Tawang circuit + Ziro + Majuli trip report

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#1 May 5th, 2014, 15:50
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#1
Thanks to IMers here for your help at various times when planning and while traveling. I just returned yesterday and had a great time overall.
We had to tweak our 2nd leg of the Central Arunachal trip due to problems with the permit and our tiredness from the long car rides. Our
original plan for the second leg was to go from Ziro - Dapo - Along - Pasighat - Dibrugarh but we changed it to Ziro - Majuli - Dibrugarh with
an extra day spent at Ziro. Our final itinerary, accommodation and travel details are as follows. My trip report will follow.

Itinerary:
Group 1 + Group 2


Day 1: Arrive Guwahati pre-noon. Drive to Bhalukpong.
Hotel Kameng Inn: AC Deluxe room - (Rs.1500/night)
Rs. 100/person for the Tawang permit

Day 2: Bhalukpong - Dirang
Awoo resort: Deluxe room - River facing (Rs. 2000/night)

Day 3: Dirang - Tawang
Dolmakhangsar guest house: Suite (Rs. 2350/night)

Day 4: Tawang

Day 5: Tawang - Bum La pass - Tawang

Scorpio + permit (Rs. 6000)

Day 6: Tawang - Bomdila
Lungta Residency: Executive room (Rs. 1450/night)

Day 7: Bomdila

Day 8: Bomdila - Nameri
Jia Bhorelli Wild Resort (Rs. 1500/night)

Day 9: Nameri
River Rafting on Jia Borelli (Vehicle + permit + Rafting - Rs. 2750 for 5)
Jungle walk (Rs. 450 for 3 including permit and armed escort)

Group 1:
Day 10: Nameri - Guwahati

We hired a Xylo for Rs. 4500/day Guwahati - Guwahati for 10 days with Rajib (Raju) Choudhury driving.

Group 2
Day 9: Nameri - Itanagar
Hotel Arun Subansiri (Rs. 1500 + 10% service tax/night)
Rs. 3500 for an Indigo
Rs. 300 for 2 for the Itanagar + Ziro permit

Day 10: Itanagar - Ziro
Abasa Homestay (Rs.1000/person/night) - Includes breakfast and dinner

Day 11: Ziro
Apatani tribal tour (Rs. 2000 for hatchback + Rs. 1000 for guide)

Day 12: Ziro

Day 13: Ziro

Day 14: Ziro - Majuli
Ziro - N Lakhimpur/Laluk Junction (Rs. 250/person - Shared Sumo) -
Laluk (Rs. 20/person - Shared Tata Magic) - Bohanbora (Rs.
20/person) - Dhunajuri ghat (Rs. 20/person) - Majuli (Rs. 20/person -
Ferry) - Garamaur (Rs. 50/person - Shared Sumo)
La Maison de Ananda - Bamboo hut (Rs. 800/night)

Day 15: Majuli
Visited the Satras (Sumo - Rs. 1800)

Day 16: Majuli - Sivasagar (Visited Talatal, Rang Ghar & Shiv Dol) - Dibrugarh
Garamaur - Kamalabari ghat (Rs. 15/person - Bus) - Neamati Ghat (Rs.
20/person - Ferry) - Sivasagar,Dibrugarh (Indigo - Rs. 3000)
Hotel Devika (Rs. 1180/night)

Day 17: Depart from Dibrugarh (Flight)
Airport drop from hotel on hatchback - Rs. 650
Last edited by schumifactor; May 5th, 2014 at 20:47..
#2 May 5th, 2014, 15:58
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#2
Carry on waiting for the photos
#3 May 5th, 2014, 17:03
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Have taken close to 2000 photos :-) Currently sorting them and will post soon.
#4 May 5th, 2014, 17:09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schumifactor View Post Have taken close to 2000 photos :-) ..

17 days in an awesome place ..... obvious !!!!!

Well, we must wait for the sorted best ones.
aamar payer tolai sorshe...(I have wheels under my feet)
#5 May 5th, 2014, 17:23
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Here is a sneak peak of the paddy fields at Ziro captured through my mobile phone. The unique thing about these fields, as you may have already heard, is that they also rear fish here. They place bamboo fences at excess water outlets to prevent the fish from slipping out.

#6 May 5th, 2014, 17:37
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And this is the Bamboo hut we stayed at in La Maison de Ananda (the house of happiness), Garmur, Majuli modeled on the traditional
dwelling of the local Mising tribe. This was a beautiful place to stay built by French architect Jim Chauvinin in 2005. It is now managed
by Danny Gam who has built similar huts right next to this one. There are also a couple more places in the island with similar bamboo huts.
The toliet/bath area is on the left with a separate bamboo door with a water pump to fill buckets with water and an Indian style toliet.

You can read more about how this was built here

#7 May 5th, 2014, 17:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schumifactor View Post And this is the Bamboo hut we stayed at in La Maison de Ananda (the house of happiness), Garmur, Majuli modeled on the traditional
dwelling of the local Mising tribe. ...
We visited the hut, but didn't stay. It was just evening .... we entered the hut complex and had a visit around ... yes, I liked the place.

Nice photos.
#8 May 5th, 2014, 18:22
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Thanks Durontoji. You should stay in one of these next time. We loved sitting in the diwan outside sipping tea and watching the rain pour while reading a book. It felt so very peaceful here although the first night spooked us with the sound of the reptiles and insects around
#9 May 5th, 2014, 22:48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schumifactor View Post ... sitting in the diwan outside sipping tea and watching the rain pour while reading a book. ...
#10 May 10th, 2014, 09:31
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Day 1 Guwahati - Bhalukpong

We planned our trip as usual :-) scraping through the posts at Indiamike and Tripadvisor. One difference I found was that not many tourists, who are also active at online forums, travel to Arunachal. So although there was a wealth of information on Indiamike, most of it was dated. And I do appreciate amalp and others who replied to my various queries here.

A couple of days before we left, I realized that we will be reaching the checkpost at Bhalukpong (where on the spot permits are issued for the Tawang sector) only late in the evening as our flight to Guwahati arrived at noon. The officer who issues permits at Bhalukpong leaves by 4 PM. So got in touch with Raju Choudhury (our host/driver for the first leg) who asked me to email him copies of our ID proof and photos and will get the permit done through an agent in Guwahati he knows.

We reached Guwahati airport in 2 groups from different locations and left with Raju headed towards Bhalukpong. We were informed that the previous day was Bihu (major festival in Assam) and the Arunachal permit offices in Guwahati were closed. So the permits could not be done. We also realized that our bookings at Hotel Solu were at Upper Bhalukpong (Arunachal side) past the check post. The Assam tourism run Prasanthi Cottages (on the Assam side of the checkpost) were not available and so we had booked there. Were in a real fix but Raju assured that tourists can also get it done at the residence of the permit officer.

My eyes lit up at the prospect of lunch. Being from Bangalore and headed to those parts, fish had to taste so much better :-) Gorged on a local Phangwan fish (medium sized fish with lots of thorns) curry with steamed rice at the Cafe Embrosia, Orange Resort at Sonapur (NH 37).

We reached Bhalukpong check post late in the evening. We met with the owner of Hotel Solu and he took us to Hotel Kameng Inn. Apparently, Solu was full and they did not have AC rooms. Not sure why they said they had them available at Solu when we booked and transferred a Rs. 500 advance. The Kameng river view at Solu was so much better compared to Kameng Inn although Kameng Inn did have a common balcony at their top floor with a river view. We paid the owner of Solu Rs. 500 for 5 of us to get the Tawang permits done.

We then had our first encounter with insects and reptiles at the hotel and were aghast initially. But later realized that these are thick forested areas with sub tropical weather and they are common in these areas. Kiiled a few cockroaches too in our rooms as we slept half awake Otherwise the hotel was a fine place to stay with very friendly staff. The food was just okay. Ordered bamboo steamed chicken for dinner and the chicken was not properly cooked. Veg food was fine. Rooms and bathrooms were clean.

Next day early morning (It was dawn by 430 AM) we wake up to this at the common balcony. View of River Kameng.


The sun came out between 5 and 530 AM and we took a morning stroll downhill towards Kameng river and clicked these pictures. We did not try to get to the river bed as we saw warning signs of not trespassing as the river was part of a tiger reserve. Were surprised to see army bunkers and soldiers with automatic assault guns along the way but heard that there were still pockets militancy in this area. Also heard about a government officer who was recently kidnapped around here when returning from Tawang.







Last edited by schumifactor; May 10th, 2014 at 11:18..
#11 May 10th, 2014, 10:21
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Day 2 Bhalukpong - Dirang

After breakfast, we headed towards Dirang stopping at the Orchid Research Center at Tippi. Due to scanty rainfall the previous year, only a few varieties of Orchids bloomed during this time of the year. We could only see around 10 of the 1000 orchids bloomed in their glass house.





Sessa falls enroute to Dirang


My honeymoon with fish continued and had a delicious boiled fish (Rohu) with vegetables :-) at Hotel Tsepal Yangjom, Bomdila. Fish in these higher reaches is usually brought in from Tezpur. Everybody liked their food at this restaurant. All but me in this group are vegetarians. They do take time to prepare (around an hour after you order) just like all places we visited in Arunachal and Assam but this place was one of the best.

We check-in for the night at the beautiful Awoo resort with our rooms having an amazing view of the river and town.





Was disappointed with dinner though. Ordered boiled fish and after an hour when the food arrives realize that they had forgotten my order. Since we wanted to crash early for the night, I just settled with a quick bread omelette :-( Guess I cannot always have it all. One funny thing about every meal in these parts as I had stated earlier is that they prepare from scratch and take time. Sometimes they need to get supplies from the market. So we had to think and be prepared to order our next meal by the time we completed our current one i.e. order breakfast by the time you complete your dinner and so on.
Last edited by schumifactor; May 10th, 2014 at 11:40..
#12 May 10th, 2014, 12:22
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Day 3 Dirang - Sela pass - Tawang

One serious piece of advice. Skip the hot springs at Dirang no matter who tells you what. It is not worth stopping over and climbing down the stairs to see garbage all around and the locals bathing. When you slowly move your hand to the pipe that is running from the "Hot" springs you get the shock of your life with the sensation of chilled water. A senior citizens group from Mumbai had come too in 3 cars and they were climbing down while we were returning up. We did warn them and some heeded us while others wanted to see it having come so far. Feel sorry for them as it would have been tough for some of them climbing up and down the stairs.

One more difference I felt with respect to the cleanliness of the environment around Arunachal and Assam compared to Sikkim was a complete disregard of it. Locals and tourists at will throw plastic and garbage everywhere we went. There were piles of garbage accumulated everywhere. We saw many signs warning against this but appears nobody heeds them. During our later Assam leg of the trip, we saw a local scold his kid for throwing a chips packet inside a boat and asked him to throw it out into the Brahmaputra river!

Before I bore you to death , my third observation is regarding the distances and times calculated through Google maps. Not surprised about time but even the distance information is wrong! For example Google maps show a distance from Dirang to Tawang to be 203 KM but the local sign boards and the locals say 140 KM. Google calculates the time based on a standard fixed 50/60 KM/Hr but you can never drive at those speeds in the mountains. We took more than double the time Google suggested on our drive from Bhalukpong to Dirang.

We reached Sela pass at around 13500 ft and saw snow in patches there. My family had a good time playing around the snow as this was their first time. Had the local famed butter tea made from Yak milk for the first time at a shack here.



We then visited Jaswantgarh war memorial (an hour from Sela pass) built in memory of the brave soldiers of the 1962 Indo China war. This is one of my favourite quote from there.



A bunker from the war era overlooking the mountains.


We reached the Dolmakhangsar guest house (around 15 minutes by vehicle from town area but right next to the Tawang Monastery) and our beautiful suites at Tawang late in the evening. There was a power cut which is very common in Tawang. The local electricity board does not usually publish fixed times for load shedding but cuts power erratically and for long durations. Our guest house had one inverter backed up emergency light and they also provided us rechargeable portable lights and candles. We enjoyed our food and stay albeit the frequent power cuts and more on that later.

Also our journey to Tawang crossed through some of the worst roads I have ever seen. It was a bumpy ride right through and we needed some serious rest. Raju drove very well and his Xylo was well maintained but in spite of that it was tough. Were surprised that the BRO is not doing a better job considering that so many army vehicles ply this route. BTW, more on the bigger shock we got on the road to Bum La later
#13 May 10th, 2014, 15:00
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Day 4 Tawang local

We had a sumptuous breakfast at the guest house. Their local Tibetan bread called Balle was great. Looked fried but hardly had any residue oil on it. Also had the best butter tea so far here. Our 3rd day breakfast here was a bit disappointing though with the same bread oily and the butter tea not tasting as good as today (Change of cook?)





Then walked to the nearby Tawang monastery, the second largest monastery in the world. Here they allow us to take pictures inside the monastery unlike at other places. This photo is a long shot we took after an evening walk towards the town from the guest house.



We then drove to the war memorial and learned more about the Indo-China war. I was surprised at how neutral and factually the war was described here.



The owner of Dolmakhangsar guest house (Guruji) suggested us a couple of monasteries to visit instead of Urgyelling Monastery as Urgyelling had religious significance (birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama) while the other monasteries were more beautiful. So we first drove to the Thegste Sang-ngog Choekhorling/Khinmey Nyingma monastery of Mon-yui Kid-mo Jong (The sacred hidden land of happiness) at Khin-mey village which is around half an hour drive from Tawang town. It was a very beautiful monastery nestled all by itself with great views of the surrounding mountains.





We then went to the Sangeling monastery near the Tawang helipad. After that to the Tawang market to have lunch at the famous Dragon restaurant. Being a Sunday, the old and new markets was closed. Only some shops in the Nehru market area were open. I tried the veg churpa (Fing mushroom) made with Yak milk and it tasted yum! Everyone scared us that it had a strong odour and may not be pleasant to all but it was alright.



Later in the evening we walked to the meadows at the back of the Tawang monastery and found fantastic views all around.





And this was the view of the Tawang town from our guest house.

#14 May 10th, 2014, 16:11
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Day 5 Bum La pass

And here comes the highlight of the first leg of our trip. This is the reason we came this far driving through tough terrain, adjusting to the altitude and spending time at different places along the route: An opportunity to visit Bum La pass!

This is also the most censored part of the trip. At the border, we went up to the Zero point along with an army man as an escort: a foot on the other side was China and here India. We took a lot of great photos with lots of snow 2-3 feet deep all around. However the army asked us to keep it for our personal viewing and not share it on public forums. So at the cost of not sharing my best photos, I am going to try make it up with the other photos we took along the way.

The army here was very friendly and offered us chai and biscuits after we reached. To be a little more frank we were actually the first amongst the tourists to reach and got excited with all the snow around and started playing and clicking photos at will. We were then reprimanded by a senior officer for doing that. We were then told that they will explain us where we can go and where we can take photos and will provide us an army man as an escort. From then on they became very friendly :-) We salute them for protecting our borders in this extreme terrain and leading a tough life with all hardships associated with it!

And here are all the photos barring Bum La pass and any army camps along the way.

Pankang Teng Tso (P.T. Tso) lake



Tough terrain along the way to Bum La



Great views and a frozen lake!



Some more views, tough terrain and frozen water bodies. You can see that the roads are slushy and at one point our Scorpio 2W drive got stuck in the deep snow slush (do not have a photo of that here). After multiple attempts of reversing and going forward, we were finally able to get out of it. At another point, the gradient climb was so steep that in spite of our driver climbing with speed the car came to a standstill and struggled to climb. He used a combination of hand brake and high power to inch up slowly over the gradient. Some spots were extremely scary too with narrow roads filled with boulders and needing to negotiate steep curves over high ridges. This and this is the toughest (by a huge margin) road I have ever travelled all my life!















Shonga- Tseir Tso (more popularly known as Madhuri lake for her dance here in the film Koyla ) You can see tree trunks jutting out of this lake. This area used to be a village that got submerged due to an earthquake.


There is an army canteen around this area and below are their yaks grazing around. We were warned not to go close to them as they are only friendly towards men in army uniforms

#15 May 10th, 2014, 16:18
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Okay I am loaded for the day and am sure so are you :-) Will continue my next set of write-ups and photos next week.
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