A week in Shillong, Meghalaya

Tripoto
13th May 2014

Capital city of the state of Meghalaya, Shillong offers a perfect mix of old world and modern charm. Tucked away in East Khasi Hills, this city offered a much needed respite from continuous travelling, through gruelling road conditions in much of the rest of north-east. Shillong travel circuit can easily boast to have best roads, connectivity and tourist amenities and hence probably more people travelling to this state than any other out of our lovely seven-sisters.

Being a popular destination, much has already been written about Shillong, so I kept wondering what is it that I should cover that might be unique about this done-to-death destination in north east. I spent about a week in Shillong and my experiences were not as marvellous or spell binding as in rest of north-east. Not because of anything else, but just because Shillong is well touched by tourists and didn't offer an awe moment to me.

Yet there was something every day that I was learning about it - things very familiar yet giving feelings ranging from amusement to sadness. And that is also important sometimes, when travelling. I decided to write things to do/see based on these experiences- some popular from guidebooks & totally worth it while some based on my own observation.

Things to keep in mind

Street Food in Shillong: Best avoided in Police Bazaar. However, if you feel tempted to try out, after looking at a hoard of street food stalls, neatly placed next to each other in a row, you may, as it is not going to cost more than Rs. 10/- for any item. But my recommendation would be to try some outside Ward's Lake or on your drives out of city.

Street food in Shillong

Photo of Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Street food in Shillong

Photo of Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Walk Walk Walk: I always hold this mantra tight when travelling. Nothing else can help you get a truly local taste than walking. And this is what we also precisely did on all days in Shillong. Even though it’s a busy city, there are clearly marked pedestrian paths laid out throughout the town and walking is easy. It was while walking that we noticed those period school buses (the ones which look like a truck in the front, but are actually buses) with wooden sliding windows, the dominance of Maruti 800 on the roads, little ice cream parlours everywhere, huge number of men's salon, among other things.

Places to visit

Barra Bazaar

Photo of Bara Bazar, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Baskets in Barra Bazaar

Photo of Bara Bazar, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Herbs and spices

Photo of Bara Bazar, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

If you think Police Bazaar (PB, as called locally), the central business district of Shillong is where all the action is, then wait till you visit Barra Bazaar.

Often dismissed by cab drivers or guides as 'just a place to buy wholesale vegetables', this huge local market place, characterised by criss-crossing narrow alleyways, often allowing only one person to pass at a time, is a world in itself. It’s a street photographer's dream come true!

One can easily get lost in this labyrinth selling all things under the sun for everyday needs, and there are whole alleys specialising in one single product- from obvious fruits, vegetables to kitchen utensils, cane furniture, fish, all kinds of meat, grocery, cloth, sweets. Morning hours is the best time to see all the buzz, consider having breakfast in one of the alleys serving quintessential poori-bhaji.

Elephant falls

Photo of Elephant Falls, Laitmynsaw, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Occupying one of the top positions in things-to-do in Shillong guides, it definitely is worth it. The unique feature of this fall is that it gushes out water in three different steps.

The name 'Elephant' was given by British after a rock bear the fall which had the shape of an elephant, it later got destroyed in 1890s in an earthquake. Proper steps have been made for tourists to get down to the falls and watch it up close.

Cherrapunji

Photo of Mawsmai Cave Road, Cherrapunji‎, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Mawsmai Caves

Photo of Mawsmai Cave Road, Cherrapunji‎, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Momos

Photo of Mawsmai Cave Road, Cherrapunji‎, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Even though a day- trip to Cherrapunji might involve 7-8 sight-seeing stops, but I feel Mawsmai caves are the best or perhaps the only thing worth doing in the whole trip other than of course enjoying the spectacular valleys and scenery around.

The drive is so good that so-called tourist spots stand irrelevant. And yeah, one can well enjoy some street food on the way.

Laitumkhrah

Photo of Laitumkhrah, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

It doesn't matter how much you are coaxed into staying at one of the hotels in Police Bazaar, promising good connectivity etc, do not opt for it. PB is just way too busy and it just doesn't matter how good or luxurious the hotel is. It’s always a better choice to stay at places little off from the city centre, say Laitumkhra, which was much quieter in the nights.

Laitumkhra has couple of really good cafés (the best one too ) and eating joints and is connected to PB by shared taxi at Rs. 20/head. The place is a hangout zone for most school and college students of Shillong owing to several educational institutions in the vicinity. I stayed in Hotel Yalana which offered good rooms and facilities at very competitive rates. Another good option is to stay at Café Shillong B&B or if you have more budget then opt for Aerodene Cottages.

Café Shillong

Photo of Cafe Shillong, Don Bosco, Nongkynrih, Laitumkhrah, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Café Shillong

Photo of Cafe Shillong, Don Bosco, Nongkynrih, Laitumkhrah, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Located in Laitumkhra, ambience wise this café has everything you need in a typical upmarket coffee house, from comfortable lounge style seating to wooden table chairs to outdoor compact terrace seating. Menu is limited and offers a much needed change to other wise very 'chinese' dominated food in rest of Shillong. It has a selection of authentic coffees which tasted really really good. Food was just about okay, not close to what one might expect after tasting their yummy coffee. What else? They have live gigs every Sunday evening. Not to be missed :)

Munchies

Photo of Munchies Shillong, Don Bosco Road, Laitumkhrah, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Munchies

Photo of Munchies Shillong, Don Bosco Road, Laitumkhrah, Shillong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Yet again located in Laitumkhra, this little discreet (no signboard) café- restaurant is going to surprise you! Well located on the main road, just a few steps away from Café Shillong, this little eatery has everything on offer what you don't get otherwise in Shillong commonly. Absolutely yummy freshly made thin crust pizzas to just perfectly cooked juicy burgers to pastas. And guess what? They don't have Chinese or any rice item.

The owner was frank enough to tell us he has refrained from keeping any rice item, because pretty much all eateries boil rice on one day and keep reusing it by frying it, for next 3-4 days. In fact he was the one who took us to by lanes of Barra Bazaar on one of his early morning shopping spree for his outlet. They genuinely use fresh ingredients and one can taste that well in their food. Just that one needs some patience, because fresh cooking on order can take some time.

Easy on pocket, this little eatery also offers an open air patio seating along with cozy bamboo structure built on a level up which can pretty much give you a feeling of climbing up a tree house.

Visit this bar on a weekend evening for that perfect old-school feel. Hotel is an English style bungalow and the bar holds an old world charm about it with heavy wooden tables and chairs, windows opening to spectacular views of Shillong valley through the manicured garden. And all this at prices which are far more competitive than say the more popular sister in Police Bazaar, Cloud 9.

Mawlynnong

Photo of Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

Mawlynnong

Photo of Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India by Richa Gupta

A two-hour drive away lies village of Mawlynnong, claimed to be Asia's cleanest village. It might not necessarily be the cleanest, because I wonder what are the standards set and who is scoring these villages, but certainly extremely clean and well-tended villages I have ever been to. Apart from the village, one can visit the world famous living root bridges with just a 10 minute hike. Both these places required separate explanatory write ups.

3 Comment(s)
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Nice blog but here is one more blog which will help the travellers to have a good vacation . http://blog.railyatri.in/8-tourist-places-you-must-visit-while-in-shillong-city/
Wed 03 14 18, 01:05 · Reply · Report
Hi Richa. Thanks for sharing your travel experience. How did you visit Mawlynnong? Did you hire a cab or rented out a self drive car or did you use local transport?
Wed 04 05 17, 04:16 · Reply · Report
Really amazing and informative blog Richa!! I am in Shillong now,and just spent 6 daysbin nongriat! Heading to Dawki and mawlynlong tmrw :) Best wishes for your escapades !
Tue 04 26 16, 13:54 · Reply (1) · Report
hi Maviee would love to hear out your experience on Dawki and Mawlynnong; all the writeups and images have built up amazing excitement. Hope you had a great trip!
Thu 09 29 16, 06:42 · Report