Friday, 2 June 2017

Visiting The Living Root Bridges And The Cleanest Village in Asia

This is actually Day 2. But, on our day 2, we visited three places. So I have decided to split the day into two parts. Here's the first part. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

PS: Since Google and Bing give you all the historical and tidbits about these places, I have tried to tell you only about whatever I have felt through the posts.

Karthi and I are late....
Late by around half an hour.
" Oh, That's all?"
" Yeah"
But "that's all" doesn't work in the North East. We were supposed to be ready by 6 AM and start our journey to the eastern most region of India. More than that we were excited to see Bangladesh and maybe to cross that epic bridge if get a chance. But before reaching there, we had so much to cover.
Our Shakadam for the day
But, we are late. We woke up late because the almost-close-to-minus temperature of Shillong had hit our spines badly on the previous day. Sri, the perfectionist, and Chetna, the smartie were up and almost ready. We had no other choice than to get ready, pack the bags and get into the car.

We had hired a Maruti 800 for the day. This was arranged by the people at Traveller's Nest and Vicky, the driver was already present before we packed our bags. After all the initial hiccups, we started our journey by 6.30 AM.
From Bridges to Root Bridges

Bidding goodbye to Shillong, we passed the meandering hills and beautiful valleys to our first destination, Riwai. Riwai is home to one of the most beautiful natural root bridges in the world. Riwai village is located at 82 kilometres from Shillong and 8 Kilometres from Mawlyngong.
I am sure that the word Mawlyngong rings in your mind that epic Google image of cleanliness and serenity. Your guess is almost right. Mawlyngong is described as the cleanest village in Asia.

We were just near those gigantic root bridges in Riwai village by around 9.30 AM.
I don't know why he's doing so!!!

"Strong Roots Never Break." That's how philosophically it can be described. As we reached the grand entrance of Riwai village towards the living root bridges, we had no clue of what's going to be in store. As we walked through the small rocks and stones, we saw the living root bridges in the distance. Enough has been said and discussed this place in Google and blogs. But, one thing I can assure you. It looked like a place straight out of a fairytale. Meandering streams, tiny rivulets, beautiful cascades and then the living root bridges appeared right in front of us.
The living root bridges in Riwai
The root bridges are very much like the normal bridge that you see everywhere. Wait. There is a difference. The similarity lies in only the structure. It is made from the aerial roots of rubber trees using hands by the Khasi people. Even though we had read so many blogs about it, seeing them and touching and feeling the bridge was a different experience. We first crossed the root bridges and then climbed up. Our destination was the viewpoint situated in the village.

We walked through the mud roads of Riwai village. The villagers were least bothered about most of the tourists since it was a regular thing for them most of the days. Since it was Christmas day, there was a mad rush of people from all parts of the country.

The unending trails
 As we walked through the village towards the viewpoint, we couldn't help but notice the people and the place they stay in. Kids were staring at us, while men and women were busy in their household chores. And we walked almost one to two kilometres to reach the viewpoint. The pathway to the viewpoint was made of bamboos and we, including Shashank enjoyed that.Spending some time there, we decided to go back to living root bridges.
Towards View point
 It was marathon photo session for all of us as some of us in the team thought that they'll never pay a visit anytime sooner to this region of India. ( Not everyone thought the same - SIC) Shashank had some masti in the stream nearby. Now it was time for us to go to our next destination on the same day.
Aerial View of Root Bridges

Clean, cleaner, cleanest

Mawlyngong- The Cleanest Village In Asia
 It was a Christmas day and Meghalaya being a Christian-dominated State were busy with carols, prayers and so much of other activities. It was noon and we had to finish our lunch before visiting the cleanest village in Asia. There were not a single hotel that was opened in Mawlyngong on that day. And needless to say, after all the trekking and photo posing, we were super hungry. To our luck, a small place near the entrance to Mawlyngong village was serving food. It was crowded, but we managed to find a place. After a wholesome North East meal, we then took a stroll through the cleanest village in Asia.

That epic stroll
 It was indeed one of the most memorable experiences of our life time. Reading about Mawlyngong in blogs always make us think about its sublimity. I had always thought that how these people are protecting and preserving it. While walking through the village, which has 94 houses in total, I was thinking how these people are coping up with so many tourists(travellers!!!) every day. Imagine when you wake up there are some hundreds of people right in front of you and staring at you for so long. But Mawlyngong people are so used to it. They handle everything at their own pace. The significant thing about Meghalaya and especially Mawlyngong is its matrilineal society. Here, wealth and property are transferred from mothers to the younger daughters and she will also keep her mother's surname. That means Padmaja Vasudevan (mother) will transfer all her wealth to Yamini Padmaja and she will live happily ever after! ;) What an idea Madamjee!
Even the garbage bins were so clean!

We spent time till 2 PM there looking at various houses and the people and then decided to go to our last destination for the day. Our last stop for the day was to the eastern most part of India, just near to Bangladesh. From not even seeing a State border until the early 20s of my life, seeing another country even from a small distance is like 'Awww'. 
More on that experience in the next post.

Distance covered
  • Shillong To Living root bridges: 80 kilometres
  • Root Bridges to Mawlyngong - 3 kilometres

Must try
  • Standing on the Living root bridges and pose for that epic DP or a Selfie. 
  • Stroll through Mawlyngong Village without intruding the families

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Towards The Scotland of The East

"Don't go to the North Eastern part of India now."
"Are you guys mad? North East!!! What's there to see ?"
" I guess you should go in April, when the climate is warm. Or maybe in monsoon, when Cherrapunje and other North Eastern states can be seen in its full glory."

Oh My God! We had enough and enough of such advices from all quarters, when we just thought about this trip to the North East. Advices and Gyans were pouring in, albeit steady information. Our first hurdle was an itinerary. Though we had done several weekend trips, the self-planning-long-vacation was a first-time experience. Maybe, atleast for me. Lots of discussions happened with Karthi, who is amazing at making itineraries. Chetna and Sri were also part of it, with inputs given at the right time. With several days of talks, we came with a perfect itinerary covering some of the most beautiful areas of Meghalaya & Assam.
Umiam Lake View point
Yay! We have an itinerary. We felt like over the moon. A beautiful feeling, to be precise. After hours and weeks of planning and thinking and scratching our head and what not, when an itinerary comes in place, it is a great feeling. 

In the coming days,flights were booked, hotel rooms were checked and called upon, arrangements of vehicles were done. We were almost ready.

And then the D-day came. It was the last week of December. 

Christmas eve. 

Karthi had an early flight, while Chetna, Sri, me & Shashank took the later flight. It took us 2.5 hours to reach Guwahati from Bengaluru. We reached just before afternoon in Guwahati.
The Name Says it all
Guwahati airport, being a defence airport, is small in size with not-so-great facilities around. (Its rest room was really dirty, on first look). Never mind. We enquired at the Meghalaya tourism centre about hiring of vehicles. The first option was a Winger, which will not have stops in between. Another option was to hire a vehicle of our own. We chose the latter as we had to stop at various points en route.

Our destination was Shillong.

Shillong is nicknamed as the Scotland of the East. Much has been said and told about Shillong. As soon as we came out of the airport, we silently thought whether this is the supposedly cold climate of the Eastern States ( The climate in Guwahati was almost like that of Bangalore and look at us: We were packed with sweaters, woollen and what not). It was complete on the contrary and we had to remove our jacket and sweaters while travelling in the car. Our driver Marbo was an introvert and didn't speak much unless we prodded. As Shashank and me were sitting in the front seat, he was completely stuck with questions about the place ( from us ) and whole lot of queries about steering, clutch, gear and every other part of the vehicle ( by Shashank).

As soon as we reached halfway, we were proven wrong as most of us started getting hold of the jackets. The climate was becoming colder and colder. We stopped at a roadside dhaba and gulped some rice-dal. That was our first time experience of North Eastern cuisine. I was a little sceptical and hence decided to settle with dal chaval, while others ordered for Paranthas, poori-masala etc.
First North Eastern Meal
It was 2 PM by then. After a wholesome meal, we continued the journey. The Guwahati-Shillong road is peculiar and strange. Whoever that has travelled in this stretch will not miss the name boards on both the sides. On your left it is Assam and on the right side it is Meghalaya. So, technically you are travelling through both states at the same time; all thanks to Meghalaya-Assam inter state dispute, dating back to years. While asking Marbo about this history and other myths about the region, it was almost evening.

By around 3.30 or 4 PM, we reached the gateway to Shillong; Umiam lake. Umiam lake is colloquially called as Barapani. As we were inching towards Shillong,the climate became extremely chilling and colder. At least for me. There were a few strong and bindaas travellers in the group like Karthi & Sri. ;)
Umiam Lake aka Barapani
Barapani is extremely beautiful even from a distance. Even though the blogs and travelogues warned highly about the effects of pollution on the lake, I was amused by its sublime beauty and serenity. At the view point, standing still with a cup of tea, we made some memories; both with the eyes and the camera.

Marbo was becoming a little restless and then we decided to reach our home stay in Shillong soon. From Umiam lake, our place of stay is just 20 kilometres away. But, since it was the Christmas eve, the roads were choked with Christmas carols and some dance-masti. Hence it took us almost more than one hour to reach the room.
Our home for the day
We chose to stay in Traveller's Nest, situated in Kench's terrace in Shillong. Let me tell you, if you are looking for comfy and cosy accommodation, you will definitely not like the accommodation here. We are a group who always look for budget accommodation rather than cosiness and hence we chose this. Also, we just needed a place to crash as we were staying in Shillong just for a night. So, this place was more than luxury for us.
This is at 5.30 PM
After freshening up, we took a stroll through the Police Bazaar area and main area of Shillong. We would have got a share auto or taxi . But we preferred to walk around to get a feel of the place. The most interesting part of the North East is that the region become dark soon. It ideally means that we should plan your daily trips well in advance. Sunrise is early and Sunset is also early is the mantra you have to keep in mind while travelling in the North Eastern part of India.
And this at 5.30 AM
After walking in the chill weather, we reached a food joint near Police Bazaar. Hot piping momos and spicy Gobis were ordered and it satiated our taste buds. After a heavy dinner, we were unable to walk the same distance return and hence we took a share taxi back. The excitement was palpable as our second day was a journey to the place with rain, waterfalls, caves, natural bridges and much more. Reassuring and reminding ourselves to get up at 6 AM the next day, cosying under the Rajai, we slept peacefully to explore more and travel even more the next day.

  • Distance Travelled: 120 Kilometres

  • Must try: Eat Momos & a Stroll Through Shillong at Night

  • Stay: Traveller's Nest, Kench's Terrace, Shillong
  • Ph: 0364-2501108, 9774077511

Sunday, 15 January 2017

North-East Sojourn: A Prelude

"Good Things Happen When You Least Expect It"- Anonymous

A trip to North East was never ever part of my life in the wildest dreams. Especially with a four-year-old, I could never ever think of a trip to a place with very less connectivity and huge planning. Even though reading blogs and travelogues about it make you yearn for the place, I had always thought that the visit may not happen anytime sooner.
That's when I understood that the best things happen when you least expect it. 
Chetna, in our team of women travellers, had shared her dream of travelling to Rajasthan.But it immediately became a 'dream' when we checked for the flight tickets.The flights were sky-rocket and we decided to zero-in for another place. But as we always say between us, we will definitely go somewhere this December. And here we are, off for a week-long sojourn to the two North Eastern States States - Meghalaya & Assam.

PC: Google
Trips never happen as you always planned.We too faced several hurdles. Leaves, ailments, bad planning, to name a few dogged us in the initial stage. But maybe this trip was meant to happen, everything fell in place soon after. We four women - Chetna, Karthi, Sri, Me - and one four-year-old guy - Shashank, were part of each and every stage of the planning. We met through Traveler & Explorer's Girls Meet Up Group and have done several trips before. In the next few posts,(hopefully) I will be writing about this eight-day long journey to the NE.
From the (supposedly) pleasant climate of Bengaluru, we travelled all the way to Guwahati and explored the chillness of Shillong and the hills of Meghalaya and Cherrapunje. We also travelled in brief through Upper Assam regions like Majuli and spotted a few one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga. Savouring and experiencing the local food and culture, along with understanding their life, the one-week-long sojourn made us realise that there is so much more to explore.

Cup of (North East )Joy
I don't know if this is how travel blogs are written. Besides being a lazy person when it comes to writing, I normally prefer to experience things rather than writing unless it HAS TO BE told. As a few of my close kin constantly reminds me of the need to document the experience, I am trying to do it. Do read and let me know how you feel about it.
Cheers to you all!