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Arunachal Pradesh / Travelogue

Unexplored Arunachal | Tuting | Gelling | Part 4

Lama at Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Located almost 300kms away from the district headquarter Yingkiong lies Tuting – a serene little town amidst the mighty mountains and dense forests. The triangle formed by the three towns of Tuting – Gelling – Singha forms the “Pemako Zone” of the Tibetan form of Buddhism. The Pemako Zone beholds some small villages of the lamas and natural lakes. The small town of Tuting is blessed by Guru Padmasambhava and is considered sacred by the locals. The monasteries and the gompas have golden statues of Lord Buddha and also display the historic artefacts of Buddhism.

Tuting being the home to the Adi tribe, most of the people here follow the religion of Donyi Polo (Sun and Moon) similar to our past experiences with Apatanis at Ziro and Galos at Aalo (Along). Observed in the month of February Aaran is the major festival of the Adi people.

Siang River - Way To Jengging

The local houses in Tuting are made of bamboo and the roof is covered by hay. Similar to all other parts of Arunachal Pradesh the kitchen serves as the main room of a house with an open fireplace. The household members gather around the fireplace for repartee with a glass of local drink Apong, i.e. local beer made from millet.

At the outskirts of the town, there is a hanging bridge commonly known as “Ladung Bridge” over the Siang river which connects the town with other small suburbs of Jedoh, Kuking, Singha and Yukong. On one of the hilltops, there is an exquisite monastery with a residential campus for the children who wish to follow the footsteps of Buddhism and be a lama.

If you have stumbled upon this article of mine, just to remind you, we are on our 17-day long trip to explore the Unexplored Arunachal. Below is the itinerary we are following.

Nov 1 : Day 1 : Kolkata – Dibrugarh
Nov 2 : Day 2 : Dibrugarh to Ziro
Nov 3 : Day 3 : Ziro Sightseeing
Nov 4 : Day 4 : Ziro to Dapirazo Pasighat
Nov 5 : Day 5 : Dapirazo Pasighat to Along
Nov 6 : Day 6 : Along Sightseeing
Nov 7 : Day 7 : Along to Mechuka
Nov 8 : Day 8 : Mechuka Sightseeing
Nov 9 : Day 9 : Mechuka Sightseeing
Nov 10 : Day 10 : Mechuka to Along (Igokato Village)
Nov 11 : Day 11 : Along (Igokato Village) to Jengging
Nov 12 : Day 12 : Jengging to Tuting
Nov 13 : Day 13 : Tuting Sightseeing
Nov 14 : Day 14 : Tuting to Yingkiyong
Nov 15 : Day 15 : Yingkiyong to Pasighat (Ledum Village)
Nov 16 : Day 16 : Pasighat (Ledum Village) to Dibrugarh
Nov 17 : Day 17 : Dibrugarh to Kolkata

Unexplored Arunachal Series :

Unexplored Arunachal | Ziro | Part 1
Unexplored Arunachal | Aalo (Along) | Part 2
Unexplored Arunachal | Mechuka | Part 3
Unexplored Arunachal | Tuting | Gelling | Part 4
Unexplored Arunachal | Ledum Village | Part 5

Nov 10 : Day 10 : Mechuka to Along (Igokato Village) :

We woke up at around 6:30 AM and quickly carried out our morning chores without wasting much time. Mrs Sona prepared us a delicious bowl of Maggie and Roti Sabji for our breakfast. With our 2nd leg of the trip coming to an end, today, our plan was to return back to Aalo (Along). Considering the long journey back to Aalo (Along), Shiva already informed us last night that we’d be starting early next morning, to make it to Aalo (Along) well within time. After bidding goodbye to Mr and Mrs Lapka Sona for such a wonderful stay in Mechukha, we started back for Aalo (Along) by around 8 AM.

The drive till Mechuka Gate was really uneventful. Shiva kept on driving without breaking his concentration to make it back to Aalo (Along) within the daylight. We were feeling heartbroken and cheerful as well at the same time. We were heartbroken, as our trip was almost coming to an end. However, the last circuit of our journey i.e. Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong was still waiting for us to explore. So that means we still have last 5 days remaining to spend within the lap of our mother nature before heading back to our monotonous life.

Siko Dido Waterfalls

At Mechuka Gate we stopped by the same eatery for our lunch. It was clocking around 1 PM at that moment. After having a sumptuous lunch, as we proceeded further, we stumbled upon a large gathering. Upon enquiring with the locals, we came to know, it’s a marriage ceremony today. I immediately sensed an opportunity of capturing and experiencing a real-life event. However, upon enquiring further, we were informed that the ceremony is going to take place at night. Alas! That was a really near-miss situation. However, they invited us to join over a shot of Apong. Apong is the Rice Beer which is very common throughout the state. Apong is mostly served as a welcome drink to the guests in the state of Arunachal and Nagaland. It’s generally distributed in a bamboo stem which acts as a glass. We have already experienced the same at Aalo (Along) previously. The almost same thing within the Tibetian culture is known as Chang as we experienced in Mechukha.

Apong Rice Beer

Libo Woman Arunachal

Libo Tribe

Libo Man Arunachal

Libo Tribe

Libo Man Arunahal

Libo Tribe

Finally, around 20 KM before reaching the main town of Aalo (Along) we took the bifurcation and proceeded towards Igokato village. Igokato village is a part of Aalo (Along), however, as we had already experienced staying within the town earlier on Day 5 and Day 6, this time we wanted to stay away from the main town and close to nature. So instead of going back to the same place again, today our shelter for the night was Bebom Homestay in Igokato Village.

It was around 4:30 PM when we reached the homestay. Well, it took us some time in between to spot the exact location. Because as soon as we took the bifurcation towards Igokato, our cell phones went off the grid including BSNL. And being a remote village, we were having a tough time spotting a local whom we could ask for help.

As soon as we reached Bebom Homestay, Mr and Mrs Geyi Ori came forward and welcomed us warmly. The homestay was beautifully decorated and well maintained with some hiccups here and there. The homestay felt right within the lap of mother nature and an authentic Galo residence.

Adi Woman at Lidam Village

The clock was ticking to be already around 4:30 PM. So we knew it’s a matter of a few more minutes while it becomes completely dark outside. So instead of going out, we decided to gather together at the dining with our host to gather knowledge about local culture and traditions. Freshening up after a while, we joined our host Mr and Mrs Geyi Ori in their dining. They already lit up the fireplace for our convenience due to the chilled temperature outside.

Lidam Village Kitchen

He shared stories about their marriage and how marriages take place in their tradition. Well to tell you the truth I always find marriages fascinating because marriages always portray the local tradition and culture. It’s the ceremony where you can experience everything at once. Obviously, due to Indian ethics and values, I just can’t end up at someone’s marriage just like that, but yes if given an opportunity, I’d any day opt for marriage tourism! It sounds creepy eh!

Rest of the evening was happening and a lot of fun. Mrs Ori offered us Apong (local Rice Beer) over which Mr Ori showcased us their cultural artefacts – the hats they wear with the beak and feather of Hornbill, the heads of Mithun’s (state animal) which they have to behead during marriages. Let the pictures take the plunge!

Artefacts at Lidam Village

In Arunachal, local people maintain a very healthy lifestyle. However considering our request, they served us dinner late at around 10 AM. Post our dinner, we hit the bed without wasting much time. As tomorrow, we have a long journey of around 8-9 hours that lies ahead of us.

Total KMs Travelled: 163 KM

Nov 11 : Day 11 : Along (Igokato Village) to Jengging :

Today we woke up at around 6 AM and went ahead for a village walk. Our host – Mr Geyi Ori tagged along and volunteered to show the village around. Walking through the mystic green nature felt like healing our souls.

Local Household Structure at Lidam Village

Today, our plan was, to begin with, the 3rd and last circuit of this 17-day long tour i.e. Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong. This circuit begins from Pasighat, however as we were already in Aalo (Along) that added to our advantage.

Disclaimer : Before you proceed, I must mention here that this is one of the remotest circuits in Arunachal Pradesh as of 2019. You don’t have much accommodation options available throughout this circuit. If you are opting for this circuit, you must know that Inspection Bungalow (IB) and Circuit House (CH) by Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh are the best accommodation available. In fact, till few years back those were the only accommodation available. At Jengging, the Circuit House (CH) is still the one and only accommodation available to your rescue. However, at Tuting there’s only 1 basic no-frills hotel available in the main market, apart from the Inspection Bungalow (IB). A new Circuit House (CH) is a build in progress though. Yinkiong being the headquarter, you can fine 4-5 Homestays and basic no-frills Hotels in and around the town other than the Circuit House (CH).

NOTE : Circle Officer (CO) handles the booking and allocation of Inspection Bungalow (IB) and Circuit House (CH). However, the booking comes with a clause that, if any Govt Official or Ministers plans to visit on the same day of yours, your booking would stand null and void.

Considering the above disclaimer, please understand the ground situation before travelling in this circuit. Not everyone can handle these kind of situations. 

We were carrying some basic camping gears with us for some unforeseen circumstances specifically for this circuit. In fact, I do that all the time I travel to remote tribal villages of North East. However, I never had to pitch one till date. Something or the other works out in the end! Even in the worst situation the local people came to the rescue and helped by allowing us to spend the night.

Pro Tip : While travelling in such remote tribal villages, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst situation and carry a tent for any kind of unforeseen circumstances.

Today, considering the long 144 KM journey we started off early. Shiva informed us that he’s extremely happy travelling and exploring with us. Because, he’s mostly allotted with same old Tawang – Kaziranga circuit. He even informed us that although he has been to Mechuka a few times but this is his first time in this Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong circuit. Previously around 10 years ago though, he used to ply local administrative people but it’s been ages that he has not travelled in this route.

Way To Jengging

The first few KM’s of the route was really smooth and enjoyable drive along the blue Siang amidst the dramatic scenery and landscape. However, in the 2nd half of the journey, the route was in a devastating state. Well, I was already been warned about this by Dipankar Da. So you may state that I took this up willingly and knowing the ground details!

The Route :

The route in this part of the state is a bit hot-potch and confusing. The google maps don’t show the ground-level situation here. So in short, if you keep following Google Maps, you are sure to get lost.

In simple words, allow me to explain the ground-level situation of the route here. You can coin Jengging and Yingkiong as sister towns. They are just different towns opposite each other across the river. Obviously considering the distance you can’t reach Tuting from Aalo (Along) over a single day. So you have to halt somewhere in between. Jengging or Yingkiong is your best bet in this situation. So you may stay at either of the towns.

Siang Bridge

Siang Bridge

Confluence of Siang River and Siyom River

Confluence of Siang River and Siyom River

Confluence of Siang River and Siyom River

Confluence of Siang River and Siyom River

So what I did was a classic mistake. In order to explore different parts of the circuit, while going to Tuting I choose to stay at Jengging and while returning from Tuting I planned to stay at Yingkiong. Although it’s not a mistake, but it surely added a lot of confusion due to the route. However, if you choose to stay at Yingkiong both the time while going to Tuting and returning from Tuting, it’d be an ideal situation. Otherwise, you’ll have to bifurcate back and forth several times to reach Jengging, Yingkiong and Tuting.

As I already mentioned, Yingkiong and Jengging are kinds of sister towns. They are just different towns across the river. Each of them has their own route leading through both sides of the river.

Aalo (Along) – Jengging – Tuting is situated on the same side of the river and connected through a highway. However, as the route from Aalo (Along) to Jengging is in a devastating state and the part of the highway is still a work in progress, it’d take you ages to reach Jengging through the generic route. So you can’t make it within a day by following Google Maps.

Way To Jengging

So while travelling from Aalo (Along) / Pasighat, the best way to reach Jengging easily is to bifurcate towards the other side of the river, by crossing Siang Bridge leading towards Geku. While in confusion just ask anyone en-route and mention that you want to go to Geku. If you ask for Jengging you’d be led towards the wrong route. As the road on the Yingkiong side is in a much better state you’d be able to drive faster. And just before reaching Yingkiong, you’d come across Nubo Bridge from where you need to bifurcate back again towards Jengging side and drive back a while to reach Jengging. This way you can reach Jengging within a day from Aalo (Along).

Again while proceeding for Tuting next day, you have to drive up to and cross Nubo Bridge to bifurcate back again towards Yingkiong side and continue towards Tuting. Because the Highway from Jengging leading to Tuting is still a work in progress. Further, you need to drive up to Gandhi Bridge (Byorung Bridge) and cross back to the other side of the river and drive back to Moying in order to take the highway further to Tuting.

NOTE : Mug up the name of the bridges and if you are confused, just ask anyone you spot en-route for the direction to the bridge. Keep asking someone every 30 mins or 1 hour to validate that you are on the right path. Although I doubt if you’d be able to spot anyone en-route though!

Throughout this journey of yours, Google Maps would always show you the highway route which will lead you to nothing but frustration. So if your driver is unaware of the route, keep asking the locals every 30 mins or 1 hour to make sure you are on the correct path.

I can understand, that all these texts may sound a bit confusing. So here’s my 2 cents of trying to help you out with an infographic. (Notice the arrows)

Along-Jengging-Tuting-Yingkiong Route Map

NOTE : As tourism is not much prominent in this part of the state, there are not many options of roadside Dhabas or Eateries. So while travelling on this route, keep some dry food and some snacks handy to much on. And if you spot a Dhaba or Eatery, have your lunch, no matter if it’s the right time.

NOTE : Byorung Bridge is popularly known as Gandhi Bridge. Please use the term Gandhi Bridge while asking for directions.

Finally, with lots of hiccups with figuring out the route, we reached Jengging at around 4:30 PM. As it was about to get dark, instead of exploring the town, we decided to head directly towards Circuit House (CH). As Dipankar Da already warned me that, once the sun sets in, the caretaker generally heads back to his home and it’d be hard to spot him in the village. He also informed me that a lot of times, accommodation allocation order by the govt, doesn’t reach the caretaker in its due time. So he strictly instructed me to keep in touch with the Caretaker and CO Sir all the time and keep reminding them of my dates and the time we’d be reaching.

Jengging Town

So in a summary, I was completely prepared for the worst and to pitch a tent if required, throughout this circuit for the night halt. Other than that, there’s a word in the dictionary – “Street Smart“. I can’t vouch for other countries, but yes, in India you can tackle a lot of situation if you are street smart! Hope you understand what I mean!

It took us some time to navigate to Circuit House (CH) as it’s located on a hilltop and as evening was about to set in, we couldn’t find many locals outside whom we could ask for help. Although, after a few hiccups here and there we finally reached Circuit House (CH). Luckily the caretaker was still there. He confirmed that he has got the notice of our arrival from CO Sir. After being done with the formal procedures he allocated us the rooms.

The whole property, Circuit House building and the rooms were very well maintained and clean. The rooms and washrooms looked a bit old like colonial structure though, but there was nothing wrong with the cleanliness. The care-taker also provided basic amenities like soap and towel as well. There’s a huge drawing room for relaxing and chit-chatting together. Also, from the verandah on the 1st Floor, you can get 4G on BSNL to continue with your social media dramas! Well, what more can you expect on a govt property at such a remote tribal village!

Pro Tip: Most other operators are bound to fail to provide any service at such remote tribal villages. Always keep a BSNL SIM for these situations.

Rest of the evening was barely eventful. We just chat-chatted with the caretaker Mr Man Bahadur, while he prepared us Tea and Snacks in the evening and then our Dinner. Later we just retired for the day after having a delicious finger-licking dinner at around 10 PM. After around 11 days of having local cuisine, we were starving for some delicious spicy meal. Man Bahadur just hit the sweet spot we were looking for!

Jengging Night View

Full Moon at Jengging

Tomorrow again, we have a long way to go – a journey of around 10 hours lies ahead of us!

Total KMs Travelled: 144 KM

Nov 12 : Day 12 : Jengging to Tuting :

Today we woke up at around 5:30 AM and took our own sweet time to get ready. In the meanwhile, Man Bahadur came up at around 6:30 AM and prepared us breakfast. Finally, we left after thanking him, by around 7:30 AM towards Tuting.

There’s nothing much to explore at Jengging, except walking through the village and get a taste of the local lifestyle. So it didn’t take us much time to explore Jengging. However, if you are interested in wildlife you can explore Mouling National Park which hosts a lot of rare species like Black Bear, Leopard, Red Panda etc.

  • Bangladeshi Migrants

Unfortunately, in between all these hiccups, we were stuck with another issue since last night. That is we are now short of cash. A lot actually. We were informed that Inspection Bungalows (IB) and Circuit Houses (CH) costs around Rs. 100/- – Rs. 300/- per room. However, after reaching Jengging Circuit House last night, we came to know that Circuit Houses costs Rs. 1000/- per bed per night and Inspection Bungalows costs Rs. 600/- per bed per night for the civilians of another state. So as you can see there’s a huge gap between our understanding and reality.

At that moment, we were so short of cash that we even thought of returning back. However, that didn’t make any sense. So everyone started calling family members back home to get a contribution as much as possible. And then, we could finally saw the ray of hope!

Nubo Bridge Arunachal

Nubo Bridge

Rest of the route was really uneventful. Shiva strictly requested me to not take many stopovers today considering the long distance that we have to travel within the evening. So as per the infographic provided above, we drove up to Nubo Bridge and crossed towards Yingkiong and kept proceeding. Again as we hit Gandhi Bridge (Byorung Bridge) we crossed back towards Jengging – Tuting route and drove back till Moying and proceeded further towards Tuting through the highway. Well, you really can’t call it a highway considering the devastating state of the route. Instead, I should say that there was no route at all, but just a patch of mud.

Way To Tuting

Finally, it was around 4 PM when we reached the town. Taking the help of locals, we navigated to the Inspection Bungalow (IB) just to realise that the caretaker is not there. We asked the locals and his daughters who were playing around the property, but no one had any idea. Finally, a nearby shop-owner came to rescue and informed us that he had gone for fishing. However, no one had any idea when he’d be back.

In the meanwhile, Shiva suggested that we explore the market instead of waiting around here. While exploring the market, we spotted a hotel after discussing with a few locals. It turns out to be the only hotel in Tuting. We enquired with the owner and he confirmed to us that they have rooms available. Now, we were a bit relieved, that even if we can’t spot the caretaker by the evening, we now have an alternative other than pitching a tent!

Old Adi Woman

Adi Woman

Finally, at around 5:30 PM, we went back to the Inspection Bungalow (IB). The caretaker was still not there. So we decided to wait for a while. Finally, after around half-an-hour, her younger daughter came running shouting “There’s my dad coming up“. We breathed a sigh of relief!

Although the excitement didn’t hold off for a minute, because he informed us that he didn’t get any notice regarding our arrival and accommodation. So he can’t allocate rooms without proper official order. Well, generally in these situations, you could easily negotiate with the caretaker if rooms are available. However, he seemed to be completely lazy. Maybe that’s the reason he didn’t want to take any burden!

Hanging Bridge

Unfortunately, I had no other way left other than calling up the ADC Tuting. Well, I could go back to the hotel, but in these regions, hotels do not offer any fooding facility. So you have to arrange the food on your own from some restaurant or eatery outside. That’s not at all an issue in towns and cities. But in these remote villages, the whole village becomes a ghost town by around 6 PM. So restaurants were anyway closed already by that time. So if we had to go back to the hotel we’d have to survive with the dry foods and fruits that we were carrying.

Bokar Woman

Bokar Tribe

So before taking a drastic decision, we thought of trying out our luck. Well, I’d consider myself lucky to get connected with such a high positioned govt. official over a single call only. ADC Sir turned out to be really a humble and friendly person. He asked me to hand-over the phone to the caretaker and things fell back in place!

We noticed there was some maintenance going on within the property. Upon asking the caretaker, he informed us that the construction is going on for Tuting Circuit House. Probably once that’s done, they will demolish the Inspection Bungalow. Well, Circuit House are higher priced but comes with much better state and facilities. Unfortunately, Tuting Inspection Bungalow was barely holding off. Parts of the IB are completely wrecked. However, there were no issues with cleanliness though. Although you won’t be able to compare it with a homestay though, but it’s okay if you are not looking for anything other than a basic no-frills accommodation.

Tuting Circuit House

Tuting Circuit House

After chit-chatting with the care-taker for a while it turns out that he was not being lazy. However, the cook was on a holiday and went back to his home-town. So he was just avoiding us because he won’t be able to arrange fooding for us. Although, with some calls here and there, he found a local labour who’s appointed to cook at a govt construction site. And luckily, he was from Gorakhpur, UP. That meant tonight again we were going to have some spicy chatpata food!

As it was already evening, our cook was kind enough to prepare us a cup of Ginger Tea. We were really looking forward to such after a long tiring day. The rest of the evening went smooth and enjoyable, sharing drinks and stories with the caretaker and the cook. They cook specifically was very humble, friendly and co-operating.

Later, we retired for the day after having our dinner at around 11 PM.

Total KMs Travelled: 181 KM

Nov 13 : Day 13 : Tuting Sightseeing :

Tuting is a remote town situated amidst beautiful landscape and natural beauty. Though, there’s nothing much to see in terms of sightseeing per se. However, you need to explore the town and interact with the locals by visiting different local bustis around Tuting to get its flavour. Adi is the most prominent tribe throughout the whole Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong circuit.

If you are interested in trekking though, you may opt for Pemako Trek which is around 17 days long trek. If you are looking for something shorter, you may choose Tita Puri (also spelt and pronounces as Tsita Puri) trek for 7 Days which is sure to leave you spellbound by the view. Tita Puri (Tsita Puri) too is a part of Pemako Region which is blessed with wonderful glacial lakes and flowers.

Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Our main purpose of coming all this way to Tuting is to experience Gelling – the last Indian village. Located 30kms away from Tuting, Gelling lies at an altitude of 4000ft and is situated in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the last village of India and is connected via road on the Kapang-La border. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach Gelling from Tuting. In the whole of Arunachal, Gelling is the only place where one can find a village closest in both the sides of the MacMohan Line and Line of Actual Control (LAC). It’s just 500mts from the Indo-Chinese border. Tuting being the army base camp has a heavy presence of the militaries throughout the town.

NOTE : One needs to seek permission from DC office at Tuting to get the necessary permits in order to visit Gelling.

After having our breakfast, we started off our day at around 7:30 AM. However, as we started proceeding towards Gelling, we were stopped by Indo-Tibetian Border Police (ITBP). We were informed that civilians need to seek permission from DC Office in order to visit Gelling. So, we went ahead to the DC office which was just a few roads across the ITBP Checkpost. The town itself is a very small one with few blocks in and around. So it’s not difficult to navigate around the town on your own. Even on foot, you can explore the whole town within an hour or so.

Adi Tribe Tuting

Adi Tribe

After submitting our application with supporting documents at DC Office, we were informed that for permits for Gelling needs to be approved directly by DC or ADC. We were further informed that ADC Sir is in town and will be visiting the office today by around 11 PM.

As we had about 3 hours to spare, Shiva suggested us to explore the Monastery and Hanging Bridge meanwhile. So instead of waiting at DC office, we headed off to Pema Mani Monastery. Pema Mani is a project in itself. It’s a monastery cum school for religious teachings cum old age home. The monastery was huge and spread across a large area. The sighting of little monks playing around the premises was spectacular.

Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Lamas Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Lama at Pema Mani Monastery Tuting

Next, we went off to the hanging bridge known as Ladung Bridge. This bridge connects various villages such as Jedoh, Kuking, Singha and Yukong etc. on the other side of Siang River. We walked around the villages for a while before heading back towards DC Office.

Ladung Bridge Tuting

It was already around 10:30 AM and the sun felt like burning off a hole through our skin. So we headed back to DC Office. Soon ADC Sir arrived on his shiny glittering Toyota! After waiting for a few minutes, we were summoned by ADC Sir. He seemed to be a very nice, friendly and cheerful person. I already had an experience of his friendliness and humbleness last evening, when he helped me to get the rooms at Inspection Bungalow (IB).

After asking a few questions such as “Why you wish to visit Gelling?” and few formalities by moving paper a few time around the office, he finally stamped the approval!

After thanking him for being so generous towards us, we left for Gelling. The permit though comes with few copies that are intended to be submitted at various checkpoints. But to be on the safe side, make sure you do a few photocopies of the same in the town before leaving for Gelling.

NOTE : It’s always a good idea to keep a handful of photocopies of any kinds of permits. This is a simple rule that I always follow.

As we moved towards Gelling, an incredible frame was formed as the blue Siang flew by the lush green forests with snow-capped mountains at its backdrop. As we were about to reach Gelling, we were stopped at our last ITBP Camp for verification of permits.

View From Gelling

As many Tibetian refugees reside in this part of the state, the main religion that is followed is Buddhism. The people residing in the village belong to the Memba Tribe who are warm and welcoming as we experienced in Mechuka. We took our own pace to explore the villages and interact with the locals.

Memba Tribe Gelkling

Memba Tribe

To the east of Gelling lies Norbuling village at a mere 20mins walking distance from the place. Gelling and Bishing are two villages on both sides of the Siang river. Gelling lies on the right bank of the river whereas Bishing lies on the left bank of the river. Both the villages are connected by a suspension bridge over the Siang river. Bishing is well known for its cascading waterfalls which can also be sighted from Gelling.

Last Indian Village - Gelling

There’s a small monastery and a helipad at the hilltop. As we walked up to the top of the monastery an old lama present there narrated us the pre-historic stories of the region. He informed us that, previously before the implementation of the MacMahon line, there were a total of 10 villages. Now with its implementation, 5 villages have gone in the land of Tibet whereas 5 villages remain within India. Kapu, Mayung, Mona, Bishing and Gelling are the villages that were left with India. Although, the locals could visit the villages freely on the other side of the border until the war of 1962 took place when China completely sealed those villages. However, grief remains within their heart as they have lost some of their old relatives who by their fate have fallen on the other side of the border. One can also take a tour to the old trading route between India and Tibet which was open till 1962 before the war between India and China.

NOTE: Unfortunately I won’t be able to produce much pictures of this experience of ours due to border restrictions.

There is a state government-run Inspection Bungalow at Gelling with fooding facilities for the tourists. However, being so close to the border most of the time it is occupied by the ITBP officers or the army personnel and very hard to get permission for accommodation there.

While returning back we were summoned by the ITBP Officers at their Checkpost. They offered us apples and oranges along with tea. They asked us about our purpose of visit and whether we liked the place or not. They further informed us about a short hike, an uphill walk on the ridge, from where one can have a view of the Indo-Chinese border from that ridge. The trek is conducted by the ITBP Officers themselves guarding off the civilians, as it’s very close to the border and everything can be easily tracked and monitored from the bunkers on the other side of the border. And it turns out to be a simple 1-2 hours hike.

Way To Gelling

When I showed interest, I was informed that one needs to get permission from DC Office at Tuting for this trek in advance. I was so heartbroken to not have this information in advance. Otherwise, I’d have also tried my luck applying for this hike. According to my experience, one should keep a full day to explore the whole of Gelling.

Finally, as it was past afternoon, we started driving back towards Tuting. We were hungry like hell anyway. As we were not sure when we’d be back, we already informed the cook at Inspection Bungalow (IB) to not prepare lunch for us. Instead, we decided to hop into one of the restaurants in the Market.

Tuting Town

Unlike yesterday, the rest of the evening was barely eventful. While at the market, we picked up a few cans of beer and we had our bottles of Whiskey with us anyway. So we relied on that to spend the evening with the caretaker and the cook.

Finally, we retired for the day after having our dinner by around 11 PM.

Total KMs Travelled: 70 KM

Nov 14 : Day 14 : Tuting to Yingkiyong :

Today, we woke up early by around 6:00 AM and quickly got ourselves ready. We already packed our belongings last night as today again we have to travel all the way back to Yingkiong which is a 10 long hours of journey. Well, I felt, I should have kept another day at Yingkiong just to relax, as otherwise these last few days we were just travelling from one place to another without much of exploration. This touch basing of destinations didn’t make much sense.

Siyom River

As we were aware of the road condition now, we started off quite early at 7:00 AM. Unfortunately, we were completely out of luck today. As we started proceeding, just by the entry of Tuting town, we noticed a huge gathering and a queue of vehicles lined up. As we went ahead to check the situation, it turns out that a Line Sumo has broken down in the middle of the road. The vehicle broke down in such a way that no other vehicle can pass unless it’s fixed or moved. A lot of people was suggesting to lift and move the vehicle, but none of the Sumo drivers agreed. As they believed, as soon as the vehicle would be lifted, the wheel connector would get completely shattered.

There seemed to be no way out, so we had to wait until they fix the vehicle. Unfortunately, in addition to that, the parts and materials required to fix the same were not there with any of the drivers. So one of the drivers took the help of a local who was passing by with his bike to drive him to the market. As he was not back even after a while, fellow drivers started to worry and called him up. It turned out that the market is not yet open and he’s waiting by the garage to open. So, it took him a while to come back with the required parts and materials.

View From Ladung Bridge - Tuting

With all these issues, every other passenger was setback by around an hour. Finally, as the vehicle was fixed up, and we started moving, just at the outskirts of the town, at that muddy patch, we noticed an Army Shaktiman Jeep got stuck and the Army is struggling to get out of the situation. Shiva went ahead and called us up. He informed us that the truck is loaded and unless we all help them with a push, there’s no way the truck can get out of it. While we both along with the 4-5 Army Personnel tried for a while but soon realised that we need more people to get out of this situation.

So we had to wait for a while, till Line Sumo’s catch us up and we could ask for more help. Finally, again it set us back by another 45 minutes. We felt like, we had enough adventure for the day. We prayed to God that not to put us through any further adventure for the day. I guess God listened to us this time, as the remaining part of the journey was smooth.

View From Ladung Bridge - Tuting

In between, we stopped at Migging to have early lunch. If you miss this, remember that there’s no other eatery for next 100 KMs. I took relatively fewer stopovers for a smoke break as other than the 9-10 hours of journey, we were already set back by another 2 hours due to various dramas that God was throwing at us en-route. The mighty green Siang kept following us throughout the route.

Way To Tuting

Panorama Way To Tuting

As we reached Gandhi Bridge, we knew Yingkiong is not far. Shiva took a break to stretch his legs after driving continuously for the last few hours. That allowed me to have a smoke break too amidst a breathtaking view.

As we reached Yingkiong and proceeded to Circuit House (CH), we were informed that there’s only 1 room available. Well, it seems that the adventure is not over yet! Calling up CO Sir and ADC Sir didn’t work out today, as there was no room available, they couldn’t help us. However, the caretaker was kind enough to inform us that there are 5-6 homestays around the town where we could easily find accommodation.

Yingkiong Circuit House

Yingkiong Circuit House

So I fired up Google Maps and asked Shiva to drive us through few of them. The nearest two was just across the street nearby Circuit House. So we first thought of checking out those two. With one of them, it turned out that the rooms with attached bathrooms were already occupied, while another one could provide us with only 2 rooms with attached bathrooms. As it was already past evening, we knew if we take a while to make a decision, we’d have to survive without food tonight. Because none of the private hotels/homestays offers food in these regions. However, there are lots of restaurants and eateries around the town, from where you can pack the meals in advance. However, you must do that by the evening, as otherwise, the shops and other establishments throughout the town gets closed by 6:00 – 6:30 PM.

View From Ladung Bridge - Tuting

So instead of exploring further hotels, we fixed on Hotel BAP, the one offering 2 rooms with attached bathrooms. They also provided a single room with attached bathroom for Shiva. Although, the hotel looked quite shady and the rooms and bed-sheets didn’t look clean enough. However, as we were running out of time, we all decided to settle in there without exploring further.

Soon after we settled in, I and Shiva went ahead to get our meals for tonight. As usual, the only option was “khana” i.e. Rice Meal. Abiding by our request, the hotel boys also provided us with disposable plates and spoons for having our food.

View From Ladung Bridge - Tuting

The rest of the evening was quite uneventful. For the first few hours, we roamed around the market making fun of the name Hotel Bap which in Hindi / Bengali dialect means “Dad’s Hotel“. Although everything was closed by that time we spotted a Tea Stall by the footpath. So we relieved our tensions over a cup of Tea, Alur Chop and Ghugni. The person turned out to be a Bengali. He informed us that, a lot of people in this town are Bengali, doing various businesses. Although the town was completely a ghost town, but we really enjoyed the calmness. The calmness and peace that you experience after a storm.

Later, we were just confined in our rooms chat-chatting amongst ourselves. At around 10 PM, we retired for the day after having our dinner.

Total KMs Travelled: 166 KM

Inner Line Permit (ILP) / Protected Area Permit (PAP) :

Arunachal being a tribal-state is a restricted zone. Thus, Indian Citizens (except the native people of Arunachal) needs Inner Line Permit (commonly referred to as ILP) and foreigners need Protected Area Permit (PAP) in order to visit Arunachal.

One can either apply it online through the web-portal accessible at https://www.arunachalilp.com/ or offline at various cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Jorhat.

Please check out the detailed procedure of applying ILP / PAP at Unexplored Arunachal | Ziro | Part 1

How To Reach :

If you wish to travel to Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong circuit, it’s best to start from Pasighat. Please remember that you’d need to halt in between at Pasighat and/or at Jengging / Yingkiong in order to reach Tuting.

There are several ways you can reach Pasighat.

  • You can choose to directly fly to Pasighat. Along with that, there is a regular Pawan Hans helicopter service which connects Pasighat with various regional airports such as Guwahati.
  • Or else, you can fly to Dibrugarh and take a private vehicle if you can afford or opt for the regular ASTC Bus / Line Sumos to Pasighat from Dibrugarh.
  • If you are planning via Guwahati, then you can take an Auto / Bus to Kamakhya Railway Station from Guwahati Railway Station or Guwahati Airport. In the meanwhile, if you have a buffer day, explore the famous religious Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati. From Kamakhya Railway Station there’s a daily train to Murkongselek Railway Station in Jonai of Dhemaji district of Assam. Kamakhya – Murkongselek Intercity Express which is also known as Kamakhya – Murkongselek Lachit Express is one of the best trains in this route. From Murkongselek Railway Station there are several Line Sumos up to Pasighat at regular intervals.
  • Finally, as always, you can also take a private vehicle from Dibrugarh if you can afford it.
  • Lastly, just for your information, there’s a daily boat service available from Dibrugarh to Oiramgaht from where one can reach Pasighat by local bus. But with Line Sumo’s and ASTC Buses, this is not a convenient option anymore.

From Pasighat, onwards, there are regular Line Sumos and Buses up to district headquarter Yingkiong. This is the most convenient option.

However, if you wish to take this opportunity to explore Aalo (Along) too, then Aalo (Along) is well connected by daily Line Sumos from Pasighat / Itanagar / Dibrugarh / N. Lakhimpur / Silapathar / Jonai. You can also directly travel to Aalo (Along) from these towns if you wish to skip Pasighat. District HQ Yingkiong is well connected with regular Line Sumos up Aalo (Along). However, remember that travelling to Yingkiong is faster and more convenient from Pasighat than from Aalo (Along)

Tuting is well connected with several Line Sumos at regular intervals from Yingkiong. For Gelling, you’d get Line Sumos from Tuting which leaves at morning and returns back to Tuting by the evening.

Note that, if you wish to explore Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong Circuit by Bus / Line Sumos it’s best to travel in and out of Pasighat and Yingkiong. Jengging is not well connected by regular Line Sumos

The journey by Line Sumos for each of these sector costs Rs. 500/- – Rs. 600/- per person.

NOTE: Please remember that at minimum, you have to halt at Jengging / Yinkiong in order to reach Tuting.

Important Points :

  • Needless to say, Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong being an offbeat destination, there’s no scope of using card or digital payments either. So please carry all your expenses in cash from Pasighat / Aalo (Along) / Yingkiong. There are lots of ATM at Pasighat / Aalo (Along). Yingkiong being the district headquarter have few working ATM’s around the town though. However, don’t rely on ATM’s at Tuting.
  • As soon as you start moving out of Yingkiong, you’ll be out of coverage area of all major telecom operators except BSNL. BSNL is the only service provider in Tuting – Gelling circuit. However, both Calls and SMSes along with 3G / 4G data seemed to work fine at specific regions during specific hours of the day.
  • There’s no shared vehicle service in Tuting for exploring the town and doing local sightseeing. You have to either explore them on foot or you may ask locals for hiring a  vehicle instead.
  • With lots of liquor shops in the market, getting your favourite liquor is not a problem in Pasighat / Aalo (Along) / Tuting / Yingkiong. In fact, being a tax-free region, you’ll get it cheaper throughout the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Deputy Commissioner (DC) is the Administrative Head of the district who is aided by sub-ordinate level Administrative Officers like Addl. Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC), Circle Officer (CO), etc along with HODs (Head of Department) of various departments.
  • If you need any help regarding accommodation and permits just ask anyone to point you to local DC Office i.e. DC Office Jengging, DC Office Yingkiong, DC Office Tuting.
  • Circle Officer handles the booking of Inspection Bungalow (IB) and Circuit House (CH). You can find the required contact details at https://uppersiang.nic.in/.
  • Apart from the govt. accommodations such as Inspection Bungalow (IB) / Circuit House (CH), there’s 1 private homestay in Tuting and 5-6 private hotels/homestays in Yingkiong. However, all of them have limited room with private bathroom. Once they are occupied you have to settle in with rooms with shared bathrooms. Jengging though, have no option other than the Circuit House.
  • Yingkiong being the district HQ, the Circuit House at Yingkiong is filled up with govt officials almost throughout the year. However, Jengging Circut House and Tuting Inspection Bungalow are almost free throughout the year. So even if you land without booking, chances are you’d find a room unless there’s an emergency or some festival is going on. But as I already mentioned above, while travelling through remote tribal villages, keep your options open and plan for the worst.
  • Tuting Circuit House is a work in progress, so maybe in future tourists can expect a good accommodation option once the project is completed. Circuit Houses are generally in better condition than Inspection Bungalow and expensive as well!
  • Just FYI, the private hotels in these regions such as Tuting and Yingkiong don’t have in-house restaurants. There are several local eateries outside in the town though. However, the shops in Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong circuit closes down within 6:00 – 6:30 PM. So you have to pack your food / have it well in advance.
  • Permit for Gelling is issued by Addl. Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Tuting.

Important Links :

  • Arunachal Tourism Website : You can look up through Arunachal Tourism website for insights on various circuits, places to visit, local culture and traditions and accommodation options.
  • West Siang District Website : You can go through the West Siang District Website for insights on places to visit, local culture and traditions and accommodation options in West Siang.
  • Upper Siang District Website : You can go through the Upper Siang District Website for insights on places to visit, local culture and traditions and accommodation options in Upper Siang.
  • TripAdvisor : TripAdvisor Forums is a very good place to get your questions answered for anything related to Tourism.

Reviews :

Bebom Homestay: Bebom Homestay is located in Igokato Village of Aalo (Along). Staying at Bebom Homestay felt like staying at an authentic Galo residence. The whole property and the rooms are very well maintained and beautifully decorated with authentic Galo artefacts portraying local Galo traditions and culture. Washrooms though being clean enough, felt like needed quite a bit of maintenance.

Our Host – Mr and Mrs Geyi Ori, was very friendly, co-operating and welcoming. They welcomed us in a traditional Galo way. They shared stories about their culture and traditions and the local’s way of lifestyle. They served us authentic Galo cuisine and the food was simply finger-licking.

Although, it’d be a bit harsh, but I felt that, Bebom Homestay is a much better option considering its value over Reyi Homestay. Reyi, no doubt is a posh homestay, but considering the cost and quality of food at Reyi, I found Bebom to be more value for money.

Bebom Homestay Bedroom

Bebom Homestay Bedroom

Lidam Village Kitchen

Artefacts at Lidam Village

Mr & Mrs Geyi Ori

Mr & Mrs Geyi Ori

Jengging Circuit House: Situated on a hilltop, Jengging Circuit House offers a great view of Jengging Town from its balcony and roof-top. Jengging Circuit House is undoubtedly the best govt accommodation I stayed throughout Jengging – Tuting – Gelling – Yingkiong circuit. Location wise and the warmth that we received there from the caretaker Mr Man Bahadur is a class on its own. The caretaker Mr Man Bahadur is a very friendly and co-operating person. Not only that, but Man Bahadur also savoured our taste buds with his finesse cooking skills.

The property, rooms and washrooms were very well maintained and clean. Rooms and Washrooms though looked a bit old enough like of colonial era, however, I can’t complain about cleanliness. The caretaker also provided us with basic amenities like Towels and Soap etc.

Jengging Circuit House

Jengging Circuit House Bedroom

Jengging Circuit House Dining

Jengging Circuit House Drawing Room

Tuting Inspection Bungalow: Although the condition of Tuting Inspection Bungalow is in a devastating state, however, except for another private hotel in Tuting Market, there’s no other accommodation option here. It’s kinda okayish for your survival though. The property, rooms and washrooms are clean enough but not well maintained. Things are kinda breaking down due to ageing and lack of proper maintenance.

Tuting Circuit House is a work in progress, so maybe in future tourists can except a good accommodation option once the project is completed. Circuit Houses are generally in better condition than Inspection Bungalow and expensive as well!

The main cook was on leave during our stay, so the caretaker arranged an alternative cook who belongs from Gorakhpur, UP. He was very friendly and co-operating. The food he prepared was delicious and finger-licking. Thanks to him, that after around 12 days we could finally have some North Indian food!

Tuting Inspection Bungalow

Tuting Inspection Bungalow Bedroom

Tuting Inspection Bungalow Washroom

Tuting Inspection Bungalow Dining

Tuting Inspection Bungalow Drawing Room

Tuting Circuit House

Tuting Circuit House – WIP

Hotel BAP, Yingkiong : The hotel is kinda okayish for solo travellers. However, I’d recommend avoiding Hotel BAP if you are travelling with family. The property, rooms and washrooms are neither well maintained nor clean enough for a family stay. Solo travellers who are not fussy about cleanliness can spend a night without any hiccups. However, the other hotels in town are of similar category and if you can’t make it at Yingkiong Circuit House, then you’d have to settle with one of these only. There are few private homestays though for you to try out. But for your peace of mind, I’d always say to be open-minded and not to expect much.

Hotel BAP Yingkiong

Hotel BAP Bedroom

Hotel BAP Washroom

The hotel associates though were very friendly and co-operating. Hotel BAP like other private hotels in Yingkiong doesn’t have an in-house kitchen, thus they do not provide any food options. However, there are several eateries in the market to serve you. But you have to pack your meals by the evening, as the shops and establishments close down by around 6:00 – 6:30 PM.

Yingkiong Circuit House wins hands down when it comes to accommodation in Yingkiong. However, Yingkiong being district HQ, Yinkiong Circuit House is mostly filled up with Govt Officials, Ministers and VIPs throughout the year. So yes, chances of scoring more than 1 room at Yinkiong Circuit House requires a bit of luck. Other than Yinkiong Circuit House, there are 5-6 private hotels around the town.

Yingkiong Circuit House

Yingkiong Circuit House

 

Costing :

Bebom Homestay, Igokato Village, Aalo (Along): Rs. 1500/- per head per day including fooding and lodging.

Jengging Circuit House :
AP Govt Official (On Duty): Rs. 250/- per bed per day
AP Govt Official (Off Duty): Rs. 450/- per bed per day
Central Govt or Other State Govt Official (On Duty): Rs. 500/- per bed per day
Central Govt or Other State Govt Official (Off Duty) or Private Individual: Rs. 1000/- per bed per day
Foreign Nationals: Rs. 1500/- per bed per day

Fooding at Jengging Circuit House :
Lunch / Dinner : 100/head (Veg)
Chicken / Fish: 140/plate
Egg: 30/plate (2 pcs)
Tea: 10/cup
Puri: 60/5 pcs
Roti: 50/5 pcs

Lunch on the way to Tuting (Day 12): Rs. 780/- (For 6 Pax)

Tuting Inspection Bungalow :
AP Govt Official (On Duty): Rs. 180/- per bed per day
AP Govt Official (Off Duty): Rs. 300/- per bed per day
Central Govt or Other State Govt Official (On Duty): Rs. 400/- per bed per day
Central Govt or Other State Govt Official (Off Duty) or Private Individual: Rs. 600/- per bed per day
Foreign Nationals: Rs. 900/- per bed per day

Fooding at Tuting Inspection Bungalow :
Lunch / Dinner : 130/head (Veg)
Egg: 15/pcs
Chicken: 80/plate
Tea: 10/cup
Breakfast: 80/head

Lunch at Tuting (Day 13): Rs. 720/- (For 7 Pax)

Lunch on the way to Yingkiong (Day 14): Rs. 890/- (For 7 Pax)

Hotel BAP, Yingkiong :
Single Room (w/o attached bath): Rs. 500/-
Single Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 600/-
Doube Room (w/o attached bath): Rs. 700/-
Doube Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 800/-

Hotel Libang, Yingkiong :
Doube Room (w/o attached bath) : Rs. 600/-
Doube Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 900/-
Four Bedded Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 1500/-

Paljar Hotel, Yingkiong :
Single Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 500/-
Doube Room (w/ attached bath) : Rs. 700/-

NOTE: Room Rates at Yingkiong are highly negotiable depending on the number of rooms occupied.

Vehicle: Rs. 5500/- per day

Our Total Costing for this whole trip was Rs. 2,35,000/- (excluding the flights) which is about Rs. 40,000/- (rounded off) per head.

Contacts :

Mr Geyi Ori, Bebom Homestay, Igokato Village, Aalo (Along): +91 76389 33767

Hotel BAP, Yingkiong : +91 82579 40464

Hotel Libang, Yingkiong : +91 76299 01324

Paljar Hotel, Yingkiong : +91 94028 20009

Mr Tatin, Private Hotel at Tuting: +91 96127 45570

Shiva Driver Arunachal

Shiva

Shiva, Driver : +91 99547 77434 / +91 94019 47966 / +91 86381 73035. Very friendly and co-operating young chap to travel with. During our course of 17 days tour through tribal villages of Arunachal, he became a family member to us. Although he prefers to get called by his self-named nickname – Nick to maintain the style!

Dipankar Da, North East Travels: +91 89722 47306. Dipankar Da is more than a friend to me and my go-to solution when for North-East destinations. He’s very reliable and knowledgable when it comes to Birding, National Parks, Tiger Reserves and destinations in North East.

Unexplored Arunachal Series :

Unexplored Arunachal | Ziro | Part 1
Unexplored Arunachal | Aalo (Along) | Part 2
Unexplored Arunachal | Mechuka | Part 3
Unexplored Arunachal | Tuting | Gelling | Part 4
Unexplored Arunachal | Ledum Village | Part 5

About Author

Hi, I'm born and bought up in Kolkata in the midst of what bongs are best known for - Eating, Sleeping and Travelling. A developer by profession and a traveller by passion. As I was facing a lack of budget-friendly information on the internet while planning my travel, I started drafting my travel experiences here to help you all having a pocket-friendly smooth travel experience.

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