Tag Archives: China

Tawang: Land of the Monpa People

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be off to explore another magnanimous Himalayan destination. Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh.

This destination has been on my list ever since I kindled my love for the rustic parts of the Himalayas! One of the most interesting things about the beauty of these mountains is, no matter how many times one visits the magical paradise, no matter how much time you spend there, you are bound to seek out more. The thirst for exploring wilderness amidst these peeks is never quenched.

It’s not an easy task, mind you, whether you’re trekking the high altitude snow tops or for that matter driving or moving around on the slithery roads of the highest motorable roads in the world the adrenaline rush is one that compounds the thrill of being in the company of enchantment.

That’s what I’m looking out for when my travel partner Feet on the Map and I will head out in a couple of weeks to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh! Thanks to Ride And Climb Adventure, we’re hoping to get an experience of a lifetime.

From what I’ve heard so far, Tawang certainly seems to be one of the popular yet less explored and so called off-beat locations! One where you’d ideally visit ‘luxuriously’ with whatever little luxury you can afford in such high altitudinal locations.

Not that you don’t get material comfort, but I never was the one that seeks that, Tawang is a land known for it’s Tibetian heritage, Buddhist monasteries and of course the beautiful lakes and majestic mountains!

Tawang was historically part of Tibet inhabited by the Monpa people. The Tawang Monastery was founded by the Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, and has an interesting legend surrounding its name, which means “Chosen by Horse”.

The sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in Tawang. In fact, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to escape from Chinese army, he crossed into India in 1959 and spent some days at the Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam… I realized this when I’d watched a beautiful movie called Kundun on His Holiness!

A good destination like this must have a great itinerary and interesting places to visit. While we’d be visiting most places, and be off the grid for a whole week. While there are plenty a places that we’ll visit and pass through, I’ve already made up my mind on what places are going to entice me spiritually and of course scratch the traveler’s itch within me.

Tawang Monastery: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Gelugpa sect – constructed in 1681. It was the birth place of the celebrated 6th Dalai Lama, and is home to more than 500 lamas.

Travel blogger india, srinistuf, Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang Monastery

Bum La: The Bum La Pass is located about 37 km away from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, at the Indo-China border above 16,500 ft above sea level. This is an old traders road went from Tawang via Milakatong La Pass (La in Tibetan is pass) to Bum La Pass and finally to Tsona Dzong in Tibet province of China. This area is heavily guarded by Indian Army and one need to obtain Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit this place. PAP can easily be obtained with the help of travel agents in Tawang.

Bumla-Pass

Indo-China border at the Bumla Pass

P.T.Tso Lake: This lake is situated above Tawang and is frozen for about 4-5 months of a year. One can hire a local vehicle and go to this lake. The lake itself is splendid as well as the views from the lake are also unbelievable.

Nuranang Falls: About 100 metres high, these falls are located in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in this part of the country, yet is unknown to many travelers. It lies some 2 kilometres away from the town of Jang on the road connecting Tawang and Bomdila, so it is also known as the Jang Falls. There is a small hydel plant located near the base that generates electricity for local use. The Nuranang river originates from the Northern slopes of the Sela Pass. Just below the waterfall it falls into the Tawang river.

Jang Falls, Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

Bomdila Monastery: And of course on our way back to Guwahati, the visit to Bomdila monastery is a must. A home to Buddhist Lamas and monks at Bomdila in the west Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The colorful land of Bomdila, which lies amidst the graceful Himalayan ranges at a height of 8500 feet above the sea level, is the headquarter of the western Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The small and beautiful land of Bomdila is an attractive destination for the tourists from all across the globe, who come here to get themselves pampered by the mother nature and have a closer look of Indian culture, Buddhist tradition and hospitable locales of the north eastern India. An ideal place for trekking, the land of Bomdila and its culture is under a strong Tibetan cultural and traditional influence, and therefore, also nests many Gompas or monasteries.

Bomdila_Monastery,_Arunachal_Pradesh.jpg

Now begins the 2 week wait and hopefully ends in an eagerly awaiting trip to the land of the Monpa People! And of course, once the journey’s over, hopefully I’ll have many a stories to tell…

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Cruise through Asia…

One of the things that I haven’t yet done and is certainly on my travel bucket list is to cruise! Set sail across the sea and enjoy wilderness into the oblivion like never before. Of course sailing alone would be on the top of that list, however, to begin with a cruise would be the most imperious way to spend a time of my life letting my hair down and relaxing all the way for a week without the hassle of the world. Leaving behind all the worries I’d love to enjoy something that would help me feel rejuvenated again.

So I decided to check out what are some of the best Asia cruises and this is what I’d recommend to be on top of your list.

 

Far East

One of the best things about Asia is that on the Far East cruise you’ll get to see Asia in all its shades. Just last week Cherry Blossom in Japan happened and that is something you shouldn’t miss especially during April. This cruise offers just that. Far East, cherry blossom, buzzing markets in my hometown Mumbai, raving sunsets across beaches in Thailand.

Asia is best known for a wide variety of it’s beauty. The best thing about Asia is that it has diversity to the best of anyone’s reach. There are places that you can’t even imagine and you’d get to cruise among these beautiful views across the sea and cover various landscapes at it’s ports.

If you have trouble deciding where to begin then let size be your guide. Covering an area of more than nine million square kilometres, China has to be a splendid pick as part of their collection of Far East cruise holidays. Certainly beautiful from a cultural stand point too. The country has a history that dates back to more than 4,000 years, making the 15th-century Forbidden City in Beijing an infant as far as the timeline is concerned.

Next in the size line is India, a country of chalk and cheese sights. Anyone with stars in their eyes should head to Film City in Mumbai to perform in a Bollywood movie. Foodies can try a real-deal curry in Madras. Sunseekers, meanwhile, can loose track of time on the beaches of Goa.

Thailand is a smaller country as far as the list of Far East cruise stops. However on the beaches of Koh Samui, the sand is truly white and the water is crystal clear. Then you’ve got Bangkok, a city where twelve-lane motorways and skyscrapers go hand in hand with old ancient temples.

Moving on,  you’ll find Japan. This country has a beautiful mixture of past and the future, ancient and cultural as well as modern and technological. Villagers plant rice in the paddy fields in various perfectures at the same time as cartoon-like Harashuku girls try to out-vogue each other in the cosmopolitan cafes of Tokyo.

Once you’ve ticked off the biggest countries in the Far East cruise collection, you can move onto the more pint sized places. Sip jasmine tea in the teahouses of Ho Chi Minh City and worry the bank manager during a spree at the world’s largest department store in Busan, South Korea. Alternatively, spread yourself like butter over the beaches of Penang in Malaysia.

Something worth doing especially if you are in love with Asia! What say?

Truly a Tibetian Tigress

This is my submission to IndiBlogger’s  Expedia – Around The World Contest

“Brrrrr…” Freezing cold weather in Darjeeling in November. The Sun setting down as early as 5 PM in the evening. Rising across the Kanchenjunga peak and it’s horizon early in the morning, as early as 5 AM on the North Eastern Himalayan terrains! Yes, that was the time when Darjeeling was to be visited… And thankfully I was there at that very moment. I went there to trek the Sandakphu-Gurdum ranges and hopefully climb the mountains at the highest point of Sandakphu to see the Kanchenjunga & Mt. Everest up close and personal. Before we started our trek, we had a couple of days where we could acclimatize ourselves to the conditions and get to know Darjeeling a little more…

I took that opportunity to tour the city in search of interesting people, stories and certainly take some really great shots of the local culture around. As soon as I entered Darjeeling, everything about it fascinated me. Looking at the small town like manifestation of the entire location felt very close to home and gave a significant amount of warmth in itself. Everywhere I looked around I could visualize the beauty of the North East India that started here. I was told that girls and women in Darjeeling are truly beautiful, but this was the first time I got to see it and indeed, “Seeing is believing.”  Besides their beauty and aura, every girl and even guys had a strong, bold empowering style to themselves. They definitely knew what fashion was and could teach a thing or two to Bombayites like me.

Having said that, another aspect of Darjeeling I really admired the most, was that one could, at any point in time always keep an eye on the Kanchenjunga peak. It’s magnificence bore a stark resemblance to divine feeling of spiritual transcendence. And why not, Kanchenjunga is also called as the Sleeping Buddha, for it resembles HIM sleeping and his features show across. Look carefully and you will see the head, prosperous tummy & feet. 🙂

Kanchenjunga Peak

Kanchenjunga Peak

So the first day we whiled around the town, checked out the local places, shopped for some warm clothes, hung out at a local pub ‘Joey’s’ mostly I was with Mr. Shashi Patel, an American Indian from the Bay Area whom I met while strolling around the railway station at Sunset. So after hanging out with him and talking about travel and my experiences across India, we headed back to our respective hotels. Our plan the next day was to catch the view of the sunrise early in the morning at Tiger Hills.

While returning back we decided to stop by at this local place and check out some interesting items that we could purchase. He wanted to take some gifts back home. Something easy to carry and not too much on his pocket as he wanted lots of gifts for all his friends.

Tibetian Woman

Tucking away her earnings…

We began strolling across and started to scan the place for interesting items. There were caps, clothes, strolls, scarves, glares, Darjeeling special Tea and a lot of other interesting items. But what really caught my eye was this old woman, who was pretty occupied within herself. She looked very busy and had a certain aura about herself. She was very bold and mostly her voice was very prominent. Certainly caught my eyes and ears. But that is not what made me go check out what she was selling… I looked at her, she was around 60-65 years old, had sharp features… Her eyes were certainly a lot bigger than others around. She not only spoke in Hindi but also had a sharp way of speaking in English as well. More importantly, she was out there as if she meant business.

We looked at what she was selling and did find it pretty interesting. They were small purses, caps, scarves and strolls… All of them handwoven with a special pattern that they had about themselves. They were excellent pieces of handicraft. Certainly intrigued me and I wanted to buy a few purses for some of my friends and my mom.

So, I decided to take a look at the items on sale and thought of which ones to pick. Mr. Patel also was interested and we told ourselves, let’s buy 10 of these purses together. She will give us a good deal if we take in bulk.

I asked her “How much does this purse cost?”

“Rs. 30,” she replied, while hastily giving money to her previous customers and sorting out her own sets of the products that were bit off the carpet she kept them on.

“We’ll take 10… How much will they cost then?”

“They’ll cost as much as they cost now…”

“But I’m buying in bulk…”

“That doesn’t matter, the cost doesn’t change…” she replied calmly…

We both looked at each other and smiled. Looks like she needed some more incentive probably for us to get a better deal. So my newly found friend picked up some other products and asked for their price… Surprisingly they also were priced at Rs. 30. Except a couple of the items all of them were priced at that amount.

We asked her again, but she wouldn’t budge.

“I won’t change the price for you, If you want to buy you can buy… It’ll sell anyways, if not today, tomorrow. I’ve been making these purses on my own for 30 years… and never have I gone without selling all off every year. Besides, we don’t work off season cause of the cold.” She smiled at us mischievously. 

Handicraft, Tibetian Lady, Tibet, Tibetian Handicraft.

Smiling Away…

While we realized, our deal won’t happen, we both admired her headstrong, entrepreneurial sense of ownership. She was a true businesswoman of sorts and I can’t think but admire her perseverance that at the age of 61, which we found out later in our conversation, she had this energy and level headed and amazing attitude about herself. We got to know that she migrated from Tibet in 1972 and has been making and selling these works of art. She is alone and lives in the city below. Every morning she wakes up at 4 AM, finishes her chores and sets off to come here, by walk with her backpack of items to sell. Once people who come down after viewing the sunrise to shop at her place and more often than not, her inventory gets exhausted by 9.30 AM. If not, she takes the remaining ones back home and then goes to a tea shop that she runs outside her house…

Reminded me of ‘The Steve Jobs’, I was reading that book on the trip, but clearly I could identify her sense of feel and value for quality and niche business value add. Don’t go by the price, but her stubborn yet confident decision to not back out of the price for a product that was of true quality. Something that many wouldn’t hesitate to pay ten or fifteen times the amount if it was a designer product, much like this one and in fact made out of the same material, only added with an elitist price tag… Salute to the Tibetian Tigress! For the beautiful work of art, Thuk Ji Chhe (Thank You in Tibet) 

What do you think about her attitude?