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We were walking down a village called Gori 2 in Basar. Spotless, organised, perched on a hillock in the midst of lots of bamboos, a river flowing at the bottom – Gori 2 was just another typical village in Basar.
Our eyes met and we exchanged tentative smiles. I started to ask, “kaise ho“. But then remembered the Galo phrase we were taught the previous day.
“Aldu re?”, I wished. Thinking of the smile he flashed brings tears to my eyes even all these days later. It was the warmest, kindest, fondest smile I have ever received. He replied, “Aldu aldu“. Meaning he was well. To which I replied, “Alruuudo“. Meaning very good. (The longer you stretch the “u” makes the good that much stronger!).
He laughed and said many things after this, of which I understood nothing (our knowledge of the Galo language was restricted to just this opening exchange). He also probably knew I wasn’t getting anything he said.
But we don’t always need words to connect with someone, do we? We have learnt well that travelling is magical like that, and Basar, in every which way, was nothing short of magic.
Little did we know at the time, that this was just the beginning of Basar becoming our home in faraway Arunachal Pradesh.
Basar was a place of many firsts for us.
- It was the first ever place we visited in our first ever visit to Northeast India.
- The first time we trekked through forests to explore caves and waded through rivers to reach haunted places.
- The first time we ate food cooked IN bamboo.
- The first time we sang songs around a huge fire in a tribal home with animal skulls, where we ate, slept and danced with these same people.
- It was the first time we were screaming and jumping to songs of which we didn’t understand a word. Our first time listening to rock music in a tribal language.
- It was the first time we drank the local alcohol in bamboo glasses.
- The first time we sat on bamboo benches, and crossed bamboo bridges.
- Also the first time in our travels in India NOT seeing heaps of plastic trash.
Basar was our first travel experience of a time in life when everything was perfect.
Which makes Basar a must visit during your visit to Arunachal Pradesh, or even Northeast India. Basar has a whole range of experiences to offer. We will recommend it for a Northeast India itinerary for any interest and age group.
Allow us to share some of the things to do in Basar.
Basar is a paradise for trekkers and nature lovers
Which makes it a perfect destination for an itinerary of Arunachal Pradesh focussed on outdoor activities
- Trek to a bat cave in Padi village of Basar
We didn’t know how happy and fresh green can feel till we set foot on the Basar soil. We plunged into this green kingdom with a quick trek to the exotic sounding “bat cave”.
The walk began through rice fields with granaries made of bamboo. We crossed fences by climbing steps carved in thin wooden logs. We walked over bamboo bridges and rested on bamboo benches. Soon we were in the forest. Tall ferns surrounded us. We crossed streams and realised how loud the forest really is. The rains in the morning also meant slippery mud as we climbed up to the cave.
It took a while to get used to the smell of bats. Inside the cave, there was incessant pooing by the bats. we were glad we had caps on and our heads were covered.
The trek experience didn’t end just there. By the time we returned from the bat cave, the young guys of Padi village, from where the trek had begun had kept a hot lunch ready for us. We huddled around the fire, warmed ourselves with our first ever Poka and had our first meal of rice and chicken cooked in bamboo.
- Trek to a vantage point at Oodi Putu to view the whole of Basar from high up
The night before the trek we had stayed in the village named Sago from where this climb starts. Pre-dawn is the ideal time to start so that by the time to reach the top, you get to see the whole of Basar covered in a golden daze.
However, the incessant rains the previous night meant a delayed start to this trek. It also meant a cloud-shrouded view from the top. Even though we didn’t get the views we were looking for, we enjoyed climbing up the forest. We were accompanied by a few men from Basar, who despite the rains had got all geared up to show us this place of pride near their village. Exploring the hill and learning about the flora and fauna from the locals gave us a deeper perspective of Basar and its surrounding villages. It wasn’t just a trek for a view anymore.
- River crossing to a Basar’s haunted place Joli
This was the most fun trekking experience in Basar. “Haunted place” already had a ring of mystery to it. First, we had to climb down a hillock. A shallow stream crossing led to a small bamboo bridge. We crossed the bridge to eventually start our canyoneering, albeit on foot. Trying not to slip over the slippery river bed as the pebbles poked our soles we moved ahead with a lot of help from the Basar boys.
The mountain sides were closing in on us making the water look dark and deep. A dense forest hovered over these waters with roots dripping down at places. A bird sang as it moved ahead of us. It was just us around. Without the local Basar boys, we would have mistaken this canyon for the haunted place. It was eerily beautiful. The sun sets exceptionally early in Northeast India, days are especially short in winter. The haunted place Joli was still further away. There was more water to wade through. But at that moment, we just had to stop. To look. Everything around was just too beautiful to move ahead.
We did eventually reach the actual haunted place which led to a small waterfall. The story of the haunted place was a bit confusing for us to understand, or maybe we were a bit too overwhelmed by the beauty around to focus on the story. To reach this spot you had to be accompanied by a certain tribe of people, else the mountains would get angry. Even recently, a few locals ventured alone through the canyon had felt some loose rocks falling on them. This stone throwing led to a belief that there was a powerful presence out there, leading to the legend of the haunted place. People revered this place. We felt it was a wonderful story keeping the beauty of this place intact.
Enjoy the Galo hospitality by staying at a homestay in Basar
Which makes it a perfect destination for an itinerary of Arunachal Pradesh focussed on cultural immersion
Imagine this. A village surrounded by hills. This village is full of palm trees, next to a bamboo forest. It has bamboo houses. Wildflowers are blooming everywhere. You enter the house.
A fire is lit in the centre and everyone you love is sitting next to you surrounding this fire. Behind the fire are animal skulls, horns and claws right there in the living room.
Now imagine not having to imagine all of this. Imagine, just for a day living this life! That’s exactly what we got to do at our homestay in Sago, one of the remotest villages of Basar.
We had reached Sago late evening post our dinner with the intention of starting an early morning trek from Sago. We had assumed we would go straight to bed once we reached Sago.
It was freezing cold when we got off the car. Some folks from the village came to the cars to receive us. We entered the living room (men used the steps in front, women got in using the steps at the back – as was the custom in Galo houses). We were surprised to see a small gathering of sorts there already.
We took our places by the fire, the mandatory centrepiece in every Galo home. Everyone was taking everything else in. It was our first time in a living Galo home, and the place was like a candy store for a curious mind. What, why, how, when…so many questions and curiosities. On both sides.
But first, we had to warm ourselves. With warm water, then “laal chai” (black tea), concluding with rounds of Poka. Then we all introduced ourselves to our hosts. Our names, what we do in our lives, where we were from.Now it was time for the young members of our host’s family to take over. They welcomed us and introduced the elders. Told us a bit about their village. And a bit about their home – including the presence of animal skulls, bones and claws in the living room. We learnt a bit about their lives. What time they began their day, what was their sleeping time. Did the women wake up earlier, where were the kids, where did they sleep, did they have separate bedrooms, where did they eat, what did they usually eat – it was like a door to another world had opened and we were trying to orient ourselves to it as well as we could. A bit of music followed.
After a long while, blankets were brought out and spread around the fire. And just like we did during summer holidays spent fondly with cousins, we all huddled into the blankets in that far away home in a remote village of Basar.
There are a total of 25 major and 125 sub tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. Galo is the most dominant tribe in the Basar region. All the homes we visited in Basar belonged to families of the Galo tribe. Traditionally, animists, they worship Donyi Polo – the sun and the moon gods.
Every home we visited, we learnt something new about the Galo tradition. We were fondly told stories of the origin of Mopin, their most important festival and about Donyi Polo. We asked them about the weapons they still had in their homes. They were earlier used for hunting which is now banned. What purpose did they still serve? “If we let go of this, our future generations will have to pay money in the museums to understand their own culture and traditions”.
Basar has many picture-perfect villages which make it a perfect destination for an education and exploration based itinerary for Arunachal Pradesh
What first catches the eye when you first walk around the villages of Basar is how clean these villages are. The houses are all made of bamboo, there’s not much concrete seen in the villages. At regular intervals are bamboo dustbins. In the evenings, you’ll find a few adults of the village walking around with a dustbin. A group of young boys and girls, also from the village, will be following them. They’ll run around, play ball, and if they spot a piece of paper or plastic lying around, they’ll pick it up and throw it in the bins that the adults carry. So the responsibility of keeping the villages clean lies with the people living there and kids from a young age learn this, albeit playfully.
You’ll see the women sitting in the verandah of their houses, weaving. They still weave their own skirts and shawls. They’ll tell you about the traditional Galo jewellery. They’ll even happily lend you their prized ornaments for taking pictures. And eagerly, excitedly they’ll teach you a word or two of the Galo language – after offering some Poka to sip.
You’ll get to see the daily life of the people of Basar. They’ll let you work in the fields. They’ll show you the forest of their village with pride, even take you foraging in this forest. “If we get lost up the hills in some forest, we can easily survive for a year”, they’ll tell you. You’ll learn about traditional fishing and setting up all-natural mousetraps to catch some rats for food!
Expand your palette
Basar, like the rest of Arunachal Pradesh, has a unique cuisine that is healthy, organic and does a world of good for the body, making Basar a perfect destination for a food tourism itinerary of Arunachal Pradesh.
It was in Basar that we had a lunch experience that’s going to be hard to surpass for a long time. We drove out of the village Sago and our cars stopped at an opening in the forest. While we were roaming around Sago, some men and women had packed a truckful of kitchen stuff and were now busy cooking.
We were seated on wooden logs. Bamboo mugs filled with freshly made Poka were doing the rounds.
They had told us in Argentina, “Matè is not a drink, it’s a ritual”. While matè took a while to grow on us, we took to Poka instantly. And just like the matè, Poka – from its making to consumption is no less of a ritual. We were lucky to see the making of Poka in the most traditional and authentic way.
Course after course of super exotic foods followed. Stuff that we had never seen before. Stuff that these women had foraged from the forest. Something was good for the heart, something for the blood. Everything was doing wonders for us.
Everything was served on leaves. Then came the super aromatic brown rice. Chicken with oik leaves. Fish and crabs. Everything cooked inside the bamboo. Slow cooked under palm leaves.
No oil, no spices. Just fresh, organic, healthy, delicious food. Cooked in the most natural way possible. In the greenest surroundings possible. It was the freshest food we have had ever.
After everyone was done eating an elaborate photo session followed. They then took us to the stream to demonstrate some fishing. Some more photos. And then a goodbye dance. We said goodbyes. Several times. But refused to leave. But none of us were ready to let go of Sago.
It’s a common saying that the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach and the people of Sago had won our hearts hands down.
The beauty of Basar is evident at first sight. It doesn’t take much longer to fall in love with the people of Basar, either. They are super friendly and open for interactions and conversations. Making it a delightful destination for a photography focused itinerary for Arunachal Pradesh.
Needless to say, the people of Basar will open their hearts out to you. Before you take your cameras out, open your hearts out to them as well. Remember, they are the ones living a charmed life. They still live a life in tune with their surroundings. They are still aware of the ancient wisdom passed down by their ancestors. Learn from the treasure trove of knowledge the people of Basar will be eager to share with you.
Only after realising the privilege of the experience you have just had, if you still feel like it, take your camera out and ask if they would like their photograph taken. Chances are, they will be happy to.
We could see this bend in the road from our homestay in Basar. Every morning as we had our breakfast school buses would pass by this bend. We would wonder – what would life be like if that bamboo house was our home and this was the road we took to school?
We don’t know where we would be if we grew up here. But we do know this for now – Basar is the land of the most wonderful people we have ever met. Basar is the land of warm welcomes. Land of friendships. Beauty and love.
This land ensured that the next time we visit Basar, we come home.