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North East India has always been in my checklist but somehow everytime I ended up picking some other place instead of this part of India. I have not seen a single article where people are not praising this part for it's natural beauty. I was fascinated but not convinced. But after my this trip I have to say it's no doubt truly the Incredible part of India. The green mountains, the plunged waterfalls and the hide and seek of clouds made me awestruck.
There is no public airport in Shillong. So it has to be a road trip from Guwahati. Guwahati, being the state capital of Assam is well connected by roads, railway and plane. The best time to visit Shillong/Meghalaya is the monsoon. It will be green, clean and truly justify it's name "The Abode of Clouds".
We had 4 days in hand so we stayed 3 days in Shillong and 1 day in Guwahati. But if you are planning a monsoon trip, it would be better to stay at least a whole day in Cherrapunji and make it a 5-6 days trip.
Our next day was completely devoted to Cherrapunji. On the way to the land of rain, we covered the Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls. The peak is managed by the Indian Air force. To access to this area you have to submit your ID proof. Due to high security, taking pictures is prohibited on the way. But you would be allowed to take picture once you reach the peak. From the peak you will get a bird's eye view of the Shillong city. After spending around 1/2 hour there we left for the Elephant Falls. Originally the Khasi people named it "Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew (Three Steps Water Falls). It was later renamed by the British people as Elephant Falls because on the left side of the falls there was a rock resembling an elephant which got destroyed in a massive earthquake in the year 1897. Since we went there around April there was not much water in the falls, so people travelling before rainy season or in winter might not find this falls much impressive. But try not to skip it.
From the falls we left for Cherrapunji. It took us around 2.5 hours to reach there. On the way we experienced occasional rain which was really a great experience, truly a welcome gift from the Land of rain. The route is beautiful, full of spots which will give you picturesque view of the Khasi Hills.Our driver took us 1st to the Wah Kaba Falls. Though there was not much water in the falls, it was grand!! Standing in front of the canyon like structure gave me goosebumps. It made me feel how insignificant we are in front of the great nature!
From there we left for the Noh Ka Likai Falls. The Noh Ka Likai is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The only word that come out of my mouth after seeing this falls was WOW!!! It was one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have seen till date. The falls was named after a Khasi woman Likai who jumped off the cliff after having the flesh of her own daughter, which was served by her 2nd husband. There is a restaurant in front of the falls from where you will get the best view to capture. Apart from the spectacular view you will get one more thing here, this area is famous for cinamon. Here you will get original cinamon sticks at quite reasonable price.
From Guwahati it took us around 3 hours to reach Shillong by car. On the way we crossed the Umiam Lake. There is a view point from where you can get to see a part of the lake. This lake gets covered in the local sightseen, so it's better not to spend much time chasing for the perfect view of the lake for your lenses from that point.
In Shillong our booking was with The Heritage Club Tripura Castle. It's a beautiful, well maintained property located on a hill top. When we reached Shillong, it was drizzling. But within an hour the weather changed. After dropping our bags in the hotel we left for a local trip covering the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Golf Course, Orchid Lake Resort (Umium Lake) and Wards Lake. We were too late to cover the Laithlum Canyon. In case you can start early, like around 9 am, and the weather is good, you should be able to cover that.
When we reached the church the Sunday mass was going on. After spending a couple of minutes there we left for the Wards Lake. It's a beautiful man-made lake ideal for a dayout. There was a decent restaurant inside. From there we left for the golf course. There was nothing special about this point, so if you want you may drop this spot and include the Don Bosco Museum. From the golf ground we left for the Orchid Lake Resort (Umium Lake). It is a natural lake turned into a reservoir. We reached there before the sunset. The golden rays of the Sun spelled a magic on this lake which made it out of the world.
Our first day ended with a sumptuous dinner at our hotel. It fueled us up for the next two days journey; Dawki and Mawlynnong on day one and Cherrapunji on day two.
Things to consider while planning the trip:
1. Carry woolen clothes for Shillong and sunscreen and umbrella for Dwaki and Cherrapunji.
2. Carry enough cash as credit card might not work everytime in Shillong
3. Bargain before buying any souvenir from the local shops.
Noh Ka Likai Falls
Shillong...The Scotland of India
Unlike Shillong, Guwahati was bright sunny and hot. Since our flight was on next day, without wasting any time, after check-in we left for the local tour. We took an auto to reach the Brahmaputra river ferry ghat (boat ride point). From there we took a boat ride for the Umananda (Shiva) Temple. We availed a private boat. However, there were both public and private boat services. Depending on your budget and time you may choose your option. The Shiva temple is located in the peacock island, the smallest inhabited riverine island in the world. It was already late afternoon when we reached the temple. So after spending an hour there we returned to the bank. There was a sunset cruise organised by Alfresco Grand where you can enjoy the sunset while sailing on the Brahmaputra. The cruise was from 5:30 pm and we were already late for that. But no worries we booked the Dinner Cruise(7:30 to 9:30). The cruise was a value for money. They had great arrangements to get you the flavor of the Assamese culture. There were traditional folk dance and live music performances followed by dinner. Overall, it was a complete experience which enriched our trip. Here one thing to keep in mind, at 9:30 pm you might not get any public transport from Alfresco Ground. So it's better to pre-book your cab/auto.
Next day early morning we went to Kamakhya Temple. Guwahati trip without visiting this temple is incomplete. It is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas dedicated to Devi Kamakshya. It is also one of the prominent tantra pithas where thousands of devotees visit daily for the blessings of the mother goddess. There were options of VIP pass and free visit. We bought the VIP pass and it took us 4 hours (including 2.5 hours for buying the pass). Considering the crowed it seemed it would have taken us the whole day if we would have opted for the normal queue.
From the temple, on the way back to the hotel, our driver took us to the Navagraha Temple and Tara Temple. Due to time crunch we were able to cover only this much of Guwahati. There are lot more to see here. In case you plan to stay here for 2-3 days you could cover Basistha Ashram Temple, Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary (on the way to airport), ISKCON Guwahati, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary etc and also do some shopping.
Our next destination was Ramkrishna Mission. It's more than a religious place, a place of empowerment, self development. Here the ashramites weave clothes from yarn, make handcrafted showpieces, incense etc. which gets sold by the mission for raising charity. It was only 3 pm but the sky was getting dark, so our driver insisted us to move for the next spots. Our driver then took us to the Cherrapunji Eco Park. It was good, a big property but was under-construction. So there was nothing much to see. Our next destination was the Mawsmai cave. This narrow, rugged, dimly lighted limestone cave is a true natural wonder. The cave is no doubt beautiful but it's not advisable for someone who is claustrophobic, or have knee pain because there are places inside the cave where we literally crawled and pushed ourselves to manage through the cracks. In case after going a bit you feel like returning, don't think of it. You would not be able to come out of the cave from the same route. So it's advisable that you It was tough but worth an experience.
The famous Seven Sister Falls (Nohsngithiang Falls) was a few minuets away from the cave. The area was yet to welcome the monsoons, so the falls were mostly dry. But still it was not difficult to imagine the magnificent view of gushing water of the falls during the monsoons. To me Meghalaya was not less than a fairy land where everything turns green, clouds hover around the hills and magnificent water falls add beauty to this sculpted landscapes during the monsoon. With this our Shillong chapter ended. Next day morning we headed towards Guwahati.
Living Root Bridge
Wah Kaba Falls
It took us around 3 hours to reach Mawlynnong,the cleanest village of Asia, from Shillong. The famous Single Decker Living Root Bridge was at walking distance from here. But by walking distance I am not talking about walking on a well constructed road. There were few hundred stairs and boulders which we crossed to see this nature's wonder. The route was exhausting but it was worth visit. The way the roots entwined to form a bridge was really a wonder. People are not allowed to stand on the bridge, so in case you want to take a picture with the bridge, ask someone to get ready with the camera and then you cross the bridge.
On the way to the root bridge there were few road side stalls selling Khasi showpieces . If you want you can bargain it here. I parked those for other places and finally ended up paying more for the same items. There were a couple of moderate restaurants in Mawlynlong serving Khasi and Bengali Thalis. After having lunch we headed towards Bangladesh Border view point. It is again a walking distance from the parking. Since a lot of walking is involved in this trip it's better to be in a pair of comfortable shoes. Unlike Shillong, Mawlynnong and Dawki were hot and humid. So do carry proper sun protections.
From Mawlynnong we left for Dawki. It took us around 1 hour to reach there. Dawki is a place famous for the Umngot river which is possibly India's cleanest river. It's in the Bangladesh border. So while you enjoy the 1 hour boat ride you might get an option to enjoy Bangladeshi chats when you will come close to the border. The Sylhet border is a 5-10 minutes drive from Dawki. It was already 5 pm so from the border we directly returned to our hotel in Shillong.