Bomdila Arunachal Pradesh was one of my favorite towns in Arunachal Pradesh. This small town has a population of less than 10,000 people, is 8,800 feet above sea level, and is the home of the Monpa, Aka, Miji, Sherdukpen, and Bogun tribes.
Passing into Arunachal Pradesh does require an ILP (inner line permit) or foreign permit (read more on that here.) So, you do need to plan ahead before you visit as a foreigner, while Indian nationals can pay for the ILP then and there for 100 Rs. It’s worth the planning because there are plenty of places to visit in Bomdila as well as things to do in Bomdila!
To get to Tawang, the most famous tourist attraction in this area of Arunachal, you have to pass by Bomdila anyways so take a day and night to spend some time here… and eat some Tibetan food! Momos!
This is a Tibetan Mastiff. Cool dog! He’s still a puppy and will get much bigger.
Where to stay in Bomdila | Bomdila Hotels
There are not many options for hotels in Bomdila, as this state and most of the NE in general is only recently becoming ready for tourism. There are only TWO hotels in town & there are 7 B&B’s listed. I recommend staying at a B&B (homestay) to get a comfortable local experience.
Entrance to Sange’s mom’s house
As part of the Holiday Scout tour, we got to stay with our guide Sange’s mom and sisters! It was sooo cool! His sisters were so shy and quiet, and his mom was so kind and beautiful. They made us an amazing dinner of momos, thupka, some corn dish, dal, and more.
For breakfast we had soup, thupka again I think, and “momo locos” which is bread made from the same dough as momos (it’s really good). We also had some fresh pears they grew.
We actually came back and stayed another night on our way back down the mountain a few days later. We had this delicious potato/noodle soup dish served on rice (with bread… carbs, carbs, carbs) and because I LOVE carbs, I was in heaven.
I declined trying the local alcohol, which is served hot, because I really don’t like the taste of liquor and would feel bad asking for something to chase down the bad taste with. Anna tried it and seemed to like it although not enough to finish it. We noticed lots of women here were drinking even near the monastery. Maybe because it’s so cold!
We had a few giant blankets on our beds which was great because the Bomdila weather is pretty darn cold. I slept awesome here. We were soon to find out, it was nearly as cold as Tawang! Families seem to spend their time around the fire in the kitchen until bedtime. Some people even sleep in the kitchen near the fire.
Homestays may not have western toilets or showers with a shower head above. You can heat water with the fire and use a bucket to bathe, and if you’re in India you should be used to the squatting toilets by now, right!? :) Hotels on the other hand will have this. For me, I just chose to think about my showers ahead of time and know that when I was staying somewhere very cold I would skip washing my hair and would just do a quick hot bucket bath then wrap up again by the fire.
It was worth “roughing it” so to speak (not that it really was, but I think for some it may be) because the family environment is so great when you travel. It’s cozy. You can see what the houses are like (for example one room is just for prayer) and what the family vibe is like here. I loved staying with Sange’s family.
Places to visit in Bomdila and things to do in Bomdila!
The Bomdila pass is where you can go for great views of Kangto and Gorichen Peaks which are the highest peaks in the state. You’ll also see great views just driving further north from Bomdila to Tawang.
Tour the village in the afternoon. Explore the markets and do a little shopping.
make sure you negotiate! “You can bargain on MRP. It’s your right”. That’s making sure you aren’t paying more than the set rate on the item you wish to buy. It’s often written.
Peppers which are particular to this area only
You cannot miss the Bomdila Monastery (GRL Monastery). Because Sange grew up in Bomdila, he was welcomed very happily here and showed us all around. It’s always great to get that local view. This is the #1 attraction in Bomdila.
Did you know Tibetan monks have been nominated for a GRAMMY for their amazing deep chants at another monastery? Crazy!
This mandala is made in detail with sand during a religious festival. Once the festival is over, it was destroyed (all that hard work!) as a symbol of life always changing and the lack of meaning of material things.
The now Dalai Lama the 14th, who I heard speak a few years ago.
There are craft centers and emporiums to do some shopping and buy local handicraft.
There are also apple orchards to visit and orchid farms. We didn’t do this, as we stopped at Tipi on the way up to Bomdila and weren’t really into touring the orchids. They were mostly dead that time of year and we weren’t keen to take time learning about the flowers (sorry).
Meet a fortune telling monk! As I mentioned, we stayed at his mom’s twice. The second time was on our way back down the mountain a few days later. This was one of the coolest bits about the tour, as our guide knows this monk, also called Sange ( Sange Lama) who meditated (studied) in the jungle alone for 9 years.
He came to our house (okay, Sange’s house but it was feeling a lot like home!) and had tea, sat with us in the prayer room, and read our fortunes. It was very cool. I will be writing about that experience in one of my friday “this is India” stories.
Had we not been on the Holiday Scout tour, we would not have had this cool experience nor would we have gotten to see the Monpa home life.
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