Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, comprehensive guide

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#1 Jul 12th, 2010, 21:11
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  • abhish1 is offline
#1
I won't go into huge details of my experience, but will rather try to keep this post as an advisory. I haven't found many places where you can get information about this place, as the place is still largely remote. indiamike’s people’s posts did help me, and I would like if this post becomes something to be referred to for people planning to go to Tawang. Standard disclaimers apply. There are a lot of changes happening so do keep in mind the time at which this post (or all other posts related to any destination) was created.

I have tried to make this post as exhaustive as possible, yet if there are queries that I can answer, I will be happy to. I am sure that many other members of this forum can help as well.


About North East and Arunachal Pradesh as a destination:
The north east is among the few remaining places in India that have dense Tropical Rainforests and an indigenous unspoilt tribal culture. Owing to its proximity and India’s war history with China, and to keep its culture from being diluted (to prevent outsiders to mix and settle with the indigenous population and the tribes) the Governments need to keep a tab on who is going in and keeping out. Hence there is a need of an inner line permit (ILP) for all travellers, whether Indian or Foreign nationals. If you are visiting any of the seven sisters’ states that share borders with other countries, you need to obtain a prior ILP. You don’t need an ILP if you are visiting Meghalaya or Assam, as Meghalaya only shares a boundary with Bangladesh and Assam doesn’t with any other country.
Arunachal Pradesh is still not a favoured tourist destination due to a lack of infrastructure and also due to the disinclination of the state Govt so far. But things are changing and at least the West Kameng district is opening up, and has developed a lot for tourism in the last 10 years. Still the place is years behind a place like Meghalaya, with Shillong a bustling and a thriving city.

Things to know before visiting Tawang:

1)Mobile network:
Only BSNL Postpaid works in the region. No other Postpaid connection works. Prepaid connection doesn’t even work in Assam. Other Postpaid connections work in Assam. So if you need to be connected while you are there, please don’t visit unless you have a postpaid BSNL connection. If you don’t have BSNL then be prepared to be disconnected from the point you leave Tezpur/Guwahati till you come back there.

2)Inner Line Permit:
Everyone who is entering Arunachal Pradesh needs to show the ILP at Bhalukpong (if entering by road) or at the Guwahati Airport (if using the helicopter). Presently ILP is available from these places (official site of AP Govt).

If you are an Indian, you can apply personally in advance for a 15 day inner line permit (easily extendable for 15 days) in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati or the places mentioned in Assam. Foreign nationals have to get it from Delhi.

The fee for Indian Nationals is 20 rs per person. You can get it within a few hours, or in worst case, within one day of applying. It will take much more time for foreign nationals. Do not go for agents, who charge in the range of 8000 Rs just to take your documents in advance and email or fax it to you. Get it done personally, or send your documents to someone you trust in these cities to get it done for you.

All DC offices of Arunachal Pradesh Govt, whether in Tezpur or Guwahati or anywhere they are present are closed on Sundays and Public holidays. You won’t get your ILP made on these days.

3)Helicopter:
There is a daily Pawan Hans helicopter flight available on weekdays from Guwahati to Tawang and back (for schedule click here). Earlier, prior booking was available, but due to various reasons it has been discontinued. Now you need to personally apply to the DC’s office and only if your name appears in the list then you can buy a one way ticket. For flights from Guwahati, only if you have the ILP, you need to apply at the airport (ask anyone about the Pawan Hans counter at the airport). The people there don’t work after 2 pm, and we had a harrowing experience because our flight landed at 2:15 and in spite of speaking to 2 men from the Airport one day before, nothing was done. So I suggest that you keep one day on hand if you want to take this route. In fact, I do not recommend helicopter at all. You can read why, here (my own post).
No return flights are booked whatsoever, so if you plan to return using helicopter, you need to apply to the DC’s office in Tawang. Even if you get your name on the list, you are still not guaranteed a seat, as VIPs and Army personnel are given priority over civilians, even if they arrive at the last minute. So I recommend you keep at least 2 days in hand for any bookings from Guwahati(Aeroplane, Rail or hotels). So that you can take the road route if the flight is cancelled due to bad weather or your seat is cancelled at the last moment due to VIPs (or their relatives)travelling.

4)Roads:
The road to Tawang is in a sorry state. But it is only because the single lane road from Bhalukpong to Tawang is being doubled, and according to localites it will take at least 2 years (late 2012) before it becomes worth travelling. The road to Madhuri Lake is equally bad, and to China border is worse. The roads in Tawang town are not that bad.

5)Hotel bookings:
If you are travelling by road (from Guwahati or Tezpur), a stopover is necessary. So call up any hotel in Bomdila or Dirang before commencing. You can find a list of hotels here or you can also ask your driver for recommendations. I recommend the Govt tourist lodge at Bomdila. Don’t pick expensive ones like Siphiyang Phong unless you plan to see Bomdila for a day. It is anyways not worth spending a day at Bomdila or Dirang, and most travellers only use the halt to rest for the night.
Similarly, Tawang has many hotels that you can book on phone. If you are pure veg, go for Buddha (1000 rs+ per night). You can also book the tourist lodge (600 rs per night).

For reviews of the hotels where we stayed, you can check my reviews here, here and here.

6)Travel Duration:
Keep at least 4 extra days in hand .Book your return flights from Guwahati or even hotels in Guwahati 4 days after the planned return date if you are going to try helicopters. If by good fortune you do get back as planned then you can visit other good places like Shillong (2 days), Kaziranga (1 day), Tezpur (1 day) and of course the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. If you are returning by road, then you can very well visit The Nameri Eco camp and Tiger reserve (rafting is on between Oct and March) for a day or two or Tezpur for a day.

You need at least 2 days to See Tawang properly. I recommend 3. You can do local Sightseeing including Tawang monastery in one day. You can visit Madhuri Lake and the destinations on the way in one day. If you plan to visit China border, you need one more day, and yes you need another Permit apart from your ILP from the Army Brigade. It is done easily if you have your ILP, but beware of holidays and Sundays, when you won’t get the counter sign from the Brigadier and the DC.

From Guwahati to Tawang by road takes 2 days including a halt, so for road travel, you should keep 2+3(Tawang sight seeing)+2+2 (contingency) days for a round trip from Guwahati.


About Tawang:

1)Climate
Harsh, cold climate once you reach Bomdila (by road). The best time to visit (recommended by many localites) is February, when the entire place is covered with snow. May is the time when the roads are open and you’ll get to see the bloom of flowers when visiting Madhuri Lake and the high lakes such as Sela lake and PTSO will not be frozen and there will be a lush greenery throughout the place.

2)Hotels
As mentioned before, Tawang has standard hotels. Don’t expect luxury, but almost all hotels will have attached bathroom with hot water, TV with Dish and decent bedding and food facilities. Few have room heaters. All the good hotels are located in the old market. Other good ones are located in Nehru market.
For a list of hotels with phone numbers, click here (AP Govt's site).

There is a new hotel coming up close to the town, which is being touted as "5 star" which will take 5 years to complete. We did see the foundation work going on there.

3)Food
Food is largely non veg (pork and cattle; don’t expect chicken, as chickens don’t survive in the cold, the only time you’d get chicken is when a fresh lot is transported from the plains below). Veg meals are available on demand in few hotels like Maa. If you order in advance though, veg meals are available in other hotels like the kitchen of Buddha hotel.

While travelling to and from the town, the drivers will stop at designated hotels. These hotels are basic but they give meals without having to wait. Typically all such roadside hotels follow the meal system, where you pay 40 rs for a veg meal (unlimited rotis, rice, dal and 2 vegetables) and higher for a non veg meal (around 80 rs). Again, although I am a veg, I found that the non veg people travelling with me found it extremely difficult to find chicken anywhere.

4)Transport
Helicopter is a straight forward business once you get in, as it takes only 1 hour to cover the entire distance.

I will mention two options (budget and convenience) when you take up the roads.

Budget:

The goal is to reach ISBT (bus terminal). If you are starting from Guwahati train station then you must travel to ISBT. I am sure many buses, autos and taxis are available to reach there.

From Guwahati airport, take the shuttle bus from Airport to city. This AC bus charges 85 rs for one ticket. If you are going to halt in Guwahati, then get off at Paltan Bazaar where there are best hotel options available. If you want to proceed directly, then get off at the road junction (just ask for the stop closest to ISBT) from where you can take a sharing jeep to ISBT. This terminal has lots of buses going to Tezpur. Don’t fall into the trap of agents who will say that the last bus has departed, or that the next bus is after 2 hours, to persuade you to take up their private vehicles. Instead walk straight to the ASTC counter and purchase tickets for Tezpur (120 rs a seat). This bus journey takes about 5 hours. ASTC buses don’t pack in people like sardines and they don’t halt unnecessarily to pack in more people like private buses. Also, the frequency is pretty good, almost one bus every half an hour.

If you reach ISBT at 5 in the morning, then there is a bus that leaves for Bomdila directly. It takes 13 hours, but it is only once a day and that too at a very inconvenient time. Perhaps it’s a good option for people staying near Guwahati.

Once you are in Tezpur, you can take a sharing Sumo from Tezpur bus stand to Bomdila. They charge anywhere from 250 (if you reach before 1130) to 330 (if you start late) per seat. They fit about 10 people in one Sumo so not convenient, but they take the least time. But whatever the case, do reach Bomdila well before 9 pm as these hill towns close by 8 pm. You can halt at one of the many budget accommodations at Bomdila.

Then from Bomdila you can take a sharing jeep again to Tawang. These start at 530 in the morning from Himalaya travels counter in the main market. It takes about 7 hours from there. There are only 2 jeeps daily so better to do a prior booking. If you miss these then you have to do a full jeep booking, which is very difficult to get in Bomdila. Do not halt at Dirang because no sharing jeeps start from there.

Sharing jeeps makes sense if the travellers are less in number.

Convenience:

From Guwahati, you can book an SUV the whole way to Tawang. I doubt if you’ll get one at the airport, so reach the city (Paltan Bazaar) from where you can book these SUVs. Always ask for a Spacio (last seat has much more leg space than Sumo). The charges for a Sumo and Spacio are about 10,000 rs for one way, including fuel and driver’s charge. If you halt (which you’ll have to do, please don’t risk your lives going all the way in one go), you’ll have to pay 500 rs extra to the driver (who will rest in the hotel’s dormitory). In season this rate goes up to 13,000 rs. Another reason why you should go for only a Sumo or Spacio is that any other vehicle such as a Bolero or a Xylo is very expensive. They charge a hefty 16,000 to 20,000 rs one way, which is ridiculously high, because (in the localites’ words) they don’t get passengers so easily for return trips.

This option makes sense if you are travelling in a group of 4-8 people. The max limit of a Sumo is 11, which makes it uncomfortable anyways.


5)Places to visit

While traveling to Tawang or while coming back, you can make a halt at Tezpur. It is the last northern Assam city that is the closest to Bhalukpong. Stay at one of the hotels of Tezpur if you want a halt. Tezpur has many hotels of all budget. We stayed at a slightly expensive KRC Palace (my review here) but we stayed because our ILP wasn’t done and we made it from Tezpur itself. Tezpur is a good place to see for one day with its historic temples, Agnigarh and many magnificent views of the mighty Brahmaputra river.

While in Tawang, you can visit:

1) Jung falls including Tawang local sightseeing:
Standard places like War memorial, Tawang Monastery, Tibetan Emporium (expensive place to buy normal stuff). Tawang monastery is the 2nd largest and the 3rd oldest monastery in the world. It is 2nd only to the original one in Lhasa, which is sadly being neglected by the Chinese.
Do take an excursion to Jung falls. It is about 35 kms from the town and is beautiful. This is where the famous scenes in Koyla were shot.
A local sight seeing trip should cost you about 600-700 rs in a small car, and including Jung falls it will be around 2200 rs.

2) Madhuri lake:
The Shungetser is a lake that was formed in the valley of the pastures when due to a flash storm a part of a mountain broke off and the rocks formed a natural dam at the meeting point of 4 streams in 1970. After Koyla, localites began calling this Madhuri lake. This beautiful place is close to the Chinese border and few mountains of China can be seen. It has a small cafeteria run by the military during summer tourist season where they make maggi/momos/tea/coffee. The military has put considerable effort in developing this place. Do not forget to take your ILPs with you because they check it along the way. Also, do not take pictures or videos along the route as it is a sensitive area and I have heard of cases where the tourists were forced to show what they have shot lest they destroy the equipment. One can obviously shoot the beautiful PTso and NaguLa lake on the way. There have been cases of cheating by the taxi drivers where they charge full amount (about 3000 rs for the trip) but take the travellers only to an intermediate lake (PTso or NaguLa), claiming it to be Madhuri lake. Don't be fooled, although they are beautiful, they are only half the way. Madhuri lake will have a board of "Shungetser", and a few tree stumps poking from the middle of the lake.

1 whole day for this trip that should cost about 3000 rs per small car.

3) China border:
Although we didn't go to this place, we travelled back to Guwahati with a couple of ladies who did. From their description and their pictures, this seemed like a highly sensitive area. They show you the place where leaders and representatives from both countries convene from time to time.
As mentioned before, the road to this place is horrible and you need an additional permit from the DC and the brigadier in Tawang.

Another day trip that will cost you upwards of 3000 rs, and has most of the route common with Madhuri lake.


Finally, I will recommend this place if you want to visit some off beaten part of the country and are ready to leave a little luxury behind. It is a quaint, peaceful, remote town that still preserves a Buddhist identity and yet has conveniences (such as a cyber cafe) for the traveller. I do not recommend this place for a weekend or a short trip. I also do not recommend this place for getting to know the tribal life of Arunachal, as for that you will have to visit other parts of Arunachal in dangerous trips. Some other parts of Arunachal Pradesh that usually researchers and documentary makers visit are ziro, along, pasighat and daporijo.
#2 Jul 16th, 2010, 11:01
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  • Sujoy is offline
#2
Thks very useful post
#3 Jul 19th, 2010, 18:05
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  • dr_abhishekverma is offline
#3

Trip to tawang

Dear Abhish,

I am planning to go to tawang in october and slightly confused about the travel plan, please can you suggest me how to plan my trip from guwahati. i have booked my train tickets and reaching guwahati on 2 nd morning (2 oct).
my tentative plan is

delhi - guwahati - tezpur - bhalukpong - bomdila - dirang - tawang - delhi.

please suggest which places should i stay and how do i travel.
#4 Jul 20th, 2010, 03:12
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  • abhish1 is offline
#4
Hi,

Your itinerary is fine except there is no need for halting at Bhalukpong and Dirang while going. Perhaps you meant halting at Dirang while coming back? Which places to see depends on how many days you have in hand and whether you take a full Sumo or sharing ones. I'll suggest some places based on what I saw and liked.

Delhi-Guwahati. Since it is by train, it shouldn't be too hectic, but you will require rest as it is a long journey and not by flight. You can stay at any of the hotels of Paltan Bazar (right outside the station) for a day and visit Kamakhya Temple on the same day after some rest. The next day you can leave early and proceed to Bomdila directly without stopping at Tezpur.

If you don't want to waste a day in Guwahati then I suggest as soon as you reach Guwahati station, proceed to Tezpur. It is a 5 hour drive. If you are not hiring a full Sumo then you'll have to proceed to ISBT and then catch a bus to Tezpur. If you are hiring a full Sumo, then hire it for all the way to Tawang. They will charge about 10000-13000 rs for the journey plus 500 rs for a halt. Tezpur has many good hotels to spend the day. Some of them (with positive reviews) are KF palace, KRC Palace and Grand city. If you have booked a full Sumo then you can stop wherever you like, otherwise stay at KRC Palace as it is the nearest to Tezpur bus stand, from where you get sharing Sumos towards Bomdila. You can rest for the rest of the day there and also get your ILPs done if you haven't already. Since you are in Delhi, I suggest you get your ILP done from Delhi itself.
Also, while in Tezpur you can visit some local places like Agnigarh and the temples that are nearby.
I don't recommend getting out of Tezpur in the evening/night as the road is in a bad state.

If you have a full Sumo then start as early as possible next day then proceed to Dirang directly (7 hours from Tezpur). Remember that Bhalukpong is just a checkpost town for checking ILPs on the way, which is about 2 hours from Tezpur. No need to stop at Bomdila. But if you are taking the sharing Sumo from Tezpur then halt at Bomdila and not at Dirang. As you will get connecting sharing Sumo only from Bomdila (not from Dirang).

There is nothing to see in Dirang. There is a "natural hot water bath" there but I have first hand reports from travellers who didn't like it at all. They said it was very tiring to cover the distance on foot and the water wasn't even hot. So You can start early and proceed to Tawang (about 6 hours from Dirang).
Again, if you have booked a full Sumo then you can ask the driver to stop at Jaswant Garh memorial and Jung falls before reaching Tawang. If you are going via sharing then they won't stop at these places. If you are taking sharing from Bomdila, you'll have to leave at 6 in the morning and should have preferably prior booking of sharing seats.

Once in Tawang, you can spend 2 days, putting up at one of Buddha, Shangrila or any other hotel in the main market. You will take one half day to cover the monastery and other local places.
The next day you should go to Madhuri lake and cover PTso and Nagu La on the way.
I do not recommend China border but if you are adventurous you can take another day at Tawang.

While coming back you can halt at Bomdila or Dirang. Again, if it is sharing then Bomdila, if full vehicle then Bomdila or Dirang. The next day you will reach Tezpur. If you have a day in hand then you can halt at Nameri eco camp (about an hour before reaching Tezpur) and do some river rafting or safari instead of coming to Tezpur. Alternatively you can visit Kaziranga, which is about 2 hours drive from Tezpur.

If you don't have a day in hand then I suggest that you proceed to Guwahati all the way from Bomdila/Dirang. It will be a 12 hour journey but at least it won't be as tiring as going up. The roads in Assam are much better (NH).


So in short,
If hiring Full sumo from Guwahati, you have 2 options:

1> Proceed directly to Tezpur on the same day and halt at Tezpur. Next morning to Dirang. Next morning to Tawang.
2> Rest at Guwahati. Next morning all the way to Bomdila. Next morning to Tawang.


If going to hire sharing sumo,

Proceed to ISBT in Guwahati on the same day, take the bus to Tezpur. Rest.
Next morning, take sharing Sumo to Bomdila. Rest. Next morning, sharing to Tawang.


How many members are travelling?
#5 Aug 24th, 2010, 17:38
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  • WBUAFS is offline
#5
dr_abhishekverma

Pls help me about my trip and which is better public transport or hire private taxi from guwahati to guwahati.
Secondly the cost of hire taxi

Day 1: Saraighat exp. from Howrah station

Day 2: Reach Guwahati and drive to Tezpur/ Bhalukpong for an overnight stay

Day 3: Drive to Dirang. Enroute visit Tipi Orchid Centre, a glass house with over 7,500 Orchids and Shertukpen tribal village at Rupa

Day 4: Drive to Tawang, enroute visit sela pass. overnight stay in hotel

Day 5: Full day visit to Tawang Monastery which is more than 350 ears old. Also visit Ani Gonpa monastery of Nuns and typical Tawang Monpa tribal village

Day 6: Full day at Tawang, visit birth place of H.H. the 6th Dalai Lama, Penga Teng Tso Lake and Crafts Emporium centre which produces very fine woolen carpets and Tawang Memorial

Day 7: Drive to Bomdila. See waterfalls in Jang, also visit Indo-China war memorial at Jaswant garh

Day 8: Drive to Guwahati.

Day 9: Saraighat exp. from Guwahati station

Day 10: Reach Howrah station

waiting for ur reply soon.
#6 Oct 5th, 2010, 13:32
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  • WBUAFS is offline
#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by abhish1 View Post I won't go into huge details of my experience, but will rather try to keep this post as an advisory. I haven't found many places where you can get information about this place, as the place is still largely remote. indiamikeís peopleís posts did help me, and I would like if this post becomes something to be referred to for people planning to go to Tawang. Standard disclaimers apply. There are a lot of changes happening so do keep in mind the time at which this post (or all other posts related to any destination) was created.

I have tried to make this post as exhaustive as possible, yet if there are queries that I can answer, I will be happy to. I am sure that many other members of this forum can help as well.


About North East and Arunachal Pradesh as a destination:
The north east is among the few remaining places in India that have dense Tropical Rainforests and an indigenous unspoilt tribal culture. Owing to its proximity and Indiaís war history with China, and to keep its culture from being diluted (to prevent outsiders to mix and settle with the indigenous population and the tribes) the Governments need to keep a tab on who is going in and keeping out. Hence there is a need of an inner line permit (ILP) for all travellers, whether Indian or Foreign nationals. If you are visiting any of the seven sistersí states that share borders with other countries, you need to obtain a prior ILP. You donít need an ILP if you are visiting Meghalaya or Assam, as Meghalaya only shares a boundary with Bangladesh and Assam doesnít with any other country.
Arunachal Pradesh is still not a favoured tourist destination due to a lack of infrastructure and also due to the disinclination of the state Govt so far. But things are changing and at least the West Kameng district is opening up, and has developed a lot for tourism in the last 10 years. Still the place is years behind a place like Meghalaya, with Shillong a bustling and a thriving city.

Things to know before visiting Tawang:

1)Mobile network:
Only BSNL Postpaid works in the region. No other Postpaid connection works. Prepaid connection doesnít even work in Assam. Other Postpaid connections work in Assam. So if you need to be connected while you are there, please donít visit unless you have a postpaid BSNL connection. If you donít have BSNL then be prepared to be disconnected from the point you leave Tezpur/Guwahati till you come back there.

2)Inner Line Permit:
Everyone who is entering Arunachal Pradesh needs to show the ILP at Bhalukpong (if entering by road) or at the Guwahati Airport (if using the helicopter). Presently ILP is available from these places (official site of AP Govt).

If you are an Indian, you can apply personally in advance for a 15 day inner line permit (easily extendable for 15 days) in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati or the places mentioned in Assam. Foreign nationals have to get it from Delhi.

The fee for Indian Nationals is 20 rs per person. You can get it within a few hours, or in worst case, within one day of applying. It will take much more time for foreign nationals. Do not go for agents, who charge in the range of 8000 Rs just to take your documents in advance and email or fax it to you. Get it done personally, or send your documents to someone you trust in these cities to get it done for you.

All DC offices of Arunachal Pradesh Govt, whether in Tezpur or Guwahati or anywhere they are present are closed on Sundays and Public holidays. You wonít get your ILP made on these days.

3)Helicopter:
There is a daily Pawan Hans helicopter flight available on weekdays from Guwahati to Tawang and back (for schedule click here). Earlier, prior booking was available, but due to various reasons it has been discontinued. Now you need to personally apply to the DCís office and only if your name appears in the list then you can buy a one way ticket. For flights from Guwahati, only if you have the ILP, you need to apply at the airport (ask anyone about the Pawan Hans counter at the airport). The people there donít work after 2 pm, and we had a harrowing experience because our flight landed at 2:15 and in spite of speaking to 2 men from the Airport one day before, nothing was done. So I suggest that you keep one day on hand if you want to take this route. In fact, I do not recommend helicopter at all. You can read why, here (my own post).
No return flights are booked whatsoever, so if you plan to return using helicopter, you need to apply to the DCís office in Tawang. Even if you get your name on the list, you are still not guaranteed a seat, as VIPs and Army personnel are given priority over civilians, even if they arrive at the last minute. So I recommend you keep at least 2 days in hand for any bookings from Guwahati(Aeroplane, Rail or hotels). So that you can take the road route if the flight is cancelled due to bad weather or your seat is cancelled at the last moment due to VIPs (or their relatives)travelling.

4)Roads:
The road to Tawang is in a sorry state. But it is only because the single lane road from Bhalukpong to Tawang is being doubled, and according to localites it will take at least 2 years (late 2012) before it becomes worth travelling. The road to Madhuri Lake is equally bad, and to China border is worse. The roads in Tawang town are not that bad.

5)Hotel bookings:
If you are travelling by road (from Guwahati or Tezpur), a stopover is necessary. So call up any hotel in Bomdila or Dirang before commencing. You can find a list of hotels here or you can also ask your driver for recommendations. I recommend the Govt tourist lodge at Bomdila. Donít pick expensive ones like Siphiyang Phong unless you plan to see Bomdila for a day. It is anyways not worth spending a day at Bomdila or Dirang, and most travellers only use the halt to rest for the night.
Similarly, Tawang has many hotels that you can book on phone. If you are pure veg, go for Buddha (1000 rs+ per night). You can also book the tourist lodge (600 rs per night).

For reviews of the hotels where we stayed, you can check my reviews here, here and here.

6)Travel Duration:
Keep at least 4 extra days in hand .Book your return flights from Guwahati or even hotels in Guwahati 4 days after the planned return date if you are going to try helicopters. If by good fortune you do get back as planned then you can visit other good places like Shillong (2 days), Kaziranga (1 day), Tezpur (1 day) and of course the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. If you are returning by road, then you can very well visit The Nameri Eco camp and Tiger reserve (rafting is on between Oct and March) for a day or two or Tezpur for a day.

You need at least 2 days to See Tawang properly. I recommend 3. You can do local Sightseeing including Tawang monastery in one day. You can visit Madhuri Lake and the destinations on the way in one day. If you plan to visit China border, you need one more day, and yes you need another Permit apart from your ILP from the Army Brigade. It is done easily if you have your ILP, but beware of holidays and Sundays, when you wonít get the counter sign from the Brigadier and the DC.

From Guwahati to Tawang by road takes 2 days including a halt, so for road travel, you should keep 2+3(Tawang sight seeing)+2+2 (contingency) days for a round trip from Guwahati.


About Tawang:

1)Climate
Harsh, cold climate once you reach Bomdila (by road). The best time to visit (recommended by many localites) is February, when the entire place is covered with snow. May is the time when the roads are open and youíll get to see the bloom of flowers when visiting Madhuri Lake and the high lakes such as Sela lake and PTSO will not be frozen and there will be a lush greenery throughout the place.

2)Hotels
As mentioned before, Tawang has standard hotels. Donít expect luxury, but almost all hotels will have attached bathroom with hot water, TV with Dish and decent bedding and food facilities. Few have room heaters. All the good hotels are located in the old market. Other good ones are located in Nehru market.
For a list of hotels with phone numbers, click here (AP Govt's site).

There is a new hotel coming up close to the town, which is being touted as "5 star" which will take 5 years to complete. We did see the foundation work going on there.

3)Food
Food is largely non veg (pork and cattle; donít expect chicken, as chickens donít survive in the cold, the only time youíd get chicken is when a fresh lot is transported from the plains below). Veg meals are available on demand in few hotels like Maa. If you order in advance though, veg meals are available in other hotels like the kitchen of Buddha hotel.

While travelling to and from the town, the drivers will stop at designated hotels. These hotels are basic but they give meals without having to wait. Typically all such roadside hotels follow the meal system, where you pay 40 rs for a veg meal (unlimited rotis, rice, dal and 2 vegetables) and higher for a non veg meal (around 80 rs). Again, although I am a veg, I found that the non veg people travelling with me found it extremely difficult to find chicken anywhere.

4)Transport
Helicopter is a straight forward business once you get in, as it takes only 1 hour to cover the entire distance.

I will mention two options (budget and convenience) when you take up the roads.

Budget:

The goal is to reach ISBT (bus terminal). If you are starting from Guwahati train station then you must travel to ISBT. I am sure many buses, autos and taxis are available to reach there.

From Guwahati airport, take the shuttle bus from Airport to city. This AC bus charges 85 rs for one ticket. If you are going to halt in Guwahati, then get off at Paltan Bazaar where there are best hotel options available. If you want to proceed directly, then get off at the road junction (just ask for the stop closest to ISBT) from where you can take a sharing jeep to ISBT. This terminal has lots of buses going to Tezpur. Donít fall into the trap of agents who will say that the last bus has departed, or that the next bus is after 2 hours, to persuade you to take up their private vehicles. Instead walk straight to the ASTC counter and purchase tickets for Tezpur (120 rs a seat). This bus journey takes about 5 hours. ASTC buses donít pack in people like sardines and they donít halt unnecessarily to pack in more people like private buses. Also, the frequency is pretty good, almost one bus every half an hour.

If you reach ISBT at 5 in the morning, then there is a bus that leaves for Bomdila directly. It takes 13 hours, but it is only once a day and that too at a very inconvenient time. Perhaps itís a good option for people staying near Guwahati.

Once you are in Tezpur, you can take a sharing Sumo from Tezpur bus stand to Bomdila. They charge anywhere from 250 (if you reach before 1130) to 330 (if you start late) per seat. They fit about 10 people in one Sumo so not convenient, but they take the least time. But whatever the case, do reach Bomdila well before 9 pm as these hill towns close by 8 pm. You can halt at one of the many budget accommodations at Bomdila.

Then from Bomdila you can take a sharing jeep again to Tawang. These start at 530 in the morning from Himalaya travels counter in the main market. It takes about 7 hours from there. There are only 2 jeeps daily so better to do a prior booking. If you miss these then you have to do a full jeep booking, which is very difficult to get in Bomdila. Do not halt at Dirang because no sharing jeeps start from there.

Sharing jeeps makes sense if the travellers are less in number.

Convenience:

From Guwahati, you can book an SUV the whole way to Tawang. I doubt if youíll get one at the airport, so reach the city (Paltan Bazaar) from where you can book these SUVs. Always ask for a Spacio (last seat has much more leg space than Sumo). The charges for a Sumo and Spacio are about 10,000 rs for one way, including fuel and driverís charge. If you halt (which youíll have to do, please donít risk your lives going all the way in one go), youíll have to pay 500 rs extra to the driver (who will rest in the hotelís dormitory). In season this rate goes up to 13,000 rs. Another reason why you should go for only a Sumo or Spacio is that any other vehicle such as a Bolero or a Xylo is very expensive. They charge a hefty 16,000 to 20,000 rs one way, which is ridiculously high, because (in the localitesí words) they donít get passengers so easily for return trips.

This option makes sense if you are travelling in a group of 4-8 people. The max limit of a Sumo is 11, which makes it uncomfortable anyways.


5)Places to visit

While traveling to Tawang or while coming back, you can make a halt at Tezpur. It is the last northern Assam city that is the closest to Bhalukpong. Stay at one of the hotels of Tezpur if you want a halt. Tezpur has many hotels of all budget. We stayed at a slightly expensive KRC Palace (my review here) but we stayed because our ILP wasnít done and we made it from Tezpur itself. Tezpur is a good place to see for one day with its historic temples, Agnigarh and many magnificent views of the mighty Brahmaputra river.

While in Tawang, you can visit:

1) Jung falls including Tawang local sightseeing:
Standard places like War memorial, Tawang Monastery, Tibetan Emporium (expensive place to buy normal stuff). Tawang monastery is the 2nd largest and the 3rd oldest monastery in the world. It is 2nd only to the original one in Lhasa, which is sadly being neglected by the Chinese.
Do take an excursion to Jung falls. It is about 35 kms from the town and is beautiful. This is where the famous scenes in Koyla were shot.
A local sight seeing trip should cost you about 600-700 rs in a small car, and including Jung falls it will be around 2200 rs.

2) Madhuri lake:
The Shungetser is a lake that was formed in the valley of the pastures when due to a flash storm a part of a mountain broke off and the rocks formed a natural dam at the meeting point of 4 streams in 1970. After Koyla, localites began calling this Madhuri lake. This beautiful place is close to the Chinese border and few mountains of China can be seen. It has a small cafeteria run by the military during summer tourist season where they make maggi/momos/tea/coffee. The military has put considerable effort in developing this place. Do not forget to take your ILPs with you because they check it along the way. Also, do not take pictures or videos along the route as it is a sensitive area and I have heard of cases where the tourists were forced to show what they have shot lest they destroy the equipment. One can obviously shoot the beautiful PTso and NaguLa lake on the way. There have been cases of cheating by the taxi drivers where they charge full amount (about 3000 rs for the trip) but take the travellers only to an intermediate lake (PTso or NaguLa), claiming it to be Madhuri lake. Don't be fooled, although they are beautiful, they are only half the way. Madhuri lake will have a board of "Shungetser", and a few tree stumps poking from the middle of the lake.

1 whole day for this trip that should cost about 3000 rs per small car.

3) China border:
Although we didn't go to this place, we travelled back to Guwahati with a couple of ladies who did. From their description and their pictures, this seemed like a highly sensitive area. They show you the place where leaders and representatives from both countries convene from time to time.
As mentioned before, the road to this place is horrible and you need an additional permit from the DC and the brigadier in Tawang.

Another day trip that will cost you upwards of 3000 rs, and has most of the route common with Madhuri lake.


Finally, I will recommend this place if you want to visit some off beaten part of the country and are ready to leave a little luxury behind. It is a quaint, peaceful, remote town that still preserves a Buddhist identity and yet has conveniences (such as a cyber cafe) for the traveller. I do not recommend this place for a weekend or a short trip. I also do not recommend this place for getting to know the tribal life of Arunachal, as for that you will have to visit other parts of Arunachal in dangerous trips. Some other parts of Arunachal Pradesh that usually researchers and documentary makers visit are ziro, along, pasighat and daporijo.
Dear Abish1
I am plan to travel tawang in Dec. 2010. My tour plan is below:
Day 1: Saraighat exp. at 4 P.M. from Howrah station

Day 2: Reach Guwahati and drive to Tezpur for an overnight stay

Day 3: Drive to Bomdila.

Day 4: Drive to Tawang enroute visit sela pass. overnight stay in hotel

Day 5: Full day visit to Tawang Monastery which is more than 350 ears old. Also visit Ani Gonpa monastery of Nuns and typical Tawang Monpa tribal village

Day 6: Full day at Tawang, visit birth place of H.H. the 6th Dalai Lama, Penga Teng Tso Lake and Crafts Emporium centre which produces very fine woolen carpets and Tawang Memorial

Day 7: Drive to Bomdila. See waterfalls in Jang, also visit Indo-China war memorial at Jaswant garh

Day 8: Drive to Guwahati.

Day 9: Saraighat exp. at 12:45 P.M. from Guwahati station

Day 10: Reach Howrah station 5:10 AM

Pls tell me the cost of Bus/taxi fare of Guwahati to Tezpur, Tawang to Bomdila and Bomdila to Guwahati.
Secondly the fare(Cab) of local sightseen mentioned above at tawang
And any Budget Hotel at Tezpur, Bomdila (Cost Double bed and four bed)
About the process of ILP(Inner Line Permit) (cost per person)
And any contact number for this purpose.
Thanking you
#7 Nov 23rd, 2010, 02:04
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  • wannafrn is offline
#7
me with my 6 frinds planning for a trip to tawang starting from 23rd dec2010 from guwahati...plese give us a liitle tour prgramme...
my planning as follows..
1. 23-12-2010/from guwahati start at 11am by sumo..
2.i think around 5 we cross tezpur..
3.went to bhalukpong and night stay there .
4.24-12-2010/early morning will start for bomdial.
5.around nooon we shall get ther..
6.no halting there.proceed for tawang.
7.within evening can rach tawang.
8.25-12-2010/full day at tawang
9.25-12-2010/full dat at tawang
10.26-12-2010/back to dirang and then bomdila n nigth saty there.
11.27-12-2010/early morning back to tezpur nad guwahati

is dis ok?...plz suggest me..anticipating ur reply soon.
also
1.will lucky enough to c snow fall then?
2.how is the road?
3.does we need more days?
Last edited by aarosh; Dec 27th, 2017 at 22:03..
#8 Dec 9th, 2010, 01:51
Join Date:
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  • abhish1 is offline
#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannafrn View Post me with my 6 frinds planning for a trip to tawang starting from 23rd dec2010 from guwahati...plese give us a liitle tour prgramme...
my planning as follows..
1. 23-12-2010/from guwahati start at 11am by sumo..
2.i think around 5 we cross tezpur..
3.went to bhalukpong and night stay there .
4.24-12-2010/early morning will start for bomdial.
5.around nooon we shall get ther..
6.no halting there.proceed for tawang.
7.within evening can rach tawang.
8.25-12-2010/full day at tawang
9.25-12-2010/full dat at tawang
10.26-12-2010/back to dirang and then bomdila n nigth saty there.
11.27-12-2010/early morning back to tezpur nad guwahati

is dis ok?...plz suggest me..anticipating ur reply soon.
also
1.will lucky enough to c snow fall then?
2.how is the road?
3.does we need more days?
It is ok. Just take care that a non stop drive from Bhalukpong to Tawang takes about 11 hours in normal conditions. So you might want to take a break at dirang while going. If you are lucky then you will see snow.

The road isn't good so it is not a smooth ride, but the army ensures continuous movement.

Yes please keep at least one more day in hand, in case of unforeseen bad weather etc
Last edited by aarosh; Dec 27th, 2017 at 22:03..
#9 Dec 10th, 2010, 00:49
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  • wannafrn is offline
#9
thankz....we hv already thought it..so we will stay at dirang on 24th....den we will hv a extra day...thnkz again
#10 Sep 16th, 2011, 22:39
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  • manishrvarma is offline
#10

Thanks alot!

Oh God, You gave all the info one requires in your post. Thanks alot
#11 Feb 2nd, 2012, 23:52
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  • Florinad is offline
#11
Hi,
Please do you know a place in Assam where I could buy only 2 Restricted Area Permits (without the tour) The travell agency contacted told they will provide the Permit only if I buy their Tour who is very very expensive.
#12 Feb 3rd, 2012, 02:38
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  • abhish1 is offline
#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Florinad View Post Hi,
Please do you know a place in Assam where I could buy only 2 Restricted Area Permits (without the tour) The travell agency contacted told they will provide the Permit only if I buy their Tour who is very very expensive.
Hi,
For foreign Nationals as far as I remember, you can get RAP only at Delhi. There is a post in this section by someone whom I can't seem to recollect who has given details about RAP. Try searching about Restricted Area Permits.

Everything I mentioned is about ILPs for Indian Nationals.
#13 Feb 3rd, 2012, 02:42
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  • abhish1 is offline
#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by manishrvarma View Post Oh God, You gave all the info one requires in your post. Thanks alot
You are welcome
I hope to promote offbeat tourism in India
#14 Feb 3rd, 2012, 14:28
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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  • theyyamdancer is offline
#14
@ Florinad,

You may try contacting the travel agent who secured RAPs for myself and my husband (in March 2009 trip to Arunachal Pradesh). He is Basant GIRI, at REN Tours and Treks (based in Delhi). His phone number is 91 98103 52728 * and I have recommended him in my trip reports which you can easily find in Arunachal Pradesh forum.



* Tel: +91 11 2336 3836 / 4355 3116 / 4355 3117
Mobile: +91 98103 52728
#15 Feb 5th, 2012, 04:44
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Nov 2011
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Chennai
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  • Mayura is offline
#15

Talking

Hi,
We two guys, Indians from Chennai, plan to ride to Tawang from Guwahati by 350cc RE Bullet Motorcycle by 7th March 2012 with a post paid BSNL mobile phone. IF the weather would be harsh, we are planning to take share sumos or if some other travelers are willing to accommodate us in their vehicle (own or hired), we are happy to share the cost. We will be arriving at Guwahati on March 4th and plan to ride up to March 6th In Meghalaya. Kindly keep us informed of your plans, if any. Thanking you in advance.
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