Embracing the beauty of Nuranang Waterfall


"How did you know about Tawang? What made you want to visit Tawang?” These were immediate questions posed by Sange Tsering, our guide as well as the owner of the travel company who picked us up (me and Hema) that morning at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati, Assam, India. Amidst the roar of the trusty Mahindra Scorpio car on the bustling streets typical of India’s major cities, Hema recounted how singer Sonam Topden was the one who "introduced" Tawang, a city in the Arunachal Pradesh State, North East India. The Tibetan-born singer, now living in Kathmandu, held a concert in Tawang and the video caught Hema’s attention. And so, Hema became curious about Tawang. "Thank you to Sonam Topden!" said Sange, laughingly.



Both of us have indeed been obsessed with the Himalayan Ranges region. It all began with Tibet in 2010, followed by Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh, Sikkim. And finally, on April 9, 2024, we set foot for the first time in Arunachal Pradesh.



It’s true, Arunachal Pradesh (hereafter referred to as AP) is a departure from the India we know. It's a whole new experience!


Firstly, the people there look distinctly different. The first two individuals we met, Sange and Tashi, looked more similar to Asians outside of India. Drop them off in Glodok (China town in Jakarta), and they could easily pass as Indonesians, haha. And the same could be said for the people we encountered throughout our 8 days in AP.


Sange and Tashi, looked more similar to Asians outside of India


Sumi Naga Kitchen's chef, looked like an Indonesian girl


Secondly, their demeanor is also notably friendly and welcoming— it felt like we were in Bhutan. There's none of those stories of being chased around and forced to buy things by vendors at tourist spots, or having hotel staff loitering near our door for a tip. If you wish to take photographs of them, simply ask politely—they are very accommodating. The women vendors at Ama Market Bomdila were all willing to be photographed and were friendly even though we didn’t buy anything. Throughout the trip, there was just one instance when an elderly lady in Jangda Village declined to be photographed, but it seemed more out of shyness.


The women vendors at Ama Market Bomdila 


Thirdly, their dialect differs from that of typical Indians, even though they do converse in Hindi! The exclamation “Acha Acha…” is still often heard, but "Nehi…nehi..." seems rather uncommon.


Fourthly, AP has yet to be extensively explored even by local Indians, so it's far from the hustle and bustle typical of India with its incessant honking. In fact, the complete silence in the middle of the night was almost eerie. Exploring AP truly offers a very unique India experience.


Exploring AP truly offers a very unique India experience



It still carries the essence of India. Curry, masala, lentil soup, roti (also known as chapatti), puri, parata, and thali dominate. But of course, there's also poha (similar to yellow rice), chow mein or fried noodles, as well as momo, the Himalayan speciality. Feeling bored? Don't worry, Sange was quick to revamp the menu, even successfully directing the inn's chef to craft a dinner featuring chicken soup with an assortment of vegetables that tasted just like home. And just like that, diet failed yet again.


Momo, the Himalayan speciality


Chicken soup with an assortment of vegetables that tasted just like home


On several occasions, our lunches were also nothing short of extraordinary. Since we often mentioned Nagaland, one of AP's neighboring states, Sange decided to take us to Sumi Naga Kitchen in Bomdila town, which served positively divine Nagaland cuisine. The curry was just different! I found myself finishing off a generous bowl without hesitation. Usually, I struggle to finish even a small bowl of lentil soup or dal, but not this time!


Nagaland cuisine, our special lunch


Upon entering the Tawang region, we were invited to have lunch at the home of Tashi, our driver. In his modest living room, a variety of mouthwatering dishes awaited us. We also had the pleasure of meeting Tashi's family.


So, was that all? Of course not! We were treated to a lunch with a view at a high altitude in Jangda Village during our impromptu trekking excursion. The rice had a unique flavor, seasoned with some kind of leaf— though I can't quite recall what. This particular adventure was completely spontaneous. Upon hearing of our fondness for trekking, Sange suggested a spur-of-the-moment trek! Despite not being in the mood for trekking, it seemed too good to pass up the offer. We were informed that the difficulty level was akin to the Tiger's Nest trail in Bhutan, with stunning views of the Nuranang Waterfall along the route, and the ultimate destination being a Monpa Tribe village (one of the main tribes in AP). And to our surprise, a well-prepared snack time and picnic lunch awaited us.


Our trekking buddies


Lunch with a view


Tea time in Jangda Village


Sange also organized another semi-picnic lunch at a small lake that’s also a popular chill-out spot for the locals in Bomdila. And guess what? It happened just in time for Hema’s birthday! Yes, this trip was a special birthday treat for her. Although she had originally wished to celebrate in Bhutan, fate had a different plan, and here we were, making unforgettable memories in AP.



Only four towns were included in our 8-day itinerary: Bomdila, Tawang, Dirang, and Shergaon. The list might not be complete, but it’s certainly sufficient to capture the beauty, uniqueness, and historical significance of AP.


Dirang Dzong, an old village in Dirang


The topography of AP is completely diverse. Snow-capped mountains alongside lakes, layers of hills often shrouded in mist, accompanied by fierce gorges and serene valleys, meandering rivers carving through villages, vast expanses of fields, quaint local farms, waterfalls cascading along the roadside, rich tapestries of flora and fauna, and so much more. The lingering chill of April, paired with the friendly warmth of the sun made for a truly perfect setting, only further accentuated by the vibrant hues of blooming red rhododendrons. You know, except for the snowy mountains and rhododendrons, AP sounds a lot like Indonesia, doesn't it? Indeed, it might seem that way if we merely describe it through words. But witnessing it in person will prove to be a completely different experience. AP showcases its beauty in its own way, and of course, each place would have their own unique charms.


Snow-capped mountains


Layers of hills




The allure of AP extends beyond its radiant nature. It also comes from their authentic and deep-rooted culture, as well as the richness of their history. The region was once occupied by several influential kingdoms, leaving behind a wealth of monasteries, historic monuments, and archaeological sites. Notably, AP also holds a significant place in history as the route through which the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet sought refuge in India. Also the childhood home, often referred to as the residence of the 6th Dalai Lama's mother in Tawang.


Tawang monastery


Dark history of war and conflict is also a familiar narrative to the people of AP, given the ongoing territorial disputes between India and China. It’s not so surprising that both domestic and international travellers need to obtain permits for entry into the area (which will be discussed in the upcoming article). Additionally, there are numerous checkpoints along the way.


The culture and history of AP add a certain charm and depth, offering a unique dimension and a touch of romance for visiting travellers. However, visiting historically and culturally significant places would not be as impactful without genuine information and stories delivered by an adept storyteller guide. And that’s where Sange comes in, with his 18 years of expertise, starting from the young age of 15! Moreover, as a native born and raised in AP, specifically Bomdila, Sange knows many people, so it's not uncommon for him to exchange greetings with locals passing by. In fact, some of the monks from monasteries know him so well that we were often invited to stop by and have some butter tea. When we visited several very authentic villages, Sange repeatedly exchanged greetings, making it easy for us tourists to interact with locals, especially since the local people are genuinely friendly and warm. Taking pictures of the local residents is also not an issue in AP, nor is taking photos and videos inside the monastery. This is different from Tibet, where you have to pay, or Bhutan, where it's completely prohibited.


It looks like just an ordinary home. But this is childhood home of the 6th Dalai Lama, often referred to as the residence of the 6th Dalai Lama's mother.


Interact with locals


We can take photos and videos inside the monastery


You know, when a journey doesn’t make you miss home, that's because it's an immensely enjoyable one. I feel like I discovered Arunachal Pradesh a bit late in life. But, as they say, if something arrives late in your life, it must be truly special.




Of course, exploring Arunachal Pradesh just once is hardly enough, especially if we consider the other states in North East India. Renowned as the 7 sisters: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, and 1 brother: Sikkim. So, which destination will be our next episode? The sign that appeared at the end of our journey came in the form of a beautiful young woman who greeted me in the boarding area of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, West Bengal. She hailed from Meghalaya!


Stay tuned for more insightful guide to exploring Arunachal Pradesh in the upcoming article… For more info, please contact us via WhatsApp 0811821006



Written by: Mayawati NH (Maya The Dreamer) Translated by: Wynne Yaptianto Photos by: Hemawati NH, Mayawati NH, Sange Tsering, Doc. MyTrip