Contributed by Medhavi Gandhi
When my friends and I decided to go to Meghalaya, I should’ve paid a little more attention to the name—‘the abode of Clouds’. It turned out to be exactly that!
We took the bus from Tripura to Shillong, and when the bus driver said it would take 20 hours to do so, I didn’t really believe him. The beginning was great—winding roads, trees bending low enough to kiss the top of the bus, the cool breeze, and occasional drizzles. We couldn’t wait to get there but the State highway was in a terrible condition, and… people with bad backs should never take the rear seats!
Friday morning, we reached Shillong, and realized that all hotels were full. After walking around the Police Bazaar for about half an hour, we finally checked into Hotel Magnum. Comfortable and for Rupees 1500 a night, it was just about in our budget. The same day, we found a taxi driver to take us to Mawlynnong—a small, picturesque village about 2.5 hrs and 90kms away from Shillong. The journey was just as beautiful as the destination. As our driver raced through the clouds with visibility being nil, we decided we really were headed to heaven!
Rusted signboards and intuition led us to Mawlynnong—known to be the cleanest village of Asia. And it was true! There was not one bit of litter around. Intricately woven bamboo baskets served as dustbins, and were tied to every alternate tree. Pitcher plants, Birds of Paradise, and a lot of other exotic-sounding plants ensured the place was ‘green’—the only colour you could see!
In fact, the enterprising village folk have built a bamboo cottage for visitors. So, you can opt for a night stay as well. The cottage has a little corridor that leads to a balcony, which is perhaps the best part of the deal. A little into the village, there’s a waterfall, which the kids have converted into their own natural swim space. This leads to another huge bamboo stairway (Literally Stairway to Heaven), atop which you can see Bangladesh, if the clouds permit that is.
Lovely, simple food like fish (that comes from the Bangladesh Border which is only 4 kilometres away) and chicken combined with warm tea is completely rejuvenating. There’s a church too, in the village where you can light a candle and wish for peace!
Some kilometres off the village, there’s a living root bridge that is not to be missed. The guys at the Mawlynnong village can tell you or your cab driver how to get there. To be honest, you could walk it to the bridge. As you enter this new village, where the bridge is, a group of some very enterprising women will ask you for 5 rupees for an entry! What you see next is stunning—the roots of two trees on opposite sides of a river have intertwined, making it a natural bridge for the village folk.
Apart from these amazing sights, the usual tourist spots are within the guided-tour packages. For some 250 odd rupees, a guided bus tour will take you through Cherapunjee, Elephant Falls, Seven Sister Falls, and The Caves. The Caves are an adventure nobody can miss. You walk barefoot through the caves, with raindrops falling on your head; you’ll have to dip your feet in cold, cold water, hold rocks and figure your way through – much fun, really! Right next to these accessible caves, is another cave, which is off limits since it has no lights, and is a secret passageway to Bangladesh! Now, I didn’t want to take the chance… but well!
About Shopping: There’s lots of interesting local stuff that one can pick up but you must bargain when it comes to clothes and shoes… I’d suggest you rather spend a little extra on the yummy street food.
About travel: Guwahati is about 3.5 hrs, and 140 rupees away by shared cab.
Note of Caution: Prepaid phones don’t work in Northeast India.
And do join us for a coffee at the Kunzum Travel Cafe in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, India.