Back from Meghalaya — A Photo-story with more photo, less story

We had 1.5 days in hand. We were at Guwahati attending a wedding reception and got 1.5 days in between the marriage and the reception to go around. So we decided to head towards Shillong on 22nd Jan. The temperature was moving between max 12 deg C to min 4 deg C, which is quite cold for a bong.

So we — me, my wife, my 4.5 year old daughter and my Mom, decided to pack the bag with extra woollens and take a cab at morning 8AM from Guwahati Paltan Bazar towards Shillong. We didn’t have a plan (or hotel booking) in place till that time — this is clearly becoming the norm in most of our travels.

On the way (22nd Jan, 101 km, 2 hours)

Guwahati to Shillong is now connected via a 4 lane highway (courtsey NHAI), and boy, what a road it is. The car (Swift Dezire, booked at 1200/-) was flying at 80–100 kmph for most part of the road.

We decided to take a pit-stop just ahead of Nongpoh. This place used to play an important role when Guwahati & Shillong were connected via one-lane road. But that’s a story of past. And let bygones be bygones.

You would get to see many fancy bikes here on the hills

You are surely not going to miss Bara-pani (Umiam Lake) on the way to Shillong. This is a huge reservoir. If you have time, you can go for boating on this lake.

Umiam Lake / Bara pani
The pine

At Shillong

As we didn’t book any hotel in advance, we thought of starting our search with Pinewood, one of the century old heritage hotels. And voila, we got an acco there. Practically January is not a tourist season in Shillong, which helped us in many ways later as well. Its few minutes away from the crowded Police bazar, where most of the hotels are present.

The old-world style and pace of this 118 year old hotel may charm you in one way or the other.
Our cottage
Birds in the morning
Watchman’s room
Cottages
Clear sky of the winter
Colors around Pinewood
Greens around
And the portico

In and around Shillong

By the time we could get into the hotel and had our lunch (at Hong-Kong, in Police Bazar, highly recommended if you are searching for good Chinese food), it was already 2PM. Evening comes early in the hills, and we were getting restless not to waste the day.

Police bazar taxi stand

We got hold of a yellow cab (they are in abundance in Police Bazar area, which is the main crossing), who after a bit of bargaining agreed to take us through some of the places around Shillong at 500/-. That was quite a deal, a benefit of coming in the winter which is not a typical “season” for tourists.

Roads leading to Upper Shillong

We started our “sight-seeing” with Elephant Falls. You can go down to the bed of the falls — the steps are quite wide. We decided to stop at the 2nd falls. Apart from the beautiful fall, tourists can also try out the tribal clothes and pose for the photographers near the entry gate. We gave it a miss this time.

It was quite chilly out there, possibly due to the additional height, the slowly diminishing daylight and the water falls.

Most of the yellow-black taxis are Mauti 800 and Alto — through rear view mirror

Our next destination was Shillong Catholic Cathedral, one of the largest churches. If you want to know more, check Wiki. Though I am a non-believer, I somehow like holy places, as they are generally placed in the best location of any town with a grand view. This church is not an exception either. From here, you can get an wonderful view of the hills around Shillong.

Catholic Cathedral facade
Glasses
Inside the church, youngsters praying to their God

We couldn’t visit Shillong Peak as it was closed due to security reasons since the Pathankot attack.

A busy crossing in Shillong

We headed for the Polo ground. The vast greenery is simply overwhelming. A bunch of boys were playing cricket, and we got engrossed in their game, before realizing that we needed to move.

Greens of Polo ground

It was getting dark. So we headed towards Ward’s lake. We thought of closing our day trip at the lake as it was adjacent to our hotel — we could walk into the hotel from there.

Boating at Ward’s lake is quite popular — the local students were also pedalling along with the tourists
Beautiful landscaped Ward’s lake
You can spend hours at Ward’s lake
Boating corner
Grand piano at Pinewood lobby

It was time to come back to the hotel. During the 3 hour travel in and around Shillong, the cabbie (Sonu) had convinced us to go for Mawlynnong next morning.

Till afternoon, we had no plans about this. But after getting some feedback from couple of blogs and friends on the move and thanks to Sonu’s persuation, we were convinced that we were going there next morning. The other options were 1) spend the day around Shillong — ruled out, as we already had a spin, 2) Cherrapunji — ruled out as we had visited the place 7 years back. Moreover winter is not the right time to go there as the falls would be without water, 3) Dawki — this was close, but we decided to give it a miss as we were short on time. Dawki would have required the full day to do the boating at Dawki river and roaming around the place [plan for next trip for sure].

The Journey (23rd Jan, 92 kms x 2)

We had planned to start by 730AM. We got a bit delayed with the breakfast. We checked-out from the hotel and started the journey at 8AM.

Mawlynnong is a village of Meghalaya very close to Bangladesh border. It was awarded the Cleanest village of Asia by UNESCO few year back. It has around 500 residents. Its quite an epic village with traditional Matrilineal Khasis keeping it clean all the time. But the bigger attraction was the Living Root Bridge, 2 kms away from the village. Later we realized that visiting Mawlynnong has been one of the wisest decisions we have taken in 2016 so far. What a place it is.

Leaving Shillong in the early morning

On our way out of Shillong, we were greeted by a procession of young and not-so-young men, celebrating Netaji Jayanti. It was 23rd January of 2016, a year when apportioning Netaji became a hot topic in Indian politics. In that chilly winter morning, there were these half pant-clad men, marching ahead commemorating Subhash Chandra Bose’s birthday.

RSS procession on Netaji Jayanti at Shillong

Journey: If you are still not convinced about the cliched comment that Journey is more important than the destination, visit Meghalaya. The roads taking you to Cherrapunji, Mawlynnong, Dawki would just take your breath out. I started taking snaps but after a while, I stopped clicking — there is no point in trying to capture the beauty in camera or mobile. It needs to be experienced.

Way to Mawlynnong
One of the many small villages on the way
One of the many turns that take you to the destination
And you suddenly see a range of mountains ahead of the curve
The valley, the mountains, the clouds and the light & shade — get immersed in the beauty

We reached the village by 10-ish and started our mini-trek towards the Living Root bridge. Its around 300 steps through the jungle. The rocky steps are tricky at some places, but they are walkable without much support. This is a matrilineal society — on the way-side, you would find women managing shops with local produce.

Pepper, Chilly and other produce along with Potato chips imported from Bangladesh
Decorative items
Eggs made out of wood
My mom balancing her way to the bridge
The Bridge

The water was crystal clear — you can see the bottom of the stream bed clearly. During monsoon, the locals go for fishing in this stream.

Water stream under the bridge
Locals using the clean water — check the bed of the stream
Riwai View point

After our way up from the bridge, we located one viewing point. This is a bamboo made structure, giving you an experience of as good as a skywalk in the forests. From the top, you can have a view of the Bangladesh Silhet district — but it was cloudy on the day, and was not visible.

Balancing rock near the village — marvel at the balancing act

We were hungry by now. And we had many options at Mawlynnong village. Sonu took us to one of the homes for a quick lunch. While roaming around, found that the village also offers homestay. Someday in future, we may plan to spend more time here in one of the homestays.

The village residents maintain beautiful gardens in their premises

The village is having solar powered lamps around every corner.

She guided us around the village — conversing in fluent english

Local kids playing around the village.

It was 1PM by now. We were getting late as we had planned to reach Guwahati by now. We were late atleast by 2 hours. So we quickly started our journey back to Shillong.

Road to Shillong
Curves

As the day progressed, fog started engulfing the hills. The true nature of Meghalaya — the adobe of clouds, was manifesting infront of us.

Foggy road on the way back to Shillong

By the time we reached Shillong, it was 3PM. The clouds were coming down the valley. Another day was coming to a closure in the hills and clouds of Meghalaya.

Khublei!