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Old 22nd January 2017, 14:41   #1
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Default Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

"Two roads diverged in a wood;
And I took the one less travelled by...
And that has made all the difference!!"

- Robert Frost

The road less travelled, unexplored nature, the excitement of the unknown entity that awaits beyond the bend. These, to an extend gives structure to my plans to visit Tawang through an untrodden path. Well, may be much like how Robert Frost would've felt 100 years back when he put pen to paper.

The legendary Leh- Ladakh circuit has been traditionally the pinnacle in the travel diaries of most people. Well, the term 'most' these days include nubile teens with selfie sticks, honeymoon couples, second time honey mooners, their dogs and even Farah Khan's movie cast. And therefore, these days, the mighty mountains have become a tourist hub. Well, I don't like tourist crowd. So, therefore for my annual road trip, in line with the government's look East policy, I looked North East. And a cursory search string with Google Mama left my jaw dropping loose.
The decision was made- Destination Tawang it is. No two thoughts.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-img_20161221_10364501.jpeg

North East has lately assumed prominence in the traveller's radar. Tawang- the land of Monpas, amongst the other host of destinations, stands out as a hot favourite.

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The roads of the high mountains are not the kind which will make you write home about for good reasons. Even for an expert driver, placed in moderate conditions, the roads are tough, no two thoughts. For a person like me with lesser degree of psycho-motor skills, they start snarling.
Well, to say the least, to borrow from the 'Man from Snowy River', "If it were easy to get there, it wouldn't be challenging".

Modes of Travel to Reach Tawang

You can reach Tawang in many ways.
1. A few fly in to Tawang on a helicopter from Guwahati (service available only on Saturdays). I would call them, the wisest lot. Praise to thee. I fail to see the fun in that though. Still, praise to thee.

2. Then, many fly to Tezpur/ Guwahati and hire a cab to scale the mighty mountains towering ahead. You get cabs from organised tourist agents/ operators at Guwahati.
You can also take a shared jeep/ Sumo from Tezpur (starts at 0530). These shared jeeps/ Sumos cover the whole distance from Tezpur to Tawang in a single day!! Unless you are used to travelling on high ranges, I wouldn't recommend this as it takes a toll on your body.

3. A few others are crazy enough to drive their own cars up the treacherous, barren, boulder laden road to creep up the hills (I am of that variety). The suspension sure takes a pat during the transit up an down the winding roads, (or what is left of them).

4. A few more of the more adventurous kind, ride it up on their bikes . All I can say is that their spines and posteriors deserve a standing salute!!

Roads to Tawang

Most travellers, take the Bhalukpong route. (Guwahati- Tezpur- Bhalukpong- Bomdila). Pretty straight forward, pretty broken and pretty much devoid of surprises.

However, not known to many, is the less travelled, yet beautiful route which transits through Kalaktang and lands you straight at Rupa, some 15 kms short of Bomdila. The road which is also called the Trans Himalayan Highway. This road is in good condition and drive is much better in comparison to the main route through Bhalukpong. I travelled to Tawang through this road and this thread aims to share the information to fellow travellers.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 12:25.
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Old 22nd January 2017, 16:07   #2
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Default Tawang- through Kalaktang- Rupa- Bomdila

The Wonderful Drive Through Kalaktang

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Suggested Route- (Route 1)- Guwahati- Sipajhar- Mangaldoi- Rowta- Orang- (turn left at junction)- Mazbat- Amatulla- Kalaktang (turn right, don't enter Kalaktang Village) - Gyuto Monastery- Shergaon- Rupa- Bomdila.
Distance- 310 Kms of hassle free, traffic free, effortless roads.
The road conditions through out is good to very good and at many places, excellent.

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Alternate route from Kalaktang- (Route 2)

The route above, lands you in Rupa. However, there is an alternate route which is 8 kms shorter and lands up directly at Dirang. The route is the same as above till Shergaon. At Shergaon, you need to divert to proceed to Dirang via Morshing. I haven't travelled in that and therefore, I cannot comment on the status of roads (or the absence of it).

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-route-comparison.png

Traditional Route- Guwahati- Sipajhar- Mangaldoi- Rowta- Orang- Tezpur- Bhalukpong- Tenga- Bomdila.
Distance- 320 Kms. The road from Bhalukpong till Bomdila is broken at patches and you will never get the speed of advance as you might get in the suggested route.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-guwahati-tezpur-bomdila.png

If you are travelling to Tawang from Guwahati, it makes all sense to take diversion from Orang towards Kalaktang.
If you are travelling from Tezpur though, this route will be longer by around 70 kms (225 Kms Vs 155 Kms). The roads are great, the drive is good and the call is yours.

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This road has been recently opened for traffic and is in very good shape (as on end Dec 16) with sparse traffic through out. For the entire distance from Orang to Bomdila (which took 7 hours for me, with halts), I hardly would've seen some 20 vehicles crossing me, and about a half which I overtook/ over took me.
There are some joints which are broken (of 100 m length each); but easily weighs out the disposition of Bhalukpong- Bomdila stretch.

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Route Guide

At Rowta turn right, and continue to follow the main road towards Orang. Deviation is to be taken from Orang (to left).

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-rowta-orang-diversion.jpg

The road from Orang till Kalaktang will not be shown in Google maps as the maps in this part of the country is not that accurate and have incomplete patches in abundance.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-incomplete-patch-gmaps.png

Though the diversion at Rowta will take you eventually to the road to Kalaktang, my suggestion will be (at the expense of an additional 15 Kms) to travel till Orang and take left from the junction.

Reference to google maps

Google maps works in most areas; though intermittent. There are two major places where gmaps will divert you off track.
Google maps erratic 1. If you search for direct route to Kalaktang from Guwahati, you will be taken through a road through Bhairabkunda after a deviation from Rowta. This is not the road which we want to go through (though it will be shorter by around 15 kms or so). This deviation from Rowta will take you through some broken patches/ unfinished roads and will eventually land you up near Amatulla where the original road joins up.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-gmaps-erratic-1.png

Google maps erratic 2. Whilst in case 1, the road was completely uncharted, here there is a charted road. However, the newly constructed road, the one which we need to take, is not marked and default navigation will divert you up the hill. This is in the last 20 Kms approaching Rupa. So, disregard that and keep following the main road.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-gmaps-erratic-2.png

If you follow google maps, approaching Rupa, you will be taken up the hill besides Chillipam monastery and brought down at Rupa again; which is some 10 Kms longer. However, the drive is scenic and road conditions very good per high range standards. The Chillipam Monastery on top is excellent, and I would rate that the best amongst the monasteries in Tawang area.

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Pros and Cons
As is the case with all things good and bad, it is prudent to weigh in the considerations before your actual decision making. Enlisting below the few pros and cons that I could estimate during my planning phase.

Pros
1. Good road surface and evenly laid.
2. Least amount of traffic. As I had already mentioned, I hardly encountered any traffic in the whole route.
3. Leisurely and effortless drive.
4. There are no steep or difficult inclines through ou the stretch till Bomdilla.
5. As was expected, the drive was relaxing and scenic.
6. Saves much time, effort and some distance.
7. ILP is accepted in checkposts (will cover that part subsequently).

Cons
1. It is a new road and not much frequented. Therefore, during adverse weather conditions, bulldozer services for landslide clearances will take a while.
2. Not much of humanity around (Bhalukpong route is a slight shade better in this regard). Therefore, if you get a breakdown, the only people whom you might find for help will be the PWD/ BRO trucks plying for road repairs.
3. Except for two places where I could find a restaurant 'kind' of setup, the entire route is void of any amenities. The restaurants were small, clean and provided authentic local food. Therefore, stock up your provisions for immediate need enroute.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 20:01.
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Old 22nd January 2017, 16:30   #3
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Default ILP and passes to Bum La

Inner Line Pemit

1. Being a restricted area, any person other than natives, require an inner line permit to visit Arunachal.
2. It is issued for a period of 15 days normally, and can be extended if required.
3. The ILP is checked at the entry checkpost into the state by the BSF/ police personnel manning the gates.
4. It will also be required to be produced at the hotels of stay for verification.
5. From where to obtain ILP: http://arunachaltourism.in/entry.htm
or : http://www.travelspeak.in/arunachal-...t-ilp-tourist/
6. You can also obtain ILP online. (Recommended method)
http://www.arunachalilp.com/
I had sourced the ILP online and had carried a print out copy with me during my travel.
7. In case you couldn't manage the ILP online before you started, you can contact the following: -
Tezpur- The Deputy Resident Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh Parvati nagar, Tezpur,Assam - 03712-260173
Guwahati- The Deputy Resident Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, GS Road Rukminigaon opposite Manasa Mandir, Dispur, Guwahati -781021. - 0361- 2412859/2416720/ 2412859
Inner Line Permit Checking in the Kalaktang Route
  • There are three checkposts enroute on the Kalaktang Route, manned by Sashastra Seema Bal.
  • In each of these checkposts, your ILP will be checked.
  • You might have to make the requisite endorsement in their entry register in the first checkpost or each of the checkposts
  • The ILP might have mentioned "Bhalukpong" as the point of entry to Arunachal Pradesh. Irrespective, you can still access entry to Arunachal through this corridoor.

Visit to Bum La
  1. You don't require a 4 WD vehicle to ride up Bum La. Though the local taxi guys might scare you with tales, it can be easily done on a 2 WD vehicle.
  2. A high GC vehicle is recommended. However, when I visited, I saw a Punto and Swift scaling the heights with little difficulty. For the matter of difficulty, it should suffice to say that all vehicles will find some amount of difficulty.
  3. If you need a confidence booster, the fact is that all Sumos and local taxis which ply there are 2 wheel drives.
  4. If you need further a confidence boost, it may be noted that all locals have Maruti 800s and Altos. Bigger cars were hard to come by except for the taxis.
  5. Additional confidence booster- The toughest part of the drive I felt was the Sela pass sector, till Jaswantgarh. If you reached Tawang in your own car, then the worst part is over. Drive to Bum La is not as difficult; though will be only a shade lesser.
  6. If those confidence boosters didn't help you, or if you dont have your own vehicle, then you can hire a local taxi from Tawang. There is a set of lakes which they will take you to, then Bum La, Sangetsar and back to Tawang. Your purse will get lighter by around Rs 5000/- or more for the whole day trip.
  7. On the day of the drive to Bum La, try and start early. You should aim to reach Bum La by around 10 o clock and Sangetsar by 12 o clock. If you are able to meet that timeline, you will have enough time to visit Taksang Gompa which is 7 kms further from Sangetsar, towards Zemithang.
  8. Let's first come to truce with one fact: Roads from Tawang to Bum La are bad. Bum La to Sangetsar are deplorable and Sangetsar to Taksang Gompa is horrendous. Well, thats part of the package, and well worth the destination.
    Remember the 'Man from Snowy River'? "If it were easy to get there, it wouldn't be challenging" right?
  9. Return from Y junction is not much trying as it is all down slope. You can time it in such a way to climb down the mountain folds closer to sunset, and if fortune favours, you may be blessed with jawdropping sunset views. (Some snaps I've attached in post #6)
  10. Army is God, and so is omni present in this area. If you get stuck somewhere, they will happily help you out. Jai Hind!
  11. Make sure that you don't get sandwiched inside a convoy of trucks. The trucks move slowly and climb the hills with relative ease compared to 2 WD cars. Remember that they use traction to climb, while your best friends are momentum and torque.
  12. To visit Bum La, you will need to apply for a pass the previous day from the DC office. It encompasses two permissions. One from the SDM and the other from the Army. To save time, it is recommended to employ a travel agent for this. So that he will keep your passes ready by the time you reach.
  13. If sourcing the passes yourself, you can apply for the passes in the morning and by evening, you will get the passes ready. The same is to be submitted to Brigadier Officer at War Memorial for Army clearance. You can plan your local sight seeing around these.
  14. The pass is valid for a single day only . You cannot therefore use the same pass for visits on subsequent days or any combinations of the like.
  15. Tawang isn't a place like Ladakh where you will need extra day catered in for acclimatisation.
  16. Still, if you have enough time; the first day, you can see around places in Tawang. Arrange passes and the next day, you drive up to Bum La

Zemithang

Zemithang is a laid back village almost at the middle of nowhere. I will not go into the history of the place or the monuments there. However, though at a modest 80 Kms from Tawang, you cannot achieve an up and down on the same day due to the magnanimity of the roads. It takes around 5-6 hours one way. The issue is that there are no in between places for halt if you start back the same day. Therefore, you will invariably have to stay there. Options for stay are limited, with a government Inspection Bungalow ( 03794- 280326) and very few homestays.

There is a road which leads to Sangetsar lake from Zemithang side. It is said that the best drive in the whole of Tawang region is the stretch from Zemithang to Sangetsar. The said road was closed during my visit and I couldn't venture the drive. In addition, during winters, the surface is all iced out and weathering it was impossible for my humble driving skills.

The Western approach to Zemithang through Lumla is open at all times. Roads on either route are in tatters, though very scenic. Especially in Zemithang- Sangetsar stretch, check well with locals and weather before venturing out. The route is very lonely and help will be hard to come by. Needless to say, cell phone coverage can be comfortably ruled out. As for records, cell phone coverage is available only at Tawang, Dirang and Bomdilla.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 19:53.
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Old 27th January 2017, 23:49   #4
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Default Places to visit enroute and at Tawang

Sunset will be around 1630- 1700 hrs. However, the twilight hours are pretty short and it gets dark pretty fast since surrounded by mountains.

Below are a few places which you could consider visiting in & around Tawang and enroute.
Then of course, the essence of a thrilling road trip is on spontaneity and the excitement of the unknown. Therefore, the places below is not exhaustive at all.
For, a careless wanderer finds the most beautiful views.

Enroute Tawang

Bomdila Monastery- Bomdila. Atop a hill. Car can be driven all the way up. Good views on a clear day from atop the hill.
Kiwi and Orange Orchards- Dirang. The town of Dirang lies by the Kameng river. At the town, take a bridge to cross the river. After the bridge, take left and drive around 5-6 Kms to reach the orchards. You can better ask around and locals will direct you happily. The orchard we visited was part of a resort (Norphel retreat) and the owner gleefully allowed us to see around.
Sela Pass- Sela. Wonderful place to be. Ideal stopover for break and food from the Sashastra Seema Bal canteen. Good place for photographs.
Sela Lake- Sela. Again a naturally photogenic place. Just point and click, the snap will be good.
Jaswant garh
Nurunang Falls. I didn't like it much. I won't recommend if you don't have much time.
Chillipam Monastery- Rupa. Must visit place. Wonderful drive up the hills. Peaceful place and wonderful views. (Few photos on post #2). If taking the Kalaktang route, it can be clubbed along on the route (with a small diversion).

Note:- To go to Chillipam monastery enroute the Kalaktang route, follow the default google maps. The newly built road (which is not charted in gmaps) will traverse through the bottom of the hill whilst, the monastery is atop the hill.
{refer map on Post #2, google erratic 2). The Blue line is the one which will pass through Chillipam monastery. The red dotted lines is the shortest and fastest route though.

At Tawang

War Memorial
Tawang Monastery- check prayer timings before your visit. When we visited, prayer started at 1515 hrs. Thats the best time to be there
Urgelling Monastery
Ani Gompa
(monastery of ladies)
Local market for curios shopping

Around Tawang

Bum La- China Border
Sangetsar Lake- Lake formed out from an earthquake. Restaurant available.
P Tso lake- Before Y junction. Beautiful. Worthy enough to spend 30 minutes here enroute.
Zemithang- Takes around 6 hours to reach, River crossings in between. Lot of waterfalls and scenic drive. Also, the place of red pandas.
Tak- Tsang Gompa- After Sangetsar, 7 kms further. Located on the ridge of a hill. Wonderful view from the top.

Suggested Itinerary
Day 1- Guwahati- Orang- Kalaktang- Bomdila (or Dirang)
Day 2- Bomdila- Sela - Tawang
Day 3- Tawang sightseeing, War memorial, Tawang Gompa, passes for Bum La visit (as applicable)
Day 4- Tawang- P Tso Lake- Bum La- Sangetsar- T Gompa- Tawang
Day 5- Tawang- Zemithang
Day 6- Zemithang- Tawang
Day 7- Tawang- Dirang- (Orchards) - Bomdila
Day 8- Bomdila- .......

That said, be prepared for a rocking ride as you start climbing the hills. Especially, Sela Pass to Jaswant Garh; and Tawang to Bum La/ Sungetsar.
Tawang is unique in its own ways. It awakens the explorer in you. It urges you to travel and explore further. It is one place which shouts out to reaffirm the saying: "Not all who wander, are lost!"

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 23:17.
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Old 28th January 2017, 01:03   #5
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Default Things to keep in mind during planning

Few things to keep in mind during planning and journey

1. It is not advisable to drive through any part of these terrains after sundown, unless you are a local.
2. Being the East part of the country, sunrises are typically early and sunsets too. Evening 4:30 PM should be the time you should plan to conclude the journey for the day. Therefore, starting early would be prudent, especially if you desire to stop frequently for photographs or wet your feet in the crystal streams.
3. Also, depending on the prevalent season, the valley covers up in fog. Therefore, if you are travelling during winters (especially), you should be more bothered about the white out than sunset. Plan accordingly. When the fog rolls in, it will be real thick and fog lights may get relegated to just being the object of "style value".
4. Sela to Jaswantgarh part is particularly tough. You should aim to reach Jaswantgarh before 1- 2 PM so that you will be able to reach Tawang comfortably before it gets dark.
5. The locals all through out the states of North East were warm, friendly and keen to help or assist.
6. The roads are not of the highway variety and expect a lot of bouncy toppling tracks. Prepare your vehicle well before the drive. The spare tyre is a very important entity.
7. A good inflator with puncture repair kit should become an important part of family before you start. You should know how to fill air, how the guage works and how to repair the puncture. Practise at home before you start. At those freezing temperatures, it is not not very luxurious to learn a new trade.
8. Loosen up all the nuts of your wheel and tighten it back again before you start the journey. The care for wheel nuts generally are neglected. It would be tightened firm and tight by the wheel alignment guy with a machine. After your tryst with the boulders and bumps, the nuts get tighter. And, at the time when you need to replace the wheel, the nuts won't budge. Not a very enviable nor comfortable position to be in; and I learnt it the hard way.
9. The journey through Sela Pass is through steep, winding roads. Do not keep your windows open even to get the natural air conditioning. Blowing cold air on to your head will lend you a nice headache by evening.
10. Get the ILP online. That's the best, easiest and most friendly, effortless way. More than the matter of economy, it saves your precious time at Guwahati/ Tezpur which you can fruitfully utilise towards your travel up the mountains.
11. Cell phone coverage is by the grace of almighty. And therefore, wherever you get range, you should be happy. At major towns enroute, like Rupa, Bomdila, Dirang etc and in Tawang (ofcourse), cell phone connectivity is available. Airtel and BSNL works seemlessly. Airtel even gave me 4G coverage at Bomdila.
12. For Bomdila- Tawang, keep adequate time at hand to roam around. There will be too many places where you would want to stop over.
13. I went with two kids, aged 8 and 6. They coped up well. I just made sure that their ears, head and neck were covered at all times.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 17:18.
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Old 30th January 2017, 19:22   #6
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Default Photo time!!

How can a report be complete without a few pictures? And it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here I sign off with a few thousand words.

Shades of the setting sun. Driving down Bum La. The sheet of clouds over the valley below is an ethereal sight. The sun traverses down into a sea of clouds.

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The hues of sunrise. Bomdila. Fresh air, crisp atmosphere and splendid views.

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A veil of clouds hang on adjacent to the twisties.

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Local Arunachali food; from one of the very few roadside shops in the Kalaktang route. As authentic as it can get, and a definite treat to the taste buds.

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The road above clouds.

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Mountains peeping from the ocean of clouds beneath. The town of Tawang is beneath the layer of clouds. The drive is quite a relishing one. The return drive down from Bum La/ Sangetsar is pretty safe. The setting of sun wouldnt cause much issue as the road from this point is good and safe. You can very well afford to stay on and feast on the wonderful spread of nature before your eyes.

Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know-img_20161221_164615_01_01.jpg

Frozen Waterfalls...

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And another one. We encountered atleast five frozen falls during the drive from Tawang- Bum La- Sangetsar- Tawang. For a lubber from the tropical hardlands of the South, this was pure bliss.

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And then there was also the frozen river. Superb!!

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And the parting shot.
Don't go where the road leads. Rather, go where there is no road and leave a trail.

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Drive Safe!

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 30th January 2017 at 19:36.
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Old 31st January 2017, 10:23   #7
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Default re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 31st January 2017, 11:51   #8
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Default re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Man !! You are giving serious travel goals to a whole lot of bhpians.

The dexterity with words and the lens cannot be missed. Keep up the good work buddy.

Thanks for the detailed directions. Will connect if and when I plan a trip to Tawang.
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Old 31st January 2017, 12:04   #9
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Default re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mistakenguy View Post
Man !! You are giving serious travel goals to a whole lot of bhpians.

The dexterity with words and the lens cannot be missed. Keep up the good work buddy.

Thanks for the detailed directions. Will connect if and when I plan a trip to Tawang.
Thanks brother. That's a whole lot of compliments from a person who himself travels extensively. By the looks of it, I reckon you will travel to Vizag before you may set foot on Tawang
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Old 31st January 2017, 12:46   #10
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Thanks a lot dhanushmenon for sharing the detailed report on the Tawang sector, made me nostalgic about our trip done two years back. Next time we will take the new road that you have suggested till Bomdilla as the road via Bhalukpong was quite bad. The time we went to Bum La, 2 WD vehicles were not able to make it till the last part. Only our Thar was able to go all the way, so I think either the condition has improved that even Punto and Swift are able to go there or it depends on the time of the year.
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Old 31st January 2017, 16:31   #11
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhanushmenon View Post
And the parting shot.
Don't go where the road leads. Rather, go where there is no road and leave a trail.

Drive Safe!
Thumbs up pics and travelogue, enjoyed reading it. North Eastern part of our country is a hidden treasure and I feel very happy when I see people are going there.
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Old 31st January 2017, 16:50   #12
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Awesome T-Log, Mr. D with your trusted steed! Thanks for the neat summary and guiding tid-bits to plan for the similar trip. In April first week I am headed to Nameri - Dirang - Tawang - Bomdila and Kaziranga. This time flying in a steel bird but for sure making the trip soon with my Cheetah. The Tlog with all the details comes at right time. Thanks for the neat summary and loads of fantastic pictures!
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Old 31st January 2017, 16:55   #13
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhanushmenon View Post
[center]
The decision was made- Destination Tawang it is. No two thoughts.
Thanks a lot for sharing route details and travel tips Dhanush.

I was salivating at the prospect of reading a NE travelogue by Mr.D and you have only shared the summary with important route updates. Not fair Mr.D, Yeh dil mange more. More prose and pics please!
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Old 31st January 2017, 16:59   #14
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Excellent travelogue with detailed pointers to help others plan the travel and thanks for sharing this dhanushmenon.

NE still has the least explored and most beautiful places in India. I had experienced this during one of my work related travel to Mizoram, some years back.

Could you also include the details(route taken, road conditions etc..) of your journey till Guwahati? What was your starting point? Your location shows KL/AP and you have a PY registered vehicle.
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Old 31st January 2017, 17:01   #15
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Default Re: Holiday in Tawang: All you need to know

Another superb travelogue, Dhanush with set of beautiful pics.
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