4/29/2009 to 5/3/2009 | Arunachal Pradesh , India

Along and the Adi: Rice beer never tasted so good

Daporijo was not either of our favorite places in Arunachal, even less so for May, who the moment we stepped off the jeep into the dusty market town was looking for a way to get out. I thought it had some possibilities in a kind of “wild east” type of way, but the lackluster choices for accommodation didn’t add to the appeal. Sleeping options ranged from overpriced and bad to a tolerably priced flea pit. We choose the flea pit, and were on the bus the next day to Along.

The primary attraction of Along is to visit the surrounding Adi villages. The Adi are renowned for two things there beautifully crafted stilted wooden thatch roofed houses and their incredible skill at brewing rice beer. There exploits concerning the latter had first been praised by our Naga friend Phejin, no stranger to rice beer herself, and then again by a Russian man in Tawang the only other individual foreign traveler we met in Arunachal.

The first day in Along we set out to explore the town, I wondered into a shanty village along the river at the edge of town. Essentially a small scale slum, inhabited by a mix of various tribes and outsiders from the plains of India, all of whom were bonded by their common plight of either being abandon by or abandoning there traditional homes and villages. Some because they had chosen to marry someone not approved by their family, others who left there homes in search of economic opportunities. They were a very hospitable bunch and I was the entertainment of the month. The children stared at this strange long haired bearded man with amusement, who they decided looked like “Jesus.” A likeness I had been repeatedly compared to while in Arunachal. I was invited into a number of their humble homes for tea or rice beer (though not the Adi rice beer that experience would come later). One elderly man in particular spoke quite a bit of English and was anxious to show it off. He danced though the street to the amusement of all showing me to his one room home.

The following day we ventured out into the countryside and the surrounding Adi villages. It was on this excursion that we were invited to try the fabled Adi rice beer, unlike the standard rice beers which are milky white, this was amber colored stained by the burnt husks added to the fermenting process which gave the beverage a hint smokiness. The smokiness layered on to top of the smooth creamy texture and just enough sweetness to make the drink palatable with out making it obnoxious. During my travels, I’ve had numerous home brewed alcohols throughout Asia, in general, most are palatable at best, but the Adi rice beer was by far the most superior home-brewed beverage I have had.

A couple more days of exploring the beautiful countryside and picturesque Adi villages and we decided to head further up the valley towards the high mountains and the little visited Tibetan area of Mechuka.

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