My Road Trip to Tawang

India is a land of incredible landscape ranging from North to South, East to West. Arunachal Pradesh which lies in the North Eastern region of India is one such state with immense natural beauty and God gifted landscape. Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh lies in the foothills of the Himalayas near Indo China border. The scenic beauty on the way to Tawang is mesmerizing. Due to lack of infrastructure, this region was not well known to tourist until few years.

I was planning to visit Tawang but never had an opportunity. When my friend Dev from Delhi showed interest, I welcomed him and we made our maiden voyage to Tawang. It was the month of March, the best time of the year to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Myself being a tour operator from Guwahati already knew about the place which gave us an extra edge. We hired a Toyota Innova SUV vehicle which was very comfortable and started off from Guwahati. We headed to Tezpur, about 4 hours distance from Guwahati, which is one of the beautiful townships in Assam. My cousin is from Tezpur so we stayed over at his place. In fact, my uncle was more than happy to show us around the famous tourist places such as Chitra Lekha Udyan, Agnigarh Park, Mahavairabh Temple and many such places. My Aunt cooked dinner and we went off to bed as we have to head for Bomdila early next morning.
Early morning, we had tea and skipped breakfast and immediately left for Bomdila at arounf 6 A.M . We stopped at Nameri National Park, a popular spot for trekking and river rafting and had our breakfast. At Nameri, they offer tents with inbuilt toilets for tourist to enjoy a natural ambience in the middle of the Nameri Tiger Reserve. Then we proceeded to Bhalukpong gate to get your permits checked which we had arranged in Guwahati a few days prior. The permit requirements are different for Indians and foreign nationals. As we crossed Bhalukpong gate, it was getting dark due to the cloudy weather. Further, as we continued we saw the roads getting more winding and narrow. It is absolutely important for anyone to have a very experienced driver, someone who knew that route well. Otherwise, there is a possibility for your trip to turn into a nightmare.

Our trip continued and we saw how beautiful Arunachal Pradesh is, with the mountain on one side and the valleys on the other. We reached Sessa Orchaderium and we were too excited to witness the scenery. Only our cameras were doing the talking. In between, there were roads underconstruction but only for a few miles. We took out our sweaters as the temperatures dropped. I had to stop counting the number of small waterfalls we crossed on the way. Then we saw the famous Nag Mandir whose picture is hung at my office in Guwahati. Finally, after about 6 hours drive from Tezpur, we arrived at Bomdila. We checked-in at the Hotel Tsepal Yongjam where we had a prior reservation. Hotel staff were very hospitable and the rooms were also good. We knew that we cannot expect too much in this part of the country as this region is not developed. This is when a good tour operator comes handy as we managed to get the deluxe room.

I tried to see if there is anything worthwhile visiting at Bomdila after a couple of hours of rest, but it gets dark very early, nearly at 4:30 pm. My friend was feeling very cold so he stayed indoors. I walked to the local market there and saw plenty of sweaters, mufflers, hand gloves, monkey caps and the likes on sale. I bought one woollen cap for myself to keep me warm.

Next morning we woke up with the early sunrise at about 5 o’clock . The breakfast was good and we checked out from the hotel to visit the Bomdila Monastery. The weather was pleasant and it was an absolute delight to be in a pollution free environment, witnessing an amazing sight from the top of the mountains over the Bomdilla town. Inside the monastery, photography is prohibited.
Thereafter, we had proceed to Tawang. Our chauffeur was very professional as he visits this Tawang belt on a regular basis. He was telling us about his experience with tourist and it was really interesting to hear the stories. The further we went the steeper the roads had become. The temperature was dropping rapidly with each mile.

Since morning we crossed several exotic animals such as the yaks, mountain horses and so on. It’s important that vehicles follow the rules carefully as the roads are narrow. If a vehicle is coming upward, the vehicle going down will stop 30 yards before and let it pass before going ahead. Because of this, it takes a long time to reach the destination which otherwise is not a very long distance. The kind of natural beauty Arunachal Pradesh has to offer, we were so mesmerised. The most fascinating part about Tawang Trip is the journey.
We stopped at the famous Jaswant Garh where an Indian army soldier fought bravely with the Chinese soldiers during the 1962 war alone for several hours before finally giving up his life for the country. There we were offered Tea and Samosa (snacks) since it’s so cold over there. We were freezing in the cold and the hot tea came as a relief. Then we saw the Sela Pass. The sign says 13700 feet above sea level which marks our entry into Tawang.

Due to some traffic issues, we arrived at about 3 pm. We could not help but stop at every possible location on the way for photographs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for my friend and he did not want to waste it without stopping at the beautiful places and clicking some pictures. Our chauffeur told us we must go for the Bumla Pass (near Indo China border) and Sanguster Lake tour tomorrow. This is one of the important tourist destinations. It takes a few hours to reach there and a few hours to drive back. Some people love to go, and others like to take it easy since they are driving for so many days at a stretch. Evening at about 5 pm we reached our hotel Gayki Khanzang, one of the oldest hotels at Tawang. We took the suite room in the basement. These hotels are not like hotels in cities. And the staff are also very simple. However, they manage to provide the service possible in these interior places. One should not expect too much luxury in these remote place as it will be impossible to have the same facilities as in big cities. At night it was very cold, but the room heater kept the room temperature comfortable. The TV also provided very limited channels. Constant power failure is also a problem, could not enjoy the movie but there was a generator back up and after a while, I fell asleep.

Next day after breakfast, we went sightseeing. As we were on our way to Sangaster Lake (commonly known as Madhuri Lake) the Indian army at the gate stopped and told us not to go any further. Due to heavy snowfall, all the routes to Madhuri Lake and Bumla Pass are closed for tourist. Therefore we continued with our Tawang local sightseeing covering Tawang Monasteries and War Memorial. The War Memorial consisted of all the soldiers who died in the 1962 war. They were from different parts of the country, mostly Northern India. Entire Tawang is having 1960 Indo China war influence and the war memorial have the olden days weapons used in the war. Tawang Monastery is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in Asia. It has a museum that has monuments which date back to the 10th centenary. You will see many unique scriptures, hunting tools, masks in this monastery museum. The monastery is very peaceful and is maintained well by the monks inside the monastery.
Since we could not visit Bumla Pass and Sangster Lake, we decided to go to Ptso Lake. Here we enjoyed the snow. We could play with snow as we have never seen snow before. I was making a tiny snowman. Dev managed to get a cuppa and I never felt the excitement for a cuppa in my life like I felt that day in the snow.
We had lunch at a small roadside restaurant where we enjoyed noodles as there were not many options at that time. Then we took a walk along the hilly roads of Tawang which was also enjoyable. Both of us were so tired of the journey, we ordered room service for dinner and slept early.
I met a tourist guide who also happens to have his own vehicles. He was coming from Zemethang Valley which is a few hours from Tawang. He gives his vehicles on rent for tourists to visit Bumla Pass, Sangster Lake, Ptso lake etc.

Next day the sun was bright and the weather was clear. It was a perfect sunny day to take photographs. I kept taking photos of our moving vehicle. I was lucky to get plenty of awesome photographs. Later we reached Dirang and checked-in at Hotel Pemaling. I was in love with Dirang. Dirang is such a lovely township with a beautiful landscape. Our hotel room at Dirang was overlooking the mountains. Beautiful view from the balcony. I found the book “The monk who sold his Ferrari” at the hotel. It was the best thing that happened and I could spend my time in peace. My friend does not like cold places and he kept to himself most of the tour. Next morning, after breakfast, we moved to Tezpur and came by the same road. It took us almost 6 hours to reach Tezpur. We had lunch at Bhalukpong and made an overnight stay at Tezpur at my cousins. With so much travelling for the last 4-5 days, we did not go to any other place. stayed indoors ate homemade food which my aunt cooked. Great hospitality at Tezpur. And the next day comes the homestretch. We returned to Guwahati after breakfast around 9ish and reached by lunchtime.

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