Arunachal: Land of early Sunrises, Himalayas and Lamas
For our generation who are always busy and can't have time to read long blogs or travelogues, I had created few reels to give them the feel about our incredible journey to Arunachal Pradesh in less than a minutes... follow me on insta and watch lots of travel reels around India!
DAY VII : Enroute to Dirang
When I woke up in the morning, I felt a different kind of excitement. Was it because of the Himalayas? Of course, I adored them. But when it came to visiting the Monasteries, my excitement level used to grow exponentially. Especially, the Monasteries which were located in the Himalayas. The fact that I would be in the land of Lamas, witnessing Buddhist Monasteries and their culture in the upcoming days had filled me with enormous excitement.
Post Breakfast, we started towards Dirang. Initially, we were following the river Kameng until we reached the foothills. "If you could remember the Koyla movie, the river Kameng was featured in one of its songs." The journey from Bhalukpong to Dirang was around 170 km. The Route was covered by lushed green dense forest with countless waterfalls. It was truly a scenic journey. "While travelling in Arunachal Pradesh, one had to get an Inner Line Permit ( ILP ) and displayed it at the various check-posts including the entry point of Arunachal Pradesh at the Bhalukpong"
We stopped by the Tippi Orchid Center which was famous for orchid farming. There we saw a few blossomed pineapple orchids and 1 or 2 other types of orchids. If you would be visiting the Kaziranga National Park, I would suggest you skip this Orchid centre. Because the one at the Kaziranga contained more than eight hundreds type of orchids. And, the majority of them blossomed with flowers. More of this would come later in the Assam leg.
From there, we stopped at Sessa Orchid Sanctuary. Unfortunately, none of these orchids blossomed with flowers. Anyways, we moved on towards the Dirang. Overall it was a pleasant road trip. On the way, we stopped at a hanging bridge for photography. At this place, We saw a few orange trees blossomed with oranges. I badly wished to pluck them as it was my first experience seeing oranges on the tree.
Apart from the scenic view, we enjoyed the delicious local food at the local Dhabas. In this part of the world, a typical lunch would be made of white rice, dal, veggies and the delicious mutton or chicken gravy.
When we reached Dirang, we visited Dirang Dzong which was under the construction. I had very high expectations from it but it was a disappointing experience. We quickly came back from it and moved towards the Dirang Monastery.
It was the best monasteries in the Tawang District. It was a recently built monastery at an incredible location. At the entrance, we saw a huge Stupa. The entrance building enclosed a few rooms where lamas or the fallow travellers could stay. From the entrance, we took the staircases. When we reached the top, we were stunned by the spectacular Dirang Monastery. The colourful Monastery was surrounded by gigantic mountains. It also possessed an incredible valley view of Dirang city.
As we walked toward the monastery, We saw a huge bell and countless small Mani. These Mani were built around the main building in a round shape. We rolled all of them and proceed towards the main temple gate. From the entrance, We saw a huge golden idol of the Lord Buddha with multiple bowls kept in front of it. all of them had water in them. it was to be believed that the Lord Buddha would use it to wash his hands and drink it. It was a very peaceful place. We sat there, closed our eyes and prayed.
~~~ The basic knowledge needed to understand a Buddhist Monastery ~~~
Mani: It had a cylindrical shape. So far, I had seen them outside the monastery. While visiting a monastery, one should rotate this Mani. It was to be believed that millions of handwritten mantras were kept inside it. when it will be rotated, it would provide blessings equal to chanting thousands of mantras at once.
Stupa: they built it in the memory of the great saints or martyred soldiers in the great battles such as the Indo-China battle of 1962.
Colourful Flags: these flags were tied by people for the well-being and good health of their loved ones.
White Flag: these flags would be tied by the family members of the dead person. By that, their demised loved ones would receive peace in their afterlife.
Lama: Buddhist Monks.
In the evening, we checked into our hotel and went to the balcony of our room. The view was incredible! We ordered chai and sat there till it got dark and cold. I captured a great timelapse video of that evening. Please have a look at it.
DAY VIII : Welcome to Tawang Via Sela
Btw the hint was, We were the only ones present at our balcony ~~
After Breakfast, we left for Tawang. It was Tawang and its monastery which had pushed me to take this Trip. On the way, We saw countless trees blossomed with red flowers. The locals called them Mento flower. These flowers had painted the entire mountain range with red colours.
Apart from a few bad patches, the roads were in excellent condition. Because of this, I started missing my thunderbird. It would be amazing to ride on these roads. Surely, I would be visiting it in the future on my Bumble-Bee. We were approaching the Sela pass. It was the highest altitude place of the day. With every single kilometre, we were moving more vertically than horizontally. This went on for a while and then came a gate with a message, "Welcome to Tawang!" Wow, we entered the Tawang territory. I loved being in the Himalayas and at their high altitude lakes. And there I was, standing at the Sela pass at an altitude of 4160 M from sea level.
All of you must have heard the famous dialogue of the movie YJHD. "ये पहाड़ चढना तुम्हारे लिए सिर्फ trekking होगा पर मेरे लिए नशा है!" Well, travelling... especially, conquering these challenging high altitude passes on my bike is nothing less than an addiction for me. Also, I am passionate about capturing these high altitude lakes in my Nikon.
Cloudy days in the Himalayas had their charm. We played in the snow for a while. and when we ran out of breath, we sat at the Sela lake and admired the Himalayas. While we were there, we observed nature was playing Hide-N-Seek with us. We saw Sela lake clearly and within a few minutes it hid by the clouds. which was resulted in a snowfall. After that the view became clear. And once again, the Sela lake was visible. Imagine these all happened within half an hour. Wasn't it amazing? It was a great place and weather conditions for capturing time-lapse videos.
We climbed down a few steps and reached the bank of the Sela lake. When we were sitting there a snowfall started. Remember this "Snowfall in India is a rare thing. To experience it, one has to visit a specific place at a specific time. And still, they have to be very lucky to be able to experience it. That's why we Indians are crazy for snowfall". Historically, this part of the world wouldn't receive snowfall in April and that's why when an unexpected snowfall started we got excited and started dancing. Especially, my wife who was experiencing it for the first time. While we were there, I tried some yoga poses. generally, I would go for “Charkrasan” because that's what I learnt in my Kung Fu classes during my childhood 😜
Take this note seriously, "Do not climb down so many steps in the excitement because you have to climb them up. And, climbing up at this altitude would be nothing less than walking on the fire 😜 You would run out of breath very quickly." We were exhausted in just 100 steps 😂 Finally, with great difficulty, we reached the parking lot. And drove towards the Jaswant Singh Rawat War Memorial.
Travelling in the Himalayas would not just be about its wonderful Destinations. It was also about the beautiful roads which would take you towards them. This journey wasn’t different from those. Undoubtedly, these were the most scenic and adventurous routes of the trip.
In 20 odd kilometres, we reached Jaswant Singh War Memorial to pay our tribute to the greatest warriors of the Indian Army.
Here's the story:
"When China invaded Arunachal border in the 1962 war. This brave soldier with two insanely courageous daughters of India had fought against the complete Chinese battalion well equipped with advanced weapons. During the battle, they stopped as many as three Chinese waves. While fighting against the 4th one, Jaswant Singh Rawat ran out of the Bullets. Despite this, he didn't lose his courage, he marched unarmed against the Chinese army, killed a few of them and captured their machine guns. Later, use their weapons on them and killed all the soldiers. The Chinese army couldn't march forward after that and had to retreat. While fighting, he was badly wounded. Only when he realised his motherland was safe, did he let his soul leave his body. In the battle, he killed more than 300 Chinese soldiers and defended his post alone! Aren’t you getting goosebumps? For his bravery, he was awarded the greatest honourable award an Indian could receive, "Param veer Chakra".
It was well past our lunchtime and we were starving. So, we decided to skip the Nuranang waterfall and headed directly towards Tawang. We decided to visit it on our return journey as the route would be the same. On the way, we stopped at Jung for lunch where we had authentic local thali which included the delicious mutton only available in the Himalayas. We reached Tawang Heights at 5 pm and checked into our hotel.
DAY IX: Explore Tawang and its Monasteries
From the day I saw the picture of the Tawang monastery, I fell in love with the place and badly wanted to take a trip to Arunachal. Finally, the day arrived when I would be fulfilling that long-awaited dream of visiting the Tawang Monastery.
~~ The Tawang Monastery 😘 ~~
When China occupied Tibet, the Dalai Lama evacuated Tibet and took shelter in this monastery. Hence Tawang Monastery was considered one of the first homes of the 14th Dalai Lama on Indian soil. From then onward, the monastery acquired attention from the rest of India. It was one of the largest monasteries in the Himalayas. It could accommodate 750 Lamas although at present, only 450 Lamas we living there. It was one of the modern and newly built monasteries. Inside the monastery, we found a huge buddha statue. The walls and the ceilings of the monastery were decorated with lots of colourful flags and paintings. Because we were the only ones inside the Monastery, the place felt peaceful. We were seated on the floor for prayer. After visiting the Monastery, we went to the museum which was adjacent to the monastery.
The museum was all about the evolution of the Tawang city its culture and the celebrities who had visited this Monastery at various times in the past. To be frank, I was a bit disappointed by the Tawang Monastery as it wasn’t justifying the hype created around It.
While driving toward the Tawang monastery, we saw a giant Buddha statue. Which was where we were heading next. When we reached there and looked towards the statue, we realised how tiny we looked in front of this gigantic statue. Appearance-wise, It looked like one of the Lamas of the monasteries. Suddenly, It reminded me of all the tall buddha statues I had seen on my various trips to Ladakh, Spiti, Sikkim and Bhutan. All of these statues were having the same poses except the Coloring Buddha of Diskit, Ladakh. It was Nostalgic! I found great peace of mind at all of these places! When we went to its backside, We found one restaurant where we had our first Maggi of this trip. This place provided us with the best view of the Tawang Monastery. I always wanted to click the picture of the Tawang monastery which I saw in some travelogue in 2014. Since then, it got stuck in my head and became a major inspiration for me to take this trip. Finally, I captured Tawang Monastery in my Nikon. It gave me immense happiness!
After that, we visited another monastery and then went to the house of the 6th Lama. At that place, we got answers to a few of the things we observed in the Monasteries from one of the lamas staying at that place. one such thing which I could recall was the reasons for keeping lots of bowls of water and candles in front of the Buddha Idol. We also got information about all the 14 Lamas of this religion. Apart from the War Memorial, we visited all the other site-seeing places. Hence, we headed back to the hotel and rested there for an hour.
In the evening, we went to the Tawang War Memorial which was the best place in Tawang. At the centre of the memorial, we saw a giant white Stupa. It was built to commemorate the bravery of the 2420 Indian soldiers martyred in the 1962 Indo-China War. We found a statue of Subedar Jogindar Singh.
The heroics of Subedar Jogindar Singh ~ "On 23rd October 1962 at 5 am hundreds of Chinese Soldiers invaded the Bumla Pass border. They met with the Subedar Jogindar Singh with his 24 men battalions who were defending the Bumla Pass border. Despite being outnumbered, they decided to fight and protect their motherland. They fought for 5 hours during which they broke three Chinese waves. Remember, those Chinese soldiers were equipped with the latest weapons. When the 4th Wave came, Subedar Jogindar Singh and his men ran out of ammunition. For them, surrender was not an option. Hence, they came out fearlessly from their bunkers and fought unarmed against the armed Chinese soldiers. Eventually, their courage ended and one by one all of them were martyred. According to the army reports, on that day, they had killed more than 300 Chinese Soldiers. In the battle, Subedar Jogindar Singh got badly injured and was captured by Chinese Soldiers. They tortured him for fourteen days. But he didn't utter a single word. He also refused to eat or drink the enemy’s food. On the fourteenth day, he lost his life. Wasn't it a fascinating tale? I was aware of the 1962 War stories. But on this trip, I understood the magnitude of those stories and felt proud of all the Indian soldiers.
After praying at the Stupa, we headed towards the auditorium for the Light and Sound Show. The entry fee was just 50 Rs. It was the most satisfactory 50 Rs I had spent on the trip. There were two shows and their timings were 5:30 - 6:30 & 6:30 - 7:30. I would suggest anyone who would be visiting it to book the 6:30 - 7:30 pm show. By 6:30 pm everything would become dark. It would be an ideal condition to enjoy the effects of light and sound shows. Anyways, we weren't aware of it. So we went for the 5:30 - 6:30 show. In the beginning, the visibility wasn't good because it wasn't completely dark. Despite, the way the Indian Army's heroic stories were presented in that show, not for a moment did I feel disconnected. Apart from this, the show also contained information regarding the ancient history of Arunachal Pradesh, its geometry and its cultural heritage. Some of those were: "Why was the state named Arunachal Pradesh?” Well, Arun was one of the synonyms for the Sun and Pradesh stands for the land. As this part of India received the first Ray of the sun. It was named Arunachal Pradesh. Interesting, Isn’t it?
Even though the day began with the overhyped Tawang monastery, It ended with the unforgettable experience of the light and sound show.
DAY X: Tall mountains, High Altitude Lakes, Heavy Snowfall & Indo-China border at Bumla Pass
After completing the breakfast, we headed towards the Bumla Pass. Yesterday, while we were at the Tawang War memorial, we met a few fellow travellers who told us that due to heavy snowfall they couldn’t able to reach the Indo-china border at Bumla Pass. Which was why we were sceptical about the Bumla Pass. We would be heartbroken if we couldn't able to see the Indo-China border and hence We were praying for better weather. now if I think, I guess our prayers were answered positively. As due yesterday's heavy snowfall, the sky became. Also, we got news from our hotel staff that the route till the Bumla pass was open.
It was a day tour from Tawang and one had to hire a local cab if not carrying any personal vehicle. Apart from the ILP, we had to carry an extra permit to visit the border. The charges would vary from 5500 to 7000 based on the number of tourists and the type of vehicles. We got the BOLERO for 5500/-.
We would be going straight to the Madhuri Lake which would be followed by the Bumla pass border and then PTSO lake on the return journey. In the beginning, we observed the colour of the mountains was green. which became white in a few kilometres. Yes, the Snowfall Effect! Meanwhile, we saw a lake which looked beautiful. Then came another lake even better than the last one. After a while, I lost the count of the number of lakes I saw on the way. According to our driver, this region contained 108 lakes and most of them would be frozen forever or for the most of the year. I couldn't recall if I had been to any place more stunning than this. Probably, I would have visited better destinations but never been to such a ravishing route. It was like heaven on the earth!
In an hour, we reached the ‘Y junction’. We turned towards Madhuri lake. The best part of this route was the first sight of Madhuri Lake. “I was like wow! What is this place? Is it for real?”
We were few of the first ones to reach the lake. Due to this, the place felt very quiet and peaceful. The lake was named after the great Bollywood actress Madhuri who danced at the lake in one of the songs of the movie Koyla. The lake was formed due to an earthquake. Which was why it looked different from the rest. We spotted countless dead trees inside the lake. They all looked like pine trees to me.
The funny part about this trip was All the tourists followed similar itineraries. Hence, we encountered the same travellers to almost all the destinations. By the time we reached Madhuri Lake, we started recognizing most of them. We were greeting them with a smile and a few good words. When we heard them speak, we realised, most of them were Gujarati like us. "I know we were first Indian and then Gujarati but common! hearing Gujarati or your native language 3000 kilometres from Gujarat or your native was incredible! Wasn't It?" Seeing just two of us, some of them even asked us if we needed their help in clicking our photos. A few of them took great pictures of us. I received some great photography tips from them as well. These were the memories, I carried with me from the trip.
We spent more than an hour at the lake and then started towards the Bumla Pass. As we crossed the 'Y junction' and moved towards the Bumla pass we observed the amount of snow on the routes and around the places had increased. When we reached the last check-post, We were forced to tie chains at the back wheels of our Jeep for our safety. As we were having a lot of time on our hands, we stopped at the multiple scenic locations for photography and to get the feel of this mesmerizing place. this was the place where anyone could become a pro photographer and take incredible pictures.
Upon reaching Bumla Pass, we submitted our permit and received a token number. Based on that, we would be called and taken towards the Indo-China border. We were instructed not to misbehave at the border as it was a very sensitive place. They requested us not to even chant "Bharat Mata ki Jai!"
Suddenly, we heard token number 28. We walked to the border which was mere 100 meters from the gate. Finally, we were standing at the Indo-china border at the Bumla pass. While we were there, the Indian army soldier who took us there was narrating the heroics of Jaswant Singh Rawat and Subedar Jogindar Singh during the 1962 Indo china war. They even showed us the place where actual action happened. Seeing all this, I felt Adeline rush passing through every part of my body. “Jai Hind” we chanted and thanked the soldier who took us there! While standing at the border, I could spot the camouflaged three Chinese soldiers guarding their post.
The Indo-China border was located at 15200 Ft above sea level. This particular border was called the friendship border because throughout the year total of nine meetings would take place at this border. The dates of these meetings would be the same every year. Out of those nine, five would take place in the Indian buildings while the remaining four would take place in the Chinese buildings. Unlike LOC the Indo China border won’t have any No man’s land.
At the Bumla pass, we shopped for the military t-shirts, caps and fridge magnets from the army camps. From Bhalukpong till Bumlapass, we had visited countless military canteens and I couldn't able to find a fridge magnet. Thankfully, I got it in the last Army canteen at Bumla pass! While buying t-shirts, made sure to try them as the size mentioned on them was not accurate. This happened with us. We ended up buying a smaller sized t-shirt. The Bumla pass army canteen would also sell the tastiest Momos and samosa. We had samosa, momos and tea. I could still remember the taste of those Samosas.
While returning, We stopped by PTSO lake. But it became very hazy. Due to this, we couldn’t get a clear view of the lake. Also, we just came from heaven alike place Bumla Pass. So, nothing would be good enough for us. Hence, we didn’t spend much time there and left for the hotel. We reached the Tawang heights by 3 pm.
It was our last day in Tawang. So, we decided to go shopping. I loved to shop for the things which I could use in day to day life. Because whenever I would use them, It would remind me of the trip on which I bought them. On this trip, we brought a few coffee mugs printed with the golden dragon.
Things one could do differently?
1. Visit Tawang and Bumla pass on the same day. That way you could save one Day. Though it might b a bit hectic.
2. While visiting the Bumla pass, try to visit Madhuri lake after visiting the Bumla pass. That way you could get a lesser rush at the border. Also, you could be able to spend more time at the lake.
DAY XI : Journey towards Bomdila via Nuranang water Fall
After breakfast, we headed towards the Bomdila. If you remembered, we skipped the Nuranang waterfall while going from Dirang to Tawang. Also, due to heavy fog, we could barely see anything on the way. Fortunately, the weather was clear therefore we should be able to relish the incredibly scenic route. In an hour, we reached Nuranang fall. As soon as we got out of the cab, I was stunned by the view of the waterfall. Instantly, I fell in love with the place. I swear to god! I hadn’t seen a waterfall better than this. Even though I had traveled to all parts of India in different seasons.
We were irritated by the rainy weather during the early days of this trip. But because of the same rain, we could able to experience insanely scenic route of the Bumla pass and incredible Jung waterfall. "जो होता है अच्छे के लिए होता है!"
We had to climb down around 200 steps to reach the waterfall. With every step, the view was getting better. As soon as I reached the waterfall, I started a time-lapse video of this gigantic waterfall. Then we clicked hundreds of photos in different poses. I loved to build a pile of stones by putting one stone on the other. I would generally build till layer seven. Quickly, I found seven stones and started creating a pile of stones. These were my travel rituals which I would have to follow no matter what. Finally, when we got tired, we found a nice rock and sat on it. The view of the waterfall was very serene that I kept staring at it for some time. We spent more than an hour there. Even after that, we weren’t feeling like leaving it.
This was one of the craziest trips where every day felt like the best day of the trip.
We resumed our journey. On the way, we stopped by Sela Lake and the Jaswant Singh Rawat war memorial. Even though we had visited them just a few days back, Without fog they were looking like different places and the same with the route.
We reached Bomdila at around 4 pm and directly went to the Newly created Bomdila Monastery. Despite heavy fog, the monastery looked glorious. Suddenly, I realized "let's make a new reel of our visit to a Buddhist monastery." Which made it an unforgettable experience.
Unlike the other monasteries, we found multiple idols inside the Monastery. The centre one was the Buddha's Idol. They had placed the names of the idols in front of them. This helped me understand their relationship with the Buddha and their contributions to Buddha's life. Amongst those, a few of the famous ones were Guru Padmasambhava and Acharya Shantarakshita.
After visiting the monastery, we checked into our hotel. It was at the main market which made shopping easier for us.
DAY XII: Journey to Kaziranga National Park
After breakfast, we left Bomdila and moved towards Kaziranga National Park. In two hours, we reached Bhalukpong and that's where our journey to the second state Arunachal Pradesh got completed!