Saturday, 10 December 2011

Bomdila and Tawang - The Exciting Journey

Travelogue on Bomdila and Tawang is based on my diary pages written during my journey through NE India in the year 2004.

Day 12  - 5.4.2004   Journey to Tezpur ( Assam )
The morning was cloudy and it was drizzling. Partho, my nephew saw me off at the Dimapur ( Nagaland ) bus stand where I boarded a bus for Jaklabanda. As our journey began the rain increased in intensity. We cruised along road adjoining Kaziranga National Park. Seated by window side I soaked into the adjoining greenery all along the route. I had a fleeting glance of a grazing deer and also a wild elephant. The bus reached Jaklabandha at about 12.45 pm. I took another bus for Tezpur and checked in at the Hotel Luit. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a TV set in the room. I caught the latest on the first day, second cricket test match between India and Pakistan at Lahore. The lunch of fish curry, dal and rice at the hotel was simply great. In the evening I hit the streets and had a hair cut in a decent looking hair cutting saloon. At Rs. 10/- the price was dirt cheap compared to my home town Mumbai! I booked my ticket for Bomdila by Sumo taxi ( Rs.160/- per seat ) for my next days journey to Bomdila. I bought an alarm clock and some biscuits for my next days journey. Tezpur happened to be sparsely populated, sleepy town in Assam situated on the northern bank of river Brhamaputra and full of greeneries. The air was cool and comfortable even in the month of April.

Day 13 - 6.4.2004   Journey to Bomdila
I started early in the morning at about 6 AM in Tata Sumo along with nine other passengers. The morning was gloomy and cloudy. The car travelling over Brahamaputra bridge offers a grand view of this great river of North-East. At Bhalukpong my entry permit was checked. It is mandatory even for an Indian citizen to have a document called ‘Inner line Permit’ to travel to Arunachal Pradesh. After Bhalukpong the road goes uphill passing through picturesque Tonga valley. The weather improved dramatically there after. When I reached Bomdila by noon it was sunshine all the way. At Bomdila I checked in at Hotel Shipyang Pong. The single room cost Rs. 440/- and additional Rs. 150/- for TV. After taking a large meal of Egg-Vegetable rice, I ventured out. I was no longer feeling tired from the days journey. I hired a Maruti van and visited Upper Monastery and Lower Monastery which are the principal sight seeing places and came back to hotel. The monasteries are called Gompas by Buddhists and have hostels for lamas. I found a group of young lamas in upper monastery playing football and some perched in their hostel rooms were enthusiastic spectators. Situated at 8,000 ft the picturesque town of Bomdila offers lovely views of a typical hilly regions of Arunachal Pradesh. I spent rest of the evening watching test match between India and Pak. The weather was biting cold. I had a meal of noodle soup for dinner and retreated to comforts of bed.

Day 14 - 7.4.2004   Journey to Tawang
I got up at 7 AM after 10 hours of refreshing sleep. Bomdila being at 8,000 ft altitude, the weather was very cold but bearable. I was looking forward to my trip to Tawang. During my journey I will travel through Sela pass at 14,000 ft which is second highest motorable pass in the world. Tata Sumo was on schedule. After leaving Bomdila behind and traversing 40 km, we come to Dirang, a picturesque small village. River Bhairali followed us like a faithful pet all along the route. We came across a small village, where we had our lunch comprising Chapati, Dal and Sabzi. As we resumed journey Rhododendron flowers were in full bloom on both sides of the road. At 12,000 ft the pine trees made their appearance. When we were about a few km from Sela, the patches of snow on road side looked like spilt vanilla ice cream. Sela top being at 14, 000 ft, the weather was biting cold. The mountain around were littered with snow. One got a view of beautiful Lake Paradise down below. Although we did not get a halt, I hoped I would get some chance to do photo shooting on my return journey.

After Sela we passed through Jaswantgarh. We had a fleeting glance of memorial erected in memory of Veer Jawan Jaswant Singh. During Chinese aggression in 1962, Jaswant Singh of Indian armed forces combated the superiorly armed Chinese soldiers for 48 hours before attaining martyrdom. Beyond Jaswantgarh the weather turned foggy and cloudy. It also started drizzling. The valley below was totally obscured. After some time the Sumo suddenly came to a halt. Frowning the driver got down. We were panicky. Car breakdown at this juncture would have brought untold miseries to all the passengers. After inspection , the driver got ready to replace a leaking tyre. We got a few minutes of break. I took this opportunity and ventured out to stretch my legs. The weather was dense with fog. The visibility was poor. It was difficult to see beyond 50 ft. Those driving in the hills needed to be most alert while negotiating those hair pin bends so common. Sumo resuming the journey, we come across lot off yaks grazing nonchalantly across the road. These milch animals are akin to what cows and buffaloes are in the plains. As we approached Tawang my dream destination, once again snow made its appearance on both sides of road. Tawang town situated at 10, 000 ft is a ‘picture post card beauty’, undoubtedly the most beautiful town of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a one street town consisting of shops, hotels, and dwellings of local population who are predominantly Buddhists. Everybody spoke Hindi which was so different from other North-Eastern states of India. My first regret on reaching Tawang was that I could not bring my Pentax SLR camera. My second regret was that I was alone and did not have company to share my joy of having visited the paradise of North-East India. Tawang monastery perched on the nearby hill looked imposing and majestic. After soaking myself fully in the scenic beauty of the place for some time, I checked in at Tourist Hut. At Rs. 400/- I got a room with TV and room heater. The cable TV was not working as there was a power failure. I ventured out to see market place. It was biting cold. Not many people were around. The shops were well stocked with provisions of all kind. People were friendly and cheerful. All restaurants served simple vegetarian cuisine. Near the bus stand many locals youths were hanging around. I made some enquiries for booking a car for sight seeing for the next day. A guy called Tempa agreed to pick me up next morning. Back to hotel, I settled for the night. The firewood burning in drum like room heater with a provision for pipes letting out the smoke and pollutants outside made the room extremely comfortable and pollution free.

Day 15 - 8.4.2004   Sight seeing at Tawang
The morning was cloudy. I felt that it would be another rainy day. The hired Maruti van and driver Tempa a came sharp at 7.30 AM. I was distinctly happy to have a company to share my thoughts in company of Tempa. We started the journey which included visit to Tawang Monastery, Lake P.T.Tso, Lake Pengong Wama, Lake Nakula. The van started its upward climb and gradually the cloudy weather gave rise to sunshine. The Lake Pengong Wama was a really small one of the size of a village pond. The water was crystal clear. The surrounding snow cover gave it a majestic look. Then at 12, 000 ft we came across Lake P. T. Tso. This was a large one and located in picturesque surroundings. Shooting for Hindi film ‘Koyla’ was done partly around the two mentioned lakes. Then we cruised to higher altitudes. It was really becoming biting cold. At 15,000 ft the lake Nakula was really a fascinating one. It was frozen and had a partly snowy look and partly clear glassy look. The temperature in this region certainly goes below zero degrees during night time. The pot holes on the road were filled with broken ice sheets and water. We were the only two souls around. It was calm place with rustling sound of chilly wind. We spend some time savouring this lovely place and thanked Almighty for making this visit possible. Finally we descend and come back to Tawang town. I had a quick snack and coffee at Dolphins. Then we proceeded to Tawang Monastery a 400 year old Gompa one of the best known in India. En route we come across lamas engaged in various activities. The monastery is colourful one and has a majestic look. We went inside to have a darshan of Lord Buddha. The Tawang Gompa houses a beautifully gilded 8 mete high statue of Lord Buddha and a number of equally remarkable idols and murals. Tempa takes his time in offering prayers. While coming back to town we came across lamas studying seriously in front of their school; may be it was examination time! I had the pleasure of taking the snap of a lama teacher who gladly posed in front door of his room. We also found some lamas engaged in road repairing work. Then we proceeded to war memorial which was erected in memory of those soldiers and officers who laid down their lives during Indo-China war of 1962. The memorial is maintained beautifully by the army and name of all martyrs are engraved. Finally we proceeded to Crafts Centre which markets the carpets, shawls and cane items made by local artisans. The tour over I took leave of Tempa who had been such a good company and guide. I had a lunch at a Chinese restaurant ( the only non-vegetarian restaurant in Tawang ) and then returned to hotel. Pleasant surprise! The TV channels were functioning. I started my packing for the next day.

Day 16 -  9.4.2004  Return journey to Tezpur
I started return journey for Tezpur at 7 AM. The weather was cloudy and gloomy. It started drizzling after some time. When we reached Sela pass it was completely a different view. There was overnight snowfall and snow was soft. Passengers had a good time playing in snow during the break. The driver and his girl friend had a fair share of snowball exchanges! The Lake Paradise below was looking as majestic as ever. The journey continued. After leaving Bomdila the jeep came to a sudden grinding halt. In the next few minutes I would be observing what I have heard but never experienced in my life. A land slide in mountain! In about 100 yards in front, I observed a huge boulder rumbling down the mountain and came to rest on the road with thud. Next few minutes smaller boulders and finally small stones came down in showers. After waiting for a full ten minutes, our driver inspected the pathway across the huge boulder and thought there was just enough space left on the road for the Sumo to squeeze through. Thus it was a providential escape! Landslides in mountain takes days to clear and all traffic comes to stand still for days. In the cloudy and foggy weather the drive was slow and torturous. Finally after nearly 14 hours of ordeal I managed to reach Tezpur and checked in Hotel Durba for the night.

( Acknowledgement : The journey to Arunachal ( Bomdila, Tawang ) would not have been possible without the kind cooperation of my friend Amal and his better half Gitashri. In fact Gitashri did all the running about for collecting my ‘Inner line permit’ from Liaison office, Arunachal Tourism at Salt Lake, Kolkata. )

The document ‘Inner Line Permit’ can be had from any office of Arunachal Pradesh Tourism after filling up of a form and attaching a few documents.
At Kolkata
Deputy Residence Commissioner, Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Kolkata
CE-109, Sector-1
Salt Lake City, Kolkata
Phone: +91 - 33- 23341243 / 23589865 (F)
How to reach :
Reach Tezpur in Assam by availing air service from Kolkata. From Tezpur travel by Tata Sumo for 6 hours to reach Bomdila and travel another 6 hours to reach Tawang
The best time to travel to Bomdila and Tawang is from April to September.

What to do :
If you are a nature lover you have plenty to look forward to. Take a car and visit those beautiful Buddhist Gompas at Bomdila and Tawang. At Tawang see many beautiful lakes situated at various altitudes; each looking unique in its own way.
At Tezpur : Luit Hotel, the best hotel in Tezpur, tel no. 03712 – 222083 / 222084
At Bomdila : Hotel Shipyang Pong, the best accommodation at Bomdila, tel 03782-22286
At Tawang : Tourist Hut, very comfortable hotel with room heater, tel no. 03794 - 222738

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