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SS-Traveller 16th June 2013 20:02

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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Meet a couple of regular tourists from Kolkata. They came visiting Tawang, and were looking to hire a car to take them to Bumla and Sangetsar Lake. What they got was a brand new Ertiga without registration number (no, I did not blank out the registration in this case!), with the seats still covered in protective plastic wrap.

With a merciless driver at the wheel, the kind of battering the Ertiga faced on these roads was amazing. The car outran the Fortuner on the return journey from the lake, with scant regard for road conditions or any kind of empathy for the vehicle itself. I wonder how many thousands of km of clutch life was reduced during the single trip. It did not make it up to Bumla, however, and had to be parked about 3 km before, while the tourists hitched a ride on an army truck going up to Bumla. That must have been great fun!

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Talking of clutch life, here's a fairly new Bolero used as a taxi, whose clutch gave up the ghost, causing a traffic jam on the way back to Y-Junction from the lake. The other cabbies managed to push the vehicle to one side with just enough space for the other vehicles to pass. The passengers were accommodated in other taxis in ones and twos, and the Bolero would remain overnight here, till the driver got back to Tawang and arranged for a mechanic or towing vehicle to be brought up here. I would hate to have a similar incident happen to any vehicle here!

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samarjitdhar 17th June 2013 13:45

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
Thanks so much for this travelogue. It brought back memories from 8 years back when we did more or less the same track and route. The roads seem to have been better back then than what it is now albeit due to this reconstruction or widening. Arunachal Pradesh is such a beautiful state to visit with so much potential for tourism marred only by the lack of good roads and official apathy. We had the exact same reaction when we went to check out that hot spring at Dirang. I would have expected at least a little bit of improvement there from 8 years back. However Dirang is really a beautiful place to spend a day or two. I remember we actually reached Dirang at around 10:30 PM at night because of a late start from Tezpur via Bhalukpong. We were in a Tata Sumo and thankfully the driver was an expert on those roads. Still the road conditions back then seem to be way better than what it seems to be now. From what it looks like one would now need a proper 4WD to complete this circuit without any scares.

By the way isn't there a waterfall related to the movie also somewhere on the way to that lake or maybe on the way back? As far as I remember we were told that the climax sequences of the movie were shot there.

SS-Traveller 17th June 2013 19:38

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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We are surprised to find a Gurdwara in the middle of Bangachangsa, the high-altitude lake district of Tawang as it is locally known. It is the Teesri Udassi Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurdwara Sahib. We had absolutely no prior idea about the reach of Sikhism into the middle of nowhere.
The history of how the Gurdwara came into being is described on the boards installed by the side of the road.
Here is the Gurdwara, in a cave situated about 200 metres above ground level
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The base of the Gurdwara from where one starts trekking up
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Curiosity aroused, I have sought the help of Google to enlighten me further regarding how the Gurdwara came to exist centuries ago in an area where no Sikhs are known to have lived then - and here's what I found:


...a very interesting story about Buddhist people in Arunachal Pradesh, a remote part of India more than 2,000 kilometers from Punjab, who worship "Nanak Lama" as their "Guru Rimpoche". The people have numerous legends which are centuries old of miraculous events connected to the visit of Lama Nanak... (during His Teesri Udassi)

Guru Nanak went to Bhutan and visited Tashigong- Dzong and Dukti after visiting Hajo in Assam. Thereafter he entered Arunanchal Pradesh. He visited Sela and Sabrela and crossed a hill now known as Govindgarh. From there he visited a place now known as Nanak Dzong. He stayed at the place for some days and held discourses. There the people worship him till today as Nanak Lama.

Thereafter, he proceeded further north and visited the famous monastery at Tawang. His painting is still preserved at the monastery. The Lamas worship Guru Nanak as their Guru Rimpoche. As he went further on the route adopted by Dalai Lama while escaping from Lhasa, he relaxed on a boulder and praised the beauty of the nature. This boulder is marked by its specialty that even during heavy snow fall, it remains uncovered while the snow engulfs every inch of the area up to six feet in winter.’ Guru Nanak then went to Nagula, where he meditated for some time. Now a meditation centre has been established for all religions in memory of Guru Nanak’s visit to the place.

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Originally Posted by samarjitdhar (Post 3151739)
...isn't there a waterfall related to the movie also somewhere on the way to that lake or maybe on the way back? As far as I remember we were told that the climax sequences of the movie were shot there.

Yes, that's the Jang waterfall, also known as the Nuranang waterfall. We did see it foaming away on our way back, but for some strange reason that I cannot explain, I don't seem to have a single photo of it captured in any of the cameras we carried. :Frustrati Sutripta-da or his nephew might have a pic or two of it.

SS-Traveller 19th June 2013 13:22

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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It is a breathtaking journey to Bumla, in more senses than one! The views take your breath away, as does the altitude. The dominating view around Tawang, of course, is that of the 17th-century Tawang Monastery, also known by its Tibetan name, Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, which means 'celestial paradise in a clear night' (Ta-wang, I discovered, means 'chosen horse').

The next day, after sleeping well at night because it rained hard (and the street dogs didn't socialize because of the rain :D), we set off fairly early to the monastery. It's not a long drive from our lodge.

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Sure, the monastery is huge, but this green-coloured multi-storeyed building sprouting out from the hillside leaves me amazed for a short while. How likely is it to topple over?
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The hillsides are gradually getting reinforced with concrete, and forlorn prayer flags litter the area.
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Soon enough, we reach the outer boundary of the monastery, and drive along the high wall.

9tMax 19th June 2013 15:18

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Originally Posted by SS-Traveller (Post 3153786)

Sure, the monastery is huge, but this green-coloured multi-storeyed building sprouting out from the hillside leaves me amazed for a short while. How likely is it to topple over?

That's the Hotel Gakyi Khang Zhang - one of the better stay options in Tawang.
And why would it topple? Most of the buildings on hilly terrains are constructed in a similar fashion, where the front portion is at the level of the road and the back side is supported on pillars raised from a lower level along the slope of the hill.

SS-Traveller 19th June 2013 18:29

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More

Originally Posted by 9tMax (Post 3153968)
...why would it topple?

The initial thought of why or whether it would topple was triggered by remembering this bit and its associated links, which I'd read before travelling:

At the time of writing, the visuals from the ongoing Uttarakhand floods have served as no less a trigger to reinforce that thought.

I suppose the hotel must have been constructed keeping safety and structural engineering concepts in mind, but I am not a big fan of massively tall and narrow concrete constructions on unstable landslide-prone mountains.

SS-Traveller 19th June 2013 22:52

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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We have reached the main entrance of the monastery rather early. In fact, so early that the courtyard had still not been swept clean.

The museum still hasn't opened.

Morning prayers fill the air in a peaceful, serene way, coming from the main assembly hall.

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There also seems to be some renovation work in progress in another building next to the assembly hall.


The most impressive building situated within the Tawang Monastery is the big assembly hall, which is named as the "Dukhang". The structure of the building is three storied that stands on the northern part of the court and also houses the holy temple and "Labrang." This place is originally established by the superior of an abbey of monks.

The inner walls of the assembly hall are adorned by the huge wall paintings of the various saints and divinities that enhance the place more with spirituality. The communion table in the hall covers the whole area of the northern wall. Exactly to the left side of the Lord’s Table, a silver jewel casket is concealed with silk cloth, containing the Thankas. By the Buddhist monks, it is generally written as “Thangkas” or “Tankas”. The Thankas that are placed in the hall is dedicated to the Goddess Sri Devi known as "Palden Lhamo." It is the main deity that resides in this religious monastery, which was set to the founder of the Tawang Monastery Merak Lama, mainly by the fifth Dalai Lama. The Thankas that were painted on the interior wall surface with blood that was pulled out from the nose of the fifth Dalai Lama. The beautiful murals later came to be identified as the "Ja-Droi-ma", which means, it had the affection of a small bird. It symbolized that the Tankas or the Thanka was one of the living type.

While exploring in the religious residence, this place is more adorned and enhanced by the huge statue of Lord Buddha that is placed exactly in center of the north part. The massive golden statue is positioned in a sitting posture on a big platform; the whole body of Lord Buddha rises up and ends up with an enormous head that crosses the first floor. Among all the statues of Lord Buddha in the word, it is one of the largest images that are placed in the Tawang Monastery, which measures at a height of over 26 feet.
We peer diffidently inside to catch a glimpse of the prayers and ceremony, but are actually invited inside by a senior monk while the prayers are in progress. It is an enlightening experience.

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Large butter lamps spread an eerie glow of flickering light...

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...and we also look at the place where the monks actually make these lamps.

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Young student monks cannot concentrate on their prayers and studies too long, and take some time out to chat with each other, or just have some fun.

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As soon as prayers are over, they run outside, much like any other school as soon as the last bell rings!

Dominating the centre of the main courtyard is a flag pole, which is the trunk of a gigantic pine tree all of 80 feet high. It wouldn't fit into a single frame, and here's what I got from trying to shoot a panorama.


The whole eastern one-half of this monastery is enclosed with the residential quarters around sixty that are known as the "Sha", which means huts. This Sha are mainly the house where the monks will reside inside it to meditate or chant the name of Lord Buddha. Each of these huts in this residence hall had been constructed by some of the groups of tribals on an unpaid basis.
We peer into the narrow alleys leading to the residential quarters, but somehow don't quite find it appealing to wander inside and embarrass someone.

SS-Traveller 20th June 2013 10:46

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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Q: Who do you meet at a monastery?

A: A benevolent and friendly monk who doesn't mind posing for a pic...

...and the monk who sold his Ferrari (and drives a Hyundai Eon these days!) :uncontrol

You need to pay for using the camera, but no one is really chasing after you to collect the money. In fact, it's the benevolent monk at the museum counter who collects it (as well as the entry fee to the museum). Finally the museum opens and we troop in - the first tourists of the day!

SS-Traveller 20th June 2013 13:04

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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We take our time to go through the displays in the museum, spread over two floors.

Displayed: The footprints of Gelong Lobsang Thapke, a senior monk responsible for the renovation of the Tawang Monastery. It was evolved on the plank as a result of repetitive offering of prostration. Evolved in 19th century.
Displayed: Wooden mask of the War Gods

Some elaborate needlework on a silk scarf

A brass urn with intricate filigree work

On the first floor are displayed large utensils, bells and a variety of trinkets from two centuries ago.

What is much more interesting, of course, is a display of priceless photographs over the last 50-odd years, which have been labelled to describe the events - these fascinate us, and we spend a long time studying and clicking them. Enjoy...

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Right outside the main gate, we discover this tree, which as been allowed to survive and grow by carefully creating a window through the concrete platform.

Top-Gear 20th June 2013 19:41

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
I have been following this thread with great interest. I have no words to describe my sense of amazement and the vicarious pleasure I derive from reading your posts.

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing. The photographs, anecdotes and your interesting titbits make them all the more interesting. clap:

Keep it coming! :thumbs up

SS-Traveller 21st June 2013 01:41

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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We have spent almost the whole morning at the Tawang monastery, looking at its innards with great interest. And we have been viewing the dominant structure from all across the town and beyond. So here's a parting shot from far away.

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It's a beautiful day (when did any of us get a chance to appreciate nice weather in the middle of the morning when confined to our city of residence?) and the sun is playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. There's a hint of light in different parts, while the rest remains in shade. I'm loving it.

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At one place, there are literally hundreds of barrels containing what look to be bitumen for road construction.
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We come back into town, and it's almost noon. We're hungry, and find the Royale Oak Restaurant on the first floor, and a bakery on the ground floor (it transpired that both are owned by the same fellow). We are looking for some patties, sandwiches, pastries, oh, just something to snack on. There's not much in the bakery that we like, but the owner shows us the menu for the restaurant and invites us to the first floor...
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...and accepting that invitation was such a mistake, we realize in retrospect!

SS-Traveller 21st June 2013 10:01

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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It's brunch time. We are suckers for Tibetan food and order 3 bowls of thukpa, and Sutripta-da, as ever the traditionalist, wants bread and omelettes. And then we wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Ans then wait some more.

A full hour later, the food arrives. It's finished in 5 minutes. What was ordered as brunch ends up being a poor excuse for lunch.

A word of caution when visiting a restaurant in Tawang: Be prepared to wait. And wait. And then wait some more. Or pre-order your lunch at breakfast time, and your dinner before sunset. And never go to a restaurant at odd hours - the chances are that the chef would be missing!

Hunger satiated, we head out once again to look up a few more monasteries.

SS-Traveller 21st June 2013 10:51

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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The Tawang monastery was built around the year 1681. We are on our way to visit a monastery that pre-dates it by almost 200 years.

This is the Urgelling monastery, variably spelt as the Ugyenling monastery. A plaque bearing the history of the monastery is displayed.


Urgelling monastery stands at a short distance of 5 km, south of the Tawang Township in Arunachal Pradesh. It was the first of the three monasteries built by Urgen Sangpo, the youngest brother of Terton Pempalingpa, the famous Treasure-Revealer. Urgelling Monastery was built sometime before the year 1489 AD. This was the place were in 1683 AD Tsangyang Gyatso; the Sixth Dalai Lama was born.

Legends related to the Birth of Dalai Lama

The birth of the Sixth Dalai lama was preceded by many occurrences indicating the birth of a holy child. During her pregnancy, the Lama's mother experienced some very divine phenomenon. A stream of water turned to a stream of milk, when the mother drank water from the stream.

During his early days of infancy, the holy Lama was saved miraculously from an illness, made possible by the Dalai Lama's guardian Deity, Dorjee Dahpa.

When it became known to the world that the boy was the incarnation of the Dalai Lama, he inscribed the word "God knows" in a stone slab with his finger. This stone slab with the inscription can be seen even today.

Lajan Khan deposed the 6th Dalai Lama in 1706. The forces of Lagan Khan destroyed the Monastery, restored and augmented by the Lama in 1714 in an attempt to obliterate the memory of the Dalai Lama.

It is also believed that a Mongolian warrior called Sokpa Jomkhar, who was against the non-Gelugpa sect of Buddhists, destroyed the Monastery.

To safeguard all the valuable possession of the Urgyanling Monastery from further pilfering and destruction, it was handed over to the Tawang Monastery.

Only a modest temple can be seen today at the place of the Monastery, which was much bigger in the older days.
The monastery is a comparatively small building, and we do not go inside.

The 2 surviving legendary trees that grew out of a walking stick, as described on the plaque.

On one side of the monastery is a small mountain spring, which is revered as holy water for its miraculous healing properties. One dips the spoon into the spring to get some water. It tastes strongly of sulphur and camphor.

At the time we're there, a group of locals come to apply the water to the newborn child and to be blessed by the monks.

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More trees have been planted on the premises at the time of the Commonwealth Games.

SS-Traveller 21st June 2013 13:25

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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Residents of Tawang store huge quantities of firewood for use through the severe winter. A truckload of firewood costs Rs.60,000 and more. Electricity and fossil fuel supplies are erratic through the winter months, so electric and kerosene heaters are not that commonly used (though they are present in every household).

SS-Traveller 21st June 2013 15:30

Re: Roadtrip to The Middle of Nowhere... Monyul (Tawang) and More
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Tawang has a long tradition of nunneries called "Ani Gompas". There are several nunneries located here. I haven't come across this tradition elsewhere in the Buddhist regions of the Indian Himalayas, and we want to visit one of these nunneries.

At the Tawang monastery, we have heard that the Rimpoche or Head Lama would be going to deliver a discourse at this Ani Gompa some 10 km away. It is the last day of a month-long Buddhist festival (which left Tawang mostly vegetarian, and us partially protein-depleted! :D).

The Thukje Choeling Ani Gompa is situated on the top of a hill that faces the Tawang valley, above the Tawang-chu River.

On the way there, we find a large number of cars headed the other way, and people walking past all dressed up in traditional finery.

The road to the top of the hill is narrow, pervaded with a festival atmosphere with stalls set up on the sides of the road.

We are glad that we are a little late in arriving, and the Rinpoche's discourse is over. The crowds have left, letting us have a good look around and inside the temple.

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Of particular interest is this water-powered prayer wheel which isn't working at this time.

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Sutripta-da tries to take a closer look at the device but doesn't get much chance to photograph it, with the nuns queueing up to fill water in their buckets.

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