Enchanting North – East

“ Travel makes one modest.You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”

Gustave Flaubert

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A common Flowering Tree

A wonderful way to spend time with family in the bewitching hills,valleys and waterfalls- Meghalaya and the home of wild life sanctuaries,temples and the mighty Brahamaputra-Assam.

The Trip to the North-East was a long cherished dream which was finally fulfilled. Although I had planned the trip  meticulously with Air tickets, Hotel bookings and Transport arrangements  months before ,but returning home of my husband in time for the trip became uncertain as he was at sea and his reliever being able to join the ship in time became doubtful. Finally, he managed to arrive just a few days before the trip and thus we were able to commence our trip.My daughter however could not join as she was busy with her college commitments and we missed her through out the trip.

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View of Shillong from Shillong Peak

One must endeavour to tour the North –East so as not to miss out on a major chunk of travelling experience in India.North East India is an unexplored paradise with uncountable delights. Known as the ‘Eight Sisters’, the North Eastern frontiers of India is a treasure chest of culture, heritage, history, traditions, natural beauty, adventures and soulful experiences.!!! It is undoubtedly  one of the most intriguing parts of the country. It is a narrow strip squeezed between two nations, with Bhutan on top and Bangladesh at the bottom. Owing to its topography, the region has been left unexplored in comparison to the remaining states of India.

The region comprises of the following states, collectively called the “Eight Sisters”.

  • Arunachal Pradesh
  • Assam
  • Manipur
  • Meghalaya
  • Mizoram
  • Nagaland
  • Tripura
  • Sikkim

Due to constraints of time, we decided to visit only Assam and Meghalaya. Sikkim along with Darjeeling and North Bengal we had visited earlier.

We commenced our trip from Guwahati(Assam)being the gateway to the North-East.We landed at Guwahati in the evening and were received by Robin – our driver cum guide for the tour.We checked into Hotel “Green Valley” which is just passable but since we were only to spend the night, it was o.k. we had dinner and retired for the day.

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Hotel Green Valley

Day2: Meghalaya – Shillong.

Mesmerizing waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and impressive mountains make up the city of Shillong. It is the capital of Meghalaya also known as “The Abode of Clouds”.It is one of the smallest states in India and is the headquarters of the East Khasi district  situated at an average altitude of 4,908 feet (1,496 m) above sea level, with the highest point being Shillong Peak at 6,449 feet (1,966 m). It is  an ideal place to unwind amidst natural beauty and serenity. The city gets its name from the deity Shyllong or Lei Shyllong.

We set out for Shillong(Meghalaya) after breakfast which is about 3 hours drive from Guwahati.We had planned to base ourselves at Shillong and visit other places in Meghalaya from there. On arrival Shillong, we checked into our Hotel“ Quinton Enclave” which has the facilities of a hotel and the comforts of a home. It is like a hotel cum home stay. We received a warm welcome from the owner of the Hotel and the caretakers took good care of us during our stay.

After lunch, we set out for sight seeing of Shillong city.We first visited the Don Bosco Cultural Centre.

Entry Days and timings: Open Mon – Sat 9 am -4.30 pm. Entry Ticket 100 INR per person.

It  is an exclusive endeavour by the Silesians of Don Bosco to set up a facility for the conservation and Preservation of a number of local cultures of the North East area .The complex has 7 floors dedicated to the 8 states of the North East.After spending an hour in the centre and clicking some photographs,we headed to our next destination – the Butterfly Museum.

 Butterfly Museum.

Timings 10am -4.30 pm. Entry Ticket  50 INR per person.

It is a museum which houses  varieties of Butterflies from different parts of the region.It is privately owned and managed by Wanlhar  Riatsamthiah. You cam give a miss to this museum. Our next  visit was the Wards Lake.

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Butterfly Museum

Wards Lake 

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Wards Lake
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Wards Lake

Timings 8.30 am – 7 pm

 Entry Ticket with camera 20 INR per person

This horse shoe shaped lake is located in the heart of the city and was built by a khasi prisoner.This is a pleasant place to spend the evening.There are a number of water fountains and a well maintained garden with beautiful flowers.From here, we proceeded to the Botanical Garden.You can give a miss to this site ….It was quite a disappointment as the garden is not maintained.It is known for its orchid garden but we could not find any.

Botanical Garden

entrance botanical garden

Days Monday – Friday timing 9.30am– 6pm.Entry is free.

                   We returned to our Hotel from the garden and after resting a while, walked down to the Police Bazaar for Dinner. On the way, we were  caught unawares by the sudden heavy downpour(we had left behind our Umbrellas in the Hotel) and got drenched in the cold rain waters. It is advisable to carry your rain wear at all times in Meghalaya.We however enjoyed a good dinner at Hotel Pine Borough Restaurant.The food is tasty but expensive.It was still pouring when we came out of the restaurant but we decided to walk down nevertheless as we could not find any cab to transit the short distance to our hotel. On our way back, we lost our bearings  and found it difficult to get proper directions as the roads were deserted. I had also left behind my phone in our hotel room by oversight and the hotel’s number was only available in my phone.We some how managed to reach our Hotel with directions  from some passers by and by the time we reached the hotel, we were heavily drenched and feeling cold.

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Police Bazaar

Police Bazaar.

Police Bazaar is a one-stop market for every tourist visiting Shillong. It offers several kinds of opportunities for shopping and entertainment. There are facilities for leisure seekers, shopping enthusiasts as well as food lovers. The market is a modern one  housing numerous hotels, shops and eating joints. Its speciality is that along with the modern shops, one can  find an array of traditional shops selling exquisite handicrafts from Meghalaya. It is a shopping heaven for girls as they can find indigenous ornaments and apparel here, and experiment with different products of fashion.

Day 3 :

I woke up in the morning with fever and a bad bout of cough – an after effect of the previous night’s drenching in the rain. This however did not deter me  from exploring Meghalaya. With some self medication, I was up and about.

After Breakfast we set out on a day trip to Mawsynram (approximately 2 hrs).It is the wettest place in the world and one must be ready to experience some showers and not forget to carry rain wear. On the way we visited  Shillong peak,Umiam Lake and Elephant Falls.
Shillong Peak  is the  highest point of the province standing at an altitude of 1665 metres above sea level and is one of the most visited places in Shillong.According to some historians,Shillong is named after this hill. Entry to this point is through an Indian Air Force Radar Station and therefore do not forget to carry your identity cards. Photography in the defence area on the way is prohibited but is allowed at the peak.From the peak, you get an excellent view of the entire city.

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View of Shillong from Shillong Peak

Next on our itinerary was Umiam Lake ( commonly known as barapani lake ) which is a reservoir  located in the hills 15 km to the North of Shillong  It was created by  damming the Umiam river in the early 1960s. The principal catchment area of the lake and the dam is spread over 220 square km. The lake is as a major tourist attraction. It is also a popular destination for water and adventure sports like kayaking, water cycling, scooting and boating.We clicked some very good photographs of the lake.

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A tourist enjoying a scooter ride
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Umiam Lake
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Umiam Lake

Next we headed for the Elephant Falls.

 Elephant falls is named by the British. Its  original khasi name was Kakshadlaipateng khohsiev(three steps water fall consisting of three sections in succession). The mountain stream flows down through two successive falls set in the glades of fern covered rocks which are truly breathtaking. According to the Khasis, these two smaller falls are the Wei Iaplam Falls and the WirPhang Falls. The British renamed the falls as Elephant Falls because once upon a time there was a rock resembling an elephant near the left side of the main falls. This rock was sadly destroyed in an earthquake in the 1890s.

We reached Mawysnram around lunch time. Acknowledged as the wettest place in the world, the mesmerizing village of Mawsynram is a nature lover’s delight and the perfect destination to behold the beauty of the rains. Mawsynram trounces Cherrapunjee by a slight margin in being the wettest place in the world.A rain lover’s paradise,  Mawsynram  is an excellent tourist attraction of Meghalaya. The ‘Maw’ in Mawsynram is a Khasi word meaning ‘stone’. It symbolizes the unique megaliths unearthed in the Khasi Hill area. The village is well known for its huge formation of a stalagmite, which takes the shape of a ‘Shivling’. Located in the East Khasi Hill district of Meghalaya, Mawsynram is 1400 m above sea level. The rains are so powerful in Mawsynram that the local villagers have to make use of thick grass to sound-proof their homes from the thunderous rain.

In Mawsynram, there is a cave called the Mawjymbuin Cave which is one of the well known caves in Meghalaya. This cave, due to years of weathering and due to dripping of mineralized solutions and deposition of calcium carbonate, has given rise to some magnificent stalagmites. These stalagmites are of great interest for geological research and their exquisiteness. The stalagmite of the cave is shaped into a massive Shivling. The cave also has a dome shaped rock with a flat top called the Symper Rock.

Our next rendezvous was the hot springs of Mawysnram – Jakrem which its about 8 kms from the cave and is famous for its hot water spring. It is believed to have curative medicinal properties. There are a few shower rooms, built specially for those who want to have a hot water bath. We were looking for the source of this spring but as per the locals, the exact source of the hot water is unknown.There is also a river which makes the view picturesque.Being a Sunday all the eateries in the village were closed  and we had to delay our lunch till we reached an eatery on our way back to Shillong.We returned to our Hotel in the evening quite tired and therefore asked for room service for our Dinner. Although we were fully geared up with our rain wear. It did not rain the whole day. 🙂

 Day 4:

dympep valley

After breakfast,we headed to Cherrapunji which is about 3 hours from Shillong. Our first stop was at the Sohra-Dympep valley.The Mawkdok Dympep Valley View/ Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge, located at the start of Sohra tourist circuit, is one of the most prominent attractions of the place. The forest department has made a view-point at this valley from where tourists can enjoy and appreciate the natural beauty of the valley. However, one has to walk down a number of steps to reach the view point.

 You can get the first view of  Mawkdok Dympep Valley, which extends right up to Cherrapunji from this view point. Getting a clear view is a matter of chance as mostly it is obscured by clouds. Adventure sports (Ziplining) is also available here. If you are not that adventurous, you may try the local outfits and take some cool photos instead!. Tea and roasted corn is worth trying out while enjoying the beauty of the place. I went crazy with the camera and took many photographs of this mesmerising place. En route Robin had to stop our vehicle many times for me to click photographs.The roads were covered with clouds and sometimes visibility was quite low and risky but our driver was very cautious and competent and drove us very carefully and safely.In Cherapunji, the main attractions are the caves and waterfalls.

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Seven Sisters waterfall

We were excited to view the Mawsmai waterfall also known as the Seven Sisters Falls which is the fourth highest waterfall in India. Also known as Nohsngithiang Falls, they form a seven-segmented waterfall, which plunges over the top of limestone cliffs of the

 

Next we set out to explore the Mawsmai cave.There is a small entry fee of 20 bucks per person. I was advised to duck my head but did not know how much of ducking and crawling one had to do. The entrance was deceptive as it was quite broad and gave the impression of it being a cake walk but as we progressed, there were places which was very narrow and we had to squeeze ourselves  and at certain places we had to literally crawl. There was water trickling and puddles of accumulated water  also.These are limestone caves  about 150 m long.The stalactites and stalagmites caves have innumerable forms, shapes and sizes inside leaving people to imagine as many life forms as possible. This magnificent natural wonder is the handiwork of years of natural abrasion and underground water.It is an entry and exit type of a cave so you enter from one side and come out from the other.The glow from the halogen lamps and the trickling water gives it a kind of eerie and mysterious ambience.

 

There are many restaurants in the cave complex and we opted for a Bengali meal of fish curry and rice.Our last stop for the day was the scenic Nohlikikai Waterfalls.

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Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Its height is 1115 feet (340 metres),making it  the highest waterfall in India. The waterfall is located near Cherapunji, one  of the wettest places on Earth. Nohkalikai Falls are fed by the rainwater collected on the summit of comparatively small plateau and decrease in power during the dry season from December – February. Below the falls there is a plunge pool with unusual green coloured water.

The legend of Nohkalikai

 According to legends, in a village called Rangjyrteh, upstream from Nohkalikai Falls, a woman named Likai resided but had to remarry after her husband died. KaLikai (Ka is the prefix given for the female gender in Khasi) was left with her infant girl with no means of income. So she had to become a porter herself. Her work required her to leave her daughter unattended for long intervals but when she would be at home she would spend most of her time taking care of her infant. KaLikai, who married a second time, couldn’t pay attention to her second husband. The jealous husband killed the infant and cooked her meat after throwing away her head and bones. When KaLikai returned home, she saw nobody in the house  except for a meal that had been prepared. She wanted to go looking for her daughter but she ate the cooked meat as she was tired and hungry after work.KaLikai usually had a betel leaf after her meals but she found a severed finger near the place where she usually cut betel nuts and betel leaves. KaLikai realized what had happened in her absence and went mad with anger and grief and started running swinging  a hatchet in her hand. She ran off the edge of the plateau and the waterfall where she jumped from was named Nohkalikai Falls after her.  

         There are viewing points at different heights but one has to be careful as the steps  are quite steep and coming up takes time.My fever and cough did not deter my enthusiasm and I went down till the last step and took many photographs.The waterfalls was covered with thick fog and we had to wait for sometime for the fog to clear.Climbing up was a task and it  took quite some time for me to come up. I had to catch my breath after every few steps. It did not rain as we were expecting being in Cherapunji. We were very tired on reaching our hotel  and ordered some food in our room and knocked off early.The next day was a trip to the cleanest village in Asia and the single decker Living root Bridge which I will continue in my next post.

“Take only memories,Leave only footprints”

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