Chaang tasted similar to toddy with a light fizz, but hardly gave a high. Cocooned inside a car with dim lights we happily gulped down 3 glasses each of the rice beer (Chaang is a type of rice beer). This was a much better scenario where we could peacefully have a drink. Previous night we were first warned by a passer by and then almost questioned by a local while trying to quickly finish a few glasses of whiskey by the way side. Quite a risk, I must say. You aren't allowed to drink by the road side in Shillong. Despite the fact that the last peg had to go down the drain, I was impressed by the city and its people. Though a very happening city with clubs, nightlife and a forward outlook towards life, Shillong very much adheres to its rules. It is not without a reason that it has become one of the prominent cities in eastern India.
The drive from Guwahati was an absolute pleasure as the wide winding road meandered its way through the hills of Meghalaya to Shillong. The hills gave way to intermittent vantage points, valleys, distant hills and green canopies. Amid the natural landscape the disturbing aspect was the many hills that were encroached and eaten into. Not sure how many of these would withstand this alarming act by mankind and be there to welcome me on my next trip to Meghalaya. As I pondered over this fact, the expansive Umiam lake showed up with its glistening waters. That was something to bring a cheer. The breathtaking lake and the mist engulfed hills ran along side for a while until we stopped at the view point to take in some fresh mountain air. Numerous islets strewn across the water body in various sizes and shapes creates an encapsulating landscape. It was quite hazy in the late afternoon with the hills and the greenery covered in mist. This sprawling reservoir lies 16 Kms before Shillong and offers boating and water sport facilities.
Being in the eastern part of the country, sun descended much earlier and we spend time exploring Police bazaar in the evening. Police Bazaar is the commercial hub and lively place with visitors and tourists frolicking the area. We walked many lanes which are lined up with restaurants, cafes and shops selling a myriad things from wicker baskets to woolen clothes. Jackets and footwear are less expensive and the best buys here. An ideal way to end the day is to explore a few pubs or relish Khasi cuisine at any of the eateries here. However, we did neither of them, left the bazaar as the shops closed and crawled into the blankets soon as the night turned colder.
|One of the lanes in Police Bazaar|
|Pickles lined up at a Khasi stall|
Next day began with a walk around Ward's lake and its green meadows. Colourful flowers were peppered all across. Located in the middle of the city, this is undoubtedly the best place for an early morning walk in Shillong. All commercial activities are a short walk away. Meghalaya is predominantly a Christian state and Shillong in particular has numerous gorgeous looking churches. The city was once the capital of this part of British India and the old world charm is still evident all over.
Littered with waterfalls, Meghalaya is breathtakingly beautiful during the monsoon when the hills, greenery and falls come alive to make it the abode of clouds. While most waterfalls had turned dry when we visited during the fag end of winter, Elephanta falls, one of the most popular falls did not disappoint us. Located en route Cherrapunjee in Upper Shillong and engulfed in greenery, a sudden drizzle accentuated the beauty of the place. One has to walk down to reach the falls and he third tier is the most beautiful of all. This three tier falls was named Elephanta due to a rock which looked similar to an elephant when first spotted by a Britisher. Though the rock was later washed away during an earthquake, the falls still is called by the same name. There are numerous shops here selling a cornucopia of artifacts. The drive back to the city was not before we had a hot pipping tea in the rains near the falls.
|Elephanta falls- First tier|
Missed out on Shillong peak (offers expansive vistas of the city) due to certain restrictions for civilians when I was there, a few waterfalls (Spread eagle falls, Beadon and Bishop falls), Don Bosco museum and State museum. Shillong is also well known for its popular music festivals which are held frequently.
Despite the shortage of time, Shillong did entice and captivate me with whatever little I saw of her. Two days is recommended to explore Shillong at a leisurely pace and the right time to visit would post the rains when the city and its surroundings are at its liveliest best.
Getting there: Take a flight to Guwahati and then a taxi to Shillong. Guwahati is 120 Kms from Shillong. Taxis (Maruti 800) are easily available to commute across the city.
Accommodation and Food: There are a wide range of hotels, restaurants and cafes in Shillong city to choose from. There are numerous places to explore the local cuisine.