Showing posts with label North East India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North East India. Show all posts

Travel to North East India - Darjeeling and Kalimpong


Itinerary, tips, what to shop for, where to eat and things to know before you go for a 10 day trip to North East India including the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim.


The North East of India has been blessed with natural beauty - the towering Himalayas, the clear rivers, white waterfalls, varied wildlife, diverse fauna, clear blue skies, fresh hilly air, and clouds. Ever since my first visit in 2009, I had been craving to take Raj there. And finally, we made it this year. And we have some more trips planned based on our current experience.

This travel post (like all my travel posts) is divided into 3 parts so that I can detail out our itinerary, the sights to see, places to eat perhaps, our plans and misses, and how I would replan it for the future.

Our overall itinerary:


Day 1 - Travel from Bangalore to Guwahati by flight. Then drive down to Shillong.
Day 2 - Sohra (Cherrapunji) sightseeing
Day 3 - Mawlyngong and Dawki
Day 4 - Drive back to Guwahati. Fly to Bagdogra. Hire a cab to Darjeeling.
Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing
Day 6 - Darjeeling sightseeing
Day 7 - Take a cab to Gangtok.
Day 8 - Nathu La Pass
Day 9 - Gangtok sightseeing
Day 10 - Take a cab to Bagdogra. Fly back to Bangalore.


This post details our travel and stay in Darjeeling. Read all about Meghalaya here.


Darjeeling


The famous hill station of Darjeeling is called the Queen of Hills. Built by the British to house a population of 10,000, it today houses almost 20 times that including the tourists. Located amidst lush green hills and tea plantations, Darjeeling offers one of the best views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range on a clear day.

This was my second visit to the city and Raj's first. The closest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra International Airport in West Bengal. We flew in there from Guwahati and hired a prepaid cab to go to the hill station. Thanks to the festive season, the influx of tourists and locals to Darjeeling had gone up manifolds and the usual 3 hour ride took us 6 hours. The road is steep and has several sharp curves. This is one place I would not suggest a self-drive. It is better to rely on the local folks who know the roads and its turns. Weather is extremely unpredictable and can go from clear to foggy within minutes. We witnessed the change in weather and concluded we would not risk driving here.
Our cab driver, Naveen, stopped at a small place called Zimba somewhere near Kurseong and we enjoyed our best momos of the trip at this tiny little place.  


Unfortunately for us, we chose the wrong time to visit. Durga Puja is a very big festival in this part of the country and it led to all sorts of problems for us. The festival brought in nearby villagers to the city for last-minute shopping, there were equal number of tourists taking advantage of the holidays like us, the local hotel staff and cab drivers were on vacation due to the festive season. Basically, it led to a high demand less supply situation that played to our disadvantage.

We stayed at the Summit Swiss Heritage Hotel in Darjeeling. The hotel is a part of the Summit chain of hotels and is well maintained with courteous staff. While most of the rooms offer a good view, ours did not. Read my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.

We reached the hotel late in the evening of Day 4. Other than checking into the hotel and stepping out for dinner, we didn't do much. We did, however, book a cab that was willing to take us to see Kalimpong the next day. We struggled to find cabs due to the high demand, low supply situation that the time of the year put us in. I would suggest contacting the hotel in advance and booking your travel through the hotel. While this may work out slightly expensive, it will definitely save you some last minute stress.

Darjeeling Clock Tower

Day 5: Kalimpong


We wanted to start out early, but our cabbie had a different plan. He picked us up from the hotel at 9am. We stopped at a small park with tall trees called Lamahatta to take some pics and felt absolutely insignificant next to the really tall trees. There is also a lake 750m high up in the hill, we skipped visiting it as some of the folks who we met on the way said it wasn't worth the climb.

Lamahatta

From there we headed straight to the Lover's Meet viewpoint from where one can see the confluence of two rivers, Teesta and Rangeet. This point is known by various names - Triveni Sangam, Peshoke Viewpoint etc. The two rivers are always of different colors as per the locals, and even after they meet, they tend to carry their individuality for some distance until they finally merge and flow as one river. There are small shops here that sell snacks and tea. We tried the fiery chana chaat and loved it. You will also see the famous Kalimpong lollipops for sale here.

If you decide to go river rafting, then this is where you let your cabbie know. Our cab guy knew one of the organizers and asked him to meet us near the Teesta bridge. From there we were taken to the rafting point. From there we were transferred to a jeep along with the raft and two instructors and went on a bumpy ride to the start of our journey. If you take the raft locally like we did, then you pay the cost of the entire raft immaterial of the number of people in it. It worked out expensive for us. I suggest going for this if you are in a large group and the cost is justified. Try to bargain on the price. Also, the river Rangeet does not really have many rapids, so for most of the journey, it is just calm and feels like regular boating with no thrill. Teesta has rapids and the rafting there is classified into swimmers and non-swimmer areas. You can also go rafting in Teesta from Gangtok. Check out Thrillophilia for good rates if you are in a small group. Keep in mind that this is taking time away from your Kalimpong sightseeing if you combine it on the same say like that. We did that and then regretted doing so.

Lover's Meet - Confluence of River Teesta and Rangeet
Rafting on River Rangeet

After that, we proceeded to Deolo Park to soak in the view of the hills. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the highest point in Kalimpong, it was already 3PM and the fog was setting in. So we got no view, but we did see the park dirtied with a lot of trash - paper plates, spoons, cups etc, just strewn over the hillside. A very sad sight. Outside the park, we also had our lunch of momos and maggi with some really sweet tea.

We then went to the Science Center. This is a very amateur museum of science. If you live in a big city and have visited similar museums or are already in a field of science, this will not amuse you. We entered it and found that our local Visvesvaraya Museum in Bangalore was far more advanced and hence, immediately walked out. Children may, however, enjoy the Science Center.

From there we went to Hanuman Park which has a tall statue of Lord Hanuman.

Post this we visited Mangal Dham. It is a beautiful temple with a lot of art in it. This was one of the only things I felt one should visit Kalimpong to see. Peaceful and beautiful.

View from Deolo Park

Mangal Dham
The Pinewood nursery was closed as we visited Kalimpong on a Sunday. Either way, it is something that should be visited on the way to Kalimpong rather than during the return. It had already turned pretty dark by the time we reached the nursery while returning.

I found that our cab driver was not really interested in showing us the sights, he wasn't even aware of much. To avoid a disappointing experience like us, I suggest you check in advance what sights will be included in the sightseeing. The options of half day and full day tours from Kalimpong seem to be a better option, but may work out only if you stay in Kalimpong for the night.

The good thing about our drive back was that the cab guy knew the road like the back of his hand and brought us in quickly. He knew internal roads in Darjeeling and that helped us avoid the traffic jam.

Other sights to see in Kalimpong:
  • Pinewood Nursery
  • Durpin Dara Hill - Monastery on a hill.


Day 6: Darjeeling


Day 6 was for leisure. We didn't book any local sightseeing. You can reach out to your hotel in advance if you want to book it or to any of the local tour operators. We chose to do neither. We only booked the toy train.

The narrow-gauge train that led to the rise of Darjeeling is known as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or more popularly as the Toy Train. The train is used to transport people to and from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. For the benefit of tourists, DHR also organizes joy rides that start at Darjeeling, take you up to Ghoom and get you back. A joy ride lasts about 2 hours including a 10 minute stop at the beautiful Batasia Loop and a 25 minute stop at Ghoom where you can visit the railway museum.

We booked the joy ride through IRCTC online. Book the tickets from DJ to DJRZ for the joy ride. The rates differ based on the type of locomotive being used for the ride. The steam engine rides cost Rs.1500 as of October 2019 and the diesel engine ride costs Rs.1000. When a better coach is used, the cost may increase by Rs.100 (vista coach). The booking counter at the station is open till 5pm if you want to book it in person.

Back in 2009, when I took the same ride, the view from the train was worth seeing, as we saw the valley. Due to a lot of construction along the road, the view is mostly blocked and there are just a few spots where you get an unobstructed view of the valley. Take this ride only for the experience. It is not every day that you get to ride a world heritage site that crisscrosses through the roads and markets.

Account for delays in the train schedule as the day progresses. Preferably book a morning slot. We had one cancellation and one delay.

After that, we visited the Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling. This is something worth visiting. It is calm and sits majestically amidst tall trees. We walked up the hill (extremely tiring), but I am sure you can hire a taxi somewhere in Darjeeling to visit the same.

We then returned to the market to shop for souvenirs and have dinner.

Batasia Loop



Peace Pagoda


Other sights to see in Darjeeling:

  • Tiger Hills - On a clear day, the sunrise from Tiger hills is beautiful. You can see Kanchenjunga all lit up with the first rays of the morning.
  • Ghoom Monastery
  • Dhirdham Temple - a Nepali style temple.
  • Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling Zoo and Bengal Natural History Museum
  • Tenzing and Gombu Rock
  • Happy Valley Tea Estate


Day 7: Travel to Gangtok


We had our breakfast and started to Gangtok very soon after that. We used GoZo cabs to travel to Gangtok. Book it in advance to get competitive rates. The service was amazing, the cab was clean and on time. We would definitely recommend it.


If we were to replan:


Sadly, if we were to replan, we would remove Darjeeling off our list completely. This is our personal opinion and this is why we would do that:
  • Traffic is harrowing. We don't like getting stuck in 2-3 hour long traffic jams on vacations.
  • Extremely crowded. The hill station is a popular vacation destination for tourists and this has led to overcrowding in the last few years. This is affecting the ecological balance in the area.
  • View is unpredictable - The first time I visited in 2009, the view was spectacular, this time, we never got one due to cloud cover. Most of the things to see in Darjeeling depend on the weather making it extremely unpredictable. 
  • Too many constructions - Where once upon a time one edge of the road offered mesmerizing views of the mountains and valleys, today, the same is covered with buildings and the only view you can see is from in between them.
  • Kalimpong is again over-hyped and there isn't much to take in there as well.
  • Cleanliness isn't a thing - You can blame the tourists for this or the locals, but the twin towns lacked cleanliness. We were upset to see paper plates and single serves spilled over the edge of the hills at tourist spots. They have restrooms in tourist places, but most are ill-maintained.

If you are still keen on visiting the hill station, this is how we suggest you plan:

  • Day 1 - Keep one day aside to reach Darjeeling. Do not plan anything for this day at all.
  • Day 2 - Take the toy train ride.
  • Day 3 - Visit the local sites, if interested, on Day 2 or 3, depending on your train schedule.
  • Include a trip to Sandakphu and Phalut to soak in the view of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, and several other peaks. If you are planning a trek, then keep aside 7 days for it. There are several operators in Darjeeling who can arrange this trek for you, or you can check out sites like Thrillophilia who will arrange it too. If you aren't the trekking sort, you can also hire a Land Rover from Manebhajan. More details here. Add 3 extra days to your trip if you plan a trip using Land Rovers.
  • Day 4 - If your next destination is Gangtok, then you can decide to spend one night in Kalimpong. It is on the way from Darjeeling to Gangtok. You can also use this day to do any adventure sports you want. Kalimpong offers river rafting and paragliding.
  • Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing, assuming you used Day 4 for adventure sports.
  • Day 6 - Proceed to Gangtok. 

What to buy:

  • Warm clothing - Head to Nehru road to buy jackets, shawls, sweaters, woolen caps and mufflers. 
  • Tea - Darjeeling tea is called the Champagne of teas and is a must buy. Buy it at Nathmulls, Chai Chun or Golden Tips. 
  • Buddhist souvenirs from the market - you will a lot of Buddha statues, bells, prayer wheel miniatures, flags etc. on Nehru road.

Where to eat:

  • Momos on the roadside at Chowrasta or on Nehru road.
  • Taste various types of teas at Nathmulls, Golden Tips or Chai Chun. We tried and bought the rose-flavored tea from Chai Chun.
  • Desserts at Glenary's. We tried the apple pie and the red velvet cake and both were yummy.
  • Vegetarian Thukpa at Lazeez Affaire. Thukpa is a very delicious noodle soup, and it was especially flavorful at Lazeez.
  • Thali at Hasty Tasty. We loved the full thali, we also loved their chole batura. The puri aloo looked amazing too.
  • Try out pasta, pizza and milkshakes at Ross's Cafe.
  • Milkshakes at Keventer's.
L-R from top - 1) Momo and chowmein at Zimba, 2) Desserts from Glenary's, 3) Chana chaat at Lover's meet, 4) Thukpa at Lazeez Affaire, 5) Chole Bature at Hasty Tasty, 6) Pasta at Ross's Cafe, 7) Thali at Hasty Tasty

Things to know before you go:


  1. Darjeeling gets overcrowded during festivals like Durga Puja and Diwali as well as when schools have holidays. Preferably avoid these times to visit Darjeeling.
  2. Weather is unpredictable in the hills, be prepared for cold days and rainy days.
  3. Roads are narrow and steep, it is better to hire a taxi to reach Darjeeling than attempting to self-drive even if it works out a little more expensive.
  4. Traffic jams!! Darjeeling has really bad traffic jams in the evenings because that is when all the tourists are returning back to hotels, arriving from the airport as well as local folks leaving for the day. It can take easily 1 hour to negotiate a distance of 2-3Kms.
  5. Do not trust Google maps if you are driving. It does not list the one-ways correctly, it is better to ask locals for directions.
  6. Since the town is built on a hill, the roads are steep. So while the distance may seem short, be aware of the terrain if you choose to walk someplace rather than hiring a taxi.


Useful links:


Treasure trove of information on Darjeeling - https://www.darjeeling-tourism.com/
Our favorite website to compare flights - https://www.cleartrip.com/
Our favorite website to book hotel - https://www.agoda.com/
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Travel to North East India - Meghalaya


Itinerary, tips, what to shop for, where to eat and things to know before you go for a 10 day trip to North East India including the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim.


After many debates, discussions and online searches later, we finalized our 2019 vacation destination as North East India. It was a vacation I had done ten years ago with my parents and chose to repeat the same with Raj.

The North East has been blessed with natural beauty - the towering Himalayas, the clear rivers, white waterfalls, varied wildlife, diverse fauna, clear blue skies, fresh hilly air, and clouds. Ever since my first visit in 2009, I had been craving to take Raj there. And finally, we made it this year. And we have some more trips planned based on our current experience.

This travel post (like all my travel posts) is divided into 3 parts so that I can detail out our itinerary, the sights to see, places to eat perhaps, our plans and misses, and how I would replan it for the future.

Our overall itinerary:


Day 1 - Travel from Bangalore to Guwahati by flight. Then drive down to Shillong.
Day 2 - Sohra (Cherrapunji) sightseeing
Day 3 - Mawlyngong and Dawki
Day 4 - Drive back to Guwahati. Fly to Bagdogra. Hire a cab to Darjeeling.
Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing
Day 6 - Darjeeling sightseeing
Day 7 - Take a cab to Gangtok.
Day 8 - Nathu La Pass
Day 9 - Gangtok sightseeing
Day 10 - Take a cab to Bagdogra. Fly back to Bangalore.


This post details our travel and stay in the state of Meghalaya.

Meghalaya


Meghalaya means the abode of clouds. And true to its name, that is exactly what it was. You can love it or hate it, but you just cannot ignore the clouds. Sometimes we were mesmerized by them, sometimes we wished they would all go away, just for a day. It has often been referred to as the Scotland of the East.

The state of Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in the year 1972. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya. Meghalaya is flanked by Bangladesh on its west and south. It is also home to the wettest places on Earth - Sohra (Cherrapunji) and Mawsynram.



Our Journey: Day 1: Shillong


We took an early morning direct flight to Guwahati, Assam from Bangalore. Shillong has an airport too, however, it doesn't have a direct flight from Bangalore and we would need to hop flight at Kolkata. Guwahati worked in our favour as we were able to rent a self-drive vehicle from there, something that is still not available in Shillong.

Our original plan was to reach Guwahati early, pick up our Zoomcar (self-drive), visit the famous shakti peetha - Kamakhya in Guwahati and then proceed to Shillong, which is a 2.5 hour drive. And if there was still daylight, we planned to see a few places in Shillong. But things went wrong from the moment we landed in Guwahati. The location provided by the Zoomcar app took us to a drain 27kms away from the airport. We had booked a car from a location closest to the airport (4.5kms) as we did not get an airport pickup. Their customer service center kept telling us they had technical issues so they could not help us. We finally managed to get a vehicle from them even further away from the Airport (30kms) and that too 3 hours later. This meant we had to forego visiting Kamakhya as that had already closed for the afternoon and also, we had no daylight when we reached Shillong.

Zoomcar 

We had a very harrowing experience that I have not detailed here. To avoid something similar, I suggest booking a car well in advance and to only take an airport pickup in an unknown city. Otherwise, you may be better off just hiring a cab instead of taking unnecessary stress like we did. Also, it isn't as easy as it sounds. There is a lot of process to gain access to the car that they have for security reasons, but sometimes that plays out negatively. The car we got couldn't be locked/unlocked by the app and we had to call up their call center, who in turn had to get the owner of the car to unlock it for us. The only positive was, the car was decent and Zoomcar reimbursed all our uber receipts for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time and also missed out on visiting places that we had planned.

If everything had gone right, this is what we would have accomplished on day 1:
  • Pickup car at 11am.
  • Reach Kamakhya temple by 12pm. The temple is closed between 1pm to 2.30pm.
  • Have lunch and start for Shillong by 2pm.
  • Reach Shillong by 5pm. See Umiam lake on the way.
  • Explore the local markets and cuisine.
We managed to see the Umiam lake but skipped the temple. Umiam Lake or Barapani Lake is a huge man-made lake on the outskirts of Shillong. Since it is almost 15kms away from the city, it makes sense to cover it on the way in or out of the city, unless one plans on enjoying the water sports available there. There are several viewpoints near the lake which offer picturesque views, make sure to stop at one. There are small shops near these viewpoints that sell you tea, pakodas, aloo chops, maggi and cane knick-knacks. We tried the aloo chops at one of these and they were heavenly. We also picked up some cane vases and cups as souvenirs. 

We had booked Hotel M Crown, bang in the middle of Police Bazaar. I could play devil's advocate for the location of the hotel - it was right next to the market, but that made it a nightmare to reach it. Read my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor. We reached Shillong by 6pm and it was already pretty dark, but Police Bazaar was alive with its hawkers and shops. We managed to battle our way through the crowd and take a glimpse of the market. We also managed to eat momos on the street and rich Bengali sweets from Delhi Mistan Bhandar. We also finished our souvenir shopping of cane goods and fridge magnets. 

Sights to see in Shillong:

  1. Umiam Lake -  We visited this on our way to Shillong on Day 1.
  2. Elephant Falls - Elephant falls is on the way to Sohra/Cherrapunji. It is a 3 level water fall. We visited this on Day 2
  3. Shillong Peak - Highest point in Shillong from where one can view the entire city. We planned for it but it was closed by the time we reached there. It is open from 9am to 3.30pm.
  4. Ward's Lake - A large lake in the middle of the city with a small garden on the side. You can do boating here. We visited this on Day 2
  5. Lady Hydari Park with a small zoo
  6. Museums - There are a few museums in the city related to air force, military and local culture. 
  7. Churches, Temples and Mosques 



Umiam Lake

Elephant Falls
Ward's Lake

Day 2: Sohra/Cherrapunji


We started early for Sohra or Cherrapunji. Sohra is the local name and Cherrapunji is a British corruption of it. Locals prefer it being called Sohra, so Sohra it is. We started at 6.30am from the hotel towards Sohra. Sunrise happens early here, around 5am, so it was bright daylight when we started. If breakfast is included in your hotel stay, ask for a boxed breakfast the night before, most hotels will keep it ready for you. If you eat eggs, then head to police bazaar for a quick egg and roti breakfast. Else, you can eat at Nongkhlaw Cafeteria on the way. We got some aloo paratha and puri bhaji there along with some really good ginger tea.

We then continued our sightseeing in the following order:

  1. Duwan Sing Syiem View Point - Dress up in local Khasi clothes here for Rs.100 per person and take photographs. View the lush green valleys from the viewpoint.
  2. NohKaLiKai Waterfall - This is the part where we hated clouds. Fog like clouds covered the falls and we barely got a glimpse after a good 30-minute wait. We bought some cinnamon here and a local snack of sweet almonds - tasted like some sweet flour coated peanuts. 
  3. Seven Sisters Waterfalls - Again, clouds covered these and it was a test of patience as we waited in the hope that it would clear. They finally did clear and the sight was breathtaking.
  4. Ecopark - This park is located at the origin of the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. Worth the visit.
  5. Wah-Kaba Falls - You can stand near a waterfall here, hence, we loved it. 
  6. We also returned to Shillong by 4pm so we covered Elephant falls and Ward's Lake in Shillong too. 
  7. Shillong Peak closes at 3.30. If you are not hampered by clouds in Sohra, you can manage to cover this on the same day as well.

Other sights to see in Sohra:

  1. Mawsmai Caves - Dimly lit limestone caves. I visited this in 2009 and didn't personally find it special, hence skipped it. There are sections in the caves that are narrow and you may need to squeeze through. Also, be aware that the caves have a strong odor due to the natural mineral deposits.
  2. Double Decker Root Bridges - Definitely a must-go if you are physically fit. The trek to go here involves going down 3500 stairs to see the bridges and climbing back up the same stairs to get back to your car. If you plan to visit these, it is better to halt at Sohra for the night and go here early as this may take a good 2-3 hours to visit.
  3. Rainbow falls - A short trek from the double decker route bridges. If you visit the bridge, then plan for this too.
  4. Wei Sawdong Waterfalls - View 3 levels of waterfalls if you have the courage to bear the bad roads. We planned it and skipped it after traveling a few kilometers off the main highway. The bumpy ride wasn't for us.
Duwan Sing Syiem View Point 
Khasi Dress
NohKaLiKai Waterfall

Seven Sisters Waterfalls







Ecopark
Wah Kaba Falls


Day 3 - Living Root Bridge, Mawlynngong and Dawki:


We had a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel and started day 3 around 8am. Personally, I'd say start earlier as the roads are not good and they slow you down. We wanted to cover three places on our trip in the following order:

  1. Living Root Bridge - If you skipped the double decker root bridge like us, you can visit this one. This is a short 15-minute walk from the parking. It does involve stairs, but much fewer than 3500. The point where the road deviates from the highway is narrow, surrounded by thick foliage, has no cell reception in most places and is full of pot holes. It is a bumpy ride of 13kms that easily took us upwards of 45 minutes. But the sound of the river is calming and the feat of engineering is humbling. 
  2. Mawlynngong - Declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003, it is only 2kms from the Living Root Bridge. The villagers are extremely conscious about cleanliness and the tourists are also expected to be so. There is a nice bamboo tree top viewpoint, which was under maintenance when we went, but appears to be nice if functional. We ate lunch at the village square and it was a simple yet good meal.
  3. Dawki - If the time is right, the waters are clear. Dawki is located on the India - Bangladesh border and is famous for the illusion of boats floating in the air when the water is clear. The time to witness this is from November to April. The water was green when we went and we didn't mind it at all. The water turns muddy brown during monsoons and is not recommended at that time. There are several boating locations as you near and you will find agents pouncing on your car asking if you want to go boating. We went to the absolute end near the border and chose to go boating from there. It cost us Rs.700 for one boat. Life jackets are provided. The rowboat is taken until a small island where the water is clear and you are given time to take photographs and to soak your feet in the clear and cold water. As per Raj, this was the highlight of the entire trip for him, so I guess something went right here. You can also see the plains of Bangladesh from here.
The drive back was slightly scary as night had fallen by the time we were negotiating the hills and it turned all foggy and cloudy. The visibility was near zero and the rain didn't help much either.

Living Root Bridge


Mawlynngong
Mawlynngong
Dawki

Dawki

Zero Point - India Bangladesh Border at Dawki

If we were to replan:

  • Number of days - 2 days is definitely not enough to absorb the beauty of Meghalaya. If we were to replan, we'd add in at least 3 more days to the trip and include a visit to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. It is 4 hours from Guwahati. Kaziranga is closed for the general public from May to October every year.
  • Time of travel - We definitely want to see the clear waters of Dawki, and would hence plan this during November or December. I would not recommend closer to the summer as the waterfalls may dry up. 
  • We would stay at Sohra for the night and cover the double decker root bridges for sure.

What to buy:

  • Chillies - North East India is famous for its extremely spicy chillies. Buy them at the market at Police Bazaar. This may be seasonal.
  • Apples - We got some amazing crisp apples here. It may be seasonal though.
  • Pickles - Loads of local pickles on sale here in various quantities - chillies, local fruit, bamboo and fish. Take your pick.
  • Cane products - Bamboo grows in abundance here and hence, they have a lot of cane ware for sale - bowls, vases, baskets. 
  • Long lemons and other local vegetables - I loved the lemons and bought home a few. They are served in all restaurants and they tasted different to me. I also saw a lot of different vegetables that I would buy if I were heading home straight from Shillong.
  • Spices - The shops in Sohra sell spices, I picked up some fragrant cinnamon.
  • Shawls and Jackets 
Chillies for sale at Police Bazaar
Shop for pickles and spices at Nohkalikai Falls

Where to eat:

  • Red Rice Restaurant - If you want to try local Khasi cuisine, head here. We tried our luck on two days and managed to get a vegetarian thali on day 2. It was a simple fare, but delicious.
  • Delhi Mistan Bhandaar - If you love sweets, you have to go here!! I loved their sweets. It may be one of the best sweet shops I've ever visited. Try their special sweet, you won't regret it. Skip the nimkis (too salty for my liking).
  • Trattoria - A small hole in the wall in the market that serves local food and is frequented by locals too. It closes at 8pm and I'm not sure it serves veg food. Ask before settling it. Vouched for by most people online for non-vegetarian food. 
  • We also tried Lamee and the restaurant in M Crown Hotel, and preferred the latter. The service in Lamee was slow and the food was average.
  • Momos on the street were average, you can try it once though. 
  • Police Bazaar circle offers a lot of variety in non-vegetarian food - there is biryani, jadoh, momo, kebabs, chops, fried goodies etc. Judging by the looks of it, these are extremely popular with locals, so it must taste good. Try if you are adventurous and non-vegetarian.
  • The same circle offers roti and masala boiled eggs in the morning. You can give that a try too.
  • Wahrisaw restaurant- We ate a simple thali lunch here when at Sohra and it was good.
  • Dapbiang Restaurant - Again, we ate a thali here when were at Mawlyngong. The salsa that accompanied our meal was spicy and full of flavor.
  • Tea near the boating counter at Dawki - This has to be the best tea I've had in a restaurant. Absolutely loved it.
  • Berries from Bangladesh - Give it a try at Dawki if you are feeling adventurous. I did not really like them, but you may.
  • Ja and Cha shops - There are several Ja cha shops all along the highway. Ja means rice and Cha means tea. A simple ja meal is rice, dal, one vegetable (usually okra/bhindi) and one boiled egg if you want. If you want to eat like locals, pop into one of them.
Clockwise from L-R - 1) Sweets at Delhi Mistan Bhandar, Meal at Mawlynngong, Meal at Sohra, Manchow soup at Lamee, Aloo Paratha at Nongkhlaw Cafeteria

 1) Tea at Dawki 2) Khasi meal at Red Rice, 3) Long lemon 4) Sweets at Delhi Mistan Bhandar 5) Sweet almonds

Things to know before you go:

  • Sunset happens very early in Meghalaya. Expect it around 4-5pm in the winter months.
  • Restaurants close early - 8pm to 10pm. Head for an early dinner.
  • Language is not a problem at all. English is the official language of the state and almost everyone speaks Hindi.
  • Street food is mostly non-vegetarian. Ask before you eat.
  • Shillong has a lot of one-ways and Google maps isn't accurate. Ask the locals for directions. Do NOT rely on Google maps.
  • Be aware that Shillong has a lot of traffic jams. It may easily take you 1 hour to cover 4kms in the evenings. 
  • The highway is prone to landslides during monsoons. Be cautious.
  • The city has extremely narrow roads, drive carefully.
  • The state is proud of its cleanliness, there are a lot of dustbins all over the tourist places as well as restrooms (they are well maintained mostly). Use them and do not litter on the streets.
  • All major festivals are celebrated in Meghalaya, so it is better to avoid visiting during Durga Puja, Diwali and Christmas unless you love crowds.
  • Most of the sights in Shillong are closed on Sundays. Ward's lake is closed on Tuesdays. Plan accordingly. 

Useful links:

Meghalaya Tourism Official Website - http://megtourism.gov.in/
Kaziranga National Park Official Website - https://www.kaziranga-national-park.com/
Our favorite website to compare flights - https://www.cleartrip.com/
Our favorite website to book hotel - https://www.agoda.com/
For details on Kamakhya temple - https://www.maakamakhya.org/
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