The Tibetans of Tindolong: Riding to Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh 2


It was the lure of Kibithoo that made me visit Tezu.

 

Many who do pan-India motorcycle rides in the North-East region of India, end up coming to Tezu. Because it is considered to be the Easternmost motorable point of India. It is not, but before I can write about Kibithoo or Kahoo, I have to write about Tezu first.



Further Reading: Why was I riding towards Kibithoo? To start the epic solo K2K2K ride, from Kibithoo to Kanyakumari to Koteshwar.



From Northeast, to the Extreme Northeast


After my time in Nagaland, enjoying my time camping at the hornbill festival, I made my way towards Tezu. I had to make a stop in the Assamese city of Dibrugarh, to arrange an ILP (Inner line permit) for entering Arunachal. For further details, you can scroll down to the section on ‘Practical information’ on how to get the ILP.



Further Reading: If you are planning to visit Nagaland in October, here are 7 lessons I learnt while camping during the hornbill festival.


There are 2 different ways to get from Dibrugarh to Tezu and both of them involved 2 very long bridges. I could take the Dhola-Sadiya bridge (also called the Dr. Bhupen Hazarika setu), which was all of 9.15 KM. Or I could take the 2.9KM lohit bridge at Alobarighat.

 

But since I wanted to see both these bridges, I decided to get to Tezu via the Dhola-Sadiya bridge. And return from Alobarighat.

dhola sadiya bridge

The reaaaaalllyyy long Dhola Sadiya bridge.

view from dhola sadiya bridge

The Brahmaputra is a splendid river, but the views from the Dhola-sadiya bridge arent particularly fantastic.

Ok, the Dhola-Sadiya bridge was impressive in terms of the construction. But it really wasn’t spectacular in terms of the views. I could be biased because I went on to see some amazing bridge views on the Lohit river after this, so don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself.

 

The road leading from the Dhola-Sadiya bridge is actually very new and a pleasure to ride through. If I stayed on this road, it would have taken me all the way till Roing. But that wasn’t going to happen today. A few kilometres after the Dhola-Sadiya bridge, at a place called Majgaon, I had to get off the highway and step into a dirt road. Well, it may not be a dirt road as of writing, since there was some road construction happening when I rode here.

 

The road had almost zero traffic except for the few construction vehicles, but it was functional. And it led me towards the border town of Sunpura. There was no way I could miss this border crossing, as there was a police checkpost right at the beginning of the town.

sunpura border arunachal pradesh

Assam Arunachal border crossing at Sunpura.

sunpura border assam

While it was technically not allowed, I had to sneak in a quick selfie at the sunpura border.

 

But it was not a highly sensitive checkpost like the one I would ride on to get to Pangsau pass a few weeks later. The security officer was a little surprised to find a solo rider, but he did not hassle me with questions. He checked my license, and my ILP. And then he just let me through.

One of the easiest entry points into Arunachal.



Further Reading: In contrast, my crossing into Arunachal Pradesh for Pangsau pass was chaotic and full of misadventures. Read more.


I am in Arunachal Pradesh!


From Sunpura, it was about 40 KMs of riding towards Tezu. And the roads again returned to the mint condition I saw at the end of the Dhola-Sadiya bridge. They were widely built highways, with almost zero traffic, except for the rare cow that decided to make the highway their home.

 

I knew I had reached Tezu when I saw the upgrade work for the Tezu airport. One of India’s easternmost airports, there are plans to start direct flights from Kolkata to Tezu, but they have not yet come to service as of writing this blog. If riding or road travel is really not your thing, you may be able to actually fly into Tezu starting from September 2018.

 

In the past, any one visiting Tezu had to stay at the Circuit house or the IB (inspection bungalow). But like I said, that’s a thing of the past. Tezu had a handful of cheap hotels, and I rode around to check the prices in each of them. Finally, I chose one called Hotel Taboka. The price was Rs 1000, but I negotiated a little with them (it was empty season when I visited), and managed to get a room for 500 rupees. Note that it was a double-bed; so if you are 2 people, it is good value for money.

 

It was around 2 pm, and there was no question of me riding towards Kibithoo at this point. So, I settled into my room, and checked with the guys in the reception if there was anything I could see in Tezu.

 

And they directed me to meet the Tibetans of Tindolong.



Meet The Tibetans of Tindolong Tezu


Tindolong is a small village about 6 kms from Tezu. There are no sign-boards, or anything that can help tourists to find this place. A small road goes into this village from the main road in Tezu.

 

The village of Tindolong itself has only a native population of less than 1000 people, but it is home to a camp that houses nearly 1500 people who came here seeking refuge. The Dhargyeling Tibettan Resettlement camp, also called the Lama camp, which is one of the Tibetan resettlement camps in India.

 

During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the 14th Dalai lama and his government went into exile in India. Since then, there has been an influx of Tibetan refugees, with currently around 150,000 tibetan refugees housed in different parts of India. While the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-exile are based out of Dharamsala, there has been Tibetan camps set up in many parts of the country. The state of Arunachal Pradesh itself has about 5 different resettlement sites, and the Dhargyeiling site in Tindolong was one of them.

Dhargyeling tibetan settlement tindolong tezu

The beginning of the Dhargyeling tibetan settlement

Tindolong tezu tibetan camp

And that is the center of the Tibetan camp in Tindolong

Tibetan school tindolong

There were a couple of schools around this small village too. Tibetans do value education highly.

 

The camp seemed almost devoid of people, belying the 1500 odd Tibetans who had settled here. Narrow concrete roads passed through colourful homes, and in the center of the settlement was a small school, complete with a basketball court. There were a few shops opposite where I stopped for some tea and lunch. Everybody smiled, but I was obviously an attraction. It is not often that tourists visit this small village in Tezu.

 

And it became obvious to me when I tried to do a facebook check-in. Tindolong has had 0 (zero) check-ins on facebook so far! Do you remember the time when it was popular for geeks to find google-whacks? (search string of 2 words which have exactly one search result). Well, I think I may have stumbled on to the facebook version of it. Find a place which is prominent enough that it is included in Facebook’s database of place-names, but is obscure enough that it does not have any facebook check-in so far.

 

In case this game doesn’t have a name, I hereby name it Tindolong-ing!

Tindolonging facebook game

And that is how I invented this glorious game called Tindolong-ing!



Further Reading: Just like the Tibetans of Tindolong, read the account of how I rode to meet the Tamilians of Moreh, on the India-Myanmar border.



The Tibetan Monasteries of Tindolong


So, was there anything interesting in Tindolong? Definitely. The Tibetan monasteries!

 

There were 2 monasteries in this small village, located almost adjacently. At the end of the village was the Orgyen Choiling Monastery. I tried to walk through it, but it seemed to be completely empty. So, I went to the larger monastery before it.

 

And the Jangchup Choiling Monastery did have some life buzzing around it.

Jangchup choiling tibetan monastery tezu

The gate to the jangchup choiling tibetan monastery.

Tibetan monastery tindolong tezu

The side gate towards the monastery

 

There was a giant gate to enter this monastery, but it seemed to be closed. Instead, I walked through the smaller side gate. Bright-red, giant prayer wheels greeted me, along with the sight of young Tibetan monks running around. It was nearly 4 pm, so some of them had finished their prayers and changed into soccer jerseys, for their evening game before the sun sets (sunset is early; around 5 pm here in this region). But there were also some of the monk-kids who were heading into the main building for their evening prayers. I followed them in.

 

The main prayer hall was an amazing blend of colours. Tibetan prayer flags were hanging from the red roof, and prayer gongs adorned the place. In the centre of it all, were statues of Buddha and a photograph of the Dalai Lama. The children monks were seated on one of the areas of the prayer hall, reading away their scriptures and lifting their head once in a while to take a look at the rare tourist who was clicking away at them. Me.

 

Next to the main prayer hall, was a building with a smaller prayer hall. And this one was occupied not by the students, but by the locals who came to pray. At the time that I walked in, there was only a solitary Tibetan lady using a rope-like device to turn the giant prayer wheel. I watched from a distance and clicked some pictures.

tezu tibetan prayer wheels

The prayer wheels and the monastery.

dhargyeling monastery tezu arunachal

Inside the Dhargyeling monastery.

buddhist prayer hall tezu

Inside the smaller prayer hall.

 

The time was nearly 5 pm now, and I started to make my way back. I passed by the colourful houses again as the sun went down on me slowly. I stopped for a little while at the basketball court, where the kids were enjoying a late evening game of ball. I joined them for a while, sweating out some of the lunch I had eaten earlier. And then made my way back to Tezu.

 

Tomorrow would be another ride. And that would be all the way to Kibithoo.

tibetan basketball tezu

A quick game of basketball with the tibetans of Tezu

tindolong tezu arunachal sunset

….. and the sun came down on Tindolong



Practical Information

 


 

1) Tezu is easily accessible from the airports of Dibrugarh and Guwahati in Assam. Once the Tezu airport opens up fully, there is expected to be more connectivity.

1) The Inner Line permit (ILP) for visiting Arunachal Pradesh can be obtained online from this link. Or from any of the offices mentioned in this list.

The cost of the permit is Rs. 25, if obtained from the office. Required documents:

  1. a) filled up application form,
  2. b) original and photocopy of ID and address proof (Passport, license, or aadhar card), and
  3. c) 2 passport size photos.

As long as you make the application before noon, the permits are issued the same day. Specify in the permit which border you will be crossing, since the Arunachal ILPs are issued based on circuits, and not for the entire state. (up to a maximum of 3 circuits)

3) Tezu has a few basic hotel options. I stayed in hotel Taboka. The price is 1000 Rs for a 2-bed room.

4) Tindolong village is 6 Kms from the center of Tezu town. If you do not have your own vehicle, it is easy to walk this stretch (if you are ok with the distance), or you can hire an auto from the town center.



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Tindolong tibetans

The Tibetans of Tindolong




This post is part of my stories about India. Click here to check out other amazing stories from India. 



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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.


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