Another Border Roads gem that rang true yesterday as we drove higher and higher into the hills of Arunachal Pradesh, in increasing cloud and then rain.
I’m told there are good views from the 4170m/13,700ft Sela Pass, but sadly our view was solid cloud.
Yesterday we drove from Bomdila to Tawang, a long drive, but with several super interesting stops on the way, the highlight being the Jaswantgarh War Memorial, honouring the extraordinary life and sacrifice of Jaswant Singh Rawat, a 21 year old soldier during the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
The memorial is beautifully done – including a cemetery for the Chinese soldiers who died at this battle site – but what made the visit even more interesting for me was the charming young Sikh soldier on duty. He offered us the traditional Sikh “karah prasad” and told us the history of the battle and the life of Jaswant Singh Rawat, and then very sweetly asked my for my story. He was speaking in Hindi, but said “story” in English. Earlier, he’d asked how come I spoke Hindi, so I told him that I am married to an Indian.
I told him my story was boring, and when some other visitors arrived I made to leave, but he said, very firmly and very politely, “No, Madam, you can’t go. You haven’t told me your story yet.”
So…the delayed Indian Airlines flight where I met my now husband…2 children…where do they live? Are they married? Why not? Did your husband teach you Hindi? Where do your children live? When did you last see them? Last week, how come? Oh, so they came to India for your birthday? Oh, you went to meet them instead…
The dear young man seemed interested in every detail of my boring old-lady life, and when he finally released me, after one last “Are you going to get your children married?” (No, was my answer, that’s their decision) he smiled sweetly and said, in English “Bye Madam, come here again”.
I’m used to being questioned – if I had a rupee for every time I’ve been asked “Which country you are from?” – I’d be rich, but this was a different kind of curiosity. He wanted to know my “story” – too sweet.
So yes, what else has happened in the 2 jam-packed days since my last blog?
We have seen yaks.
We have seen mithun.
We have visited a smashing waterfall.
Today, dodging the clouds and showers, we visited the wonderful Tawang Monastery which has been on my To Do List for years.
We were the only people there, which was fabulous and very special, and since the monastery is a hive of restoration and painting and white-washing, in anticipation of the forthcoming visit off His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we even got to see the quarters where His Holiness will stay. Now that was special.
This man, who was weaving, is wearing a traditional yak hair cap.
At the Ani Gompa – a nunnery – a nun ordered us in from the rain and gave us tea. She could only speak Arunachali, which neither Sanjay nor myself speaks, so we communicated with smiles. We drank our tea, she said her prayers, and we waited till the rain stopped.
At the delightfully peaceful birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, we watched a wee little girl being taught how to ride her Barbie-doll-pink cycle while her father explained the history of the place to us.
At the wonderful Khinmey Gompa we chatted with an English teacher whilst his pupils, young monks, rolled down the hill and horsed around their lunch break.
This monastery also had THE most amazing prayer wheels. Like so:
Recycled soft drink bottles – what a good idea 🙂
And so another super day comes to a close.
We have had some gorgeous weather, some rain, lots of mist, but the weather gods did allow us a brief, but smashing view of Tawang:
It really is stunning, right?
I’m traveling with my friend Sanjay Thakur who runs a travel agency and is my go-to person for all things north-eastern. If you need a trip planning in this amazing part of India, Sanjay is your man!