The Scotland of the East: Shillong, Meghalaya
Located at an altitude of around 4937 feet above sea-level is the capital of Meghalaya, Shillong. The city of Shillong is inhabited by the Khasi tribe and is also the district capital of the east Khasi Hills.
Shillong is located 103 kilometres from Gauwahati which is the gateway to the entire North East of India. There are multiple ways of getting to Shillong. But the most economical way is to hop onto one of the Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) buses from Guwahati which ply from 6 am to 5 pm daily. The bus ride is takes around 6 to 7 hours and is not the most comfortable journey. The next option travellers have is to hire a taxi from Guwahati which makes the journey more comfortable and quicker. There are both private and shared taxis that operate and these taxis do the journey in 4 to 5 hours.
The town of Shillong also has an airport of its own which is located at Umroi around 35 kilometres away, but a direct flight to Umroi is costly since only a few airlines fly here so a preferred option is to fly to Guwahati and then make the road trip to Shillong. The nearest railway station is also located at Guwahati.
Shillong has a few attractions which are at a walking distance in the town and a few require travellers to hire a taxi to visit them. The ones which are within walking distance are Ward’s Lake which is situated in the heart of the city. This artificial lake has a garden around it and also has pedal boat facilities. The Butterfly or Entomological museum is around 2 kilometres from Police Bazaar and is the country’s only museum devoted to moths and butterflies. Iew Duh or Bara Bazaar is also located in the heart of the city and is a perfect place for travelLers who are in search of local flavor. From pure honey, bows and arrows, handicrafts, hand-woven shawls and a variety of local spices are sold in this market.
A day trip by a hired taxi will cover the attractions which are located around Shillong which include Shillong Peak located 10 kilometres away and are at an altitude of 6,468 feet above sea-level. The peak offers a stunning view of the town below. Elephant Falls is about 12 kilometres away and is a mountain stream which is descending through successive falls set in dells of fern-covered surroundings. A wooden bridge leads visitors to the falls and down to the lowest pool. The other attractions covered by the taxi are Bishop, Beacon and Weitdem (Sweet) Falls and Lady Hydari Park and Mini Zoo.
A must do thing for everyone who visit Shillong is to head over to the Polo Ground at 3 pm to watch locals bet and play an ancient tribal sport which is very similar to modern day archery. This sport involves archers from the Khasi Archery Association to fire 1,500 arrows within four minutes at a cylindrical bamboo target.
Accommodation in Shillong is totally extreme. There are budget guest houses and hotels which have shared bathroom but these guest houses are very badly maintained and very shady and not ideal for backpackers so the only option is to check into one of the many mid-range hotels which are not really too fancy but are decent to stay in. Guest houses and hotels can be found scattered all around Police Bazaar. Shillong is the ideal place to make base if you plan on visiting places like Cherapunjee, Mawlynglong (voted Asia’s cleanest village) and the root bridge in Riwaya
Shillong has plenty of eateries and many of them have live bands and singers performing daily in the evenings. Most of the restaurants serve Chinese but there are plenty which cater to Indian taste buds. Shillong has plenty of wine shops scattered all over town. The abundance of alcohol shops attracts people from around the North East to Shillong.
Around Police Bazaar there is a daily local street market where vendors sell everything from rabbits and chickens to pocket wooden handle knifes the street market is worth a look. The handcrafts made mostly of bamboo are totally worth having a look and make very good souvenirs epically the wooden mugs and fruit baskets.
The people from Shillong love eating Paan (beetle nut with lime and some tobacco) a must try for everyone who comes to Shillong. Paan shops and stalls can be seen all over Police Bazaar with mostly women selling them.
An important thing to keep in mind while in Shillong is that everything in the town closes early so be prepared to have your dinner as early as 7:30 pm because everything is shut by 8 pm. This is mainly because the sun sets relatively soon out here so by 5:30 pm it is pitch dark. Travellers should also carry plenty of coins and Rs 10 notes when they come to Shillong because there is a huge scarcity of change so be prepared to get toffees and chocolates instead of your return money.
The best time to visit Shillong is during the winter months from November to March since the roads are redone and the weather is at its absolute best. Avoid travelling to Shillong during the monsoon since excessive rain causes frequent land slides and travelling around is hard because of the same.
Shillong is an ideal hill station to visit for all kinds of travellers. This town has something in it for every traveller and is the perfect place to kick start a trip around the Northeastern part of India.
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