A trip to Meghalaya (organised by Vana Safaris). Part 2 of 3 – Places we visited in Meghalaya

Part 1 of 3 – People of the Khasi Tribe
Part 2 of 3 – Places we visited in Meghalaya
Part 3 of 3 – Places we stayed & Food in Meghalaya

In a nutshell: A wonderful mix of beautiful nature & stunning man-made things that were very new to us. Memorable.

This is a travelogue & the idea is to share our experience during travel & provide information on what we saw / heard / gathered from our experiences & conversations. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF PLACES TO VISIT IN MEGHALAYA.

Address & other details:
The guys who organized the trip – Vana safaris
The lady who guided us during the trip, on ground, Shillong – Alexandra

The Man who guided us during the trip, on ground, outside Shillong – Shining star

The Man who drove us around – Joon (+919707803248)

Disclaimer: All restaurants / eateries / Hotels / travel companies reviewed by YUMMRAJ were visited by YUMMRAJ himself & he has paid for the full Bill & tips also. http://www.yummraj.com does not have even one featured / sponsored reviews. YUMMRAJ believes in going to a restaurant/hotel/place of travel in anonymity, as a normal guest, experience everything & give a honest account of the same to you.

Cost of the trip paid was paid by YUMMRAJ to Vana Safaris by UPI payment transfer. From that, Vana Safaris have paid all the expenses of the trip.

Please find below the contents – so that you can skip sections that do not interest you & go straight to the more interesting sections:


1. Don Bosco Museum Shillong
2. Ward’s lake Shillong
3. All Saint’s Cathedral Shillong
4. Krangsuri falls
5. Concept of Root Bridge & how it is made
6. Darrang Village clear water boating & living root bridge
7. Nohwet Village walk
8. Nohwet – Pyrsho khonjee’s 200 year old traditional Khasi house
9. Nohwet Sunset point
10. Dawki clear water boating
11. Asia’s cleanest Village – Mawlynong
12. Jingmaham Living root bridge, Riwai
13. Kremlemput cave
14. Conversation with Hali War regarding the living root bridge he built in Siem
15. Whistling village

16.Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji

17. Mawphlang sacred forest

Detailed Description:

Alexandra, showed us around in Shillong, inspite of her having an ankle injury. Always smiling, Alex (that’s what everyone calls her), had very good understanding of the places she took us to. She answered all our questions very satisfactorily. Her warmth was infectious.

1. Don Bosco Museum Shillong

The decade plus old museum is an extraordinary, unmissable place to get a very good sense of the traditional lifestyle & culture of the people of the 7 north eastern states.
 The Museum is managed very well. The security team in the Museum is very well trained & they brief every guest on the DO s & DON’T s of the Museum.
 Every corner of the museum is very clean, including the washrooms.
 The lighting of the exhibit rooms are on energy saving mode – it stays dark & as someone walks in, the lights automatically switch on.
 The description to each & every item is detailed, written in legible font size.
 The craftsmanship in making the clay models is unparalleled.
 The exhibits mostly are the best in class (best among that item that we have seen elsewhere)
 The exhibits on religion (Christianity) were a bit aggressive & on the face.

A typical exhibit room
A typical exhibit room close up
A typical exhibit room
jhum farming explained (read post 1 of 3)

An exhibit at the museum that describes an old practice of the khasis – if a girl likes a boy, the family invites the boy & asks for marriage. Till he agrees, the boy is made to drink more & more alcohol
Traditional chair to carry sick / old people on the back & climb up / down the mountains
Traditional hand woven Khasi backpack

Traditional musical instruments

Representation of a tree house – common in Khasi villages (see real tree house picture in section named ‘Asia’s cleanest village’

2. Ward’s lake Shillong

The idea & plan of this man-made lake happened at the time of Chief Commissioner of Assam, Sir William Ward. Colonel Hopkins led the construction & the lake was open to public in 1894. Carolin falls & Umkhra river feed the lake.

The park around the lake is beautifully maintained these days. We loved looking at the beautiful local flower plants on the lawns.

A wooden bridge from that period still stands. However, for safety reasons the authorities do not allow people to use the bridge. It’s for show only, nowadays.

3. All Saint’s Cathedral Shillong
All Saints’ Church is one of the oldest churches in Shillong (1877). During the great earthquake of 1897, the church building was completely destroyed except the wooden bird (picture below) & a few other elements. A new building was built in early 1900s, with Burma teak wood & British tinted glasses.
The maintenance of the church is impeccable – the shine of the wood, maintenance of the tinted glass & the wood carvings.

We understood the importance of the Church next morning – Sunday morning, till we drove out of Shillong, it looked like curfew. Everything was shut. No business. Only occasional groups of church goers.

4. Krangsuri falls

Our driver Joon dropped us at a place & said ‘walk along that track & you will reach the falls’. We started walking down & sometimes up, the very well maintained low stairs with many bushes, trees & other plants on both sides. Many of these plants were new to us.

The flowers on many of these plants were stunningly beautiful & also different.

When we reached the falls, we realized that water came from a river between the mountains
At one point, it was falling from a slab of natural rock into a small pool
The pool had greenish blue colour of water from a distance
Near the edges, the water was so clear that we could see the bed rocks.

5. Darrang Village clear water boating & living root bridge

As we walked down the clean, well maintained cement stairs of Darrang village, we did not expect what was in store ahead of us. The last stretch near the water body was walking on large natural rocks.

As we sat in the locally made, hand rowing wooden boat, we were pleasantly stunned by the water beneath us. It was so clean that we could see the rocks at the bottom of the river bed!!!

The scenery got better & we took a ride along the banks of the water body. The middle of the waterbody was deep – So it being cloudy, the bedrocks were not visible. They are visible on a sunny day. The water near the banks was super clear & we could very clearly see the rocks on the bed of the waterbody.

Infact this ride was much smaller but better than the one at Dawki.

We got off the boat at a point & walked on large natural rocks to see the first root bridge of our trip. This was small yet very elegant.

The stream below the bridge is full of gushing water in the monsoons. Now there was a small stream of water beneath.

6. Concept of Root Bridge & how it is made

A tree named Ficus Elastica is found in abundance in Meghalaya. Like the banyan tree, this tree also has aerial roots that start originating from the branches, touches the ground & grow roots in the soil. With nutrition from the soil also, the aerial root thickens till it becomes as hard & strong as a stem.

People in villages of Meghalaya get hold of those tender aerial roots of tree next to a canal & cross over the water to the other side. There they connect the aerial root to the soil. Slowly the root starts getting thicker & fatter. At this stage a bamboo structure is made like a bridge. More aerial roots are connected to the bamboo bridge (base & railings). The roots grow & reach the other end & get strong. This process continues for about 70-80 years & finally a root bridge is ready to use.

Since the root is of a living plant & not dead wood, it is called ’living root bridge’.

These bridges have been made this way for centuries. In today’s day these living roots bridges are less relevant to cross a river (in many places) because modern concrete bridges have come up. However, this is now considered as a heritage art form. Two brothers Morning Star & Shining star & their friends have started a living root bridge foundation & they are working on creating awareness to preserve these bridges & to encourage the villagers to maintain these.

7. Nohwet Village walk

The first impression that we got when we started our morning walk in the village was ‘Clean’. Contrary to many other parts of the country where ‘swachh Bharat’ (clean India) logo & banners are written, nothing of that kind was seen here. Contrary to many other parts of country where we see litter & garbage in public places, public spitting (gutkha & paan marks), plastic floating everywhere, this village was really clean – organically clean, without any government campaign.

It was a Monday morning & we saw many children playing. We asked ‘no school’? Some said they go to day school later.

The houses were mostly thatched. The walls of the houses were mostly made with wood.

Some houses had exposed wood walls, some wood walls were covered with woven bamboo mats, some wooden walls were covered with flattened recycled small oil container metal sheets & other houses had a cover made with flattened recycled road construction barrels.

The metal sheets, we were told are getting popular because they are waterproof & have no gaps. However, this takes away from the natural temperature management of a wood house.

In Nowhet & later in every village we noticed that there is at least one football field & a Church.

8. Nohwet – Pyrsho khonjee’s 200 year old traditional Khasi house

Our Guide Shining star took us to the 200 year old traditional Khasi wooden house of 81 year old Pyrsho khonjee. The house had been constructed by Pyrsho’s great great uncle. The walls & floor of the house is made using 2-3 inch thick wood slabs. The doors were made without use of any metal (nails or metal hinges), but only by interlocking wood.

The roof of the house was made with locally available dried palm leaves that has to be changed every two years. It takes one full day to do the re-roofing – all village folks come & help on a pre decided day. Pyrsho’s family has to keep all the building materials ready & cook a lunch meal for all who come to help. This is a common practice in the village – everyone helps one another.

The entrance to the house was through a balcony with a thatched roof on the top.

The first room was a sitting place for guests on one side & a kitchen for food to be given to domestic pigs on the other side.

The main room had an open area for people to sit in the day, eat food, sleep at night etc. The ceiling had suspended lofts where many things were kept neatly.


In one corner there was a single wooden bed.

The part of the room that attracted us the most was the chulha in the middle of the living cum bed room. The chulha was set up in the ground & firewood was the fuel used for this.

On the wall behind the chulha was a wooden rack with utensils to cook & to. We saw a few big Kansa utensils & enquired if these was locally made. We got to know that these were bought from Bangladesh by Pyrsho’s ancestors & used regularly till aluminium took over the market.

At 81, Pyrsho still goes to his fields to oversee farming.

We also heard of an unusual Khasi tradition – if one stayed in a hut & stumbled upon some misfortune / bad health, they would change the dwelling.

9. Nohwet Sunset point

IN the evening we walked to the place near the sunset point. We saw a faded board near the entrance mentioning sunset point. We entered the bamboo gate & walked into a small opening with flower plants in it & a sitting area made out of bamboo.

As I was clicking pictures, a little child came & said Rs. 30. I looked at him inquisitively & he pointed to a board. It read ‘entry fee Rs. 30.’. We had a small fun chit chat with the child & paid him the fee. We realized that the sunset point had been made by a person in the village & his son had come to collect the fee.

Then we slowly moved to the direction of the sunset point. We were awed by the simplicity & the beauty of the place. We walked through a suspended bamboo structure & entered a platform made of bamboo. This platform was standing on a concrete pillar cage, at least 40 -50 feet high from the ground below.

Nature was at its best. We had a beautiful evening.

10. Dawki clear water boating

Next day we drove to the famous place Dawki, known for its Clearwater boating, We realized that this was a much larger waterbody & much deeper as well, as compared to Darrang village that we had visited the earlier day. So since the day was somewhat cloudy, the magical effect of Dawki on a sunny day was missed. Between Darrang & Dawki, the experience of boating over an area where the bedrocks are visible was better in Darrang.
There were however few reasons why Dawki gave us some good memories
 The walls next to the river were beautiful stone formations.
 The bamboo bridge at the end was fun to reach & walk on.
 Dawki is on the border. On one side is India & the other side Bangladesh. The India side was quite empty on a Monday but the bangladesh side was full. The vendors selling ‘achar’ from Bangladesh walked up to our boat, chatted with us & made us taste some of the achaar that he had made at home. We bought some from him to carry back. Delicious I must say.
 Our best photograph on the boat was clicked by a photographer from Bangladesh. we enjoyed out chit chat with him too.

We drove past Bangladesh border on may occasions

11. Asia’s cleanest Village – Mawlynong

 As we walked into the village, it felt like walking into an upscale DLF bungalows society in Delhi NCR, sans the security checks. Yes you read that right. Spotless clean roads, dry & perfectly clean public washrooms, regularly maintained plants & lawns. Impeccable.
 The only difference between this place & the DLF society mentioned above is that instead of Bungalows there are traditional & modern houses in Mawlylong.
 Cars are allowed till an open parking area. Beyond that tourists can walk & explore the village
 The open parking area is lined on two sides with 100% local handicraft shops selling Meghalaya made products – no Chinese items / general handicrafts from other parts of India.
 We spent some time in one of the handicraft shops – the quality of the products was outstanding. From traditional Khasi knives & swords to cane & bamboo baskets, containers, sachels, purse & many more decorative items.

12. Jingmaham Living root bridge, Riwai

 Jingmaham Root bridge was the widest root bridge we saw in the trip. The walking path was not on just roots. People had put soil & boulders on the base of the bridge & it was like a normal walking kuccha bridge. Very stable, Looked great from a distance. When walking on it, it is much convenient to walk even with a heavy load. Good for the people who use this as a serious bridge for transit, not for tourists.
 The approach stairs were same as it had always been – boulders kept next to each other, on a slope, to form a rough staircase. No cemented staircases.

13. Kremlemput cave

We were guided to this cave by a gentleman who is by professions a social studies & khasi language teacher in the village school. He does local area sightseeing as a part time activity. He also volunteers to take care of the cave, like all other young people from his village do.

They charge an entry fee for the cave, because they maintain it.

The cave looked like just a small opening between large boulders of limestone. Once inside, it was pitch dark & the walking was on boulders.

There were few bamboo bridges made by the villagers at few places inside the cave.

Without artificial light, most of the cave was pitch dark.

We were absolutely astonished looking at the wall formations of the rocks over millions of years. Stunning.

We also found some stones that glitter when light falls on them. Check out the youtube link here – link

14. Conversation with Hali War regarding the living root bridge he built in Siem

We drove to the village Siem to meet 67 year old Living root bridge maker, Hali War. He said it takes about 70-80 years to make a root bridge.

In this rainy area, wooden & bamboo bridges never lasted for long as they would rot. So over time, the Khasis came up with the concept of living root bridges.

In Siem, there was earlier a wooden bridge. Someone planted the ficus elastic tree next to the wooden bridge approx. half a century back. When aerial roots started touching the ground, a then 15 year old Hali noticed it & started building the bridge.

As a child, Hali had always accompanied his grandfather on his trips & had learnt from him how a living root bridge is made.

Every year Hali has been tying young roots so that the bridge matures. As of now he has made 3 levels of the bridge. When it matures, it might be called the triple decker bridge.

Hali told us that some of the roots of the 2nd & 3rd level are still young & not yet good enough to take a crowd of people. He said it will take another 20-25 years to be fully strong & be open to the public.

The current bridge helped the villagers for a very long time. This was used for going from Siem village to the broom fields on the other side & also to carry the brooms for sale to another village called Mowlong. Both village benefit from this. The bridge was also the only way to go to a cremation & burial site.

Later using the MNREGA scheme, the government commissioned cement approach steps to the bridge.

Hali is teaching his son to take the tradition forward. The time & money invested over the years by Hali towards the bridge, is for joy of doing common good. For a living,
Hali weaves baskets of bamboo, does some farming & also some bee keeping.

He said ‘I Can’t climb trees to harvest betel nuts any more as I am ageing & so I am doing more work in the field on drip irrigation system & my son is doing the climbing job.’ Few minutes after saying this, he climbed the top branches of the tree to get fresh bay leaves for us!!! He said ‘Talking to you feels like a brother. So I want to get you the fresh bay leaves’.

15. Whistling village

We met the teenager Alfida Mary khongsit & her mother at their traditional house in the village. However, Alfida’s mother does not call her by that name. Instead she hums a tune & Alfida understands that it is her tune.

alfida & her mother

Alfida is the school name. For modern education all children now have a word name.

The whistle tune is called ‘Jingrwai iawbei’ in Khasi language. In tourist circles this village is called ‘whistling village’ but it’s actually not a whistle – it’s a tune.

As we reached the hut, we saw two ladies unloading bunches of broom grass. Later we got introduced to Alfida & her mother. Alfida is studying at Sohra College. He mother is into faming. Her father is a Khasi traditional medicine practitioner, a farmer of betel nuts & paan leaves & he has also built a living root bridge at a distance of 3 hours by foot from the village.

As we settled in their house, we heard some sound in the kitchen. We realized that Alfida’s mother was cooking a traditional Khasi food for us – fried sweet potato. We requested that we be let to sit in the kitchen & she welcomed us. We were thrilled to see the traditional Khasi kitchen at work.

When I was intrigued seeing a catapult in the kitchen, I was told that it is used hunting birds & also to chase away human enemy. The rubber use din the catapult seemed to be natural & I found out that Ribhoy district has factories that process the gum of ficus elastic tree sap.

The family also does home stays (booking contact +919863151513). This started when few years back the mother met two people in the village who had come from somewhere & could not find a place to stay as it was late. She invited them to stay. They loved the experience so much that they stayed back for 2 days. That was the beginning of home stay

Coming back to the whistling tune name, we got to know the following:
 Mother gives a tune name to the child
 The love for child & feeling for thankfulness to god gives rise to emotions & hence comes the tunes, like thoughts come to an artist like a song writer / writer / poet / painter
 If mother doesn’t have the idea of a tune, mother’s sister can also suggest a tune.
 Once a tune is assigned, a mother never calls the child by name, but always by tune. Each child has a different tune. Friends of the child also start calling the child by that tune.
 The child reciprocates by singing back the same tune to the mother.
 Children start to learn more about their tune from 3-4 months age onwards.
 Since all girls stay in the village after marriage (matrilineal society), the art stays back in the village. Else it might have faded away

We also heard this real incident at the village. Few years back, during the busy season of harvesting, (people don’t come back to village but stay in field), a lady was attacked by some outsiders. She climbed the top of tree & sang the name tune of a friend. The friend responded from other side of the mountain. The attackers did not understand this & thought reinforcements were coming. So they fled.

On another occasion a mother & child from the village went to shillong & they got separated in a crowded market. The mother started singing the tune loudly, the child heard it & came back to the mother.

16. Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji

The setting of the falls is beautiful – Lush green huge mountains & a narrow stream of water falling through the center. In rainy season this place transforms to a massive falls.

The view point area is very well planned & maintained.

17. Mawphlang sacred forest

At Mawphlang sacred forest, John showed us around. He has been selected for this job by the traditional Head of the region. Like Christians go to Church, Muslims to Mosque & Hindus go to temples to pray, Khasis go to pray at Priest’s home in general & on special occasions they go to the sacred forests.

There are many Sacred Forests in the area.

Since it is a Khasi sacred forest, the unwritten rule is that one can’t leave anything here & can’t take anything from here.

One can eat the fruit from forest only if the fruit has fallen. After the fruit is eaten, one has to leave the seeds in the forest. Plucking of any leaf or fruit is strictly prohibited.

Mawphlang forest is more than 800 years old. Just outside the forest is a very well maintained open field. The forest is 1800+ meter above sea levels. There are 450+ types of trees here. The forest is maintained by local villages – they charge a compulsory entry fee & then also accept donations from tourists. That makes it a Community forest. Government money not accepted.

John made our time very enjoyable. He told us about many plants that were there in the forest, the khasi traditions & also about different plants & how that Khasis used them for traditional medicines.

The overall trip made us feel that we had missed this beautiful part of our country & such a unique culture so far. We want to come back more & explore….

The general cleanliness of every village & availability of well maintained public toilets in villages is surely praiseworthy.

a random village road
a random village public washroom

Part 3 of 3 coming up soon

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