Speak Now by Taylor Swift…
The state of Meghalaya is a paradise in the north-eastern part of India. The “rock capital of India” Shillong, the wettest places on earth “Mawsynram” and “Cherrapunji”, and the cleanest village in Asia “Mawlynnong”, all lies in the district of East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya. The nearest railway station to reach Shillong and other parts of Meghalaya is in Guwahati, a hundred kilometres away, from where one can take a public transport or a private car. The nearest airport is in Umroi, thirty kilometres away from Shillong. However, as only a few flights operate from this airport, most travellers usually fly to the Guwahati airport, which is well-connected to the other cities of the country by air. Meghalaya is mostly dry from November until March, and one can enjoy the cold sunny days in the hills during this time. During the monsoons, though they state receive extremely heavy rains, the lush green forests on the hills look beautiful and the waterfalls in the area come alive. The mesmerising things about Meghalaya include the beautiful landscape, the lush green forests and pristine waterfalls, the local people, their culture and their food.
It was in January 2019 when I visited the East Khasi hills. After taking a flight to Guwahati, it took me around four hours to reach Cherrapunji by a privately hired car. On my way, I stopped near Shillong to see the beautiful Umiam Lake. I could then realise why the place is called “Scotland of the East”. A huge lake surrounded by green mountains and few tiny green islands in the lake make it look beautiful. As I was approaching Cherrapunji, I could observe the change in the landscape- rugged terrain with a lot of dark-yellow/brown areas with comparatively lesser dense forests. Though it turns completely green during the monsoons, it looked completely different at this time. As I checked into the hotel, I saw the beautiful reddish sunset from the balcony. The dark-yellow/brownish landscape looked like they were painted in red. Thereafter, I enjoyed a wonderful evening with the local people and the other fellow travellers sitting in front of a bonfire and having some delicious local chicken and pork cuisines. As the night approached, the town started to become more deserted, with only sound of crickets and music from a local tribal festival far away. It was around 8 degrees and I stood outside at the dark garden in front of the hotel for a while before I came back to the hotel room. The moon and the stars looked beautiful above with the sounding crickets all around. It was so calm and peaceful outside, that even in the cold weather, I felt like staying outside till late night.
The next morning started with the beautiful sunrise at 6’o clock. After having breakfast, I went out to see a few nearby waterfalls. I went to the seven sisters falls that usually comes alive when it rains, however as it was clear and dry at that time, I was not fortunate to see the waterfall. However, I saw fortunate to see the huge green valley with flowing rivers across the mountains going down to the plains of Bangladesh, a view that travellers in monsoon miss out as the views often get obscured by the low rain clouds. Thereafter, I was mesmerised to see the beautiful Nohkalikai Waterfalls, the tallest plunge waterfall in India falling from a height of 340 metres. It falls from the mountain to a green-coloured plunge pool in the valley. The reflection of the sun rays in the waterfall created a beautiful rainbow near it. The huge waterfall falling down to the unusual green pool, the forested mountains and the valleys, everything looked so astonishing.
I continued my journey to the small village of Mawlynnong, which was declared as the cleanest village in Asia in 2003 by the travel magazine Discover India. On the way, I took a stop at the living root bridge, a bridge naturally created by the roots and branches of the nearby trees. One has to take a considerable number of steps to go down to visit the root bridge which was quite tiring, however, it was worth visiting. It feels wonderful to walk over a bridge crafted by the forces of nature. After another fifteen minutes drive, I reached the village of Mawlynnong. It is indeed a very well-planned and clean village with bamboo dustbins everywhere. Even the visitors are not allowed to put litter anywhere except in the dustbins. All the residents of the village have set up a plan that they all would participate in cleaning up the village. Rainwater harvesting is highly encouraged in the village and certain things like smoking and use of polythene is completely banned. I stayed at a homestay with the local Khasi people and had their local home-cooked food. I was astonished by their care and hospitality. Though there isn’t much to do at night except walking around, speaking with the locals and other fellow travellers, but that adds up to the beautiful experience one can have in the village. What could be better than sitting with the locals at a remote Khasi village under the stars at night and exchanging experiences of life? I guess, that is indeed the best way to spend a wonderful evening at a remote village of Meghalaya.
On the next day, I visited the crystal-clear Dawki river at the Indo-Bangladesh border, which takes about an hour from Mawlynnong. There is a lake with clear greenish waters where one can easily see the shadows of the boats under the water from above. Taking a boat ride in the lake that meets the river is indeed an experience one should never miss out while visiting Meghalaya. Each and everything under the water- from rocks and pebbles to the shadows of above structures could be seen. Also, people can see the Bangladesh side of Sylhet from the area and check out their mobile phone clocks getting ahead by half an hour. The greenish lake surrounded by mountains looked so exquisite.
Thereafter, I headed towards Shillong, often called the “rock capital of India”. This is because of the strong interest of the people in western music and rock music. A number of famous rock bands have emerged from the picturesque city of Shillong, including the blues rock band “Soulmate”. Though now it is said that Bangalore might take the fame of “rock capital” away from Shillong due to the emerging indie bands there and increasing youth culture, but Shillong traditionally has a culture of its own, that is very similar to the western culture in terms of music. As I went to Shillong, I could listen to the local radio stations playing hits from legendary bands like Pink Floyd, Eagles, Dream Theater, Guns n Roses and Led Zeppelin. It is more common to see acoustic jamming sessions in the marketplaces of Shillong than in other cities of India.
It was afternoon when I reached Shillong, and took a blissful walk across the main marketplace and at the Ward’s lake, a scenic lake located in the heart of the city surrounded by greenery. At night, the city looks even more beautiful illuminated with lights. I was standing at the window on the fifth floor of a hotel located at upper Shillong, and the city in front of me looked like a sea of stars. The clear sky above us illuminated by the moon and the stars, and the city lights all across the valley made it look hauntingly beautiful. Moreover, the food lovers and shopping freaks should visit the markets of Shillong where one can have great deals. That night was the end of my tour, as I headed back to Guwahati for the flight next morning. I have carried back home wonderful memories and experiences with me from Meghalaya.
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