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Unexplored North-east

Here’s a quick way in which you can tailor-make your holidays, pick the access and exit points that are most convenient, throw in a few activities and stopovers of interest, give us your budget outline, and we’ll do the rest!

Access points – from where would you like to start your journey to north-east?

Arrive at Guwahati, Assam airport

Arrive at Shillong, Meghalaya airport

Stopovers – all the local places of interest

Arunachal Pradesh

En route from Guwahati – Tezpur – Bomdila – Dirang – Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh:

Tipi Orchid centre: amidst the last vestiges of Arunachal Pradesh’s cloud forests, a wide variety of orchids await scientific study. The Tipi Orchid Centre showcases more than 7500 orchids plants representing 550 species from the region, some of them so rare that they flourish only in north-east India and nowhere else on Earth.

Sela_passSe La Pass: Se La pass located 13,700 ft above the sea level, is one of the high mountain passes en route to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Its proximity to China, and the 101 sacred lakes in the region lend it a rich historical and cultural significance.

Jaswant Garh: a memorial erected to a brave soldier, Jaswant Singh Rawat, who single-handedly tried to hold off the approaching Chinese from the pass during the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

Jung Falls: 35 kms from Tawang, the Jung Falls, sourced from glacial lakes and streams cascades steeply into the forested valley below. Little wonder it was chosen as a backdrop for the movie, “Koyla”.

Hot water springs, Sangti Valley: This seismically active landscape also gives birth to some hot water springs, a must-visit as the sulphur-rich waters allow for a relaxing and curative dip. The Sangti river in the West Kameng region of Arunachal Pradesh also plays host to the migratory Black-necked Crane, a species that breeds on the Tibetan Plateau but winters in India and Bhutan.

Runkhung Apple and Kiwi Garden: with horticulture becoming an important livelihood in the Dirang, despite reputed quality and good market value, very little of the local produce finds its way to wider markets. At the Runkhung Apple and Kiwi Garden, one can see the role horticulture plays in the lives of the locals and sample the ripe produce of the valley.

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh:

tawang_monasteryTawang Monastery: with a 400 year old history, the Tawang Monastery, the largest outside Tibet, and India’s largest monastery is witness to the Tibetan exodus. The Assembly Hall or Dukhang, houses a 27 ft high statue of a Golden Buddha, and several priceless Thangka paintings and the three-storied Parkhang library hosts a rich collection Kangyur scriptures and other invaluable manuscripts.

Thukje Chueling Ani Gompa:  though a rather recent construction, the Thukje Chueling Ani Gompa is unusual in that it is a nunnery, a Buddhist centre for female monks. Located at the top of a hill, looking down over the Tawang valley, the nunnery makes up with vivid colour what it lacks in size. It provides an interesting insight into Buddhist views on women and the lives of its women monks.

tawang_warmemorialTawang War Memorial or Namgyal chorten: Tawang’s strategic location between China and India, and the access from one country to the other via the mountain passes has made this a hotbed of political and military conflict. It was the stage for the Sino-Indian war of 1962, and saw the invasion of the Chinese and the martyrdom of many Indian soldiers. The Tawang War Memorial is a 40-foot high chorten with the names of 2420 dead soldiers etched in gold on 32 black granite plaques, and stands witness to our violent history with China.

bumla_signBum La Pass: 45 kms from Tawang at an altitude of 16,500 feet, the Bumla pass straddles the Indo-China border, and has made history because of its geopolitical location. The pass was used by the Dalai Lama to seek refuge in India after China invaded Tibet. Later, it was also one of the principal invasion routes during the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

Sungester Tso / Madhuri lake: at 14,500 feet, is a lake formed in 1950 by a major earthquake. It is better known as Madhuri Lake after the Bollywood actress who came here for a shoot of the film “Koyla”.

Assam

nameri_npNameri National Park: The floodplains of the Brahmaputra, with its semi-evergreen forests and grasslands, have allowed biodiversity to thrive. Nameri National Park, established as an elephant reserve, also shelters other species like tigers, leopards, sambars, dholes (the Asiatic wild dog), pygmy hogs, muntjac, gaur, wild boar, sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, capped langur and Indian giant squirrel. It is also a rich birding site hosting over 300 species throughout the year, among the most famous, white winged wood ducks, great pied hornbills, wreathed hornbills, rufous necked hornbills, black storks, ibisbills, blue-bearded bee-eaters and many others.

Kaziranga National ParkKaziranga National Park: Kaziranga grasslands, located on the banks of the Brahmaputra river are one of the last refuges in the world for the endangered one-horned rhino. The government’s commitment to preserving its biodiversity was amply demonstrated when it resorted to militant conservation: it provided its patrol with artillery and shoot-at-sight orders, to prevent poaching. This was an unparalleled success in the history of the species, and saw a rapid growth of rhino numbers. Kaziranga was made a Tiger Reserve in 2006, is globally recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985 by UNESCO. A must-visit for the spectacular biodiversity and unparalleled views of the Brahmaputra.

Meghalaya

Guwahati: Kamakhya Temple, a fertility temple dedicated to Sati, the wife of Rudra (an earlier incarnation of Shiva). Legend has it, that the father of Sati, never too happy with her choice of husband, organised a yagna (sacrifice) and did not invite Rudra. Enraged at the insult of her husband, Sati threw herself on the yagna fire (the Sati practice, corrupted over time that demanded the sacrifice of a widow on the pyre of her husband). By the time Rudra arrived at the yagna, it was too late and her body was consumed by flames. While carrying her remains back to the mountains where they resided, parts of her fell along the way. The Kamakhya temple arose in the spot where her womb fell, hence its renown as a fertility temple. More gruesome folklore has it that the foundations were also erected on human sacrifices. Colourful myth and present-day faith make this an important pilgrimage site. The Umananda temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is built upon the peacock island in the middle of the river Brahmaputra and can be accessed only by ferries and private boats. The temple bears another curious legend about Lord Shiva in his avatar as Bhayananda.

Shillong sightseeing: Shillong is a beehive town, connecting the busy cities of the north-east with its far-flung, forested and unexplored realms. Recent discovery of coal veins in the area have made this town a thoroughfare for mining trucks, yet it retains its charm and colonial past. Sightseeing includes Shillong Peak (a picnic spot atop a peak that offers splendid views of Shillong city and thick pine forests), Elephant Falls (a steep cascade named for a former resemblance to an elephant), Ward’s Lake (the epicenter of colonial development in Shillong), St Mary’s Cathedral (a witness to the Christian influence across north-east India), Don Bosco Museum (showcasing indigenous culture through the tribal artefacts of 7 north-east states), local archery center and the Police Bazar market for some local shopping. The most interesting aspect of Shillong is its folklore, every attraction has quirky stories often related by signboards or garrulous locals, stories about the Khasi tribe and the region’s christian past also abound.

Mawlynnong village: this tiny village tucked away in the thick north-eastern forests would have been almost forgotten were it not for the determination of its inhabitants. They decided to put Mawlynnong on the map as the cleanest village in Asia, a marked achievement in a country that ranks as one of the dirtiest in the world. A bamboo watchtower, Balancing Rock @ Mawlynnongnamed sky-viewpoint overlooks the plains of Bangladesh and the sinuous channel of a river as it crosses over. The local market of Tamabil, a nearby village trades products from Bangladesh and India, and is a most interesting cultural experience. The Mawlynnong balancing rock (a geological peculiarity), a waterfall (with only a post-monsoon flow), and a living root bridge (natural and cultural heritage bridges constructed with the roots of living ficus trees) form part of the sightseeing circuit.

Shillong to Cherrapunjee: The Cherrapunjee sightseeing circuit includes Nohkalikai Falls (India’s tallest plunge waterfall creates little rainbows as it plunges into the valley. Signboards here also narrate folklore through poems), Mawsmai limestone caves (a labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites sculpted by the heavy rainfall into the limestone rocks), Seven Sisters’ falls (or Nohsngithiang falls if you want to twist your tongue, with a 7 segmented cascade) and Eco Park (Bangladesh plains seen from a viewing point atop a cliff).

Living Root BridgeCherrapunjee: nearly lost within the lush green forests of Meghalaya, is the history and culture of the Khasi tribe. The arrival of Christianity gave the Khasi language a script (their folklore animatedly explains how they lost their script) and helped transcribe folklore into indigenous knowledge. Being a tribe constantly at war with the other forest tribes, dwelling in thick forests of high rainfall broken up by innumerable rivers and streams, the resourceful Khasis constructed bridges across gushing channels with the living roots of the rubber tree (Ficus elastica). Their constructions proved so hardy and effective that several were constructed throughout the forest. A trek to discover the root bridges in a forgotten forest, crossing streams and lakes of sapphire blue (rendered so by the unusual limestone geology) leading to villages peppered with orange trees, across glades with bewildering numbers and colours of butterflies makes for a truly enchanting experience.

Activities – all the crazy activities that we can organise for you, to add some adventure to your journey

Jeep and elephant safaris (Nameri and Kaziranga National Parks): then high visibility of the biodiversity at Nameri and Kaziranga make jeep and elephant safaris a lot more interesting.

Bird-watching (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya): for the birdwatchers, north-east’s endemic bird populations await discovery, through sight and sound.

MarketLocal shopping at Tamabil market on the Bangladesh border and at Police Bazaar in Shillong: what better way to partake culture than shopping for local produce at small markets. Learn about the livelihoods and the local handicrafts, at the marketplace. More interestingly, being so close to international borders, an assortment of goods from different countries can be bought.

Local sightseeing in Tawang, Guwahati, Shillong and Cherrapunjee: as the north-east India has recently been put on the tourist maps, local sightseeing is a great overview of these lesser-known places.

Trekking, fishing, caving, rock-hopping and geocaching in Cherrapunjee: for the adventurous, Cherrapunjee offers trekking, fishing, caving (exploring the limestone-cave landscape), rock-hopping (jumping from one smooth river boulder to another, definitely more difficult than it sounds) and geocaching (a newly emerged concept of a treasure hunt, using a GPS or other navigational tools to locate place-markers).

Accommodation – there is a variety of accommodation available at each stopover, as per your budget, we can suggest the most viable for your journey

Exit points – where would you like your journey to end?

Guwahati airport, Assam

Shillong airport, Assam

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Booking Policy

1) Booking must be confirmed with 100 % payment before the trip.

2) To incorporate any changes to the itinerary before or during travel, full payment for the changes must be made.

3) We are sorry to inform you that Footloose Gypsy cannot be held accountable nor will bear the expenses / or loss of expenses therein for any changes / damages caused due to natural calamities, political unrest, erratic weather and personal health problems.

Cancellation Policy

1) Footloose Gypsy’s cancellation policy applies only to the overhead costs and margins incurred.

i) 30 – 45 days prior to departure: 70% refund

ii) 15 days prior to departure: 50 % refund

iii) Less than 15 days / No-show: No refund

2) For all other costs, incurred where private companies have been engaged for travel and accommodation (includes flights, taxis, hotels, resorts, etc), their cancellation policies will apply and refunds will be allocated accordingly. Permits, visas and other legal documentation cannot be reimbursed.

Cancellation should be confirmed by mailing: amishms@footloosegypsy.in or by calling Amish Shah at +91-9922939584

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