We recently had the opportunity to visit Arunachal Pradesh with Holiday Scout. Arunachal Pradesh is a great destination but still not on the main tourist map of India and mind you, for a first-time visitor it definitely was an off beat destination.
Offbeat destinations offer a unique blend of culture, adventure and a chance for genuine connection within the local community that is not easily achieved in more traditional destinations. It also lets us introspect when we are out of our comfort zones. That is also the time when magic happens when you don’t resist. When someone once said “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”, he hit it on the nail.
A Road Trip in West Arunachal Pradesh
We undertook this 11-day road trip across the length (South to North and back) of West Kameng District and Tawang District which are part of West Arunachal Pradesh region.
Holiday Scout is one of the renowned tour operator for North East India. We would rather describe them as an cultural experience provider! The entire trip which started from Guwahati Airport and ended there only, was curated by Holiday Scout, based in Arunachal Pradesh. A brief list of places we visited and things we did are below.
Places to visit and Things to do in West Arunachal Pradesh.
Things to do in Bhalukpong – Orchid Research Centre, Waterfalls
Things to do in Bomdila – Monastery, Viewpoint, Ama Market, Enjoying the new Coffee Shops, handicrafts workshops etc.
Things to do in Dirang Valley – Dirang TDL Monastey, Mandala Top, stay at riverfront boutique cottages, learn to cook monpa cuisine, visit 9th century village, picnic at Sangti Valley etc.
Tawang – Visit Bum La pass, the highest pass which doubles as border with China, 14th century Urgelling Monastery, visiting the largest Monastery of India, visit the land of 108 lakes many waterfalls etc.
Reasons to Travel with Holiday Scout
To say that our Road trip with Holiday Scout in West Arunachal Pradesh was a total success and that we completely enjoyed it would be describing our experience aptly. Here are the reasons below.
Travel and Logistics including required permits
From the time of meeting us at Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport at Guwahati to dropping us back, things worked perfectly. We were met by Sange Tsering and Tsering Dondu, with their large SUV to take care of us and our luggage. It was thoughtful of Holiday Scout to arrange for a bigger SUV for that extra comfort.
Being a border state of India, all Indians who are not Arunachal Pradesh residents need the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and Non-Indians require Protected Area Permit (PAP). They had already arranged for it. 😀
Stay was in a mix of hotels and homestays but always clean and comfortable place.
Dedicated, Knowledgeable and Enthusiastic Coordinator and Guide
There are fixed itineraries which maybe fine-tuned to suit your taste. Their extensive knowledge of the region ensures that, even if you need a customized itinerary, they can develop it in a short period of time. The fact that we had two dedicated persons by way of Sange and his friend who doubled up as the chauffeur who were members of the Monpa tribe, which is the predominant tribe in this region. This also meant that they could communicate with the locals, and we were welcomed as one of their own! Holiday Scout ensures this!
In addition, where needed, Holiday Scout had arranged for a local guide to explain things to us.
Since Holiday Scout is well respected and their management are proactively helping the government tourism department, they can magically open normally closed doors. For example, the private quarters of HH Dalai Lama at Dirang TDL Monastery was thrown open by the Chief Monk and he personally gave us a guided tour.
Again, Monpas opened their doors welcoming us to share Butter tea or Ara or even some Momos. In one place we actually learnt how to make momos.
Flexibility of Itinerary
Itineraries are only as good as how disciplined we are, as travellers, sticking to the time. However, Holiday Scout know a thing or two in how to rearrange things, in case we find a particularly beautiful spot where we want to spend more time as we did at not one or two but many places.
Having a dedicated vehicle helps in starting early if required to negotiate a particularly difficult or even stop at a scenic spot on the road to take some selfies!
Depending on our interests Holiday Scout was able to add a couple of spots in lieu of some non-interesting (for us) places. For example, during World Tourism Day Holiday Scout were able to take us to the village where the mother of 6th Dalai Lama was born, to participate in the local dances even and share their food. We also go to meet the one of the descendants of the mother of 6th Dalai Lama.
Last but not the least is the Safety, Security and Trust factor.
Arunachal Pradesh is by and large quite a safe place for travellers and people are pleasant and friendly. There was not a single case where the locals were trying to sell us stuff at “tourist” prices or we felt uncomfortable and unsafe.
Even so, having Holiday Scout at your side gives that extra blanket of safety. Sange Tsering informs us that his team members are handpicked and trained on safety and security aspects, including while on the road, visiting attractions or staying at an accommodation. He regularly helps locals to set up and run trustworthy homestays.
Not for nothing has Sange Tsering named one of 50 People to know in the Himalayas!
I was hosted by Holiday Scout. All views expressed are my own and based on my personal experiences and conversations in the region. For more info on their tours Holiday Scout.
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