conversations started about a potential trip to Tawang in Arunachal
Pradesh, I was overjoyed. Not because I had heard or read about the beauty
of the place or its famous tourist spots. On the contrary, it was because
not a soul I knew had ever visited it and it
certainly didn't rank on the average Indian traveller's wish list. This
factor worked in its favour as did the exotic name of cities en route --
Bomdila or Dhirang.
First things first, due to past (read Indo-China 1962 War) and current
tensions (a border dispute remains till date), a permit is a necessity to
enter the state. That done, there are constant checkpoints where you will
be stopped and your IDs checked along a 413-km route from Guwahati to
Tawang, often making you feel like an outsider in your own country.
If that's not enough, the only access road to the exotic cities mentioned
above is in deplorable condition, causing a car to breakdown with no
mechanic available for a good 50 km either way. And if you are still
convinced about that trip, there's also changing weather conditions, ghats
that go on forever, steep valleys and in
winter, early nightfall at
4 pm, to deal with.
A trip to Tawang really tests your resolve, but you will be rewarded with
beauty unparalleled. Take for instance, the PT Tso Lake. Close to the
China border, it is a beautiful water body that often freezes in winter,
the snow around it acting as a striking contrast on the brown mountains.
The cold makes it difficult for fish to survive in water and trees too
can't sustain. The fact that you are probably on a Chinese gunman's radar,
due to their vantage points in the surrounding mountains, adds to one's
Then there are the Jang waterfalls, where our guide was happy to show us
the exact spot where certain scenes of the Shah Rukh- Madhuri starrer
Koyla were shot. And for those interested in history, there's a
400-hundred-year-old monastery where the mind can find some peace in the
constant chanting of the Buddhist monks.
And yes, of course, two war memorials (The Jaswant Garh Indo Chinese
Memorial that lies en route or Tawang's War Memorial) can evoke patriotic
feelings in you or cause for a sombre moment. Spend some time reading the
names and tales of several jawans who laid down their lives for the
country. Or bump into a
soldier or two, and over a cup of tea discuss their
day-to-day life. Or as in our case, just speak in Marathi to remind him of
A stay in Tawang is memorable, but be prepared for lack of hospitality
from the natives. But considering the hostile conditions and the fact that
this could easily be one of the most beautiful places on earth, the
transgression can be easily overlooked. So do visit, please.
The Sela Pass is the second highest motorable road in the world, and is en
route to Tawang. The pass stands at a height of 13,700 feet. The pass was
named after a girl (Sela) who died a martyr. In winter, weather conditions
change rapidly and cars engines are known to shut down due to the intense
cold. Paradise Lake lies close to the pass and often freezes over in
winter. The pass is a popular tourist spot.
From Guwahati, Tawang lies at a distance of 413 kms. The best time to
visit is winter and an overnight stop at Dhirang or Bomdila is highly
recommended. At Tawang, do not expect or look for five-star accommodation.
A simple room with a heater should suffice. The local market offers
several Chinese products but do visit several shops to get best price.
Also, do not expct much hospitality from the locals. A car is a must the
entire time you are the tourist spot since it is at a
distance from the city centre.