Day4: Today's plan was to move to Shillong- the capital of tiny Meghalaya. This was the first time i was really really really excited about going to any place. Guwahati with its closeness to mainland India, Hindu majority and fairly spoken Hindi hadn't exactly made me feel out of the place but Shillong i knew was surely gonna do the honours! A mix of tribal population, tiptop young boyz and girls, fiery footballers in this so called Rock music capital of India was exciting me so much -as much it was scaring me. A 200 rupees/head share taxi from Guwahati's paltan bazaar continuously keep moving to Shillong during mornings. One of these 2 hour drive along mist shrouded hills, pine forests, pineapple plantations, lakes and waterfalls finally got me to Shillong's prime area- the Police bazar. (ofcourse after a tea break in Nong-poh- administrative centre of Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district- famous for its various pickles including pineapple, amla and bamboo shoot) Now again the real task started! The task of searching for a good hotel! Waise toh I had spoken to one of the hotels in Shillong from Mumbai itself but didnt really expect them to reserve a room for me just on the telephonic conversation. After checking out 2-3 hotels coincidentally i landed up in the same hotel that i had had talks with regarding booking a single room and voila! they really had a special single room booked for me! I was so happy and also glad coz the hotel owner was a nice sardar old man belonging to Mumbai who after retirement settled in Shillong and ran his hotel business. (hotel embassy, AC Lane, Police bazaar, Shillong-793001 phone number 09774150093)
After settling down and freshning up, i left the room to get some fresh air in this foreign looking Indian city! With almost a full day in hand i made a random 11th hour decision to hire a cab and go on a city tour. Thankfully getting a city cab wasnt difficult at all. For 500 bucks, a cabbie agreed to show me the city the first point being the Shillong peak- the highest point in Meghalaya named after Khasi deity- Ushyllong. Shillong peak with its 1964m (6447 ft) height, offers an amazing view of this beautiful town which still retains its distinctly colonial ambience along with its countryside charm. Some pineapple eating from the local khasi vendors is a must do at Shillong peak!
After Shillong peak, next was the turn of Shillong's most famous watrefalls- the elephant waterfalls 11km south of Shillong. These falls flowing over ferns and rocks in 3 tiers are the most famous and beautiful landmarks of Shillong.
After roaming around the falls for an hour, and after clicking hundreds of pictures, i saw a stall where the local Khasis were charging a few bucks for dressing up people in their local ethnic costumes and taking photographs to take the memories back home...so i tried this one! Surely have never looked so awful in life! But its fun :D
Only a few kilometers on the way back from Elephant falls was the airforce museum. Shillong was earlier the capital of Assam before its Khasi, Garo and Jaintiya hills together achieved statehood under a common name- Meghalaya. Hence Shillong has always been a stronghold of army and air force also considering its proximity with Bangladesh and other international borders. While roaming anywhere in the city, it keeps reminding one of the place being an important army cantonment in the region. The airforce museum has come good collection of war archives, letters, photographs etc. also in its open front yard, it houses few of the models of weapons used during the past wars.
Another landmark of Shillong is its 18 hole golf course spread over a huge area. Every corner of this picturesque golf course offers amazing frames to the eye of any photographer. The lush green golf course and narrow winding tar roads justify the why Shillong is aptly called the scotaland of the east.
Next was the Shillong state museum which is very close to imposing blue coloured Shillong cathedral- one of the most beautiful areas in Shillong. State museum here is a much smaller version of state museum in Guwahati which mostly revolves only around the lifestyle, customs and culture of Khasi, Garo, Jaintiya and Hajong tribes of Meghalaya. Along with jewelry, equipment, weapons and clothes used by the local tribes, the museum also displays some scenes of day to day life recreated in its glass shelves.
After a 15 minutes drive in Shillong's narrowest bylanes, we reached the 'Don Bosco museum of entomology' in Shillong's Mawlai suburb. A fullfledge museum totally dedicated to the tribes of North-east! It has a gallery for musical instruments, gallery of people, gallery of clothes etc etc. People's gallery is the most unique gallery found in this museum which exhibits lifesized models as well as busts of people of different Northeastren tribes like Rabha, hajong, Tripuri, Lushai, Chakesang, Konyak, Adi, Monpa, Nishi, Sherdukpen, Kuki etc etc. It shows how every tribe's physical and facial features differ from eachother even thou all Northeastren people look similar to a mainland Indian's eyes. After enlightening myself, i reached the topmost floor of the museum which is an AV room which showcases special AV shows made for the visitors to take them through a quick journey of Northeast and its glimses. Ground floor of the museum has a souvineer shop which sells CD's and plethora of books produced by its inhouse production written by scholars on different tribes of Northeast. Fore more information visit http://www.dbcic.org/images/DON%20BOSCO%20Museum%20Brochure.pdf
Close to Mawlai off the Guwahati road is the spot which offers a clear and unobstructed view of Beadon and Bishop falls 100's of meters away.
Lady Hydari park which also houses Shillong's mini deer park is situated just next to the heart of Shillong city - the Ward's lake. Hydari park is a ticketed small maintained garden but having seen many similar gardens in Mumbai and Delhi, it didnt have anything to attract someone who has seen good enough number of gardens in his entire life except for the deers and various species of orchids planted here.
After coming out of the park, i couldnt wait to have a boat ride in the Ward's lake. Just when i entered the lake area, i couldnt help fall in love with it! Everything so very exotic! The people, the landscaping, the surroundings! And the musical fountains in the middle of the lake were playing English rock songs! The whole environment felt so romantic! sighs..only if i had someone along.....
After having a half an hour ride and after feeding popcorn to the ducks in the lake, and of course after promising myself to come again to the lake befrore i go back, i left for police bazaar..
A stroll in this bustling bazaar is the best thing to do when in Shillong. Now one of my favourite markets, it has everything to offer every type of person. From the bangcock imported goods, young Khasi ladies selling exotic orchid plants, imported wines to tour operators and amazing roadside food. Dilli Mishtann just at the starting of Police bazaar is a must must must visit place in Shillong for its Chhole Bhature and jalebis. Just a kilometer's walk from Police bazaar takes one to the Bara bazaar which is Shillong's all women's market which come from allover Meghalaya to sell their stuff from pickles to spices, from saplings to flowers. Bara bazaar also has a flea market held on an around a pedestrian bridge which is locally called Burmese market. Later booked myself a ticket at Meghalaya tourism devlopment corporation's office for a Shillong- Cherrapunji- Shillong day trip for the next day and had tasty sizzler in one of the restaurants in police bazaar and then settled in the hotel room for the day.