Picture large paddy fields, gentle rivers and gentler rivulets, sprawling tea plantations, clean wide roads, grand pagodas, massive Buddha statues, traditional bamboo houses, ethnic roadside eateries, charming little markets, handsome men and pretty women. That’s Namsai for you.
Carved out of Lohit, Namsai got its identity of a separate district as recently as 2014. As a young destination trying to emerge on the tourism map, Namsai promises to cater to the needs of every traveller.
Whether you are a lover of the great outdoors or a culture and history buff or an adventurist or a birder or a pilgrim or a foodie or just an admirer of all things good in life, Namsai won’t disappoint you.
Home to the Tai Khampti, Singpho, Adi and other tribal communities, Namsai’s charm lies as much in its enchanting landscapes as in its warm and hospitable people. My recent trip to this blessed land has been all about meeting interesting people and learning about their rich cultural heritage.
We set base at the Golden Pagoda Eco Resort in Tengapani to explore Namsai and its arounds.
Here's what we reccommend.
Places to visit
Built on a plateau overlooking the plains and the Eastern Himalayas, the Kongmu Kham (Golden Pagoda) is one of the most noticeable landmarks as you enter Namsai town through Tengapani on the highway itself. Though the Kongmu Kham has become an iconic symbol of Theravada Buddhism in Eastern Arunachal and probably the most photographed structure in these parts, the pagoda complex and its sprawling lawns were built as recently as 2010. Inside the pagoda is a bronze Buddha statue that was gifted by the chief monk from a wat (temple) in Thailand.
The complex is sprawled over 20 hectares, with neatly manicured lawns, a pond, numerous walking paths, an orchid centre with exotic species brought from Thailand, a meditation centre meant for Vipassana meditation courses, a Buddhist library, hall, living quarters, and an old-age home. The head monk, who speaks several languages, including English, Thai and Burmese, is quite friendly, and often takes the time out to talk to travellers who might be curious about the traditions followed here. He is also the one you’d need to speak with to access the library and other facilities.
During the first weeks of November, the Kathina Robe Ceremony (Kathina Civara Dhana), a ritual offering of red robes to monks by lay people is a big event at Kongmu Kham, and has in the past attracted monks and visitors from Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar, and a lot of cultural displays by artists from all these countries, along with those of the Khampti artists. This is a good time to visit. Being a high-profile monastery, celebrations of every festival here happen on a relatively grand scale.
The Golden Pagoda is located at a distance of 20km from Namsai town on NH15.
Pay an early morning visit to the Pariyati Sasana Buddhist Vihara in Namsai and meet the Head Monk Ven, Bhaddanta Aggadhamma and his disciples. Located in the heart of Namsai town, this pagoda was the first prominent Buddhist structure to come up in the area. It is surrounded by beautiful temples in the vast compound along with other delightful structures.
Take a scenic drive to Lal Pahad in Lathao, home to the Lathao International Bana Meditation Centre. Surrounded by lush forest, the spot is perfect for meditation. A massive Buddha statue is being built here. With its charming environs and peaceful vibes, Lal Pahad is great to enjoy quiet and lazy picnics with your family and friends.
Embark on a spiritual sojourn as you drive along windy lanes to reach Parshuram Kund, an important Hindu pilgrimage centre dedicated to sage Parshuram (one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars) located on the Brahmaputra plateau in the southern reaches of the Lohit River, the kund is about 21km away from Tezu in Lohit district. Since it is believed that taking a dip in the holy water here cleanses one of sins, hundreds of devotees from Nepal and India come here to take a dip on the day of Makar Sankranti in January
Once famous as the richest village of Asia, Chongkham must be visited for its grand pagodas, scenic Riverside Island, rich cultural experiences in Khampti and Singpho village households, and the Khampti and Singpho Museum at Arunachal Pali Vidyapith. A visit to the 'goan bura' or village headman’s house in Empong village can be a great idea to understand the lifestyle lead by the Tai Khampti people.
Namsai is blessed with numerous tea plantations that are spread across its length and breadth. Then there are gorgeous fruit plantations too that you could visit and spend quality leisure time soaking in the serenity. Even if you don’t plan a visit to a tea estate, you are bound to cross hundreds of them during your trip to Namsai. Fom Dibrugarh Airport to Tengapani to Chongkham, the entire landscape is dotted with sprawling tea plantations. In fact, the Singphos are said to have been using tea ,or phalap as they call it, since the time it required one to be seated atop an elephant to pluck the leaves, much before the British were introduced to tea.
How to reach: Namsai is a two-hour drive (113km) away from the Mohanbari (Dibrugarh) airport. Taxis are easily available at the airport.
Getting around: Booking an SUV through a registered tour operator and having a driver and guide is the best way to explore Namsai and arounds.
Permits: You can apply for the Inner Line Permits at arunachalilp.com
ILPs can also be obtained from offices of the Issuing authorities of Government of Arunachal Pradesh at Delhi, Kolkata, Tezpur, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Jorhat.
Shopping in Namsai
Namsai is not one of those touristy hilly towns that are often home to chockablock shopping streets and markets. Nonetheless, the modest but well planned market of Namsai offers enough options to satiate your urge for some retail therapy. Shop for local attire like phanoy (lungi) and wraparounds and traditional jewelry of the Khamptis and Singphos. Khampti purses or bags are a must buy and so is the famous tea of Namsai.
Where to Eat
All the Theravada Buddhist tribes—Tai Khamptis, Singphos and Tangsas—are known for their delicious and wholesome food. There’s a row of small roadside eateries and restaurants in the main market of Namsai. However, if you are looking for something special, we have two recommendations.Tai Hut at second mile, Namsai, serves some nice local Tai Khampti dishes. Either choose the dishes of the day, or inform them in advance in case you would like them to prepare something specific. Just a few metres ahead is Dhaba NH52, run by Jayanto Mowkey and his wife Kusum Mowkey, also serves sumptuous Khampti food. Their phakko or steamed mustard green is a must try.
Where to Stay
Golden Pagoda Eco Resort
Perhaps the most sought after accommodation in Namsai, Golden Pagoda Eco Resort lies in the vicinity of the Golden Pagoda, which means you wake up to the awe inspiring sight of the pagoda every morning.
The luxurious cottages here offer blissful views of orchards and just a walk around the property will introduce you to at least ten different species of birds that chirp atop branches of naked trees. Tarrifs: On request; Website: https://goldenpagodaecoresort.com/
Conveniently located in the heart of Namsai, just a few steps from the Pariyati Sasana Buddhist Vihara, Hewly Homestay is run by Mrs. Sinawati Mungyal and was the first homestay of Namsai and also its first registered homestay. Sinawati’s lavish home makes for a great stay with its blend of modern and traditional. Tariff: from Rs 2500 per night per person (excluding meals); Mobile: +91 97744 91448
If you are looking for a completely non touristy experience, take a short day trip to this beautiful little village. You could also club it with your visit to the Parshuram Kund. Wakro is frequented by free independent travellers and adventurers, who come here for the Glow Lake Trek in Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary. Cool winds, sunny weather, quaint paddy fields, great views of the Mishmi hills and warm and hospitable locals pretty much sum up Wakro for you.
Jairampur is home to the legendary Stillwell Road and a World War II Cemetery. You could take a small detour to this historical hilly hamlet on your way to Miao from Namsai. Located in the Changlang district, Jairampur sits next to Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Myanmar and is blessed by the Patkai Mountains.
Windy roads and hairpin bends blessed with swaying kaasi ghaas takes you to the cemetery, where soldiers of the Second World War were buried. The cemetery lies on the Stillwell Road, which is considered as an engineering marvel. Built during the Second World War, the road leads to the Pangsau Pass, which was also known as the Hell Pass. The road connected Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China.
Known as the gateway to the famous Namdapha National Park (8km), Miao is all about postcard perfect views. Located on the banks of river Noa-Dihing, Miao is encompassed by the magnificent Patkai Bum Range of Eastern Himalayas.
Cycling, angling, birding, trekking, village walks and splurging in the cute little local market are just few of the things you can do here. A visit to the Namdapha Wildlife Museum serves as a great prelude to the national park experience. Homestays and Jungle Camps are easily available in Miao.
Known for its rich avifaunal diversity, Roing is blessed with a magnificent hilly landscape and stunning valleys. Located in Lower Dibang Valley district, Roing serves as the gateway to the spectacular hills of Mayudya and Anini. On your way to Roing from Namsai, take a detour to the Riwach Museum in Abaali village. Experience the wilderness at the Mishmi Hills Jungle Camp and visit a nearby Idu Mishmi village. The upper reaches of Roing also offer great opportunities for adventure lovers, who could embark on rafting and trekking expeditions.