5

Oct2017

The underrated gem of the North East India: Meghalaya

Living Root Bridge credit; wikepedia

The matrilineal state of Meghalaya sandwiched between India’s neighbouring country, Bangladesh and Assam, an Indian state, is a true gem among the seven sisters (seven states in the North-Eastern region of India) which definitely hasn’t gotten its due as the ultimate travel destination. Unlike the rest of the country which is still patriarchal, Meghalaya chooses to allow the children an opportunity to take on their mother’s surname and the youngest daughter legally inherits all family property. It isn’t uncommon for men to shift to their wives’ house after marriage, a tradition not widely practiced in the rest of the country.

Nicknamed as the “Scotland of the East” by the British, the colonial influence here seems quite strong with the majority following Christianity and the adoption of English as the script for the most widely spoken languages in the state. Devoid of notable industries, it is a state which still depends on agriculture and produces a variety of crops like rice, bananas, potatoes, papayas and pineapples. Made up mountainous stretches and highland plateaus, the sceneries across the state are a treat for the sore eyes.

A detailed description of my trip: cruising through the hills and valleys

During my travel, I stayed at the BSF campus in Shillong which was a charming experience in itself. Spread across a huge landscape, the campus was dotted with trees and like the rest of the city, greenery was a common sight here. The rooms were basic and clean and the food offered by the mess was simple yet delicious. The most popular and centrally located hotels in the city are Hotel Alpine Continental, Hotel Polo towers and Hotel Broadway. You could also avail home stays from Airbnb to lend your vacation a more authentic charm.

On my second day, cruising through the state, I first visited the Elephanta falls which was an hour away from Shillong.

It wasn’t the usual waterfall as the natural marvel extended across three levels. The natives of that area originally called it ‘Ka kshaid lai pateng khohsiew’ (three steps waterfalls) but the British later changed it Elephanta after a stone which resembled the shape of an elephant which was near the falls. During an earthquake, the stone was destroyed but the name lingered on. The crystal clear waterfall is a beautiful sight and once you’re here, make sure to visit all three levels for a breathtaking view.

After the falls, I reached Cherrapunji which is supposed to receive the highest rainfall in the country. The most popular and mystic tourist attraction of this area is the Mawsmai caves. It is the least challenging of all caves and lit all the way through to make navigation for the tourists easier. It is a great place to visit as one can observe the limestone deposits in the natural cave which has its fair share of narrow and wide openings. The dripping water in the cave only adds to the mystic aura of the caves.

Elephanta Falls

The next day was a more eventful one as I visited the most spoken of destinations: Mawlynnong Cleanest Village and the Living Root bridge. The living root bridge is a UNESCO world heritage site and a true marvel of how the roots of two mighty rubber trees have entangled to form a bridge which the locals use to cross over the river. The route to the bridge consists of many slippery and steep steps but the effort is definitely worthwhile as you will find yourself marveling at the natural wonder.

The cleanest village of Mawlynnong is 2km from the root bridge and the simplicity and strict measures ensured to enforce cleanliness is commendable. The people staying in the village are simple but prohibit littering and urinating in the open which is why they have built toilets and installed numerous dustbins made of bamboo throughout the village.

A fifteen minute walk from the village will lead you to the Indo-Bangladesh border which is an astonishing one as there isn’t much security like other borders but the two countries still choose to acknowledge and respect the boundaries. The village also has small souvenir shops for tourist.

If you’re fascinated by history, arts and culture, the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong is your abode as it houses fascinating pieces and stories from all seven sisters. It is a fabulous place for any kind of research or for a travelers seeking stories. After the museum, a short trip to the Garo Hills was what I needed. Abundantly green and lined with wild flowers, this place is a dream for nature lovers. Whilst travelling across the rough terrains of the hills, it is recommended to visit Nokrek Biosphere reserve or/and the Balpakram National park which are brilliant centres for appreciating nature and wildlife which sustainably grow together.

Mawsmai Caves

You must leave a day or two free to simply walk around the beautiful city of Shillong and explore its culture for yourself or satiate your shopping cravings at the Police Bazaar which offers a variety of apparel, handicrafts and locally made goods to carry back as souvenirs. If you’re still in the typical tourist mood, visit the Shillong View point or the Ward’s lake or the beautiful churches the city has to offer.

Stop by at the city’s famed restaurants for local delicacies. Cafe Shillong for their momos, Lamee for the diverse cuisines and Hotel Pine Nut for some lip-smacking dishes. For more local choices, stop by at the Jing Bam stores which sell rice cakes and fried malpuas, feast on the local fruits like pineapples, strawberries, plums sold on the street and visit a sweet shop for the spicy keema filled samosas.

My visit to the beautiful state of Meghalaya was definitely a respite from the usual tourist crowded cities and helped me reconnect with the nature which is often lost among concrete jungles. If you’re looking for a holiday which isn’t the conventional one, Meghalaya should definitely be on your list.

You may also like; Ladakh and its soul a place of God’s best play on earth.

  • Written byNiharika Nandi

    Niharika Nandi is a media trainee who loves exploring the fields of photography and baking simultaneously. She’s a self-proclaimed professional bathroom singer and believes that caffeine runs through her veins. This adrenaline junkie loves to pen down a million thoughts gushing through her mind at any instant and is very vocal about LGBTQ rights.

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