Places have a way of speaking to you; sometimes so strong that you either like it or hate it instantly. But in Tawang my intrapersonal-communication senses went blank. I stayed there for four days before I could finally decide. Tawang is not like any other Indian town.
Geographically it can’t be more alienated from the rest of the country. Arriving here was like entering another world. The town is saturated with the Indian Army and their camps. That’s one of the first things you’ll notice. A town crammed with men in camouflaged dress is not you want to end up with on your travel, especially when you are looking for a peaceful place. But the army here is just like civilians. They walk into the town without guns; I never once saw a jawan with a gun in town.
Travelers who came to visit Tawang are either relatives of army personnel or serious travelers. Because of its geographical separation it is not just a place anyone can land up without conviction. You need to be persistent enough to brave a 13 hours ride on a rough mountain road.
The cold here could kill; after arriving here I needed the sun more than ever. After shivering through the morning, I went ahead and bought a warm woolen cap and gloves. The cold here was sadistic. I was dressed warm enough but the freezing wind didn’t even spare my nose; the only exposed part of my body. The next day I was shivering slightly from cold and fever. At the end of my four days stay my nose was red; a result of being rubbed too much. I still don’t know what I could have done to keep that cold away. I wore four blankets to keep myself warm at night but the cold found its way into my bones; it hurts literally.
Cold winds blew down from the mountains surrounding the valley. In the morning the pine groves just beneath the barren peaks were covered with a thin sheet of snow. Winter was soon marching down from the north. Most of the mountains were now barren because of deforestation and those giant pine stumps that looked as old as the rocks were a sad sight to see.
So what do you do for a living on a town with nothing much but cold and rocks? I’m told by a local cab driver that most of them were either contractors or businessmen. The road loosened up quickly because of rain in summer and snow in winter. So road repair and maintenance took place year round and employs hundreds of locals.
Most Monpa men (original inhabitants) practiced polygamy; their culture allows them to do so. Here women lived a difficult life working mostly at road repairs and doing hard labor. I saw couple of women chipping rocks into gravels with their babies on their backs- their faces hardened by the cold wind and harsh sun at noon.
Every morning I had to force myself out of bed. The air was biting cold except for that short warm noon. My stay there was made more comfortable by friendly staffs at Tourist Guest House run by the State Government. Electricity was irregular, but a heater even at an expanse of spending a few more rupees made the stay much more comfortable.
From Along to Tawang, I had seen two different worlds in the same State. Along and the East of Arunachal Pradesh represents the sub tropical forest and pristine landscapes. Tawang and the North West part of the State have parched landscapes and giant mountains like some Northern parts of Himachal Pradesh. So in a way Arunachal Pradesh amazed me the most among all North East States.
On the other hand I’ve never been to a place so far removed and exotic in terms of the weather and the culture. It was just the right place to drink tea. After few cups of tea I stopped counting altogether. Sipping tea in a tea hotel I looked up to a photograph of the town covered with white snow like a winter wonderland. I didn’t stay long enough to see that but I would love come back someday and learn more about the place.
Where to Stay:
Tourist Lodge run by the State Government is the cheapest and the most reasonable hotel in Tawang. Rooms are clean and well maintained. It was the best budget I stayed on my North-East tour. You actually get more than you pay for. The pantry is looked after by a middle aged man, who was called Daju by everyone fondly. Food can be ordered in advance.
Room range- Rs.300-Rs.600
Food- Rs.60 (veg)- Rs.90 (non veg)