Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds


Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 1/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 2/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

April 2012, Kolkata - Two best friends from childhood meet in adulthood after 7 years, in the city testimony to their friendship and their euphoric school days. So much of excitement and planning for the 4 days they were supposed to be together. They wanted to go everywhere and have every adventure together, as they were adults now and did not need the one-month prior permission from their parents for an outing. They would roam around the entire city going down the memory lanes of their childhood in those 4 days. Would sleep at 4am and wake up at 7am and the days went in a flash.

They are at the railway station as one has to go back. They arrive early, the station is empty and dark. They are walking on the platform, side by side quietly in their own thoughts. The one who has to leave is getting a strong feeling that she is leaving something behind, as if something is being taken away from her. She is having this urge to run away to a remote place, where no one recognizes them and there is no network to connect to anyone. Just as she is having these thoughts, the other one says "feel like running to a village right now!" Little did they know, three months later they would be transported to exactly such a place!

First trip on our own and together

July 2012 - I was switching jobs in New Delhi and had squeezed a week to travel in between with my best friend Namrata Biswas, whom I lovingly call Nimmo. I am sure by now you know who is who in the story above. We couldn't figure out any place so I called my dad for suggestion (yes you read it right, my dad, from whom I inherit my passion for travelling). And he suggested Goa (yes you again read it right, Goa!). But we were not keen on Goa, I don't remember why. My father was stationed in Guwahati at that time, so finally it was decided we would visit Shillong. So, excitedly, we packed our bags to meet in Kolkata again and then take a train to Guwahati.

This was going to be the first trip experience on our own, for both of us. Although I had traveled on my own before for office work, this was the trip I had been waiting, for years. The trip which would be mine, on my own money and I could do anything I want. On our family trips, my adventurous side had to take a back seat because my mom would never let me climb, dive or jump. So, this was my time now. The rebel inside me had finally got her due for breaking free and I couldn't wait.

To the home of clouds, Meghalaya

We took a shared cab to Shillong from Guwahati which are about 100 kms apart and it takes about 3-4 hours to reach. Although I was excited, I was also scared, a little. Living in a city like Delhi, gives you a fear in your mind, for being a girl. It makes it hard to trust new places and new people. So, the mind is always alert and every person, incident or place is being scanned in here, for suspicion. On the outside one may display herself to be bold, but the inside is always acting like an FBI. And this ride was no different.

But this journey was a beautiful one with greenery and hills all the way. As we started going up the mountains, many of the roads were under construction and the mountains were being cut to make way for broader and safer roads. As we approached Shillong, a lot of houses started appearing on our way. Picture perfect houses with colorful gardens in the front and dense and tall trees in the backyard. The ladies wore salwar kameez and young girls were wearing stylish knee length dresses, something for which eye brows would be raised even in the National Capital. So, we were pleasantly surprised with that and suddenly all our anxiety of visiting a strange land started fading away. It seemed to be a nice place.

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 3/8 by Sangeeta KumariIf the journey is so beautiful, let me be on the journey forever!

We reached at a time when the sun had decided to hide away from this part of the world. The cab dropped us at Police Bazar, a main area in the city with a circle in the center and radial streets, which were alive with numerous colorful shops, restaurants, hotels and people against the backdrop of all around serene dark green hills giving a sharp contrast to the hustle bustle of the city.

We had pre booked a hotel over phone. And we were on a quest to find it which no one seemed to know in that area. Eventually, we asked a mother daughter duo who got very concerned for us and lead us to our destination. As much as I was keen on spending my "earned" money from my first job of few months, Nimmo was still a student and had come on parents' expenses, so we had to make it an extremely budget trip. Accordingly, the hotel room we had booked, as I remember was for Rs.600 a night.

Our hotel melodrama

This hotel was in a narrow by lane and seemed somewhat shady and old. There was a narrow corridor inside, with rooms on both sides. The mosaic floor had turned pale and, brownish on the corners due to lack of cleaning. People were continuously talking, shouting, having a gala time and coming in and out their rooms. Our mind FBIs again started working, gathering all the "dubious" activities. Our room was dirty, we did not even feel like touching the bedsheets. We did not want to stay in that room for long. So, we just kept our stuff and went out looking for another hotel and to visit the Meghalaya tourism office to plan our trip. It had gotten dark and the market was gleaming with lights and people, buzzing with their voices and the music of traffic.

We checked out 2-3 hotels on our way but they all were either out of our budget or fully booked. So, we proceeded to the tourism office (MTC) which was at a walking distance from our hotel. Here, we were informed that since it was an off season there were buses available for sightseeing for only 2 places, Shillong and Cherrapunji. But we also wanted to visit Mawsynram, the rainiest place on earth and Mawlynnong, called the cleanest village in Asia. Cab was available for these places but only two of us going to these remote places, seemed unsafe as well as expensive. So, the tourism office people asked us to give them our names and contact details and they would inform us in case they got two other people interested. We did that and then we booked a bus for Cherrapunji tour for the following morning; and right opposite to the tourism office we found a hotel which would give us a room only next morning. Hence, we decided to shift before boarding our bus at 8am, next morning.

Our third companion, Miss Umbrella!

After this, we went looking for an umbrella as we would need it on the trip. It was not raining at that time, but we were in the kingdom of clouds and we couldn't take them lightly. So, we went inside a small umbrella shop in a narrow lane which was going uphill, with shops on both sides and some houses too. We looked through many colorful pieces but only one caught all four of our eyes. It was a turquoise color umbrella with bright orange, yellow and white flowers printed all over it, with leaves in deep blue merging with the background turquoise blue. We both absolutely love it and it was actually one of the best things about this trip. It lifted our mood instantly but then the thought of going back to our hotel, dampened our spirits a little bit.

Every thing is fair in cold and sleep!

The night was cold and we were sleepy. We couldn't make ourselves sleep on those dirty sheets. And were too cautious to ask for clean ones as we didn't want draw any attention on us. Hence, in the room, we started acting like cleanliness freak divas and removed the sheets and the blankets, and kept them away on an inbuilt cemented shelf. And we laid down on the bare mattresses on the bed. But as the night progressed, it got colder and we needed something to cover ourselves up. Yet, we kept our pride and braved the cold for as long as we could, before we had to give in, or we would not get sleep and freeze. The blankets touching our skin felt gross, and the nasty smell was unbearable but we managed to put ourselves to sleep somehow. May be pride does not keep you alive for long. Travelling gives you a lot of experiences good and bad, but even the bad ones become funny memories later.

New day, new adventures!

The next morning when the city was still waking up and the sun yet to rise, we had risen and were out on the streets with all our luggage, leaving our smelly room behind. The streets were wet indicating early morning rains. The same bustling streets of previous night, were now totally quiet and empty, and completely unrecognizable, with a few cleanliness workers sweeping them to get the day started.

Our new room was smaller but clean and expensive by 150 rupees. We had breakfast of hot aloo parathas in the hotel cafeteria hurriedly, to reach for the bus. We boarded the bus which was a small one with about 30 people on board mostly from West Bengal and Assam and all were families except us. Nimmo is Bengali and I have lived in Kolkata for 5 years, so, it is easy for us to recognize Bengali and Assamese people. As the bus started moving, we traveled on the empty roads of the city, we saw markets being set up, people having breakfast at road side eateries, houses on both sides of streets, people running errands, kids going to school in groups and waving at us, all these against the backdrop of the ever present soothing green hills.

Cheers to Cherrapunji!

As we left the city area, the clouds started hovering around like a fairy, getting into our bus. The white translucent clouds flowed like a scarf alongside us. One side of the road was elevated with green rice farms in layers and steps, and the other side was a descent with streams flowing in great vigor, and trees dancing in the wind. The clouds occasionally, painted them with a layer of translucent white or thick white depending upon their mood. I remember I said to Nimmo that I can sit at these places for hours without uttering a single word and she acknowledged the same. Soft drizzles swayed by the cool breeze, were touching our faces from the bus window. And everything else in life was forgotten. It was just this moment of tranquility in this fairyland of nature with a best friend and total strangers! It was bliss!

Mawdok Valley: Nature's 3D painting

Cherrapunji is about 50kms from Shillong and is the second wettest place on the planet. Our first stop was Mawdok valley. It is a serene valley with mountains standing one behind the other on both sides creating a V shape. The color of the mountains grade from lush green in the front, dark green in the middle to dark blueish grey in the back. The grey clouds above were at rest but looked mighty and were merging with the mountains at their peaks, making them look blurry. Except for the voices of the tourists, there was no other sound and no wind. The valley stood also still like a painting as if the childhood sceneries we used to draw had come to life, only with more shades, details and beauty.

It was here that we interacted with our fellow travelers for the first time. When people would get to know that we had come all the way from New Delhi and Kolkata all by ourselves, the only word that would come out of their mouth was "baah" meaning waah(wow) in Hindi. And we took pride in hearing that.

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 4/8 by Sangeeta KumariMawdok Valley live paintingArtist : NatureMedium: Mountains, flora and clouds

Nohkalikai Waterfall

Next we visited the Nohkalikai waterfall named after a woman who committed suicide by jumping off the waterfall. This is one of the highest waterfalls in the country at 340mtrs(1115ft). But there was dense fog everywhere and what we saw all around was opaque white clouds occasionally revealing some greens at some places, with no sight of the waterfall. But we could hear the cascading sound of the fall. And it was continuously drizzling. The only respite was that we could use our ravishing umbrella to protect ourselves from the rain gods but more so, to click pictures with it. And we had a digicam with us. Today most of the phone cameras are better than that, but at that time that was the best we had. Making the most of whatever we got, it was time for the next destination.

Seven Sisters Falls: Veiled by the clouds

The Seven Sisters falls was next, which are an amalgamation of seven waterfalls. We were on the plateau from which waterfalls started, so we would have the view from the top. We were immensely eager to see this waterfall, as the plateau is in a huge arc shape and covered with the falls one after the other. This is what we saw in the pictures at the entry gate. But again, the dense fog had clothed the giant waterfalls in mesmerizing fairy white. We could hear the thunderous roar of the waterfalls from far away, which made us all the more excited to view it. There were stairs even, to go down the valley and view the sublime falls.

It was heart breaking, as the sound of the raging waterfalls filled our imagination with majestic images of huge white foaming and ferocious waterfalls gushing into the valley at lightning speed. But ohh Cherrapunji! Even though you have been decrowned of being the rainiest place on earth, you are still so stubborn and want to reign on the rains. So due to this stubbornness our eyes got devoid of the visual feast but our ears got ecstatic and mind imaginative!

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 5/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

Stairs to go down to view the majestic falls, veiled for us for that day!

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 6/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

You can block the view, but not stop us from posing Mr. Cloud

Mawsmai Wonder Caves

After the no show at the falls, it was time for some cave exploration and Mawsmai caves were waiting for us. Thank God, the rain gods were gracious enough to not whitewash these caves. You have to enter into a jungle like park with very tall trees everywhere and climb up many steps to reach the caves. These are deep, dark and narrow limestone caves with numerous stalactites hanging. Artificial lights have been put on the celling for visibility, yet in the corners it is pitch dark and you would need your mobile torch to find way and to not collide with the spiky structures. The colossal stalactites and stalagmites, so many times resembled different animals like dinosaurs and rhinos due to their rough crinkled textures and formations. It was fascinating.

We had to mind our heads continuously, to not get hurt. In the midway is a tunnel, very small, and narrow enough to barely fit an adult. From inside it, you have to climb up to get to the other part of the caves. Usually a person is here on duty to pull you up. And that was an adventure! It was a wet cave with water dropping from everywhere and flowing on the floor. And contrary to the valley, there was a lot of sound here as even the normal voices echoed louder because of the narrow cave walls. But the voices were not even normal, people were excited, at the same time bewildered and amazed by the eccentricity of these caves. Seemed as if the dampened spirits at the Seven Sister falls had been lifted high by the caves, on its rocky shoulders. May be that is how life should be. Instead of holding on to the setbacks, we should work on the next adventure and revel in it.

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 7/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

Water Water everywhere!: The deep and dark Mawsmai Caves

Photo of Memoirs from Meghalaya: Reminiscing the Mystical Clouds 8/8 by Sangeeta Kumari

Beware of your next step. The stalagmites are hard-hearted.

The exit of the caves gave way to another lush green park with tall trees and chirping of birds. The caves are in the center of the park actually. So, we walked through the park on a pathway in the middle with mosses on it, to head back to our bus.

Falls, rains, chills: The return Journey

From the bus window, we saw numerous splendid white waterfalls formed by the rains, dancing on our way making the eyes glitter and the ears mesmerized. The clouds were generous enough to draw their white curtains away, to unveil these narrow and high falls and the green mountainous views, for our eyes and senses. It was cold and we were wet, partly from the water in the caves and partly from the rains. And we had stopped bothering our pretty umbrella by now. The rains had won us by continuously attacking everywhere. And our weapon was too beautiful to make it combat the mighty enemy endlessly; as the rains had too much pride, to give in. But for us, our umbrella was too beloved to be injured let alone martyred. Hence, we decided to protect our armament and brave the enemy ourselves. The cold wind blowing through the bus gave us goosebumps and was definitely on the side of our opposition. But nonetheless our spirits were relishing it with arms cross-folded on our chests and palms rubbing against the upper arms for warmth.

Back in the city

Our bus arrived in Shillong at around 6pm and dropped us in front of the tourism office. We got down and immediately went to the office to check if someone had given his or her name for the cab ride; but to our dismay, we got a negative answer. They asked us to wait till the coming day. So, we booked the Shillong tour bus for the following day being hopeful people would turn up, for the next two days we wanted to travel. But then, we also didn't want to take a chance. Thus, we went to a couple of private tourist agency offices to enquire for the tour to Mawsynram and Mawlynnong. But there again buses were not available and they could only provide cab for the two of us. Therefore, now the best bet was the MTC cab service only.

Discovering the city, on its streets

After this we did not go to our hotel but started strolling in the streets going anywhere and everywhere, wherever the path took us. We went through markets selling a plethora of products ranging from blankets, to handcrafted goods, showpieces to garments to vegetables and dhabas on the road sides etc. to residential lanes and churches to state government buildings with CRPF personnel holding their rifles. We saw boards written in English which we understood and some we could not understand at all, even though we could read the letters. We later got to know, the Khasi tribe people inhabit this part of the state and their language, also Khasi has Latin script same as the English language. Also, English is the official language of this State. And more than 80 percent people follow Christianity here making Meghalaya, the only one of three Christian major state of the country.

On the streets, we were trying to absorb the essence of the city. Its air had no fear or deceit, instead had the hard work, love, truth and innocence of the people of hills. We never felt vulnerable on the streets. No unwanted stares, no indecent gestures. The FBIs inside our minds has taken a backseat and we were loving this walk in a strange land amongst strange but beautiful people. There was a sense of euphoria. A euphoria of being in a picturesque land of noble people, earlier seen and felt only through storybooks and novels. And also, of being finally grown up to be on our own in a place which had started to feel like our own. But to experience such things, you need to be in company of people with same disposition as you or should be all by yourself. The company I had, was perfect. On this trip my best friend had also turned my travel buddy. And we have had many adventures since then but this one remains special.

Till date this is one of my favorite things to do on a trip, to walk on the unfamiliar streets all by myself or with a friend and discover everything about the place and feel the aura.

Nimmo wanted to visit a small white quaint church we saw on way. It had well-trimmed, landscaped green lawns and colorful potted flowers placed on both sides of the pathway to the church. We saw a gathering of about 40 people inside and decided to enter, just then we were informed by some people that a private function was going on and we couldn't enter. It had already turned dark so we decided to turn back. And we did not know which path to take, so every few minutes we would ask some locals the way to the tourism office and they would graciously guide us. Upon reaching nearby our hotel, on the lane of the MTC office, opposite to our hotel, we saw a neon colored hotel whose architecture and built looked like an old house converted to a hotel. It was a three storied building. Every floor had only one balcony which ran across the entire breadth of the building, just like old houses. And each room door opened to this common balcony including the windows. We wondered who would be staying at such a weird colored hotel with no privacy!

The mystery morning knocks!

Our day ended with dinner and some calls at home. Since it was a long day and we had woken up very early to shift to this hotel, we were totally tired and drifted to sleep land in no time. When I was swimming into the deepest and darkest ocean of sleep, Nimmo woke me up and said something. Initially I could not come to terms with where I was and what was happening and was still in a haze. After a few seconds, came to my senses and realized someone was knocking on our door and it was 4 o' clock in the morning. But I was still not in so much sense to even ask who it was. So, both of us went back to sleep again. After we woke up, we got busy getting ready for the day, and getting breakfast and rushing for the Shillong tour bus. But as we were depositing our room keys at the reception, we recalled the incident which had happened a few hours back. We informed the manager who had no clue but assured us they would be vigilant. Till date it's a mystery who was on the other side of the door. Nevertheless, it is a funny memory.

Shillong, the Scotland of the East

We entered the bus and took the 3rd or 4 th row seats. Our co-travelers were some new and some from the Cherrapunji tour. The familiar ones got excited seeing each other. It is funny that in a day people can get acquainted to each other so well and can become the reason for each other's smile, on seeing one another's familiar faces. There were a few honeymooners too on this day. We again started off on the empty city streets with beautiful rolling hills in the background. These are Khasi hills, which had reminded the British of the hills of Scotland, during pre-independence era and since then this city got nicknamed as "the Scotland of the East".

The Air Force Museum, Shillong

Passing through the green rice fields and houses of people, in the presence of the mystical omnipresent clouds, we made it to our first stop, the Air Force Museum. This museum housed fighter jets, uniforms and many pictures from the wars fought by our Airforce men. These things are bound to make us emotional and proud at the same time. They are reminders of those of our countrymen and women, who put their lives and happiness of their families at stake, to protect us and our country. Since both of us come from defense background and have studied in Army Schools, this took us back to our school days, the parades, the oaths, the uniformed men and women on regular days and more of them on PTA days and the celebration our armed forces every now and then.

The colors of Wards Lake

After this emotional ride, we visited the Wards lake which is an artificial lake surrounded by botanical gardens with circular beds of flowers in vibrant pink, orange, red, yellow and purple colors. Boating facility is there and a lot of families with kids as well as couples could be seen boating in the lake. Ducks swam along. There is a wooden over bridge in the center of the lake under which the boats pass. And the whole view looks like a painting.

The opulence of the Cathedral of Mary

The next place we visited was the magnificent Cathedral of Mary Church. Standing tall and wide in its bright blue grey color with arches in perfect symmetry and geometry. We were amazed at its grandeur. It was the first time we had seen a colored church. About half of the population of Shillong practice Christianity. So, it is an important place of worship for the people of Shillong.

The frisky Elephant falls

We then started for the beautiful and exhilarating elephant waterfall. This waterfall cascades through three steps, with the top two tiers surrounded by trees and rocks and you have to climb up the stairs to view them. The last leg is where the tourists have clear view and can feel the water. The water was flowing with electric energy falling here and there and sloshing against the rocky surfaces with a sound that was a roar and relaxation at the same time. We loved this place the most as we could enter the water and play. The water was so chilly, putting our feet the first time in it felt like they have been cut off from the rest of the body. But few seconds later, our feet gradually adjusted to the temperature. We splashed the water on each other and didn't want to come out. But then all good things must end so did this.

For the love of Khasi Costumes and Jewelry

At the entry of the waterfall area, there is a shop where one can rent the traditional Khasi costumes to click pictures. So, we did rent and wear the costumes which comprised of a red full sleeved top, black long fitted skirt and a yellow shawl draped over from one shoulder to the knees. Silver headgear with flowers, broad and flat silver bracelets and armlets and long silver, red and yellow beaded tribal neckpieces completed the look. We had our moment of being dressed as Khasi women adorning the bright and beautiful traditional costumes.

My love for tribal attires and jewelries go back to college, when I was studying fashion design. I wanted to design my final collection inspired from North-Eastern states' tribal jewelries. I had tried to do research online as well find material in the library but was not successful. Even the states emporiums in Delhi did not have much substance on jewelries. And visiting these states was out of question as I was still a student. So crestfallen, I had to change my inspiration. And here I was, wearing those jewelries and costumes. It was a beautiful and proud feeling.

We can never explore enough of the rich heritage we have. Every time I see something traditional and handcrafted my heart swells up. Every costume or jewelry tells a story, about the lifestyle of the people, the climate, the ergonomics, the cultivation, the mines, their ethos, their hand skills, their color and design sensibilities and preferences and so much more. They are the keys which unlock so much information about their land and people. For students of art and design these pieces alone can become a mecca of great learning.

The meditative Barapani Lake

We next stopped at the Umiam or the Barapani lake for the picturesque view and boating. It is a reservoir surrounded by green hills. We wanted to go for boating but to book one boat 10 people should have been there. And not everyone was interested. We had started asking people inside the bus only and a family of four were interested. Now we needed to find four more. Therefore, all six of us started inducing people and were successful with a pair of honeymoon couples. All of us had to wear the red life jackets. It was narrow boat and we had to sit on both sides to balance the weight. I remember on the opposite side, people had become extra and on the edge, one of the honeymoon couples was sitting, and the boat in charge asked one of them to shift to our side and sit, so as to balance. But they were too attached to be apart from each other. Finally, another man got up to shift to our side.

We went deep into the lake and it was so peaceful and soothing, the surrounding dark green hills looked so serene and the sky was foamy white and cool breeze was blowing. The water was calm and scintillating. All the people who were initially excited, talking and clicking pictures, became quiet. Everyone lost in their own thoughts, beholding the scenic view, maybe reflecting something inside. May be this is our deep engraved connection with nature that when you are with it you can't think about anything else. And it lets you to reflect on a lot of things in life, sometimes gives you answers too and other times makes you more bewildered.

The ride ended. We got off the boat and a man who was a honeymooner too, approached Nimmo and started asking her about something in Bengali. But barely did he utter anything that his wife came, gave Nimmo a very envious, killer look, grabbed him by his arms and took him away. We were so baffled, barely understood what had happened, looked into each other's eyes and started laughing. And we decided we are going to stay away from couples on this trip.

The tour for the day ended with the boating and all of us boarded the bus to return back to Shillong.

Possible co-travelers brainstorming

On way we were wondering about the next two days, if people came to the tourism office and showed interest for the cab tour to Mawsynram and Mawlynnong. We even asked people in our bus but no one was interested. Shillong and Cherrapunji were the famous places and most people came only to visit those places. We even tried to entice them telling about specialties of the places including the legendary Living roots bridge, but no one got convinced. Nevertheless, we were optimistic and starting discussing who could be our co-travelers. We analyzed that if two boys came it could be fun but could also be unsafe. Then came the thought of two girls, which could be safe but they should not be delicate darlings or have tantrums. But the thought we dreaded most, was that of being with a couple! No guesses why! The couple would be attached to each other the whole time, one of us would have to sit in the front and the other one would be in an awkward situation. And Nimmo and I had already started fighting for the front seat in case of being joined by a couple.

We then cleared our thoughts and decided to wait for what was to come, hoping for the best. I also decided to buy new shoes with good grip as we would have to trek a little for the next two places and my the then shoes had slippery soles.

Did the clouds not want us?

When the bus arrived at around 6:30pm in front of the tourism office, we immediately de-boarded and ran to the office to check our fate. But hard luck. Contrary to our optimism, no one had turned up interested! Even the other bus for the Cherrapunji tour for the day, had arrived 30 mins back. So, there was no other hope. No new traveler would decide to visit these lesser known places before covering Shillong and Cherrapunji. We were crushed inside! Seeing our gloomy faces, the office people asked us to come back and check again before the office closed which would in an hour's time. We were so dejected and were deciding on whether we should leave for Guwahati right now or should wait and leave the following morning. We didn't want to leave at all, but we had to take a quick decision as it was getting dark and there was no point staying overnight if we were not able to continue the trip further. Instead we could explore in and around Guwahati for the remaining days.

But was our trip over? Were we really not supposed to experience the rainiest place on the planet and the cleanest village of Asia?

Or were there simply other plans waiting for us?

Continued.................... next week

Travel Information

Traveling to Shillong

By Train: The closest Railway station to Shillong is Guwahati about 100kms away. Guwahati is well connected by train from major cities in the country.

By Flight: The nearest Airport to Shillong is Umroi Airport in Barapani, 25kms away but it has limited connectivity. The nearest major airport is the Guwahati airport about 100kms away which is well connected to the rest of the country.

By Cab: You can easily get shared cabs from Paltan Bazar in Guwahati which will drop you at Police Bazar in Shillong. You can also hire personal cabs. It takes about 3-3.5hrs to reach with a lunch break in between. The whole route is very scenic and worth the time.

By Bus: Many private and government deluxe and regular buses ply on the Guwahati to Shillong route at regular intervals. But cab would be more comfortable because of the hilly roads.

Where to stay

There are many private and government hotels and resorts in Police Bazar, which is the best place to stay as it is a tourist area and all facilities of travelling to other places in the state and nearby states are available. Book the hotels in advance, especially in peak seasons.

Best time to visit

March to May and Oct to November are the best time to visit for scenic beauty with little to no disturbance from the rains and the weather is cool. But if you are a monsoon lover just pack your bags in the monsoons like we did and go enjoy the wettest place on the planet for real! Also, there are fewer tourists during this time so you can have all the clouds and mountains to yourself. But this time also has the risk of whitewashing all the sceneries and waterfalls. So, it's a risky adventure!

What to eat

Almost all the hotels have inhouse restaurant which provide North Indian and Chinese food for sure. There are many cafes and restaurants too. Street food consist of momos, chowmein and jhal muri(puffed rice and spices).

Travelling to Cherrapunji

By Bus: You can either take the MTC bus which takes on Cherrapunji sightseeing tour with a guide or you can take a private bus.

By Cab: You can again hire an MTC cab for sightseeing or a private cab.

MTC office is located on Jail Road in Police Bazar. The bus or cab need to be booked in advance here as they may not be available on your dates. There are many private transport and tour agencies in Police Bazar which conduct sightseeing tours as well as drop off.

Where to stay

There are a few hotels and resorts available if you want to stay in Cherrapunji which need to be booked in advance. Or you can just go for a one-day sightseeing and come back to stay in Shillong.