Arunachal Pradesh is India’s Wild Wild East. The people are ethnically more like Burmese hill tribes, but their rugged isolation has led to unique language and culture. They’re understandably somewhat suspicious of visitors and it’s one of the most challenging places I’ve traveled.
The valleys of Kullu, Kinnaur and Spiti all lie in the Indian state of Himchal Pradesh, but they’re worlds apart. The faces, the voices and the temples each tell an unique ethnic history, and they’ve responded to development each in their own way.
After all my wanderings in the Himalaya I wonder if I’ve seen the ‘guidebook’ India yet. Part of me is afraid of what I’ll find, yet I quickly realise why the well-known tourist destinations became so iconic. And in these places I’m able to communicate much more openly with Indians of my own age, who have diverse hopes for their country.
The Kingdom of Bhutan was closed to the rest of the world until the 1960s, but has been very clever about making the best of developing influences since then. Proud, lively costumes and traditions give the place incredible colour, and the tortuous mountain roads are still hard work. But there’s a weird Disneyland feeling about being having to be escorted every step of the way, and shown only the prettiest sites.