This was our first full day in Tawang and the day was neither fully clear, nor completely cloudy, it was slightly foggy and cold morning and we were ready for our trip to Zemithang. Zemithang is towards extreme western end of Tawang district and the state of Arunachal, in the border of China (Tibet) and Bhutan. This is around 100km from Tawang and day trip would cost you a full day. Apart from the famous Chorten in Gorsam (Just few km before Zemithang), the natural beauties of the place would keep you spell bound. This is completely different than what you see in high mountains of Tawang, the whole route is through much lower elevation and you would find lots of trees and greeneries and amazing fall colors (even in early December) through out the route. The terrain matches more closely to Bhutan and now a new road is almost built up to border of Bhutan and work is being progressed for a connecting road from Bhutan end, which when completed, would give a new corridor of business between Bhutan and India apart from existing borders in Phuntsoling (through WB) and Somdrup Jonkhar (through Assam). The road is one of the best I found in Arunachal Pradesh and scenery is simply mind boggling. I also strongly suggest if possible stay a day in Zemithang, there is an Inspection Bungalow which usually be available and enjoy the serenity of the place. If you are traveling in October / November, even better is to plan a round trip from Tawang to PTSO to Madhuri Lake to Y Junction to Taksang Gompha and then to Zemithang and then back to Tawang through the valley route. I missed it as the road between Y Junction and Taksang was blocked and even road to Madhuri lake experienced heavy snowfall for last few days. The chorten at Gorsam usually be opened once in 7 years and it’s very famous to Buddhists. We tried to move another 8 km in a half broken roads towards the border at Kenzamane and stopped by ITBP there, they didn’t allow us to proceed without formal pass from Tawang Brigade but I heard from them, if you could go till border (another 3 km from that point), you could see the Tibetan village on the other side of McMahan line.
Gorsam Chorten at Zemithang: (taken from Tawang Official Web site)
This is situated 90 Kms from Tawang town. This Stupa is the largest Stupa of the area. This Gorsam Chorten is believed to have constructed in the early part of 12th century by Lama Pradhar, a Monpa monk. The semi-circular dome niddling high into the sky rests upon a three-terraced plinth. Four miniature stupas are also set on the four corners of the lower most terraced of the plinth. The base is squared with each side about 170 fts. in length with a niche running along its whole length and 120 manis are set in wooden frames. A well-paved footpath goes around the Stupa for pilgrims to go round about praying (Kora).
After spending a nice day at Lumla and Zemithang, we started our return journey through same route towards Tawang, my intention was to take the high mountain route through Taksang and Y Junction and but everyone at Zemithang advised us not to take that route because of then weather and it was raining there in the valley means snowing in the upper reach and the road is very isolated and you might not get any help if you get stranded. So coming back through same road was the only possibility and we reached Tawang in evening when light was just fading out. After reaching hotel I first enquired about Bumla permit and Hotel manager told the road was blocked beyond PTSO and people couldn’t even reach Madhuri Lake on that day. I called Pabitra and he initially told me that day permit was not issued by army and they would evaluate situation on next day and issue if situation improves, sounded convincing but somewhere I smelt something wrong in his behaviour. I started quizzing him in depth, asked him to handover the permit he obtained from DC Office and I planned to visit myself the brigadier office. Then he started fumbling and told he would be able to manage it tomorrow and when I insisted he told that he couldn’t collect the permit from DC office itself, now that was surprising, when I asked why, he started showing lame excuses like power was gone, photo copy machine was not running, DC was not there and many more. Now I asked him to return my money back, he said he had to travel to Army HQ in a cab, so he spent 200 there, when I encountered him why he gone to army when he didn’t collect the DC permit in first place, he couldn’t answer but stuck to his earlier stand he would refund me partially. This was really irritating, first of all he messed up my Bumla plan and next he was trying to be smart. I called up directly Rampal and spoken to him at length explaining him the situation. Once he intervened Pabitra returned me the money he took but snapped Bumla from my itinerary. So lessons learnt is don’t trust these hotel guys, if you want to visit Bumla, either connect to local cabs and spend a full day in Tawang and get involved in the process of obtaining permits unless you know someone very reliable. Anyway we decided two things on that day, first we would try to go on next day as much as we can as from that day evening it started snowing quite heavily even in Tawang town, so realistically we might not have much of a chance to reach Bumla and second was we would leave Gayki Khang and move to some more value for money hotel as we really took this permit incident as a cheating from hotel’s part. We retired for the day and prayed for a nice day tomorrow.
Morning View of Tawang Monastery:
On the way to Zemithang:
Fall colors at its best:
The zig-zag road towards Bhutan Border (Road is completed till border from India end and still in progress in Bhutan side, when completed, this would give a third option of entering India to Bhutan apart from existing Phuntsholing and Somdrup Jhonkar)
Waterfalls on the way:
Famous Gorsam Chorten:
Zemithang – a place one must spend a night
The gushing river:
Posing for a photograph: