Sunday 14 October 2012

Itanagar: Socio-Cultural Capital of Arunachal Pradesh

14 hours from Shillong by overnight APST (Arunachal Pradesh State Transport) bus was not so tiring with frequent stops for food and personal ablutions. Unlike the private services ST buses ply slow and safe on this route – one of the busiest in Northeast – Shillong-Nafaon-Tezpur-Bandewara-Itanagar. Unless you have plans to visit other places in Arunachal than Tawang, you don’t need to come to Itanagar which is the main hub for ST buses to other parts of Arunachal. At the Secretariat you can obtain ILP to any part of Arunachal Pradesh especially the newly opened circuits namely Mechuka, Tuting. From Zero Point to Ganga market there is a dozen hotels of varying tariff. After shopping around for a while we settled at Hotel Alpine (Ganga Market, dbl 550, Tel 0360 221498), cheapest and closest to APST bus station and sumo counters. Next door was Kerala Bhawan, a restaurant run by Mohan and Biju hailing from Kayamkulam who were very helpful to provide rich information. 3 rooms will be ready for accommodation at Kerala Bhawan (dbl 600, Tel 96159 28200/03) by Dec 2012. Hotel Blue Pine (dbl 800-1500, Tel 0360 2211118) is more upmarket and has air conditioned rooms.

We contacted Sabu Kurien whom I had met on my way to NE in the train two years back. Very rarely people who meet on the train make it a point to meet again – Sabu told me this when we met at the gate of NERIST, Nirjuli 15 km away from Itanagar. Sabu and wife welcomed us with a sumptuous lunch despite his busy preparation for convocation at NERIST. People who genuinely welcome just an acquaintance with such a warm heart is a rare creed. Sabu gave us a tour around 600 acre campus and told us the stories from his 27 years of life in Arunachal. The river behind NERIST between Nirjuli and Doimukh is connected by a new motorable bridge and the old hanging bridge is no more functional. There used to be a narrow gauge from New Bongaigaon (Assam) to Doimukh and the train called Arunachal Express – was used earlier to reach Itanagar using ferry service across the river. This track is under conversion to broad gauge for the last many years.

Siddhartha Vihara Buddhist Monastery is 10 min walk uphill from Zero Point. The premises lack the tranquil ambience typical at Gompas, thanks to the youngsters freaking out on the winding road and at the parking lot. State museum seem to be closed.We saw many old local men sporting interesting Hornbill headgear and long swords. Ganga market had many shops lined up with food for both carnivores and herbivores. Garbage management seems to be non-existent, visual and olfactory effect is everywhere in the town. There are many shared auto rickshaws (Rs.10) and open sumos (Rs.20) plying between Itanagar and Nirjuli apart from the buses to Banderwara and Tezpur.

There are buses from APST bus station to Along (330, 6am, 2.30pm), Guwahati (290, 6am) Bomdila (290, 6am); double check the availability and timing at the bus station as they are not reliable. There is an early morning 5am Sumo service to Guwahati Airport for Rs.1500. Private operators run Sumos and buses to different places in Arunachal. We booked our ticket to Bomdila starting at 5pm (Rs.390, 12hrs, Yatayat tours and travels, Ganga market Tel 0360 2292839) reaching next morning, runs via Banderwara-Gophur-Tezpur-Balukpong (check post) – Bomdila. Sometimes the overnight vehicles may halt at check post until 4am due to security reasons, normally the vehicles from Tezpur run only during day.  Shorter and easier route to Tawang from Guwahati is to get ILP from Guwahati or Tezpur DC office, Parvatinagar Tel 03712 220241. For more details on ILP to Arunachal click here.


  1. In Shillong, you had obtained ILP for only Itanagar?
    Are buses reliable in AR?

  2. We got permits for two circuits, one for Itanagar-Along circuit and second for Tawang circuit. Private buses are reliable APST buses are irregular due to vehicle maintenance but they are dirt cheap and far more comfortable.