“All That is Gold Does Not Glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost”
SAMsafar is a group of travel enthusiasts from Team SAM. We bring you some of our best travel stories, adventures and memories. In the first edition, we trace our visit to Shillong- one of the most picturesque cities of India. Read on…
Perfectly placed across the far reaches of our country, the North East is a slightly less frequented and one of the off-beat destinations which nevertheless feature on every ardent traveler’s bucket list. The waterfalls, the lakes, the daunting mountains, the timeless woods caught our fancy when we decided to visit this beautiful city. And since we are speaking of Meghalaya, it goes without saying that the Shillong experience comes in a cloud-kissed package.
The time of our visit was around second week of June. We were initially discouraged from choosing this time as the monsoons had already set in and Meghalaya during monsoons is, as we know, one of the wettest places on earth! This became all the more a reason for us, rain-lovers to not give the rainy Shillong a miss!
Our journey began with a flight till Guwahati followed by a drive of about 100 KM on NH 40. The road view is fantastic and you can feel the temperatures going down and the winds getting chillier as you ascend into the hills. We reached by evening and decided to spend the rest of the day indoors, mostly making things to do and places to visit
Next day post-breakfast, we headed out into the city. Our first stop was Elephant Falls. This unique fall gushes out water in three tiers, the bottom one being the most spectacular. There are about 150 steep steps that take you down till the bottom of the fall. The crystal-clear stream of water cuts through the protruding rocks vigorously.
We then proceeded to the highly-recommended Shillong peak, situated very close to Elephant Falls. We had heard a lot about the spectacular bird’s eye view of the city that this peak offers. However, while we were on the way, we were greeted for the first time by our hosts, the Meghalaya clouds. It had suddenly started raining. And when it rains in Shillong, it doesn’t just rain, the clouds literally come into your face and embrace you. We went up to the top of the hill and voila, the view was something like the pic below. We could see nothing but fairy-tale-like clouds covering the ENTIRE city. Yes the clouds did play the spoil sport as far as the view was concerned, but none of us regretted being literally INSIDE and on top of the raining clouds.
However, if you visit the peak when it isn’t raining, you can see the Himalayas and the Bangladesh plains from here. The view is something like this
Our next stop was Royal Heritage-Tripura Castle, the first heritage hotel built in the North East. The castle was built in 1920s by Maharaja Bir Bikram and serves as the summer retreat of the Maharajas of the Manikya dynasty of Tripura. The castle has an air of regality with incredible interiors. We stopped here for lunch at their restaurant. The food was sumptuous and the view from our table equally splendid.
Next day in the morning, we left for Cherrapunjee which has held the record for the highest rainfall on earth a number of times. They say it rains almost every day in Cherrapunjee. The town has over a dozen stunning waterfalls and living-root bridges. We also saw a number of seasonal waterfalls which spring up when it rains.
The drive till Cherrapunjee is about an hour and half long and the journey was indeed breathtaking. The incessant rains, the clouds, the wind-chill, the waterfalls, the greenery- together make Cherrapunjee a tropical paradise! We decided to abandon our umbrellas and wind-cheaters and got drenched in the never-ending rains.
The town also houses a number of limestone caves. Our personal favourite was the Lumshynna cave which flaunts its pre-historic fossils and age-old stalactites. Crazy friends who made spooky noises added to the thrill of the long walk through the dark and dense cave
Next day, we visited the absolutely stunning Barapani Lake which lies about 12 km north of Shillong. We first saw the lake when we were driving from Guwahati to Shillong. The view from the highway came as a sweet surprise and we decided to come back 2 days later to go down to the lake and spend a few hours there. Barapani is a massive manmade reservoir which was made in the 1960’s by damming of the river Umiam. Infact, when you head down to the lake, you can see the old road to the city, now deep under water. The view is absolutely breath-taking with clouds hovering over you and lush green hills all around you.
By the evening as the sun was setting, we saw a dream-like change in the view of the lake within minutes. Luckily we could capture the moment
Next day for breakfast we stopped at the restaurant of Pinewood hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels of the city. It is built in a very classy English style and the interiors, the furniture and the prim and stunning gardens exhibit old-school elegance. The food too is an absolute delight.
We then visited the nearby Ward’s Lake. This horse-shoe shaped lake is situated right in the heart of city and is over 100 years old. A beautiful wooden bridge adorns the lake and one can see beautiful flowers in the garden around and lotuses floating on the lake. It’s the perfect spot to get your facebook DPs clicked
Next we hit the busy and lively streets of Police Bazaar. Watch out for authentic north-eastern handicrafts at the shops. One can also try the local street food here.
When in Shillong, you can try café-hopping and visit places like Café Shillong. The hot chocolate and the shakes here are mouth-wateringly delicious. A must visit! Also one just doesnt leave Shillong without having momos. Our personal favorite was the Veg Momos at City Hut!
As we left from Shillong next day in the morning, a surprising spectacle caught our eyes. On our way back, the skies were so clear and blue that it almost felt like a painting suspended in the air. We had never seen such clear skies in our lives. A bad picture but nevertheless the trip wouldn’t have been complete without seeing this extremely clear sky, the other extreme side of the cloud-studded Meghalayas.
Take our word and plan your next trip to this wonderful piece of India. SAMsafar will be back soon with another inspiring travel story! Till then, keep dreaming, keep travelling, keep living.