The rolling plains right before you start climbing uphill past Bhalukpong towards Bomdila can be
The rolling plains right before you start climbing uphill past Bhalukpong towards Bomdila can bedeceiving; this drive into the heartland of western Arunachal is going to be anything but comfortable, but rest assured, the views, the valleys, the glint of the sun as it falls on trees no man has possibly ever touched, will be worth it. With the road snaking uphill and downhill over several mountains, the drive to Bomdila, Dirang and eventually to Tawang can feel like you’re driving to the end of the world.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The Upper Gompa, or as it is officially known, the Gentse Gaden Rabgyel Ling Monastery, was started by the 12th Rinpoche in 1965–66, just before his death. The gompa is a replica of the Tsona Gontse Monastery in southern Tibet, which itself had been established in the 15th century. The main prayer hall of the monastery was a later addition by the 13th Rinpoche. The Dalai Lama sanctified this hall in October of 1977. The gompa enjoys a stunning view over the valleys of Bomdila. The gompa comprises a prayer hall, a temple of the Buddha and residential quarters for the monks. The highlight of the place, for tourists, is undoubtedly the large prayer wheel, located at a distance from the main hall under its own brick-and-mortar awning. Painted all over in vivid colours, it’s a reminder of the exuberance and beauty that is a part of Tibetan Buddhism as much as religiosity and penance are.
Located in austere isolation from the rest of the town, perhaps by accident or more likely by design, the Middle Gompa, in its new renovated avatar, makes for a somewhat arduous climb but rewards with stunning views and total solitude. Two kilometres past the Bazaar Line, the road stops being one and you must walk up. As the monks who live around it will tell you, there’s a temple even higher up, the path to which can be seen studded with white prayer flags. But not only is the climb next to impossible, it’s a preferred private spot for the monks so we’d advise against venturing towards it.
The renovated temple has more of the typical, and typically beautiful, décor and motifs, along with some stunning images of Buddha in several avatars inside.
Located at the ‘beginning’ of the Bazaar Line, and hidden somewhat between shops and administrative buildings is the more modest Thubchong Gatsel Ling Monastery. Similar in form and feature to the Middle and Upper gompas, this gompa is notable for its shaded courtyard and large prayer hall.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Hotel Elysium (Tel: 03782-223156; Tariff: ₹1,200-2,000) is the top choice with huge rooms, great views, reasonabe rates and friendly service. Other good options are Hotel Siphiyang Phong (Tel: 222286; Tariff: ₹1,300-5,500) and Hotel Tsepal Yangjom (Tel: 223473, 223674; Tariff: ₹1,800-4,500). Arunachal Tourism also has a Tourist Lodge (Tel: 222049; Tariff: ₹ 500-1,000).