We left very early in the morning as we had a 2 and a half hour journey ahead of us with stops in between. We soon found ourselves on winding highways turning from left to right every so often, surrounded by majestic scenery which consisted of mountains, rocks and valleys. We felt like stopping by the roadside every now and then but that would’ve affected our itinerary so we only stopped twice for photos. We soon reached Riwai village in east Khasi hills and we walked through the local village where we saw numerous pomelo trees which had huge pomelos growing on them outside small cottages. There were curved paths leading in every possible direction so we asked around at the local stalls where they sold pomelos, pineapples (something Meghalaya is well known for and damn, those were the best pineapples I ever had after Bangkok) and drinks who pointed us to the correct direction. We then started making our way down the never ending steep steps to eventually reach the living-root bridge of Riwai. As with all attractions and landmarks in Meghalaya, there was a ticket counter where we paid for the tickets and proceeded towards the bridge. Meghalaya is considered to be one of the wettest regions in the world, and local people found that bridges made out of wooden logs or bamboos would break due to the heavy rainfall in monsoon, so they grew their own bridges from the rubber trees to cross streams and rivers.
We walked over the living root bridge which seemed to be very sturdy unlike what I had expected and down a few steps to make our way on to the boulders on the stream bed to take a proper view of the bridge, and to take some photographs as well. Though an attraction for visitors, the locals use the bridge as a means of crossing the stream on a daily basis. We could see some locals washing their utensils in the stream of water further downstream, whilst others washed their clothes unbothered by the vast amount of tourists around them. Next to the living root bridge were a set of uniformly made stairs (unlike the steps we came down earlier) with a signboard which read ‘Sky view Bangladesh’. Feeling rather tempted, we started making our way up only to discover more steps we ascended! About 5 minutes on, we found a couple coming back down so we enquired about what they saw. According to them, once up, you’d have to walk for about 30 minutes until you’d reach a platform made out of bamboo sticks which acted as an extension to the cliff to get a view of the plains of Bangladesh which was a stone’s throw away. Seeing as we were running short of time, we decided not to go. Our way back to the parking lot was a difficult one as we had to go back up those disordered steps we came down earlier. We huffed and we puffed as our lungs seemed to have had enough, our legs were hurting so bad and the sun, which was right above our heads made everything so much worse! Nevertheless, we continued with many breaks in between and stared at the locals in amazement who literally ran up those same steps in one go like it was nothing! But the fact that every other visitor around us were also struggling made us feel that much better. Around the parking lot were what seemed like more small cottages at first sight, but upon closer inspection we realised that one offered toilets at a small fee which was being collected by local children, and another was a restaurant which served local food (more on that later).
Our next stop was Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village a mere 8 km away. Mawlynnong is a village located in east Khasi Hills and the residents of this village take great care to maintain the cleanliness and organisation of the village. A few notable initiatives they take part in are the prohibition of smoking and the use of polythene, and encouraging rainwater harvesting. All residents must also deposit all waste that is collected in cone shaped bins made from bamboo (something you’ll find all across Meghalaya) into a pit for later use as manure. The general layout of Mawlynnong was very similar to that of Riwai in that small cottages laid out the paths and there were plenty of pomelo trees scattered outside. All cottages had small front yards which were bordered with flowers and neatly framed bushes and some cottages had cars parked in open garages, and large rocks were arranged meticulously along the paths outside. It was evident that the locals enjoyed the benefits of tourists which is why several cottages had signs which read ‘cold drinks and ice cream available here’. The parking lot, like Riwai was bordered by a restaurant and a cottage offering toilets, and there were also stalls selling souvenirs and tea. We decided to dine at the restaurant to have a taste of the traditional Khasi delicacies. There were three options; a vegetarian platter, chicken platter or fish platter. All platters included plain boiled rice, a vegetable curry, dahl (lentil curry), a tomato and onion chutney, poppadum and a few slices of cucumber and lemon. We opted for the fish and the vegetarian platter so we received a fish curry and an additional vegetable curry, however, they ran out of poppadums which was a shame as I love it. The food tasted really good, unlike typical indian cuisines, they use very little spices for the vegetable curry, whilst the sauce of the fish curry tasted more like the sauce you would normally expect in chicken curries, though it was still very nice
Following lunch, we made our way along the hair pinned route towards Dawki. Dawki is a border town between India and Bangladesh located in the Jaintia Hills. I had been on the other side of the river, which is called Jaflong in Bangladesh twice, once as a baby which I don’t remember and also 7 years ago, so visiting Dawki was an exciting experience for me as I would now proudly be able to say that I have been on both sides of the Umngot (popularly known as Dawki) river! Our driver drove along the river, and over the Dawki suspension bridge which was constructed in 1932 to drop us off by the area where we would be able to get a boat ride. Bangladesh was merely 5 metres away from me so it didn’t feel like the herd of about 100 people (some were fishermen and others sold snacks) were in a different country to me as we were so close! We boarded a boat and made our way along the river towards the suspension bridge. The experience was magical! There I was, floating on a crystal clear emerald stream which is one of the cleanest in the world! I could not help but soak one of my hands in the water as we rode along the river and as I looked down, I could clearly see the round pebbles on the river bed. I was surrounded by beautiful hills and it was truly a sight to behold! About 10 minutes later, we stopped by an island of round white and grey pebbles which reminded me of my photos from our trip to Jaflong when I was a baby. We got off the boat for a photo stop, and all I could see was beautiful pebbles, the sight was stunning! You could see people taking photos in all sorts of poses, and of course we followed suit. The sun had started to set so we reluctantly boarded our boat again after about half an hour. We didn’t want to leave this magical place as it was the best experience we had in our trip so far. The stunning beauty of Dawki is surely a memory I will treasure forever in my heart and I hope that I will be able to re-visit it one day. Tamabil border, which is the main trade border between India and Bangladesh was close by and though it was late, we decided to try our luck and see if it was still open for us to see. To our disappointment, the border had closed for tourists, however, we managed to convince the soldiers into letting us go in to take some photos. I had seen the border from the other side 7 years ago and I remembered seeing the same white cottage with green borders that I now saw up close in India. It was a lovely experience though I wish we’d gone before the sun had set.
It was our last day in Meghalaya and we were about to embark on our journey to Cherrapunji, the second wettest place on Earth (it once used to be the wettest place, but the nearby Mawsynram village currently holds that title). We left early again and made our first stop at the Mawkdok Dympep Valley view point to see the stunning valley up close. It involved going down endless steps again and with each descend, it felt like the valley revealed a new character. It was a beautiful experience seeing the valley, and the people gazing at it in awe around us whilst others zip-lined across. Our next stop was Nohkalikai Falls, but it had dried up, just like the waterfalls at the next stop so we saw nothing though I’ve heard it’s stunning during the monsoon season. We then visited Eco Park which is just a normal park with several bridges scattered about and I didn’t think too much of it. We then proceeded towards Maswmai caves and that was the second highlight of the day. After purchasing the tickets, we went up steep steps again (those were the last steps we ascended in Meghalaya, woah that was a workout!) and there we were, at the entrance of the cave! This was my first experience of going inside a cave so I was excited but nervous at the same time. We started climbing up and down rocks and went deeper and deeper into the cave. Then came the neck of the cave which freaked me out and I decided not to proceed, only to later be dragged back in by my parents as that was the only tight area of the cave and I was missing out on all the fun they had. I’m glad I got called back because once I squeezed through it, I was taken aback by the rocks and stalactites and stalagmites inside. We continued bending and squeezing our way through the cave and exited out of the other end and I was left speechless by the whole experience! We finished Cherrapunji off with a visit to the 7 Sisters Falls but again, the waterfall had dried up. We had to give the double decker living root bridge a miss because visiting that normally involves an entire day as you have to go up and down 6000 steps! Back in Shillong, we went to Ward’s Lake which is a park that offers boat rides, though we only went to take photos, and also made a quick stop at the golf course. Our journey back to Guwahati was emotional as we had really enjoyed our stay in Meghalaya and made memories for a lifetime.
We spent a few days in Guwahati and visited Pobitora National Park where we took a safari ride to see the one horned rhinos which was amazing! We also went to Kamakhya Temple which is a Hindu Temple dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya. It’s an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus around India and that was evident as many people were taking photos both inside and outside the temple. I also cruised the Brahmaputra river which was relaxing and spent some time on GS Road which is central to Guwahati and the main shopping destination there. All in all, I wasn’t that impressed with Guwahati and wish we had extended our stay in Meghalaya.
It was then time to pack our bags to depart India and come back home to breezy, ice cold England, a stark difference to the weather we had experienced for the past month. I really enjoyed my time in Dubai and India and I can’t wait to go back to explore other parts of India in the near future!
Bye for now!