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Old 3rd June 2021, 14:16   #1
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Default Meghalaya - A very special land

A pre-pandemic travelogue. Sometimes in life, one must resort to words found in fantasy books. How does then one describe Meghalaya. Rivendell or Imladris from the Lord of the Rings aptly sums it up.

So what makes a land a place? Deep Valleys, Lush Meadows, Meandering Rivers, Thundering Waterfalls, Dark Caves? A culture steeped in myth and folklore? A people to whom family and community are more important than money and success (as we would measure it)? Or humility in every face you see, kindness unasked for?

Meghalaya and by extension our North East States are unique in what they have in store for us. Go off the beaten path and there are worlds within worlds. I'm a slow traveller, I take my time in a place. I often miss many attractions/spots, but again the one's I see make up for them.

In fact the first words I learnt in Khasi were "no bun briew" which translates as "no large crowds". It drew chuckles from my guide 'Bah-sil" which translates to "brother-sil". Its amazing that the language itself adds the word brother before your first name, a far cry from the "eh tu" I hear where I live!

But no fear if you're the typical tourist request your guide to take you the 7-8 regular touristy spots, which are beautiful in their own right, they are also less strenuous and accessible to people. If you do go, please respect the local traditions, be polite and always offer a token of your gratitude, because every person you interact with (outside the cities and towns) will always offer you something. A cup of tea, a meal, a shawl, it could be anything.

If you have the constitution of a horse try the "kwai", its a fermented cut arecanut served with a generous helping of lime. Its very tasty and very addictive and also very very dizziness inducing. I learnt a new phrase after eating it, Its called "bwai Kwai-flying on kwai" or so it translates. in fact the whole village was laughing at me when I got "high" after my first encounter with it. It's also a traditional form of welcoming someone by offering them kwai. So when in Meghalaya Roll with it, swing with it, get into it, because it'll never get boring.

I took a flight to Gauhati and stepped out. Took a sharing taxi with three army jawans on their way to various border posts. You can take your own cab as well negotiate with the numerous drivers waiting right outside the airport. alternatively go to the city bus stand and take the bus. If you're with family please make advance arrangements with a driver/operator from Shillong as they are more likely to drop you to your destination, as opposed to Police Bazaar or the Hospital Area.

As soon as you are on the road, you'll realise you're in for a trip. (all puns intended) because you'll see this
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So you can drink before and after, just not while OK?

Soon you'll hit the border post and start climbing hill roads. Where you'll see
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a faithful companion in most town centres.
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so much colour. skip the plastics and hit the pineapple, it is oh so yummy. PS get a bib it drips and it sticks and it turns you into a baby. PPS-those "Funky" bottles in the bottom row, yes I know you saw them, its honey, pure as snow.

Next comes "bara-pani", "Sach me yaar aapka mind, fully, one track hai", its the Umiam Lake, you can see it on the way to Shillong, but to visit you'll have to detour before climbing.
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As is the case with all hill towns that have grown the traffic in Shillong is horrendous. 1 hour for 5 kms, you Bengaluru wallah's, yes you, reading this in traffic, you know what that feels like. You know you're near Shillong cause you're going nowhere.
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It's bad, it's stinky, there is a garbage dump somewhere here, and also this jam. They have special diesel in the hills I think, extra smoky. You want a tan, stand next to an exhaust of a truck, you'll be extra crispy.

After a couple of hours, more maybe more, or then some you'll be in Shillong
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And for those who love Captain Slow a.k.a James May
OHMeghalaya - A very special land-img_20190617_170234.jpg.

Given the favourable climactic conditions flowers are a plenty, from rare orchids to garden flowers. I'm no expert I don't know my Petunia (wasn't she someone's aunt) from my Daisies (those I remember from You've Got Mail) but they are so Happy!
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The next day I went to Mowphalng. Its a sacred forest maintained by its Khasi Keepers. It's revered and worshipped like a place of worship, not a forest. They say that ancient gods dwell within the grove. You'll find a series of huge stone tables. I was told they are or were used for sacrifices and offerings to the gods. Either way when you step inside you know there is someone watching. The trees talk to each other it feels. Metaphysics aside, if humans had never destroyed the planet, this is probably what unspoilt was
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you can drink that water, its sweet and cold. Don't take anything out of the grove though, not even a fallen leaf.
On the other side of the grove is a road, its a big road, must go somewhere. take a left walk uphill and if you have vertigo go back, because I saw this, its steep and I'm told there is a village in the valley. The villages use a steep path to come out somewhere lower down. All I know is that its solitude at its best. mist, rain, silence. Did anyone say Chai?
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Most places are owned by the Community, you'll be charged a small fee Rs. 10-50 to enter. The funds are used to keep the place clean and regulate the parking area etc. etc. In my view the fee is worth the paper its written on

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I'll give this to everyone entering Nehru Park in Delhi, free of cost. Its like that ad "don't do yahan...do wahan..jhaadi ke peeche

If you are a trekker there are lots of options in Shillong itself. Walk the David Scott Trail, 16 Kms long, used to go to Bangladesh at one point in time apparently. If you are more interested in off beat treks head to Pynursla. From here you can to the living root bridges trek or the the charming Mawryngkhang Trek and hear the story of how U Mawryngkhang became the king of Stones. I told you Folklore.
this is the head of the trail.

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Last edited by shady_lawyer : 3rd June 2021 at 23:54.
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Old 3rd June 2021, 16:48   #2
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Default Meghalaya-A Very Special Land-Part II

Back to Shillong. Lots of places have fantastic live music bands in and around police bazaar, smashing stuff. Also if you're a lottery buff, play the "Teer". The game is simple. One has to select the digits of the total number of arrows that hit the target. Whoever gets the number right, is the winner of Shillong Teer. In the first round, 50 archers shoot 30 arrows. In the second one, 20 arrows are shot. They calculate the number of arrows that hit each number and that's your lottery number. Its a huge business, every store from your supermarket to Uncle ki tapri, the payoff is Rs. 4000 from Re. 1 for the set each number is Rs. 80/60 for Re. 1. The result is declared on little slates hanging outside the stores. My friend kept me away from it or I'd have ended up selling my shoes and clothes to play.

Sohra and Dainthlen Falls.

Remember your textbooks wettest place on earth etc. etc. used to be Cherapunjee, then Mawsynram. The real name of Cherapunjee is Sohra, beautiful name. The Brits (god bless their soul) called in Cherra, pronunciation can be such a pain. On the way to Sohra you'll come across a stream that ends in the Dainthlen Falls. This too has a story. Thlen was a snake consumed by greed and power. Those who worshipped Thlen became very rich, but had to pay a terrible price. The surrounding villages therefore decided to kill Thlen and
managed to cut its head off near these falls hence the name. Many people today still have faith in the story of Thlen and the evil it brings to families.

The Beatle's asked, "do you believe in a love at first sight" I say yes
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Park your car in a safe place please. The road widens only in a few places and this is an arterial route so please be mindful. Also the stream runs with a really fast current, only in one patch does it widen out into deep pools. The bed is also full of holes. So avoid going right in the middle. I did swim in the water, however do not do so unless you've a) checked the weather, even a 10 minute rain turns the stream into a rapid and b) know how to swim. If not sit on a rock and enjoy the view.


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Sohra by itself is a small town, but there are beautiful homestays around. Look around spend a couple of days there.

Dawki and Shnompedeng
On the way to Dawki go via Umkrem village. Um means water. Krem is a cave. There is a cave under the water I was told. However the water that flows from Umkrem finally opens up near the Border with Bangladesh.
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Dawki is Bun Briew, with all sorts of characters surrounding your car asking to you to go boating in the crystal clear waters. Take a call, its beautiful yes but its also crowded.
The only photo I took in Dawki
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Head to Shnompedeng. You'll find this bridge, which sways, rocks, creaks, and the best of all is really high up, and yes the water is that clear. You'll also find lots of adventure camps along the banks which offer various activities.
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I did go to a touristy place. It was empty. Its called Krang Shuri, the home of the wolf, well at least before humans showed up. Avoid it during season, it'll be full of tourists wearing life vests bobbing under the waterfall. Is it beautiful, yes. Instead head upstream from Krang Shuri Falls.

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I knew the earth was flat, I also know it rests on the back of a turtle. Finish. See. Cliff. Water. Gone
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A secret waterfall and a very scary cave.

All right the reason its a secret waterfall is because Bah-Sil took me. I have no idea where it is. Its somewhere, he knows. If you want to know I can ask him, maybe. Inertia. Any case this one is not for the faint hearted. You can walk all the way down and up these falls. Its a very popular picnic spot for those in the know. Its beautiful. Its otherworldly, Its accessible by sliding down on your bottoms or maybe by teleportation. after a while leave everything but your clothes and shoes behind, you'll either break them or lose them, when you fall on your stuff. However every step is worth it because you see paradise on earth.

The way down or up. its worse going up. you'll be wet and soaking and a 100 kilos heavier with the water (or so you tell yourself, cause you are out of shape and unfit and wheeze like a squeaky toy)
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AND

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Bun Briew is better.
Krew Syndai
Deep in the hills, the water has cut numerous caves. Meghalaya has a very active spelunking association and the difficulty varies, some caves are completely unmapped and never ever enter such caves. some have water, some have bats, some are rat hole mine entrances. Get in touch with the experts and follow their lead. Syndai at one time was maintained, the outer cave is a temple. Surrounding the cave are the ruins of the Jaintia Kingdom. A very kind local person, who lives near the cave took us inside. He knows the cave inside out. I have no photos I was too busy being scared. Its dark inside, no light, no air, no sound, except for slithering and drip..drip of water. Its also warm and humid. I wish I took photographs. Maybe you will!

Soon its time to go back to the real world. However I cannot wait to return

To look up and see
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To sit and to wonder
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To return to the Home of Clouds
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Some post script
1. There are some other threads here about Meghalaya. They are far better and provide detailed information, hats off to them for such detailed trip logs.
2. Do not ask about camera-shamera. I have a phone, it has a button and auto mode. Point Click See Like Save.
3. Bah-Sil is actually a guide and has his own car. He will take you every where and tell you all about every place. There are many like him all of them have been very hard hit by the pandemic. If you visit, whenever that is, if you think your guide is genuine then don't haggle. They have families and remember most of us are blessed we have year long jobs, most of them earn only in the season. If you feel its a little extra, split that by 12, you realise how much even Rs. 5000/12 is Rs. 417. If you can and you feel it's right, do.

Last edited by shady_lawyer : 4th June 2021 at 01:28.
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Old 4th June 2021, 07:17   #3
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Default Re: Meghalaya - A very special land

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogue section. Thanks for sharing!

Will go to our homepage today
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Old 4th June 2021, 13:25   #4
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Default Re: Meghalaya - A very special land

Awesome thread, and lovely pics, even if you took it with a phone. Meghalaya and Mizoram have always been on the top of my list of to go places. The states have fascinating history, and are overlooked. But then again, India is such a vast country, that we are always spoiled for choices.

Personally, I want to see some of the WW2 sites, and also the Willys jeeps that are used in Shillong.
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Old 4th June 2021, 13:31   #5
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What a beautiful and tranquil place!

Hope it remains untouched by tourists, who would soon turn it into a filthy plastic wasteland.

Tourists need a 'credit score' too nowadays. Only responsible tourists shall be permitted.

Back to OP, Meghalaya looks like a mini Europe nestled in India
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Old 4th June 2021, 13:58   #6
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Awesome Travelogue! Really enjoyed reading it specially in this hot month of June. and the way you have added a bit of humor to it. North East is definitely very beautiful. Rated this thread 5 star.
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Old 4th June 2021, 15:23   #7
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Really liked the travelogue and the photos. They nicely capture the feel of the place. Reminded me of the last time me and my wife went to Shillong for our honeymoon trip and planned to revisit couple of more times during our lifetime. Lets see when that happens. Very beautiful and serene place. Shillong is also referred to as "Scotland of the East".
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Old 4th June 2021, 17:34   #8
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A wonderful travelodge. I wish to trip the entire 7 sisters circuit in my own vehicle. But I don't have time. Rather, my work isn't generous enough. Write-ups like these keep me going and eager for the opportunities if they come. NE is on my bucket list. Thank you so much for this.

Someday I will travel without being bound by deadlines.
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Old 4th June 2021, 18:02   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shady_lawyer View Post
How does then one describe Meghalaya. Rivendell or Imladris from the Lord of the Rings aptly sums it up.
Wow! Such high praise. But come to think of it, the description of Rivendell as "a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them allí. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness" is surprisingly not far off the mark for Meghalaya.

Quote:
Its amazing that the language itself adds the word brother before your first name, a far cry from the "eh tu" I hear where I live!
Yes. 'Bah' for every man and 'Kong' for every woman is a respectful way of addressing anybody.

Quote:
"bwai Kwai-flying on kwai"
After reading through your post, I promise myself not to correct all the spelling mistakes especially regarding places since you're allowed some leeway as its not your language and one other reason I will mentioned down below but I just couldn't resist this one. Its actually 'bu-aid kwai' which is 'nasha' in hindi. And I hope Bah Sil told you the folklore of why we offer kwai to every guest.

Quote:
The next day I went to Mowphalng. Its a sacred forest maintained by its Khasi Keepers. It's revered and worshipped like a place of worship, not a forest. Either way when you step inside you know there is someone watching. The trees talk to each other it feels.
Continuing the LOTR theme, this would be Fangorn, I guess.

Quote:
Also if you're a lottery buff, play the "Teer". The game is simple. One has to select the digits of the total number of arrows that hit the target. Whoever gets the number right, is the winner of Shillong Teer. In the first round, 50 archers shoot 30 arrows. In the second one, 20 arrows are shot. They calculate the number of arrows that hit each number and that's your lottery number. Its a huge business, every store from your supermarket to Uncle ki tapri, the payoff is Rs. 4000 from Re. 1 for the set each number is Rs. 80/60 for Re. 1. The result is declared on little slates hanging outside the stores. My friend kept me away from it or I'd have ended up selling my shoes and clothes to play.
Growing up in Shillong, this is one aspect of my city that I have no idea about. I was not even interested to know. Nothing has changed

Quote:
The real name of Cherapunjee is Sohra, beautiful name. The Brits (god bless their soul) called in Cherra, pronunciation can be such a pain.
This is the other reason to ignore all your other spelling mistakes. You got the name of Sohra right. And you also know why its always mis-represented as Cherrapunjee. Kudos

A Wonderful write up. Five stars. You'd be welcome back anytime

Quote:
Originally Posted by AG-D View Post
Shillong is also referred to as "Scotland of the East".
True. And I have always wondered why. Then I read about and saw Scotland. And I wondered no more. Its just as wet, as damp, as cold and as foggy as Shillong. Just like home
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Old 4th June 2021, 18:11   #10
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Default Re: Meghalaya - A very special land

Congratulations on your experience and the beautiful writeup. Meghalaya was my frequent gateaway, before the pandemic hit with all its might. It is a place to experience with time in your hand. Stay at a local homestay and enjoy.

What is great about Meghalaya is that it is still raw and have preserved itself well inspite of so many tourists turning up everyday. Many hill stations have lost their charm with commercialisation. If you want rustic bliss, Meghalaya will give you that.
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Old 4th June 2021, 18:26   #11
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Default Re: Meghalaya - A very special land

Thanks for the travelogue.
Definitely a beautiful state and worth a visit.
The water is so clear, been so long since I have since clear water in a river.
Hope it stays this way and remains untouched by tourists.
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Old 4th June 2021, 19:28   #12
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Beautifully written. Reading a full travalogue after a long time
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Old 4th June 2021, 21:16   #13
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We had made a trip to Assam and Meghalaya in 2018. After visiting Kaziranga reserve, we reached Shillong and drove all the way to the border village of Dawki. Boating in the transparent blue green waters of the river and an adventurous crossing over the suspension bridge that sways and swings add to the fun.
There are large and small waterfalls in Meghalaya, but the Nohkalikai waterfall near Chirapunji, the tallest plunge waterfall in India is the best attraction in Meghalaya. ( 1115 feet ) The whiffs of clouds keep obscuring the view of the fall every now and then. Then it is Meghalaya!
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Old 4th June 2021, 21:56   #14
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Default Re: Meghalaya - A very special land

Beautiful Travelogue! Thanks for sharing!

I thoroughly enjoyed your writing style
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Old 4th June 2021, 23:04   #15
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A wonderfully written, to-the-point travelogue. Has bought back memories of my 6+years stay at NEIGRIHMS, Shillong and the weekend exploring, discovering the non-touristy places.
Hoping to get inspired to post those memories.
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