Fuelled by the success of our Bhutan trip, and after finally being able to book the hotel rooms, the six of us posted in Guwahati embarked on another adventure – exploring the neighbouring state famed to be the abode of clouds – Meghalaya. Learning from the Bhutan mini-experience, we hired the same vehicle and the driver.
The plan was to leave really early – at 5 am. I woke up groggily to find my roommate all dressed and ready to go – and it was just 4 am! After an hour and a quarter, we found ourselves in the vehicle all set to begin our journey to the sister state. A couple hours of peppy songs and amazing scenery later, we found ourselves at the Umiam Lake. Umiam, also called Barapani, is a reservoir in Meghalaya, about 15km to the north of Shillong. We were excited to visit it as it is a popular destination for adventure activities. Looking forward to boating and water cycling, we were disheartened to hear that the adventure sports activities only began at 9 am.
Nevertheless, we stopped our vehicle close to the bridge and savoured the amazing view it had to offer. We resumed our journey to Shillong, in hopes of enjoying a hearty breakfast there.
The early morning essentially was the proof of Murphy’s Law – whatever could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong. Almost an hour later, our guide and driver stopped briefly at the golf club for us to stretch our legs and an impromptu photo session. The peckish feeling had metamorphosed into full blown hunger by now, and the chilly Shillong breeze did little to ease it.
Our photo session ended with being shooed back to the car by some serious golfers. After some deliberation, the driver finally took us to City Hut Family Dhaba for breakfast. The first impression really wowed us – the place was beautiful, replete with a wishing well and a duck pond. The seating area was pretty good too, and the food being cooked looked seriously appetising (taking into consideration our burning hunger).
After waiting for a while for the service we were told that the breakfast service was only for the guests staying at the resort attached to the restaurant and that the restaurant would be open to the public only at 11 am. Disappointed once again, we decided to look for other options to satiate our hunger.
The next attraction our driver came up with was Ward’s Lake, which is an artificial horseshoe-shaped lake encircled by lush greenery. In addition to being one of the most scenic and popular tourist spots in Shillong, it wasn’t very crowded. Having passed up on a tempting opportunity to have Maggi at the roadside stalls, our faces lit up as we came across the Bamboo Hut Lake Café operated by the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). Overlooking the lake and the bridge connecting the opposite banks, the café offers a limited but rather tasty menu.
The little time we spent in the café was really memorable – it was really bright and clean, and we were the only ones there. “Aane wala pal jaane wala hai… Ho sake to isme zindagi bita do, pal jo ye jaane wala hai” the music system chimed, subtly reminding us to live every moment to the fullest. Finally, after a light breakfast, we strolled a bit in the light drizzle, watching the ducks play and people enjoy their paddle-boat ride. As we passed the roadside stalls on our way back, we vowed to gorge on hot Maggi sometime later in the day.
Heeding the advice of a couple of our colleagues, we went to Police Bazaar. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend much time there as we were running late. We shopped quickly for handicraft articles and souvenirs for friends, and an umbrella as well (I do surprise myself at times – I really don’t know how I missed out on packing my umbrella considering that we were intending to visit one of the wettest places in the world!).
After relishing an early chaat-lunch at Delhi Mistan Bhandar, we proceeded to the Shillong View Point, which offers an amazing view of the entire town. Looking at the queue of vehicles ahead and the estimated wait time of two-and-a-half hours, we decided to skip it and look for an alternative view point on the way, and began our journey to the next point on our list – the Elephant Falls.
The Elephant Falls are among the most popular waterfalls in North-Eastern India and were named so after a rock at the bottom of the falls resembling an elephant. Unfortunately, the rock was destroyed in an earthquake in 1897. The three-tiered waterfall is paved with stairs and has a bridge crossing the stream. The stairs lead us to the end of the bottommost tier, which is by far the most impressive amongst the three.
Being a Saturday, the attraction was crowded, and the stairs were a bit slippery at a few place. Standing barefoot on the rocks at the shore of the bottommost tier was another marvellous experience – the cool water from the waterfall makes one feel really relaxed.
Staying true to our promise made a little earlier, we treated ourselves to a bowl of hot and spicy Maggi once back at the top, before we embarked on our journey to Cherrapunji.
The limited time we spent in Shillong was enough to make us fall in love with it. I guess I will visit Shillong again soon – half a day is too less to do justice to its amazing beauty and culture. Here are a few pointers that we learnt the hard way, and which will hopefully be helpful if you intend to visit Shillong in the near future –
- Make a note of when each attraction or restaurant that you plan to visit open to the public. In our case, we missed on a bunch of interesting places because of this. For example, in case of Umiam Lake, the adventure sports begin somewhere around 9 am and end around 4.30pm. Similarly for the restaurant City Hut Family Dhaba, rated the #1 restaurant in Shillong, which opens to the general public at 11 am.
- Although this one is pretty obvious, do carry extra clothes, towels, and swimwear in case you are interested in water adventure sports at Umiam Lake.
- Unless absolutely sure of the quality of food, avoid consuming street food.
- Ward’s Lake is an amazing place, and the Bamboo Hut Lake Café is definitely one of the places worth visiting. It’s a bright tiny café having limited but really appetising menu.
- Police Bazaar is a decent place to visit for handicrafts, but ideally one should have a decent amount of time to explore. Plus, good bargaining skills do really work to your advantage.
- Delhi Mistan Bhandar was a good place to enjoy some chaat at Police Bazaar. However, if you do crave some western food, then KFC, Subway, and Dominos will surely come to your rescue.
- Although Shillong View Point is famed for providing a beautiful view of the town, I highly doubt if it’s worth a 2.5-hour wait.
- The Elephant Falls are spectacular multi-tiered falls. The trail to the bottom of the falls is easy. I personally wouldn’t recommend the trail for elders though, as it is a bit slippery at places.