By Manjit Kashyap
In the last ten years, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the tourism sector of India. Improved connectivity and proactive efforts from the government, have transformed North East India, to become the most sought-for travel destination not only for the millennials of India, but also for foreign tourists. Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh, the largest amongst the eight North Eastern states, is undoubtedly the one which has been explored the least.
I have never invested so much time in travelling a single Indian state than the state of Arunachal Pradesh. But at the end of the day, I might have just explored one-third of it, if not less. Enchanting scenery and rough terrain have become synonymous with Arunachal Pradesh. These two attributes also make the state an ideal destination for adventure sports. Fast flowing rivers, verdant hills and excellent hospitality, the state possesses whatever it requires for playing host to the adrenaline junkies. Now let’s talk about the places that have been explored the least. ‘Aalo’, a small town in the West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh is one of them.
The serene town of Aalo is situated at the confluence of river Sipu and river Yomgo and is blessed with a backdrop of verdant mountains. Aalo town is the headquarter of the West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. Formerly known as ‘Along’, it is located around 99kms from Pasighat, which is at the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. West Siang District is bounded on the North by Shi-Yomi District, on the East by Siang district, and on the South and the West by Leparada District of Arunachal Pradesh.
Primarily home to the Galo tribe, Aalo is also the abode for other tribes like, Adi, Minyong, Bori, Bokar, Pailibo, Ramos, Memba etc. and form a natural habitat for many species of orchids, diverse flora and fauna endowed with dense vegetation, and a wide range of climatic and geographical variations. Yomgo River is one of the two rivers flowing through the town of Aalo. It holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Aalo. Yomgo River is respected by everyone in Aalo, as it is the source of life, food and sustainability for many people living in the area. It is the main source of irrigation for the people living upstream.
During winters, when there is a sunny clear sky, the river could be seen flowing from the snow clad mountains, which is a treat for the eyes, even for the locals. Yomgo river finally joins the mighty Siang river at Pangin. It is worth mentioning here that the Siang, Lohit and Dibang rivers finally join to form the colossal Brahmaputra river, which is the lifeline for the entire North East India, especially Assam.
Paying tribute to the life supporting river, Aalo has been hosting the ‘Yomgo River Festival’ since 2008. ‘Where culture meets nature’, aptly narrates the aura of the festival. Cultural exhibitions, Ethnic Food, Adventure Sports and Traditional/Contemporary Music-Yomgo River Festival has it all.
Culture and Traditions: Aalo has a unique mix of culture and traditions and Yomgo River Festival will allow you to live the ‘Aalo way of life’ for three days. A wide range of exhibitions will guide you through the different aspects of the society of Aalo. This includes showcasing of local flowers, Handloom and Handicraft, Folk Dance, Folk Songs, Traditional Games and Sports, War dance, Hibok-Penam(Traditional way of Catching fish), Galo Rituals, Storytelling, etc.
Adventure Sports: Breathtaking scenery, uneven terrain and the Yomgo River, makes Aalo an ideal destination for adventure sports. White Water Rafting, Zorbing Ball, Ziplining, Hot Air Ballooning, Stunt Show, Half day trek to Paya, etc. are some of the activities which will quench your adrenaline thirst at the Yomgo River Festival. Added to that, there will also be a Supercross Race, a Cycle Race and an Angling competition with handsome rewards up for grabs.
Music: Yomgo River Festival will be studded with music acts from around the country. A mix of Bollywood Music, Rock Music, Folk Music and EDM, will make everyone’s visit to Aalo a memorable one.
Ethnic Food: The soul of a place lies in the food, the dwellers master at! Yomgo River Festival welcomes all the foodies to come to Aalo and dine the ‘Aalo way’. Menee-Piinam (fish cooked in bamboo), Itti-Monam (traditonal rice beer), Poka (black rice beer), Joko-Raro-Piinam (meat cooked with local herbs Joko and Raro), Asin-Piinam (traditional way of cooking rice) and Amin-Piinam (rice cooked with animal blood) are some of the local cuisines which will definitely satisfy taste buds.
Apart from the breathtaking scenery of lush green mountains and majestic rivers, there are a number of places near Aalo which should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Donyi Polo Gangi(Donyi Polo Temple): The religion of Donyi Polo is the worship of nature, especially the worship of Donyi, the sun and Polo, the moon. Here, the sun is considered the mother and the moon the father of all creation. It has a meditation hall and prayer room as well. The Donyi Polo temple in Aalo is a must-visit place of religious and spiritual importance in Arunachal Pradesh.
Siru Rijo: A beautiful tea plantation can be seen in the middle of the forest with breathtaking scenery all around at Siru Rijo Tea Garden. During the Yomgo River Festival, if you crave for a refreshing drive with a cup of local tea, this will be the ideal destination for you.
Ramakrishna Ashram: An outstanding example of social efforts directed at education, the Ramakrishna Ashram, located in Aalo was started in 1966. Back then, the only structure supporting the project was a thatched building and the strength of the resilient monks who kept the school running against all odds. Today the school sees over 2,241 students and provides a great opportunity for tribal families to educate their children.
Patum Bridge: The 146 metre long Patum Cable Bridge in Aalo is built over the Yomgo River and is popular in the little town for the spectacular views of the city that it offers. The lights across the bridge make it an incredible sight at night as well.
Darka Village: The Darka Village located in Aalo has agriculture as its mainstay occupation. The rich vegetation is made possible by the three rivers that pass through the village, namely Sipu, Hiri and Hisum. It is a lovely place to visit in Aalo, especially during the local festival of Mopin, celebrated as a harvest festival by the Galo tribes.
Orange Orchards: Stretches of farms where green and orange contrast against the blue skies and mountain backgrounds. We are referring to the orange orchards in Aalo where you can find this fresh fruit growing. The heady smell of oranges combined with the scenic picture the orchard paints makes it a must-visit place in Aalo.
Hanging Bamboo Bridge, Pobdi: The hanging bamboo bridge is located in Pobdi, 15 km from Aalo. The bridge is a sight to look at with its bare bamboo canes through which you can see the river passing below. It is sure to send your adrenaline rushing!
Kabu or Kazu Village: Even though the tiny village of Kazu is located near Aalo and is easily accessible, the village is far away from the outside world. Initiating a talk with the village chieftain can help you interact and understand more about the local culture, art, performances and weaving techniques practised here. The houses are worth observing as they have a unique architectural form. Kabu bridge located in the village is a suspension bridge over the blue waters, and provides a majestic view and you don’t want to miss it at any cost.
BenjiLiine, Darak: About 45 kms from Aalo, Benji-Liine nestled in a hillock near the beautiful confluence of Sisa and Siyik river at a place called Saayi in between Poyom and BoruRaksap village amidst rich varieties of flora and fauna, is a sacred place for the tribal people and a favourite destination for the believers of the Hindu faith across the country.
So, if your definition of an ideal tourist destination is ‘a serene place with breathtaking scenery, hospitable people and lip smacking local cuisines, with occasional doses of adventure and music’, then ‘Go Yomgo’!
Yomgo River Festival – 2020
7 Feb – 9 Feb || Venue: Aalo, Arunachal Pradesh
How to Reach: Firstly, for all people other than the citizens of Arunachal Pradesh, there is a mandatory requirement of an ‘Inner Line Permit’ or ‘ILP’, in short. It can be generated both online and offline. People opting for online ILP, can visit the website, www.arunachalilp.com. For people who prefer offline ILP, kindly visit: Office of the Deputy Resident Commissioner, GS Rd, Near Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Rukmini Gaon, Guwahati, Assam. Phone: 0361-222 9506
By Air: The nearest airport to Aalo is at Pasighat, which is situated in East Siang District. Pasighat Airport is connected by flight services to Guwahati and Kolkata. By Train: The nearest Railway Station is Murkongselek Railway Station and 131 kms from the city.
By Road: Aalo is 99 kms from Pasighat, 240 kms from North Lakhimpur and 303 kms from Itanagar.
Accommodation: Ample options for accommodation are available for the visitors of Yomgo River Festival. The list includes hotels, campsites and homestays around Aalo.