Arunachal Pradesh: A Wonderland

The moment I think of a break or a vacation, the first option that comes to my mind is Arunachal Pradesh as one trip is simply not enough to see this unexplored paradise. Unparalleled scenic beauty at each and every corner of the state with exotic wild vegetation is yet to be fully explored.

The state of rising sun is nothing less than a paradise for nature lovers presenting them with dense mysterious forest creating a perfect contrast with our concrete jungles. Ask any resident or simply follow their footsteps and you will find yourself in the middle of a forest where they generally go for hunting purposes!

My journey into the wilderness of the nature and spirituality began with warm greetings from Arunachalies. In their broken Hindi mixed with Assamese and few English words here and there they welcomed me as soon as I entered the state. This state of India has almost 65 different tribal groups, each tribe with with their own dialect. And thus the commonly used language is Hindi and Assamese.

Entering the state, I found myself struggling in finalizing the places I wished to visit. On one hand, Malinithan, Parshuram Kund, Rukhmini Nagar and Tawang’s 400 years old monastery promises to give our religious selves a treat. While on the other, the scenic beauty of the rivers like Kameng, Subansiri, Siang and the grandness of Himalayan range quench the thirst for the natural beauty.

Dense forests with exquisite orchid varieties and rare wildlife is the state’s top attraction. Namdapha National Park in Changlang District presents you with exceptional opportunity to see the rare Hoolock Gibbon. The fact that it has four of the felines all at one place – the tiger, the leopard, the snow leopard and the clouded leopard, makes it even more special.

Mouling National Park and Itanagar Wildlife Sanctuary also offer interesting tour options. Polo Park in Naharlagun also grabbed my attention with its botanical specimens.

Beyond all these, what attracted me the most was the Orchidarium at Tipi, located in the West Kameng District. More than 500 orchid species can be seen here. We can reach the place by taking a bus from Bomdila.

Through out my travel around the state, I had been mesmerized by this magical place called Arunachal, with in between hurdles due to lack of facilities and comfort. But that is a cost worth paying for the beauty you will experience on this land less traveled.

The state offers its tourists with ample of excitement and adventure as well. With more than 80 percent of the area covered with dense evergreen forests and five major rivers- Kameng, Subansiri , Lohit , Siang and Tirap beautifying the state, Arunachal presents apt settings for sports like trekking, angling, boating and rafting along with offering varied mountainous trekking routes.

Food can be a delight for non-vegetarians and who love to taste the ‘real taste’. Trying Yak momos and other dishes like thukpa, thenthuk is sure to give your palate some treat. For your sweet tooth you might want to try Churpi. These are the varieties of food we get if we go to the Twang and colder areas of the state.

In spite of being a vegetarian and having limited options I enjoyed having the local food. Apong, the liquor made from rice, is also a must try. And let me warn you, it is stronger than you think!

I also had great time while shopping and had some splendid art works to take home. I bought traditional attires like galles, which are very much similar to long skirts adding an ethnic touch to my wardrobe. These can be bought from any of the government art and culture centers which can be found easily.

Adi style hats, cane and bamboo goods like cane belts, cane bracelets, eye-catching smoking pipes also make for interesting buy. Woolen carpets with exceptionally attractive and colorful designs at the Tawang Craft centre also made some place in my bags back home!

Top Places to visit in Arunachal Pradesh

Although I can go on describing this north eastern state, I have picked few places that impressed me.

Tawang

Located 183 Kms away from Bomdila, the town of Tawang is a treat for eyes as well as soul. Its exceptional natural settings and religious significance make the place one of the most sought after tourist destinations. Tawang Monastery, which is also called as Galden Namgey Lhatse is the most popular tourist attraction in the town. It is said that the place got its name from this monastery which also has a legend behind its name.

The word Tawang has ‘Ta’ meaning Horse and ‘Wang’ which means Chosen depicts the popular belief that the site on which the monastery has been constructed was chosen by the horse, which was owned by Merag Lama Lodre Gyamtso.

The fact that it is the second largest Monastery in Asia and the largest one of its kind in the country controlling 17 Gompas in the region adds on to its attraction. Looking at the 28 ft high Golden statue of Buddha in the monastery filled me with a strange sense of peace and calmness.

Breath taking lakes like Sangetsar Lake and PTso Lake surrounded by beautiful landscape create a picture perfect settings. Trying out activities like trekking and rafting and shooting with camera adds more excitement.

Festivals like Losar, Torgya, Choekhor and Dupka Tse-She re makes the place all the more colourful and thus visiting during this period can be a good idea. Season wise, the best time to visit is from the months of July to October.

Pasighat

Situated at the East Siang District, Pasighat is apparently the oldest town of the state. This almost 100 years old town is located at the centre of the state. Popularly known as “Gateway of Arunachal Pradesh”, Pasighat is well connected to rest of the state and other parts of the country.

Situated on the banks of the mighty river Siang, surrounded by snow covered mountains, with greenery around and rich variety of flora and fauna, the city is right refereed as a “photographer’s delight”.

Though the place has got its name from the tribes named ‘Pasis’, it is inhabited by various different tribesmen presenting the place with varied traditions.

The place has various tourist attractions apart from a refreshing setting to just relax and rejuvenate yourself. Sunset and sunrises at the Brahmaputra river which is called Siang River in the state will take to your a different world altogether.

The best time to visit the city is during the months from November to April. However, the weather is pleasant through the year. Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary (13Km from Pasighat), Mouling National Park that is 195 Km away from Pasighat and Kekar Monying (Black Rock), are few of the places that are worth visiting near the town.

You can also visit Yingkiong which is 180Km from Pasighat and experience the adventure even on the route.

It was not just these destinations which impressed me. Even while on the move, the lush greenery around and simplicity of life kept me in state of trance all together!

However, the roads which are not always charcoaled and are just sandy paths made from pebbles and mud can be slight tiring. They were good enough to get me out of my dream world!

Entering the Wonderland

Reaching here is no easy task either. To enter the state we need inner line permit (ILP) that can be obtained by an application with particulars and on payment of Rs. 100/- per permit from Resident Commissioner’s office/ Liaison Offices located at New Delhi, Calcutta, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Tezpur, North Lakhimpur and Jorhat and from all the Deputy Commissioners of 16 Districts of the state.

For foreign tourist, Protected Area Permit can be obtained from all Indian Missions abroad. There are many tour operators in India to help us in the procedures we need to undergo for entering this nature’s wonderland.

They can obtain PAP for a period of 30 days and can also apply for through local approved tour operators and by paying USD 50 per head as Royalty to the Government of Arunachal Pradesh.

Reaching the nature’s paradise

To reach here we have following options to choose from:

Reaching Arunachal Pradesh by Air: Nearest airport is Lilabari (North Lakhimpur) in Assam and approximately 67 Kms away from Itanagar. We can also opt for Indian Airlines that provide direct flights from Tezpur or go for the Arunachal Pradesh helicopter services from Guwahati to Tawang and Guwahati to Naharlagun. You also have helicopter service  connecting places within the state making it easier to travel around.

Reaching Arunachal Pradesh by Rail: The nearest railway station is Harmutty (near Banderdewa check gate) in Assam that is 33 km from Itanagar. However it is more convenient if we take North Lakhimpur (Assam) route that 60 km away from Itanagar.

Reaching Arunachal Pradesh by Road: Bus services are the most frequent ones and available to many places in Arunachal Pradesh. There are many direct bus services from North Lakhimpur and Guwahati and between Naharlagun and Itanagar.

I took the rail route which is an experience in itself. One on one with localities and having a closer look at their lifestyle as they travel by your side is quite enthralling. Girls in modern dresses, ladies in traditional attires of galle paired with colorful shirts and elderly in their traditional overcoat galup look no less than walking and talking dolls.

Stations filled with hawkers selling colorful shawls, blankets, plastic toys and utility items varying from comb to table lamps, create a lively picture that lightens even a tiring journey.

With the places still not popular enough to gather hordes of tourists, I enjoyed my each and every day in Arunachal without having to face tourists’ rush. It is hard to tell which place was better as each had its own charm. It is up to you to take a call and go on discovering few sets of places of your choice.

But wherever you go, you will never come back unsatisfied if you are a nature lover and seek adventure. The time to visit Arunachal also differs with the places you decide to visit, although I would to prefer it any time of the year!

Must Haves for Arunachal Pradesh Trip

As the climate is mostly moderate and nights in the state are generally cold, it is advisable to carry few warm clothes with you.

Have an umbrella and if possible a raincoat with you as well.

A strong and comfortable pair of walking shoes is must to walk on the hilly areas.

Have few packed food packets and water bottles with you while on the tour in the state. There are chances that you will not find shops selling for basic amenities.

It is recommended to wear clothes that suits the local culture and surroundings. It is advisable to be appropriately dressed to conform to local culture and requirements.

It is recommended that prior consent is obtained before photographing people and ceremonies.

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