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On the unruffled shore of Ganapatipule …

Life in a city sucks sometimes. It appears as though we are struck inside a fixed frame, lost in the mundane activities, and feel like coming out of the congestion. Congestion created by work related stress, family oriented pressures….After all we are poor human beings who need a break to re-charge our energy. We need a peaceful place that keeps you away from all worries, makes you forget the world and helps you to rejuvenate yourself. If you are in need of such a retreat, then, you must visit Ganaptipule.
Image credit:Prajna LS
Ganapatipule is a small village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, India. The region of Ratnagiri lies in the Konkan Maharashtra along the western coastline. Ganapatipule provides a serene sea shore of a recreational kind. The village is also known for an ancient Ganapati Temple that lies near the seashore. It is located at 30 km away from Ratnagiri city.
It was in the last summer that we had planned for a weekend trip to Ganapatipule. We had planned to reach the place via Kolhapur. Kolhapur (140 km) is the nearest transport hub to reach Ratnagiri and Ganapatipule. Ratnagiri is connected by Konkan rail to Mumbai. We had hired a taxi from Kolhapur to Ganapatipule.
You can’t call Ganapatipule a town. Due to increased number tourists this remote Konkan village is expanding. Most interesting part of the village is the MTDC beach resort facing the calm and quiet sea shore. It is a huge campus comprising rooms and cottages facing the shore. Book the room in advance during peak seasons. You may get private hotels also, but, MTDC rooms provide direct sea view.
Image Credit:Prajna LS

We had booked a sea view cottage. Our aim was to spend leisurely hours on the sea shore just like that idly. We had gone there to drench ourselves in the lap of nature. The beach was less crowded and it is one of the most untouched beaches of Maharashtra, one can say. We were blessed to have refreshing morning and evening walks on the shore. In fact, we were left to have our own time in the sea. I should say, I am enamoured by the profound serenity of the place, would love to go there again.
The MTDC resort has a restaurant that provides good meals. There are restaurants outside the MTDC compound if you want to try out. Remember to taste the ‘Sol-khadi’ a local drink. It tastes like flavoured buttermilk that is made up of Kokam fruits.
What to do:
The place is less modernised and it is solely for leisure trips. The beach is the main attraction, but it is not a commercialised beach. We enjoyed drenching ourselves in the unruffled seas reflecting the clear blue sky in the noon. We just sat there for hours together watching the playful waves. We gazed at the vast sea that turned crimson as the sun made his way for another evening. It was heavenly sight!
After the sunset, we visited the Ganapati temple which was situated on the other end of the same seashore. During high tide, the sea waves touch the entrance of the temple it seems. It’s a beautiful temple in a beautiful location providing a pious ambience to the place.
If you have time, you can take a round of nearby locations. There is an open air museum in Ganapatipule displaying the local Konkani lifestyle. There is a small shop inside the museum if you want to buy local products like Kokum, honey, pickles and snacks.
We visited Malgund, the hometown of Keshavsut - the much revered poet of Maharashtra. Malgund is just 10 minutes journey from Ganapatipule. Poet Keshavsut’s residence has been converted into a memorial now.
In brief:
Ganapatipule provides best recreation for those who love tranquillity. MTDC is the best available resort there. Autos are available for sightseeing. Main attraction is the beach. Best for a weekend getaway from Mumbai, Pune and Aurangabad. Good for all seasons except Monsoon. December is the peak season, so book rooms three months before if you are planning for December. Kolhapur is the nearest transportation hub. Ratnagiri is the nearest railhead.

Mumbai- 326 km, Pune-308 km , Kolhapur -140 km, Ratnagiri -30 km  

Eco resorts: an emerging trend in India

Image Courtesy: www.resortsincorbett.co
 Travel and hospitality sector in the Indian scenario is rapidly growing. It has become more organized, approachable and trendy than before. Especially, the hospitality sector had never been so versatile. Accommodations are available in various forms to suit the travelers coming from diverse backgrounds and having diverse tastes.
 
Cozy resorts providing spiritual healing centers, palaces converted into luxury hotels providing royal treatment, houseboats for a romantic holiday, a night at some remote jungle resort and huts on trees for a meditative mind…you can think of countless combinations like these. Backwater stays, rural home stays and village stays are gaining global recognition.  You will be surprised to find the one in some or the other corners of India.
 
As a major breakthrough, Eco Tourism has gained widespread popularity. As per the definition, Eco Tourism provides a unique traveling experience for nature lovers. It is another name for responsible traveling to save natural environment and to create awareness regarding the preservation of natural environment.
 
Eco friendly accommodation (Eco Resorts) is a part of that project. This is an effort to re-connect with the lifestyle that has gone into oblivion. In village stays, you would be offered to stay in the traditional style houses so that you can have a firsthand experience an Indian village lifestyle. You get village home stays in Coorg, Kerala, and the North-Eastern states of India especially.

Features:
Eco resorts will be built without harming the local environment by utilizing what is available at local sites. Basic amenities will be provided along with hot water and internet facilities. Housekeeping department will ensure that there will be eco-friendly/organic products kept inside each room. If it is located in any sanctuary area there will be a guided tour or wildlife safari attached to that. Trekking, hiking, and camps will be arranged by the local guides. At present, you would get cottages, bamboo and wooden huts, houseboats, tree top huts and village home stays in India.

Location of some major Eco Resorts:    
‘God’s Own country’ Kerala has the highest number of eco lodges and resorts in India. ‘Tourindia’ group of enthusiast were the pioneers in the field of backwater tourism in India. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the most visited destination.  You would get houseboats, tree houses, Tiger Trails, eco-lodges and cave-houses for nature lovers.
Karnataka state is renowned for Bandipur resorts, Nagarhole jungle Inns, home stays in Coorg, Dandeli resorts, Kabini reservoir lodges, cottages at B.R.project. You can enjoy wildlife safaris, joy fishing, trekking, bird watching, elephant rides, and many more attraction in these resorts.

Some of the famous Eco- Lodges:
  • Tusker Trail resort at Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
  • Corbett Riverside Resort, Claridges Corbett Hideaway, The wild safari Lodge at Corbett National Park.
  • Krishna Jungle resort, Kanha Jungle Lodge, Tuli Tiger resort at Kanha National park.
  • Wild Grass Lodge at Kaziranga National park.
  • Kumarakom Lake resort at Kumarakom Bird sanctuary.
  • Spice Village Hotel, Taj Garden retreat and Lake Palace Hotel at Periyar Wildlife sanctuary.
  • Tiger den resort, Tiger Moon resort, Sher Bagh at Ranathambore.
  • Sundar Chital Tourist Lodge at Sunderbans.

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Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series - 5

Nyalam to Manas Sarovar

Nyalam is situated at about 35 km from the Kodari border at 12, 300 ft altitude. It is located in the Shigatse Prefecture of Tibet. It has expanded from being a village to a small town by housing shopping streets and hotels. From here onwards, we start experiencing the climatic variations of a typical Tibetan Plateau. We can feel a warm morning changing into a windy noon, accompanied by sudden downpour. Evenings will be very cold and it gets dark very late. Nyalam is the place where we get acclimatized with the crazy weather conditions of Tibet. It is better to be wrapped up with warm cloths.
Nyalam (image credit:Prajna LS

The road from Kodari border to Nyalam was mesmerizing. The journey begins at the lower point of a Ghat section and as we move on, the landscape changes. Green hill slopes, river streams, steep valleys, countless waterfalls…nature unwinds in varied forms. As we approached Nyalam, we began noticing the Rocky Mountains and dry pastures.
We were accommodated in a dormitory. Accommodation for all Yatris will be the same upto Manas Sarovar. These towns will be closed for winter. Don’t expect any luxury at these dormitories. There will be common latrines with very poor conditions. It is better to carry tissue roles. At some points, especially during the Kailash Parikrama, we used the open ground for that purpose. But, be careful about the dogs there. Never go alone.
Food will be prepared by the Sherpa team, a soup will be provided every evening. Good enough for the survival. The leader of our Sherpa team was Sangey. The team carries utensils, cylinders, groceries and vegetables in a separate vehicle. After reaching every destination, they would be busy with unloading, cooking, washing, serving, and again loading everything into the luggage van. They were our chefs, guides and doctors! They are well experienced trekkers; they know how to survive in extreme weather conditions. If at all could get through the risky Parikrama of the Mount Kailash it was due to the support of these Sherpas. Very friendly and affectionate companions.
The team used to provide the Diamox tablet after dinner. Diamox tablets are essential to overcome the ‘altitude sicknesses. We had started the diamox course in Kadori itself. As we move on to higher altitudes, we start feeling nausea, headache, and fever. Symptoms may vary from person to person. Increased heartbeat, pulse rate, palpitation, sweat, and loss appetite may cause troubles. We get tired very easily. It becomes very hard even to walk. Once after acclimatizing with the climate, these symptoms may disappear. Nevertheless, it is better to take diamox tablets to avoid the risk.
You can buy accessories of trekking in Nyalam. Walking sticks, down jackets, shoes, water cans could be bought here. Carry enough Chinese Yauns, you may need the currency to pay for porters and ponies during Kailash Parikrama.
Next day morning, we left Nyalam for Dongba. It takes about 8 hours to reach Dongba from Nyalam. On the way to Dongba, we passed through the Brahmaputra River valley. We had finished the packed lunch on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. We reached Dongba at about 5 in the evening. Most of our teammates were tired and despite the intake of Diamox, we were suffering from Altitude sickness. Headache, nausea and loss of appetite were common symptoms. We were instructed strictly to cover our body with thermals and down jackets. We stayed that night at Dongba.
The most awaited day had arrived. We left Dongba, next morning. It is about 3 to 4 hours journey from Dongba to Lake Manas. Our bus moved along the serpentine path, passing through bare hillocks covered under white clouds. Our initial excitement to reach the ultimate destination had been hushed by the tedious travel experience. Most of our senior mates looked tired and sick. It was indeed a hard time for us to manage our mental and physical health under the erratic climate condition of Tibet.
Manas sarovar lake (image credit:Prajna LS)

But, all that misery seemed temporary when we had a glimpse of Lake Manas from our moving bus. It was a clear noon, fortunately. All our dismal faces brightened up. Wow, what a breathtaking moment!! In a clear day light, the lake surrounded by snowy mountain peaks like a glittering blue veil appeared heavenly. It was an ethereal sight.

[To be continued…]  
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Tripura: Land of Oranges

It was a princely state in the colonial times. The state at present, is just gearing up for the contemporary trends in tourism. Tripura, best known for rich natural landscape, is quiet region compared to its sister states in the North Eastern India.
Agartala, the capital city of Tripura is the most visited city. Accommodation with wide range of hotels and resorts and connectivity make Agartala a possible tourist junction in Tripura.
People of Tripura feel proud if you mention the name of Indian legendary music composer late S.D. Burman. S.D. Burman, possessing a royal inheritance in Tripura, was born and brought up in present day Bangladesh. But, he is considered an icon of Tripura till today. Another legendary personality, the poet Rabindranath Tagore also is respected highly in this state. He seems to have great affinity with the Manikya rulers of Tripura. So, you would win the hearts of Tripura people by mentioning these two famous personalities!
Total 19 tribes live in the state. The Kokborok speaking community is the main dominant tribe among all. At present the state houses mixed culture. Influence of Bengali culture on food and festivities is apparently visible.
Agriculture is the main activity here. Tripura borders Myanmar in the east and Bangladesh in the west.
How to reach: Agartala is well connected by road, rail and airways. Flights are available from Agartala to Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Silichar and Guwahati. You would get connecting flights to other cities. Agartala is connected to Assam, Dhaka and Comilla by train. The state is connected by only one National Highway and that is not in good condition.
What to buy: Buy Bamboo and Cane products and Tripuri traditional dress. Tripuri traditional dress consists of three parts out of which only two parts are worn nowadays. The pattern will be somewhat like wrap around and a top, but it is known as Rignai (wrap around) and Risa (top).
What to see: Most visited city in Trpura is Agartala. Other parts of the state could be reached by buses and taxis. Interiors of the state can offer government guest houses and low budget hotels.
  • Agartala

    The city boasts of having a rich historical connection with the Manikya rulers. The city was the capital of the Princely State that ruled over the region. Ujjayanta Palace, Museum, Sukanta Academy, and Purbasa Emporium are the main attractions in the city.

  • Unakoti

    It is at about 178 km from Agartala, is a place of attraction from archeological point of view. This place is known for stone carvings on a hill belonging to 7th/8th centuries. These rock carvings of Shiva and other gods are situated randomly on a hill. Imagine a hill comprising carvings on its huge rocks everywhere! Also visit Debtamura and Pilak sites.
  • Tripura Sundari Temple:

     it is considered one of the Shakti Peethas in India. The place is located about 55 km from Agartala.
  • Gomuti Bird sanctuary

    This is located at about 40 km from Agartala and is a good place for bird lovers.
  • Jampui Hill

    This is at about 250 km from the capital. This is a beautiful hill station comprising orange gardens. Visit during winter months to see orange trees bearing orange fruits. 
    Jampui Hill
    (image credit:yohyoh.com)

Explore North East India-Nagaland




Map of Nagaland
image courtesy: wikimedia 

Nagaland, the land of 16 indigenous tribes and their unique traditions, is located between Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. Kohima is the capital city. The city of Dimapur bordering Assam is the main city inside the state having good connection with other parts of the country by road, rail and Airways. It takes about one and half hour to reach Kohima from Dimapur by road.
Culture of Nagaland comprises of indigenous tribes following the traditions of their forefathers, but, most of them have been Christianized during the Colonial rule. One can expect modernized cities and people over there. However, the native culture is preserved through community festivals and local rituals. The Great Indian Hornbill festival is one such cultural gathering of all tribal people.
It is the home for Hornbills, Tragopan (State Bird of Nagaland), and Mithun (domesticated Gaur species. The geographical terrain contains hill ranges. The region experiences cool weather throughout the year. It is one of the most hospitable destinations in North East India.
Nagaland is served by one airport located at Dimapur. Connecting flights and direct flights are available to Guwahati and Kolkata. Dimapur is the well connected railway head in the state. Buses and rental taxis are available to travel around the state.
You can stay either in Dimapur or Kohima. However, do not miss to experience village stays. Bamboo huts built in the model of the tribal huts provide you a different experience. Do not worry about the amenities. The huts and guest houses at the villages provide western facilities.
Indian tourists are required to get Inner Lane Permit and foreign tourists no longer require the Restricted Area Permit (barring tourists from Bangladesh, China and Pakistan).
Destinations to visit:
  • Dimapur: This is an ancient city known for Ahom rule and the Kachari Dimasa rulers. It is said that the region in which the present day Dimpaur is located was the place of Hidimba (wife of Bhima) from the Mahabharata. At present the city is the gateway to Nagaland. Ruins of old Kachari tribe are preserved in the city.
  • Kohima: This city witnessed the famous battle between the Japanese and the British forces during the Second World War. Visit the war memorial and the Kisama Heritage Village here. Make a trip during the first week of December; you would get to participate in the famous Hornbill Festival.
  • Mokokchung: This district is the home of Ao tribe. Visit the Mopungchuket village.
    Mokokchung  (image credit:stylesatlife.com)

  • Mon: It is the home for the Konyak tribe. You can find the tribal people appearing in traditional tribal dress. This district borders Myanmar. The district hosts Aoleong Monyu Festival in April.
  • Wokha: This is the home for Lotha tribe. This is best known for landscape, and fresh farm products.

How to reach Nagaland:

By Air - The state has only one airport which is at Dimapur, It's connected with Dibrugarh, Delhi, and Kolkata by regular flights.


By Rail - Dimapur Railway station is the only railway station in Nagaland and it is connected to Guwahati and Kolkata.


By Road - Taking a road to reach Nagaland is best way to visit Nagaland because the state has a good network of National and state highway with other major cities of India. You can opt or book private taxi or cab online from Dimapur, Kohima and Guwahati.

Meghalay: Land of clouds!


 Meghalay, as the name suggests, is the land of clouds. The state is the home for highest rainfall belt comprising Chirapunji. The state shares its borders with Assam and Bangladesh. Shillong is the capital city. It is a state that is adorned by green hills all over and is thus, districts of the state are divided on the basis of hill regions. So, you see Khasi Hills district, Jaintia Hills district etc.
The state is a rich source of coal, limestone, dolomite and quartz. Timber, bamboo, reed, cane, lemon-grass, thatch grass and medicinal herbs are grown all across. The state experiences highest rainfall in the country.
Khasi culture is one of the indigenous cultures of the region. The community follows matrilineal kinship tradition. Khasi is one of the spoken languages of Meghalaya.
Let us explore tourist destination in Meghalaya. Destinations are divided according to the hill districts in which they are situated. Exotic landscape, waterfalls and caves are the main attractions in the state. You would be interested to visit deep rock caves wading through waterways! Meghalaya houses such ones.
  • Khasi Hills Region:

    Khasi Hills region
    Image courtesy: www.indiatravelpal.com

Shillong is the most popular city located in the Khasi Region. The capital city is the gateway to enter Meghalaya. You can visit the city all through the year. It is a well connected to Assam. Shillong is a hill resort comprising waterfalls, green valleys, river brooks and gardens. The city entertains wide range of guests. It would be an ideal place to hold business conferences.
This region is the home for heavy rainfall areas including Cherrapunji. Smit, Mawaphlang, Sohra (Cherrapunjee), Laitkynsew, Mawsynram, Nongkhum Island, Ranikor river valley and Mawlynnong Villages to experience exotic landscape.
  • Jaintia Hills Region:

This is located towards the border of Bangladesh. Dawki, is the gateway to enter Bangladesh. It is a border city where lots of border crossing activities go on. It is a route for international trade between India and Bangladesh. The Umngot River is the natural boundary between the two countries.
Tyrshi Falls, Lalong Park, Krang Suri Falls, Umlawan Cave (this is considered to be the deepest and the longest cave in the sub-continent), Thadlaskein lake -these are some important sites to visit.
Thlumuwi Waterfalls
(image credit:
flickr.com)

Get in

There is a small airport in Shillong about 35 km from the city. It is called Umroi Airport. Flights to Kolkata are available. Best way is to reach via Guwahati, which is just 2-3 hours journey by road. Helicopter service is available from Guwahati to Tura and Tura to shilling.


What to buy: 

You would get bamboo artifacts. Buy Naga and Manipuri shawls that you get in Meghalaya. You would get Manipuri wrap-around skirts and lungis too. Khasi Scrub, a natural handmade scrub you would get on the streets. 

Mizoram


Mizoram is one of the less travelled states in North Eastern region. It could be termed as a state of hills; cities are built up on the hill slops in almost all districts of the state. The state is best known for close-knit community sense. The Mizo people are less conscious about class distinctions, it is said.
Mizoram is located on the southern tip of North East India hosting indigenous ethnic communities. However, culture of Mizo people has undergone transformation due to Christian Missionaries in the early 18th and 19th centuries. Almost all communities are Christianized, it is doubtful yet, how distinct are they now, in real terms.
The state of Mizoram is surrounded by Myanmar and Bangladesh, two foreign countries. Assam, Manipur and Tripura are the Indian states bordering Mizoram. Aizawal is the state capital.
How to reach:
The Lengpui Airport situated at about 35 km from Aizawal, the state capital is connected to Guwahati and Kolkata. Silichar in Assam (180 km from Aizawal) is the nearest railhead. Buses and private vehicles are available from Silichar to Aizawal.
One needs to obtain Inner Lane Permit. Carry your photo ID and copies of your photographs. Entry formalities can be done at these cities: Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Delhi and Silichar.
Main occupation in Mizoram is agriculture. Up until recently Mizo people used to practice the age-old ‘Jhum’ (slash and burn) cultivation. Now the government has introduced new methods of farming. People are uniquely distinct and show strong community sense.
MIzo people are best known by their Bamboo pole dance which is called Cheraw Dance. They celebrate the festival of Thalfavang Kut Festival every year in the month of November. This is a harvest festival. Cultural games and dances will be showcased during then. 
image courtesy: indianetzone.com
 Mizoram offers cloud filled hills, emerald valleys, meandering streams, and unique tribal culture. Weather would be pleasant all through the year. September to May would be the best time to visit. Buy handicrafts, hand woven fabrics and bamboo crafts.
Tourist destinations in Mizoram:
  • Aizawal: This hill town is closer to many important tourist destinations in Mizoram like Reiek village on a mountain top, Durtang Hills, Hmuifang, Berawtang, Solomon’s Temple, and Khuangchera Puk Cave. Don’t miss to visit the World’s Largest Family in Baktawang Village. Aizawal has good many hotels and resorts with modern amenities. Make the city your base destination. Rejoice your shopping in the traffic free Bara Bazar.
  • What else would be more interesting than to explore exotic forests, steep hills, waterfalls in Mizoram?! Visit Phawngpui Blue Mountain which is located near Myanmar border. It is at about 230 km from Aizawal. You would be enthralled by rare kind of orchids and rhododendrons flowers. 
    image courtesy: industrialtour.com
     
  • Sibuta Lung Stone Architecture at Tachhip Village (20 km from Aizawal), Memorial of Chhingpui, Pangzawal Village, Lung Memorial Stone, Tualchang Stone slabs , Tomb of Vanhimailian, Vantawang Falls are some other tourist sites near Aizawal. Aizawal city is the main tourist point in Mizoram.

Manipur: the land of Gandharvas!


Manipur, being the home for a tradition of antiquity called Sanamahism and an oldest ethnic community called Metei, is known as the ‘Switzerland of East”. Imphal is the capital city.
Manipur is the land of unique Metei culture representing unique dance style and sports traditions. The region is known for elegant dance styles, music tradition, martial arts and sculpture. The Rasalila dance with delicate and graceful movements is known to be inherited by Gandharvas. Pung Cholom, a group dance performed by playing a percussion instrument called Pung, is a dance form performed by male dancers. 
image credit: manipuri.20m.com
 The state was founded in 1972. It is surrounded by three Indian states (Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam) and a foreign country (Myanmar).
Manipur’s geographical terrain contains river valleys, and hills. The natural environment in Manipur has been undisturbed so far. The presence of AFSPA has been a matter of concern and you might have heard of Irom Sharmila the brave lady of Manipur who has been protesting against it.
Manipur is connected well by Imphal Airport. The capital town is linked well to Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Silichar and Agartala by air and roadways. If you are traveling by train, Dimapur in Nagaland would be the nearest destination. But, Dimapur is located at about 220 km from Imphal.
Manipur hosts a 10 days cultural fest from 21st to 30th November every year. It is known as the Manipur Sangai Festival.
Accommodation: Imphal city is the best place to stay. You would get plenty of hotels. If you want to check resorts in the interiors of Manipur, you would get of course.
Cuisine: Staple food is rice along with leafy vegetables and fish. They use herbs and spices while preparing food. Serve in small banana leaf pouches. Ngari, Iromba, Chamfoot and Morok are some popular names of Manipuri dishes.
Shopping: Go for Handloom articles, silk sarees, scarves, bamboo articles, ivory articles, shawls and jewellery.
Important tourist destinations:
  • Bishnupur district: The popular tourist spot - Loktak Lake, a 14th century Vishnu temple, Keibul Lamjao National Park, INA memorial and the Loukoipat Lake. Loktak Lake is situated at about 48 km from Imphal. A tourist guest house attached with a cafeteria is there on an island called Sendra Island facing the lake.
  • Imphal is divided into two districts: Imphal East and Imphal West. Imphal, the state capital is located in Imphal West district. Manipur State Museum, Shaheed Minar, Zoological garden, palace, Ima Market and the very famous Khonghampat Orchidarium are the main attraction in the district. The Orchidarium houses more than 100 orchid varieties. It is located on the outskirts of Imphal city.
  • Senapati district: The district houses old villages belonging to age old Naga tribes. Yangkhullen and Makhel are the quite known among them. Mao, an oldest hill station is located in this district. Dzukou valley is the most popular tourist place in the Senapati district. With picturesque landscape and unique Lily flowers the valley attracts nature loving tourists. The valley is the home for the highest mountain peak in Manipur named, Manipur Mount. Sadhu Chiru Waterfall is also located in the same district.

Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series-4

The Friendship Bridge

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
 Next day morning, we proceeded towards Kodari border along with a team of Sherpa men in a private travel bus. These Sherpa team accompanies us throughout our journey.  This team takes care of routine breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is a team consisting of trekking experts, a chef, and other helpers. A pantry vehicle follows the bus carrying pilgrims. Fortunately, our Sherpa team consisted of very caring and jovial persons.

 Our aim was to cross the Kodari border that day. We took the Arniko highway that connects Kathmandu with China occupied Tibet. Kodari is a small township comprising Tibetan migrants mostly. Nepali people are scantly visible. It is the last town of Nepal. Traveler inns are available providing only basic amenities.

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
Kodari lies in a God gifted ambience. Whether it is a boon or a curse, one should decide for himself. Situated on top of a Himalayan valley, the town is blessed with a picturesque landscape. Green hills, countless waterfalls and the meandering Botikosi River flowing down the valley make this town look beautiful. However, the fate of migrants is a big question mark. Poverty and an uncertain future haunt the township and that is strikingly visible for travelers.

 The road to Kadori from Kathmandu is called the Arniko Highway. This road has been constructed with the initiatives taken by the China Government for the improvement of bilateral trade and commerce. You can’t call it a proper highway. It is a narrow strip of road skirted by steep hills on side and the Botikosi River Valley on the other side. Landslides are common during rains. We could notice the damage already done by previous landslides. A scary highway indeed.

A bridge has been built across the Botikosi River and the bridge is known as ‘Friendship Bridge’. This bridge is a part of the Arniko Highway connecting China with Nepal. One will have to cross the bridge on foot. Nepali vehicles are not allowed on this. A red line has been drawn in the middle to mark the boundary between two countries. Chinese military commandos will be guarding on the other half. Border crossing is done through strict immigration process.

Chinese immigration center is located on the Chinese side of the bridge. That area is called Zangmu. The United Nations has not officially recognized Chinese status on the Tibetan territory. However, China is executing its supremacy over the land and visitors are supposed to respect the law of the land. After crossing the border, tourists will have to travel with Chinese travel guides in the Chinese permit vehicles.

Due to Indo-China border tensions the Kailsh Manas Sarovar Yatra was banned from 1962 to 1981. Kadori is the only official gateway to enter China from Nepal side. We were strictly warned in Kathmandu as not to talk about political affairs of China and about Dalai Lama.  It is almost a known factor there. There seems to be an undeclared deal among the Nepali merchants/businessmen/traders/travel agencies. They do not encourage any kind of activities against the Chinese policies in Kathmandu or anywhere inside the Chinese territory. In that way they have secured entry into the Chinese territory. One can use the trade route for uninterrupted trade and commerce. That must be the reason, perhaps, that the number of private travel agencies in Kathmandu is increasing day by day for conducting Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra. These private agencies assure us of a safe journey inside the Chinese Territory for the same reason. As long as one does not protest or keeps showing green signal to the Chinese Supremacy the show goes on!

Most of our travel mates were elders. Most of them had come to accomplish the ultimate yatra, it was a dream come true for them. They were excited, thrilled to have that ultimate experience of reaching the abode of Shiva. However, the Kailash Manasarovar yatra (on this route) makes us to think about the bilateral relations of India and Nepal with China. We did share a bit of unexplainable anxiety, could observe the same in the eyes of the migrant workers crossing the bridge everyday for the daily bread.

One needs to obtain a valid passport and a Chinese Visa before crossing the border. We had group Visa, but we had to get through the immigration check in. The Chinese agent booked by the Nepali travel agency must be present on the Chinese side to complete the formalities. To our bad luck, that fellow didn’t turn up on that day. We were put up in a roadside inn. We waited till the evening for the Chinese guide. Late in the evening, our Nepali guide came back with the message that the Chinese guide would come next day morning. We were made to stay in the same inn where we had lunch that noon.
Image Courtesy:Prajna LS

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
Houses of that town were roughly built on the hill slope, terraced residences. Timber houses without foundation. The Inn we had stayed was built on the edge of a slope overlooking the Botikosi river stream. It had a balcony and if we stand on that we would feel as if we were standing on a hanging bridge! Such an unstable condition. Kids of migrant workers rush towards you asking for snacks, and money. Pretty and adorable Tibetan faces, mostly girls and women were seen.

Next day, we woke up to a chilly morning, bought hot water paying 100 Nepali rupees for each bucket, had bath and got ready to cross the border. After this day, we again had bath only in Kathmandu on our return journey, on the twelfth day!  It is just five minutes’ walk from our inn to the Friendship Bridge. We crossed the bridge in a line. It was indeed an emotional moment for all of us to cross the border of a country on foot. I was imagining about the experience of crossing the Indo-Pak border!

Photography is not allowed on the bridge. Even at the immigration center, visitors are not allowed to take photos. But, we noticed a few foreign visitors shooting outside the immigration center. Please confirm anyway with your travel guides before taking snaps. We took a snap of the bridge from a far distance.
The Chinese guide had arrived and we proceeded towards Nyalam in a bus. The road from Zangmu to Manassarovar is well maintained. We would be provided with a well conditioned luxury bus to travel. So, the bus journey till we reach Manas Sarovar is completely hassle free. But, one can’t be so confident about the accommodation facility. Now, we have entered the Tibetan Plateau.

Let’s explore the Tibetan plateau in the next episode!


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Explore North East India

North-Eastern India is the less explored region in India compared to other parts of the nation. Lack of accessibility was the major concern for the tourists. But, now, the region is slowly opening up to nature enthusiasts. Though there are instances of separatist protests and agitations in a few parts of the region, tourists activities go on. However, it is better to update yourself before landing up there.
North East India, as the name suggests, is located to the North-Eastern part of India bordering China (Southern Tibet), Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The region consists of seven states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. Rich biodiversity, indigenous local cultures and picturesque landscape have made this region versatile and unique. Let us explore the tourism possibilities of each state within this region. There are two World Heritage Sites in the region and they are located in Assam: Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.
Arunachal Pradesh
Known as ‘The land of Dawn lit Mountains’, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is located on the eastern most part of North Eastern India bordering China, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nagaland and Assam. Bound by the Himalayan Mountains in the north, the state is the home for exclusively rare variety of orchids. Hence it is also called the Orchid State of India.
Image credit: sparktravels.com
Culture of Arunachal Pradesh comprises indigenous tribes and Buddhist traditions mainly. Most of the tribal language belongs to Tibeto0Burman family, which is known as Tani language. Itanagar is the capital city.
Buddhist Gompas occupy the larger section of state heritage sites and thus makes the state a destination for ‘Spiritual Tourism’. The Tawang Monastery is one of the important Buddhist sites in the entire India.
Travellers need Inner Lane Permits to travel within the state. There are different travel circuits marked by the Tourism Authorities and the tourists will have to mention to which circuit they will be travelling.
Travel locations within the state are spread out among five river valleys (the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit and the Tirap), lakes, Himalayan peaks and Himalayan forests. The climate depends upon the locations; freezing Greater Himalayas, cool Middle Himalayas or moderate lower Himalayas.
Four main travel circuits are:
  • Tezpur-Tipi-Bombdilla-Tawang
  • Tinsukia-Tezu-parasuramkund
  • Margherita-Miao-Namdapha
  • Itanagar-Ziro-Daporijo-Along-Pasighat
Main tourist destinations within the state are:
  • Tawang Monastery: This 17th century Buddhist monastery is the largest in India located about 180 km from Bomdilla. It is situated at 10,000 ft altitude.
  • Ziro: This is the headquarters of Lower Subansiri district. This town is known for community festivals hosted by the Apatani tribe.
  • Namdapha Tiger Project
  • Sela Lake near Bomdilla
  • Malinathan temple, Rukmini Nagar, Parasuram Kund are associated with epics of India.
  • Itanagar: the state capital houses archaeological sites. Ita Fort, Ganga lake, Jawaharlal Museum are main attractions.

The state is not served by a proper airport. Airports in the Assam state are the nearest points for air travellers. By road, the state is connected to Tezpur of Assam. Soon it will be connected by a railway line Harmuti to Naharlagun. Stay in guest houses, lodges, private hotels and home stays. 

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