As the six of us researched about the possible places to visit while planning our trip, one location that stood out the most. “Paradise” we muttered, as the images of crystal clear water and the shadow of the boats falling on the golden river bed 12 feet below filled our smartphone screens. Needless to say, we found ourselves heading to Dawki after being left utterly speechless by the numerous attractions in Cherrapunji.
We continued our eventful journey through the cool hills. Meghalaya never ceased to amaze me even for an instant – earlier it had been the deep green hills and the cottony white clouds and now it was the weather. We were pleasantly surprised to observe contrasting weather conditions in really short distances – within a short span of 2km, the weather had varied from cool and misty to a slight drizzle to a downpour and finally to bright and sunny. The winding roads only made the road trip feel like a roller coaster – at times we were literally flying off our seats (a sincere thank you to the seat belts!).
We covered the distance of 95km and reached Dawki in a little less than two hours. Sandwiched between India and Bangladesh, Dawki is a tiny town in the West Jaintia Hills. The picturesque Umngot River is a natural boundary between Ri Pnar of Jaintia Hills with Hima Khyrim of Khasi hills. Crossing a narrow single-lane suspension bridge, we found ourselves close to the entrance to the shore of the Umngot River.
The place was really pretty. Boats lined up the shore and had people lining up for the boat rides. We were slightly disheartened as the place looked significantly different from the photos we had seen online – the advent of the monsoon had caused the water to become slightly turbid. While four members of the group decided to go boating for the next hour, a friend and I decided to stay back and enjoy the view. Speaking to locals, the two of us learnt that monsoon isn’t really the best season to visit Dawki and that the river is truly a sight to behold in the winters. Even though the water was slightly turbid, the place did appear as if it was out of a fairy tale.
After a short stroll at the river bank, we soaked our feet in the cool river water and chatted as we saw the boats go by. We noticed that although there were boats on either side of the river, they wouldn’t touch the opposite bank – the other side of the river bank happened to be Bangladeshi territory! We spent the remainder of the little time observing the tourists and chasing butterflies on our way back to the top. It was just adorable to see babies wearing life jackets staring at the river with their wonder-struck eyes.
We proceeded to the Indo-Bangladesh border after having enjoyed the beauty of the Umngot River. Managed by the BSF, the border looked nothing like what I had in mind. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that it was an international border, other than a couple of boards and a BSF outpost. A couple of BSF Jawans kept a close watch on the people from either side, urging Indian tourists to not go too close to the Bangladeshi side.
Finally losing their temper after a few requests, they sternly instructed the tourists to go back to their vehicles. This experience was truly special – visiting an international border for the first time is something that I will remember for a while (I now officially have the bragging rights to seeing two countries in a span of ten days!). We retraced our route back to the suspension bridge soon after and admired the waterfalls en route to the next place on our itinerary.
Choosing to skip lunch, we proceeded to the next place on our itinerary – Mawlynnong Village. With a population of approximately 500, this tiny village was termed as Asia’s cleanest village in 2003. The level of cleanliness in the village fascinated me – there were dustbins almost everywhere and the people in the village took every effort to maintain cleanliness. The numerous simple yet elegant guest houses invited the travellers to enjoy the place a little more.
Adorned with a wide variety of flowers, the greenery elevated the beauty by several notches. After spending the better part of an hour exploring the village and the unique culture and a rather interesting-looking dragonfly, we proceeded to a place called Sky View, which is an 85 feet high bamboo viewing tower offering beautiful views of not only the village but also Bangladesh.
We finally visited one of the most popular attractions of the area – the Jingmaham Living Root Bridge. The walk to the bridge felt quite long, although the time taken was approximately 20 minutes. A number of vendors had set up their stalls on the path to the bridge, selling juicy pineapples and other sweet treats. The most innovative part about the attraction was the ticketing counter, which is set up at a very strategic location. It’s located almost at the end of the 20-minute-walk and the bridge is just out of sight. The people, having traversed such a long distance, agree to pay. Considering that the attraction is just a hundred metres ahead, they aren’t inclined to just turn around and walk away.
The bridge was magnificent – made by the roots of the huge rubber tree, it offers a pathway across the stream. After another 20-minute walk, we began our journey back to Guwahati, retracing our journey through Cherrapunji and Shillong.
Here are a few tips which may help if one intends to visit Dawki and Mawlynnong in the near future –
- Dawki is only 95km from Shillong and can be reached in a couple of hours from there.
- Ideally, visit Dawki before the onset of the rainy season, that is, between October and April.
- Boating in the Umngot River is supposed to be a real pleasure in the winters. One can rent boats on for ₹500 on an average.
- While visiting the Indo-Bangladesh border, do listen to the instructions of the BSF Jawans and only go as close to the border as they allow.
- Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village, is not too far from Dawki and can be reached in a couple of hours.
- The Jingmaham Root Bridge at Mawlynnong is definitely worth a visit. However, the walk is quite long.
- From Guwahati, Mawlynnong is approximately 190km away and takes approximately 3-4 hours to reach.