The Road to Tawang: Shake, Rattle and Roll

‘It was like being trapped in a washing machine….with wheels!’ said a dazed and slightly wild eyed traveler on reaching Tawang – by road. ‘But it was the most amazing journey I ever made.’ he added quickly but with equal conviction. That’s what a road trip to Tawang can do to you – despair to ecstasy is literally a hair pin bend away.

I have traveled the road to Tawang and back on more than a few occasions. Between the elegant university town of Tezpur to Tawang lies roughly 325 Km of spectacular countryside but it can be a hard and sometimes brutal journey. I guarantee that you will be bone tired but never bored, shaken but also stirred, rattled but strangely revived……its that kind of road and that kind of ride. For me its hard to describe – yet there are no shortage of travelogues waxing eloquently about Tenga, Bomdila, Sela, Tawang and the strip of asphalt that links them all together. To give the intrepid traveller my perspective, I’ve pieced together a few photos, some of questionable quality, in no particular sequence, most of places of no significance, but all taken from a moving vehicle and for me capturing the essence of the drive.

The road coils itself around the mountains as though to prove its superiority but the mountain always wins. The initial foothills are covered in lush jungles but as you climb higher it gets barer, windier and colder till Se la and then the descent to Tawang begins. After all what goes up, must come down.
A village nestles among misty hills on the banks of a swollen rivulet. It was the rainy season so otherwise nondescript streams and nallas suddenly assume fearsome proportions and flex their muscles till the going is good…..just like some people we meet in our lives.
On a clear day, an isolated chorten overlooks a valley while the breeze makes the pray flags dance in delight – anything seems possible!. The weather can play such an important role in how you view the world on that particular day.
Saw this father son duo on a cold cold day in a village short of Sela. They were ambling along the side of the road and despite the miserable conditions looked completely at ease and quite content. Wish I could be more like them!
Cute babies that don’t cry? Yes, they exist!! Last seen in fairly large numbers on the road to Tawang.
Tawang Monastery. Couldn’t resist including this one simply because the monastery looks like its sitting on the edge of an abyss. Its the star attraction of Tawang and worth the hype. Its always nice when expectations and reality coincide.
Sela is at 13700 feet and this is the lake near the pass. Crossing Sela feels like the end is in sight but in a nice way!
This house, a couple of hours from Tawang, is enjoying the best of summer while getting ready for winter. The vicarious pleasure that one gets from looking into other peoples houses while passing by is more or less universal until you realise it could just as well happen to you!

Strayed of the main road on to this track still under construction. The challenges and risks these bravehearts take to build roads in these extreme conditions is frequently overlooked and barely acknowledged.
My personal favourite. I was driving down towards Bomdila and it was approaching dusk. Suddenly from my window I saw these ranges of mountains marching away into the distance each distinguished by a different shade of blue or is it black? I din’t care- just grateful to be there.

They say a journey is like life. Its so true when you make the trip to Tawang….but unlike real life you get to have a return trip too.



  1. Paul….as always…a pleasure to read about Tawang. Felt being back there….having served in that area two decades back. Thanks for bringing back Those memories. Yup, I second what Shashi suggests

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed every word of it. Have nicely captured every nuance of a traveller’s feelings as he/she goes from peak to vale to peak….
    Well done Deepu!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brought back memories of our trip up there. The hot gulabjamuns on a cold, blustery morning at Sela check post, our vehicle slipping helplessly down an icy road, the mind-boggling colours of dozens of varieties of orchids in bloom, the tiny, wild strawberries growing just about everywhere – delicious with condensed milk!
    Thanks for this smoothly articulate dose of nostalgia!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Super stuff and I particularly like your favorite pic of the blue hills. I’ve bumped my way to Tawang too, and ahead to Bum La, and identify with the bit on Se La, shaken, nay, rattled to the bones, wondering when Tawang will show up. Your writing brings the place to life, reading from far away!


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