A view of the Khasi range from Cherapunjee
My first trip ever was to 'The abode of Clouds' also called Meghalaya by Indians. A state so small but so rich in culture. A state that still preserves its tribal traditions and culture unlike the other developing tribal states of the North eastern parts of India. The state mostly borders Bangladesh on one side and Assam on the other side.
Shillong the capital of this tiny state is a quiet city with a lot of tourists buzzing around it all round the year. Easily accessible by bus and shared taxis from Guwahati which has the nearest airport and railway station is a 3 hour drive form Shillong.
If you are there for the weekend the local bazar called the Police Bazar is a must visit place in the evening. For a city that totally shuts down by 7 pm the bazar is an exception on rare exceptions and i was fortunate to be there on one such weekend. The vendors there serve you different types of homemade momos (a local dish), chowmin and grilled pork and chicken.
Elephant Falls - Shillong
There are a lot of places to look around Shillong itself. For this purpose you can hire a taxi with a package if you are in a group of 5 to 10 people or you can do it on your own except for some places. There are quiet a few intresting places around Shillong like the Elephant falls, Smith's valley, Air force museum, butterfly museum and a couple of Lakes and a zoo and Shillong view point. The viewpoint and Smith's valley are amazing only if there is no fog or rain on the day of vist.
The Khasi heritage village
The Khasi heritage village is a must visit place. It has some of the traditional Khasi tribal houses and stands just outside the Sacred Groves of the Khasi tribe. Though outsiders are not permitted to entre the Grove one can go close to the Grove and take a peek. Its a vast area of dark forest stretching for kilometers. A small walk from here would bring you to the start of a beautiful trail called the David Scott Trail.
David Scott Trail: Its a one day trek of about 16 to 17kms. Not a very difficult trek. The view's so amazing throughout the entire trek. One comes across quiet a number of small streams cutting your path every now and then. Careful though. The trail can be very slippery if it had rained that week. Yes, I did slip quiet a few times, lol. Its a lot fun when you fall and pull your friends down too. There is one huge steel bridge that's been there from the British period which stands above the river and gives you a panaromic view of the hills and the river. A little further you will have to cross the stream on foot and this is my favorite part. You'll have to remove your shoes so that it doesn't get wet and the rocks are slippery and added to it the water is super cold, atleast in the month I went (November). A little bit more and we were at a small pond with crystal clear water and the taste of water at all the places was so good. The pond still stands so close to my heart. Warning: Its going to get real messy if it rains during your trek and in this kind of place you cannot predict when it might rain and when it might not. So, it's always good to go prepared for the worst.
Cherapunjee: The wettest place on earth, is famous not only for the frequency of rainfall it gets but also for the number of waterfalls, the caves and finally the most spectacular of all "The double decker Living Root Bridges".
The are a lot of caves in this region. Some are small and some are really big ones. Of them the one I liked the most was the one called Aarva Caves. Its darkness and tunnels were so amusing to me for it was my first caving experience. It took about 2 to 3 hours to explore about 60 to 70% of the cave. The rest I wasn't able to do because of the water stagnated in some lower levels due to recent rains.
There are quite a few famous falls in and around Cherapunjee like the Nohkalikai falls and the Seven sister falls. Both these places border Bangladesh. You have a flight of about 300 steps going down from the view point of Nohkalilai falls, which will take you to the very bottom of the falls where the water drops down creating a beautiful blue pool. Damn, the view was mesmerizing.
A view of the Nohkalikai falls form the view point
And if you go a little further from the falls you come to a cliff from where you can see Bangladesh and a teally awesome photo point. The other falls you cannot get so close.
Mawlynnong: Claimed to be the cleanest village of India, the village is about an hour's drive form Cherapunjee. It is actually very clean. It looks more of a tourist spot than a village because of the tourism that has increased in this particular place over the past few years. Still it is great to walk along the cemented path and through the bamboo farms and the huts of the village. There are lots of small souvenir shops and snack shops all along the way. Most snack shops sell cucumber, fresh pineapple and fresh grapefruit. In fact you can spot some pineapples on your way to the village along the path outside some houses and you can also see women carving small souvenirs out of wood right in front of you in the shops. Most of the shops along the way offer their products at a very reasonable rate till you reach the village market where the prices are exorbitant, still of you can bargain you can get them for reasonable rates.