Mawphanlur-Mawphlang-Mawlyngbna-Sohra-Mawlynnong-Shnongpdeng-Shillong: April 2016

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#1 May 11th, 2016, 01:23
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  • Keshava Kishore is offline
#1
Hello Everyone!

Poets of the yore invoked muses before writing, but we mortals invoke the river of information issuing forth from Karikor's repertoire as inspiration to write this travelogue. Without his help, we would never have stepped into Meghalaya. We also thank everyone who has written about their forages into perhaps tourism's greenest pasture in India, green in every sense of the word, fertile and largely unexplored.

Without further ado, let's get down to the detailed itinerary. Five of us (my father, mother, wife, and daughter, and I) had just finished our Darjeeling-Sikkim part of our tour and arrived at Guwahati Rly Station at 4:30 a.m. by Kanchanjunga Express. Our driver, Mr. Wan, had expressed apprehensions about being able to be there to pick us up at such an odd hour, so we agreed to meet him in Shillong. We immediately occupied the first 6 seats of a Sumo and raced up the deserted highway to Shillong, reaching Anjali Petrol Pump by 7:30. Mr. Wan met us there and inquired if we would have breakfast in Shillong or on the way, and "on the way" was the unanimous decision. And a wise one too, as we found out later! Here's what we did over the next 7 days.

APRIL 24

Where We Went: Shillong to Mawphanlur; Mawphanlur to Mawphlang.
Where We Stayed: MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang). Booked with electronic transfer.
Time Required: 2-1/2 hours from Shillong. At least 1 hour just see around, another hour if one had lunch there. 1-1/2 hours to Mawphlang (stoppage time not counted).
Road Condition: Excellent, as good Guwahati-Shillong Highway. Only last 4 km (after Markasa Market) is uphill with 2 km of mud road. Easily negotiable in small car in dry season.
What We Saw/Did: Captivating views of gentle rolling green hills with alpine trees. A slow uphill journey after Markasa Market through thick forest and narrow mudroad in pindrop silence. Hill-top pools of crystal clear blue water. Traveler's Nest. Views from the top, as far as the eyes can see, including Kylang Rock (if I got the name right) and the beyond. Rolled down the slopes like logs of wood, screaming!
Weather: Cool, breezy, aromatic air. Turning on AC would be a disgrace.
Contact Person: Bah Syiemlieh (who runs the Travellers Nest)
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views.
Doable During Rainy Season?: For the last 4-5 km past Markasa Market, might have to use Bah Syiemlieh Jeep.
What We Didn't/Couldn't See: None that we know of.
Opinion: Mindblowing!
What's So Special About This Place?: Everything... the journey, the views, the balmy breeze.... the solitude at the top of the hill is priceless!

APRIL 25

Where We Went: Mawphlang to Mawlyngbna and back.
Where We Stayed: MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang). Booked with electronic transfer.
Time Required: 2 hours from Mawphlang. 5 hours to see all the attractions of the place.
Road Condition: Good but narrow throughout, making ride comfortable but slow.
What We Saw/Did:
A. Lake/Dam Umkhakoi - Animal footprints, unbelievably green (probably due to algae) and funnily shaped rock formations, kayaking, photographer's dream.
B. Mih-Um Spring (Lawbah).
C. Short trek involving steep climbs up and down to reach a majestic waterfall, Iew Luri Lura (another set of animal footprints), and Fossils of sea urchins.
Weather: Cool, not very breezy, pleasant even during the trek. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: Name unknown but runs Travellers Nest. Since Monday is holiday at "this" Travellers Nest, he arranged for a guide called Batista to show us around.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views. Batista said after October, it's easier and less slippery to trek.
Doable During Rainy Season?: Umkakhoi - No problem. Trek to reach waterfall, animal footprints, and fossils might pose challenge. Using guide's physical support might help.
What We Didn't/Couldn't See:
A. On the way to Mawlyngbna, there is a deviation to the right, and 20 km from there is Symper Rock (or so the people there said). We didn't have time.
B. On the way back, we were told there were "springs" in the Mawsymram area. Again, we didn't have time as it was already getting dark.
Opinion: If you didn't come here, you may as well not have come to Meghalaya.
What's So Special About This Place?: Too many treasures in too small a place, and very close to Mawphlang. The absolute lack of other tourists is the icing on the cake!

APRIL 26

Where We Went: Sacred Forest, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, Arwah Lumshynnah Cave.
Where We Stayed: Kut-Madan, Sohra. Booked online through MakeMyTrip.com.
Time Required: Sacred Forest - 5 mins from Mawphlang. The rest of the points plus lunch at Orange Roots took up the rest of the day. We were in Kut-Madan by 5.
Road Condition: Excellent througout... one could eat food off it. Only 1 km or so of the road to Arwah cave was being laid, so should be ready soon.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Sacred Forest - Trek (45 mins) - Good.
B. Elephant Falls - Waste of time, at least at this time of the year.
C. Shillong Peak - Waste of time, probably any time of the year.
D. Arwah Lumshynnah Cave - Excellent. Newly opened cave with 55 million years old remains (or so the guide said). Stalactites and fossils on the walls/roof will take one's breath away.
Weather: Cool, windy, slightly humid, pleasant. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: Guide needed for Sacred Forest; we found an excellent English speaker, Mr. Bornlang.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views, including those of the massive hills on the way to Sohra. Elephant Falls may have water during rainy season. October onwards, views might be better. Cave equally doable even in rainy season.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: David Scott Trail. Reason: Mummy accidentally put one foot (and then to second foot to balance herself) into the brook that we had to cross to leave MaplePines Farm. Since she had a soaking wet, shoe a 14-km trek was sadly out of question. So it was a day partly wasted.

APRIL 27

Where We Went: Sohra local sightseeing. Halt at Kut-Madan, Sohra.
Where We Stayed: Kut-Madan, Sohra. Booked online through MakeMyTrip.com.
Time Required: Full day.
Road Condition: Excellent everywhere.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Seven Sisters Falls - Good.
B. Khoh Ramhah Rock - The view of Bangladesh from here through a telescope is its USP. Nothing noteworthy about the rock itself.
C. Thangkharang Park - Large well-maintained park, excellent views, large childrens' play area, green house.
D. Mawsmai Cave - Good. A short-distance cave everyone can do.
E. Eco Park - Excellent views, view of a waterfall from almost right under one's feet (where it starts to fall), children's play area.
F. Nohkalikai Falls - A high point of the visit to Meghalaya.
G. Ramakrishna Mission - Nothing much. The museum on 1st Floor is good, but avoidable if one is going to Don Bosco Museum in Shillong.
H. Dain Thlen Falls - Excellent, more so because of the remoteness of the place.
Weather: Cool, windy, slightly humid, pleasant. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: No guide needed, anywhere.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and but views were marred a bit by slight fog (not much). October onwards, views might be crystal clear, especially in mornings.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains, though not sure about Mawsmai Cave.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do/See:
A. Double-Decker Living Root Bridge - With 3500 steps one way, we had long decided not to try this. Maybe next time, with a halt planned in the homestay near the bridge.
B. Sa-i-Mika Park - we passed right in front of it but didn't know if it was a place to see or not.

APRIL 28

Where We Went: Sohra to Mawlynnong (including Riwai Root Bridge) to Shnongpdeng via Dawki.
Where We Stayed: Homestay in Shnongpdeng (tent was the original idea, but would have been too dangerous at this time of the year with the early rains). Not prebooked, no advance, paid when vacating.
Time Required: Full day.
Road Condition: Excellent and very scenic (at places narrow road covered with trees/plantation/tall grasses on both sides - great drive, any biker's dream). Dawki to Shnongpdeng part of road not very good but not very uncomfortable. Heavy traffic of trucks going to Bangladesh border near Dawki.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Riwai Root Bridge - Excellent and must see, especially if Double-Decker has been omitted.
B. Mawlynnong (Asia's Cleanest Village) - Good, worth a "visit," not worth a stay (because the entire village can be "seen" in 30-45 minutes and then there's nothing to do).
C. Shnongpdeng - Excellent. A mini-Goa in Meghalaya, but with absolutely no tourists! The Umngot river has a beach too!
Weather: Warm (even hot if roaming in the open), humid, yet pleasant. Evenings are cooler. AC not mandatory.
Contact Person: For homestay/tent in Shnongpdeng, Mr. Manbha Kongwang. No guide needed, anywhere.
Best Time to Visit: Mornings and evenings were cool, but afternoons were a bit warm. Not very uncomfortable. Manbha said December is the best time for Shnongpdeng, with less water in river and crystal-clear view of the river-bottom and chance to see catfish; also tent on the beach and adventure activities are possible only after October. The entire route has an almost subtropical weather with plenty of tree cover and vegetation, so October onwards might be cooler and more pleasant.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains, though not sure about the last 1 km or so of road to Shnongpdeng.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: Boating on Umngot river where the road takes a U-bend and the Bangladesh waters start. We missed boating in Shnongpdeng too because it was past 6 when we reached there and got down to the river, and it soon started raining heavily.

APRIL 29

Where We Went: Shnongpdeng to Shillong via Amlarem and Jowai.
Where We Stayed: Shaurya Inn in Police Bazaar, booked online through GoIbibo.
Time Required: We spent the morning in Shnongpdeng, the journey took about 3 hours, and the evening was spent roaming the markets of Shillong.
Road Condition: Excellent and very scenic near Jowai with large plains (not hillocks).
Weather: Slightly warm to cool, yet pleasant. Shillong was hot. Evening was cooler. AC not mandatory.
Best Time to Visit: October onwards might be pleasant in Shillong... we found it too hot for a hill station.
Doable During Rainy Season?: No problem whatsoever.

APRIL 30

Where We Went: Shillong sightseeing half day, Umium Lake, Guwahati for return train.
Time Required: Half day plus 2-1/2 hours for transfer to Guwahati.
Road Condition: Excellent.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Church - It was closed, nothing special from outside.
B. Zoo cum Children's Park - Good.
C. Shillong Golf Course - Outstanding! With rolling hills and natural depressions that have been left untouched, very pleasing to the eye but must be hard on the body.
D. Don Bosco Museum - Mindblowing! It will take many weeks to see the entire collection properly. Hats off! The best place in Shillong and one of the best museums we have ever seen. A visit to Shillong might be well worth just to see this place.
E. Umium Lake - The view of the exposed "islands" and the water from the viewpoint on the road is excellent. Not necessary to go down to the water sports complex if one is not interested in boating.
Weather: Hot. AC was required in the afternoon after leaving Don Bosco Museum.
Best Time to Visit: October onwards, I guess. Walking in the afternoon sun without a cap is fraught with danger.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All places mentioned above can be visited in the rains.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: We wanted to play a at least a half round on the golf course, but since we had so little time (we had a train at 6 p.m.) and the sun was beating down even at 8 a.m., we had to give this one a miss. Not having played this beautiful layout will always be a regret!
Attached Images
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#2 May 11th, 2016, 10:57
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  • iamsomnath is offline
#2
Thanks for sharing. I'm in love with Meghalaya for ever. Itching to have another trip there , soon.
#4 May 11th, 2016, 15:03
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  • life1style1 is offline
#4
Ahh Yes...I have been waiting eagerly for your TR...
Subscribed..
Only rules that matters are:What a man can do and what a man can not !!!!

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Some of my compilations in Flickr
#5 May 11th, 2016, 16:11
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  • deep.9477 is offline
#5
can you share the details of
MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang) as I googled i found culturalpursuits.com , but its seems not working.
and other places that you have mentioned do you have contacts ? can your please share with me ?
and If you have any driver's number .
I am going to visit in August.
#6 May 11th, 2016, 16:53
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  • sindabad is offline
#6
Excellent back to back trip reports ..now waiting for the photographs
#7 May 11th, 2016, 20:24
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  • Keshava Kishore is offline
#7

Itinerary

Thanks for all the likes and comments and overall encouragement (if some of you used them to give me a kick on the backside and say "Okay, get on with it!," it worked. I'm sorry for the long interval between posts, but as someone has famously said, "the problem with work is it interferes with life." I also apologize for the shoddy presentation upfront. Because of the length, I typed everything out on a wordpad and bolded and colored it, but everything evaporated when I copy pasted . So, here it is again (with one or two added details), dressed up; hope I haven't overdone it.

APRIL 24
Where We Went: Shillong to Mawphanlur; Mawphanlur to Mawphlang.
Where We Stayed: MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang). Booked with electronic transfer.
Time Required: 2-1/2 hours from Shillong. At least 1 hour just see around, another hour if one had lunch there. 1-1/2 hours to Mawphlang (stoppage time not counted).
Road Condition: Excellent, as good Guwahati-Shillong Highway. Only last 4 km (after Markasa Market) is uphill with 2 km of mud road. Easily negotiable in small car in dry season.
What We Saw/Did: Captivating views of gentle rolling green hills with alpine trees. A slow uphill journey after Markasa Market through thick forest and narrow mudroad in pindrop silence. Hill-top pools of crystal clear blue water. Traveler's Nest. Views from the top, as far as the eyes can see, including Kylang Rock (if I got the name right) and the beyond. Rolled down the slopes like logs of wood, screaming!
Weather: Cool, breezy, aromatic air. Turning on AC would be a disgrace.
Contact Person: Bah Syiemlieh (who runs the Travellers Nest) and James Perry who owns MaplePines Farm.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views.
Doable During Rainy Season?: For the last 4-5 km past Markasa Market, might have to use Bah Syiemlieh's Jeep.
What We Didn't/Couldn't See: None that we know of.
Opinion: Mindblowing!
What's So Special About This Place?: Everything... the journey, the views, the balmy breeze.... the solitude at the top of the hill is priceless!

APRIL 25
Where We Went: Mawphlang to Mawlyngbna and back.
Where We Stayed: MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang). Booked with electronic transfer.
Time Required: 2 hours from Mawphlang. 5 hours to see all the attractions of the place.
Road Condition: Good but narrow throughout, making ride comfortable but slow.
What We Saw/Did:
A. Lake/Dam Umkhakoi - Animal footprints, unbelievably green (probably due to algae) and funnily shaped rock formations, kayaking, photographer's dream.
B. Mih-Um Spring (Lawbah).
C. Short trek involving steep climbs up and down to reach a majestic waterfall, Iew Luri Lura (another set of animal footprints), and Fossils of sea urchins.
Weather: Cool, not very breezy, pleasant even during the trek. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: Name unknown but runs Travellers Nest. Since Monday is holiday at "this" Travellers Nest, he arranged for a guide called Mr. Batista to show us around.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views. Batista said after October, it's easier and less slippery to trek.
Doable During Rainy Season?: Umkakhoi - No problem. Trek to reach waterfall, animal footprints, and fossils might pose challenge. Using guide's physical support might help.
What We Didn't/Couldn't See:
A. On the way to Mawlyngbna, there is a deviation to the right, and 20 km from there is Symper Rock (or so the people there said). We didn't have time.
B. On the way back, we were told there were "springs" in the Mawsymram area. Again, we didn't have time as it was already getting dark.
Opinion: If you didn't come here, you may as well not have come to Meghalaya.
What's So Special About This Place?: Too many treasures in too small a place, and very close to Mawphlang. The absolute lack of other tourists is the icing on the cake!

APRIL 26
Where We Went: Sacred Forest, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, Arwah Lumshynnah Cave.
Where We Stayed: Kut-Madan, Sohra. Booked online through MakeMyTrip.com.
Time Required: Sacred Forest - 5 mins from Mawphlang. The rest of the points plus lunch at Orange Roots took up the rest of the day. We were in Kut-Madan by 5.
Road Condition: Excellent througout... one could eat food off it. Only 1 km or so of the road to Arwah cave was being laid, so should be ready soon.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Sacred Forest - Trek (45 mins) - Good.
B. Elephant Falls - Waste of time, at least at this time of the year.
C. Shillong Peak - Waste of time, probably any time of the year.
D. Arwah Lumshynnah Cave - Excellent. Newly opened cave with 55 million years old remains (or so the guide said). Stalactites and fossils on the walls/roof will take one's breath away.
Weather: Cool, windy, slightly humid, pleasant. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: Guide needed for Sacred Forest; we found an excellent English speaker, Mr. Bornlang. Also, guide for Arwah cave was also the housekeeping staff in front of the cave (he'll be there, number no needed).
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and clear views, including those of the massive hills on the way to Sohra. Elephant Falls may have water during rainy season. October onwards, views might be better. Cave equally doable even in rainy season.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: David Scott Trail. Reason: Mummy accidentally put one foot (and then to second foot to balance herself) into the brook that we had to cross to leave MaplePines Farm. Since she had a soaking wet, shoe a 14-km trek was sadly out of question. So it was a day partly wasted.

APRIL 27
Where We Went: Sohra local sightseeing. Halt at Kut-Madan, Sohra.
Where We Stayed: Kut-Madan, Sohra. Booked online through MakeMyTrip.com.
Time Required: Full day.
Road Condition: Excellent everywhere.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Seven Sisters Falls - Good.
B. Khoh Ramhah Rock - The view of Bangladesh from here through a telescope is its USP. Nothing noteworthy about the rock itself.
C. Thangkharang Park - Large well-maintained park, excellent views, large childrens' play area, green house.
D. Mawsmai Cave - Good. A short-distance cave everyone can do.
E. Eco Park - Excellent views, view of a waterfall from almost right under one's feet (where it starts to fall), children's play area.
F. Nohkalikai Falls - A high point of the visit to Meghalaya.
G. Ramakrishna Mission - Nothing much. The museum on 1st Floor is good, but avoidable if one is going to Don Bosco Museum in Shillong.
H. Dain Thlen Falls - Excellent, more so because of the remoteness of the place.
Weather: Cool, windy, slightly humid, pleasant. AC won't be required.
Contact Person: No guide needed, anywhere.
Best Time to Visit: We had a great time and but views were marred a bit by slight fog (not much). October onwards, views might be crystal clear, especially in mornings.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains, though not sure about Mawsmai Cave.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do/See:
A. Double-Decker Living Root Bridge - With 3500 steps one way, we had long decided not to try this. Maybe next time, with a halt planned in the homestay near the bridge.
B. Sa-i-Mika Park - we passed right in front of it but didn't know if it was a place to see or not.

APRIL 28
Where We Went: Sohra to Mawlynnong (including Riwai Root Bridge) to Shnongpdeng via Dawki.
Where We Stayed: Homestay in Shnongpdeng (tent was the original idea, but would have been too dangerous at this time of the year with the early rains). Not prebooked, no advance, paid when vacating.
Time Required: Full day.
Road Condition: Excellent and very scenic (at places narrow road covered with trees/plantation/tall grasses on both sides - great drive, any biker's dream). Dawki to Shnongpdeng part of road not very good but not very uncomfortable. Heavy traffic of trucks going to Bangladesh border near Dawki.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Riwai Root Bridge - Excellent and must see, especially if Double-Decker has been omitted.
B. Mawlynnong (Asia's Cleanest Village) - Good, worth a "visit," not worth a stay (because the entire village can be "seen" in 30-45 minutes and then there's nothing to do).
C. Shnongpdeng - Excellent. A mini-Goa in Meghalaya, but with absolutely no tourists! The Umngot river has a beach too!
Weather: Warm (even hot if roaming in the open), humid, yet pleasant. Evenings are cooler. AC not mandatory.
Contact Person: For homestay/tent in Shnongpdeng, Mr. Manbha Kongwang. No guide needed, anywhere.
Best Time to Visit: Mornings and evenings were cool, but afternoons were a bit warm. Not very uncomfortable. Manbha said December is the best time for Shnongpdeng, with less water in river and crystal-clear view of the river-bottom and chance to see catfish; also tent on the beach and adventure activities are possible only after October. The entire route has an almost subtropical weather with plenty of tree cover and vegetation, so October onwards might be cooler and more pleasant.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All points doable even in heavy rains, though not sure about the last 1 km or so of road to Shnongpdeng.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: Boating on Umngot river where the road takes a U-bend and the Bangladesh waters start. We missed boating in Shnongpdeng too because it was past 6 when we reached there and got down to the river, and it soon started raining heavily.

APRIL 29
Where We Went: Shnongpdeng to Shillong via Amlarem and Jowai.
Where We Stayed: Shaurya Inn in Police Bazaar, booked online through GoIbibo.
Time Required: We spent the morning in Shnongpdeng, the journey took about 3 hours, and the evening was spent roaming the markets of Shillong.
Road Condition: Excellent and very scenic near Jowai with large plains (not hillocks).
Weather: Slightly warm to cool, yet pleasant. Shillong was hot. Evening was cooler. AC not mandatory.
Best Time to Visit: October onwards might be pleasant in Shillong... we found it too hot for a hill station.
Doable During Rainy Season?: No problem whatsoever.

APRIL 30
Where We Went: Shillong sightseeing half day, Umium Lake, Guwahati for return train.
Time Required: Half day plus 2-1/2 hours for transfer to Guwahati.
Road Condition: Excellent.
What We Saw/Did and Opinion:
A. Church - It was closed, nothing special from outside.
B. Zoo cum Children's Park - Good.
C. Shillong Golf Course - Outstanding! With rolling hills and natural depressions that have been left untouched, very pleasing to the eye but must be hard on the body. Greens were not very smooth, but a member assured they will be like carpet when a PGA tournament is played in November.
D. Don Bosco Museum - Mindblowing! It will take many weeks to see the entire collection properly. Hats off! The best place in Shillong and one of the best museums we have ever seen. A visit to Shillong might be well worth just to see this place.
E. Umium Lake - The view of the exposed "islands" and the water from the viewpoint on the road is excellent. Not necessary to go down to the water sports complex if one is not interested in boating.
Weather: Hot. AC was required in the afternoon after leaving Don Bosco Museum.
Best Time to Visit: October onwards, I guess. Walking in the afternoon sun without a cap is fraught with danger.
Doable During Rainy Season?: All places mentioned above can be visited in the rains.
What We Didn't/Couldn't Do: Ward Lake appeared below the road on the left and was left untouched! However, we wanted to play a at least a half round on the golf course, but since we had so little time (we had a train at 6 p.m.) and the sun was beating down even at 8 a.m., we had to give this one a miss. Not having played this beautiful layout will always be a regret!


TRANSPORT
If you are traveling as a family (3-10 people), booking a vehicle would be ideal, as Karikor had suggested. There are almost no buses, very few shared jeeps, and that's it! One could be stranded for a long time if dependent on "public" transport.

Also, seeing everything with Shillong as the "base" or "launchpad" can be very tiring and unfulfilling (only staying in these places can give the real feel). Some people we met in Mawlynnong and Sohra were doing exactly that and were regretting it. For example, night views of the well-lit Bangladesh plains (from Sohra), previously unheard sounds of the insects and frogs and the gushing river (Shnongpdeng), and the serene ambience clubbed with constant lightning (Mawphlang) are just a few examples. Gazing at the starlit sky from a place where there is absolutely no light pollution at night (like Mawphanlur) is something money can't buy - all our cities and towns and even villages are polluted not only with dust and smoke but also excessive light.

For a family of 4 (plus 1 child), like us, the Swift Dzire was ideal. We heard many quotes before setting with Mr. Wan (a local from Mawphlang, introduced to us by James of MaplePines Farm) for Rs. 15,000 for the entire 7-day trip (driver's food and accommodation included - we spent another Rs. 150 or 200 on parking/vehicle entry fees). Some quotes reeked so badly of greed that we wanted to laugh in their faces even if it meant offending them, but denied ourselves such pleasures! (two of the drivers were supposedly people well known to our friends in the Airforce back home). There is, we feel, a racket out there of overcharging tourists who come from far away states.

There is also this habit of quoting prices for AC car. For heaven's sake, AC won't be required even in peak summer for 95% of the time; that's how good the weather is in Meghalaya. By paying for AC and turning it on, tourists would deprive themselves of their only opportunity to breathe clean air. Someone we met near Umium Lake was joking, "Every time my uncle is returning from Meghalaya to Assam and reaches this lake, he pulls out large plastic covers, holds them in the breeze to fill them up, ties them, and takes them home to breathe once in a while to get a taste of "real" air."

Also, hiring a local driver (from Meghalaya) will prove invaluable in interior Meghalaya because only he can communicate with the shopkeepers and tea-and-rice shop owners or locals to ask for directions (most of these people only speak Khasi or Jaintia).

FOOD
If one doesn't mind eating chapati/poori with subji for breakfast and rice with dal/chana/subji for lunch, wonderful! There are a number of tea-and-rice shops near inhabited places and believe me, they are all clean! Breakfast/meals plus tea for 5 adults, no matter how much we ate, was always between Rs. 150 and 200; and Mr. Wan always ate non-veg with rice. In fact, in one place I even asked how much the rice/dal/two subjis that I ate cost, and she said Rs. 20. We noticed another funny thing. While these people who run eateries can say in Hindi/English how much the total bill was, they generally stick to round figures. Whenever the driver was with us, they would say in Khasi Rs. 135 or 167 or some such odd number. When he wasn't there, they would usually say 100 or 150 or 200... nothing in between !

Tea is of 3 varieties - red tea (the decoction), tea (made with lots of water) and special tea (one has to ask for it and tell them "more milk" or "only milk"). Asking for sugarless and mixing sugar oneself is a good idea. The tea, otherwise, is very refreshing.

For vegetarians, there are no "pure" vegetarian tea-and-rice shops. All shops have 3-4 large vessels in the bottom-most shelf containing parts of what had once been moving around. But the good news is, the don't mix the ladles/spoons and you won't smell a thing.... you might be sitting right next to non-veg food but won't know unless someone told you. Amazing how that is possible! Even the mutton shops in villages/towns (and there will be a lot of them) don't smell one bit. Turning in another direction will do, no need to pinch your nose.

Tip: Usually served with rice are a variety of shredded leaves. Opinion is divided among us (our family) about it. I felt their taste was bland (no problem) but they had an aroma which put me off.... so I avoided them. And I forgot to tell you - most food items are cooked with very little salt/spices/oil... so children can eat without a problem. We ate regularly here and none of us had an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues.

For South Indians who swear by curds/buttermilk, pick up a dozen pouches of Amul Chach from Shillong/Guwahati. You will get the funniest faces you have ever seen if you ask for "dahi" in a shop; worse for buttermilk (they will confuse it with butter and milk).

Note: Finding food/shops on a Sunday is almost impossible. We arrived on a Sunday and saw shop after closed shop....... the only place you see people is inside and outside Churches.

WATER
Unless its a Sunday, finding 500 mL/1 L Bisleri/Bailey in shops anywhere is no problem. We drank wherever we could in lakes, rivers, falls on the roadside.... so sweet, you can't restrain yourself from filling up all the bottles in the car! Again, no diarrhea or such ailment followed.... so it's pure and safe. Carrying milk pouches for children and lots of biscuits and snacks for the journey may not be a bad idea .

MEDICINE
Though there are medical stores in Sohra and other towns on the way, they are basic and it would be best to pick them up (if you need them, that is) from Guwahati/Shillong.

ATMs
No problem. There were a few in towns.


MAWPHANLUR
On Sunday, April 24, we moved away from Shillong and drove on a newly laid wide road to Mawphanlur. We were greeted with a strong, cold breeze and excellent clear views all along the way. This was the Meghalaya we had come to see, green, wet in places, and free from urban structures. We had breakfast of hot poori and chole in a wayside shop (luckily open). There is a board clearly facing the road which says "MARKASA." The highway itself leaves the board to its right and races away, but there is a mud road one has to take, leaving the board to one's left-hand side. Fairly simple, everyone knows where Markasa is, and the road isn't bad. A short distance later there was a sharp right turn and there were shops on the right side (they were closed now, because apparently they open only on certain days of the week). From this point, the mudroad forks, one to the right goes slightly down and one to the left moves steeply uphill... the uphill road is the one to take. From there, there is a motorable mudroad for about 2-3 km followed by steep up-and-down asphalted road in excellent condition leading to Mawphanlur hill top, leaving the Travellers Nest to its right. The road ends at the top, so one doesn't have to wonder "if the place has been reached." If you went any further, you would be soon coming down the shortest route anyone can take from a hilltop.

All along this route, apart from a few houses at the base where the ascent began, one only has trees and a few goats and cows for company. The wind is so strong on the top, it almost blew my daughter away (she was wearing her windcheater-type jacket). Places very very far away are visible. Rolling down slopes is something one would find hard to avoid... the gentle slopes are so soft and inviting!

As soon as the ascent begins, one gets to see the hilltop pools, and from the very top, 3-4 of them are easily visible from any point. The water is clean and sweet, and a wash very refreshing. We hadn't ordered lunch at the Travellers Nest because we weren't sure if we would go to Mawphanlur. We had a small picnic on a grass bank, Anu took a bath in the water and shivered the moment she came out, and after chasing some chicken, we got back into the car and started the roller-coaster ride back to the base of the hill. We had lunch in a shop on the highway and were at MaplePines Farm by 4:30 p.m. While on the way back we regretted not having stayed in the Travellers Nest Mawphanlur and enjoyed the solitude and a possible starlit sky at night, all such regrets evaporated when we crossed a brook, were greeted by Gunner (James' family pet dog), and set foot on the sweetest property we have ever spent a night on!

1: After we left Shillong.
2: When you see this, slow down... notice clearly, in the middle of the photo, there is a small blue dome-shaped building and a tinroofed building on the intermediate hill, and a tall telecommunications tower (barely visible) right on top of the highest hill. I tried to upload a close-up of this but it doesn't work. There is a board just about 100 meters from here on the road.
3: The shops at Markasa Market, after taking the mudroad and the right turn.
4: The wide road on the left leads to Mawphanlur.
5: On the way up.
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#8 May 11th, 2016, 21:21
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#8
Unable to upload photos
#9 May 11th, 2016, 21:39
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#9
1: View as we go up.
2: ... and up.
3: ... then straight down.
4: The first of the hilltop pools comes into view.
5: First look at the Travellers Nest.
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#10 May 11th, 2016, 21:49
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#10
1: Past the Traveller's Nest and the pools around it.
2: Kylang Rock as seen from the top.
3: Great place for animals to graze...
4: ... and drink.
5: The pools and Traveller's Nest in the background.
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#11 May 11th, 2016, 22:01
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Bye Bye Mawphanlur....
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#12 May 11th, 2016, 22:33
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MaplePines is surrounded by water on both sides, so to enter it, one has to cross water, either by foot or by car. The moment we were on the large football field across the water from MaplePines, James' son Murray (a high-schooler) came in their Maruti Van and offered to take us across the water. We handed over our luggage and preferred to cross the brook, hopping on the rounded rocks that had been placed for the purpose. The moment we opened the gate, we were greeted by an enthusiastic Gunner. When the ladies were scared, James appeared and said something like "Gunner doesn't hurt anybody... he helps people fall in love with pets." And how true he was. We instantly fell in love with the gentle creature. It would also either show us the way or hover around, keeping a safe distance, going about picking large juicy insects (beetles I think) from the lush grass for a snack.

1: We had to cross this brook to get to MaplePines.
2: Our twin-cabins.
3: Adjoining cabin... a couple from England were on a cycling trip.
4: Our room... the ladder leads to a cosy attic.... Anu spent half her time climbing up and down.
5: The attic, which can house a large male on the bed and a couple more on the carpet!
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#13 May 11th, 2016, 22:44
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by deep.9477 View Post can you share the details of
MaplePines Farm (Mawphlang) as I googled i found culturalpursuits.com , but its seems not working.
and other places that you have mentioned do you have contacts ? can your please share with me ?
and If you have any driver's number .
I am going to visit in August.
Hi,

Sorry for the delay. James' (MaplePines Farm) number is 09856041205. His email ID (and he checks regularly) is james@culturalpursuits.com.

For all other contacts, please contact Karikor when you are ready with you tour itinerary (he was the one who gave me all those contacts in the first place).

Hope this helps. All the best for your trip!
#14 May 12th, 2016, 14:35
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#14
Great and helpful post,Keshava Kishore.
Some questions
1) I have planned for a 3 day stay in Shillong and then I have 4 more days. I suppose I should make it a trip Shillong-Sohra-Mawlynnong-shillong circuit.
We are only 2 adults and one child. So, a small car would do for us. How much do you think it might cost?
2) How much would a homestay in Mawlynnong cost?
#15 May 12th, 2016, 14:53
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#15
Great TR Keshava Kishore. Just loving it

BTW, Can you please pass on the number of Mr. Wan?

Also any idea how to book Traveller's Nest in Mawphanlur?
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