Bomdila & Tenga Valley were visited by us during our trip to Arunachal. In my whole NE trip, if there is one thing that stands out the most, it is the sheer beauty of Arunachal Pradesh. Along with the simplicity of its people, both of which are not so easy to find in other parts of the world.
Road Trip to Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh
It is a small hill town that owes its fame to the fact that it lies on way to the famous Tawang Monastery. Most tourists on their way to Tawang have to either take a night halt at the town or at Dirang a few km’s ahead. This makes Bomdila a perfect tourist place with a bustling bazaar, many hotels, and spots to see. Located on a high point, it offers various valley views that you can admire. Walk on the road like a true tourist and observe the dry fish being sold along with fruits and vegetables. See the small stalls of colorful plastic shoes used to walk in the snow. The women holding their infants on their backs tied only with a cloth. See the old women in their traditional garbs chit chatting with each other.
Monastery at Bomdila
There are two monasteries in the town, one a recent one and one an old one probably 300-400 years old. The old monastery is right at the end of the main road, quite easy to locate. It is a small monastery with an old world charm. You can see the locals coming there to pray and having a quiet word with God. The architecture is that of a classic Buddhist monastery.
Govt. Handicraft Center
There is a Govt handicrafts center, where there are artisans engaged in creating local artifacts based on traditional knowledge. A store where the same is sold. There is mask making, furniture making, fabric weaving, embroidery, metal crafts that you can see them in making. And if interested buy from the shop. We were told that NIFT helps them with designs. NIFT has also helped them in getting IP protection for their traditional designs and weaves. The gate of this center has some old Thangka paintings that still look pretty new.
Museum at Bomdila
There is a museum in the town located in a Govt school and next to the only college in the town. Surprisingly, no one in the town knew of this museum, even the students of the college in the very next building. We somehow managed to reach the museum and met two young women who were managing the place. They were surprised to see us and said what do you want to see here. Well, everything that is there to see here is what we told them. They did not understand what we meant and said, ok go and see but do not take any pictures. We went around and found that most galleries were locked. When we asked them to open, they said the man who has the keys has gone out. Wait for an hour if you want to see.
After a while we located books counter there and picked up some books to buy. Then they kind of thought we were seriously interested in the museum and opened all the galleries for us. One of the ladies came along with us and explained many things. She actually could not understand what was so special about the items there that someone would spend time looking at them. I explained to her that we do not use these kinds of items, so they are new to us. And we are looking at them to understand the local culture. Her expression said “Really!!!” But then she explained many things including telling us what tribes they belong to and what they do with the ceremonial things. I really enjoyed this small interaction, as it opened both of us to each other a bit.
On the way back we stopped at Naga Mandir, midway between Bomdila and Balukpong. Now there are many Nag mandir’s in the region, indicating a cult that worships snakes. We stopped at this one as it was on the main road, by a river flowing through the valley. This temple is simple just like everything else in Arunachal. There are stairs that you have to climb to reach the temple. From the windows of the temple on top, you get another beautiful view of the valley surrounded by mountains with a river flowing in between.
On the mountain, opposite the Nag Mandir was the city of honeybees. There were beehives in thousands, and you see bunches of them all over the bare parts of the mountain. We would have missed it had someone not asked us to stop and have a look at it. I am still wondering how do they collect all the honey from those beehives at such height on an almost vertical mountain.
Mist & Clouds en route
Somewhere in-between Nag Mandir and Balukpong, the area is known for its mist. The clouds are all over the mountains and hence on the road too. Sometimes they are so thick that you cannot see the bends of the road or the vehicles ahead of you. Passing through this mist was both exciting and scary at the same time. Drives in Arunachal are uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time. All along the way, you will find small shops that are like small holes in the wooden walls. With the shopkeeper sitting in a very picturesque way. We left Arunachal with fond memories and with a hope to come back one day to explore the rest of it.
Visit the Arunachal official website for details.
Thank you, Mr. Sange, for making our Arunachal journey so much more memorable.
Recommend you to read following Travel blog posts on Places to visit in North East India.