To experience the full essence of a place, you need more than a 4 days, 3 nights trip. Not everybody is lucky though, to get that much time. Before travelling to Shillong, I spent days perfecting my itinerary. To make sure that I don’t miss out on any important experiences. Twitter and Blogs helped me a lot. So this is my way of taking it forward. Sharing with you my experiences, so that you could benefit from them and also add in some facts which I did not find on the internet.
Guwahati: Guwahati is the largest city of Assam, largest urban area of the North East and also the gateway to the other states of the North East. There are lots of places to see in and around Guwahati. Guwahati is smattered with temples and wildlife sanctuaries. The very famous Kamakhya temple, Umananda temple, Navgraha temple (It is known as a city of temples for a reason), Brahmaputra River, Saraighat bridge, Assam State Museum, Assam State Zoo, Deepor Beel, are some of the places you can visit. The best way to reach Kaziranga National Park (The land of the Rhinos). If you don’t have time to visit Kaziranga, you can visit Pobitro Wildlife sanctuary, which is known as miniature Kaziranga.
Kamakhya Temple, Umananda Temple, War Cemetery and Kaziranga National Park were on my itinerary but due to certain reasons, I ended up going only to the Kamakhya Temple.
The distance from Paltan Bazaar is approximately 8 Kms. I took an Ola cab from the hotel, which dropped me till the hill top. You get a very picturesque view from the hill top. From the parking spot, the temple is at a short distance & you need to climb steps to reach. There are shops lined up on the way selling puja items. If you buy something from there, you can get to keep the shoes for free else you can keep your shoes near the temple. They charge around 15 bucks (Taaka as they say) to safeguard your shoes. Reasonable if you are going to be in the normal darshan queue as it might take hours. I did not want to spend my time standing in the queue so I opted for the VIP ticket (500 rupees) Do not fall prey to the pandits over there as they would charge double the money.
Apart from flower offerings, people also sacrifice birds and goats as an offering to the Goddess.
They have shared taxi services which will take you to the main road from the temple. They charge 10 Rs. per seat. From the main road, I took a private bus (Rs. 20/-) to go back to Paltan Bazar. On my way I spotted Gateway of Assam None of the must visit blogs refer to this place. I regret not getting down to explore the place.
I roamed the market area for a while, drinking in the sights and smells of the place, specially the vegetable market. Was looking for something different than what we get in Mumbai. The laukis were huge in size but the eggplants were long and delicate.
After a sumptuous breakfast, i checked out of the hotel and started my search for a share taxi for Shillong. Full cab charges is 1500 Rs. Ola outstation rentals also provide service from Guwahati to Shillong. Shared cab costs you 300 – 350 Rs.
The distance from Guwahati to Shillong is roughly three hours and the drive is very scenic! You would be tempted to get out of the car and take pictures or just stare at the view, mesmerised.
Shillong: Shillong is a famous hill station and capital of Meghalaya. It is also known as Scotland of the East. The weather in Shillong is pleasant and the air is so clean! It is a joy to walk in and around Shillong as it is a very walk friendly place. I went there end of April and it rained couple of times (not heavy rains, just a drizzle) The temperature drops to 12 – 14 degrees. There is lush greenery all around. Whatever the season, do not forget to carry umbrellas and warm clothes with you.
Police Bazar: Police Bazar, also known as PB, is the heart of the city and a very noisy and crowded place. The shops close down at 9 PM. The office of Meghalaya Travel Corporation is here, where you can book helicopter and bus services to various places. Right across the big building, there is office of Meghalaya Tourist Corporation from where you can get bus / cars for various tourist points. You can also get private cars / Sumos from Police Bazar
Rhino Heritage Museum: Disappointed by the fact that I had to drop my plans for Kaziranga, I was happy to know about this museum. Fun Fact: This museum has nothing to do with Rhino, the animals. It is all about the soldiers of North East, particularly Assam Rifles, who call themselves Rhinos. It is a beautiful tribute to the soldier. There is a silver Rhino outside the museum and a garden with seating area on the backside. There is also a tank placed outside the museum. A pleasant way to spend the evening!
The Bada Bazar (Burra Bazar / Lewduh Market) is nearby but I missed to visit as I had to book the tickets from MTC.
Dawki & Mawlynnong: Dawki & Mawlynnong tour conducted by MTC covers 5 points. Canyon Valley, Living Root Bridge at Riwai village, Mawlynnong, Dawki and the Indo Bangladesh border.
Canyon Rngain Valley View Point: This is also known as the Deep Dark Valley. The view is simply spectacular! Wherever you look, there are green hills and deep valleys!
Living Root Bridge at Riwai Village: Next stop was the living root bridge at Riwai Village. The bridge is a miracle created by man and nature. The roots of the Rubber tree are weaved in such a manner that it creates a natural bridge. The bridge was created to join two villages, which were separated by a river. You need to climb down 200-250 stairs to reach to the bridge from the parking spot. The bridge is delicate and it is advised not to stand on the bridge or click photographs standing on the bridge. You can walk on the bridge though. The way is lined with small shops selling refreshments, berries, bamboo products, support sticks and other paraphernalias. One more fascinating thing was bamboo trash cans (annoying thing – tourists still threw the trash here & there as if the world is their dustbin)
Mawlynnong: Known as the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong was our next stop. It is 2 Kms from the Riwai village. As per the guide, there are 100 houses in the village. There is a person charging 20 bucks to show Bangladesh border from a structure on a private property. Found it funny. Rest of the people had lunch and roamed around the village while I got myself clicked in a typical Khasi dress. The dress is worn by Khasi Hindus during religious functions. The girl asked me where were my friends and was surprised to know I was travelling alone. She didn’t know Hindi nor much English but we still managed to communicate somehow. At that moment, she was my friend. 🙂
Indo Bangladesh Border: From Mawlynnong we moved on to Dawki. By this time you get used to the beauty of the surrounding areas and silently enjoy it. Even with closed eyes you can feel the lush greenery around you! To reach the border, you need to cross bridge on the Umngot River, Dawki. Dawki is between India and Bangladesh. Even part of the Umngot river belongs to Bangladesh. It was really funny to see people excited to go to the Bangladesh border. We crossed the Dawki bridge to go to Tamabil (Bangladesh village near border). The bridge is patrolled and at a time only one vehicle can pass through. It was exciting to see Indian soldiers and the Indian flag and Welcome to India board filled me with a sense of pride! The Muktapur milestone (this side of India) reminded me of Mukti Bahini.
Umngot River: The most beautiful river I have ever seen! The beauty cannot be described in words. We were so enchanted by the river! When the boatman said, the river is muddy right now (the water was clear) and you should come in winter to see the real beauty, we were pleasantly shocked. If the river is so clear right now, how it would be in winter!! There are tenting, fishing and kayaking options available too. You can stay over to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the river.
The journey will continue in the next part…