Tag Archives: India

India finally lifts tourist permit for North East India

Finally the Indian government lifted the restricted access permit for North East states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Getting to these places use to be such a pain as tourist permits to these places involve hideous red tapes or irritating tourist companies that charges you incredible amounts for the permit fee.  This is with the exception of Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh which they still consider as sensitive border areas to Bangladesh and China.

If you ever dream of visiting these elusive and mostly difficult places, I strongly suggest to abandon all your other travel plans and race yourself to these states before the other tourists erode the whole place or even much worse, the ever erratic Indian government decides change its mind.

The Indian govt previously permitted independent travellers to Arunachal Pradesh (2 to a group instead of 4) without a state approved guide and had changed it due to the politicking of the Arunachal tourist association.

To independent travellers : Rest assured this will happen to Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur that erratic changes will be implemented, so visit these places as soon as possible.  In case you are visiting these places, be sure to print out all the various newspaper articles on the permits issues and be prepared to show them to the border guards as they would surely not be updated on such news. This comes from experience.

For more details, this info was taken from The Telegraph Calcutta

Land of the Naga – last of the headhunters

I dreamt about Nagaland after I saw it on the map one day. Obsessed about the place, it took me a few years before I finally visited this strip of land between Burma and NorthEast India.

Continue reading

Some Images of the Himalayas at tumblr

Created a photo album via tumblr for some of my images of Ladakh, Himalayan India.

After going through about 8gb of images, managed to edit it down to a few. I love tumblr for its micro-blogging platform and its rather creative editable html type. It does help me to present these lovely images without going through the painstaking coding design like most other platforms

Here’s a short collection from my 1tb worth of travel images yet to be edited!

http://travellust.tumblr.com/

Dressing up for the High Lama, Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village, Ladakh, Himalayan India.

The lady of my guesthouse was dressing up for the High Lama’s visit to Korzok Village.

When I was just about to leave the house in the morning for a walkabout. I spotted her from the half open room while she was just about to finish dressing up.   Had unbashingly invited myself into her bedroom and she welcomed me quite openly although she was a little amused on how excited I was seeing her dressing up.

I photographed her dressing and helped her with her coat and jewellery. Her head gear lined with precious turquoise was incredibly heavy and it was amazing how she could wear that for the whole day. The whole setup was heavy and it probably  took quite awhile to dress.

You could tell how precious every gear and every jewellery were to her as she unwrapped them after taking them out from a wooden chest. Obviously these were her only possessions from her dowry as often females were only given these, passed down from their mothers as their only financial property.

We couldn’t really communicate as I couldn’t speak Ladakhi and know only little Hindi, and she, spoke only little Hindi and no English and all Ladakhi.

In between my hand signals and non-existent hindi, I came to know that she was one of the village representatives to receive the High Lama who was coming for the blessings and she motioned that she was also going to dance for the festival.

Really did wish I could speak Ladakhi, I could have communicated with her and perhaps asked her more about her life in this remote little village.

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Permit Info : Getting to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

I visited Arunachal Pradesh in April 2008 for 30 days. It is a pain to get a permit to get there.

After googling all the official travel websites of  Arunachal Pradesh and followed their crappy  advice, calling my indian embassy, going to the foreign registration office in Kolkata, emailing and calling other departments,  it was such a time waster, that I am now publishing my own way of getting it done… finally, through paying us$20 to a Travel Agent just to apply that us$50 Restricted Travel Permit (RAP) for  Arunachal Pradesh.

You would probably gotten the same details on google,

Here’s what the official travel websites say about getting a Arunachal Pradesh Restricted Travel Permit (RAP), they tend to repeat the same crap without actually verifying that it works. All the departments do not know what the hell is going on. and answers vary like the wind changes directions (yea I am still kinda pissed about it)

“Copy and Pasted From all those crappy official Arunachal Pradesh websites”

The foreign tourists can obtain the Protected Area Permit from:

All India Missions abroad – Don’t EVEN BOTHER, Your India mission (in Singapore and London) don’t even know crap about it. They would just retort  paranoid questions to you instead. Time Waster!

All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata – Best chance of  success is at New Delhi, Forget the rest, they would just send your application direct to Delhi anyways, unless you have plenty of time to sit around and wait for approval while they take their own sweet time.

Chief Immigration Officers, Chennai – Huh?

Home Ministry, Govt. of India – Double Huh?

Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar – By now should you even bother to contact them!

Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi-110001 – Another read for entertainment purposes, dont waste your time contacting them.

This is REALLY HOW YOU SHOULD BE

Getting a permit to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

1. If you have 4 persons travelling

 

Apply via :

Calcutta Foreigners Regional Registration Office

237 Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road (AJC Bose Road), Kolkata – 700 020

(nearest train station : Rabindra Sadan station)

or

New Delhi Foreigner’s Registration

East Block-VIII, Level-II, Sector-1, R.K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 066

Cost : us$50 per person per permit application for 30 days

Processing time varies from 1 day – 3days, to  7 – 14days or more,  as they will be sending your approval to New Delhi, you need to submit your application with passport photo, copy of indian visa, passport, and go for an interview should the current govt official decides you should do it. (total of 2-3 trips to the Kolkata office to get it done)

Non Indian Nationals : Do not apply in Guwahati.

Only Indian nationals application will be accepted in Arunachal Pradesh House in Guwahati

 

Of course there is always exception to the ruling (if you know what to do) The question is how much are you willing to donate/contribute your cash, who you talk to, which officer in charge is currently in attendance, and what mood that govt official is in.  etc.. Results will vary from Individual applications

 

2. For 2 person travelling or more, you need to use a Travel Agent (Best chance of success and highly recommended if you don’t want the headache)

Cost : us$20 per person (agent charges this for their ‘services’)

Permit : us$50 per person (Arunachal Pradesh Govt fee)

Total permit cost : us$70 per person

Duration : 1 month travel permit

3. For 1 person travelling solo (apply with Travel Agent)

 

You would still need to get someone’s passport details, pay $20+50 X 2 person for the permit. That person need not be travelling with you for the permit. You could technically submit a person’s details without that person actually visiting the state. Not recommended because it is not worth paying a total of us$140 for your permits. Find someone who might be interested in travelling with you, or travelling the same dates as you, but you could both go on your separate ways.  -> I did this, but somehow ended up travelling with the same person on my permit.

Other Information

The official website http://arunachalpradesh.nic.in/enter_ap.htm to be used for information and entertainment purposes only.

 

Notes :

Don’t waste your time applying through your local Indian mission as they don’t even know of such ruling.

I used a Travel Agent, thru a local naga contact, his replies will be incredibly slow as internet is not often accessible.

You can contact Oken Tayeng,  You might get away from not paying him prior to arrival. BUT Make sure you do pay him for his effort.

Mode: Payment of permit can be done in Itanagar, Arunachal pradesh, permit given over Email.

Oken’s Contact :

ABORCOUNTRY TRAVELS & EXPEDITIONS

B Sector, Itanagar , Arunachal Pradesh – 791111

Tel : +91 360 2211722 Fax : +91 360 2292969

Mobile : +91 9436053870

Email : aborcountry@yahoo.com/kentayeng@yahoo.com

Failing to contact the guy above, you can contact the rest of the tour operators here.

Update: Oken is now charging us$50 for his services, total $100 per person for permit. Find another travel agent to help you on it. They should charge you only us$20 for their services!

The travel operators would be all be too willing to sell you a travel package as well. -> By suggesting that you REALLY should need a guide to take you around the State, because it is really not safe, blah blah blah…

Travelling around Arunachal Pradesh is easy, just a little time consuming as road conditions are quite bad, there are plenty of public jeeps or Sumos that the locals use to transport themselves from town to town on a daily basis.

I did all my travels via public buses and jeeps, I do find the buses more comfortable for longer rides, as the public jeeps often packed like sardines. A 6 seater jeep could be filled with 10 person or more!

If you are on a time constraint, then it is highly recommended to take up the travel agents services, mostly they are pretty generic, so it really comes down to who you wanna go for.

Application Details :

You need –

1. Digital Copy of Passport WITH current Indian Visa

2. Two  Passport photo (2 digital photos organised  side by side)

3. Permit Application : filled with your itinerary and suggested dates of Entry and Exit Dates

4. Processing time : min. 7 days – 14days depends on where your travel operator apply it from.

IMPORTANT!
Make sure you fill in ALL the TOWN Names of Arunachal Pradesh in your itinerary, the permit will be issued according to all the towns you apply for in your itinerary, else you might incur problems when you register yourself with the local police in the various towns. It is mandatory that you report or declare your presence in the various towns.

However, I didn’t have visit to the local police station, the hotels would do that for you, or the police officers would approach you when they see you along the streets in your backpacks.

After you get your permit Make sure you have tons of duplicate copies of the permit, every official (from police to the army to govt official) who approaches you, somehow wants a copy of it.

The Long winded story

In Menchuka, the police commissioner approached me in the same shop as I was, while he was shopping for his daily local vegetables. In another town, one of the policeman asked me for my permit rather casually over dinner while sharing his nightly whiskey  shots with me at the local tea house, he happen to see me there, while he was having his daily drink,

And yet another town, i was asked again for the permit over a cuppa Indian chai and samosas, compliments of the police chap.

They were all pretty friendly bunch, but somehow they are pretty obsessed about that Restriction Permit. So you get my long winded drift, MAKE TONS OF RAP PERMIT DUPLICATES

Attached is the permit application form here :

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap2-copy.jpg

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap1-copy.jpg

Update me on how you got your permit done, I am interested to know, as this whole permit issue changes like your regular curry masala.

Lakdahi Toilet

Ladahi toilets are one of the cleanest toilets I have ever been to, even though its just a hole in a shack. There is no water, just mud and soil. The odour is bearable, there isn’t any really horrid smell compared to those water sewage septic toilets.

In other places in the Himalayas, instead of mud, they use millet husk or wheat husk to cover up your daily soils. and the pigs will feast under the shack. Just in case you are wondering, yes people do eat those pigs during festival times.

Enroute to Tsokar, I saw these horses

Enroute to Tsokar, Changthang District, Ladakh, Himalayan India

Tourist treks and horses

These horses were returning to Leh after a week’s trek guiding tourists around, popular trekking routes consist of treks around Changthang plateau doing the popular Tsokar to Tsomoriri route.

Not many travellers know that their trekking horses usually come from around Leh instead of around Changthang plateau. The horsemen would bring their horses to Tsokar, meeting the tourists who usually commute there with the jeeps.  There are not enough trekking horses around Tsokar or Tsomoriri to cater for the large number of tourist treks during the peak season. Horses are expensive and not many villages around the Changthang plateau can afford to have that many horses living in their property. Only those around Leh would be able to possess four or more horses especially if they are connected to the tourist trade.

They usually take 5 days to reach their trekking destination before embarking on the  trek. A typical tourist trek takes a further 7 days from Tsokar to Tsomoriri Lake. After which the horses return to Leh 5 days later.

Arduous work for these horses and for their owners, still better compared to the people around the much poorer region of Changthang plateau who live on subsistence farming and breeding pashmina goats. In my previous post, I did mention that Pashmina goats are usually bred around Changthang region and not in Kashimir.

Likir Village view from Gompa

Likir Village view from Likir Gompa, Ladakh Himalayan India

Likir Village is about 60km from Leh, Ladakh and accessible via the daily public buses from Leh’s bus station, then its a fairly easy sandy 3 – 5km walk into the village. Most tourists probably would take the day tour which combines a few gompa visits especially if they are only in Leh for a few short days.

To get there on your own, its possible but buses from Leh to Likir starts from noon as the buses originate from Likir village ferrying the villagers to the Leh town in the morning before returning at noon.

On return, I hitched a ride back via a jeep. It was getting dark and feeling a little anxious, I didn’t want to wait. There might have been buses on the main road if I had waited long enough. I took a chance coming here, tt was either miss the rides back to Leh, or stay overnight at the village, like what I did for other gompa visits.

I arrived to Likir in later part of the afternoon, and so had to wait for the attending monk to open the doors to the main gompa for quite awhile. It was fairly a hit and miss affair but with a little wait and luck, a small group of local Ladakhis arrived for some pilgrimage trip, the monk  appeared, (for the locals knew where to look for him) and open all the rooms including prayer rooms which usually would’nt have been opened for tourists.


Likir Gompa, Likir Village, Leh, Ladakh, Himalayan India

It wasn’t particularly a memorable gompa despite it being one of the oldest gompas around Leh. The rooms were fairly dark and there were no photography in the chambers belonging to the darker guardians usually called wrathful deities. There were no photography, the rules’ reason being that it was for the respect of these wrathful deities and for the safety of this photographer who might offend these powerful beings. Personally for me, I refrained from taking any photos out of the respect of the Lakdahi pilgrims I was following around.

The view of the wheat colored millet fields of the Likir village was kinda pretty and that was my highlight for this place. Many other gompas I had been to, didn’t have this gorgeous view overlooking the millet fields and the the village.

Likir Gompa or Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat of Tibetan Buddhist Sect. It is more popular for its large Maitreya statue situated out in the open, behind the gompa. I failed to get any decent shots of it for you to see, as a light shower descended upon me when I was there. Besides that I was suffering from an overdose of gompas and buddhist statues for the week and so was immuned and jaded to all the beauty around me. Such is life!

In the interiors of the main gompa, you might be interested in the ghostly yellow sect robes that the monks use for their cold early morning prayers. Will post those photos up when I find them.

Korzok Village Dance Preparations

Korzok  Village, Tsomoriri, Changthang district plateau, Lakdah , Himalayan India

-continued from the last post.

The lady of my guesthouse was dressing up as I left the house in the morning for a walkabout. I photographed her dressing up and helped her with her costumes and jewellery. I had unbashingly invited myself into her bedroom and she welcomed me quite openly although she was a little amused how excited I was seeing her dressing up. Her head gear lined with precious turquoise was incredibly heavy and it was amazing how she could wear that for the whole day. The whole setup was heavy and took quite awhile to dress.

You could tell how precious every gear and every jewellery were to her as she unwrapped them after taking them out from a wooden chest. Obviously these were her only possessions from her dowry as often female were only given these passed down from their mothers as their only financial property.

We couldn’t really communicate as I couldn’t speak Ladakhi and know only little Hindi, and she, spoke only little Hindi and no English.  I came to know that she was going to meet the High Lama who was coming for the blessings and she motioned that she was also going to dance for the festival. Really did wish I could have communicated with her and perhaps asked her more about her life in this remote little village.

Along the  only street out of Korzok, I came upon this bunch of women all dressed in their finest costumes, they gathered and then quickly disappeared back down to the mud lined houses.

Curious and wondered what they were up to, I was walking around from house to house,  took me quite a while before I found them hidden away at one of the ladies’ houses. They were rehearsing for their folk dance in preparation of the upcoming festival.

Couldn’t really understand what they were doing, it was a form of line dancing where they held their hands and walked front and then back while singing one of the village songs.

They often stopped and discussed what they would do next then continued on with their humming. It got kinda repetitive after that.

The head gear lined with turquoise stones was usually their only prized finanical possesions and the women usually were given very little property, except for those costumes and jewellery. Their silk cape lined with pashima sheep wool which was their main live stock in their village.

Waiting for the High Lama

Korzok Villagers welcoming the high lama

Place : Korzok Village, Tsomoriri, Changthang district plateau , Ladakh, Himalayan India

Suddenly in a flurry, the usually sedate villagers all dressed up in their traditional costumes started arriving from afar, strolling down the only road in this remote village.

A high lama was visiting the village along with the District Commissioner of Changthang region and the villagers bring their offerings and silk scarfs awaiting for the lama’s blessings

Visiting Korzok Village

I arrived at Korzok village with the intent to photograph the upcoming cultural festival.

When I arrived, I asked around,  it seems no one really knew anything about it, and didn’t know when it was suppose to happen.

Many tourists do visit this sleepy little village but only as a short overnight transit to visit beautiful Tsomoriri Lake or as a rest stop from popular Tsokar to Tsomoriri treks, before their onward journey either to Leh, the Capital city of Lakdah or back to Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Seldom do people stay more than a day let alone more than two days.

It is interesting to note that Korzok village, Tsomoriri is still a trading outpost for Pashmina wool. Many nomadic goat herders pass through this village trading their precious and highly prized wool before the wool gets exported to Kashmir to be manufactured into expensive Pashmina scarfs. Contrary to what people believe about Pashmina, they are not come from Kashmir, rather, the goats are bred in Ladakh, particularly around Changthang region before exporting the commodity to Kashmir for manufacturing. Many of these herders are fairly improvished selling their lowly priced commodity to rich traders. Imagine how expensive your Pashmina scarfs or sweaters are and to realise how these herders get badly paid for their work.

The village does experience its fair share of comings and goings from tourists, traders and nomadic people alike and at times is not so sleepy.  The village use to be quite wealthy from the numerous trades of sheep, goats and other livestock but it seems to be quite a poor village now struggling for the tourist dollar.

On Arrival

When I first arrived to Korzok village, it was initially quite empty, and had almost a desolate feel to it, there were two tea houses which caters to the transit travellers situated along the only mud road in the village.  Suddenly a large group of Israeli tourists in this cranky public ex-school descended into this quiet little village right after I had arrived . They were frantically looking around for their over-night accomodation. As it happens they were on their way to Manali after spending some time in Leh. Quite the noisy bunch they took camp at the only two tea houses and decimated all the food for the night. I was feeling a little drained from the travels already , my travel mates on the same jeep to the village took a little turn for the worse, the Russian couple were experiencing a little attitude sickness as Korzok was around 3000 meters above sea level.They found their accomodation and remained there for most of the day.

After much walking around and asking where and when would the festivities occur, it concluded that there were no festivals, I was feeling rather disappointed but hopeful, and decided that I should stay in the village for a few days despite the inital disappointment.

The next morning it became a quiet little village again, and I took walks around the village and to Tsomoriri Lake which was only a short walk away. The weather was a beautiful blue in the morning, before it quickly turned grey and overcast. But it was a good sign, with me asking once again at the Monastery and then back to the main tea house, the reply came back, there was indeed a small festival happening, a High lama was visiting, they might have a celebration for him, however they did not know what time he would arrive, but he would indeed come visit either today or the next 2 days.

A high lama had decided to visit on invitation of the Changthang district commissioner who was the one organising this little cultural festival that had been publicised in Leh.

Korzok Village Festival Preparations

The villagers hanging up a banner just  before the Lama arrive  at the Monastery

Back to the District Commissioner, I met up with him, a very humble unassuming and friendly man.

His views on the festival :  if there were more tourist still around, he would organise a little cultural dance and perhaps a horse race, if not, there will not be a festival but just a blessings ceremony by the high lama. For after all this little show was to be organised in conjunction with the much bigger tourist cultural festival back in capital city of Leh.

Obviously, the Lakdah Tourist board and the district didn’t inform the villagers that until the very last day!

The next 2 day became this flurry of activities, the villagers started preparing for the dances, and the monks were bringing out their costumes and all the gear for the cham dance. I was surprised how quickly they got into the act of things. They must be quite experienced with such spur of the moment activities. The other villagers soon came from afar crowding the streets all dressed in their finest.

Korzok Village Festival

From a quiet street it turned crowded, many villagers from around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake started streaming in dressed in their traditional costumes with intermittent dust storms blowing over the small village.

Korzok Village Festival

The procession starts with the village heads walking along as the high lama rolls in on a jeep, with the villagers lined up awaiting for their blessings. It was a rather quick affair and the high lama was ushered off to the gompa into his resting chambers.

Story to be continued in the next post with more photos of the festival preparations

For more about the Cham dance,  you can see the photos here and here.