Meghalaya was the very first state of my hitch-hiking trip to North East India. Since it was my first time in North East India, I was excited but also nervous. The only thing I was confident about was safety. A few of my friends who had visited the Seven Sisters said that all the states are safe for Solo/duo/group Travellers. I hitch-hiked to most places and stayed in homes of strangers rather than in Hotels or Guesthouses. Read the details of my journey here –
My initial plan was to spend 30 days in Meghalaya. But because it was too expensive for a traveler like me, I decided to go to Assam on my 20th day! My itinerary for 20 days in Meghalaya
On the first day, I struggled really hard to get to the Delhi Airport and further to Guwahati. My flight was at 8AM in the morning so I had to get up by 6AM. My flat in Delhi is about 40kms from the Airport and instead of taking a cab (what I usually do), I thought of going to the Airport in Public Transport. It was no doubt hectic but also money-saving (cab charges INR 700 & I reached in INR 200) and time-saving (traffic in Delhi is such a pain in ass).
After two hours of flight,I reached Guwahati Airport. Well, my plan was to explore Assam before heading to Meghalaya but that couldn’t happen because of some issues, so I moved to Meghalaya.*uncertain, always*
Just after landing at the Guwahati Airport, I took the shared cab( Swift Dzire) for Shillong which costed me 500 bucks and in case if you want a personal cab it will cost around 2000 bucks.
I reached Guwahati around 2 PM and I immediately booked a seat in a shared cab (without bothering about my lunch) and headed to Shillong. It took almost 3.5 hours. On the way, I asked the driver to stop at Umiam Lake (Bara Pani) for a while. Umiam Lake is a huge and beautiful reservoir close to the highway just before 15km from Shillong.
Upon reaching Shillong, I inquired in a few hotels about the stay. Most were super-priced and a few didn’t appear to be good. After struggling for 3 hrs here and there with around 15kgs on my back and 4kgs in front, I broke down. I literally felt out of place for the first time in my life, in the middle of the Police Bazaar, as I saw the sun going down at 7 PM.
I finally took off my bags in an overly-priced Guest House (a bed Dormitory for INR 700). Just so you know, my days are not always happening and sometimes I can’t even have a sound sleep during my travel. I slept without doing much stuff.
I woke up early and went out having lot of plans for the day but soon it all went to flush as I went clueless after being asked ₹2000 for elephant falls which is not even 10km . (Most people in Shillong are not helpful unless you pay them *truth*, request you to do the ground research before you head for a backpacking trip to Meghalaya)
Language plays a major role as people in Shillong know neither English nor Hindi, they just know Khasi. After struggling for almost 3 hours, searching lanes and corners of Shillong, I ended up visiting ward’s lake and Police Bazaar which is main maket in Shillong. I was supposed to go to the Elephant Falls and Shillong Peak, but I ditched the plan as everything was going against my plan, taxis were asking very high prices and I thought to do bit more research for my days here.
Don Bosco Museum, Shillong
I woke up super energized today and took a shared taxi (INR 20) to Don Bosco Museum. (Apologies I can’t list the name of shared taxi stops here as I don’t remember them anymore. But mostly you will get taxis from Police Bazar or from Polo) *really tough*
Don Bosco Museum, Shillong is a unique fusion of all the sister states under one roof. I was quite surprised to see the art, culture, traditions, and history of all the states with in-depth detail and superb presentation. It took me almost 3 hrs to sink in all the knowledge this Museum had to offer. They also have a sky-walk on the last floor which gives an aerial view of the entire Shillong. I also loved the song which they made on North East. I paid additional ₹100 bucks to take pictures on my phone.
After getting out of museum, I had lunch at this beautiful Bob Marley based themed restaurant “Three Little Birds” just outside the museum, you must try pork momo here with lit Reggae music. The owner was really helpful, he suggested me few cab drivers who would take affordable price throughout.
Smit – Laitlum – Shillong
Unlike other days, today was a little planned. I went to the Gym first and soon after I went out with my backpack. I had to find another place to stay before I head to Smit-Laitlum. And again, I ditched the plan and moved to Smit with the bags.
I took a bus to Smit. Then I had to wait to get a ride to Laitlum as no bus goes beyond Smit. I waited for half an hour to get a ride! Indeed, hitchhiking is a game of patience. I finally got the shared taxi which drove me to laithlum canyons.
The ride was heavenly. I couldn’t blink my eyes for a second. And as I reached Laitlum, I just couldn’t believe that the view was real! It was really like a paradise on earth; pure and untouched. Numious*to be precise
After spending almost 3 hours; reading a book, clicking photos and listening to music, I started walking back in hope to get a ride to Smit. But guess what? I got a free cab ride by the couples straight to Shillong!
By the evening I was in Shillong, and again, couldn’t find a cheap stay option. Had to stay in an overpriced guesthouse which I won’t recommend to anyone.
Shillong – Sohra, Cherrapunji
I was super excited today as I was going to Sohra, Cherrapunji – the wettest place on Earth. Finally, I’ll see the place I always read about in my books during the school days. I had no idea about anything in Cherrapunji except the Double Decker Root Bridge. Also, I was worried about my stay in Cherrapunji after the struggle in Shillong.
I boarded the bus from Bara Bazaar, Shillong to Sohra (Ticket for INR 80). In the bus, I asked a few people if they knew any cheap stays in Sohra, but nobody knew anything. So it became obvious that I will have to face a hard time in finding a good stay option.
The hunt began as I reached Sohra and it was as tough as I had predicted. Some stays were too costly, the others were shady. After struggling for 2 hours , I dropped my bags in an expensive homestay! Had no other option.
Local Sightseeing in Sohra
It was Sunday and I woke up early as I had to find the taxi for local sightseeing which was a tough task for me as I am pathetic in bargaining.. I finally managed to get a cab for 1700 bucks which took me to several view point, all were awe-inspiring, Meghalaya known to be abode of clouds which I realized why. The view was surreal.
He then took me to a bridge from where I could see the Plains of Bangladesh. The other point was Wahkaba falls, there is a small trek to reach this waterfall , it was beautiful but then i was quite upset as all the waterfall in Meghalaya were dry*i felt miserable thinking how beautiful i would look in monsoons. He then took me to Ram Krishna Mission was which a school and a museum, it was not much of significance as all thing out there were all which you can find in Don Bosco, so you can skip it if you have been to Don Bosco before. I also covered Eco Park which was just like any other park, Apart from the fact that it’s the origin point of Seven Sister falls.
My last point to cover was Mawsmai Caves which was truly amazing. This place is mostly called as Krem Mawsmai which means as – ‘Krem’ meaning ‘cave’ in Khasi, and ‘Mawsmai’, meaning as ‘Oath Stone’ is a relatively easy cave for beginners to navigate. The cave is 820 feet long which is lit up with halogen lamps, which are awe-inspiring, spine-tingling and mysterious.
Though the caves are very long but only a distance of 150 meters is open for tourists, while the other section is closed. The caves are made of limestone and the mysterious environment inside that spellbinds the visitors, the moment they enter the caverns. The entrance is well lit, but as one enters further inside, the eeriness and the mystery starts unfolding. Try finding out Dragons, I found out many of them.
Sohra – Tyrna (Starting point) – Trek to Double Decker Root Bridge – Rainbow Falls – Nongriat
Around 6 AM, I woke up and saw it was raining outside. Can’t tell you how hopeless I felt in that moment! I was in no mood to pay a hefty sum for another day in Sohra. So I decided to leave. In just 15 mins, I packed my bags and went to keep it at the reception as it was too heavy for me to carry. But the receptionist said, “No, I can’t keep your bag.” I was shocked to hear that! I couldn’t sink in the fact that I will have to carry my bag 3500 steps down to Double Decker Bridge and then back up till Tyrna Village. I gave it a thought and then reminded myself that nothing in this world can break my determination. Yes, it was going to be a tough task but I knew I could do it.
After taking a shared taxi to Sohra market from my the homestay, I hitchhiked all the way to Tyrna Village (Starting point). From there began the 3500 roughly hewn stone-steps. I had to gather the courage to finally start taking the steps down. That moment, a solo French Traveller came and asked if I need any help. I smiled and said no. He said, “You are so strong to even think about doing this.” And it gave me all the strength and energy I needed!
That traveller and I got along until halfway. I was too tired to continue and wanted some rest. I asked him to keep going and that I’ll catch up soon. He left, and I was all alone in the jungle. All alone.
Then about 15 minutes later, I started again and didn’t stop till Nongriat. I kept telling myself, yes I can do it. Though several times during my trek I thought I should have never brought my backpack , could have kept it somewhere. It took me 1 hour to climb down but the view of the trek was truly alluring.I trekked through the wild to reach famed Root Bridge.
I finally reached Serene Home stay, Nongriat (a village 1 km before the Double Decker Root Bridge), they said they don’t have any any space and now I had to find another place to stay ,After struggling for 1 hour in that village, I found Nongriat Guest House where I dropped my bag and went to the Double Decker Root Bridge. It was a relief to finally see the living root bridge, I was captivated by its beauty and how it has been there still firm and strong even after 100 year, though it wasn’t as fascinating as the other living root bridges and cable bridges on the way. But after the struggle I had to go through, it felt so damn good. Without wasting a second ,I took a dip into the natural pool and had a great time.I spend an hour, experiencing natural fish spa/pedicure by fishes in the water which was so relieving. All the pain through trek of 3500 steps was worth it at that moment.
Around 4 PM, I decided to trek to Rainbow Falls. It was mildly raining and the sun was playing peek-a-boo, so chances of seeing a rainbow at the Rainbow Falls were high. After an hour-long trek, I reached Rainbow Falls with a bunch of other people. It was breathtakingly beautiful! This waterfall was a sight to behold even without a rainbow. But the day proved to be lucky and just in 10 mins, I could spot a Rainbow (which went off in no time). It felt so divine and rejuvenating after a day full of pain!
Then on my way back to Nongriat, I saw nobody around. I thought of taking a dip in the natural pool for a few minutes which turned into hours. I was a little too late and it is not advised to be out in the jungle alone after dark. But I thought a few minutes won’t hurt, so I went in. And I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be in that natural pool with the wildernesswas like staying forever moment.
Just as I came out of the pool, I felt as powerful as a bullet train and reached back to Nongriat minutes after sunset. At night Charlie,caretaker of that Guest house served us dinner. Us* here refers to travelers I met there. We had great time sharing our stories meanwhile Charlie organised bonfire for us.
Rest Day in Nongriat Village
I had overexerted my body the previous day so I wanted to rest and just enjoy the beauty around. I decided to rest in Nongriat for a day and just relax. This was probably the best decision I had made in my 20 days in Meghalaya.
I took bath in a natural water pool just near the homestay. Then a sunbath near to a water stream, followed by book reading with sounds of birds, waterfalls and storm clouds. It was a day full of beautiful things one after the other.
I went back to the home stay post-sunset and slept early as tomorrow I was going to climb 3500 steps up to Tyrna.
Nongriat to Tyrna – Sohra
I woke up at 6 AM and asked my owner if he can arrange somebody to carry my bag to Tyrna as I was not feeling well. He said he can arrange one which would cost INR 1000. I was like, What? Really?
With a heavy heart and pain in my legs , I decided to leave with all my bags. Mental strength had to come to the rescue because I had no physical strength. Two things broke me on my journey back to Tyrna; a) Realization that humanity is on the verge of its death and, b) how people are running after money in Meghalaya (not generalizing but this is what I experienced).
It was a fight between my mind and my body, but I managed to reach Tyrna after climbing 3500getting a ride till Sohra was easy. The guy from Qatar gave me lift, he was really helpful and dropped me at a hostel, cheaper and better than the last I stayed in. I just crashed on the bed without food like I was dead!
Arwah Caves, Seven Sister Falls, Nohkalikai Falls – Shillong
As I couldn’t plan for anything the last day, it took me a while to start off my journey. Owner of the Hostel I stayed in advised me to visit an Offbeat Cave *i don’t remember the name , so I took a shared cab immediately. The cave is not in its natural state completely. Lights have been installed and there are stairs inside it, but it is a good experience altogether.
From there, I got a ride back to Sohra after waiting for about 15 mins. On my way, I saw a waterfall from distance and asked the driver about its name. He said it was Seven Sister Falls and I immediately got off the car and asked him to continue his journey. I really wanted to spend some time here, at this fall, without bothering about how I will go back to Sohra.
I spent almost an hour clicking photos, making time-lapse and adoring its mesmerizing beauty, though the waterfall wasn’t in its best form.
Then I waited for half an hour to get a ride but I couldn’t manage one. Thankfully a guy approached me and asked where I wanted to go. I said Sohra and he said he can take me along but he will go to the Eco Park first. I agreed and went with him (I lost my Gorilla Pod in this process). The car had 3 tourists from Telangana and they were equally happy to help me out. We went to Eco Park and were supposed to go to Nohkalikai Falls, but he changed his mind. It wasn’t in my initial plan to visit Nohkalikai Falls because there are no shared taxis to it (hire taxis cost INR 400 for 4 km), but I wished to make it happen.
So, I got off at Sohra and waited in hope to get a ride to Nokhalikai Falls. The possibilities were negligible, despite that, I thought of giving it a try. In the end, I got a Royal Enfield ride till Nohkalikai Falls and back to Shillong. What a lucky soul I am!
Shillong – Mawlynnong (Asia’s Cleanest Village)- Dawki – Bangladesh Border – Shnongpdeng
I woke up early and left for Dawki with my backpack and handbag. I took a shared taxi from Baara bazaar to start my journey to Mawlynnong – Asia’s Cleanest Village (though it wasn’t in my plan).As I reached the village, I could feel the air clearing up. Breathing in the pure,fresh air, I walked around, talking to the locals and exploring the place. With bamboo dustbins and ever-cooperative villagers, I could really see why is place is known for its cleanliness. It surely is worth a visit but no stay option for a budgeted traveler, as it’s way too expensive.
From there I moved towards Dawki, closely driving on the road next to Bangladesh. What an experience! And after 80 km, we reached Dawki, famous for its crystal clear water and floating boats. Indeed, everything was so perfect except people littering in the river and around the river. *I request all my readers to never litter and never let anybody litter*
People who gave me lift offered me a free boat ride on Umngot River, and I couldn’t say no like always. It was such a mesmerizing ride. I could see the stones beneath so clearly. Water was really clean.
The entire boat ride was sheer beauty and I couldn’t blink my eyes for a second. I was drooling over its beauty like anything.
Then we went to India-Bangladesh Border. It gave such friendly vibes as if it’s just a state border.I clicked few pictures with the Lieutenant of Bangladesh Army and he was really cool. I sat in No-man’s land between India and Bangladesh for some time and then headed towards Dawki which is a located right on the highway and is in fact a dirty town. So,It made sense to me to go to a small hamlet by the name of Shnongpdeng to experience the beauty of the pristine waters of Umngot river. Shnongpdeng is 7 kms away from Dawki and is accessible by a rough road, shared taxis are available.
I reached Shnongpdeng around 6PM and straightway took a dip in Umngot river , water was so clean and cold, I kept swimming for an hour and came out of water by the time of dinner. I felt refreshed and energized by that cold water. I volunteered to help Fabiano*tent owner to prepare food and we had dinner together. I sat for few hours outside my tent, next to river,looking at bonfire and water,the perfect view which i used to picture everyday. I wanted to stay there forever, It was feeling of belongingness as I belong to that place. I soon asked my thoughts to calm down and slept.
Adventures in Shnongpdeng
I woke up early as I wanted to experience the sunrise turning Umngot river into golden lake. The view was so surreal and within moments it started to rain and without wasting any second, I took the my clothes off and went into the water, it was something unbelievable. I being an adventure enthusiast, I jumped at the opportunity to try Cliff-jumping and Snorkelling. I asked Fabiano to come along with me and he took me on boat to the spot for cliff jumping. I was afraid initially but as soon i jumped all my fear were gone,I enjoyed it like anything & kept jumping from a higher cliff as it’s my daily task. While the experience was exhilarating, and slightly unnerving, the view of the valley spread around me was simply stunning! I too tried snorkelling which didn’t turned out to be a good experience*may be next time. It was hell of an experience which I don’t want to share. We came back to tent by evening, I had dinner and slept early as tomorrow it was going to be a hectic day.
(There are a few homestays in Shnongpdeng, most are cute structures made of bamboo and stand on a stilt, prices charged are around 400-700 Rupees. The river bank resembles a Goa type of atmosphere with shacks and bamboo huts scattered around a small beach. Camping options are available too in Shnongpdeng. Fabiano is the guy to contact for camping and water sports.)
Rest Day in Shillong
I woke up early and took a cab to Dawki and then to Shillong as I wanted to cover Elephant fall on the way but I couldn’t do so . I was feeling bit unwell so I decided to rest in hotel for a day. In Evening, I went out on a walk to police bazaar which is the main market in Shillong. I bought few stuff, tried few Khasi fruits and got a Nagaland shawl for mymust try khasi fruits if you are in Meghalaya.
Quite fortunately, my trip was right in time for the Khasi Festival, a popular harvest festival in the state. With the people all adorning native costumes. the festival involved a dance with unmarried women(virgins) forming an inner circle an men making up the outer circle, signifying how they protect their womenfolk. I had great time witnessing the festival,though they didn’t allow me to be the part of it.
Elephant Falls – Sacred Forest
I woke up early and went to gym as I couldn’t do it for few days*never miss working out no matter where you are . After working out, this really good guy from the gym gave me lift in his car to Railbong point from where I got the cab to elephant falls. It just took ₹10 bucks and 20 minutes to reached Elephant falls , it was one of the beautiful falls I visited. It has 3 view points on subsequent 3 stages. I clicked few pictures and came out to get a taxi for Sacred forest, I had to wait for an hour as its not a regular taxi route but then I finally got taxi to sacred forest which is in quite countryside of Shillong.
As soon I reached the forest the view was unrealistic, I felt the purest air on earth,breezing,touching me softly. I got numb for the moment and i didn’t want to waste any second to get inside the forest so,I quickly found a guide for the trek as the forest is said to be not safe to go alone. And I stood at the edge of a forest in the village of Mawphlang in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, trying to get rid of negative thoughts before entering. It was great feeling as this was no ordinary forest, you see, but home to a protective deity called U Ryngkew U Basa, revered by the Chief and Elders of the village to protect it from all harm. If anyone enters with bad intentions, they face dire consequences. A sacred grove or Law Kyntang, this forest has stood for at least 1,000 years and one of the reasons the forest still survives is because cuttting down any tree or branch here is taboo. Nature holds much significance in traditional Khasi culture and the spirit of conservation is deeply embedded in the people through a complex social matrix of religious beliefs.
The guide told me the name of several trees which I don’t remember , the mystical stories on the forest and many more which i don’t remember at all but it all sounded like fairytale, It all sounded like a different world.
The forest also serves as an important ritual site for the people of Hima Mawphlang who perform various thanksgiving and blessing ceremonies in the area. This has evidently been going on for a while, attested by scattered mounds of ritual stones and menhirs, some of which are over 900 years old! I did get a chance to witness the ceremony of thanksgiving. khasi people are full of music and life.i asked them to be part of it but denied by them. After the trek of entire forest , it was almost dark and i just took a cab to Shillong.
Shillong Golf Course- Cathedral of Marry Church- Shillong Peak – ML05 Cafe
I woke up and decided to take rest for the day and do nothing, but soon after I got call from few travelers I met in Shillong to cover few things in Shillong itself so I agreed to join them at Police Bazaar. We booked a cab and went to Golf Course which is said to be India’s oldest and natures 5- hole golf course.
It was huge ground, people were hanging out and some kids were playing football , we clicked few pictures and moved towards Cathedral of Mary Church, It was beautiful church, I stood there for half an hour and went for the final destination of day “Shillong Peak”. It is the highest point of Shillong,from where one can see the bird eye view of Shillong city. The city looks so beautiful from there . We spent some time and on the way back to Shillong found this amazing cafe called ML05, we had our lunch there and came back to hotel.
B’daying and Partying Alone
I woke up early as it was my b’day and I started receiving calls from my family and friends. I was so happy and super excited as it was my b’day, I decided to go to church first as I go to church every year on my b’day. All the wishes and calls from people I never expected already made my day. I decided to go All Saint’s Church and sat there for few hours thinking about life,career,multiple thoughts regarding my further travelling.
I came out of church and some people I made friends in Shillong asked me to attend this rock music fest in Laithmukrah. I decided to attend that, People of Shillong are crazy for rock music and party. I had great time and as it was going to be my last day in Shillong so I came back to hotel late night after partying with my new friends.
Shillong(Meghalaya) – Guwahati(Assam) – Tawang(Arunachal)
I woke up at 7AM as I was supposed to catch the Taxi to Guwahati. I reached late but I managed to get it any how. It took me 4 hours to reach Guwahati but the weather and view were enthralling and I kept wondering, am I really living this? I reached Guwahati at 11.30 AM and straight away went to a Vodafone store to buy a new SIM and book my bus ticket to Tawang.
I booked it with Deep Travels as they had a direct bus . My bus was at 3 PM and I had almost 3 hours to kill, so I went to KFC, then Subway and back to KFC to pack a few veg things and boarded the bus from the Bus Stand.
It’s true that travelling has the potential to change you into a better person! Well I myself experienced it and now a firm believer of this notion. I said good bye to Meghalaya with that nostalgic feeling and promised to come here again to see more undiscovered part of this state.
Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
I was quite not sure if I would be able to survive in Tawang as I was told back and forth about the precautions to take and do not hitchhike. But my experience was entirely different than what everybody said.
Author:- Aditya Samadhiya
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