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