My solo trip to Tawang finally began as I reached this beautiful hill top town. By the time I had arrived to Tawang it was getting dark. I was completely worn off by the long tiring journey from Tezpur to Tawang. And all I wanted to do was fall on the bed and go to sleep. The problem was I had no hotel reservation and on top of it the mobile network wasn’t working there. I was told later that only Vodafone and Airtel works in Tawang. The challenge was that I had to find my accommodation in Tawang in an old fashion style – by going door to door.
Dogs are a big menace in this beautiful hilltop town. I feared for my safety as the dogs on the dark deserted street held who-can-bark-the-loudest-competition. Lucky for me it didn’t take much time to find out the hotel – well only like 15 minutes. Most of the good budget hotels on the Tawang center were fully booked. Finally, I found one with a smaller room, and which was just in my budget range. This Tawang hotel was a newly opened one, being managed by a green teetotaler, a seemingly nice Nepali origin woman. I was so tired by the long Tezpur to Tawang sumo journey that I dozed off as soon as I crashed on the bed.
Temperature dipped severally in the night but the warmth of the blanket kept me in a sound sleep…. I.e. until the dogs took over the street. As the hotel was right on the street, there was no escaping the noise. I faced similar situation when I was in traveling solo in Paro during my backpacking trip to Bhutan.
My head was banging from inside when I woke up in the morning, or rather I should say when I opened up my eyes. Thanks to the wonderful ginger tea, and all those ginger teas that followed during my stay there in 2 days trip to Tawang. And not to mention she was sweet enough to make it on the house! Something I found out on the day of checkout.
My day 1 Tawang itinerary was kind of fixed, I was traveling to the famed Tawang monastery. The smart me who wanted to plan ahead went first to the DC office to obtain the Bumla pass permit. This came up in a chit chat with a small Tawang restaurant owner. Upon asking him, he tipped me to take the permit to the Bumla pass permit by myself. Bumla is an Indo china border, my second such unique place to visit after Nathu la Pass in Sikkim.
I walked through the confusing mountain roads, unpaved shortcuts and flight of stairs which all branched and merged on the main street, taking me ever close to my destination. It was a quick meet up with the official in the Tawang DC office. The officer gave me a detailed form and asked it to be get it filled with the help of the cab driver. The cab driver? Yes, I had to get cab driver to submit his license and other details. Of-course, it made sense, the Bumla pass permit is issued for people and the vehicle. I knew I had to rush to the monastery and then find a cab driver and finally submit the form all before closing time of the office today. I had to get it approved by the office today, so that I could leave early tomorrow. Oh my, I was on clock!
I rushed outside and began making my way to the Tawang monastery. I was kind of surprised to find that monastery in Tawang was completely deserted.
Wondering, what’s going on, I cross the entrance and stepped in. Once inside the monastery, my eyes fell on a small yet beautiful museum located on my right. In front of me was a vast court yard, one of the edge of which stood the beautiful Tawang pagoda.
It was interestingly to see 6th Dalali lama, which is exactly what the museum was all about. The ticket was dirt cheap for the treasure trove of information and interesting collection which could be found inside the Tawang monastery museum. There were two floors on the museums, full of Buddhist and Dalai lama artefacts. What struck my interest were lot of items of personal collection of Dalai lama.
Next on the Tawang monastery itinerary was the visit inside the Pagoda. The pagoda was beautifully decorated from inside. I couldn’t help myself admire the colourful Buddhist images, the carved pillars and painted ceilings. It was all so surreal, and to top it off I was all alone enjoying this beauty.
Through the courtyard, I floated like a butterfly, I remembered I was on clock, the Sun was right above my head by now. It was now time to see actually the place where all the Lamas study. The building behind the pagodas was the school, I could clearly hear the guruji scolding his pupils.
And the language of the medium? No surprise there … Hindi.
While gong back I decided to hire a taxi, I wanted to see Tawang War Memorial and I realized I cannot simply walk there, time was not the luxury I had.
As I negotiated with cabbie, he purposed I check out and add few more places to my itinerary. I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse! Off we went in a Maruti van… vroom!
First on the agenda was the Tawang’s woman monastery, though it was a small place I found it to have lot of character. There were small kids running around, female monks going about their daily businesses, all of them happy to see a tourist.
The door of the temple was opened for me and I bowed and prayed for their wellbeing. I wondered why they had been kept in such a remote location, far away from the city of Tawang. Also, while I could see Tawang monastery was such a huge, sprawling complex this was one tinier and very modest.
The second destination on the itinerary was Tawang war memorial. Among the names engraved on plates were soldiers and officers of Garhwal rifle.
I couldn’t be prouder of my land who has sacrificed so many sons in the service of the nation, and my father who has served in Army and in the Pakistan war. Visit to Tawang war memorial proved to be a very emotional affair.
The next on the list was to visit Urgelling Gompa, the birthplace of the sixth Dalai lama, Tsangyang Gyatso. By the time, I covered the places of interested in Tawang the sun was on its journey down. Back at the taxi stand near the centre, I quickly negotiated with a driver for the next day trip to Madhuri lake and Bumla border.
The price was fixed, and the condition was that I will figure my own Bumla pass permit. Usually, the driver charges 400/- INR extra just for getting the permit. After we got the documents stamped in the DC office which was just about to close, we headed to the brigade office. Brigade was the one which will provide the final seal of approval on our application and give us the Bumla pass permit. Interestingly, the brigade office was at the same location that I had been to earlier during the day… the Tawang War Memorial.
The driver asked me to convince the brigade office to get the permit now; he suspected we will be asked to wait till next morning. And… his suspicion was right. The army at the gate to the office took the paper from me and asked me to come tomorrow.
“Please, can we get this done today?” I requested, “I need to leave by afternoon tomorrow so will be starting the trip early.”
“Sir isn’t there in the office, you have to come tomorrow morning.”
“What is the earliest time at you open?” I asked.
I made a mental note and walked off… 6 AM. One more early morning for me… I was already tired after the long day… I slept off as soon as I crashed on the bed… i.e. only till it was midnight…
The lords of the night took over the street…
They shouted and shouted and shouted… as if they were saying… We own the night.
I woke up feeling smashed, the water was stone cold… Probably, just the shock I needed to jolt me out of slumber.
It was 06:30 AM by the time we reached at the brigade office… With anticipation I walked to the office… my heart was thumping. The big question lurked in my mind…
Will I get the Bumla pass permit so that I can carry on with my travel to?