Trip report: 9 days fun and adventure

#1 Mar 30th, 2018, 16:49
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  • pink vagabond is offline
#1
Prologue and the preparation

Meghalaya, and specifically the double decker root bridge, was on my bucket list for the last few years, but professional and personal issues always delayed this trip, for a bit too long, I may add. So, when I decided that I wanted to have a short 1 week vacation in March, I immediately zeroed onto West Sikkim (unfinished business after my unforgettable, and might I mention second honeymoon, visit to Gangtok and North Sikkim in 2008) and Meghalaya.

After some dillydallying, and getting on to various forums, talking with kids etc, finally decided on Meghalaya, despite concerns over the suitability given two young ones (aged 8 and 4 respectively). Had an itinerary which I had made long back and thanks to the inputs from Meghalaya Guru here, Kari, I was able to finalize the trip itinerary. Me, wifey, kiddos and my wife’s brother and sister were to accompany us on the trip.

Multiple issues cropped up and at times I thought this trip is doomed, but we finally were able to sort everything out and were somehow on the plane to Shillong. My younger one (4 year old) fractured his hand a week before the trip, with a 10 day support (meaning part of the trip with the support) recommended by the doctor. The older one, not to be left behind, decided to touch the steamer and went on to burn his elbow just 3 days before the trip, meaning keeping a first aid box and regularly putting dressing on the hand to avoid infection. To top it all, my wife’s brother, caught a severe viral infection and was unable to move around much on Friday morning (with a Saturday morning flight to catch). Somehow, he was able to come to Mumbai on Friday night and we decided that final call on his participation will be taken in the morning. Finally, he felt ok enough, (after 3 day course of anti viral medicines), to accompany us on the trip. My wife's sister was to join us from Bangalore, with meeting up in Kolkata.

Key things to consider:

Guwahati vs. Shillong for flights: Since we were pretty late in planning, direct flights from Mumbai to Guwahati were a bit costlier and we were struggling to fit in the flights. Plus, my wife is travel sick, so we decided to cough up a bit extra, and fly directly to Shillong. It takes about 2 hours or so extra to reach Guwahati. Guwahati however, offers you more options, while shillong is just one flight from Kolkata. Shillong can be considered if convenient, else Guwahati is not too far a place, plus for religious folks, you can visit Kamakhya temple etc there.

Food: We all are vegetarians, though me and my kids do eat a bit of non-veg, so that was a big concern. Khasi cousine mostly is non-veg and we had to inform everywhere we went to about us being vegetarian. Did not face too much of a problem, but then we all eat maggi and I carried a bag full of stuff for kids, which wasn’t much needed. We loved red tea there, and also the ginger lemon tea, wherever available.

Taxi and Driver: Since we were 6 of us I wanted to book an Innova. Another SUV would have cost us 4000, while Innova was 4500, the comfort was worth the extra 500 bucks. On driver I was recommended two drivers, Modak brothers and Bah Arky. Spoke in detail with both of them, found Arky a little more professional, plus he offered discount for the 4 days, when I was not using the vehicle much (local sight seeing + shnongpdeng full day stay). He is a Cherrapunji local who stays in Shillong and is conversant in English, a bit in hindi and knows Khasi well. Very decent knowledge of local stuff and helped us out plan things. Best part about him was that he never interferes with our discussions, and would give inputs only when asked or absolutely needed. We, as travellers, like to spend time at locations, rather than touch all the points and hence, according to me, Arky was a better driver for us.

Homestays: Have always stayed in decent hotels in most of my previous visits, so was a bit of a concern to go for offbeat stays like Traveller’s nest and homestays. No need to worry in Meghalaya, we found all places clean and even if the mattresses may be a bit thin, we were so tired that we slept peacefully all throughout. Plus the people there whether Bah Byron, Bah Manbha or Kong Inda are so lovely, that it wasn’t an issue for all of us.

Shnongpdeng v Dawki: Same umngot river flows through both locations, so boating at either place is similar. That said Dawki is a much more famous locale vs. Shnongpdeng. Dawki is a bigger, with more crowds and to me looked a more dirtier counterpart to shnongpdeng. Shnongpdeng is a small village with limited stay options, but what it lacks is size, it provides in solitude. The day we were there, we were the only tourists till 12. Then two more families came in, and that’s it. We enjoyed boating, snorkelling, cliff jumping, kayaking all by ourselves with no other tourists around.

Stay at nongriat vs. Sohra: Given we were with kids, we decided to stay at nongriat for the night. Gave us enough time to spend in the pools / rainbow falls. Plus a rest for all the muscles for the next day’s trek up. Rainbow fall trek is a little moderate vs easy double decker trek, but totally worth it. Timepass at pools was one of the best experience for us. I think, as has been mentioned umpteen times, trek to nongriat and back can be done, but not advisable unless you are pressed for time. We went to Double decker bridge in the morning and literally nobody disturbed us for full 1 hour (6-7AM)

Laitkumrah vs. Police Bazaar: On Kari’s suggestion, decided to stay at Laitkumrah, and according to me, the best decision to make for a stay in Shillong. All café’s + Chinese joints at a stone’s throw. Veg options in PB were difficult to get when we went there, but were plentiful in Laitkumrah. Plus the Laitkumrah being a place with lots of college going kids, the environ was better.

Still getting the pictures sorted. plus don't know how to append them in messages. will be putting up the rest on a day to day basis with a bit of delay..but hopefully, would be able to put everything here, which i think would help others plan..
#2 Mar 30th, 2018, 20:57
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  • snotty is offline
#2
Great inputs pink vagabond!

Now waiting for the whole deal.
Sar Pass Trek , Rohtang, Munnar, Badrinath Kedarnath, Vaishnodevi, Goa, VOF, Kedarkantha, Kuari Pass, Brahmatal Trek
#3 Mar 30th, 2018, 21:27
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  • life1style1 is offline
#3
Tempting prologue..
Waiting for the entire story to unfold.
Sair kar duniya ki galib,yeh zindagani phir kahan..

****************************** **
Some of my compilations in Flickr
#4 Mar 31st, 2018, 18:26
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#4
Day 1: the task to catch an early morning flight (6AM) with two kids, used to going school much later was made more difficult due to Abhishek’s health. Sleep also deprives you as you remain excited for the trip ahead, so we kept waking up throughout the night checking our mobiles in case we missed those multiple alarms kept from 3:15-3:45 AM. Finally at 3 AM decided enough and woke up, closed all alarms, woke up the adults. Abhishek felt decent enough and gave a goahead for the trip. Got ready woke up kids and had a bit of chai naashta. Last minute packings also done as is a very Indian habit.

Reached airport well in time and checked in our bags (directly for shillong) for the Kolkata flight. Everybody caught up on sleep on the flight, and reached Kolkata pretty fresh. Met up with indu (my wife’s sister) there as her flight also landed at the same time. The flight to shillong was the ATR and apart from me, nobody had earlier travelled in ATR. Kids were excited to see a different plane and enjoyed the bumpy ride. The views weren’t there due to all the clouds. Reached shillong, met Bah Arky and we were on the way to Mawlyngbna, our first halt in Shillong.

Kari suggested to have some snacks at ENE café on the way, but when we reached there, the cafe was closed. Already crossed shillong, so very limited veg options on the way. Luckily, as we reached mawphlang, we got a small eatery serving tea and noodles. Had some and then continued.

Mawsynram, the wettest place on earth, decided to welcome us with a short shower and hailstones. The views were lovely but we continued our journey except for couple of picture breaks, lest we get late. Reached Mawlyngbna around 7:30 and immediately were informed by Kong inda that its our lucky day as there is a night market in the village. We immediately left for the same. Nothing elaborate but you get veggies, clothes, meat etc in the market. We stacked up on some waterbottles for the trek next day and were back for dinner.

Dreading our first meal, being vegetarians, we sat on the dinner table and Inda started bringing the dinner. Boy, what a sumptuous meal. Rice, Dal were regular fixtures in Meghalaya. To go with that she had prepared a tomato chutney, green salad, potato chips, boiled and sauted veggies (3 different types). One of the best meals of our trip. Enjoyed some time after dinner just walking around the property in the dark before calling it a day.

On the way, we could have covered elephant falls, shillong peak, Symper rock and Mawjymbuin caves, but skipped as we were a bit late. Symper was visible from far off, but could not go towards the rock as it was getting dark.

Interesting facts:

Maw: Rock

Long: Boy

Bna: Girl

So, Mawlongbna is the rock of couples, or rocking couples.

There actually are three villages there upper one is Lawbah, middle on is Mawlongbna and the bottom one I forgot. The Travellers nest is slightly on the cliff overlooking the villages. You can imagine the difficulties for sending everything up to the TN. But hats off to these guys maintaining the property to the best of their capabilities.
#5 Mar 31st, 2018, 18:34
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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  • theyyamdancer is offline
#5
Naashta means snacks ?
#6 Mar 31st, 2018, 19:04
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#6
Yup, you are correct. I should have been a bit careful...
#7 Mar 31st, 2018, 20:56
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#7
No no, it was not a criticism at all.

I am ignorant of the word, that's it. Naashta also means "breakfast" ?

Enjoying your travel log. Please do continue. I love the part about how Mawlongbna's name came about.
#8 Mar 31st, 2018, 23:13
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  • pink vagabond is offline
#8
Day 2: Mawlyngbna, Mawphlang
Long day ahead as we had to visit the fossils, Umsyntai river, animal footprints and kayaking, before moving on to Mawhlang and then to Sohra. After a good breakfast (bread, butter and eggs), we started on the walk with Kong Inda and Bah Wenger. After a brief walk in the canopy, the walk was mostly through level ground with ultiple crossings through the river bed. Multiple round holes, characteristic of Meghalaya, were present on the river beds, with so many tadpoles relaxing around.
We reached the fossils finally and saw the fossils of star fish among others. Kids really enjoyed this part the most. Then we reached river umsyntai, which still had decent amount of water and we took a walk in the water (around 300 meters or so). Inda was so helpful here to take care of the kids, as they enjoyed themselves to the fullest. Post that another 30 minutes walk brought us to the lovely waterfalls.
Spent some time enjoying the falls and then reached the pick-up point, where Arky picked us and drove to the kayaking lake. Just before reaching the gate, we came across the famous pitcher plants and the mandatory tasting. All of us, except the kids did it.
Kayaking again was fun, but we were damn tired by the end of it. Wrapped it up in around 45 minutes and returned back to TN, for a quick lunch. You could also do zip lining here, but that is closed on Sundays. Hence we were not able to do zip lining here. Lunch again was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Left there for Mawphlang as we were getting late and wanted to visit sacred forest as the older one (8 yrs) had heard the story and wanted to visit.
Reached Mawphlang when it was getting dark and chilly. Could only do half trek, the guide for which was a cousin of Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Finished the half trek and then had maggi and red tea at the local shop, and then reached cherra holiday resort by 8:30.

Interesting fact:
The story around the sacred forest, which in brief basically says that if you take anything from the forest the snake deity would punish you, while the tiger diety is considered a good omen.

Review:
Traveller’s Nest: Decent place to stay. Given the remoteness, don’t expect too much luxury, but clean rooms, very friendly people are there. Hot water is there. Two cottages for tourists. Overall, a very good option.
Overall, day spent with kids in Mawlyngbna moving around the river beds, explaining the fossils, and the time spent at the waterfalls would be a memory to cherish for us. During monsoons or towards october-december the water levels would be higher, and some parts would be difficult to traverse, but the natural greenery would more than make up for it.
Cost:
Stay 1500 per room
Guides: 800 x2
Kayaking: 100 / head
Veg meals: 250/head
Breakfast: 100 /head

Guide at sacred forest: Rs 300 for half trek, 600 for full. Nothing extraordinary to see but i guess getting a historical perspective in region you plan to visit is always advisable. you would see a meeting point, resting point, sacrificial point, and an adventurous swing, in case you can take it. The entry to the forest reminds you of the lord of the rings forests and that in itself makes it worth.
#9 Mar 31st, 2018, 23:15
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  • pink vagabond is offline
#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by theyyamdancer View Post No no, it was not a criticism at all.

I am ignorant of the word, that's it. Naashta also means "breakfast" ?

No issues. I just wanted to say that i should have been careful to use english so it is easier to understand for all.
#10 Apr 2nd, 2018, 12:59
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#10
Nice log. Waiting for more to come. Subscribed to your report.

We are going there on 25-Apr. Excited after reading your log.
#11 Apr 12th, 2018, 16:31
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#11
Hi Pick Vagabond,

Can you please share the contact details of driver Modak brothers and/or Bah Arky.
Also, please confirm if you booked Arky only for taxi. which hotel/homestay you stayed in the tripe and how was the experience? If you stayed in homestay, then how did you booked them? Did Arky helped you in booking the homestays?
#12 Apr 12th, 2018, 18:24
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  • pink vagabond is offline
#12
Bah Arky: 9436115970

I used him for the entire journey. Very decent guy and he gave suggestions on what we should do but did not push us to go anywhere.

For stays, i used the following

Mawlongbna: Travellers nest
Cherrapunji: Cherrapunji holiday resort
Nongriat: Serene guest house
Shnongpdeng: Halatong homestay (Manbha)
Shillong: The Habitat (also known as asian confluence)

I booked all these places by calling directly and was happy with the stays everywhere. Nice clean stays, may not be very comfortable (except Shillong), but when you are on a adventure trip in remote areas, you cant expect everything being made available. But given an option, would again stay at each of those places.
#13 Apr 12th, 2018, 18:24
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by pink vagabond View Post Prologue and the preparation
....
Still getting the pictures sorted. plus don't know how to append them in messages. ....
Upload those in flickr or 500px and link it here using the "Insert Image" button. This button expects an external URL.

But at last (I hope), one report which I can refer to and book things blindly. Thanks..

Regards,
Aneek
Darjeeling, Kuari Pass Winter trek, Tawang-Dirang-Bomdila


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
#14 Apr 12th, 2018, 19:09
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#14
Thanks Aneek. Actually camera was with Abhishek, who travelled from Pune and I have been unable so far to get my hands on those pics (he apparently shot through 4 cards, almost 70 GB of photos). I only have access to the phone camera pics, which dont do justice to the locations. Once i get them, will update and finish the report. Have it written but i think, adding pictures along with the other details would be worth the wait..

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