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Monday, July 26, 2010


I flew down to the Lilabari airport in Assam from Guwahati in a rickety ATR.We were only 8 passengers and we could choose our seats according to convenience.I like always took the window seat.One of the airhostesses quickly served us a coleslaw sandwich with a pretty descent Air India brownie while the other gave us  a quick security protocol demo and we were airborne in no time.

The flight was about 45 mins and before I knew it, we were preparing to land. The Lilabari airport was deserted since we were the only passengers who'd arrived and the handlful of airport staff after receiving us,started packing up for the day. The plane took off with another smattering of passengers and the airport was closed down for the week.The airport supported only 2 flights per week so..
The deserted airport with my shuttle

I stepped out and couldn't see a taxi or rick in sight.The locals whol had arrived with me had a relative or friend to pick them up so I was stranded.The staff offered me the airport shuttle(which was an old Armada) which was dropping the lady who performed security checks(on the return trip to Guwahati,she'd come to work only for me),the 2 baggage incharge boys and me now to Itanagar for an extra 400 odd bucks. The drive along the northern Assam countryside was lovely with plains of fields all around.I have a habit of getting lost with my surroundings,especially on long drives. As we approached Arunachal, one could see the contrast in terrain as we started the climb. Young guys on attractive yamaha fazers were zooming past on the highway.  As we were climbing a slope,I saw a young biker fidgetting with his moving bike and before I could realize what happened next,he stood on his seat and gave me a stylish salute as we flashed past him on a slope.I was floored! :) 

I love people from the hills.Theres always a simplicity and innocence that the hills preserve in its people. Though we need permits to enter the state, I pulled of a stint of  an Arunachali gal with her driver and swished past the staring policeman at the security check point.We were in proper Itanagarsoon after. I had chosen the Hotel Donyi Polo for my stay which is one of the best in the capital though its maintained  by the Government. Donyi Polo is a sun worshipping religion that the Arunachalis have adopted. They are not staunch about their religion and are basically worshippers of nature.
It wasnt a star rated hotel but the view from my room made it totally worth it. The weather was absolutely amazing. June is a wet season in all northeastern states with frequent rainfalls. Incidentally in Arunachal unlike most north eastern states,most people are comfortable with Hindi rather than English.

The women are petite,flawlessly complexioned and move around in stylish mekhlas. I knew that Itanagar was also one place where u get good Bangkok stuff like in other the states of Manipur, Nagaland , Mizoram and Meghalaya since the latest stuff comes in from Thailand,Malaysia and Myanmar via the borders.I have actually seen fashion trends originating in the northeast reaching even Delhi much later.I had a local friend named Michael who took me to a local restaurant where I wanted to savor the local cuisine.We ordered for a fish curry for me with bamboo shoots, boiled vegetables,some rice and an aloo chutney which is made with potatoes,small fish and lots of chillies(they of course toned down the chillies for me). Michael preffered to have pork in a similar curry.The flavours are more suited to acquired tastebuds. The curry was boiled and it was a very healthy spread indeed. It was similar to food in Manipur. That's how we eat most of our foods-lots of boiled stuff and lots of fish. Saumf was served after the heavy lunch and i picked up a few packets of yak cheese to chew on for long journeys.

I then headed out to the shopping arcade in the city centre to do my bit of shopping. There were new styles from Hong Kong and Bangkok and some stuff from other parts of the country as well. Some styles are only suited to the petite slim figures and looks of northeast Indian women and they carry it off with amazing panache. Looks straight out of Korean movies (which are popular throughout the northeast are copied effortlessly. Its sometimes hard to find stuff that caters to women with generous figures like me since Bangkok also caters to their slim petite women, but I dug out a couple of tops and picked up stylish clutchpins for a 100 bucks which otherwise sell for 600 bucks or more at stores like Forever New and Aldo(I love their stuff too but u get the latest styles at throwaway prices here!!). There weren't too many stores with clothes and shoes and I was saving for Kohima and Aizawl.

The monastery site
I met another friend who's the Additional Secretary for Sports and Youth affairs. He comes across as a cheerful young man of not more than 27-28 yrs in age, but he's about 35 and has 3 young kids. :) He took me to a small monastery in the heart of the capital. The monastery is pretty small once u've seen the ones in Sikkim and Leh. The monastery is perched on a hilltop and the view around it is breathtaking. The prayer flags flutter in the evening breeze and the oil lamps in the dark room in one of its corners flicker with the breeze without going out. The smell of Tibetan incense and the oil lamps is one of my favourite smells in the world. Its absolutely ethereal. The twinkle of lights at a distance slowly increased in number as the clouds enveloped the monastery and the sun settled down for the day. The settlements on various hill slopes in hill towns is another enchanting sight. Tibetan and Buddhist curio sold here are overpriced as compared to Buddhist towns and cities like Gangtok or Leh.

The next day I visited the lake situated in the lap of surrounding hills, a few kilometers away from the city centre. The spot was deserted again except for a bunch of young girls and boys taking pictures and heading out. It was drizzling and I quickly made it around the lake,touched its waters and headed back. There are thickets and tall trees everywhere and a million bugs noisily chattering away. The whole city is a tourist spot as there are views and beautiful sceneries at every nook and corner. The changing weather and the clouds only enhance the beauty of the whole place.

On my drive back to Lilabari, down the hillslopes, I saw a river beautifully taking a u turn around a settlement of houses. It was an interesting sight!
The 'U turn' river

Tawang was left out in my itenarary but thats the main tourist spot with its monasteries and the Chinese border as attractions. There are choppers operating from Itanagar and Guwahati which are a good option as there are daily choppers flying to Tawang and other remote areas.

I'll remember Arunachal mostly for those brightly coloured bikes with their stylish bikers. My friend told me that even though some of them might have mud houses, theres always a stylish bike parked outside every house...  


  1. very descriptive .. i have always loved your words

  2. Thanks babe!but i don't write as well as you do!!

  3. A truly amazing account of your tryst with nature!!

    When r u travelling next????