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Old 9th October 2017, 17:36   #1
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Default TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

"When people look at clouds they do not see their real shape, which is no shape at all, or every shape, because they are constantly changing. They see whatever it is that their heart yearns for....."

But our hearts yearned for hills, clouds and waterfalls, our hearts yearned for Meghalaya

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The trip to Meghalaya was conceived soon after we returned from Sikkim in May. We decided to utilize the extended Durga Puja holidays this year and after some deliberations, fixed the following itinerary :

Day 1 : 28th September 2017 - Kolkata to Siliguri
Day 2 : 29th September 2017 - Siliguri to Guwahati
Day 3 : 30th September 2017 - Guwahati to Shillong (including local sight seeing)
Day 4 : 1st October 2017 - Shillong to Sohra(Cherrapunjee) and Back
Day 5 : 2nd October 2017 - Shillong to Dawki(via Jowai) and back
Day 6 : 3rd October 2017 - Shillong to Malbazar(Dooars)
Day 7 : 4th October 2017 - Dooars sight seeing
Day 8 : 5th October 2017 - Malbazar to Kolkata

Bookings were made promptly at the WBTDC Siliguri and Malbazar facilities. Owing to the ongoing unrest in the Darjeeling district, there was a mad rush of tourists in Meghalaya and we could not get good accommodation in Cherrapunjee for our preferred dates. Even most of the good facilities in Shillong was booked out. Sought help from a friend who gladly and proficiently arranged our stay for three nights at Umiam(Barapani) about 17 kilometers from Shillong.

Owing to office work and the ongoing festivities, we could start packing only at the very last moment. This was the first time in my life that I would be staying away from home and our community Puja pandal during the best week of the year, so spent some time at the pandal seeking blessings from our beloved Goddess

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With reports of broken roads and traffic snarls for the Kolkata-Siliguri stretch coming in, we retired planning for an early start.

DAY 1 : Kolkata to Siliguri (approx 560 kms)

We started from Dankuni toll plaza at around 0400 in the morning and stopped for tea near Burdwan. We took the now unambiguous SH-7 route and reached Kuli (approx 200 kms). Road condition on a 15 km stretch between Kuli and Morgram was extremely bad and needed careful negotiation. After crossing the dreaded stretch, we stopped once more to cherish the surroundings

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The BP CoCo pump and Dhaba at Moregram is another unambiguous stop for BHPians on this route. We reached there by 0800 hours and ordered a cherished breakfast of omelettes and aloo-parathas. We also topped up Tuffey for the rest of the days journey.

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The journey onward was smooth and there was almost no traffic on the Moregram-Farakka stretch. Kaliachak market remains a bottleneck during the day and even completion of four laning work has had little difference as the locals have encroached upon the road and put up barricades, bumps and rickshaw stands right on the highway itself. However, Maldah town was devoid of any congestion and by 1130 hours we had settled in for lunch at the Golden Park hotel.

We started again after an elaborate lunch and apart from a stretch of flood ravaged roads at Raiganj, we sailed through effortlessly for the rest of the day. We arrived at our hotel in Siliguri by 1730 hours.

Last edited by mi2n : 12th October 2017 at 10:45.
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Old 10th October 2017, 13:24   #2
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DAY 2 : Siliguri to Guwahati (approx 475 kms)

Now, normally, someone heading to Meghalaya would have totally bypassed Siliguri and stopped at Malbazar or Chalsa for the night. From there on, they would drive straight up to Shillong the next day. However, owing to uncertainties of any Kolkata-Siliguri day drive, we were apprehensive about taking the Ghoshpukur route to Chalsa after sundown. Also, we were advised to cover the Guwahati to Shillong stretch in broad daylight as the route is very scenic. We, therefore, planned an overnight stay in Guwahati, a decision which would later prove to be very prudent.

Knowing that we have a little more than 450 kilometers to cover in the day and that the roads are excellent all through, we started late at about 0930 hours. Soon, we crossed the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and reached the Coronation Bridge

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At this juncture, I felt a strong urge to drive to Sikkim instead. The Darjeeling hills and Teesta are just too much of a temptation to resist. After a prolonged stop and stare we moved on. Soon, we climbed down the ghats and were gunning through pristine roads of the Dooars region in company of numerous streams and ravines, pristine forests and tea gardens and the majestic mountain ranges at a distance.

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The rain accompanied us all along. We crossed over into Assam without losing any momentum and hopped on to the toll roads. Just when we were ambling along blissfully, we hit a long stretch of flood ravaged part of the highway. Broken bridges, totally washed away stretches and giant potholes orchestrated our drive up til Bongaigaon. At many places we faced deep ruts and on some bridges, we were literally driving over the steel girders with the top layers totally absent. We stopped for a late but quick lunch at a nondescript dhaba at the outskirts of Bongaigaon at 1600 hours. The road from Bongaigaon to Guwahati was mostly in good condition. However, the right wiper blade gave away amidst incessant rains and it became very stressful to drive on a totally unlit highway after dark compounded by glare from headlights of oncoming traffic. Thankfully, the RHS and LHS wiper blades on the TUV are interchangeable. So stopped by and swapped. Finally, the sight of the Brahmaputra provided some respite and we checked into our hotel in Guwahati at 2030 hours, stressed and exhausted. The hotel was very cozy and a dinner platter of delightful continental cuisine topped with tasty desserts mended our exhaustion promptly.

DAY 3 : Guwahati to Umiam (approx 100 kms)

Woke up late to a panoramic view of Guwahati from our room

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After treating ourselves to a wide spread buffet breakfast we checked out

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We meandered through pristine four lane Himalayan highways and reached Umiam Lake (Barapani) at 1100 hours.

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We spent an hour at the park adjacent to the lake refreshing ourselves with coffee and confectioneries at the cafeteria before heading to the Orchid Lake Resort for lunch. The Orchid Lake resort is a very beautiful property overlooking the Umiam Lake. After lunch we headed to our resort and was pleasantly surprised. Located about 4 kms from the Umiam lake, on the Shillong bypass road, is RI KANAAN, a beautiful resort with rooms facing a small but gushing rivulet.

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We had planned to visit the local places of interest in Shillong. But we were so charmed by the ambiance and the surroundings that we decided to stay back and relax amidst nature.

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It started to rain heavily and we spent the evening lazing in our cozy room in company of the melody of rain drops falling on the tin roof and the growling river flowing past.

Last edited by mi2n : 13th October 2017 at 10:58.
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Old 10th October 2017, 16:19   #3
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DAY 4 : Umiam - Cherrapunjee - Umiam (approx 170 kms)

It was another cloudy morning and after having the buffet breakfast, we left for Cherrapunjee at 0830 hours. We stopped at a view point nearby

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We went past Shillong city and in a while landed in an ocean of clouds. The weather turned chilly and the ambiance heavenly. We stopped at the first designated view point

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We continued onward through the clouds and rains. It was a memorable drive

First, we came across the Wahkaba Falls

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Further ahead, we stopped at the famous Seven Sister waterfalls

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The cloud cover was comprehensive and visibility was barely a few feet. I shared this photo of our view of the Seven Sisters to the TBHP Kolkata group much to the amusement of others

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A local tea vendor advised that we should try our luck in an hour, so we head to the nearest tourist point of Mawsmai Caves

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The Mawsmai cave is a small cave barely 20 meteres in length. As the floor was totally flooded, we did not venture inside.

Upon return, we managed to get a faint glimpse of the Sisters

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We were hungry and rolled in to the Polo Orchid Resort for lunch. The Polo Orchid is a picturesque property and is supremely located. On a clear day, the Seven Sister falls are visible from most parts of the resort

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After having a delicious lunch at their amazing roof top restaurant, we headed back after deciding to visit again for a stay here. Our drive back was punctuated with numerous stops at scenic places and roadside waterfalls

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We bid adieu to Sohra (Cherrapunjee) determined to return soon

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We returned back to our hotel and spent some time chatting with the locals. Turned out, our hosts were from KL. They narrated their journey from KL to ML by road and it was a pretty interesting piece.

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Last edited by mi2n : 13th October 2017 at 11:09.
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Old 11th October 2017, 11:08   #4
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DAY 5 : Umiam - Dawki(via Jowai) - Umiam (approx 240 kms)

Our plan today was to visit Dawki and enjoy a boat ride on the spectacular Dawki lake. A friend suggested that we take the alternate route via Jowai and what an amazing suggestion that turned out to be. The route to Jowai was through pristine toll roads with mesmerizing scenic beauty engulfing us all around. This drive was easily the best drive of the trip if not of my life.

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Jowai is the headquarters of West Jaintia Hills district of the state of Meghalaya. It is a beautiful town with many places of interest of its own. We had initially planned to visit of few of them en-route. However, as we approached Jowai, the policemen stopped us from taking the right turn towards Dawki due to road closure for some local celebrations. We were directed towards a bypass road. Upon reaching the bypass road, I realized that the entry point was not wide enough for our vehicle. After lots of deliberations, we started to return back towards Shillong with a heavy heart. But just then something amazing happened. Something you get to experience everyday in the Himalayas but very rarely elsewhere.

A few clicks down the road, we stopped by a shop to check the air pressure in our tyres. A local man was also filling air in his car tyres at the same shop. I told him about our predicament. He first asked me to follow him back to the bypass road. Convinced that our car won't pass he escorted me for 11 kilometers (a lot in the hills) through narrow lanes and by-lanes in his Alto. Once back on track, he pointed us towards the road to Dawki and waved me goodbye. The spot was so congested that I couldn't even drop down to thank him properly. We were deeply moved by his act of kindness and Himalayan hospitality.

From Jowai to Dawki, the roads and scenery continued to be pristine for the most part

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Soon we were climbing down ghat roads and losing altitude rapidly. We knew we were approaching Dawki, a hamlet at the Indo-Bangladesh border. At some hairpins, we would take a turn and a vast expanse of green flat lands would appear like a sea of green. Bangladesh, as far as your eyes can see. It was a spectacle in itself, but the road was narrow with a lane occupied by parked trucks for the entire stretch probably waiting their turn at the border to cross over. Therefore, we couldn't stop for a photoshoot.

However, the dashcam captured a glimpse

Tuffey announced himself proudly in front of the Indo-Bangladesh border gate at Tamabil

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Barely fifteen minutes from the border and on the regular Shillong-Dawki road, we came across the Dawki lake

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The road around the Dawki lake is narrow and rough. However, the locals help you in parking. We parked and went for a boat ride.

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The Dawki lake has crystal clear waters during the winters when there is less rain. The river bottom can be viewed and the boats look like they are floating in air. Will keep in mind the next time we plan to visit.The boat takes you right up to the rapids flowing down the mountains. However, with our little daughter on board, we cut the trip short.

A small video clip of the ride

We started towards Shillong through the conventional road this time. The initial few kilometers had quite poor surface, but soon we hit butter smooth tarmac

The day was bright and sunny up to this point. But as we started to gain altitude, the clouds caught up with us. We stopped by for lunch at a roadside eatery which turned out to exceed all our expectations

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Post a very satisfying lunch containing authentic bengali dishes, we started our drive back through dense clouds.

By the time we reached the outskirts of Shillong, it was 4 PM and a light drizzle had ensued. The missus insisted that we venture into the city, especially to the famous Police Bazar for some shopping and food. However, we got stuck in traffic for more than an hour. It got dark real quick and the drizzle turned into steady showers. With only one working wiper, we decided to head straight to the hotel.

Last edited by mi2n : 11th October 2017 at 23:19.
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Old 11th October 2017, 15:41   #5
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DAY 6 : Umiam - Malbazar (approx 500 kms)

Day six marked our exit from Meghalaya. Keeping in mind the road conditions we faced in Assam during our onward journey, we decided to leave early. If all went according to plan, we would be having our breakfast at Bongaigaon and lunch at Chalsa(WB).

Thankfully, the return leg was much smoother and by 1430 hours we had arrived at the Sinclair's Retreat, Chalsa for lunch. The property came highly recommended by fellow BHPians and rightfully so.

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The resort is a beautiful property located at a hilltop overlooking the vast green plains. After lunch, we headed towards Malbazar, some seven kilometers away, where we were booked for the next two nights at the WBTDC facility. I was really looking forward to our stay at Malbazar Tourist Lodge as I had faint fond memories of the place from decades ago when I had visited as a kid.

However, upon reaching the facility we were left dumbstruck! The facility was looking like a wreck. Dilapidated like an abandoned building. We almost panicked and were contemplating a drive back to the Sinclair's Retreat. However, in the last few years, I have always had a good experience with WBTDC. So, with the missus and daughter waiting in the car, decided to check the room out. As soon as the door to our room was unlocked and we were welcomed in by the overtly courteous staff, my faith in WBTDC was totally restored.

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Although the masala tea served upon arrival spiced up our energy levels and there was still some daylight remaining, we decided to stay indoors and enjoy the luxurious wooden suite with old school charm. I was told that the resort is scheduled for a total overhaul with work starting in the month of December. Like all other WBTDC facilities we have used in the last couple of years, this resort is after all no different. Large spacious rooms with all modern amenities, great choice of food served in abundance and with a homely touch and the best location.

DAY 7 : Day drive to Jhalong and Paren (approx 100 kms)

Daybreak presented a fantastic view from the sitting room

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The urge to climb the mountains surpassed the prefixed plan to visit the tea gardens and wildlife sanctuaries that people would normally do while in the Dooars region. After a tasty breakfast, we decided to visit Jhalong and Paren. For that, we needed to traverse through the Chalsa Wildlife Sanctuary.

Meandered through the silky smooth roads encompassed by deep forests on either side.

We wanted to stop amidst the dense vegetation for fresh air and photos. But the abundance of fresh elephant poop right on the tarmac and sight of trees ravaged by the Tuskers deterred us from stopping anywhere until we crossed a rail-road and reached the foothills.

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As we started our climb up we came across numerous small water crossings. The road conditions deteriorated but the scenic beauty increased exponentially. We came across many rivers and streams.

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The Jhalong River Camp was closed for maintainance, so we headed further up towards Paren.

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About 2 kms from the Paren Nature Resort, the road turned rocky and narrow with houses on both sides. Somehow got a hunch that traveling further on this road might cause a puncture. We had a 600 kms plus long home run the next day, so without taking chances, we retreated. Also, the fact that we were starting to feel hungry and the planned lunch at Jhalong could not materialize, hastened our retreat further.
We bid farewell to the hills for this trip

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On the way back, through the Wildlife Sanctuary, I slowed down and clicked some photos

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Stopped at the Sinclair's Resort for lunch again. Remember my hunch of a puncture at Paren? Walked back to the car after lunch and spotted a flat. Out came the tyre inflator which allowed me to drop of my wife and daughter at our hotel and visit a puncture repair shop. Two alien looking metal shards were squeezed out of the rear left tyre and the holes were plugged. We retired for the day after having an early dinner. The home run was scheduled for a 0500 start the next day.

Last edited by mi2n : 12th October 2017 at 15:28.
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Old 11th October 2017, 22:40   #6
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DAY 8 : Malbazar to Kolkata (approx 620 kms)

The final day of the trip began at 0530 hours. We stopped by the Teesta Barrage to witness the sunrise and treat ourselves to some tea and snacks

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Once on the Teesta Canal road we were treated to this

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Arrow straight road with the canal on the right and a layer of mystic fog forming on top of the water accompanied us for some time.

The rest of the journey back home was uneventful. We did not face much traffic anywhere. Road repairs had started at the Raiganj-Botolbari stretch(NH-12) and the Moregram-Kuli stretch on SH-7. We stopped for a late breakfast at Raiganj and for lunch at Moregram. After crossing Burdwan, we stopped again for some snacks and sweets. Finally, reached home by 2000 hours.

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The trip would remain etched in our memories for many reasons. Although, we gave a miss to most of the tourist attractions in Meghalaya, especially the living root bridges and plethora of magnificent waterfalls, the parks, the Churches and the much talked about essence of Shillong city itself, we managed to experience all that we came for. The lush hills, the magical clouds, incessant rains and spectacular waterfalls. The boat ride on the Dawki lake was an experience in itself as was the drive on the Shillong to Jowai road. The unperturbed family time amidst pristine nature and not the least, excellent food kept us happy all through. We also enjoyed staying and/or dining at some beautiful properties throughout our trip. Towards the later part, our brief stay at Dooars also turned out great. We loved the picturesque hamlets of Jhalong and Paren and the soothing yet nervous drives through the forests.

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Thanks for visiting.

Last edited by mi2n : 13th October 2017 at 13:17.
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Old 13th October 2017, 16:53   #7
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th October 2017, 19:12   #8
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Awesome mi2n. Rated 5 stars - detailed and yet very interestingly written. And no words for the photographs - Meghalaya just looks like a paradise. Thanks for this wonderful travelogue.
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Old 13th October 2017, 20:38   #9
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

The spirit of one of the most beautiful parts of our country well captured by your brilliant photographs. Your Umiam photos were the the best for me - almost divine. Although I would concur with BHPians that the waterfalls shot was one of a kind.

By the way how come Nohsngithiang and not Nohkalikai ?

During the rains, Meghalaya is unparalleled in its beauty. And despite all this rain, the road infrastructure is very good - something for the rest of the country to learn from.

If only Kaliachak or Bhagalpur did not appear on the way up and down. Ah what bliss would a trip to the North East then be.
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Old 13th October 2017, 20:39   #10
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Excellent travelogue with fabulous pics, you once again proved North East to be beautiful and serene. The smiling pics of you and your family speaks a lot about how you enjoyed the trip.
Your Tuv300 looked ECO-friendly & SPORTy in the pics.

Arunachal and the Meghalaya circuit is in my wish list for a long time. Travelogues like these enhance the itch to go out for a road trip to the next level!

Rated a well deserved 5*.
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Old 13th October 2017, 20:44   #11
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Fabulous travelogue mi2n with splendid photographs.

Had been to Meghalaya (though not self drive) in Jan 2015. Fog and clouds ensured that we couldn't see any of the waterfalls. Sharing our view from Shillong View point. However, the roads from Shillong to Sohra/Cherrapunji are marvellous and a driver's delight. Hope to do this circuit someday soon.

Warm regards,

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Old 13th October 2017, 21:24   #12
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Crispy travelogue and outstanding pictures. Hope you are enjoying the every bit of you TUV. At 2012-July I visited Meghalaya and that time it was continuous rain for 4 days during my trip. Did not get a chance to capture much images. The amazing pictures of your trip are itching me to plan a trip there and to see the unseen beauty. However, Meghalaya with contentious rain has different beauty. If you allow me, I will post some pictures from my past trip.

Rated 5*. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 14th October 2017, 01:23   #13
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Fantastic pics Mi2n , loved the pictures , and your narration even more. The roads in NE are truly droolworthy
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Old 14th October 2017, 08:19   #14
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Default Re: TUV300 - The Meghalaya Sojourn

Beautiful. Totally justifies the purchase of your much underrated TUV.

This is what really sets it apart from others due to the good ground clearance, high driver visibility, driving comfort, spaciousness and ruggedness.
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Old 14th October 2017, 13:00   #15
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Fantastic write-up and wonderful photographs. Hope to put down my own travelogue of Kolkata to Goa soon.
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