Dream Destination — North East, part II

30 Nov

‘Nature rejuvenates so quickly, so completely. Though we often view ourselves otherwise, we are nature’, this adage is apt for Arunachal Pradesh as you really feel one with the nature.

Tawang – sightseeing

Tawang located at a height above 10000 ft and around 183 kms from Bomdilla is a beautiful hill station of Arunachal Pradesh and is a must-see for all travel enthusiasts. Tawang has a unique historic perspective along with abundant natural beauty.

PT TSO Lake

Getting an inner line permit is just not enough to visit Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake or for the matter Bumla Pass. I had the first one in place as I had done it in advance but the impending uncertainity of getting a permit to visit Madhuri Lake haunted me. Besides, the day we reached Tawang was a Saturday, a half day and Sunday being a holiday, I was tensed as to how to manage it.

Thanks to India Beacons that they had already collected the same on my behalf and my joy knew no bounds when I found their representative handing over the permit to visit Madhuri Lake on Saturday to me.

Rest assured of my visit to Madhuri Lake the next day, I went to bed with a peaceful mind but the biting cold, even in the month of May, woke me up at 5 am in the morning. It was good since we had to leave at 8 am for sightseeing. We went down to the restaurant to have breakfast and found Renuka and aunty already over with their breakfast. This extra bit of time permitted Renuka to take a few snaps, and finally, we all set off for M Lake at 8.30 in the morning.

Being close to the Sino-India border, Tawang has a strong military presence. After securing our security clearances, we proceeded towards our destination. As we gained height, the city of Tawang seemed scattered like a wrecked helicopter all over the hills with the imposing Tawang Monastery catching one’s eye at every nook and corner. I used the description of scattered helicopter as the air crash leading to the death of the honourable Chief Minister of AP, Mr Khandu, was fresh in everyone’s mind, including me.

I imagined how pitiful it must have been for him when the helicopter crashed. I prayed to god for his soul to rest in peace and proceeded towards Madhuri Lake.

We passed through small hamlets and the waving hands of small children greeted us to this beautiful land. We stopped at numerous places as every bend unfurled a new scenery. Our excitement reached new heights when our vehicle crossed small patches of snow every now and then. We had not yet crossed the tree level and a beautiful lake on our left caught our attention. This lake was shaped like a heart and is also often referred to as the heart lake.

heart-shaped lake

heart-shaped lake on way to SHO-NGA-TSEIR LAKE


The lake was not too big but it sparkled like an emerald on its rocky banks. Fluttering holy flags on the edges spread positive vibes all around. Thereafter, just before the tree line was about to end, a sign board with the message ‘Rest a while and enjoy the prestine beauty of P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake), a popular picnic spot in Tawang,” greeted us.
P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake),

P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake),


We had reached our first sightseeing halt — PT TSO LakePangateng Tso Lake. The natural beauty and picturesque landscape of PT TSO Lake was simply mesmerising. This lake, located at about 14 kms from Tawang, is a must see destination for all visitors to Tawang. One has to walk down some distance to reach the lake. There are small canopies around the lake at vantage points, where people can rest and enjoy the beauty of the lake. The reflection of tall Rhodendron trees all around the lake, the ripples on the water as a result of blowing chilly winds, created a magical effect. My inquisitiveness and the urge to take photographs of a few variety of Rhodendrom in bloom as well as capturing the lake from unusual angles egged me to walk down to the extreme left end of the lake.
As I walked down, I realised that this lake was being fed from water from unknown sources and I walked upon a sort of swampy land to reach the edge of the lake. It may be noted that some people have experienced breathing problems, but thank god, I enjoyed breathing in fresh and unpolluted air. We halted for around 25 minutes and proceeded to our next halt — SHO-NGA-TSEIR LAKE or Madhuri Lake. The route to this lake was beautiful with snow-peaked mountains and grass laden with ice on both the sides of the road. We asked our driver to stop to enjoy the ice.
P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake), Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake), Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang


Rhodendron flower near P.T.Tso Lake

Rhodendron flower near P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake), Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

Rhodendron flower near P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake)

Rhodendron flower near P.T.Tso Lake (Pangateng Tso Lake), Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

SHO-NGA-TSEIR LAKE or Madhuri Lake

Sho-nga Tseir Lake located at a height of 13500 ft was originally pasturage of Shok-tsen village turned into a lake due to earthquake in 1971. It is also popularly called Madhuri Lake post the shooting of Bollywood blockbuster movie Koyla starring Madhuri Dixit and Sharukh Khan. The beauty of the lake was a sight to behold. The sheer sight of trunk of trees protruding out of the lake had an unreal feel about it. We took a round of the lake and enjoyed the flowing water of rivulets that merged with the lake. I sat on a tiny bridge with my feet dipped in the cold freezing water, an experience of a lifetime. We relished steaming cup of tea and hot momos in the canteen run by the army for tourists. It was time to leave and with a last glance at this lovely and beautiful lake that left imprints in our soul, we left Madhuri Lake.

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Sho-nga Tseir Lake or Madhuri Lake, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

While coming down, we got a very clear weather and we proceeded to our much-talked about destination Tawang Monastery.

Tawang City view

Tawang City view

Zig Zag Road on the way to Madhuri Lake or SHO-NGA-TSEIR LAKE

Zig Zag Road on the way to Madhuri Lake or SHO-NGA-TSEIR LAKE

Tawang Monastery

Tawang Monastery

Tawang Monastery

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas at 3500 metres above the sea level, the legendary 17th century Tawang Monastery, perched atop a hill, surrounded by thick clouds, entices the spiritual part of even the atheists with its ethereal peace. The Monastery is known as “GALDEN NAMGYEL LHATSE” and is one of largest Lamaseries of Mahayana sect in Asia. The sheer size of the Monastery complex leaves you awestruck. Spread over an area of 135 sq. meters and protected by a compound wall of 610 meter long, this Monsatery is one of the finest and rarest. The vastness of the monastery and huge prayer wheels in the compound totally leaves us spellbound. ‘The sound of Buddhist mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum’ reverberated all around creating a pious and pure environment all across. We proceeded to the main hall, where a huge all-encompassing statue of Lord Buddha left us speechless. Colourful paintings adorned the hall and a group of young lamas (small children) offering their prayers was captured in my lens. It took us more than hour to cover the entire Monastery. Finally, we left to visit another Monastery – Ani Gumpa– which is unique since it’s only for women Lamas.

entrance of Tawang Monastery

Entrance of Tawang Monastery


Prayer wheels at the entrance of Tawang Monastery

Prayer wheels at the entrance of Tawang Monastery


Big Prayer wheel at  Tawang Monastery

Big Prayer wheel at Tawang Monastery


Statue of Lord Buddha at  Tawang Monastery

Statue of Lord Buddha at Tawang Monastery


View of Tawang city from the  Tawang Monastery

View of Tawang city from the Tawang Monastery


Thukje Chueling Nunnery or Ani Gumpa

A visit to Tawang is incomplete without the visit to this unique monastery managed and run by nuns. Being a women myself, I was more intrigued and determined to visit this Monastery since I had never visited an only-women’s monastery. Known as Thukje Chueling Nunnery, this monastery was located at the top of a hill, around 10 kms away from the main Tawang city. Though miniscule in size, when compared to the magnanimous Tawang Monastery, this small nunnery had its own character and charm.

Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery

Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery


Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Prayer wheels at Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Nun at Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Nun at Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Nun at Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Nun at Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


Nun at Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Nun at Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh


View of Tawang City from Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

View of Tawang City from Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

View of Tawang City from Ani Gumpa  or  Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

View of Tawang City from Ani Gumpa or Thukje Chueling Nunnery, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Dream Destination – North East, part 1

18 Jun

A dream destination – North East

Snow-peaked mountains, sprawling  streams, placid lakes, emerald green meadows, fringed by pine trees,  misty weather are the images that lingers on when I try to put my journey experience in black and white.

I visited the North-East for around 10-11 days  in the month of May to get away from the sultry heat of summer and get some cool respite to rejuvenate my body, mind and soul. My trip was planned on the spur of the moment as my sister, who was all set to explore the North East,  had to back out due to some personal reasons. She requested me to replace her as she had already made the payment, and thus, I jumped on the god sent opportunity to explore the mystic natural beauty of North East. The tour was arranged by India Beacons Sojourn

Though, I am trying my best to relive each and every moment of my exhilarating journey through my blog, however, the beauty of the places –Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya – leaves me speechless. I am dumbfounded to express the beauty of the place, which has been captured through my eyes and entrenched in my soul for ever.

Assam:

The first day of my visit was in Assam, where I did little bit of sightseeing as I had just half a day in hand. I visited one of the revered Shakti Peeths, the famous “Kamakhya Temple”. Being a Durga devotee myself, I found this temple very different from the other temples.

It was almost evening when I started for my onward journey to Tejpur, which was a transit point for my enchanting and eye-opening journey to Arunachal Pradesh. I reached Tejpur in the night and checked in at the hotel. The sleepy town is a classic small town with couple of decent hotels. On reaching my hotel, I crashed on the bed as I had to start early the next morning.

The land of mystic charm – Arunachal Pradesh

After early breakfast, I started for my onward journey to Dirang, which is famous for its apples and  Kiwi cultivation. Enroute visited Nameri National Park, which is known for a wide variety of flora and fauna. Crossed Bhalukpong, which is around 56 kms from Tezpur and is the entry point in Arunachal Pradesh.  Around 5 km from Bhalukpong, is the Asia’s third largest Orchidarium at Tipi, which is famous for its wide variety of rare orchids.  Around 450 species of orchids are found. Glass house and an orchid museum are worth a watch.

The drive from Tipi to Dirang was totally mesmerising as the lush green mountains and the meandering river ‘Kameng’ played hide and seek all throughout the route. Ascending and descending  through various mountain ranges was a lifetime experience and a feast for the eyes with gushing streams at almost every nook and corner .

With every climb, the weather got cooler and pleasant , which made my journey  an enjoyable experience especially after the sultry weather in plains.  The lush greenery coupled with  heights gained at every bend  offered a heady mix of thrill and adventure.  I stopped for lunch at a small village named ‘Nechiphu’. The road-side shops offered simple fare like a lunch plate comprising of dal, sabzi, rice and chapatti or momos and Thukpa, a regular with the locals. Also bought couple of water bottles as the stretches are long with very few shops.

After lunch, the journey was smooth. I crossed Bomdilla, which is around 109 km from Bhalukpong and is a five hours drive, however, didn’t stop since I had a night halt at Bomdilla during my return journey. Ultimately reached ‘Dirang’ at around 5 pm. The breathtaking view of the town and the valley was totally out of the world.

Dirang

Our night halt was in Dirang, a beautiful town in Arunachal Pradesh. I was put up in one of the best hotel, which offered a splendid view of the Dirang valley. After the tiring journey, I was totally famished and needed a brimming cup of hot tea. The experience of sipping tea in the lawn of the hotel overlooking the valley was a totally blissful experience. I have never relished my tea so much, being amidst nature, a sense of serenity and calmness pervaded me, I felt one with nature.

After tea, went and explored the local market, which was buzzing with activity. The market was located at a distance, so asked my driver to drop me at the market.  Had early dinner and crashed on the bed as the next was supposed to be even more hectic.

The next day, I had an early breakfast and started off  since a lot had to be covered. We started off with the  local sightseeing of Dirang – first visited Apple and Kiwi orchards followed by a village tour of Dirang Dzong (Dirang Basti) to get a real feel of the local experience.  The village tour was one of the most interesting part of the tour as it offered me a complete insight of the local culture. Though the locals are very shy people. I captured them in my lens. I would personally recommend a village tour to every travel enthusiast.

There was much in store for me in my next halt at Sangti Valley, which is around 9 kms from Dirang town.  The valley is famous  for the Siberian black neck storks, who visit during winter. The journey from dirang town to the valley is itself spectacular as the river Dirang Chu winds its way through the hills. The first sight of the valley excited me so much that I was ready with my camera to capture the scenic landscape  and the panoramic view.

TAWANG
After Sangti Valley, I left Dirang behind and proceeded for my next halt to Tawang, which is around 143 kms from Dirang. Enroute to Dirang, also visited hot water spring.

This part of the journey was the most spectacular as it offered  abundant natural beauty, however, there were short stretches of bad roads too. The scenic landscape , winding river, the majestic eastern Himalayan range compels one to revel on nature in its full splendour. One  tends to forget all  worries & insecurities with every climb and just gets engrossed with the nature in all its bounty.

Stopped for lunch in a small village. I had maggi, and trust me, it never tasted so good, especially the soupy style. After a quick lunch, I proceeded immediately as I was warned to cross Sela  Pass before noon owing to visibility factor. On the way to Tawang, Sela Pass is the second highest motorable pass at 14000 ft height, which runs through a small ridge along the Paradise Lake.

SELA PASS AT A HEIGHT OF 14000 FT

FREEZING IN COLD AT SELA PASS AT A HEIGHT OF 14000FT

PARADISE LAKE AT SELA PASS

I comfortably passed Sela Pass before noon, felt great, as I posed for the camera at 14000 ft above the sea level. Never in my dreams did I ever thought that I would achieve such unattainable height, speaking literally. Since, I belong to a defence personnel family, I remembered my dad, who use to tell us about the hard life in mountains. As I proceeded to my next halt “Jaswant Gar’, a war memorial raised to pay homage to Jaswant Singh (Mahavir Chakra Awardee – Posthumous), who singlehandedly stopped the Chinese battalion during the 1962 Indo-Chinese war, my patriotic emotions found a natural expression and came to the fore. I couldn’t help myself saluting my dad (whom I missed a lot) and to the entire Indian Army, who are giving their today to ensure better tomorrow for us.  This is for all defence personnel – “Jain Hind” & hats off to you.

JASWANT GAR WAR MEMORIAL

SALUTE TO THE INDIAN ARMY

Had a steaming cup of hot tea from the nearby canteen run by the Indian Army and proceeded further as we had to cover quite a distance.  The bunkers on the top of the memorial reminded me of the difficult life my father , as part of the Indian Army, spent at such heights. My eyes filled with emotions kept searching for the route through which the Chinese entered India during the 1962 war, suddenly fell on the point from where the first view of Tawang could be seen.  Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas at 3500 metres above the sea level, this beautiful  land of Monapas from a distance seemed like city spread over a number of hills with its Monastery immediately capturing one’s glance. The legendary 17th century Tawang Monastery, perched atop a hill, overlooking the hill and surrounded by thick clouds, entices the spiritual part of even the atheists with its ethereal peace.

TAWANG MONASTERY

I kept looking at the monastery in awe when a sharp shower forced me to rush back to the vehicle. It started raining heavily and the descending mist and cloud, all of a sudden reduced the visibility to just a few metres. We cautiously started descending. The valley in front of me and the monastery yonder suddenly got engulfed by the clouds. Our driver stopped at a point and pointed to the Jung Falls at a distance, which had swelled up due to heavy rains. The water gushed from the falls making it a spectacular wonder and reminded me of the scene from the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Koyla’  starring Madhuri Dixit and Sharukh Khan.  It would not be out of place to mention here that some part of the movie “Koyla’ was shot in the vicinity of the ‘Jung’ (Nuranoor) falls  as well as the Madhuri Lake (        ) in Arunachal Pradesh.

As the weather was getting worse, we decided to visit the falls on our way back as we had to return through the same route. After crossing a number of small villages, we finally reached Tawang.

It had stopped raining and the sight of monks rotating the prayer wheels in the middle of the city  reminded us that we were in the land of Lamas. We had proceeded a little when the main gate with the caption “Welcome to Tawang” greeted us . We crossed the market and proceeded towards our hotel. On the way, and interesting piece of architecture captured my attention.  It was a big prayer wheel on a traffic island in the middle of the road rotating constantly on the logic of water turbines i.e  through the flow of water . As the wheel rotated, a bell on top rang at regular intervals spreading positive energy all around the city adding to the religious fervour . We checked in at our hotel and  decided to take it easy since we had couple of days in hand to explore the place.

We had a leisurely dinner and crashed on the bed as the next day held more adventures.
MORE COMING UP………

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