in North East India

From Shillong to Tawang – Solo backpacking trip

My solo trip to Tawang began from the Guwahati airport, it’s a different thing that it didn’t start immediately after. I had heard so much of Tawang and read so much of it on Travel blogs, that I had to be there and somehow feel the same as the people before me had felt. I imagined, as I always do before visiting a place, how it would look like. I imagined it as a tiny collection of houses and hotels and pagodas, with its centerpoint as the famous Tawang monastery. My imagination of Tawang was limited, the only dimension I could think of was Buddhism. It was only later I came to know Tawang was way more than a mere Buddhist sanctuary.

Information is power is quite evident from the fact that my trip to Tawang depended on the exact information on how to get the Arunachal inner line permit. Just the day before I was in Loktak lake trying to figure out how can I get the inner line pass quickly.

To give you the background, you can’t enter Arunachal Pradesh without permission. Indian citizens must get inner line permit of Arunachal, Arunachal ILP, which is then checked at the borders.

To get the Arunachal ILP you need to go specific offices run by the Arunachal government. Thorough reading the travel forums I came to know that there was one at the airport. I tried to understand the documents required, I had the id the proof but the problem was passport size photo. As I was not carrying one, I was looking for the answer whether passport size photo is needed for Arunachal inner line pass.

The second challenge that I understood was that it usually took one full day to get the Arunachal ILP, i.e. when you arrive early in the morning. If you are late then you will get the ILP in Guwahati the next day.

I was busy in travel and I had no time get a photo clicked. After scrounging through the TripAdvisor travel forum I got the tentative info that photo for ILP is not required at the Guwahati airport office. Also, at a premium the Guwahati airport office also issued the ILP on the spot.

When I landed at the Guwahati airport I was doubtful. But guess what? At the arrival hall I asked around where the Guwahati permit office is, to my luck there was no one else beside me. The woman employee of Arunachal tourist at the counter was very friendly and only asked for my ID. In next 10 minutes I had the Arunachal Inner line permit in my hand and a big smile on my face. If only, all our govt. offices could be that smooth!

Arunachal Inner Line Permit Fee: 450/- INR

Time taken to get Arunachal Inner Line Permit: 10 minutes

After I received the ILP I moved out of the airport. I was lucky to get a shared cab from Guwahati airport to Shillong. I had no intention to stay in Shillong as I was traveling further to Sohra from Shillong.

Once I completed my Meghalaya trip I was on to my next journey… The highlight of my 7 day North east itinerary… the jewel of Arunachal Pradesh… Tawang! I began my journey to Tawang from Tezpur.

As I wanted to save time I tried to figure if I could directly reach Tezpur from Shillong. I couldn’t find a direct connection while researching on the various travel forums. Though I could see a direct road on google map, but I couldn’t find a public transport from Shillong to Tezpur.

Finally, I decided to figure it out on the road. Answers that technology can’t give, the road has them. Besides, I couldn’t just sit and wonder, I had to move. Once again at the Shillong taxi stand I was told I should drop at Jorabat. From Jorabat I could get a traveller (kind of mini bus) to Tezpur. It was a long tiring journey of around 4-5 hours. I followed the itinerary – it took me around 2.5 hours to reach Jorabat. From there I easily found a traveller. It was uncomfortably hot in Assam and I was really missing the cool climate of Sohra.

It was already late in the evening when I finally reached Tezpur. On the way, I had the encounter with the most beautiful gift of the state of Assam… the mighty Brahmaputra. It was unlike any river I had seen, in-fact it didn’t look like a river but like an ocean. An endless barrage of water.

As soon as I got down, I headed straight to the bus station. The Tezpur bus station was only a short ride away. In the Tezpur bus station it was quite easy to locate the Tawang Sumo Counter. Lucky for me they were still open and issued me a ticket promptly for the next morning. Well… really, early morning. We were supposed to leave by 03:30 as the next day was Independence Day and the security was expected to be extra tightened for the day.

Tired as I was from the long day of journey from Sohra to Tezpur, I was feeling hungry too. There were not much of a dining scene nearby but more of a bakery, fast food kind of scene. I found an interesting old shop brimming with people, selling only Kachori and Chai. I sat down on the shared bench and the order came automatically. Wow, who could have thought one can have such an authentic kachori outside of Delhi n Rajasthan! But night wasn’t over yet and I decided to indulge my sweet tooth in a nearby bakery which seemed very popular among the locals. I tried the ‘special’ on the menu, that’s what I usually do try to have the best in their menu. And boy oh boy, I was in for surprise. The special was mango kulfi, and when it really came I could hardly believe.

What I was served was a small mango itself! The frozen mango was prepared as a kulfi, how in the name of…! I am yet to have such a delicacy anywhere else in India. I really liked Prakash Kulfi in Aminabad, Lucknow where I went with Amaan, an old school friend of mine. But this one? No comparison, mind blown!

It was raining when I got up in the morning. An omen for my trip from Tezpur to Tawang? The sumo went around in the dark picking people one by one, as the rain lashed hard on the screen. My backpack was kept on the roof of the sumo, covered with a plastic sheet. I held my laptop closely as we sped past the deserted streets… I watched with my eyes growing heavy and as the lights of the town got dimmer…

Tawang I was coming…

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