark and we went to visit the Monastery at Dirang.
The Thupsung Dhargya Ling Monastery or the TDL Monastery is one of the grand monasteries one can find across Arunachal Pradesh along with the Tawang Monastery. We drove across a hill top to reach this beautiful place and from the Dirang town this monastery looks so grand overlooking the entire valley of Dirang. Once we reached the place we had to climb a stairway as well to reach the main courtyard of the TDL monastery at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. The place has been built keeping in mind the natural surroundings at Dirang valley and even inside the premises one could see a lot of flowering plants and well-trimmed grass garden as well. The view of the beautiful eastern Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh and the lush green valley was indeed a treat to the eyes and I simply stood there admiring the beauty of nature all around me. The Monastery had a very large courtyard that is having the prayer hall a little ahead and the name Thupsung Dhargya Ling name was given to this place by his holiness the Dalai Lama. This monastery in Dirang allows visitors to take pictures even when inside the shrine as well. The monastery also had a guest house along with a shop and canteen. The coffee shop served hot coffee at INR 30 per cup and it was wonderful to taste the coffee in the cold weather. We did not enter the main shrine as we had to leave back to the Hotel but I took the opportunity to check out the guest house as this would help me to put up guests here on my tours across Dirang-Tawang circuit of Arunachal Pradesh. The rooms were quite spacious and had all basic amnesties to cater to the stay of the guests here at the TDL monastery at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh. With this we ended our visit here and walked down the fleet of stairs to pick up our vehicle and move back to our place of halt at the Ao resort in Dirang.
In the evening a bonfire was lit at the courtyard of the resort and the guests had gathered here to have tea and snacks and we too joined them to learn about where they were heading to go and most of the people were travelling to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and they stopped at Dirang as the cab drivers had heard the news that the snowfall had exceeded at the Sela Pass and so they had to drop the plan to go today and halt at Dirang to begin early morning the next day. Snowfall is a sight to be witnessed at the Sela Pass for once in a lifetime and the beauty that I had seen in pictures was about to be true tomorrow when we would be crossing the Sela Pass on the way Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. We had our tea and about then a group of adventure junkies arrived at the resort and they were on a cycling expedition all the way from Bhalukpong and they would be travelling to Tawang riding their bicycles. I thought as to how much one could seek adventure across these mountain terrains that they had the courage to brace such climate conditions and harsh terrain to even think of going to Tawang. Watching them coming in their cycling gear and attires I was feeling so excited on continuing further on this journey. Dinner was soon served and my friend and I thought to have our little stock of rum before dinner and so we ordered the food in and went ahead for the celebration on the final leg of our explorations of Arunachal Pradesh. The dinner was very nice and it was a Chinese menu mostly that had fried rice, chicken Manchurian, salad, a fish in sauce and veg noodles as well. We planned on our day tomorrow because we had to cross Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh before afternoon we had to ensure to reach these by 1 PM and then continue further to Tawang. We thought of making a short halt at the Sangti valley in the interest of time so that we could get a feel of the place before heading to Tawang and this would help me learn more about the hidden treasures of Arunachal Pradesh and provide information about it to my readers and help them to explore these places as well. With this we retired to bed and I dreamt about my wonderful experiences exploring the natural beauty of Arunachal Pradesh.
The next morning we started early on our visit to Sangti valley from Dirang continuing further up to Sela Pass and onto Tawang. It was a bright morning and this was good for us as we could have clear roads at Sela Pass continuing up to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh but still as the weather conditions could never be predicted across these parts we moved as fast as we could. We had an early breakfast at the resort and then hit the road before the other guests as they would be proceeding directly to Tawang today. The cyclists too were ready and their group were also about to hit the road to go on further to their next destination. They had a convoy of vehicles following them as well carrying their baggage and to ensure their safety. Sangti valley in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh is located at a distance of only 13 km from Dirang but the road is not quite in proper condition and thankfully with the SUV we managed our drive with a bit of more comfort and we reached the Dirang basti from where we took a right to access the dirt road to continue to Sangti Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. After a tough half hour drive from the main road we finally reached the village of Sangti valley and it was so calm and peaceful across the place. There was no noise, no pollution; no honking and the only sounds were that of the soulful chirping of birds, the cry of animals and the gushing of the Sangti river flowing across the valley. This place again is inhabited by the Monpa people and the experience was different from the ones we had at Bomdila and Dirang meeting them because this was mostly a village and the people practiced a nomadic life around here practicing agriculture and rearing animals like sheep. They believed in waking up early, working had during the day and retiring after dinner around sunset. They were not materialistic and welcomed everyone with open arms and did not believe that money was the only source of happiness in life.