Saturday, January 21, 2023

Arunachal Pradesh Diary : Chapter 4 - Bum La and North Tawang

We started our Arunachal Pradesh journey from the Guwahati Airport. We explored Dirang and Bomdila in Chapter 1. From there, we reached Tawang in Chapter 2. Once in Tawang, we covered the nearby places in Chapter 3. Now, in the final chapter of our Arunachal journey, we'll be going north of Tawang, along the snow-capped mountains, exploring the beauty of Himalayas and ultimately reaching the China border at the Bumla pass.

It is recommended to read journey so-far in earlier chapters before continuing.

Travel Advisory:

Tawang is at the altitude of approx. 10000 ft. The altitude will keep on increasing during the journey towards the north of Tawang. So it is advisable to get used to the altitude and climate.


We started our journey towards the Gurudwara and Sungester lake at around 9 am from Tawang. After crossing the town, our upward journey continued in the mountains. While the distances in kms might look smaller, it takes reasonable time to cover these places as the entire journey is on narrow mountain roads. At about 21 kms from Tawang, there is a junction known as Y-junction. As the name suggests, there are two roads going in different directions from this place. The straight one goes towards Sungester lake while the right turn goes towards the Bumla pass.

With Jawans near Y-Junction

While the climate was quite cold, to our pleasant surprise, we witnessed snow fall as we reached the Y-junction. It suddenly became too cold and we were lucky to find an army shop. We not only purchased some winter clothes, but were also offered delicious food by the jawans. The snow fall was quite heavy and we enjoyed it despite extreme cold.


  • Carry extra winter clothes, including gloves, while going north of Tawang. The weather changes quite quickly here. Be extra careful if you are planning for a solo bike trip.

Gurudwara Teesri Udassi

As this was the day of Diwali, our first stop was Gurudwara Teesri Udassi. This is a small Gurudwara is located on the hill, and normally takes 20-30 minutes to climb a rather steep slope. Unfortunately, we could only go till halfway as the snowfall had made air quite thin and it became difficult to even breathe while climbing. We bowed down in respect to Guru Nanak Dev and climbed down. The langar is setup at the base only and we had a wonderful tea and sweets in the open langar. 

This is the gurudwara where Guru Nanak Dev stayed during his voyage to Tibet.

At the base of Gurudwara Teesri Udassi


From the Gurudwara, we continued our journey despite snowfall and rain. We finally reached a small monastery called, Takshang Gompa (T-Gompa). This small but beautiful monastery holds a lot of significance in the Tibetan Buddhist history. When His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa in March 1959, he entered India via this route and stayed at this monastery.

Takshang Gompa

Sungester Lake

From the monastery, we started our return journey, and finally reached the famous Sungester lake. This side of Tawang is quite known for its lakes and we crossed quite a few during this trip. While we didn't spend much time at other lakes due to lack of time, we did explore the beautiful Sungester lake. We had our lunch in a small cafe/restaurant near the lake. Thankfully the rain had stopped by now which allowed us to spend some quality time here. A collection of submerged black trees give this lake a distinct look. The lake became famous after the shooting of movie Koyla here, starring Madhuri Dixit. Therefore this lake is also known as Madhuri lake. 

Sungester lake was created by an earthquake in 1973.

Sungester Lake

While the water is quite cold, you can explore the lake surroundings and enjoy the scenic beauty. Clear lake water surrounded by mountains makes it quite a picturesque location. Here also there is an army camp that offers winter clothes and other accessories at quite an affordable prices.

After Sungester lake, we finally headed towards Tawang and it became quite dark by the time we reached back at 4:30 pm. Our BRO friends invited us to their temple for the celebration of Diwali in the evening. This Diwali celebration in BRO campus will remain one of the most memorable event of our trip.

Bum La

As the roads near border area were closed due to heavy snow fall, we spent next few days exploring places nearby Tawang as highlighted in Chapter 3. This also allowed ourselves getting used to the climate. Finally, we started our journey towards the Bumla pass one morning. Being a sensitive border area, you'll need to obtain a permit to go to Bum La. This can be obtained online.

We again crossed the Y-junction and this time took the right turn towards Bum La. While the road to Bum La was open, the vehicle movement was quite slow due to earlier snowfall. It took us more than 2 hours to finally reach Bumla. We crossed beautiful snowcapped mountains and Joginder Singh Memorial along the route.

On the way to Bum La

At 15,200 ft, Bum La is one of the highest border pass, and road to Bumla is maintained by BRO under Project Vartak. There is a reception area where visitors wait while waiting for their batch. Nice hot soup, samosa and kaju katli is available in the canteen here. You can see the border from the reception room glass window. As our number came, we walked up to the India-China Border gate on a small road under the guidance of an army officer. Photography is not permitted here. The officer passionately told about the history of Bumla, 1962 war and the sacrifice of Subedar Joginder Singh. There was a layer of thick snow all round and therefore there is no fencing along this border. The climate changes suddenly here and it can become quite cold within a few minutes. 

Subedar Joginder Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra for his bravery during the battle of Bum La on 23 October 1962.

Bum La

The air of Bum La still smells the sacrifices of brave Indian soldiers of the battle fought 60 years ago. The battle is still on for the soldiers here as they face the harsh weather and a hostile neighbor. It is quite unfortunate for a heaven like Bum La to remain a politically sensitive area.

We had a plan to go up to the holy Chumi Gyatse waterfall along the India-China border and spend a night there. Unfortunately, the roads were closed due to heavy snowfall on that route. We therefore returned back to Tawang from Bum La. There is always something left for which we may return to this mesmerizing land again in future.

As we reach end of our journey, again a moment of appreciation for the BRO (Border Road Organization) that takes care of the road infrastructure in this difficult terrain. Many thanks to Gaurav Gupta sir, Rakesh Bhatti sir, Zuber Ahmad Sir and others from BRO whose warmth and hospitality we'll never forget.

Our good friends, Nini and Jay whom we met during this trip, have covered the places of Tawang quite beautifully in their vblog here  -

Like education, travel is also an investment that pays rich dividends, and this particular investment has indeed been such a case. On that note, ending the Amazing Arunachal Chapter here.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Arunachal Pradesh Diary : Chapter 3 - Tawang

 In Chapter 2 of this blog series, we finally reached Tawang after exploring Bomdila, Dirang and all the wonderful places along the route. It is recommended to go through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 before continuing on this journey here. We stayed in Tawang for 5 nights at Jambey Villa homestay, and this became our base to explore the near-by places. It is here in Tawang where we met our friends from BRO who made our stay extra-special. We even got to celebrate Diwali in BRO temple.

Places to stay:

  • While Tawang is one of the least populated districts in the country, this town located on the mountain does have a good number of places to stay for the travelers. You can find good hotels and homestays to stay during your journey.
  • While all types of non-veg food is quite easily available in Tawang, it was not difficult to find veg food as well. We found decent parathas and momos at the Delhi Darbar restaurant in town. 

Travel Advisory:
  • Tawang is located at approx. 10000 ft (3,048 m) above sea level. The weather is also cold especially as the night approaches. It takes some time for the body to get adjust to these conditions especially when we travel from the plains of Guwahati. Therefore, it is recommended to not have a hectic scheduled and keep buffer of extra days while planning your trip. This will be also handy in case some roads are blocked due to snow fall or rain.

In this blog, we'll cover places located near Tawang. These include some of the famous monasteries of Tawang as well as our visit to nearby villages. The journey to Bumla and places along that route to be covered in the subsequent blogs.


Being a Buddhist town, Tawang has a number of monasteries, some of which hold a lot of historical and spiritual significance. We managed to cover below mentioned three monasteries, but missed out on a beautiful Nunnery, Gyangong Ani Gompa, located around 5 km from the town, due to bad weather. 

Tawang Monastery

The beautiful and historic Tawang Monastery is also known as the Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse. The monastery has an 8 mtr tall Lord Buddha in the sanctum. Monastery has a residential building for the monks, a library, a museum and school for the basic education. The yellow rooftop residential building gives it a distinct look. The monastery is located at about 2 km from the town and it is better to visit it during the morning.

The Twanag Monastery is the oldest monastery in India and is the second biggest monastery in Asia.

Tawang Monastery

Urgeling Monastery

Urgeling monastery is located about 5 kms from the main town. This simple monastery was built around 1487 and was founded by Ugyen Sangpo. This place is the birth place of Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama. There is a holy tree in the compound of this monastery which is said to be planted by the 6th Dalai Lama. 

Urgeling Monastery

Khinmey Nyingma Monastery

Khinmey Nyingma Monastery also known as Sang-ngag-choekhorling. It is located at about 8 kms from Tawang in the Khinmey village. The main prayer hall has the statue of Buddhist sage Padmasambhava. The monastery was founded in 1440. His Eminence the 14th Thegtse Rinpoche is the current head of this monastery. The monastery provides accommodation and guidance to hundreds of monk students.

Khinmey Nyingma Monastery

Tawang War Memorial

The border town of Tawang has witnessed 1962 India-China war. Despite difficult geography, extreme weather and limited equipment, Indian army soldiers put a brave effort defending the country against much a superior armed force. Tawang War memorial is a beautiful stupa built in the memory of those brave soldiers.

The names of the brave soldiers of 1962 war who fought on this front are written around the central stupa.

Tawang War memorial

The memorial is located within the area of armed forces and there is a 30 minute light-n-sound show in the evening near memorial, depicting cultural heritage of Arunachal Pradesh and stories of 1962 war. As seating capacity is limited, make sure to reach on time for the show. The start time varies as per season, but normally it is 5:00 pm in winter and 6:30 pm in summer. There is a souvenir shop near by to collect memories. 


During our trip, we also explored some offbeat locations, not frequently visited by the regular tourists. One such location was a beautiful Lumla village, located approx. 40 kms from the Tawang town towards the eastern Bhutan border. There is a scenic waterfall as we enter Lumla with a well constructed viewing platform. Just opposite to the waterfall, on the main road, is Lobsang restaurant. We recommend having your lunch here as not many food options are there in the mail Lumla village.

Lumla is known for its Tara Devi Temple. The temple is mainly visited by the local Buddhist population. The chanting of monks inside the temple creates a divine aura. There is a big Tara Devi statue on top of the temple which gives it a unique view.

Tara Devi Temple, Lumla

On our way back to Tawang from Lumla, we also stopped by the Mahabodhi School in Teli village. The entrance of the residential school has many white stupas on one side of the road. The center was inaugurated in 2016 by the Chief Minister. Mahabodhi runs an integrated program where senior citizens and children are living together like in an extended family.

Chagzam Bridge

Yet another offbeat location around Tawang is the historic Chagzham Bridge. We explored this during our return journey from Tawang. This suspension bridge is more than 600 years old. It was built by Tangton Gyalpo, a disciple of the first Dalai Lama using iron chains, over Tawang-chu river to connect to a monastery. The bridge is of religious significance to the locals and is believed to fulfil the wishes of devotees. There is also a newer suspension bridge built adjacent to the original Chagzam bridge.

Chagzam Bridge is a 100 mtr long suspension bridge.

Chagzam Bridge

Tawang Cultural Festival

Tawang Festival is quite a popular event of Arunachal Pradesh that celebrates the culture of Monpa tribes. Unfortunately, November 2022 Tawang Festival was called off due to some reason. Luckily for us, our young driver Nima took us to attend the Shyo Village Cultural Event one evening. The event had four folk dances, depicting different stories. It even had the famous snow lion dance. The snow lions and bulls do come to audience as well during their performances.

With Snow Lions at Shyo Cultural Event

After exploring Tawang, we'll head north to go to the famous India-China border at Bumla pass and the places located on the north side of Tawang in our final chapter. Stay tuned for the updates as the things are going to be quite chilly.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Arunachal Pradesh Diary : Chapter 2 - From Dirang to Tawang

 In the Chapter 1 of this series, we entered Arunachal Pradesh via South-Western border and reached up to Dirang. In this chapter, we'll continue our 135 km northward  journey towards Tawang.

Our first stop on this journey was a place called Padma, a popular spot to have food. Padma has a few roadside restaurants/stores where you can get anything from chocolates to drinks to momos. We had our best veg momos of this trip at Padma. It is recommended to full your belly here as there are not many food points ahead.

Nyukmadong War Memorial

Nyukmadong War Memorial

Just ahead of Padma, there is Nyukmadong War Memorial. The Nyukmadong War Memorial is built overlooking the famous battle ground of 18 Nov 1962. The main memorial is a 'Chorten' and the names of soldiers who died in this battle are engraved in stones around this Chorten. This beautiful memorial pays homage to the supreme sacrifice of Indian Army soldiers.

Sela Pass

Sela Lake

After visiting the memorial, we continued our journey on the beautiful Himalayan mountain roads. The height continuously increases as we cross the various Army cantonments along the journey. The highest point on this route is the Sela Pass, located at 13700 ft.  This is where we enter the Tawang district. Due to its height, the region is quite cold, and it often snows here. We were lucky to have clear weather during our onward trip which allowed us to explore the scenic Sela Lake located on this pass. 

The pass holds a lot of significance to the local Buddhist community. You'll see a lot of colorful Buddhist flags here. It is named after a tribal woman Sela who fought along side Jaswant Singh Rawat during the 1962 India-China war. The pass is also important to connect Tawang to the Assam and for the movement of the goods. As it sometimes gets closed due to heavy snow, a tunnel is being built to ensure 365 day connectivity.

Jaswant Garh War Memorial

After Sela Pass, we'll continue traveling on the mountain roads through ups and downs. Approx. 25 kms from Sela Pass is our next stop - Jaswant Garh War Memorial. 

Jaswant Garh War Memorial

The story of Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat is that of the battle of Nuranang, on 17 November 1962. Even after 60 years of the war, Rifleman Jaswant Singh is still considered to be serving and on duty. The memorial is built on the location of this battle and to pay homage to Rifleman Jaswant Singh and the Gorkha rifles.

The canteen of Jaswant Garh memorial offers decent food. The army store is also there for winter cloth shopping or to collect souvenirs. This was the place from where we first started seeing the snowcapped mountains. After having some light snacks and tea, we continued our downward journey towards the next stop.

Jang Falls

Nuranang Falls/Jang Falls

Nuranang Falls is located near the Jang town, and are also known as Jang Falls. This 100 mtr tall waterfalls is a popular tourist destination for the locals. The milky waterfalls is famous for its rainbow formations and we were lucky to see the colorful rainbow formed due to the mist formed by the waterfall. The waterfall is on the Nuranang river which merged into the Tawang river at the base of the waterfall. There is small cafe near the base of the waterfall along side the river.

Jang Falls is located approx. 40 kms before Tawang. Our journey along the mountain roads continued after spending some time at the waterfall, and we finally reached our homestay in Tawang during late evening. Details of our Tawang journey is now available in Chapter 3.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Arunachal Pradesh Diary : Chapter 1 - Bomdila and Dirang

 Travel is an investment in oneself. 

Ever since our first trip to the North-East India in 2019, we were eager to come back and explore the hidden gems. The pandemic delayed the next big travel, but finally we got a chance to come to the land of rising Sun, Arunachal Pradesh, in October 2022.

Mountains Calling

Arunachal Pradesh was formed from the earlier NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency). It is a border state having international borders with China, Myanmar and Bhutan. This hilly region of Himalayas has witnessed the 1962 India-China war. Our trip was on the western side of Arunachal, covering Dirang, Tawang and Bumla. In the first chapter, our focus will be on Bomdila and Dirang.

Before we begin, a moment of appreciation for the BRO (Border Road Organization) that takes care of the road infrastructure in this difficult terrain. They are continuously improving the road infrastructure in this region to make it all-weather accessible. Many thanks to Gaurav Gupta sir, Rakesh Bhatti sir, Zuber Ahmad Sir and others from BRO whose hospitality made our trip extra special.

How to reach:

  • Nearest airport is Guwahati Airport. The road journey from Guwahati to Tawang is better to be broken into 2 days due to the hilly region.
  • We stayed in Dirang  (Dirang Dzong homestay) during our onward journey and stayed near Sappers with our BRO friends during the return journey. 
  • The towns in Arunachal are located on the hills and are sparsely populated. The journey on the mountain roads is mostly along the side of the river. 


  • Once you enter Arunachal Pradesh via land route, the altitude keeps on rising and temperature keeps on falling. Keep your winter clothes ready.
  • Extreme winter starts November month onwards, but the cold climate remains throughout the year. It can be understood by the observation that there were no fans in any homestays we stayed!


  • While Christianity is a major religion in Arunachal Pradesh, people of the Western districts of West Kameng and Tawang are mostly Buddhist. 
  • Hindi is quite commonly used by the locals in communication.


We entered Arunachal Pradesh via Balemu check point, quite close to the Bhutan border. As Arunachal Pradesh comes under the restricted area, you'll need Inter-Line Permit (ILP) to enter the state. It can be obtained online.

We crossed picturesque views of Kalaktang and Rupa before reaching Bomdila. This was an 10-hour journey from the Guwahati Airport. The mountain roads are full of cabbage plantations on this route.  Bomdila is a headquarter of the West Kameng district. Bomdila is mainly famous for the beautiful Bomdila monastery. We spent a quite evening here exploring the monastery.

Bomdila Monastery

A drone view of the same monastery can be seen on the YouTube channel of our friends Nini and Jay who met us first time at this Monastery. -


Dirang is at an hour's distance from Bomdila. This is where we had our first stay at the Dirang Dzong homestay. During our return, we stayed at Sappers which is quite close to Dirang. The beautiful hilly region of Dirang was a pleasant surprise for us. For the nature lovers, this place has a lot to offer. 

Seven Brothers' Monument, Dirang

There is a monument in the memory of seven brothers who laid down their lives protesting against the tyrant king along side the road. The old Dirang Monastery was at walkable distance from our stay. It is a small monastery and was under renovation during our visit. The new Thuksang Dargeyling Monastery was built recently in 2017 and was inaugurated by his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The new monastery is located on a hill top and it takes approx. 30 minutes to reach there. If you are looking for calmness and peace, this scenic monastery has got plenty of them. This beautiful structure overlooking Dirang offers great visuals for photographers.

Thuksang Dargeyling Monastery

Dirang is also a good base to explore nearby locations, like Mandala Top and Sangti Valley. Mandala Top, as the name suggests, is located on the top of a mountain, approx. 25 kms from Dirang. On a non-cloudy day, the hairpin road offers scenic view of the surrounding mountain ranges. On top, there is a recently constructed circular monument of 108 stupas. This is a good place for a day picnic.

Mandala Top

While Mandala Top is located on the top of a hill, Sangti Valley offers a picturesque location of a village along the river. The road to reach valley is not smooth but it crosses beautiful plantations of oranges, tomatoes and kiwis. The white sandy river beach of valley is a good place to relax and enjoy the chilled water. There are homestay available near the valley to stay here overnight. That would be quite an experience for sure.

Sangti Valley

We had planned our trip for Tawang, but Dirang came out as a beautiful surprise. There are few more surprises on our journey towards Tawang, to be explored in the subsequent chapters!

Head to the Chapter 2 here.

More photos of Arunachal trip can be seen at -

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