Sayonara, Shillong

Musings from a traveller's diary - XV

By Priyan R Naik
Chinese umbrella bought at hawker stall in Police Bazaar

Finally it was time to say goodbye to the magical land of Meghalaya, one of the most ‘picture postcard’ and ‘Instagrammable’ tourist spots in India today! Every few kilometres I was able to spot a gushing stream, a majestic waterfall, or simply watch the clouds and the sun play a game together. While Shillong, Sohra and Dawki had been wonderful to visit, one of the newer hot-spots; the lush green paddy fields of Riwai village, which additionally required a trek through the woods before one could  access a living root bridge, made for an equally thrilling experience.

The first thing I recalled doing on reaching Shillong, was to visit the Shillong Peak or Laitkor Peak, a semi-circular mountain from where Shillong had supposedly

Verdant gorges enroute to Sohra.

got its name. The extra security checks at the peak, being an air force base and a radar station, notwithstanding it was worth the while to soak in its breathtaking, panoramic bird-eye views of the entire city besides spotting the Himalayas, countless waterfalls and the plains of Bangladesh.

All through the trip, the “time” was one thing that required getting adjusted to. The night turns into dawn very early in the northeast when the sun comes out bright and shining and it gets dark early too. This requires considerable planning of full day trips to Dawki and Sohra where the nightfall is witnessed even as one is fully immersed in enjoying holiday activities. While boating in the Umngot river, close to the Bangladesh border, ‘Smart’ watches get automatically adjusted to ‘Bangladesh Time’ which is 30

View enroute to Dawki.

minutes ahead of India time and perhaps better reflects the sunrise – sunset reality! 

The rain was another matter! April, the month of my visit, was certainly not the season for heavy rainfall but being Shillong, it would invariably rain in the night making one worry whether rain would upset the next day’s programme. But no, the next day would be fine except for one or two drizzling spells.  Not having carried an umbrella from home, I was forced to do a

Exotic butterflies of Meghalaya.

recce of the Police Bazaar or Khyndailad only to find several makeshift stands with colourful umbrellas of all sizes and manned by aggressive sales women determined to sell their wares. I picked a magenta pink  ‘Chinese’ umbrella for myself making rain cease to be a cause for anxiety thereafter. 

On the day of departure however, it was cloudy but dry giving me enough time to take a selfie with The Shillong Club (my place of stay) as the backdrop, before getting into a taxi. Thereafter, it began to pour all the way, even  playing

Selfie at the gates of Shillong Club.

spoilsport at what I wanted to be my last halt, the Umiam Lake, a man made reservoir formed by damming the Umiam River, about  15  kilometres away from Shillong on the road back home. Surrounded by the East Khasi Hills and thick forests, this reservoir is usually a popular destination for water sport and adventure activities. If not for the rain, this would have been the spot for kayaking, water cycling, scooting, and boating. It poured relentlessly till such time as my cab touched the junction point to the 4 lane Highway leading up to Guwahati. 

It is time to say ‘Khublei Shibun’— thank you in Khasi even as the sun peeps out through the incessant downpour. I take back with me fond memories from the ‘abode of clouds’, a breathtaking hill station with sparkling waterfalls, manicured gardens, azure lakes, and a distinct culture. Of course one can never get enough of Shillong and Meghalaya and therefore, I intend to visit soon, with a visa for Bangladesh, perhaps so that I can cross over to Sylhet at the Dawki border checkpoint. Till then Sayonara, Shillong!  

(This is the last of the 15 part Series:  ‘Musings from a traveller’s diary’) 


The author is a Bengaluru based contributor at The Shillong Times .

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