HIDDEN BEAUTY OF NORTH EAST INDIA: MEGHALAYA
The Mesmerising Meghalaya
It was 7.45 AM when I landed from Delhi to Assam Airport. The flight was comfortable, and yet another sojourn awaited me. The three-hour road journey from Guwahati to Shillong, accompanied by parents had me a little snoozy, as we had woken up at 3 AM to board a 5 AM flight in the morning.
During our cab journey to Shillong, we took a few casual tea and snacks break. On approaching our destination, I was astonished by the view around me- beautiful trees of different hues of green had the wind rustling their leaves, and playing a rhythm which touched my soul and swept away all the fatigue of the journey.
I was welcomed by “Umiam lake”…with the sun high up, adding its magic of golden-orange coloured rays to this beautiful lake. I could see thousands of golden-orange hues in the sky, making the water “divine”. Despite the distance from where I was, I could see some boats which looked rather tiny and diminutive. The scenic view was mesmerising. We kept our eyes wide open whilst crossing many folds of mountains, lest we missed anything from the breathtaking view. There was freshness in the air and serenity all around, as we drove towards our destination.
We were now close to our hotel- “Blueberry Inn”, but there was yet another surprise awaiting us before we reached our destination. It was Ward’s lake which looked pristine as we passed by. I instantly made a mental note of putting this beauty on my must visit list, as the place was at a stone’s throw distance from our hotel.
After the tiresome journey, entering the “Blueberry Inn” was definitely a blessing. We were completely exhausted after a long journey. As we entered the hotel’s lobby, we were checked in with warm smiles, at the hotel and were swiftly taken to our suite called the “baronial suite”.
True to its name the Baronial Suite was aristocratic and classy. The suite was spacious with clean and hygienic bathroom. Beautifully done up in the shades of dark green and golden, it was truly beyond my expectations. Despite the golden colour, I must add, the room did not look ‘jhattak’.
The room opened up to a beautiful veranda encircled with the kaleidoscopic assemblage of vivid and vibrant flowers. The corner of the veranda with fountains, chairs and tables to sit and unwind, certainly added an extra charm to the Blueberry Inn. Though it was not a real garden, it definitely showcased the extra attention given by the owner to this area.
It was late evening when I came back after dinner, from Police Bazaar and sat here to unwind. Suddenly, melodious music began to play and I was spellbound by the mesmerising beauty around me. The milieu was ever so positive and magical.
The hotel is done up tastefully by a rather simple, “Mr Manu”, the owner. We chatted about the history of the hotel over a hot brew at the coffee shop.
Next morning, I chose to have breakfast in the lovely veranda, as against the restaurant, despite its remarkable interiors. Nature’s bounty had plenty to offer whilst having breakfast…from the chirping of the birds to the swaying of trees and the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds. It was pure bliss! The engulfing fog around, made me feel as if I was walking in the clouds….it was surreal!
The food served at Blueberry Inn was homely and delicious. It spoke a lot about the chef and detailed approach they had, to each and every meal. The front desk staffs with their wit and humour were equally prompt and they always welcomed us with a charming smile and a positive attitude.
Post meal, true to my list, I took a two-minute walk to the serene Ward’s lake and enjoyed boating for about 30 minutes. Then, it was time for some local shopping and strolling around the local market, the “Police Bazaar”, which I reached in five minutes.
One can alternatively, take a shared taxi for Rs.10 each or a full taxi, depending on their pockets. These taxis run almost all across Shillong. A walk would have taken some 10 minutes but I rather preferred a taxi, so as to conserve my energy to stroll around the entire bazaar. The market was quite crowded and the massive roundabout, spread in about quarter a kilometre right in the centre, was a stoppage for all local taxis, buses and the shops around. No….it was not just a circle but roads jutting here and there.
By now it was lunch time and trying some authentic “Khasis and Jaitias Food” topped my wishlist.
The staple food of the people in Shillong is rice with spicy meat and fish preparations. The food lover in me relished it completely. A few steps ahead got me finding the local sweet delicacy, locally called “Polka”. This was one mouth-watering dessert, I had again and again during my four days visit. It tasted quite similar to “paneer with added sugar” but so tender that it simply melted in the mouth.
Whilst walking around, I saw “pan/betel leaves and betel nut” sellers sitting at almost every nook and corner. Out of my curiosity, I asked about it to some locals there, and they said chewing on the leaves and nuts helped to keep their bodies warm in the cold. Didn’t know cold had such a natural and simple remedy!
Next day, I visited the waterfalls at “Cherrapunji.’ Despite the rain, we went to the “Elephant Falls’ holding umbrellas and we did have a good time there. The Falls had three levels of waterfalls, with water gushing incessantly on each and every level. I simply loved it, as it was the only waterfall where I could truly enjoy. The rest of the falls were engulfed in fog thereby making it impossible to enjoy the view. A word of caution here, the place might be a bit risky for senior citizens having any problems in their legs as the area around, is a bit slippery.
My next target was visiting yet another memorable “Mawjymbuin Cave”. The caves have a little light, huge rocks, and a passage that narrows on the way. Though about 200 metres long, I could only make it half-way, as it became too claustrophobic for me to handle. The narrow entrance of the cave, a big crowd ahead and behind me with less oxygen, insects and flies coming to my face, dim-to-no lights had me retrace my steps to the entry. It sure would be a great experience for people who love adventure, but for me, I would rather stick to the outside wonders.
This was my first ever visit a north-east hill station. Although the wonders of caves were not for me, the serenity and tranquillity of Shillong definitely etched a beautiful memory in my heart, which I shall cherish forever.