Serene Shillong as the next stop in the #XploreBharat series


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Hello travelers, hope you are enjoying the ride on #XploreBharat express that has covered eight destinations until now with the most recent trip to Kashmir by Saba yesterday. Today it reaches a part of the country famous for its natural beauty and unique customs – Meghalaya in the mesmerizing North East.

The backstory –

Mesmerizing Shillong
Mesmerizing Shillong

In 2002, my first post-graduation took me to Delhi. My address for the two years that I lived in the city was the North Eastern Students Hostel/House for Women. It was here that I was introduced to the variety and richness in our culture. The North East stands out from the rest of the country for being a matriarchal society where the man leaves his premarital home to stay with his wife and her family and also takes up her surname. It took me more than one and a half decade to start exploring this part of the country but I am glad that it began with a family trip to Shillong in Meghalaya in Oct 2017. 

In Sept 2017, two things happened – I started this blog and my son turned two. While junior T has been traveling with us since he was one and a half months old, it had mainly been to sea beaches and places of historic significance. So, my husband and I decided to make Shillong as the first hill station destination for him. Needless to say, the excitement of an unexplored destination was equally appealing to both of us.

The journey –

Enroute Shillong
Enroute Shillong

Shillong has a fully functional airport though Air India is the only flight operator that connects Shillong to a handful of cities. Though there was a direct flight from Kolkata airport to Shillong, we felt that the best way to travel was to take a flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati first and then cover the rest of the distance by car. It takes three to three and a half hours from Guwahati to reach Shillong by road. Most of the resorts usually arrange for a pickup and drop facility on request though cabs are also available on hire. The journey is quite comfortable because of the four-lane roads which never get too steep. Also, the entire stretch is filled with a gorgeous view. There are a couple of eateries on the way for a quick meal like Jiva restaurant.

The stay –

Ri Kynjai resort
Ri Kynjai Resort

While there were multiple options available within the Shillong city namely Hotel Polo Towers, The Habitat, Tripura Castle among others, we decided to stay in the boutique resort Ri Kynjai (click here for detailed review) in Umiam district, a little away from the main city of Shillong. The location of the resort is its biggest asset. It is just opposite Lake Umiam also known as Barapani which is one of the main tourist attractions in the state. Overlooking the Umiam lake and mountains, the resort had all the modern amenities without compromising on the feel of royalty and tranquility. 

The lounge area
The lounge area of the resort

Places to visit –

Shillong Church
Shillong Church

The places for sightseeing includes

  1. Umiam Lake – It is also known as Barapani and offers boating facilities to visitors.
  2. Don Bosco Museum – The Museum houses and documents the various indigenous cultures, arts and crafts of North East India.
  3. Elephant FallsIt is also known ‘The Three Step Waterfalls’ because it consists of three falls in succession.
  4. Shillong Peak – It offers a panoramic view of the city.
  5. Shillong golf course – It is one of the largest golf courses in Asia.
  6. Butterfly Museum – It is a delight to take a tour of this museum
  7. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also referred to as Shillong Church – The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers RI Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. 
  8. Lady Hydari Park – This place offers a spectacular view of flowers, birds, and animals. A portion is allocated to the Zoo that houses animals like bear, deer among many others. Fishes in the ponds, variety of birds and a colorful and well-maintained garden with flowers in full bloom is a sight to behold.
Lady Hydari Park
Lady Hydari Park

Local market –

Police Bazaar
Police Bazar

No visit to Shillong can be complete without a visit to the local market known as Police Bazar. Shillong is famous for its bamboo handicrafts, cheap electronic goods, and woolen clothes. This market provides ample option for each though I would like to advise that almost all the prices are negotiable and thus bargaining is a virtue to shop here. The market also has a huge sweet shop Delhi Mistaan Bhandar that caters to the taste buds of people from every corner of the country (their jalebis are definitely a must-try). There’s also a movie theatre Gold cinemas at the end of the street.  

Local cuisine –

Cafe Shillong
Delicacies of Cafe Shillong

While Sao Aiom, the in-house restaurant of Ri Kynjai provided us with the option of a Khasi cuisine along with Indian and Chinese varieties, we ended up having Bengali cuisine like Prawn Malai Curry instead. In fact, there are multiple restaurants in and around Police Bazar that serve different varieties of dishes, especially Chinese and Tibetian. One place that is a must visit is Cafe Shillong overlooking the buzzing Don Bosco Square with a beautiful ambiance and serves the best Irish cafe along with a host of continental dishes (I loved the steak here). Another place that serves good pork dishes and momos is Cafe Shillong Heritage inside the Tripura castle.

Cherrapunji – 

Enroute Cherrapunji
Enroute Cherrapunji

The road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji takes approximately two to two and a half hours but for someone like me who gets enthralled by the beauty of nature quite easily, I ended up asking the car to stop at frequent intervals for capturing some gorgeous sights.  This is the kind of experience that stays with one forever because the emotions felt while walking amidst the clouds is something that goes beyond words. The entire stretch of the journey is picturesque with the Sun playing hide and seek. Cherrapunji has multiple waterfalls worth, notable among them being the Nohsngithiang Falls, also known as the Seven Sisters waterfalls. The double-decker living root bridge is the next most sought after tourist attraction. Cherrapunji also a few accommodation options like Hotel Polo Orchid along with a bunch of home stays.

Seven Sister Falls
The Seven Sister Falls

Two more places around Shillong that deserve special mention are Asia’s cleanest village Mawlyngong and the crystal clear Dawki river

Best time to visit

Sao Aiom
Sao Aiom restaurant of Ri Kynjai

The best time to visit Shillong is between October to April. Ideally, the weather is most pleasant during October-November and in the month of Feb – March. We traveled during October 2017.

Recommended Itinerary –

View from the balcony
View from the balcony of our Lakeview room

A trip to Meghalaya can best be scheduled keeping two days for Shillong, one day for Cherrapunji, one day at Mawlyngong and the last day, rather a night for camping near the Dawki river.

Shillong gets quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season and the roads are filled with traffic, causing an unnecessary delay in movement. Hence it is advisable to start the trips a little early so that the crowded roads can be avoided before vehicles start crawling at the pace of a snail.

My two cents

A memorable visit to the mountains
The first memorable visit to the mountains

Shillong will always be memorable on a personal level for being the first hill station journey of my toddler. However, the emotions run a little deeper since it is the simplicity of the Khasi people and the serenity of the place that has ensured a permanent place for Shillong in my heart.

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Hope this destination leaves you with a smile on the face and a desire to plan a trip to this city very soon. Tomorrow the express will leave for its next destination as Sanjota take control to direct it towards Hampi. Until then, have a safe journey and don’t forget to read, comment and share this post.

Author’s note – 

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, Preeti, SabaPragun, Sanjota, Sonia, SudipSuhasiniand Supriya

xplorebharat1 (1)
#XploreBharat

A big shout out to our sponsors KAIV and FABZANIA for taking this Blog Train experience even further.

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#XploreBharat – a travelogue of the cities of India


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Yesterday we celebrated India’s 70th Republic Day. The hoisting of the National Flag followed by the singing of our National Anthem and remembering those who laid their lives for the sake of our country made us all feel proud. But why should we limit this feeling of patriotism to just a few days of the year? Our team of eleven bloggers as part of #BlogBoosterIndia has decided to come up with travel diaries highlighting the essence of various cities of India. From a small town Murshidabad in the East to the gorgeous Goa in Central India, from Delhi in the North to the picturesque Varkala in the South, we aim to cover seventy cities through seventy different posts as a tribute to our motherland. We aim to take you on this memorable trip through our articles and pictures. We hope that you will enjoy this ride as much as we love brainstorming about this series.

However, if you want to board this train, not just as a mere spectator, but would also love to share your travel stories and experiences with the world, we would love to have you on board.

Rules & Regulations:

To commemorate 70 years of Republic India, ‘BlogBoosterIndia’ group is hosting #XploreBharat blog train from 1st February 2019. A total of 70 posts will be posted by different travel-loving bloggers touching 70 beautiful and unique places of India.

All you need to do is write a blog post on your chosen city of India as part of Xplore-Bharat on your own blog(you need to have a blog to be a part of this journey).  And share the post with #XploreBharat hashtag on all social media platforms. To showcase your association with this blog train, this image needs to be a part of your blog post.

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#XploreBharat

If you meet the following criteria, please fill up the form through the link given at the end of this post.

Continue reading “#XploreBharat – a travelogue of the cities of India”

Passing on the love of traveling – a nomad’s perspective


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“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

I was five years old when I went on my first trip to Darjeeling with my parents. Higher studies and corporate stints made me a resident of cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore. This was also the period when I traveled with my gang of girls to places like Chennai, Pondicherry, and Ooty and groups of friends to Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Ahmedabad, Agra, and Goa. Once I discovered that I was essentially a nomad at heart, my solo trips took me to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mangalore, Coorg, Madikeri, and Chickmagalur. 

Chennai
Chennai

When T and I got married in 2011, it was a delight to discover that we shared the same enthusiasm for travel. Munnar was the first place that we visited as a married couple. Unfortunately, I lost my mother in the same year and life came to a stand-still. In 2012, an impromptu road trip from Trivandrum to Varkala and Kanyakumari helped me get a grip on my life again. Together we managed to visit Thekkady, Periyar, Alleppey, Athirapally, Cochin, Wayanad, Goa, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal. If writing helped me cope up with my mother’s loss, traveling gave me the reason to live.

Mumbai
Mumbai

Three years back after my son was born, the trips became more planned and less on an impulse. From Goa and Mumbai in Central India, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur, and Digha in the East, Delhi and Noida in the North to Guwahati, Shillong, and Cherrapunji in the North East, the three of us have explored both the tranquility of nature, humdrum of the city, sea and mountains alike. 

Continue reading “Passing on the love of traveling – a nomad’s perspective”

Resort review – Vivanta by Taj, Fort Aguda, Goa

Last September, we planned a trip to Goa with our eleven month old son. This was going to be our first holiday together and thus I was equally excited and anxious. While browsing through the various options for an accommodation, we decided to settle for a resort that could customize our requirements related to the infant and his baby food.  A quiet beach like Sinquerim was an additional advantage. That is how we started considering Vivanta by Taj, Fort Aguda (also known as Taj Fort Aguda resort and spa) as a viable option.

Reservation

My husband had called the central reservation number of Taj group to initiate the process. For confirmation, we had to send a mail detailing out the number of families and total members( we were two families each comprising of a couple and infant) along with our credit card details. They sent us the confirmation mail the very next day. Just the day before we were scheduled to leave, we received a call from the resort re-confirming our booking and arrangement for a pick up from Dabolim Airport.

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Sinquerim Beach

Continue reading “Resort review – Vivanta by Taj, Fort Aguda, Goa”

The beauty called Varkala(Kerala) through my lens

Until two years back, my husband and I were obsessive wanderers. My posting in a leading private sector bank and my husbands’ medical specialization course landed us both in Mysore. While the city is beautiful and someday I intend to write about our experiences there,weekends left us high and dry. Since both of us had working Saturdays, any extended weekend would see us planning a short trip to the beautiful places in Tamil Nadu,Karnataka, A.P. or our favorite state Kerala.

During an extended Christmas and new year holiday, I happened to take a mini break before switching jobs.That was when we planned for Varkala which was a unknown name to us,until then. But with a little help from friends, a lot of suggestions from Trip Advsior and unmatched enthusiasm from my husband got us visiting Varkala in the winters of that year. After hunting down for options, we decided to stay at Hill View Beach Resort since it assured us of a magnificent view of the sea through its website and reviews. We drove down to Bangalore from Mysore in 4 hours.At Yeshwantpur station, we took Trivandrum Express.The idea was to get down at Trivandrum and take a cab from there to Varkala. But a helpful co-passenger guided us to get down at Kollam and it took us less than an hour to reach Varkala. the resorts are situated on the cliff the it is one long stretch that can’t be missed.
Continue reading “The beauty called Varkala(Kerala) through my lens”

Resort review – Aqua Marina Drive Inn, Mandarmoni, West Bengal 

In the last few years, Mandarmoni has turned out to be one of the most favorite destination in Bengal. The distance between Kolkata and Mandarmoni can be covered in 3.5 to 4hours by car. Roads are in good condition. Train options are available till Contai/Ramnagar/Digha and the resort can arrange for a pick up from there.

Trying to avoid the much crowded Digha, people have started moving to the more tranquil and serene Mandarmoni. While the town has ample options for stay and most of them are on or near the beach, Aqua Marina Drive Inn takes the cake away for being not only right on the beach but having rooms that let one view the sea from both the room and balcony.DSC00409
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Resort review – Ri Kynjai, Shillong /Umiam, 

My husband and I, along with our 2 year old son visited Meghalaya from 12th to 15th October 2017. After weighing in on the options available in Shillong for stay, we decided to give Ri Kynjai a shot. The reservation process was smooth through frequent mail exchange between the reservation manager Ms. Dariti and me. The three room options available are forest view rooms, lake view rooms and cottages. While cottages are supremely luxurious spacious and beautiful, the view is same as that of lake view rooms. Unless one decides to spend considerable time inside the rooms, considering the pricing and almost similar facilities, it is advisable to book lake view rooms.
Continue reading “Resort review – Ri Kynjai, Shillong /Umiam, “