|That is when you know Meghalaya has come|
Few days back I was writing an article about my Meghalaya Trip and the entire time spent in Shillong kind of played in my head like some flashback. I had been to Meghalaya almost a year back but that trip is just as fresh as ever.
|Roadside Pickle Farms|
Silent sleepy Guwahati fades and you enter a busy dusty highway that is a single route access into the cloudiest state of India, Meghalaya. Roads fenced with pineapple farms and pickle stalls and construction sites keep you company till you enter a verdant canopied road about 2.5 hours later and cool breeze from the close by Barapani Lake formally greets you into this state that is close to nature in every sense. The transition in temperature is so drastic as you approach Barapani that you literally forget the hot humid weather of Guwahati the minute the canopied path commences.
Barapani, formally known as Umiam Lake – is an artificial lake that was built for a hydroelectric project on the Umiam Lake in the 1960’s but over time it has become very important part of the eco system around and is pretty much the reason the area on the way to Shillong had low temperatures throughout the year. The close by area is densely forested and the lake itself has numerous small islands that become bird watching zones during winters and the sparkling blue waters of the lake surrounded by sylvan hills – the sight - is a treat to the eyes!
|Shillong from Shillong Peak|
While Barapani is the lowest point of Shillong, Shillong Peak is the highest one. Terraced farmed lands, hillocks turned into vegetable plantations, turns and slopes and you reach the air base colony of Shillong. Just as you cross this colony you see the point where you can see the entire city in one glance – this point is called Shillong Peak. The view of the city sandwiched between grey clouds and patches of green below is beyond words and cold winds and light showers on the peak just add to this amazing experience.
The way up there and back is equally amazing as the Shillong Peak point. You see acres of colourful farmlands painting the hillocks in earthly colours, colourful because this is Meghalaya’s Farmers Market Area! Everything that can grow in the region – vegetables and grains – is grown here.
|Look at the colours in the farms!|
The hills around Shillong transition from the farmlands, to lush green forested area, to symmetrical tea gardens to verdant golf course – all standing next to each other but not overlapping. And somewhere between these there is a hidden 3 layered waterfall that gushes noisily all round the year.
|One of the levels of Elephant Falls|
Elephant Falls - locally called the Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew, is probably the most popular tourist spot of Shillong. Exploring the falls is all about a 170 steps walk around the 3 levels but it is totally worth it! A board at the starting point of the falls tells you that Britishers named these falls ‘Elephant Falls’ because there used to be a rock resembling an elephant at the bottom of the main falls. Though the rock was destroyed in an earthquake back in 1897, the name still prevails till date. This is also the place where people can click photos in traditional Khasi attire but if you want to see locals and not just dress up like them, there is no better place that Police Baazar to see Shillong as a local.
|Police Bazar has a lot of buildings like this one!|
Criss-cross, interlinked arrays of alley, packed with people and shops – this is police bazaar. Unlike other hill stations where a small road, mostly called as MG Road makes for shopaholic paradise, Shillong has a full-fledged market area that runs across interlinked major 4 alleys. From permanent stores, to temporary carts to number of street food joints – Police Bazaar has it all.
|I tried that weird looking white fruit|
I did try some local fruits there but enjoyed momos more than anything. Also, if you love collecting traditional handicraft material, this is the place you need to go to! There is also a small alley here that has shops that only make and sell artificial flowers! And remember the key to shop here is - Bargaining, because, well Shillong is after all a touristy place.
Shillong is a place that gives you the sense of a town, a hill station and a country side getaway all at once. Won’t say it is the best of the cities I have been to in North East India, because that is undoubtedly Gangtok, but Shillong has its own charm that you just can’t escape once you have experienced it!
|See you again Shillong|