Scotland of the East – Shillong

The city of Shillong

Located in the North-East in the state of Meghalaya, about 5000 feet above sea level, the city of Shillong is captivating with its alluring beauty and its rich Khasi culture. Characterized by rugged hills, dense forest and lush green valleys and highlands, this place is rightly called the Scotland of the East. With the first rays of the sun falling, it wakes up every morning, dressed in mist and clouds to give its companions the most memorable experience ever with nature.

With a rich flora and fauna and the usually low temperatures in summer due to its hilly terrain, it acts as a perfect paradise for people trying to shy away from the scorching heat of the summers. Also known for the heavy rainfall belt of Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram this place is a must visit for every Indian once in their lifetime.
Journey to Shillong

While joining IIM Shillong for doing my MBA, I planned to reach Shillong a good three days early to take my parents across this exotic place and enjoy a long awaited family vacation. Known for its beautiful lakes and waterfalls, the journey started with the stretch of Barapani Lake along the way from Guwahati to Shillong.

With their surrounding sylvan hills and grassy down, the place is a treat with idyllic picnic settings. After spending some time enjoying nature and the exciting water sports like kayaking and water skiing, we continued on our journey to reach Shillong before sunset. After a long tiring day, all we could do was make arrangements for the next day’s tour of Shillong city and take a peaceful nap.

Places to visit

Excited to explore the city, we got up early the next day and headed towards our first spot – the Elephant falls and the Shillong peak. The two level waterfalls with fresh milky water gushing down with a roaring sound will force you to freeze the frame and hold on to that moment for eternity. The water at the foot of the falls was chilling yet we could not stop ourselves from stepping into it to experience that thrill. While returning we stopped at Shillong peak to get a view of the city of Shillong covered in dense fog and enjoy the fresh air gushing through our faces.

Our next stop was the Wards Lake. The century old, world famous artificial lake located at the heart of the city is extremely popular for its garden walks and boating. Though we could not spend much time there but the beauty of the place is worth mentioning. Next we went to the Don Bosco museum. The museum has well laid out galleries containing artifacts, paintings, fibreglass figures, emanating knowledge effectively through art. By the end of the day, I was amazed at how perfect a blend of beauty and culture was the city of Shillong.

The Paradise called Cherrapunji

The next day we planned to take a full day trip to Cherrapunji. We went well protected, expecting a heavy bout of showers. The first thing that caught our attention was the clean, fresh look that the region wore. With majestic mountains kissing the snowy clouds, and the gushing stream of sparkling water in the fall, Cherrapunji was beauty personified. We passed by many waterfalls enroute stopping at a few.

Standing atop thousands of feet at the mouth of one such waterfall, I felt invigorated and allowed myself to forget all the anxieties of the days to come. Our next stop was Mawsmai caves. At the outset, we found the cave unwelcoming, given their low roof and dark and damp environment. But just as our feet touched the cool water in the cave, we were infused with a sense of exploration and were amazed at how the rocks and water led us on until we reached the end of the cave.

We continued to our next spot- the Eco Park, created by the Government of Meghalaya. We lost ourselves in the fragrance of the multi-hued flowers and admired the ecological aspect of the attraction. We stayed for a while, wonderstruck at how a place could be so impeccable. The sun started to set behind the hills, and it was time for us to leave. Despite the fact that it did not rain at all during our visit, we were soaked in the beauty of Cherrapunji- A paradise indeed!

For Food and Fashion

The vacation at Shillong was made all the more special with its unique cuisine and fresh fruits. Known for its rich meat especially pork, we really liked a spicy preparation of rice and pork cooked in the traditional Khasi style. Also we couldn’t get enough of the tasty Momos which forms a special part of the Meghalayan cuisine. And the fresh pineapple, plum and peaches were something that we had never experienced back home.

What makes the trip to Shillong an amazing experience is an insight into the rich culture of this place. Driven by the matriarchal system, people in Shillong are extremely helpful and accommodating. An interesting fact which came to our notice was that drivers here don’t honk horns and hardly overtake in spite of the heavy traffic. The city closes down at 8.00 and wakes up early with the sun. They lead a disciplined life living in peace with the nature.

Shillong is a treat for shopaholics. From fashionable items to handicrafts to guitars, it has an extensive range in all items. You have to get on to the streets of Police Bazaar at least once to see the wide range of fashionable clothes, winter wears and accessories at minimal prices. Rightly called as the Rock City of India, it houses high quality guitars at reasonable prices. We couldn’t stop ourselves from spending a few bucks for a special handicraft showpiece and hand bag for my mother and an electric guitar for my brother.

Fly to Heaven

The only troubling part of this journey is the remote location of the city. We travelled by train for around 36 hours from Hyderabad to Kolkata, followed by Kolkata to Guwahati and then finally a three hour road journey to Shillong. On contemplation, I think a flight for the same route would have been much more convenient and time saving than the train.

In spite of all this, the three days at Shillong made it appear all worth and the satisfaction became deeper after the initial struggle. As it is rightly said, the joy of reaching the destination increases proportionally to the difficulties faced during the journey. Our stay at Shillong was so fulfilling that I would happily be willing to take this journey again and again.

Swati Nidiganti