Arunachal Pradesh and especially Tawang had always fascinated me. I am an ardent lover of the Buddhist culture – the bright and colourful monasteries, the low, rumbling Buddhist chants and the always smiling, ever helpful monks. The mountains lined with tiny temples with prayer wheels, the vibrant prayer flags adorning every little nook – A Tawang road trip was just what we needed to experience the the vibe of Tawang. Just so happy and delightful!
The Tawang Road Trip Begins
I was visiting Tawang with my family. We are a pretty adventurous lot. So we embarked on the Tawang road trip all the way from Shillong with pitstops at Dirang and Bhalukpong. Dirang was this sweet little town which sleeps at 8 in the evening. We went for dinner at this slightly suspect looking Bengali dhaba. But the food was amazing! It was the right kind of spicy and they were very generous with the helpings. Dirang has tons of these tiny shops that serve thalis (rice, chapathi, a few curries and pickle), you must try one to get a taste of the local flavour.
Pretty close to Dirang is the Tshachu hotspring. It was a pretty steep climb down, about 100 steps and then we reached this tiny hotspring. The water was luke warm and there was hardly much of it but we met these adorable local kids there who were very cheeky. They showed me the parts of the spring where the water was really warm. I wouldn’t say that this a must see on a Tawang road trip, but if you have the time do take a look.
From here we went continued on through crazy winding roads, sharp turns and steep valleys. As we went higher up in the mountains, it got foggier and colder. We made a few stops along the way to drink chai and gobble up some hot, yummy momos. We also met these adorable, really furry doggies along the way. They were as warm, friendly and welcoming as the people we met on the road trip.
Nurarang or Jung Falls
The Jung falls were definitely one of the highlights of the Tawang road trip. According to a popular myth, Nuranang falls are named after a local Monpa girl named Nura who had helped Jaswant Singh Rawat, in the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The girl was later captured by the Chinese forces. Her selfless sacrifice has been immortalised by the enchanting falls. The waterfall was really high and the water came down with an alarming force. A truly magnificent sight!
And before we knew it we were there at the much awaited Tawang! On the way to our guest house, we saw this little temple right at the edge of the cliff and this old woman praying. It must be so beautiful to wake up in the morning walk down to the edge of the world and say a silent prayer.
Tawang was freezing cold and it drizzled but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits. We had a quick breakfast and left for Bumla Pass or the Indo China border about 37 kms from Tawang. The view along the way was just incredible. Definitely one of the highlights of the Tawang Road Trip.
A natural pool of water nestled in between these green, olive, almost violet hills on one and towering snow capped mountains on the other- doesn’t this look like God’s cozy little Jacuzzi? The hills were adorned with flowers that grow naturally on them, they were yellow, purple, orange, cherry red – every hill painted a different colour.
Some roads along the way were pretty rocky and slippery because of the rains. It was a pretty difficult ride but our driver Nima, this gentle soft spoken guy was quite the star at driving and a great tour guide too! We met these gorgeous Arunachali women tying prayer flags across the mountains for good luck. Thanks to Nima’s translation efforts, they very generously shared the fire they had going, with me.
So as you can see, we kept stopping to take pictures and we took almost 4 hours to get to the border. This is usually a pretty touristic spot but luckily for us because of the rains not many people had ventured out. After the initial introductions the army personnel showed us a few tourist attractions- ‘Heap of Stones’, and the ‘Rock of Peace’. What really interested me was when he told us that Tawang was one of the places in India where the Indian Army and the locals got along excellently. They told us stories of how the locals had saved them when they had been stranded on the peak because of heavy snowfall, of how they had walked all the way from Tawang on foot to get supplies for the soldiers. It was great to see such solidarity among them despite the heavy Permit checks and military disturbances.
By now we were at a height of 16,500 feet, and we felt fresh snow gently streaming down, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze.
This was my first tryst with fresh snow and it was surreal! I could barely contain the joy!
Tawang is surrounded by gorgeous lakes. Shungester lake, famously known as “Madhuri Lake” after the Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit shot a song in that lake, is one of the most famous ones. It is believed that this lake was created by flash floods following an earthquake and it still has these dreary tree stumps punctuating its calm waters. Though beautiful, it had a spooky air about it.
The most famous monastery in Tawang is the Tawang Monastery. Like all Tibetan style monasteries it is grand, splashed with colours and beautiful legends. I can never get over the calm that comes over me just to sit in the monastery for a couple of minutes listening to Om Mani Padme Hum.
My favourite monastery has to be the last monastery we went to. An old dilapidated one about 5kms from Tawang – the Urgelling Monastery. This was the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama. There was nobody there, no tourists and no monks either. While exploring the monastery I found a run down storehouse with broken prayer wheels and I immediately wanted to carry one back home. Nima, our driver graciously took me to the monks at another monastery and after quite a bit of coaxing and cajoling they agreed to let me take one. They accompanied me back to Urgelling, helped me choose one and asked me to come back the next morning with a 1000 prayer flags. The next day they had a ceremony going on which required them to stay silent and they could only use gestures to speak. They took me up to their cozy little loft above the monastery, where all the monks stayed at. We sat sipping some really yummy yak butter tea while they explained to me the rules about the prayer wheel.
The trip couldn’t have been any better! I had experienced the first snowfall in my life, I had chilled with some really cool monks and I had a prayer wheel to take home for all the luck in the world.
Thank you Tawang, you were just b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l!
If you have any questions about Tawang do not hesitate to write to me. Do share the article if you liked it so more people can enjoy some Peace, Love and Butter Tea on a kickass Tawang road trip! 🙂