Tawang, tucked away in the Western end of Arunachal Pradesh and close to the Chinese border of Tibet offers a special shopping experience in North East India. It’s Buddhist culture, Monpa tribes, proximity to Tibet (China) and its extremely cold weather play a key role in the products that get sold in the markets here.
The wool weaving industry is perhaps its main industry. Shawls, carpets, chadars (wrap skirts worn by Monpa women), handcrafted bags, local tribal dresses are some of the more popular items to shop here. The best place to buy these items would be the Handicraft Emporium run by the Arunachal Pradesh government. This place open from 9 AM through 4 PM and situated close to the District Commissioner’s office offers authentic goods, but offers zero scope for bargains. The carpets here come in various sizes, shapes and designs. Personally, I bought 5 of them in various sizes in spite of them overloading my baggage weight limit. Such was my fascination for them.
Then come the religious Buddhist goods – prayer wheels, flags, Buddha statues, wall hangings, good luck charms and other gift items that are available in wood, brassware and in some cases fishbone.
Delicate chinese crockery is another item that can be seen in nearly all the shops. This crockery is made from porcelain (chini mitti) and comes in various shapes and sizes to cater to various dining table needs. The gift sets, mugs, tea pots and tea sets all designed in traditional Buddhist style make for a great buy.
One can also see wood items carved by the local people – special bowls, spoons, masks (used in religious dances), utensils used for cooking, etc.
In terms of dress and accessories, jackets, sweaters, shoes, hand bags and traditional jewellery are the most sought for here. Most of the products sold here are top quality, but if you are looking at branded goods at low cost, then this is the place for you. Authentic trekking and adventure gear are also sold here for low prices. Most of these goods find their way here through Nepal, neighbouring China and/or from Dimapur in Nagaland, which is the port of entry for stolen goods from Burma.
The best places to shop for in Tawang would be the Old market, the Tibetan settlement areas and the government handicraft Emporium. If you are looking to buy Churpi (Yak cheese), then the neighbouring villages are your best bet.