Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

January 8, 2022

Meghalaya & Assam – The North-Eastern Beauties

Filed under: India — jani @ 7:21 am

About Meghalaya & Assam:

Meghalaya & Assam are states in north-eastern India. Meghalaya (It means abode of the clouds) was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills. This is also known as Scotland of the East.

Assam is known for Assam tea and Assam silk. The state was the first site for oil drilling in Asia. Assam is home to one-horned Indian rhinoceros, along with the wild water buffalo, pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds, and provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant.

Day 1: We six of us (Ayush, Akanksha, Shahrukh, Himanshi, Sur & myself) went for the trip organized by Santhosh from Exotic Expeditions. This was my first trip to North East which I have been wanting to do for a long time and I was glad we could do that. So we began our flight journey to Guwahati.  We reached the airport, the local officials checked for our vaccination certificate and then we were allowed to exit the airport. We met Santhosh near exit gate who was waiting to receive us and we met the other four members (Karthik, Denesh, Leena and Deepti) who joined this trip along with us.

We got in two different cars and started our journey to Meghalaya. We were hungry by now and we didn’t find any decent place for lunch. We were too hungry to wait, so we just stopped in one of the roadside restaurants Tit Bit Hotel in Jorabat for a quick lunch. Vegetarian Thali (set meal) was available which had rice, dal and potato along with Non-Veg items like Chicken and Fish. Some of them ordered curd, we ended up getting a sweet curd which was equally sour so no one enjoyed that and we realized that’s how the curd was served here, so people stopped ordering post that. The food was average and then we headed to Meghalaya.

We reached the Meghalaya check post. We had to get the pass from the officials there before we could enter the state. We wasted a bit of time there since we were not informed about this process. One by one we had to install Meghalaya Tourism App, upload the Aadhar copy (front and back), fill up the stay details in Meghalaya, Vehicle Details, Number of days that we are staying here in Meghalaya and the vaccination certificate. Once we submitted, we had to show the acknowledgement, then they verified and then we were handed the pass for each vehicle.

On the way we stopped at Umiam lake which is a manmade lake which had an amazing view. By now it was getting darker and cold. So we just spent half an hour and then drove to our homestay Latei Ville Inn, Shillong. The weather here confused us. We thought it was around 9 PM when we reached the property, but when we saw the time it was only 6 PM. Since we had some time to explore the city, we freshened up and headed out for drinks and dinner.

So we went to Tango RestoBar and Lounge which is in the basement of OB Shopping Mall, Shillong. This place had good drinks and food and we had an amazing time. We spent quite some time and then we left around late night, reached the homestay and then crashed for the night.

Day 2: Woke up to the beautiful sight of orange trees with the fruits, had our breakfast which was bread and omelette. We got to know there is no separate breakfast items as people eat the same meal of rice and pork/chicken curry for breakfast as well. For guests, they ended up serving bread and omelette for breakfast in most of the places. We had our breakfast, checked out and drove again. On the way our first stop was Elephant Falls. This is 2 tier waterfall and on the way there was a small cave sized area where we could take some pictures. While we returned back, we had a place to wear Khasi tribe costume for photographs. Sur and myself immediately went and changed and got the lovely pictures, after that Ayush and Shahrukh joined us. After taking those beautiful pictures and a hot cup of tea there, we started our drive back to Sohra (Cherrapunji). Enroute we saw a place for bunjee jumping, some of them wanted to do that and they headed to do it and we chilled in a small local shop and we enjoyed the soupy maggi noodles and omelettes. However they had to return without doing it as there was a long queue. SInce we were delayed already, we had to skip that and started back our journey.

Then we stopped for Arwah Caves. This is a Sunken chamber leading to caverns known for limestone walls with fossils of fish & crustaceans. We had to walk a kilometre or two to reach there. We went and enjoyed the caves and then rushed back as it was getting foggy and cold. Then we started back our journey, we then stopped for lunch. Had our usual thalis for a meal as that’s the staple food there and then we were supposed to go to Noahkali waterfalls but it was too foggy to see anything so we decided to do that later. Then we stopped near the local market where we saw a huge football statue, which we got to know later, that was used as on observatory place and not allowed for visitors.

Then headed to Sohra Plaza for our stay for the next 2 nights. We checked in and Sur and myself got a separate cottage which was little outside the property, so we used that extra space in the room to catch up with the group to chill out. Then we had ordered for our dinner. Everything was great and the staffs were so friendly and nice. Then we crashed for the night.

Day 3: We woke up after a good rest, it was way too cold here as this town is in high altitude. For a change we had Aloo Paratha along with bread and omelette for breakfast. This was the day of trek and we headed to see the living root bridges which this town is famous for. We had an hour of drive before we reached the place to start our trek, then we realized the weather was pleasant and then we started our trek to the living root bridge which are made from rubber trees. Be prepared to climb down 2000 stairs for the same. All of our knees started wobbling after some time, but its good to not to stop midway as there is a chance that you can fall down so just keep going until you see a little plain terrain, so that your legs gets stabilised a little. While we were climbing down the stairs with much difficult we also saw people climbing down with cement bags, children carrying groceries etc. Respect to the local people there, as this is how the hard life they have to ensure everyday, they have to climb this place multiple times in order to get the essential items. We stopped at the Single root bridge, respect and full credit to the locals because of whom we could see this. We also saw closeby, locals are making another single root bridge, which is yet to get ready for us to walk as it’s new.

Then we headed to Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge” is located in the village of Nongriat. For which another 1500 stairs to be taken up and down. Sur decided not to come as his knees were too shaky to take those stairs again. We quickly stopped there in a local shop for fresh lime juice which was very tangy. So Sur took a break there and we headed to the double decker. On the way we crossed a bridge and saw the blue lagoon. It was a sight to behold to see the blue colored water. Then we started our climb to the village. On the way, our guide Richard and myself were in the front who happened to see the black cobra. As per the guide, it was on the stairs and he just pushed it with the chappal that he was wearing. Luckily it ended up on the right side where there was a rock and I had that beautiful sight of that cobra. Thankfully it was small but it looked like a black stone statue with a drawing of the hood as the head was turned opposite to us so we saw the beautiful hood. I had never seen one in person and guide asked us to wait till it leaves as it’s very poisonous. Once we lost sight of the black cobra, we started climbing to the village for the double decker root bridge. There were lot of children around and their beautiful smiles and the hard life of the locals made us forget all the pain that we endured to reach those 3500 steps. We then enjoyed the double decker root bridge and there was a small fall nearby, so we sat for the natural fish pedicure as there were lot of fish and tadpoles. Then we had a quick lunch of Maggi and Omelette. Further there was also rainbow falls. But we didn’t have time to do that as we were already late and we needed to climb those 3500 steps back which looked like a marathon. We headed out to start the hard climb back and I didn’t have much energy left. Karthik was so kind enough to give his bamboo stick to help me climb and Ayush lend his hand to carry my backpack. Then we reached the half way near the single root bridge, met Sur and had a short break and then with much difficult climbed the remaining 2000 stairs back, this time Sur was there to help me around, even though his knee also was giving him trouble. Thankfully climbing up didn’t pose much problem for him so he was there as usual the rock support to pull me through. Almost when we reached back, we stopped for a quick break for another tangy local fresh lime juice and I also ended up seeing a cup cake with vanilla cream inside. It was really good and something new, got for everyone, enjoyed that and reached back to the parking lot to head back to Sohra Plaza. I have no idea how I climbed up and down those 7000 steps, but my love and respect to the people who live there and for them this is way of life. Looking at the way how hard their life is we forgot the pain that we had to climb those 7000 steps.

Then we headed back to the hotel. We reached the hotel, had tea and snacks and then some of the friends decided to light the bonfire inside the cottage as there was chimney, but they didn’t realize the opening was closed. By the time I informed there was chimney, the smoke already had engulfed the room. We all had a laugh, then we doused the fire. After few minutes the smoke disappeared. Then we headed for our delicious dinner and just crashed for the night.

Day 4: We had a quick breakfast and we headed to watch the Nohkalikai Falls which is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. They also had good places for shopping and we picked up the pickled Bhut Jolokia also known as Ghost Pepper which is the hottest chilli peppers in the world.

We picked up some of the local souvenirs and then headed to the Mawlynnong which is cleanest village in Asia. We stopped there for quick lunch and walked around the village to admire the locals efforts to keep the village clean and then we headed to Dawki and drove close the Indian-Bangladesh Border.

Since it was too late to go to the border as they have time limit we decided to go the next day and headed to Umngot River, which is the cleanest rivers in India. This river flows through Bangladesh and boat in the river looks it’s floating on glass crystal surface. We went for a 45 minutes boat ride, enjoyed every minute of it and also we saw that here, people didn’t need refrigerator to cool the soft drinks, it was kept near the river bank, for a natural coolant. Then we ended up snacking on dried Indian Jujube fruit which the vendors were selling there and then headed to our tent for the night.

Our guide forgot to let us know that car cannot reach the place where the tents were as it was close to the same river, so we had to carry all our luggage in the night in the suspension bridge and we were really not happy about. It made it worse, since it was late night and we couldn’t see anything as it was dark, somehow we managed to go to the river bank where our tents were. We had a delicious dinner of rice, dal, chicken curry, okra, chilli chutney and potato fries. We enjoyed the food and crashed for the night.

Day 5: I had to get up early in the morning for a cold water bath before others wake up as we didn’t have separate rooms to freshen up. We had a quick breakfast, we walked back to the parking lot by crossing the suspension bridge. Now we were enjoying the view as the river below the bridge was beautiful and the view was too good.

Then we headed to the Bangladesh border area in Dawki, we went to the border area, took some pictures and then started our drive back to Kaziranga which was a long drive. On the way we stopped for late lunch in Santoshi Dhaba in Nagaon and we enjoyed the Thalis with chicken, pork, duck and Small Fish Fry (Xaru Maas Vaji).

After a long drive of more than 10 hours we reached the Kodom Bari Retreat, Kaziranga, which was our stay for the night. This property looked amazing, and the rooms had a glamping set up. We freshened up and had our dinner. Unfortunately, the non-veg dishes were let down specially the Pork dishes and we finally managed with chicken which no one could go wrong. Then we enjoyed the bonfire for some time and crashed for the night.

Day 6: Woke up to the beautiful morning with a great garden around. Had a change of breakfast here, they had Puri/Poori and whole yellow peas curry which was good, Sur ordered bread and omelette as he didn’t want to eat Poori. Then we walked around nearby temple and spent some time around watching the dogs, goats, turkeys and Guinea Fowls.

Then in the afternoon we went for the Kaziranga National Park for the safari. That was amazing 2 hours of trip as they had picked us up from the hotel. We saw the famous one horned rhinos, elephants, swamp deer, hog deer, sambar deer, Indian Muntjac and water buffaloes. Also there were lot of birds like black necked stork, White-fronted Goose and Asian Openbill stork. Most of the park was filled with Tall elephant grass which made a great place for the animals movement and also lots of Indian jujube trees with fruits. I wished it was outside the park, so we could have enjoyed few from the tree.

After enjoying the great safari we stopped for lunch at Maihang Ethnic Restaurant in Kohora, Kaziranga. We ordered our usual thali and we did see the menu card of pigeon meat, however since we were late, we couldn’t get it, so we settled the usual pork, chicken, and fish. There was a special Assamese fish curry with the tangy taste (Masor Tenga) which was really good.

Then we headed in the evening for the cultural program in Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park.  This is a must visit as this promotes various dance forms of North Eastern states. For example, there was Bihu dance which is a folk dance of Assam (Harvest dance), Cheraw Dance (Bamboo dance) – which is a folk dance of Mizoram, Baguramba Dance which is a folk dance of Bodo tribe in Assam, Chalo Dance (Harvest dance) which is a folk dance from Arunachal Pradesh and there were other dance forms too which was from different tribes of North East. Most of us from other parts of India are ignorant of their culture, hence I would recommend this place and this is a must visit. My respect and love to all the people who are ensuring to retain the local culture and all my wishes for their efforts to ensure we get to see these and starts appreciating the beautiful cultures of our own brethren from this part of our country. After enjoying the lovely performances we left for the hotel, had a quick dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 7: After a good day rest and a quick breakfast it was time to check out. We started our journey and on the way we stopped at Maha Mrityunjay Temple. It has world’s largest 126 foot tall Shivalinga which is a newly constructed temple. Then we went to Santoshi Dhaba again for the lunch and then drove to Guwahati.

We reached Riverview Guest House in the night, the property was disappointing, not well maintained, bedcovers and blankets were so dirty, we didn’t even feel of sleeping there. Since it’s just one night somehow we just managed. We had some time in the evening, so we stepped out and went to Fancy bazaar. This is a good place for shopping and street food. Since we reached late, we just had chicken roll and pani puri. It was good and then we returned to the guest house. We waited for the midnight to wish Himanshi birthday and then we crashed for the night.

Day 8: We woke up and we were served with the usual bread and omelette. Then we headed off to the Guwahati airport. We checked in and then went to the lounge, it was disappointing to go there as it was not worth, so we just picked up a water bottle and then went to the gate for boarding. We flew back to Bangalore with great memories and looking forward to explore other North Eastern states as well.

Few things to note: Since these are in the hilly terrain, be prepared to sit in the car longer than your sightseeing hours and if you have motion sickness be prepared to carry the medicines. These are simple people, living a hard life and they do not have the luxury that we enjoy in the big cities. The stable food is Thali which has rice, dal, potato dry and non-vegetarians can enjoy the pork, chicken and fish. Meghalaya is known for pork dishes and Assam for fish. Local people eat the same rice meal for breakfast as well. So for guests they serve bread and omelette. Maggi also is available in most of the small shops. If you are lucky you might find some restaurants which might serve roti etc but most of the smaller places may not find. So be patient and adapt to the local situation so that you don’t stay cranky and make others in the group miserable too.

This trip was an eye-opener that we take lot of things and luxuries in the city for granted after seeing such hard life of locals in the hills. I fell in love with their simplicity, happy faces and simple living that just made me fall in love all over again to North East.

See you soon in another North Eastern State….Please stay Safe……….

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