Arunachal Pradesh, the land of dawn-lit mountains, is the ultimate travellerʼs delight. Teeming with magnificent rainforests, quaint tribal villages, picturesque valleys, stilted wooden huts, riverside trails, and places in between—nameless yet unforgettable. Earlier this year, my husband and I chalked out a road trip to this breathtakingly beautiful, Northeastern state, picking less frequented destinations, and spent a fortnight ensconced in the warmth of Arunachali hospitality. Here are my sketches from our mountain adventure that will forever remain etched in a kaleidoscope of lovely memories.
TEXT AND SKETCHES BY SEEMA MISRA
We landed in Dibrugarh, Assam, one fine April morning. The tour guide met us at the airport, ready to take us along our planned itinerary through the heart of Arunachal Pradesh, via the scenic wonders of Miao, Roing, Aalo, Menchukha, and Pasighat.
While Miao, a sleepy town amidst misty blue hills, was a bit off route, it was an essential stop since it served as our gateway to the Namdapha National Park; we had signed up for a forest trek there. At the end of our trip, on our drive back from Menchukha to Dibrugarh, we aimed to sojourn at Pasighat, soaking in the wilderness, watching life flow by to the murmur of the Siang River. And so, we set off on our adventure.
Birdsong at Namdapha Jungle Camp, Miao
At the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, we stopped for an Inner Line Permit check before driving to Miao. By evening, we were comfortably settled at the Namdapha Jungle Camp, owned by Phupla Singpho of the indigenous Singpho tribe. Surrounded by the calls of oriental pied hornbills and the picturesque, gurgling Noa-Dihing River, we felt serenaded by nature.
Hiking Through an Enchanting Rainforest
We lodged at a charming colonial bungalow in the Namdapha National Park. It was the perfect vantage point to witness the captivating beauty of the wilderness around us. The dense forest here is home to some of the worldʼs most diverse flora and fauna, including tigers, leopards, gibbons, elephants, black bears, and many more. We could, however, explore only a sliver of this lush paradise, trekking through the rain-drenched jungle, and amping up heart rates and appetites. The day ended with a hot meal of dal, chawal, sabzi, and blissful solitude with not another tourist in sight.
Spiritual Outing for the Soul
Located on the outskirts of Miao, Choephelling is one of the countryʼs oldest Tibetan refugee settlements, home to about 500 families. With its fluttering prayer flags and monuments, the place is a treasure chest of Tibetan culture. We visited the local craft centre, famous for its handwoven carpets. I was struck by the peaceful vibe of the simple yet pretty camp; even the weavers appeared to be in a spiritual zone, calmly and flawlessly executing the intricate patterns.
Being Zen at the Golden Pagoda
On our way from Miao to Roing, we came across a splendid delight known as the Kongmu Kham (Golden Pagoda) in the town of Namsai. Dramatic Burmese-style rooftops and bright statues in mesmerising hues of golden, red, and yellow left me spellbound. The highlight of this pagoda is a stunning 13-feet-tall, gilded Buddha statue made entirely with bamboo—eco-friendly and magnificent!
Strolling at Sally Lake
At Roing, we spent a leisurely day sipping green tea at tiny cafés and exploring the local market. As the sun set over the horizon, we headed to Sally Lake up in the mountains. Surrounded by thick forests, the setting’s serene beauty was marked by a spooky solitude, stormy clouds, and the eerie whispering of trees. Iʼll be honest, I had some fanciful thoughts of forest nymphs and water spirits.
Local Living in Aalo
Our next stop was the beautiful valley of Aalo, set amidst orange orchards, by the Sipu and Siyom Rivers. To fully absorb the allure of this natural getaway, we opted to stay at Bebom Homestay, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Geyi Ori of the Galo tribe, and located 16 kilometres from Aalo. Time truly stops here. The ancient traditions of our hosts were evident throughout their house, which has a communal living area with an open hearth, a shrine, and historic mithun (domestic cattle) skulls decorating the walls. The rain and chilly winds found us huddling around the fireplace, sipping apong (homemade rice beer) and munching on roasted pork served with a pinch of salt.
Meandering Through Mystical Menchukha
Set 6,000 feet above sea level, Menchukha was one of our last stops
in Arunachal Pradesh. The journey was arduous—seven hours long
on winding, muddy roads. But it was worth it! The green hills and raw beauty of this windswept valley left us spellbound. Our pretty homestay sat alongside the aqua-blue Yargapchu River, offering us mesmerising views of the surroundings, and of locals with bamboo baskets slung on their shoulders, picking luscious wild strawberries, mushrooms, and vegetables on the slopes.
Walking on Tight Ropes
Hanging bridges, made of rope and bamboo strips, are common in Arunachal. As we made our way to Pasighat, we came across the precariously balanced Pongging Hanging Bridge. It was quite the sight watching farmers sprinting across it, kids and cattle in tow! We held our breath and stepped gingerly across it, enjoying the view of the river gushing below. I really enjoyed sketching these bridges.
Experiencing Peace in Pasighat
Home of the Adi tribe and a popular rafting spot, Pasighat is riverside relaxation at its best. We concluded our trip at Abor Country Camps on the banks of the Siang River. With its quiet, moonlit walks and magical river-fishing routines, the camp is refreshingly different from the usual noisy campfires. As I paused to soak in the tranquillity, my small sketch-and-paint kit brought the environs into sharp focus with a montage of watercolours.