Two Nights In Shillong : A Travelogue

Two Nights In Shillong : A Travelogue

May 27th, 2024

Having planned our trip to Shillong on a whim - in the midst of an intense monsoon; we set out on a wild adventure, drenched in high spirits and lashing rain !

Our journey to Shillong began with our arrival at Guwahati, (well not really within the city) but, at Kamakhya Railway Station that lies at a distance of about 8.5 kms from the city center. As luck would have it, our train from NJP station was delayed by 5 hours and we reached Kamakhya Station late in the evening around 8 pm.  We were picked up from the station by my fellow travel mate’s family that resided in Nongpoh, Meghalaya.

Most visitors would have then taken a direct cab to Shillong, which is about 100 kms - a 2.5 hours drive via the NH6. But we decided to stay the night at her family home in Nongpoh which is about 57 kms from Guwahati and took us roughly an hour to get there.

It was my first visit to Meghalya and staying with a local Khasi family made it so speical. My travel companion’s mother had prepared us a lovely Khasi meal with plenty of leafy greens, a soupy mutton curry with little to no spice, a fresh river fish curry and  a dry fish chutney with Raja Mircha; all to be had with some sticky glutinous rice. 
The exhaustion of the long hours of travel coupled with an empty stomach made us eagerly devour the feast laid before us and we quickly retired for the night.

The next morning we had arranged for a cab to pick us up from her home and take us to Shillong, where we had booked our stay for the next few days. After a filling breakfast of a full rice meal, (I was told that eating rice for breakfast and all three meals is a common practice in most households here),  we bid adieu to her family thanking them for their generosity and proceeded towards the famed hill station otherwise known as “The Scotland of the East”.

Our first stoppage for the day was Umimam Lake or what the locals call “Bara Pani.” 
It is one of the biggest artificial lakes in Meghalaya and is situated about 15 kms from Shillong. The lake was formed when a dam was built over the Umiam River in the early sixties as part of a hydel power project and is surrounded by the Sylvan Hills and the green Khasi pines. It covers an area of roughly 220 sq km and is used as a reservoir to store water for hydroelectric power. It is now a popular tourist attraction and is known for water and adventure sports such as kayaking, water cycling, scooting and boating. 

Next up, we headed straight for the Laitlum Grand Canyons located at a distance of about 24 kms from Shillong. The name Laitlum literally translates to the “End of the Hills”, offering panoramic views that extend over deep valleys, steep cliffs and rolling hills. 
But as luck would have it, it lay shrouded in a thick blanket of velvety mist and dense white clouds descending upon the valleys and hills below making visibility next to impossible! We couldn’t see any of the rolling hills as in the pictures but we were still in high spirits and made the most of our visit there. We followed a gentle stream - clear and gurgling, strewn with brown mushrooms along its path to a meadow where a couple of Khasi boys were looking for their lost calf in the mist. By this time the wind had picked up; creating a slight chill, accompanied with a fine drizzle and we had lost sight of our path and did not know which way we were heading.
The boys accompanied us back to the parking spot where out of the mist emerged the Super Kongs baring their paraphernalia for hot “sha”. The steaming liquor tea, in such inclement weather was a God sent to us, as it seemed to be just the antidote that we required at that moment.
Having regained our strength with the tea and roasted corn we headed off towards our next stop.

On our way back to Shillong town via the Smit road; we also visited Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls the same day. Shillong Peak is the highest point in the city and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. Elephant Falls is a two-tier waterfall whose  name originated in the British era when an Englishmen spotted a giant rock that looked like an elephant. The Khasi name for Elephant Falls is Kshaid-Lai-Pateng but the rock was destroyed in an earthquake more than a hundred years ago.

Our final stop for the day happened to come by in an unexpected way at Lumpdeng View Point as we were just in time to witness the most beautiful sunset I have ever experienced. The reddish orange glow of the fast fading sunlight against the azure blue and creeping darkness on the other side was a sight to behold. I felt as if I was in a live Van Gogh Painting!!  I had never been captivated by such beauty of nature before. We then walked across to the nearby Sunset Cafe for coffee and cakes which offered the same magnificence.
Although this spot wasn’t on our list, I highly recommend anyone traveling this route to make a stop in the evening as it is absolutely free.

We reached our stay for the night, MeBaker Inn, late in the evening and checked into our room with a beautiful view of the town below. The stay is perched on a high hillock in the Laban area with many budget properties nearby. Since we were tired from a full day of sightseeing we ordered a quiet dinner and promptly went to bed.

The next morning we were awakened by the pitter patter of falling rain and our lovely host saw us off after a warm and filling breakfast. We were now headed first, to Mawphlang Sacred Forest located about an hour from Shillong. 

Covering an area of about 192 acres, the Mawphlang Sacred Forest was originally home to the Blah Community. It is also referred to as The Forbidden Forest and legend has it that no one can touch anything from the forest or take anything back. One cannot even spit there and there is a strong belief that if anyone disobeys the rules, sickness and ill luck will befall unto them. The forest is home to one of a kind Rudraksha tree, making it divine, as Mawphlang is home to the most celebrated of all the ‘law-kyntang’ or ancient sacred groves of Meghalaya.

Our guide Zacky filled us in with its detailed history, while touring the forest and also showed us the best Instagram worthy photo spots. We also came across some rare bioluminescent mushrooms that were of an electric blue hue. The forest also serves as the starting point of the famed David Scott Trail. On our way out we stopped by the shacks selling cha and some purple rice “putharo” (steamed rice cakes) with a sweet coconut and jaggery filling. The rain had set in once again and we drove to our next destination, Kyllang Rock.

At a distance of 57 km from Shillong, Kyllang Rock is a massive red granite dome-shaped rock located in Nongkhlaw, north of Mairang town in the West Khasi Hills. It is an impressive natural monolith – a giant gray dome that juts out of the pine forests. It is said to be several hundred years old and it is believed to have a magnetic field which makes it easy to climb and once on top nobody falls off despite the very strong winds.

According to folklore the hills Lum Kyllang and Lum Symper were brothers who fell out with each other and fought with such animosity that they parted ways forever. There is a lush rhododendron and oak tree forest beneath; teeming with bright yellow and red psychedelic mushrooms carpeted in a thick blanket of moss.
We followed a steep narrow dirt trail on our way to the summit and rested for a while taking in the beautiful scenery from the top.

Since it was already mid-afternoon, we turned around and headed back the same way to ML05 Cafe for lunch. It is a good stop over for a quick bite and the menu, though limited, is exciting and the exact replica of Dylan’s Cafe, which is both run by the same management. 

We then headed over to The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also known as the Blue Church, located in the fashionably fancy neighborhood of Laitumkhra. The church is a significant landmark in Shillong and is the principal place of worship for Catholics in the area. After taking a couple of pictures and exploring the outer facade we hurried over to our last stop for the day - Police Bazaar. 

If Shillong were to be a cell, then Police Bazaar would act as its mitochondria or power house; as most of the activities of the town are centered around this place. It is a bustling market area with hawkers, street vendors, hotels & restaurants, buses and taxis plying its busy congested roads.
We bought a pack of local plums which were some of the juiciest and most fragrant ones I’ve ever had.
My travel mate got some fresh Naga King chillies for home and I got a couple of hand made bamboo souvenirs. We then visited a tiny Smokey Falls cafe outlet right on the main junction; for some coffee and cup cakes; which were surprisingly very tasty and reasonably priced;  and recharged ourselves after yet another exhausting day of sightseeing. 

Our driver dropped us off at Pine Air Bed & Breakfast, our stay for the night located on the outskirts of town on VIP Road, close to the Golf Course.  We decided to call it an early night having pre ordered our dinner of Khasi delicacies like DohJem (pork cooked with black sesame seeds), black sticky rice, putharo, tungtap (a sort of fish chutney) and Doh Khleh (a spicy pork salad).

The property has been one of my favorites among all of the stays in Meghalaya, in a quiet quarter with an excellent in house cafe called You and I Arts Cafe. The property itself sits pretty on a two storey white English style cottage, with a neat and well kept garden. The rooms are large, comfortable and extremely clean, whether you opt for the mixed dorm on the ground floor or private rooms on the upper floors. You get a basic English breakfast consisting of toast with butter and jam, eggs, milk and cereals and a pot of hot milk tea.

With that our two day trip to Shillong concluded, as we pushed further towards our new destination. Shillong as a town has left a significant impression on my mind with its beautiful landscapes, its unique cuisine and culture and its warm and welcoming people. The roads leading to the various tourist spots have thoroughly impressed me as they seemed clean and maintained even in the remotest of locations. The soft rolling hills as you make your way out of the city, with the fast moving thick cumulonimbus clouds hanging overhead are still fresh and vivid in my memory.
Although we did take the next few days to explore other parts of Meghalaya and its myriad landmarks, we missed out quite a few in Shillong which will give us another opportunity to be back next time.  

Written by: Prerna.S
Prerna is a senior member of the OurGuest team and has many years of experience in the hospitality sector having worked with companies such as Taj, Hyatt, ITC, Club Mahindra and Ambuja Hospitality. She is also a Master’s Degree holder in English Literature from Calcutta University and is a voracious reader. She is fluent in multiple languages including Bengali, Hindi, English and Nepali. Having grown up in a myriad of places during her childhood due to her father’s transferable job as a police officer, she is influenced by all the cultures and people that she came into contact with, and this is evident in her personality and writing. She loves to travel and write during her free time and is addicted to trivia. She is married to a Sikkimese person and lives with her pet cat Jeeru in Gangtok.

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