My husband and I have driven for 10 days in Scotland and have experienced the magnificent mountains and meadows that one saw in Skyfall! Till date we are in awe of that landscape. We were told that Meghalaya is called the Scotland of the East. But I took it as seriously as I take Bangalore being called the garden city 🙂
My parents live in Assam, so we planned a quick visit home and managed to squeeze in a 5 day road trip to the land of pork, rock music and incessant rain. I did a bit of research online beforehand so that we didn’t go the usual places like Police Bazaar, Center point and Pinewood hotel. I was determined to see a side of Meghalaya we had never seen. The adventurous, unexplored side. The quiet and unknown side. And boy were we in for a gold mine!
Our plan was as follows:
Day 1- Drive from Guwahati to Ri Kynjai Resort (Barapani). Stay the night
Day 2- Drive to Cherrapunjee. See Elephant falls on the way. Also see the new caves that have been discovered. Stay the night
Day 3- Drive to the Dawki river and then back to Shillong via a different route. Stay the night at Shillong
Day 4- Visit Laitlum Canyon and then catch a live band in the city. Stay the night
Day 5- See the sacred grove. Drive back to Guwahati
Day 1- Drive to Ri Kynjai
The 4 lane highway from Guwahati to Shillong is as good as any. The drive is stunning and peaceful. It takes roughly 2 hours to get to Ri Kynjai, which is 30 mins before the city of Shillong.
This is possibly the most talked about property in the north east of India. And rightly so. Ri Kynjai just blows you away. Nestled in the hills, overlooking the Umiam Lake, the hotel is exactly what it is named- tranquil and serene. The grand entry with wide open spaces tells you there is no dearth of real estate in this part of the country.
The rooms are large yet cozy. Pinewood interiors give the hotel a very local feel. Even the decorative pieces are very ethnic and showcase the rich culture of this region. Ri Kynjai has a restaurant and a bar. The menu is limited and even more so for vegetarians. The prices on the menu are pretty random I have to say. But the quality of food was good. You can either eat Chinese or Indian food here. Nothing else is available.
This hotel is pretty pricey, so one night is good enough to enjoy its richness! You will spend anywhere close to INR 12-15k per room with all meals. They also have a spa which has massages starting from INR 2500+tax. The gift shop is beautiful, but again, exorbitant. More suited for foreigners I would imagine.
My verdict: Ri Kynjai is a must see property in Meghalaya. Even if you cannot stay there, do pay a visit.
My rating: 4.5/5
Day 2- Drive to Cherrapunjee
When we started our drive to Cherrapunjee, my father could not stop telling us stories about how deadly the route was back in the day. So we all braced ourselves for an adventurous ride. But the roads, all the way to our hotel, were smooth and comfortable. The views of the mountain ranges took us back to our Scotland trip. It is on this route that we realized how underrated Meghalaya really is:
1.This is a matriarchal state, where the women work and the men take care of the house and children!
2. It is spotlessly clean, no matter where you go!
3. Unmatched natural beauty and the food is fantastic!
4. Great roads leading up to even the most remote areas!
We stopped at the Elephant falls which was just 20 mins outside of the city. It is a nice pit stop to make at the start of the trip, because the sights just get better and better after that. So do not go here at the end of your trip 🙂 Let it be a precursor to what lies ahead.
On the way, there is a spot where you can do zip-lining. We were so excited about it and the experience was memorable. You must try it. It is cheap, fun and thrilling!
Just before entering Cherrapunjee, there is a gate on the left. It is the entrance to a cave that has recently been discovered. One gets to see fossils of sea animals inside and also experience the eeriness of being inside an age old natural cave. There are guides to take you around and the walkway leading up to the cave is very well done. Even elders can go up there quite comfortably.
In Cherrapunjee, we stayed at the Polo Orchid hotel. It was rated one of the best in the area but was still quite ordinary. The hotel has a great view of the valley and the waterfalls. However, the infrastructure and cleanliness was questionable. We felt overcharged. Our original plan was to stay here for 2 nights, but we cut that short and returned to Shillong the next day (which was a great decision).
The only thing good about this hotel was the spa. Food was average at best.
From there you must drive to the Dawki river which is at the India and Bangladesh border. The river is crystal clear and has a beautiful emerald colour. The boat look like they are in air! It is an unbelievable spot to visit
My verdict: Since this area does not have too many options, Polo Orchid is good for a 1 night stay. It is close to many attractions and the staff is helpful if you tip them 🙂 Just keep your expectations low.
My rating: 3/5