Thembang lies hidden in the misty mountains of west Kemang district in Arunachal Pradesh. Stories and legends abound about this place.
Little is known about this unusual and rugged destination as it is not on the tourist map. It has an interesting history and culture, landscapes that are picturesque and unreal and people that know how to live their lives to the fullest.
Migrating from Bhutan and Tibet over the centuries, the Monpa tribe have been residing in Thembang and have formed clans after several clashes and conflicts. The Bapu clan dominates the region.
Thembang is a great destination for travelers who like to go off the grid. So, what can you do when you’re in Thembang? Here are some of the top cool things to do.
A great way to start your explorations, is to take the short walk up the flight of stony stairs that lead you to Thembang Dzong or fort.
An ancient stone structure and a mighty fort in its hey days it stands in ruins today. The outer walls and pillars are intact, however most of the structures inside the fort are ruined.
The clans continue to live inside the fort. They come down to work in the fields which more or less belong to the Bapu clan.
The Monpa are practicing Buddhists. Their ancestors originated from Bhutan and Tibet, so there is a strong influence of religious practices from these regions.
A visit to Sangeyling Gompa will give you an insight of their beliefs and rituals.
An important place of worship for the locals, the Sangeyling Gompa is decorated with fluttering prayer flags and spinning prayer wheels which will put you in a serene trance.
The walls outside portray Buddhist religious symbols some of which are familiar. Several prayer stones are placed on top of the walls.
On the other side of the road is a shrine which I guess is dedicated to one of the incarnations of Buddha.
There are several holy caves around the region that can be explored. The hill behind the Sangeyling Gompa has a few caves worth visiting.
The path is fairly easy to climb as stone steps are cut from the rocks. Prayer flags mark the path to be followed. The caves are desolate and are visited during festivals.
Soak in the scenery
Misty mountains, winding roads, emerald grasslands, grazing cattle and friendly people give you an illusion of paradise. It will lead you to an awakening of your senses.
Treks and walks can be organized with the help of the locals. As you explore the mountains and meadows, the locals will keep you engaged with the stories and legends of this land.
Soak in all of these scenes and file them away in your memories.
Live like a local
Homestays in Thembang allow you to experience the culture and lifestyle of the Monpas.
I lived with young Tenzing, her aunt, uncle and their hyperactive puppy dog. Tenzing and her aunt are actively involved in running the house and the fields. Their day begins at 4am and continues late into the night.
Breakfast is prepared in morning, followed by storing water and preparing meals for the field workers who would arrive shortly.
In addition there were other tasks to be done such as roasting the grains, doing the dishes, and even helping the workers with the harvesting. In the evening they were back in the kitchen, preparing dinner and finishing other odd jobs that needed to be done.
It was amazing to see how they completed all these tasks with smiles and so much energy.
Farming is organic and sustainable. Barley, kidney beans and local mountain veggies are cultivated. This is hard manual labor as everything from sowing to reaping is done by hand.
The women from different clans are hired to work in the fields. Tenzing and her aunt also help.
Food and Drinks
Meals are simple given the Buddhist way of life. Rajma or kidney beans, lentils or dal and rice are accompanied with local greens.
Chang or rice wine is preferred to be had in the evenings by all to relax after a hard day’s work. Momos is another popular dish given to guests like us. The filling is mostly veggies or potato.
There are many more reasons to visit this off the grid place. Your discoveries can be added to this list 😊.