Saturday, December 3, 2016

A short trip to Shillong and what you need to know

Shillong, also known as Scotland of the east, is a must visit if you love nature, good climate, culture and even shopping for that matter! Here are some pointers I have put together from my recent trip:

Though Shillong has a small airport of its own (Umroi Airport), there are hardly any useful flights, with only one direct flight that runs between Kolkata & Shillong. So, a better option is Guwahati (you could also stay a night or two here and visit some tea plantations, Kamakhya temple etc). Shillong is around 2.5-3 hours away by road. You definitely want to take a non-stop flight so that the connecting and layover flights do not already tire you out. Indigo has good 3 hour non-stop options for Mumbai-Guwahati route, which are definitely recommended.

Must visit tourist attractions are – Umium Lake, Ward’s Lake, Elephant Falls, Don Bosco Museum, Lady Hydari Park, Police Bazaar Market, Shillong Peak. Now, you should cover these places only if you want to do the touristy thing that anyone does on their first trip anywhere. If you want something off-beat and less crowded, then you can avoid most of these. Elephant Falls was given the name coz of a stone that looked like an elephant that was destroyed in an earthquake few years ago, so apart from that it’s just 3 waterfalls one after the other. If you are someone who loves to learn about a place’s history, culture, etc then the Don Bosco museum is a must visit, the sky-walk on top of the museum was certainly a cherry on the cake. Shillong Peak is inside the Air-force area and gives a great view of the town, but that’s about it. Lady Hydari Park houses a few animals and birds, which kids would enjoy, otherwise it’s a simple park.

Do take a picture in the local Khasi outfit – you will find stalls/shops at most of these points I mentioned above. And they just charge Rs.50 for the costume and another Rs.50 if you even want a printout of a photo (which you can skip if you’re satisfied with your mobile pics). Kid’s look adorable in the costume, alas mine just refused to wear it after multiple attempts. 

Non-vegetarians are in a for a treat at Shillong, but there are a lot of options for vegetarians as well. Hotel Bistro on Police Bazaar is famous for its vegetarian food, and there also are the pizza and burger chains incase you want to stay safe. The entire roadway to Shillong and to Cherrapunji etc is curvy and bound to make lot of us feel queasy and sick, so I suggest you eat light before traveling. If you’re prone to motion/travel sickness, don’t forget to carry your medicines or else you will not enjoy at all. While we’re talking about the road journey, Japan’s famous Cherry Blossom can be enjoyed here in Shillong! Do spot the trees and enjoy the scenic view when you enter or leave Shillong.

Now the locals aren’t the friendliest lot, they can be pretty hostile towards Indian tourists at least. So, I suggest rely on google maps Internet wherever possible, I was given a couple of wrong answers by the locals unfortunately. There is scope for bargaining with cabbies and shopkeepers, but only to an extent, if you try to haggle a lot they will not entertain you. You totally have to shop for the cane & wood products available – they are cheap, pretty and light weight! I bought bags, accessories and other knick-knacks to gift. Travel light so that you don’t have to worry about baggage limits while coming back!

The weather is amazing, the air is clean and the sights are pretty! It is cold during the winters, but not biting cold that you don’t enjoy (if you’re travelling with kids, ensure you pack thermals, monkey caps etc. for them they will feel cold, alternatively you can purchase them from Shillong itself on day 1 for a good deal and also get great variety!).

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