Tabo is the next pretty town on your way after Nako. Very few people take a diversion to Geu , where a 15th century mummy was found by ITBP soldiers and has become the pride of the locals now. They also claim that the hair and nails of the mummy are growing even today. We missed Geu due to unforeseen circumstances. But we did not miss Tabo and it is a place you shouldn’t miss either. Most people coming here spend one night where they hurry up to see the monastery and head off to Kaza. If not two nights then at least spend proper 24hrs in this gem of a town, you can tick the following things off your list while you are there.
#Things to do
1. Tabo Monastery : Undoubtedly the most famous and most beautiful monastery in the entire region, the old buildings were made of mud in 995AD and are still standing strong. In the inner walls you have numerous paintings which have gained Tabo the name ‘ Ajanta of the Himalayas’.
2. Caves : The real Ajanta caves have a date when they were carved into stone, the caves in Tabo have been there since time immemorial. It is the said owing to these natural caves people first settled in this town.
3. Tashi Delek / Hike to Lama’s abode: A 87 year old Tibetan Lama lives in solitude for the last 20yrs 3-4 kms away from the villages, he has stayed in other monasteries in India before moving here about 1990. His daily necessities are taken care by the villagers. There is a bridge between Tabo and the previous village ‘Lari’. Just get off the bus at ‘Lari’ and anyone around, they will guide you. If they cannot understand Lama/ Hermit, simply ask for ‘Tashi Delek’. From the bridge it will take you about 1hr to get to his abode, but meeting him is only by chance. We waited outside for 20mins and he spotted us, called us in, offered tea and biscuits. There is a small temple inside his house which people visit. We left the place feeling very calm and peaceful and kept debating if he was enlightened.
4. Walk by the helipad : This town becomes even more charming once the moon is out, and you must definitely walk for at least an hour, just walk hand in hand in any direction and you will see the stars and the mountains and the moonlight all teaming up to present a magical show for you. Walk up to the Helipad and you will feel nature is doing a magical show for you.
5. Staying inside a monastery : It sounds fancier, is a unique experience but you stay in the monastery premises, not inside the temple. This is something we found very interesting across lots of Buddhist Monasteries that the Lamas / Monks who want to lead a solitary life and participate in the daily prayers also work alongside to raise money. It works best for them as the guest house is right next to the temple. Rooms start at 200 for a shared bathroom, when we inquired everything was full, so we stayed elsewhere.
#What should you eat? Almost every guest house in Tabo has an attached restaurant so you have too many options and if you are around only for a day, you are likely to eat one of the meals at the place where you are staying. Tabo is very small so even if you are very tired, do go out and try the options we are suggesting.
1. Tiger Den Restaurant : Their food was great quality, quantity and taste. Place has a chilled out vibe and their Israeli food is the best we had in the area. Do try their Shakshuka and Lafa.
2. Amit Dhaba : If you are looking for CHEAP and BEST, then this is the place for you. The food was really good, prices were the cheapest not just in Tabo but the entire Spiti valley. It is run by a Nepali couple, they work very hard and all the food is freshly cooked.
3. Monastery Restaurant : One of the most expensive restaurants in Tabo, but still worth a visit. Do have the Tibetan butter Tea, which is more like soup but very delicious. And try something with honey in it, we had a Chapatti roll with honey inside. The honey in Tabo is locally made and is one of the best in India. If you are lucky, you may be able to buy it from the beekeepers around Tabo and Lari. They source their honey from the local bee keepers between Tabo and Lari.
4. Local Spiti Food : Lots of potato dishes mixed with homemade pasta, steamed Tibetan bread and definitely worth a try. We won’t tell you the restaurant name but give you the directions so that you find it for yourself. There is a lane where the Monastery Restaurant is to your left and Amit Dhaba to your right, go past both of them and turn right. The road also turns right, walk for about 10 metres and the restaurant will be infront of you. The owner is a very learned man and can tell you lots about Spiti and its culture, his family are one of the first inhabitants of Tabo. Try the Spiti Thali if you are hungry enough, or mix and match lots of dishes but only eat local spiti food,their is the best in the area.
#Where should you stay? We checked out a few places after taking a room, because we always like to know if we have the best deal or not and we did this time. We found the cleanest room in Tabo at 500/-, slightly expensive though for Tabo standards and would recommend the same for staying. Its called Dekit Norphel – the guest is above Tiger Den Restaurant. Rooms for 200 – 300 can be easily found.
#How to get here? If you are not travelling by your motorbike or Car or Taxi, take the bus from Nako, it is the same bus which leaves RekongPeo at 7am and you can board the same from Nako at about 11:30 – 12. The journey time from Nako is about 2.5hrs, fare is 100/-. There are shared taxis running on the same route, you could find one if you are lucky, they will charge you a little more. The bus can get really crowded so if you have the option of the taxi, do take it. Or you could HITCHHIKE, this part of India is fairly safe for hitchhiking, and we tried it couple of times, people are happy to offer you a list. Use your own judgment and be wise. All information about buses to RekongPeo can be found here.