PC: Koshy Koshy
Have you ever thought to yourself that while your city is still deep asleep, enveloped within the darkness of the night, some other corner of the country is already breathing in the crisp air of a sunny morning? Might sound unfamiliar, but this is one phenomenon that almost every country on the globe stands witness to daily.
So, which place in India is first touched by the elegant, orangey red rays of the rising sun? Our quest to find the answer to this question led us to the montane, remote lands of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal-also famously known as the land of the rising sun-didn't appeal to us. But we were out on a pursuit to locate the geographically easternmost corner of India.
Hence, as we delved deeper into our exploration, we stumbled upon the isolated village of Dong-a tiny hamlet, located at an elevation of 1,240 metres and sandwiched neatly in between China and Myanmar.
To The Lands Of Everything Easternmost
Given the remoteness of the place, reaching Dong or its adjacent areas can be an arduous task. The nearest town is that of Tezu-the headquarters of Lohit district. From Tezu to Walong, it's a ten-hour ride in a shared Sumo through some pretty bad roads.
On top, there are barely any hotels beyond Walong; the government-run Inspection Bungalow (IB), the only place that offers accommodation to tourists. You're also least likely to get any shared jeeps from Walong, so what you need to do is personally hire a Sumo for INR 2000 to cover the day-trip to Kibithu.
Kibithu boasts of the end-point of the easternmost road in India. On your way, you'll come across a signboard that proclaims Dichu as the easternmost motorable road in India, but it no longer stands true since the suspension bridge to Dichu has been destroyed a few years ago.
That's why the easternmost motorable road in India presently ends at a military barrack in Kibithu. All this being said, the road to Kibithu is highly prone to landslides and in such times it's only accessible twice a week. So you need to plan your trips accordingly as monsoon is probably the worst time to visit Walong and beyond.
From Walong, after a 20-minute drive, the trek to Dong begins. The trek is quite steep and takes about one and a half hours from where your car is going to drop you. Dong is very strategically located at the confluence of the rivers Lohit, an unrecognised tributary of the Brahmaputra, and Sati.
Despite this, you'll be shocked to know that the village that used to exist at Dong has been abandoned primarily due to the scarcity of water. Today, what stands still are the terraced fields of Dong village that have become overgrown with shrubs. But from the top, you can overlook Burma and China across a beautiful, panoramic view of the rivers and meadows underneath.
In Dong, the sun, on an average, rises at 5.50 am and sets at 4.30 pm during the winter season, which is almost an hour prior to other places in the country. To catch the first rays of the sun, you can either start in the wee hours of the morning, i.e., 3 am or, alternatively, you can camp at the plateau overnight and wait for the sunrise.
It's highly recommended to take a guide along or get in touch with a local, without which it might get impossible to find your way to Dong plateau.
Places To See Around Dong
Namti Plains War Memorial
In October 1962, when the Chinese planned an invasion into northeastern India-a region called the Tiger's mouth-they exposed an unprepared state of the Indian military. In spite of that, the Indian soldiers from the Sikh, Kumaoni, Gorkha and Dogra regiments fought shoulder-to-shoulder against insurmountable odds for 22 days. These incidents of tragic bloodshed occurred on and around the Namti hills, which till date holds a special place in the Indian history.
Walong War Memorial
The Walong War Memorial was erected in memory of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives on a noble mission to save their motherland from foreign invasion.
Pretty close to the car park from where the trek to Dong starts, the natural hot water spring of Tilam is located. The warm waters make a lovely spot to visit during winter months.
How To Reach Dong
By Air - The best way to reach Tezu is to fly to Dibrugarh (Mohanbari) and then board a cab or a bus for the onward journey.
By Train - The railway station nearest to Tezu is Tinsukia Station (about 120 km away), from where you can hire a taxi or board a bus to reach Tezu.
By Road - Tezu is well connected to all major cities of Arunachal via the NH 52. There are both government and private buses available from Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Guwahati that go up to Tezu.