Have you ever visited any such place where you would wish to retire and just settle down? Trust me, I am not exaggerating but truly, Tawang is one such place where you would love to stay for the rest of your life. With the numerous lakes surrounded by magnificent mountains, Tawang is purely a treat for human heart and soul. You can experience the beautiful gift of nature all around you. Tawang is the land for beautiful valleys, rippling rivers and large waterfalls. The scenic beauty of the place will make you fall in love with it. Apart from the natural scenic beauty, the town is also famous for the artistic Tawang Monastery. Tawang, a town in north western Arunachal Pradesh, is situated at an altitude of 10000ft. The Chinese consider it to be a part of them and they call it the Southern Tibet.
Now, reaching there is quite a hard nut to crack. There are neither any railways nor airways that connect you to the extreme part of Arunachal Pradesh. So, firstly one needs to reach Guwahati, which is, you may say, the main entrance to the North East. The town of Tawang is located at a distance of 555 km from Guwahati and 320 km from Tezpur. So we boarded a train from Kolkata and reached Guwahati. On the same day, we proceeded to Tezpur from where we were to commence our main journey. One important thing you need to remember is that Inner Line Permit is needed to visit Arunachal and you may get it from Guwahati or Kolkata. The only options to visit Tawang from Tezpur is either to book a cab on your own (which is way too costly) or you may go on share taxis and sumos. So, we opted for the latter one and seated ourselves in the Tata Sumo which started around 5 ‘o’ clock in the morning. We adjusted ourselves in the seats, rather squeezed ourselves as we needed to fit four people in a row.
The Route to Tawang
This road trip can literally be considered as one of the best road trips in the country. In a brief, we needed to cover Tezpur- Bhalukpong- Bomdila- Dirang- Tawang circuit in a single day and this total journey takes about 10 hours by road. Quite a hectic one, I tell you. But the scenic beauty around you will give you a peace of mind and let you bear this hectic journey at an ease. The roads are narrow and not well maintained at all. There are three important sightseeing points which you must see during this journey.
As soon as you see the board of “Welcome to Tawang”, you get to know that you have already reached Sela Pass.
Now, Sela Pass is one of the highest pass in Arunachal Pradesh and is at an altitude of 13700ft. There is a beautiful lake with crystal clear water beside the pass and the view of the lake with those colourful prayer flags is just amazing. We were already informed that it is going to be a bit cold in this region and to our surprise, we were lucky enough to enjoy snowfall here. We stopped here for a while to have tea and enjoy the grandeur of nature.
Jaswantgarh War Memorial
Our next stop was the Jaswantgarh War Memorial which commemorates the bravery and valour of the Indian Soldiers of 1962 Indo- China War. The main hero of this place is considered to be Jaswant Singh Rawat, who fought the Chinese Army bravely along with two other soldiers and prevented them to invade into their territory. This is a place where you are sure to develop some patriotic feelings when the army men describe you how the soldiers fought against the huge battalion of Chinese Army. This is a really good place for you to enjoy the beautiful scenery over a cup of tea.
The third and the last stop before we reach Tawang is the Nuranang Falls. It is situated at a distance of 2km from the town of Jang. It is considered to be one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the north eastern region of India. There is a path which leads you to the base of the waterfalls and when you go near it, you get drenched completely because the water is flowing down at quite a lot of force. This waterfall has been shown in quite a few Bollywood movies also. Can you guess which one?
After visiting these, we finally reached Tawang at around 6 P.M. And guess what we saw? All the shops were closed down, no street lights and not a single person on the streets. We were in a fix as we had no hotels booked, but our kind driver helped us find one Bengali hotel to stay. Then we came to know that all the activities in this place are over by 5 in the evening and people go to sleep by 7 o clock at night.
The next morning, we woke up around 5 and then we already saw the sun high up. We realised that we were in the extreme east of the country and it has sunrise much earlier than the other parts of the country. What, according to you, is the most important thing in travelling? For me, it is getting to know about the local culture of the place, meeting the local tribes, visiting local markets and tasting the local cuisine. So, I set out in the streets to explore everything while my father was busy arranging for a cab for sightseeing.
Thukje Choeling Ani Gompa
This was our first sightseeing point. Ani Gompa refers to a nunnery and this nunnery has almost 50 nuns residing there. It is located at a distance of 5km from the town of Tawang. The calm and serene atmosphere of the nunnery is just mesmerizing. One of the nuns humbly offered us some Po Cha. Po Cha is their traditional butter tea made with yak butter and local tea leaves.
It is the most important attraction of the region. Tawang monastery is the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world after Potala Palace in Tibet. Proud to be an Indian, isn’t it? It is located between a really picturesque landscape and Buddhists from all over the world visit this monastery as it is a centre where the monks get to learn a lot about Buddhist culture. There is a museum which has a large collection of Buddhist manuscripts, artefacts and the books. The highlight of this monastery is the 28 feet tall golden statue of Lord Budddha.
This place has become famous as it is considered to be the birth place of the sixth Dalai Lama Tsyang Gyatso. One need to drive downhill from the Tawang Monastery to reach this place and the journey through the woods is just so beautiful. On top of it, our driver player a sweet Tibetan music which just exaggerated the essence to another level.
There is also the war memorial in Tawang that we visited. After the whole day of sightseeing, we returned back by 5 to rest as the next day was going to be one heck of a ride.
The Third Day
A good morning to all on the third day of my trip, and you know what, it was my birthday that day. I turned 18 and that too up in the mountains. No one could have been happier than me on that day and I consider it to be my best birthday gift till now. Our plan for that day was to visit the places outside the town. See how beautiful the journey was as I tried to capture some through my lens.
Now I may tell people that I have visited China. What can be a better gift than this on my 18th birthday, right? Bumla Pass lies at a distance of 37 kms from Tawang and you need to hire a Tata Sumo or any big vehicle for this journey, even if you are just three people in number. The reason behind this is that the roads are in a pathetic condition and no small vehicle can get through it. It is situated at an altitude of 16,500 ft above sea level and one may face a little bit of altitude sickness here. It is one of the few passes on the Indo China border that the tourists can visit. You may also have a little stroll on the Chinese road. It is completely true and I am not kidding. And yes, do not forget to have those amazing Samosas and Chai made by the Indian Army.
People call it the Madhuri Lake. You know why? I told you that there are shootings of Bollywood done in this place and after Madhuri Dixit shot for her film Koyla, this lake came to be known as the Madhuri Lake. Originally the Shonga-tser Lake was a result of an earthquake in this region in 1971. A perfect place for a photography enthusiast like me, having a stroll there was just bliss. Yes, there are army canteens where you can get Momos and Maggis (not anymore I guess, after they got banned).
Another lake among the plenty, PTso is a common picnic spot for the local people of Tawang. Pankang Teng Tso Lake is situated at a distance of 17 km from Tawang and the serenity of the atmosphere will tell you not to come back from there at all.
But, we had to return as it was quite late and then the next day, we proceeded downhill to Tezpur again. It was a bad feeling. I always feel sad whenever I need to bid farewell to the mountains and visit the plains. Only hope that keeps me going is that I may visit here once again, maybe!
This entry has been shortlisted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest in association with Linger. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Manikuntala Das