February, 2017 Archives

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part IV (Dec ’16)

Day 10: Kaziranga & to Cheerapunji

We are up as early as 5.30, so that we could be there at the Kohara camp by 6.30 to get our tickets for elephant safari. The person from Nature Hunt Eco Camp was waiting already and procured tickets for us just in time. We along with a guard got in to an elephant and set of for the safari. AS soon as we entered the safari route, we spotted couple of one horned rhinos and we took some good amount photographs and set of further in to the forest. However, we could spot only a couple of deers & a bison during our 45 mins safari. However, it’s worth to take elephant ride instead of jeep safari, as you get pretty close to the rhinos.

After the safari, we drove straight to Cheerapunji, though the original plan was to stay in Shillong. We stayed in a lovely resort named Pala Resort, which is very close to the seven sister falls, though the last few kms to reach the resort is awful. However, they have a lovely set up with some very good food options.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part III (Dec’ 2016)

Day 8-Day 9: December 17: 325 kms / 7 AM to 2 PM

Majuli: Biggest River Island in the World.

From Bhalukpong, we had an option to take Ferry at North Lakhimpur, but we decided to take the road to reach Majuli via Ghilamora, India’s biggest river island between the mighty Brahmaputra. It was an amazing scenic route, saw Kameng River joining Brahmaputra enroute. Roads were good till Ghilamora and from there on to a single lane with occasional bad roads, but the landscape was amazing throughout the drive. Had Assam Chai, and a tasty lunch with Roti/Chowmein costing us just Rs. 150/- for three (with two water bottles purchased as well) near North Lakhimpur.

The whole route had lovely milestones with lovely messages, captions, and I was waiting to click one pic with the most apt one, found one that said “LIFE IS A JOURNEY; COMPLETE IT” and was so happy posing.

Majuli, a place we never wanted to skip irrespective of anything that could obstruct. Anyone with a taste for art, culture, passion for photography cannot miss this beauty in many ways. It was just a photographers’ paradise and we kept clicking anything and everything enroute. One can see ART living in any form in the place. People are so talented. “Aaya Kalaigal 64” is what we call in Tamil Nadu for a mastering 64 forms of ART, but we were surprised to see the numbers became countless as there were as many satras. Not to miss mentioning a tasty Assamese thali in Ural, a home type restaurant, for food from natural herbs, veggies. Not sure if everyone would like it, but we just loved it though the rice wasn’t that same one we have.

The place we stayed, was like a natural paradise, La Maison De Ananda. We got a bamboo cottage and a tent for our accomodation. Bamboo hut had a half footed steps to climb to reach the upper deck and the rooms are tastefully done. A very scenic place to stay. It was too early but too dark by 4.30 PM, and we just wanted to have a walk for some shopping, but unfortunate again as the shops were all closed having only some bakeries, and tea shop open. Had tea and got some snacks for the next day. I tried some cycling on the streets of Majuli and all 3 of us happilly roamed the street for almost an hour. Though, the stay has an option to order tribal food, we skipped it as we had a late lunch and had some snacks and retired for the day.

More About Satras: 33 + 2 Sattras are recognized by the Majuli Cultural Landscape Region Act, 2006 out of 64 + 2 original Satras of Majuli island

Day 9: Dec 18: 236 kms / 2 PM to 6.30 PM (text by co-traveller)

We went to Dhakshinpat Satra, but a little early before the temple inside were open. Met guruji there and learnt from him about the art taught. Got to know they have over 8 lakh students till date. The place had a lot of paintings in the form of half sculptures on walls, had their disciples of different age groups, small kids were so enthu, running around, doing their activities.

We then went to old Samaguri Satra, but unfortunate to not meet the artist, and then came to the new Samaguri Satra and met the living legend Sri Sri Hem Chandra Goswami. We were awestruck by the variety of his art work. The pictures drawn by him, dolls made by him, the animated faces, the giant God / Goddess models OMG, we were just seeing how passionately the master himself kept explaining everything about how they make it and how many days it takes to etc. I still wonder how a person of such a versatile talent, who is so popular, who is the master for so many lakhs of students, can be so calm, polite, down to earth, so friendly, live in such a small village, in a small house, OMG! He is simply a living legend. Hats off to you Sri HEM CHAND ji!!!

The ferry was at 1.30, so we had to rush. The village roads are too confusing as even if we miss a left or right, you may have to go far to even take a u turn. Some roads were very narrow, some have steep sides. We somehow found a small hotel and had roti, and rushed to ferry. Found out that the ferry was already blocked for three existing cars of some foreigners who visited Satras after we did. Also, that ferry at 130 PM was a small one accommodated only 3 cars. When enquired, the booking officer said there is another ferry at 3 PM which can accommodate 6 cars. We were late by 10 mins to miss out a space in the 130 ferry. But to our surprise, 3 PM ferry came at 2:15 itself and ours was the first car, and it started at 245 PM itself.

Mohan decided to sit inside and we both came out to click some pics. But it was way too crowded with a lot of bikes and 6 cars, that we couldn’t move around. Hari went to sit on top but I stayed inside. Had a good chat with the local villagers. Surprised with their way of life, amazed to see how they depend on ferry for every day work (like buses and trains here), how they share their food, bring chocolates and distribute to all friends in ferry, how kids enjoy seeing us, speaking with us etc. Typical female moment to cherish when I enquired about their sarees and they started explaining with pride as I told them they were looking awesome, I was told not to buy from local shops and suggested to go to Guwahati where I would find a lot of wholesale shops having sarees.

Note: Popular varieties were “Mekhela chador” worn by all women of all ages except kids. There are three major types of native silks—golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri silk.

I also made my time to step out of the ferry and have some view of the giant Brahmaputra river, stood next to our car. To everyone’s surprise, they were seeing me and was waiting to speak with me. I realizing it started the conversation with how long it would take to reach sort. That’s it, one started giving me suggested places to visit, that includes Shivpuri, one told to go to Kaziranga (which was already the place where we were heading to). I stayed calm not to react and kept nodding, but was so pleased to see how each one was happy for us visiting their place all the way from South. They were equally surprised how we took our cycle so well packed, and tried shaking it and witness it was well fit in our car.

Note: The ferry would take some 1.5 hours from Neamati Ghat to Jorhat. Roads to Kohora are good. Ferry has a small stall selling black tea, and some biscuits and you would not miss it if you are a tea lover.

After the ferry it was a straight drive to reach the beautiful ECO Nature Hunt Resort at Kaziranga. For dinner we tried their tribal food & traditional Assamese thali which was very tasty.

Next up is Kaziranga.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part II (Dec’ 2016)

Day 5: Today our plan was to reach Tawang and also visit Dirang / Sela Pass enroute. Before we started from Bomdilla, paid a visit to the Monastery at 7 am, and spent a valuable 45 mins and started our journey. The route from there onwards were more scenic and we had photography stops quite often. We had breakfast at the Awoo Resort at Dirang (a recommended place to stay for the best views and natural location of the resort). We also visited a WAR MEMORIAL of the Jawans and had tasty hot veg momos made by the ARMY canteen staff.

We went through the SELA PASS (13703 ft above the sea level), and OMG, what a lake…what a view…with cool breeze pushing us, we enjoyed walking down and climbing up the lake and spotted fresh snow…which was tempting to play… and we did! Spotted a beautiful waterfall named as Nuranang or JANG falls, spotted next to tough and a mighty river stream… but again it required us to climb a long way down, as we had limited time to reach Tawang, we skipped with just the view of the fall, which was about 34 kms from SELA PASS.

We spotted domestic YAK all along…in different shades…as big as it could be… spotted sheep, goats and cows, which had very small legs… cute to watch and not to miss mentioning, it was always a wow moment for us to spot the snow peaks, big or small, full or partial… Scenic beauty.

Finally we reached Tawang by 4.30 PM and met Mr. Tenzing, who was our host at Tawang and he promptly helped us unload our luggage and quickly helped us to get in to our rooms.

As it was already dark, we didn’t venture out that day except that I gave a much needed wash for my bicycle and also do a couple of rounds around the hotel. One thing which I noticed while driving in Arunachal was, every driver in Arunachal on our way was kind enough to leave way for us, even if they were on a uphill climb, which made driving much better on the narrow roads. This happened throughout our journey in Arunachal and a big salute to all of them. This included the cab drivers, army trucks or any goods carrier.

Day 6: We had plan to visit Bhumla & Sangetsar Lake today and we left as early as 7 AM. The roads were really bad and it was a backbreaking trip throughout. But the landscape unfolded in front of our eyes made the journey exciting and memorable. We stopped on the famous P T TSO lake and we were the first group to enter the lake that day. We spent good amount of time in the lake and would have loved to spend the whole day just watching the landscape. However, we had to cut short after taking some good amount of photographs and then proceeded our journey.

From there on, we had another problem, as Viji developed uneasiness and probably hit by AMS. When we reached the Y junction, she got headache, vomiting sensation & giddiness though she wanted to proceed to Bum La. Finally we reached Bum La and the army came to our rescue and gave hot water, tea & sweet to make her feel better. One army officer brought pulse machine to see if she was in any danger mark and finally said she was fine to proceed. Another officer came all the way to accompany her up to the border point, which had a board saying THANK YOU, crossing which is CHINA. She could walk a few meters just before the mark but returned as again her health bothered too much. So, the officer took her back and made her rest.

Hari & I went up to the border and had a little chat with the soldiers and took a few photographs and returned. With this condition we didn’t want to proceed to the Sangetsar lake, though it was on a much comfortable altitude, but didn’t want to take any chance. Hence returned back to the hotel and rested for the day. I wanted to do my car wash before we proceeded for the next leg of our journey, but for some reasons, the shops were closed and I couldn’t find a single garage open. So, I had wash the car myself on that cold evening. We then ordered snacks & dinner at the hotel, which was very tasty and retired for the day.

Day 7: What a start for the day at the Tawang Monastery, so huge yet so clean. We were lucky to witness the morning prayers for Buddha. Also, we met our fellow HVKian Tejesh Gowda and his friend, who were on a similar trip. We took a few suggestions from them. Had breakfast at Jung, and tried to visit hot water spring at Dirang, where one had to climb down for about 750mts and upon reaching, saw it was too crowded already and hence returned back. We actually could have made it to the beautiful Sangti Valley (20km detour left turn from Dirang), had we skipped the time taken to climb up and down to the hot water spring but there is always a next time, so no regrets. We proceeded to Bhalukpong as we didn’t take this route due the wrong turn during our onward journey.

We also had a lovely evening at the Tenga Haat, military canteen, where we had our late lunch, worth a delay, as we had really tasty food there, which also had some shopping outlets, but unfortunate we had to reserve cash for our onward journey. So, came without purchasing anything. It was tough to find the location of our planned stay at hotel SOLU, which we didn’t know it was renamed as Hotel Mandal Chang, run by brother-in-law to the owner of Gayki Khang Zhang at Tawang. It was a pleasant evening to meet so lovely people at our stay and they offered us a very tasty dinner.

Road Trip to North East from Chennai – Part I (Dec’ 2016)


Visiting North East was on the cards for a very long time. We were not very clear on the routes & road conditions on the roads less traveled, which kept us from visiting NE for long, but not any longer as we decided to take the plunge and visit North East last December. From that day, the preparation started by reading blogs about North East and the places I was intended to visit and the locations where we would stay in North East, both for strategic location to stay for some night photography (which never happened, as I lost the tripod before the trip begun) & also for our travel next day, as we won’t be spending more than a day in most of the locations. In about 20 days’ time, got the draft plan for the places & location where we would stay. The biggest catch was reaching Tawang, as most suggested it would take 4 days to reach Guwahati from Chennai and procuring ILP for Arunachal Pradesh, which would take another day in Guwahati. Since, we planned visting Tawang first, all other hotel bookings should be based on that and hence we couldn’t book any hotels in advance.

ILP for Tawang

Getting ILP online isn’t very much clear and had mixed reviews/results from earlier travelers. So, looked for someone in Guwahati who could procure ILP before we reach Guwahati. From Facebook, found a person in Guwahati who was organizing tours and spoke to him about getting an ILP. He promised to get us the ILP in a week’s time and asked for relevant documents (passport size photograph & an ID card) to be sent to his email id. We forwarded the documents and the got the ILP ready before a week of our travel. That saved a day for us in getting ILP. There is another way to get the ILP but you have to reach Bhalukpong before 4 PM and do the paper work done and get ILP, which would take 20 minutes, but I would recommend to get the ILP from a travel agent to avoid hassles on the travel day.

As we wanted to spend maximum time in North East as much as possible, we decided to reach Guwahati in 3 days and that meant we had to cover the maximum distance on the first 2 days, so that the foggy morning and early sunset doesn’t spoil our plans.

Onward Journey:

Day 1: As planned, we started as early as 2.30 AM so that we reach Bhubaneswar, which is 1200+ kms from Chennai. There is nothing much to report as the roads are mostly 4 laned and with the early start we could cross Vizag by 3 PM and reached Bhubaneswar by 10.30 PM as planned. We got the hotel booking through OYO and it was a good stay close to the NH.

Day 2: We were supposed to reach Purnea, but a wrong turn somewhere between Deoghar & Banka, meant we had to deal with early onset of Fog and a delay of couple of hours and also able to reach Bhagalpur only. Roads were good till Asansol and from there on bad to very bad roads till we reached Baghalpur.

Day 3: Today target was to reach Guwahati by sun down and try to experience the dinner cruise. Started around 7.45 and the roads were too good with early morning mist and a fresh outlook of the country roads with mustard plantation on either sides and we were able to quickly cross Purnea and reach close to Islampur. But then the road was blocked for processions due to celebrations and we had to wait for next 2.5 hours and from there on had to negotiate for another hour to hit the highway. There were several check posts from Bongaigaon to Guwahati but none bothered to stop us and roads were almost good till Guwahati. We took a pit stop at a place called Aranya Hotel, where we had some delicious pakoras. So, if you are passing by, don’t miss this place. However, the delay caused us to reach Guwahati only by 11.30 PM.

Day 4: We were relieved that we could reach Guwahati in 3 days as planned, and from here on we planned to take it slow as we had enough time in our hands to explore North East before we hit our first destination Tawang. We visited ECO Camp at Nameri, worth spending 45 mins there. Where we got to know about NE tradition, food eaten, medicinal values of fruits etc. Purchased Star Fish Pickle. We also got to know about river rafting there but due to time constraint, we couldn’t go for it, as we were told to get some permission inside and rafting time would take 2-3 hrs. Roads till Bhalukpong were excellent and from there on it was bad. We also took a wrong turn few kms after Bhalukpong after an iron bridge, that went through Kimi, Khuppi & Nechifu. We thought of returning back at initial few kms but a gentleman stopped us and detailed us to proceed via the lengthy route saying the return journey to the point and the onward would take almost the same time, alas it was a wrong decision as there are very very bad roads to no roads from Kimi to Nechifu. Though, we managed to navigate through those terrains with our XUV, it is definitely not recommended for sedans & hatchbacks and especially with cars having poor ground clearance.

It was getting darker, and none of the maps work there as we cannot see any sign boards. We just had hope that we would reach the place and hit the target for the day, that will power worked well too.

We had something enroute, as dinner but were hungry but since it got very late (7pm, you can expect shops closed, no food outlets open). So, we requested the Bomdila Monastery guest house care taker to make us maggi and had it hot, when the temperature at 8 pm was as low as 4 degrees, which kept decreasing hour after hour.