Every land holds a unique beauty, and journey to these distinct places certainly enlightens the inner self. Travelling boosts knowledge and gifts us some inimitable memories. My recent visit to the magical side of India, the North East, has also changed my perspective about this beautiful part of the country.
I recently travelled to Meghalaya and what I’ve realized visiting this piece of North East is that people are closely associated with nature and Mother Nature equally loves back the people. As if the Mother Nature saying “You nurture me well and I will love you back.” Living Root Bridge is one such explicit example of commendable bonding between man and nature.
Beauty is a bounty in the state of Meghalaya and this God’s gift is well taken care by the inhabitants. The words that are closely associated with Meghalaya are ‘Green’ and ‘Clean’. Dustbins made of bamboo are placed at every nook and corner. Turn to any of your side and you will find a dustbin placed for your convenience to throw the garbage. And, there’s hell lot to tell about this paradise on Earth.
It’s a little expensive to cover the tourist spots in Meghalaya because one destination is at a little distance from another. You need to travel at least 100-150 kms a day in a taxi. However, to my surprise, we got a better and cheaper way to travel most of the places in Meghalaya. Here is my day to day itinerary including mode of transportation, places covered and time taken.
Day 1: Delhi to Shillong via Guwahati
We boarded Indigo flight from Indira Gandi Airport, Delhi for Lokpriya Gopinath Airport, Guwahati. The flight 5:30 am flight was rescheduled to 05:05 am and the airlines well managed to inform all the passengers via mails, messages and calls until we didn’t confirm the receipt of the information. We reached Guwahati Airport at 7.50 am. We took a shared taxi from the airport for Police Bazar, Shillong. It costs Rs.500 per person. We also made a good friend on the way, who was sharing the taxi with us. Taking a break midway, we finally reached Shillong around 12 pm.
On reaching Shillong, we went to our pre-booked hotel – Hotel Island Park Residency. I am highly impressed with the services of the hotel as they cooperated with us in every possible manner. The services provided by the hotel are outstanding and the location is also good. It is at a walking distance from Police Bazar and Meghalaya Tourism office.
Meghalaya Government is committed in uplifting tourism in the state. Daily bus service runs from Police Bazar at a nominal price. You need to book the bus one day in advance from the Meghalaya Tourism office. They have designed different packages which cover almost all tourist destinations except double decker bridge. So, keep a day or two spare if you want to visit double decker bridge.
Day 2: Shillong to Mawlynong Village
The first day, we booked the bus for Mawlynong. It costs Rs.350 per person. The bus departs at 8 am and returns around 8 pm. This was my best day in Meghalaya. Firstly, we visited Dawki Umngot River and we were given 45 minutes to enjoy boating and the beauty of the river. Dawki is the name of the village and Unmgot is the river. Earlier, we thought that there are two different rivers, Dawki and Umngot but there is actually one.
Umngot river is special because of its crystal clear water and also because it shares border with Bangladesh. And, the exciting part is that there is no fencing. People from Bangladesh sell berry pickle and chaat on the Dawki border. Bangladeshi photographers will click your beautiful picture while you are boating and sell a printout of the same for Rs.50 to Rs.200. We actually fell short of time at Unmgot River and wanted to be there for some more time.
The only problem of travelling by bus is that you are bound to be back on time. There is a strict schedule to cover the destinations. If you are late, you will have to skip the other tourist spots. But considering the amount of money & time you are saving, this is the cheap and best mode of travelling.
Moving ahead, we visited Riwai Living Root Bridge, which is also known as ‘Single Root Bridge’. Located in Riwai village in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, the bridge is made from the roots of the Ficus elastica tree. There is an easy & short trek of 10 minutes to reach to the living root bridge, where you will be crossing many small shops on the way – selling fruits, snacks and products made from bamboo.
Living Root Bridges are nature’s pure blessing to man and all the nature lovers surely going to embrace the beauty of this place. There is a double decker root bridge too, which was not included in the package.
We visited the awe-inspiring Mawlynong village after Riwai Root Bridge. It is actually God’s own garden, surrounded by lush greenery. The flora and fauna of the place took my heart away within seconds and I still regret not spending a night in the village.
I could see the villagers welcoming tourists, selling them goods and serving them food. It appeared that the major portion of revenue is generated from tourism. The village is quite similar to the ones we see in the fantasy movies. It’s beautiful & magical.
After the whimsical tour, we returned Police Bazar, Shillong around 8 pm. The MTDC office was open and we booked bus for the next day for Shillong tour. After having dal tadka and mix veg with rice for dinner in the hotel, we slept on time to wake up early the next morning.
Day 3: Shillong City Tour
The bus was scheduled to leave at 8.30 am and we reached the boarding point on time. Our first destination of the day was Ward’s Lake which is a beautiful lake surrounded by garden.
Next on the list was Lady Hydary Park which is a Japanese style garden having a mini zoo comprising Himalayan black bear, deers, kite, Porcupines, mynahs and many others. I don’t support caging animals. The Himalayan bear in cage looked completely frustrated.
Other places of visit are Cathedral church, state museum, golf course, Elephant Falls, Shillong peak View Point and Umiam lake. Shillong peak view point offers a grand panoramic view of Shillong city and a telescope is also placed to give you a bird’s eye view.
Plan in advance to enjoy the view of the serene Umiam Lake from a beautiful boat house. Yes, there is a boat house at Umiam Lake which can be booked online through airbnb. We didn’t get the pleasure to have a night stay in the boat house as it was not available for our dates, but if you plan prior, you can grab the opportunity.
Shillong city tour ended around 3 pm. On returning, we had lunch in Madras café, police bazaar. We treated our taste buds with dosa & filter coffee, which was good enough to refresh us. In the evening, we toured the local market in Police Bazaar which was flooded with clothes, accessories, bamboo products, oranges etc. Bamboo products attracted me the most, especially the bamboo cups & mugs, which I also bought for my friends.
For non-vegetarians, Shillong may be a paradise to please their appetite but vegetarians find it really difficult to search for a pure vegetarian restaurant. Not just the restaurants, but the market is also crowded with food vans and local vendors serving non-vegetarian snacks.
Before returning the hotel, we booked bus for Cherrapunjee for the next day from the MTDC office.
It became a routine to wake up early morning and getting ready to board the bus. We started enjoying it. We had a lot of expectations from the Cherrapunjee tour as we were going to witness some exotic waterfalls.
Day 4: Shillong to Cherrapunjee
The tour started with Mawkdok Valley viewpoint, which can be called as a ‘Green Paradise’. The valley view was pleasing to the eyes and soothing for the mind.
The second destination of the day was Nohkalikai waterfalls. It falls freely from a height of 1115 feet to a rocky base and makes an astounding blue pool. One needs to trek down to reach to the bottom of the falls to take a dip in the fresh water. Nohkalikai is the best waterfall in Cherrapunjee having good amount of flowing water even in non-monsoon seasons.
Next, we went to the Mawsmai cave after standing in ticket queue for 10 mins. The cave was jam-packed with school kids and they were rushing here and there, making it difficult to walk the trail. The cave is long and dark with tricky ups and downs. Claustrophobic may avoid this place if it’s overcrowded.
Ramakrishnan Mission Ashram was next on the list which is known for its beautiful crafts and antiques. The ashram has school, museum, temple, library and much more. You can even shop from the showroom in the ashram. The place has overall a nice aura.
The most awaited part of the trip for me, apart from Dawki River & Living Root Bridge, was Seven Sisters Falls, also known as Nohsngithiang. Once a beautiful waterfall is mere a disappointed now. We did not see even a single drop of water falling from the height. Locals told that it remains dry throughout the year, except for the monsoon. But it was still a pleasure to visit this place after seeing the pictures of the waterfall on the internet.
The last spot for the day was Eco Park, located near the Seven Sisters Falls, on the edge of a cliff. It gives a beautiful view of the Bangladesh plains.
Visiting all the beautiful spots and a few more, we came back to our hotel in the night and packed our bags for Guwahati.
Day 5: Shillong to Guwahati
We took a taxi around 11 am from Police Bazaar and reached Guwahati at 2 pm. We booked a hotel in advance as we had a plan to stay a night at Hotel Prag Continental in Pan Bazaar Guwahati. After settling down in the hotel, we hired a cab for the very famous Kamakhya Temple. We did darshan from outside and spent a fairly good amount of time in the temple and the vicinity. We had yummy kachories and tea outside the temple. The Kamakhya temple timings are: 08:00 am to 01:00 pm and then 02:30 pm to 5.30 pm.
While coming to the hotel, we shopped for Assam tea. It is available in different flavours and for different rates. We bought tea for our family as well. Being a tea lover, I loved the shop and the variety available.
Back to the hotel, it was the last night of our trip and in a way, the most special night, for which we actually planned this whole trip. It was our 3rd anniversary. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary in river cruise at Brahmaputra River but as we got late, the last cruise already left at 7 pm.
Nevertheless, our whole trip was a celebration in itself, so there was no regret. We planned a nice dinner at the hotel where we were staying. Staff cooperated really well in making the celebration extra special.
The next morning, we took a walk near the Brahmaputra river and left for Delhi.
To sum up my experience, I would say it was a wonderful journey to this majestic land. And, I hope to come back soon for a laid back trip, spending more days in Mawlynong village and exploring more land in Cherrapunjee, camping near Dawki, trekking down to the double decker living root bridge and staying a night in the boat house. I will plan for a more adventurous long trip next time and fulfill all my wishes. I have noted down everything in the ‘To Do’ list of my memory.
Day 6: Guwahati to Delhi
Bidding goodbye to Guwahati, we boarded flight at 1.30 pm from Lokpriya Gopinath Airport and reached Delhi around 4 pm.
All in all, I loved the place and the people! Before going there, I had some doubts in mind but Meghalaya is certainly a heaven on Earth and the people are very genuine and nice. One must visit all these places for an enchanting experience.
Do drop a comment if you have any query about the place.