‘The abode of clouds’ Meghalaya is a North Eastern state noted for its record highest annual rainfall in the world in the region of Mawsynram. Meghalaya is populated by Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes of which Khasis are a matriarchal community with some unique traditions.
Living root bridges, lakes, rainiest place on earth, Asia’s cleanest model village and a cosmopolitan town with beautiful lakes and water falls are the major attractions in Meghalaya. My personal favorites are living root bridges, Mawlynong, the model village and a stay at Orchid lake resort on the Umiam Lake.
Umiam lake from the Orchid Lake resort
Photo from Flickr
Scotland of East: Shillong
Even before you enter the hill town Shillong, nature puts on its best face to welcome you. Tall and lanky betel nut trees swaying in the breeze, scenic rolling hills and Umiam Lake give you an insight into what Meghalaya has in store for you!
Umiam lake or Bara pani literally meaning ‘water of the eyes’ is the source of the Umiam river and is surrounded by lovely hills and meadows all around. Orchid lake resort gives you the opportunity of staying near the lake with a pleasant rooms, adventure sport activities like speed boating, water skiing and rowing along with magnificent views of the lake flanked by green meadows and hills.
Wards Lake along with green meadows and colorful flowers, rare blooming orchids right in the middle of the city makes for a perfect picnic spot. Shillong’s waterfalls; spread eagle water falls, Beadon and Bishop waterfalls and Elephant waterfalls are also major tourist attractions.
Shillong’s Golf club is an extraordinarily beautiful 18-hole course field with fragrant pine and flowing rhododendron trees. Shillong peak at a height of approximately 6433 Km offers a wonderful view of the city and countryside; the view broken intermittently by drifting, dense clouds.
Lastly, end the day with a shopping experience you will not forget in Shillong’s Bara Bazaar and Police bazaar. A weekly local market ‘lewdeh’ is also held here. Shop for local forest honey, souvenirs like handmade knives, bags, shawls, bamboo cutlery and artifacts. For those who love to experiment with style go for a set of Jain Sayem, traditional Khasi skirt.
Cherrapunji or Sohra
Witness green, green and more green; Cherrapunji welcomes you with a sign ‘the rainiest place on planet earth’; though this title has been overtaken by Mawsynram. A day tour circuit in Cherrapunji comprises of Mawsmai caves, Mawkdok view point, Nohkalikai view point, Eco Park, Seven sisters view point, Thangkharang Park and Khoh Ramhah. Mawsmai caves deserve a special mention here being the only lit caves in Meghalaya complete with imaginative lime formations crafted over years by the slow dripping water.
Living root bridges
Unique in the world(!) it is a bioengineered bridge made from roots of Ficus elastica. The war khasis make a rubber tree’s roots grow over a river and use betel nut trunks to create root guidance systems. On the other side of the river, the roots of Indian rubber tree are allowed to take root in the soil. These sturdy, living root bridges are produced over time and sometimes take years to become fully functional. These bridges are extraordinarily strong, alive and hence keep gaining strength and some of the ancient root bridges are well over 500 years old.
Umshiang double decker Root Bridge is one of its kind in the world being two bridges stacked one over the other.
Mawlynnong village in East Khasi hills of Meghalaya to be the cleanest village of Asia in 2003. It is rightly referred to as ‘God’s own garden’ located 90 Km from Shillong, it is a community based eco-tourism. The village has set an example for all the neighboring village; with a 100% literacy, the onus to keep the village clean lies with every person residing in the village. Bamboo bins adorning every nook and corner of the village add to the spirit of cleanliness of the village. The village presents a really pretty picture. Come monsoons, and the lush greenery, lovely flowers, waterfalls paving the way to small meandering streams, abundance of flowering orchids from the trees and hedges and pitcher plants add to the enthralling beauty of the village.
The village also offers picturesque scenery, 80 feet high ‘machan’or observatory made out of bamboo from where you also get to see breathtaking view of Bangladeshi plains, lovely and scenic trek to the living root bridge at a neighboring village Riwai and a sight of natural balancing rock. Khasi style huts made of bamboo in the wilderness are also worth spending the day in.