Meghalaya - Arunachal - Assam

#1 Apr 30th, 2013, 14:02
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  • amalp is offline
#1
Click here to read from Meghalaya Leg of the travelogue.


Shillong – Tezpur – Bhalukpong(Day 1)[/B]

The drive to Bhalukpong is around 280Kms, so we started very early in the morning from Shillong. From Shillong we took the route towards Guwahati and took a deviation from Jorabat to go to Tezpur. The route from Jorabat to Tezpur is a quite wide four lane highway and the driver was consistently driving above 90Kms. We stopped in a town on the way to grab some lunch and proceeded quickly towards Tezpur.

The guide had arranged an ILP for all of us to enter Arunachal Pradesh and we were to collect it at the checkpost in Bhalukpong. But unfortunately there was some issue in contacting the guy who was supposed to give us the pass at checkpost. But our tour organizer swiftly dealt with the situation and got another set of pass created from Tezpur and sent it with a guy to a mall in Tezpur. It’s a quite a view crossing the Brahmaputra on the bridge at Tezpur.

Unfortunately there are no photos today since it was more of a commute day. But tomorrow we start the actual Arunachal leg of our journey. We stayed in Hotel Solu at Bhalukpong. The hotel is very well maintained and the view of the Kameng river from the hotel is quite amazing.

Bhalukpong – Bomdila (Day 2)

Today we start the journey towards Tawang, but due to the road conditions it’s very difficult to do the entire distance in a single day. Anyway we want to take photos and enjoy the views stopping the vehicle very now and then. We started the journey from Bhalukpong around 9 in the morning since today was not a very long drive.

The route from Bhalukpong to Bomdila is quite amazing and breathtaking at many places. The curving roads and hills around you makes it so magical that you feel like stopping every now and then to click the landscape.



The major attraction for today was the Chiilipam monastery near Rupa town which is an hour and a half from Bomdila. You need to take a diversion from the route to Bomdila and spend around an hour and a half to go to monastery and come back. But it’s one of the most beautiful monasteries I’ve ever visited. To spend some time on the hillock where the monastery is built is very relaxing.



There was a huge forest fire between Rupa and Bomdila and the visibility was quite bad with smoke all over. I managed to stop around a curve and click a photo of the forest fire which looked like a drawing.



We reached the Hotel Tsepel Yangzom around 7 PM and checked in. This was the worst hotel we had to stay during our entire trip. The people, cleanliness and everything in the hotel was a big mess. It’s rated as a three star hotel but I suggest anyone who visits Bomdila to avoid it like the plague. We even heard about an incident of the hotel worker stealing a mobile in this hotel.

Bomdila – Tawang (Day 3)

Today we are starting the journey from Bomdila to Tawang. Tawang is our main destination for this trip. It’s a day long drive from Bomdila to Tawang since the roads are in such a mess because of the lack of commitment of NREGA(BRO) guys.

Dirang is a beautiful valley around an hour from Bomdila. On this route you can see lots of Kiwi plantations. We managed to stop at one such place to click a few snaps and see the Kiwi plant for the first time.



The drive today was one of the best since the start of the trip with winding roads and beautiful valleys. The Tawang district begins after two to three hours of drive from Dirang in our pace which was actually very slow due to stoppages for clicking photos.



Around 2PM we reached Sela pass that welcomes you to Tawang district. The place was so windy the prayer flags were making lovely noise.



The lake next to Sela pass was frozen and it was the first time we saw a frozen lake. All of us were very excited and since the ice was very thick we decided to walk on it. It is a really risky thing to do because if the ice is not thick and it breaks you are most probably not going to come back alive. But since the ice was too thick we walked on it and crossed the lake and it was a lovely experience.



After crossing Sela pass we saw many frozen waterfalls icy roads. It was so much excitement that we were playing in ice and snow many times even though it was really cold.



We reached Tawang after sunset. We stayed in hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang and this is a very good hotel with power backup. In Tawang there is long power outages and if you would like to have hot water and room heater it’s a good idea to stay in this hotel. But the food in the hotel is pretty ordinary compared to the food you get in the restaurants in the Nehru market.

Tawang – Zemithang (Day 4)

Next day early in the morning we started our journey to Zemthang which is around 3-4 hours’ drive from Tawang. It is a beautiful village and the route to this place is quite scenic. There are not many good places to stay in this hotel so our tour organizer got us the IB inspection bungalow for our stay.



The inspection bungalow was very cheap to stay and the rooms were really nice. Even the view from the bungalow was very amazing and the location was perfect.



The most important attraction in Zemithang is the Nepali Stupa. The festival happens here once in 12 years and other times it’s not crowded at all. We lit candles there and then enjoyed a camp fire before having dinner cooked by the caretaker of the bungalow.



Zemithang-Madhuri Lake-Tawang (Day 5)

We started early in the morning and started towards Sungester Tso(Madhuri lake). The route from Zemithang to Sungester Tso is one of the best routes we did during our entire trip.



The hairpins were very interesting while we reached closer to Madhuri lake. There were instances where you could see 8-10 hairpin bends from one place and the beautiful curves of the road. But the road was in good condition and so the drive was not too bumpy.



Madhuri lake was half frozen and the ice was not thick enough to walk on it. And there were beautiful golden ducks in the icy cold water making it so beautiful.



The momos from the army run canteen near the lake was really awesome with nice chili sauce. The route from Madhuri lake to Tawang had many other frozen lakes and frozen streams. Each one was very beautiful and unique.



We reached Tawang by evening and it was the New Year eve. So we had to attend the New Year party in the hotel and spend the night in discotheque. It was really an awesome dance floor for a small town like Tawang and the crowd was pretty entertaining too. We spend some time and went to sleep because we had to travel around Tawang the next day.

Tawang local sightseeing (Day 6)

Morning we started our trip to the PT Tso which we actually saw on the last day while coming back from Madhuri lake. But we thought of going there again to spend some more time enjoying the beauty of the lake. There was an abandoned boat near the lake and we put it in the water and did boating. It was a lovely experience cutting through the ice and boating in the cold weather.



You can see a lot of bunkers from the 1962 wars on this route. It’s worth walking in to one of it and seeing the way they’ve built it. The photo below is of old war bunker that are of no importance now.



After spending some time there we went to the war memorial and spend some time reading about the history on how Chinese defeated India in 1962 war.



After that we went to the old monastery in Tawang and spent some time taking photos. None of the monasteries let the visiters inside in these places. So it’s all about enjoying the beauty from outside and taking photos. The old prayer wheels outside the monastery were really looking nice with the evening sun.



By evening we reached back in the hotel and slept early since it’s going to be a long drive to Bomdila next day. We have to visit the Jung falls and Jaswant Garh on the way back to Bomdila.

Tawang-Bomdila (Day 7)

Jung falls is approximately an hour away from Tawang. The amount of water in the falls is very less since they are producing electricity over there now. But still the place is beautiful and there is some amount of water there to see.



The places that we covered after sunset during the onward trips were all visited during the way back. This helped us miss very less places even though the drive back is on the same route. On the way to Bomdila we stopped at Jaswant Garh and also at the Sela lake.



Before reaching Bomdila we stopped at a roadside place and had some momo there. Filling the stomach with nice steamed momos feels so good. After momos and tea we continued our journey to Bomdila..



Today is the last day of our leg in Arunachal. Tomorrow we start from Bomdila to Kaziranga and spend couple of days in Assam visiting Kaziranga and Majuli islands.

Click here to read the Assam leg of the travel.
#2 May 3rd, 2013, 17:12
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  • mridula is offline
#2
And I missed all this! Such beautiful pictures. Have to go back, have to go back is all I can chant now!
#3 May 7th, 2013, 00:36
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  • shekhar.malik is offline
#3
Excellent travelogue amalp

I am a Mumbai resident and my friend is getting married on 1st Oct'13 in Guwahati. I will be free from Guwahati by 3rd Oct'13 evening

This has inspired me to convert my (first) visit to Guwahati into my first North-East (NE) trip/ vacation

Before putting out the itinerary which I have made out of various experiences shared here on IM, a brief profile so as to give out the bent of mind/ interests:
Travelers: I & my wife
Age group: 28-32
Past vacations: 6-day trekking/ tenting trip to Uttarakhand plus regular Konkan trips

amalp: Can you please list out the travel agency which you used and share the contact details of the same. I am totally new to the NE region

Very basic question first:
(1) What is the kind of weather (viz. rainfall, day temperatures, night temperatures etc.) expected in & enroute to Tawang in the 1st week of Oct'13 i.e. 4th October + 8-10 days?

I will be basing myself out of Guwahati i.e. very broadly:
Guwahati -> Tawang -> Guwahati

Below is the itinerary I have jotted down. I am looking for constructive inputs for tweaking the same and validation of the data, especially the numerical one viz. number of journey hours listed out

Day 1: Guwahati -> Bhalukpong, entry to Arunachal Pradesh (~5hrs road journey, if non-stop)

Day 2: Bhalukpong -> Bomdila -> Dirang (~7 hrs road journey); Bomdila to Dirang: ~1hr journey
Things to do on Day 2:
Bomdila monastry (special mention of view from Upper monastry)
Chiilipam monastery near Rupa town; can I do this (since it's a detour from the direct route to Dirang) especially when I am looking to reach Dirang on the same day
Tipi Orchid en route to Dirang

Day 3: Dirang -> Tawang (~8hrs road journey)
Things to do on Day 2:
Sela pass, Sela lake, Jaswantgarh, Jong falls

Questions:
(1) Validation of the no. of hours of road journey for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

Overall, we are looking to start the journeys by 7-7.30am, especially on Day 1 and Day 2

(2) Is Day 2 too cramped? If yes, then suggestions please

Day 4: Tawang local sightseeing
Things to do on Day 4:
Tawang Monastery, Tawang War Memorial, Birth Place of 6th Dalai Lama and a monastery for women, Ani Gompa; Arrange for Bumla pass permit here

Day 5: Around Tawang
Things to do on Day 5: Bum-La pass, Shungetsar Lake/ Madhuri lake (movie 'Koyla' shoot), P T So lakes

Day 6: Tawang -> Dirang (~6 hrs road journey)

Day 7: Dirang -> Guwahati (~9hrs road journey)

Question:
(1) Validation of the no. of hours of road journey for Day 5 and Day 6

Hotels:
Bhalukpong: Hotel Solu
Dirang: Hotel Pemaling
Tawang: Hotel Sela OR Hotel Gayki Khang Zhang

I am very open to suggestions on the above itinerary and hoping to receive constructive inputs

Cheers!!
Last edited by shekhar.malik; May 7th, 2013 at 13:56..
#4 May 7th, 2013, 18:27
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  • amalp is offline
#4
First, thanks a lot for going through the travelogue.

First about weather: October is one of the finest time to go to Tawang. So you are not going to find it extreme cold there even though for us who stays close to the sea it's going to be a bit cold. You will need jackets atleast in the nights.

Now about the itinerary.

Day 1: Fine plan. Might be it will take a bit more time according to the road condition from Tezpur to Bhalukpong. This stretch had no roads during 2012 December when I traveled.

Day 2: Would you consider to stay in Bomdila instead of Dirang? Pemling as far as I heard is a bit too expensive and not really worth it since you are going to be there only for the night.
The Rupa monastery will need you to take a deviation from the route from Rupa to Bomdila. Taking photos and enjoying the view from there will cost you around 2 hours. But you shouldn't miss it. One of the finest monasteries I ever visited. Better view and happiness this will bring to you than Bomdila and Tawang monastery.
So in short I would do, Bhalukphong - Orhcid place close by, Rupa monastery, and sleep at Bomdila.

Day 3: Start from Bomdila. Stop over at one of the kiwi farms near Dirang. Spend some 10 minutes seeing the farm. NO NEED TO RUSH TODAY. Then reach Sela lake(The pass and lake is so very close). Spend enough time there without rushing and enjoy. Go to Tawang. Today don't go to Jaswantgarh/Jung falls.

Day 4: I would really suggest you to go to Zemithang which is a village three hours from Tawang. A beautiful place. So you could go to Zemithang today and stay over night there. There is a river and it's so beautiful. Go and see the Stupa there and wonder how they made it so long ago. You can get a guide and walk in the village as well. Go to the house of queen.

Day 5: Zeminthang - Sungster Tso(Madhuri Lake) - Tawang. This is an awesome route. And breathtaking views all around. You won't get this route if you go from Tawang to Madhuri lake directly.
You should be able to reach before it's dark. If that is the case go to the monastery and birth place of Lama. Birth place is nothing so fascinating since it's just a closed house you will see.

Day 6: Tawang - Bum La - PT Tso and all can be done on the way back from Bum La.(I couldn't go to Bum La because it was hard for my from from Belgium to get the pass to go there.).
If you reach early go to War memorial today. I think this should be doable. It will give you a good insight on how Nehru failed the local people of Tawang.

Day 7: Tawang - Dirang/Bomdila On day 3 if you had to travel after day light whatever you missed will be during sunlight today. That's why I said not to rush on Day 3.
Today you stop at Jung falls. Go down and see the falls and maybe enjoy the spray of water. Go towards Sela. Stop at Jaswant Garh. Don't forget to get inside an old war bunker and have a look if you haven't already done that on the way to Bum La.

Day 8: - Bomdila/Dirang to Bhalukphong.

Day 9: - Bhalukphong to Guwahati.

Now if you feel you have 2 more extra days,

Day 8 - Go from Bomdila - Kaziranga.
Day 9 - Kaziranga national park. Elephent ride in the morning. After that go directly to Eastern gate and do a jeep safari if you love to see birds. Evening go to Jorhat.
Day 10 - Jorhat to Mumbai flight.

If you think you have one full more day,

Day 9: Sleep at Kaziranga itself.
Day 10: Get up very early and go to Jorhat and take a boat to Majuli islands. Enjoy the lovely ferry across Brahmaputra. See the mustard fields and other attractions in Majuli.
Take the last ferry back to Jorhat. And go to Jorhat town and sleep over.
Day 11: Jorhat to Mumbai flight.

If there is anything that I could help you out, please feel free to ask. I will message you the details of Mr. Thupten Lobsang who helped me executing this itinerary. The thing I like about him is his honesty. Won't cheat you on a dime. Will do the best he can to make sure you get to enjoy the trip.
#5 May 7th, 2013, 18:36
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  • amalp is offline
#5
And about the Hotels.

Bhalukphong - Hotel Solu. It's run by a very nice fellow. Since your Day 2 is packed I wouldn't suggest you do Rafting on that day. You would want to try if you can do it on Day 8 afternoon if you are staying in Bhalukphong and not going to Kaziranga. I would say you do the rafting when you go to Zanskar ;-)

Bomdila - DON'T stay at hotel "Hotel Tsepel Yangzom". It's horrible. Not clean. The worst place I stayed during my trip. Dishonest people. Lack of knowledge of hospitality. Stay elsewhere where Lobsang would suggest.

Tawang - Hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang. The finest place to stay in Tawang. Especially good that they've generator backup so that you don't run out of charge in your camera battery.

Zemithang - Check with Lobsang where he can put you. People don't go there generally and it's not a touristic place. We stayed in IB Inspection Bunglow there with was excellent.

Kaziranga - If you are going there Hotel Kaziranga Florican is good. But make sure you don't take a room in the ground floor. The cheapest room in ground floors are not having much of a privacy.

Jorhat - If you feel it's okey to fly back from Jorhat and not from Guwahati, you can stay overnight at "hotel Spark A.T. Road Jorat". Decent place. Cheapest rooms are fine.
#6 May 7th, 2013, 19:12
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  • shekhar.malik is offline
#6
Thanks for replying

I am wary of staying overnight at Bomdila after reading not so +ve reviews about the accomodation/ hotels across the threads including one by you and also that Dirang being better than Bomdila (this too across many threads)

Request if you can answer some specific queries which will help take the call of Day 2-end at Bomdila or Dirang:
(1) Let's say I am doing Bhalukpong to Bomdila on Day 2 including the Rupa monastry. How many hours? or say I am starting 8am from Bhalukpong, what time I should be at Bomdila?

(2) If I am really doing Bhalukpong -> Bomdila -> Dirang on Day 2 along with Rupa monastry and skipping Bomdila monastry and skipping Kiwi farm, then how many hours/ when would I be expected to reach Dirang (starting from Bhalukpong ~8am)?
-------------------------------------
And yes, I will shift Jaswantgarh and Jung falls to the day when I am returning from Tawang to Bomdila/ Dirang; currently Day 6 in my itinerary

Next,
How is this Tawang -> Zeminthang -> Madhuri Lake -> Tawang; spending couple of hours at Zeminthang in a single day?
Not possible?

Ok, remove Madhuri Lake stopover from this and just consider coming back from Zeminthang taking this route only (& not stopping at Madhuri lake. I will do this lake nwhen I will be doing Bumla pass and PT Tso lakes). Then?
No, I am not discarding staying overnight at Zeminthang but then it's 1 more day extra

A general question:
When can I expect darkness to fall in the month of Oct (1st week of Oct)? and how Ok is/ are the cab drivers driving in the darkness, say for max 2 hrs. (max 2 hrs. driving in darkness)?

Cheers!!
#7 May 8th, 2013, 12:02
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  • amalp is offline
#7
Hi,

The time of travel totally depends on how many stops you take. If you are going to stop a lot and take many photos(Which is what I did) it will take a lot of time. These trips the routes are the real attractions than the places of interest. So I think you might also end up stopping a lot of times to Click a few snaps.

If you start from Bhalukpong by 8, you should be able to reach Bomdila by 2-2.30 if you do it non stop. You add a couple of stops to enjoy the beauty of Kameng river along the way and some views of the valley it will cost you another 45 minutes. Then the entire Chiilpam monastery will cost you 2 hours. And I presume you will have to eat lunch somewhere on the way which will take you around 30-45 minutes. So you are going to be in Bomdila around 5-5.30 time.

The sunset would be very early around 4:30, but it will get slightly dark earlier than that since you will be surrounded by mountains. I wouldn't say you can't go up to Dirang on this day, but I wouldn't do it because there are fair enough Hotels in Bomdila. It's a bigger town than Dirang. Considering driving in dark, it would cost you anything between 1.5-2Hrs of safe driving time to reach Dirang.

Skip the Zemithang part if you can't stay over. Even though you can do that loop in a single day I wouldn't say you should do it. And I think you might want to slow down a bit for a day after reaching Tawang since you will be doing two days of very long travel on both Day 2 and Day 3. But yeah, Zemithang is really a lovely calm place. If you would stay over, it's going to be kind of a rest day for you over there.

I know it doesn't workout this way for most, but if you feel you can wake up early the best time to start your journey will be around 6:00-6:30. The day starts early(around 5 in October mostly) because the longitude is far east of central and western India.

If I missed to answer something or you would need any more information please let me know.

Amal
#8 May 8th, 2013, 14:59
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  • shekhar.malik is offline
#8
Thanks. This is helping a lot

Yes, the basic idea is to actually enjoy the journey rather than just traveling from point-to-point

We can certainly start our journeys, especially on Day 1 and Day 2, by 6-6.30am given that the sunlight appears at 5am

(1) Do the hotels in Bomdila/ Dirang require pre-payment also or just pre-booking would do?

Zeminthang: Yes, I will include it the moment I have clarity that I can put 1 extra day in my itinerary

Just thinking out of the box for a while, is there any other overnight stopover apart from Bhalukpong and between Bhalukpong and Bomdila where I can end my Day 1? That should go a long way in joyfully exploring Rupa monastry and also enjoying the route along
#9 May 9th, 2013, 15:30
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#9
Every hotel on the way will need you to pay the room rent in advance. I generally go, by making the itinerary myself and asking some operator to book it as a package. It solves me a few troubles.

1. Transferring money to each hotels and the reliability issues in it.
2. In case of any delay for some reason in the middle the organizing guy takes the responsibility. Takes a lot of tension in these kind of routes.
3. In case of cancellation you will have a proper deal with one guy to get the money back. Hotel's unfortunately never payback properly.
4. Drivers are very messy in that region. So you will have someone to get things straight when they try and mess up. I saw two gangs tired of drivers when I was traveling.

On the expense side, it cost you additional 10% which the organizer will charge.

There wouldn't be any stop over before Bomdila. It wont be hectic even after enjoying the Rupa monastery.

Amal
#10 May 11th, 2013, 18:14
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  • shekhar.malik is offline
#10
Thanks Amal

(1) So I transfer money to my operator and he makes the bookings at hotels and also the cab for whatever 'x' no. of days?

(2) Can you give an estimate on when (how many weeks in advance of my actual travel dates?) I would have to "ask" my operator to get the bookings done i.e. "Sirji, I am transferring you the money, aap bookings kar do"

(3) Which place is Mr. Thupten Lobsang based out of?

Request providing the contact details (cell no., e-mail id) of Mr. Thupten Lobsang here or through message (as per forum rules)
#11 May 13th, 2013, 02:16
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  • Viny is offline
#11
Glad to find your thread, even i am planing to go Zemithang and if possible upto Nelya
Did you got special permit form Zemithang form DC office at Tawang or was it possible to get it on ILP?
What are other circuits available from Tawang?
#12 May 13th, 2013, 11:08
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  • amalp is offline
#12
Hi Shekhar,

1. Yes. Operator generally books the hotels and the vehicle.
2. I think it's going to be a bit of a season time in Arunachal when you are going. So as early as you do, I presume you get a better deal.
3. Lobsang is based out of Hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang in Tawang. I will PM you the number and email right away.

Amal
#13 May 13th, 2013, 12:50
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  • amalp is offline
#13
Hi Viny,

To go to Zemtinthang you wouldn't need any special pass. The ILP will do. The circuit from Tawang - Zeminthang - Sungester Tso - Tawang is gorgeous. If you are riding, then there are some other nice roads that I saw towards the east of Tawang as well which we didn't explore.

Have a great time exploring Tawang!

Amal
#14 Jul 27th, 2013, 22:10
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  • gayathriraman is offline
#14

suggestions for tawang trip

hi!
your thread was really helpful when we were planning our trip to tawang. we are travelling from guwahati-tawang around the same time, i.e., 4-12 of october 2013. our route is guwahat-tezpur-bomdila-tawang-dirang. on the retun we planned to go to kaziranga from dirang. but i am told that the park will be closed at that time. any suggestions for what we could do the two days we have left, i.e., 10 and 11th.
#15 Jul 29th, 2013, 14:10
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  • amalp is offline
#15
Hi Gayathriraman,


Thank you. Did you consider going to Majuli? Beautiful island. Worth spending a day there and one night sleep over. I didn't stay there but just spent the day.

Also I'm not sure of your complete itinerary. If you haven't added a day's stay/drive to Zeminthang you will be missing a wonderful route. So you could spend an additional day there if you haven't added that to the plan.

Amal

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