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  • Writer's pictureMeru Badyal

Meghalaya, rightly called the “Scotland of the East”

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Traveling is like a box full of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get! 🙂

An adventurer by heart, it was a tough call for me to leave my first job in 2012 and explore the unfriendly North East terrain. I never knew what I was going to get too!  

Sikkim is where the 15 days long trip started. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’m going to take you on a ride to Meghalaya, a must-visit paradise in India.

Popularly known as the “Scotland of the East”, Shillong, the capital city, looked like any other hill station –  hilly terrain, overcrowded, and chaotic. By the time I reached my hotel, I was exhausted by the journey in this unforgiving mountainous terrain. But my perception was about to be changed.

The Police Bazaar, a ride down the memory lane for my dad!

The essential vibe of this city can be captured at the Police Bazaar/ Square. That’s where we started. It was here that I began to see the city through the glasses my dad wore 40 years back. As a fresh graduate from a medical school, my dad stayed in the unexplored North Eastern region as a volunteer in a UNO mission in 1972 (anti-malaria program).


Dad in police square

It was pure delight, sauntering along with him on the streets where he wandered once, when he was of my age. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to watch a “nostalgic smile” on his face, a sudden shift from his usual stoic “Mona Lisaic expressions” – a term I coined for a set of geniuses like him who rarely smile, and if they do, it feels like a favor for the lesser beings like me ! 🙂 A decent chap that he is, I was astonished to see the clarity with which he remembered the bars and restaurants he frequented in the Police Bazaar.

Found women of substance: At my first attempt in street photography!

Oh yes! That’s what I’ll will always remember from the trip – the women of Shillong. Proud demeanour, looking straight ahead, clad in traditional Jainsem ( a traditional Khasi attire), these betel chewers are one-of-a-kind women.


I remember how dad always narrates stories of women in the North East, a region which follows matriarchal family structure, a stark distinction from the North Indian patriarchal traditions where I grew up. It is safe to say that a woman play a dominant role in the families and are many a times is the bread earner of the family.

From a higher perspective : Mesmerizing view from the Shillong Peak, U Lum Shyllong

The next place in the itinerary was the Shillong Peak. Called “U lum Shyllong”in the colloquial language, the peak offers a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque valley. At a distance of 10 kms from the main city, this is the very spot where I fell in love with the city. They’ve installed big telescopes here to view the valley through different angles.


Bird’s eye view of Shillong

Mawsynram – Cheerapunjee, India:  the wettest place on the planet

I’m a lazy person who wakes at 11 AM. Yet, when I travel I’m wide awake at 6AM, without an alarm. 🙂 Next day, starting at 7:30 AM sharp, we hit the road for a location that’s well-known around the world – Cheerapunjee, the wettest place on the planet.

One thing I noticed about the region is the terrain makes traveling a bit tough, not that at 29 years of age I should complain. 🙂 Moving on, it took a few kilometers for me to forget about the traveling woes. I must say, the 53 kilometers road from Shillong to Cheerapunjee was a sight to remember. The breathtaking scenery slowly transported me far away from the hubbub of the city.

It slowly started sinking in, the reason why Shillong is rightly called the “Scotland of the East”. 🙂


The East Khasi district

Noh ka ikai falls, located in the village Laitkynsew, Cherrapunji has a number of high waterfalls, & is the final destination in the area. The breathtaking scenery and the tranquil people move you into complete surrender. It gives me pure joy to witness both the timeless beauty of the mountains and the quietly working folks I saw and interacted with.


Mother-baby in Laitkynsew

A surprise in the itinerary – the village of Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village!

Though not planned in the itinerary, the village of Mawlynnong, declared as Asia’s cleanest village, came as a wonderful surprise on the next day. A good, tiring, if I may add 84 kms drive from the capital city, the village is simply gorgeous.

Located in the East Khasi hills district, the green & clean hamlet is popular for its cleanliness. And rightly so! Hats off to the one-of-its-kind community based ecotourism endeavor of the local people.

Sadly, due to the ongoing construction, we were not able to stay in the 80-feet high “machan”, the biggest tourist attraction in the village, but we did manage to click a number of priceless pictures of the village.


Machan, Mawlynnong village

The living root bridge: An example of man’s harmony with nature:

On the way out, we were told to visit another tourist destination, the“living root bridge”, located in the Riwai village, Meghalaya. One can witness the splendour and magnanimity of  nature in full display – the entwined roots of two large ficus tress entwined to create one-of-its-kind living root bridge, right above the pristine river.


The living root bridge

The bridge is a tourist’s hotspot, and is a perfect example of man’s harmony with nature. For it is gentle care of the locals that the bridge was able to flourish in the natural surroundings. Well, that marked the last spot we saw in Meghalaya.

There’s so much more to share, many more breathtaking pictures to share, if only I could. From someone who knew nothing about the far North East region, its beauty, its unchartered paths, I became someone who fell in love with the region. 🙂

It is my sincere hope, that more and more people will visit this region, and create opportunities for the locals, as the scope for tourism is mammoth here.

Copyright © [Meru]. All rights reserved.

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