Trip to the Abode of Clouds: Meghalaya
In this exciting trip post to one of the most beautiful state from the 7 sisters of the North-East, Meghalaya, we bring you day by day of how the trip went and how the weather affects your itinerary on a daily basis:
We boarded our flight from Hyderabad to this magical land. Our flight was destined to Guwahati and we landed at 12:30pm after a 2.5 hour flight. From Guwahati we were picked up by our driver whom we had booked through Shillong Tours & Travels. It took us around 3 hours to reach Shillong including our pit-stop for lunch. We were duly welcomed by our hotel, Kaizun Bed & Breakfast. This hotel was our base for the next 8 days. After freshening up and a hot cup of tea, we headed to the well known market in Shillong called the Police Bazaar where we spent some quality time and had our dinner there. We decided to walk down to this place as we really wanted to get a feel of the air there. One word of caution is that Police Bazaar did not seem safe, especially post 8PM for women. We found people drinking in the open and loitering around. Soon after reaching back to our hotel, we called it a day. Our driver and owner of Shillong Tours & Travels told us that depending on the weather the next day, we will be confirmed for our itinerary for the day.
D AY 2
Day 2 started with a yummy breakfast of Aloo Paranthas and piping hot tea. We proceeded to Cherrapunji and our first halt was at Elephant Falls, Shillong, which is a beauty to behold as the falls is divided to 3 stages and at the bottom it forms a pool where tourists enjoy themselves. However it is not advisable for tourists to swim in the water pool. Our next halt was at Arwah caves which date to prehistoric times and are home to fossils of gastropods, naturally formed stalagmites. It takes around 1.5 hours to complete the visit to these caves. The misty way to the caves is extremely scenic with a gorge below but the pathway is secured throughout. We then took a break for lunch to satisfy our rumbling stomach at the famous Orange Roots restaurant wherein they served wholesome vegetarian meals. Post our lunch break, came the turn to visit Mawsmai caves. Another classic example of natural beauty with narrow pathways, naturally formed stalagmites and almost knee deep water inside. The experience inside the caves is almost surreal and this place is not to be missed ever. We then proceeded to Thankarang Park which gives a splendid view of 3-tiered Kynrem Falls (being the 7th highest fall in India) from a little far away to the right and to left is Bangladesh (Sylhet landscape). The park is beautifully landscaped and the most notable sight is the insectivorous pitcher plant which also has medicinal properties and is used by the Garo & Khasi tribes to cure stomach ache, night blindness and gynaecological problems.
This was a day when whether played games with us and a major landslide got our programme to Krangsuri and other nearby areas cancelled. We had a breakfast of Chowmein and Pancakes post which we proceeded with Krangsuri chalked out as our day itinerary. We covered Tyrchi Falls on our way which has about 500 steps to get down from where you can get a good splash from the gushing waters and get yourself totally wet. Thus it is recommended to take an extra set of clothes when visiting this falls. Post this we encountered a serpentine queue of vehicles. On enquiring, we figured out about the landslide and an entire mountain section had come crashing to the ground, thus putting an end to our day itinerary. We drove down to Laitlum Canyons, a picturesque vantage point from where you can spend some good time with your family. But here too, the weather was misty and hampered our programme. Nevertheless, as part of lunch, we enjoyed a hot bowl of Maggi noodles, veg. momos and tea from a local shack as there are no proper restaurants here. We returned to Shillong hoping to spend some time at Ward's Lake and Lady Hydari Park , but due to Sunday rush, this too got cancelled. We ended up spending time in our hotel, had refreshing cups of tea and headed out to Police Bazaar. Post hunting for some souvenirs we went for our dinner at The City Hut Family Dhaba, one of the recommended restaurant in this area.
Post our breakfast of Poori and Chana, we headed straight to Mawphlang Sacred Forest where we were told about the Khasi kingdom rituals by the local guides and the way the forest is preserved and is considered sacred. A lot of trees and plants were seen which hiterto had not been seen by us. We were told that there are about 52 village kingdoms in the Khasi hills which have their own cheiftains and their own sacred forests. There are female and male monoliths, each representing the customs and reminding us of the matriarchal system that is followed in these hills. Post a hot cup of tea here we left the place to see Mawjymbuin Cave which is the home a naturally formed Shivalinga and water trickling down over this linga from a tipped conical rock just above it. Irrespective of the season, the water keeps coming. Next in the agenda was to see the Mawphlang Lake where due to ongoing rain, the fall brought along mud and slush along with making the water appear muddy, thus adding to a bit of disappointment of not seeing clear water gushing down. One word of caution is to check the travel advisory for Meghalaya before traveling here as the rainy season can easily spoil your well chalked out itinerary easily.
This was the day dediated to local Shillong sight seeing. So off we went post our breakfast at around 8:30 am. First place which we visited was the Lady Hydari Park located pretty near to the place where we stayed. It gets its name from the first lady of the State of Assam, wife of the Governer, Lady Hydari. It is a mini-zoo with a well maintained flower garden and a lovely play area for the small kids. Post this, we headed off to upper Shillong, to a place called Sweet Falls, situated in Happy Valley (a cantonment area) which is sort of a vantage point to watch the falls. Here too the water was muddy due to heavy rain. Due to heavy rain, there were diversions and traffic jams almost everywhere. We then came to see the Golf Course which is a well maintained 18 holes (first in Asia) Golf Course built in the year 1889 at an altitude of 4,350 ft. A nearby restaurant called the 'Soul Kitchen' located just a kilometre away provided just the perfect ambience to fill our bellies with a good north Indian vegetarian fare. Post our lunch, the next destination was the Don Bosco Museum which is definitely recommended if you are on a Shillong sight seeing trip. Do not miss this one! It provides a glimpse into rich & multi-cultural lifestyle of the indigenous people of the North Eastern states. This museum is a 7 storied building with 17 well laid out galleries of diverse interest. To the top, there is a skywalk with signboards pointing out to important places in Shillong. After spending close to around 2 hours here, we headed out to see Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, situated in Laitumkhrah area. It was opened to the devotees in the year 1936 and showcases one of the finest Christian architectures with raised towers and stained glasses brought from France. The prayer area is also serene and provides much needed succour to the soul.
This was the day when we headed out to Sohra (Cherrapunji) area again to catch up on the places we missed on our earlier trip. Weather was on our side this time thankfully and we were successful in seeing many a places. First on the list was Garden of Caves, situated in the Laitmawsiang area. It is also called as 'Bri Ki Synrang' by the locals. It is a natural habitat formed of small caves, narrow streams and greenery all around. Spread in an area of 2.5 hectares & comprises 7 major places of interest. During the British rule, the Khasi warriors used to hide in here and engage in a ambush warfare. Next on the list was Wakhaba Falls. This beautiful waterfall comes down from a height of around 200m and falls into a gorge. Legend says that 2 fairies live there. Then came the turn of Seven Sisters Falls or the Nohsngithiang Falls. Here, the water comes down from a height of over 300m & falls from top of limestone cliff. During the rainy season, in full spate, the falls cover the entire stretch of the cliff. We then proceeded to the Dainthlen Falls. This is where you can catch the action as you can be at the point from where the falls start and pours down to lush green forest cover. During the rain, the approach becomes wet and slippery. It is better to park your vehicle at a distance and then slowly walk to the approach. We actually saw couple of bikers slipping down here and hurting themselves. Next on the list was the Wei Sawdong Falls, the 3 level falls which is our pick with the most adventurous trek to the bottom of the falls. Halfway through there is a viewpoint from where one can get a gorgeous view of the falls amidst lush green cover & then trek down a bamboo ladder route to get to the bottom which surely gives one a thrill. Make sure your footwear has a good grip as it gets slippery getting down the bamboo trail. This is a place not to ignore when in Cherrapunjee. Then came the turn of the Mausawa Falls which is a little isolated and not visited by many. Situated amidst thick green cover, at the bottom of the falls, there is a sediment of sand which gives one a feeling of being at a beach. We had 2 lovely local dogs to guide us and show us the way to through the vegetation who in the end got a good treat of Parle-G biscuits that we'd bought. Our last agenda for the day was to visit the Lyngksiar Falls. This too, is not a much explored place but is beautiful and worth a see! It has derived its name from a rare orchid called Tiew Lyngksiar. Kids could enjoy the pool formed at the bottom of the falls and enjoy to the fullest! This waterfalls used to be a community gathering place for fishing. A day well spent- content and happy !
This was the day when we planned an outing to Dawki, a place just touching the Bangladesh border. During the monsoon, now this place becomes a little dicey in the itinerary as every other day, there are landslides along the route. We crossed the BSF outpost and almost reached the point, but due to a landslide, we had to return a bit disappointed. But before that, we visited a few interesting places. First to be seen was Mawjngih Lapynshongdor view point. Luckily, it was not foggy and we were able to get some good panoramic views from this point. This place has a good small restaurant called Four Plus Two Dhaba which serves vegetarian food as well. We turned our direction to see the Living Root Bridge at Riwai, which is a 300 year old hand woven bridge from the roots of a single fig tree which are still alive. The path to this bridge is again well paved and can be easily reached. However, during the monsoon season, the flow of the fall was in good force. Hence, we were not allowed to go beyond a certain point. Post this, we proceeded to Mawlynnong Village which is Asia's cleanest village & genuinely was a sight to behold. The village roads, surroundings etc. are kept neat and clean by the villagers and dustbins are placed at every nook & corner. We had our lunch at this village, a simple vegetarian thali comprising of rice, yellow daal, potato curry and okra fry. Then it was the turn to proceed to the famous Dawki river, but as said earlier, this time too, landslide played its trick with us, which we were warned about earlier. But then, we had the chance to see the Indo-Bangladesh border upclose. We then decided to come down to Shillong, our base camp and call it a day, but not before visiting Police Bazaar and dining out at Lamee's for a North Indian fare.