Edit Blog Post
Published: August 20th 2020
Me, an Indian, Keralite/Malayali, living in Mumbai as a True Mumbaikar for the last 37 years use to travel to so many places in India and some foreign countries, along with my life partner, (don’t get confused, my legally wedded wife of 32 years) and daughter.
Now, as my daughter is married and is in Bengaluru, along with her spouse, I & my partner have planned a trip for two of us, post my 60th
birthday and on our 32nd
Wedding Anniversary period, to India’s North East States, which we never visited. The trip was from 17-08-2019 to 24-08-2019.
I would like to narrate our experiences in a Diary Style. (This is my first blog, so there may be mistakes galore, hope the reader will excuse me. Not only my travel details, my comments about the thing I see, some of my personal thoughts, my view point in certain issues, etc. may come up in this writing. These are my personal thoughts, all readers are requested not to feel offended on something, you may write to me, good or bad, it may help to change my views.) 17-08-2019
We took an Air India flight in the morning
to Delhi with a proper breakfast in the full service airline and landed at Delhi at about 10.30 hrs. We have booked our one day stay at Delhi Ginger Hotel, owned by IRCTC and managed by the Tata’s Ginger Group of Hotels, very near to the New Delhi Railway Station (Ajmeri Gate side) and a stone’s throw distance from the New Delhi Metro Station Exit No. 3 or 4.
We purchased 2 Delhi Metro Cards at IGI Airport Metro Station for easy unhindered travel within Delhi. It is a pleasure to travel the Delhi Airport Metro with a very lesser number of passengers, but at a high financial burden on the operating company of the metro rail.
The Ginger IRCTC Yatri Niwas with its all self service facilities like a water filling station and ironing board at every floor, self & room service restaurant, an electric kettle in all rooms, etc. is a price worthy budget hotel, with a Tata Company style hospitality, which I enjoy.
Afternoon, we went to a relative's home at Indraprastha Extention (Patparganj) near Preet Vihar Metro Station using New Delhi- Rajiv Chowk- Mandi House- Preet Vihar (Yellow
& Blue Lines) Metro Route. 18-08-2019
Morning, even before breakfast, we went to visit the area of India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, etc. without the crowd. The advantage of early morning visits to the tourist places is lesser crowd and a peaceful time. We took an afternoon Air India Flight and landed at Guwahati at about 7.00 p.m. The Uber Trip to Hotel Raj Mahal, which is at a walking distance from the Guwahati Railway Station, was a ride through the dimly lit and a very little traffic road, of course, it is compared to the brightly lit and traffic jammed roads of Amchi Mumbai. Hotel Raj Mahal is a good hotel, but, in my opinion, a little overpriced. But, the location near to railway station is a big bonus, in a city where you have to haggle with auto rickshaw drivers for even short distances too. 19-08-2019
After a sumptuous complimentary breakfast from the hotel restaurant, we started for the sightseeing of Guwahati in whatever time left for our afternoon train to Arunachal Pradesh. Here, even for a minimum distance fare, auto rickshaws are demanding Rs.100/- to Rs.150/-. Rickshaws waiting outside the hotel are
not even ready for a little bargaining. It may be a truth that they may be getting very few passengers and they have to collect a minimum amount for their survival from the very few passengers. If they charge a reasonable amount, more number of passengers will use rickshaws and their income may increase. But who am I to teach them the basics of their trade?
Our first visit was to the Sukreswar Temple on M.G. Road, on the banks of the mighty Bhramaputra River. A very short walk from the river, there is an old structure named Brooks Gate or Gateway of Assam. Historical significance is that it is constructed to commemorate the landing of British Viceroy, Lord North Brook, into this location, after his steamer journey from the then capital of British India, Calcutta, on 27-08-1874.
There is a granite plaque detailing the history of it. There is also a granite plaque describing the details of the Battle of Saraighat, the 1667 attack of Mughals by the Ahom King, Swargadeo Chakraddhau Singha.
Our next on the visit list is the Umananda Temple in the Umananda Island. We took a city bus for the short distance to Kachari/Uzanbazar
Ghat. From here, there are boats from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to the island. Boat timings may be as per the passenger load. The boat journey takes about 15 minutes, as soon as we get down at the island, boat employees informed us the return time and we have to complete the visit of the temple and island within this time. We could do it easily. Other than the temple, there are some small eateries and a communication tower. This is only for a memory of a journey through the Mighty Bhramaputra. For me, it is always a thrill to even see a river, that also a flowing river (more thrill, if it is turbulent rapids), then what about my journey through the river!
After the visit to the island and taking some photos near the Umananda Ghat, we took an auto to the hotel. We requested the hotel staff to get a rickshaw to the railway station. It is little difficult to take the trolley baggage through the undulated foot path and road, even though it is a short walking distance. The hotel person brought a cycle rickshaw. We feel inhuman to travel in a cycle rickshaw,
but, it is the livelihood for so many people in so many cities and towns in India, except South and Western India. We boarded the 15.20 hrs. Shatabdi train to Naharlagun (333 km. & it takes 6 hrs.) at the peaceful Guwahati Station.
The journey through the plains of Assam is an enjoyable one. After some distance from the city, there are paddy fields and ponds. At some areas, Tea Plantations too. Here, the tea is planted in plains, where as in south India, we can see tea plantations only in the hills. The dinner served by the railway catering was good.
Most of the other passengers in the train are locals of Assam or Arunachal, Govt. employees etc. We just felt it. As we got down at Nahalagun Station, the terminus of the journey, it was after 9 p.m. Most of the travelers were just leaving the station without showing any ID Cards to the police personnel waiting at the exit gate. As soon as the police personnel noticed us they told us to stand aside.
That moment only I remembered about the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to Arunachal Pradesh, which
we have obtained prior to the journey, through the Arunachal Pradesh Government website. As soon as we showed the Inner Line Permits to the cordial police personnel, they permitted us to go ahead. Our prearranged cab driver was waiting at the station to take us to our hotel at Itanagar. The cab journey of 17km. to Itanagar took more than 1 hr. The road from the main station to the state capital is being widened and the work is in full swing. So, the long journey time. By the time we checked inn at the Cygnett Inn Trendz it was around 11.00 pm. 20-08-2019
The Cygnett Inn Trendz is the latest hotel opened in Itanagar and a latest one from the Cgnett Group, with all modern amenities. It is perfectly worth the money we pay, for the ambience and facilities. It is about 3 km. from the State Assembly & Secretariat Buildings, on the main road itself. The hotel employees are well dressed, soft spoken, cordial young people, 2 of them talked to us in our mother tongue, Malayalam. We were surprised to hear Malayalam from these Assamese persons, they told us that prior to this hotel, they
have worked in some Kerala Resorts and there they picked up the language. It is always good to learn as many languages as possible, even for a small talk.To win over some unknown person’s confidence, it is easier if you talk to them in their mother tongue, even if it is a few words.
It was our plan to do the sightseeing of Itanagar on today and go to Ziro tomorrow. As per cab driver Mr. Suresh, the road to Ziro is very bad and there is possibility of rains on tomorrow. So we have agreed to visit Ziro on today itself. As it is always better to return before 9 pm to hotel, we started to Ziro at 7 a.m., even without enjoying the complimentary breakfast of the hotel.
Even though there was no traffic, it took more than 1 hr. to pass the Naharlagun Station (it is on the way to Ziro). Due to rains in the night, the road condition had worsened. As per Suresh, we would have traveled in an SUV, but he also does not want to lose the one day trip. At some stretches of the 120 km. road, sometimes we
felt we will not be able to come out of the gigantic craters on the road. Our last memory of a trip like this was a jeep ride from Mookambika Temple to Kudachadri Hills in Udupi District of Karnataka.
After Nagarlagun, the road was almost empty; there were very few vehicles, neither light nor heavy vehicles. The green hills and valleys without any population is a great view and enjoyable for people living in Mumbai, like us. It took us nearly 2.5 hrs. to reach Potin, our breakfast point, approx. 60 km. from Itanagar. No eatables were available beyond the city limits of Itanagar. Actually, for people living in Mumbai, Itanagar City will be a small town. We had our breakfast of roti and subzi in Krishna Hotel. There are only 2 or 3 eateries at this place. Even though it was a simple way side restaurant, the food was tasty. It seems that the restaurant is run by people of west Bengal or Orissa. Here we could see local single ladies are also having their food at the restaurant. I have noticed, in most Indian small towns, ladies rarely visit a restaurant alone, so I felt this as
a progressive social difference in this place.
Our next stop was Sidheshwar Nath Temple (a Shiv Temple), about 10 km. to Ziro,a little diversion at Kardo. The road to the temple was so bad that we walked about a km. to reach the temple. It is claimed that the Shiv Ling here, is the tallest in the world (24 feet high). Other than the open Shiv Ling, there is no structure in the temple premises. the whole area is being developed by a south Indian construction company, at free of cost.
I have read about an idyllic location ‘Ziro Putu’ in old Ziro. We thought going there prior to Hari/Apatani Tribal Village. As the map shows Ziro Putu on the left side of the Ziro Air Strip (Advance Landing Ground of Indian army or Air Force, no commercial air-crafts land here), we enquired in a small medical shop and other nearby shops about Ziro Putu, before taking left on to the Ziro Putu. Nobody there were able to help us in locating Ziro Putu, then someone advised to go ahead and take left. We went as per that advice for about 3 km. and we reached the
Siikhe lake area, unknowingly.
Once we reached there, we came to know that this area was inaugurated on 21st January 2019, by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri. Pema Khandu, in the presence of the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Kiren Rijju . The lake area is being developed as a tourist complex. We may be the very few tourists who might have reached this place. There are tourists coming to the Apatani Tribal Village, but Ziro Putu & this lake may be rare. Otherwise, local people might have not sent us to this place as Ziro Putu. We will be happy, if anyone goes to these unexplored areas, after reading this article.
While returning, as the map was showing opposite to the Ziro Air Strip, we decided to explore the area on our own. After enquiring to some boys on the road, we could reach Ziro Putu. Even though they were wearing very big knives on their waists, they were very cordial towards us. We have seen some more people too with the big knives hanging from their waists, it may not be for any violence, but for cutting bamboo which is abundant
Ziro Putu is a small hillock, (not a Table Mountain, but a small Table hill) from where one can have a good view of Ziro Valley. This is where the office of the Sub-Divisional Officer is situated. There is a Home Stay, by the name, Ziro Putu.
Even though we were hungry, there was no proper restaurant to have lunch in the old Ziro. Anyhow, we decided to go to the main attraction in Ziro, Hari Apatani Tribal Village. There is a huge masonry arch with its name, at turning on the main road, so, nobody will miss it. On both sides of the road to the Apatani Village, only paddy fields can be seen for distances more than the eyesight. I thought about my childhood days in my native Kerala Village, beautiful paddy fields was a common sight in those days in Kerala, but nowadays, a rare sight limited to very few villages.
We could not see anybody on the road or in front of the many bamboo houses in the Apatani Village. Luckily, I could show one old tribal woman with their famous pierced nose ornament, to my wife. Our driver
told us that all villagers will be in the fields. The best thing we noticed that the whole area was so clean without any plastic or waste anywhere. We decided to return to Itanagar. Till Potin, where we had our breakfast, there was no eatery other than a resort, a few kilometers from the tribal village.
By the time we reached, Potin, it was about 4 p.m. However, we had a simple, but tasty, lunch at the same Krishna Hotel, where we had our breakfast. As we reached half distance towards Naharlagun, it started to rain heavily and suddenly the road became ponds all over. At that time, we really felt we should have taken an SUV. (Compared to any place in India, the cab rates are extremely high in Itanagar; that was also one reason for our smaller, hatch back car.) It was only due to our driver’s driving skill, we could traverse this treacherous road. By the time we reached our hotel, it was past 10.30 p.m. We were doubtful about the dinner availability, but the Cygnett Hotel Restaurant served us a nice dinner with an assurance that their restaurant closing time is 11.00 p.m. 21-08-2019
Today is for sightseeing of Itanagar. After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we started our trip leisurely at about 9 a.m.
All attractions in the town are within a 8-10 km. radius. Our first stop was a Centre for Buddhist Culture (popularly known as Buddha Temple), consecrated by his Holiness Dalai Lama in 1996. The Buddha Temple is a serene place where you can sit and do meditation or silent prayers. View of the hills and the town from the temple is also good. Arunachal State Museum is also nearby. There are so many north eastern exhibits in the museum; it may take about 1 to 2 hrs. to enjoy all exhibits, may vary, according to everyone’s special interests. The view of the city from the Buddha Temple & Museum Complex are superb. Just next to the old museum building, a new building has just completed, special exhibitions, etc. will start shortly.
Our next stop was to visit a close senior office colleague (who was transferred from Mumbai) of my life partner in the Doordarshan Kendra Complex of Itanagar. At his residence, we were served nice tea and biscuits by a well groomed
lady. When we enquired about her, he had told us that she is the housemaid and here most of the housemaids are well groomed with good facial makeup. We felt it as a contrast to the poor housemaids of Mumbai, most of them will never think of spending money on lipstick, etc. After all, social customs will differ from region to region and I am not an ideal person to comment on sociology. It is only my observation. After some chit chat with the homesick Senior Colleague, we headed for our next attraction, Itanagar Fort.
Itanagar Fort, which is very close to the Doordarshan Complex. There are only some brick walls as remnants of the 14th
century fort. But the place was serene, clean with good horticulture. We were the only visitors (not only at this place, most of the attractions in Itanagar, we were the only visitors, other than some locals getting some rest or time pass in the shade of trees). The fort area being on the top most area of Itanagar, we enjoyed the views.
Our next stop was Indira Gandhi Park. This is a vast clean park with well-maintained trees
and vegetation. As per the Google Map, there is a Science Centre & a Dinosaur Park in the same park premises itself. Even after enquiry with so many well-spoken locals, nobody knew about it. However, after a long walk from the entrance to the extreme end of the park, we could see a common gate for the Science Centre & Dinosaur Park.
Compared to the remote location of the State of Arunachal Pradesh, the Dinosaur Park is a very good one with proper information plaques of different types of dinosaurs and life like models of dinosaurs. Children will definitely enjoy this place. The entrance to the Science Centre is dotted with busts of prominent Indian personalities from the field of science and technology. The Science Centre, even though small, is well maintained. I hope both of these places are enjoyed by the children from the north east states. For people from Mumbai, these places may be insignificant, but any Mumbaikars will enjoy the serenity of these places.
As it was nearing lunch time, we thought of having lunch. As we enquired with our cab driver Suresh about a decent place for the lunch, his reply
surprised us. The one and only decent place to have food in the whole of Itanagar (of course, other than the restaurants attached with good hotels) is Malabar Family Restaurant & Catering, managed by people from the Patthanamthitta District, South Kerala. Food was good, as I talked to the cash counter staff, they were happy to see a Mumbai Malayali Family. It was a pleasure for us too.
After lunch, even though we thought of taking some rest in our hotel on the way to our next stop, Itanagar Biological Park (Zoo), as we may reach beyond the closing times of other attractions; we decided against it and continued with our trip. The closing time of most of the tourist interest places in Itanagar is 5 p.m. The zoo is large with well-maintained roads, vegetation, animal enclosures, etc. As we were not having much time left, we just walked around, seen some Pandas, Lepord Cat and some small animals, didn’t go to see bigger animals. Our last stop of the day was Ganga Lake (Gyakar Sinyk), which is on top of a hill, where we have to park the car at the entrance and go to lake by climbing
several steps. As usual, there were only 2 other local couples in the whole area, there is a walkway all around the serene lake with tall trees all around. After having a light chit chat with the locals and taking some photos, we returned to our hotel.
Today being our 31st
Wedding Anniversary Day, we opted for a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. For company, we invited my wife’s senior colleague from Mumbai. Along with him we enjoyed our dinner, of course, without any spirits, me and my wife being teetotalers. As we have to take into consideration of our 6.30 a.m. Naharlagun-Guwahati Shatabdi Express, we slept at the earliest possible. 22-08-2019
Even though it is only 17 k.m. to Naharlagun Station, as we were worried about the road condition, we left the hotel around 4.30 a.m. & we reached the station around 6.00 a.m. As it rained during the night the road condition was still worse. The morning train journey towards Guwahati was a refreshing one with freshly cleaned bogies and a nice breakfast from IRCTC. In the train compartment, we heard 2-3 people speaking in Malayalam, so I just had a view
words with them. They are Arunachal State Employees, working as Personal Secretaries to IAS Officers/ State Ministers. The surprising information was that most of the older secretaries to IAS Officers in Arunachal Pradesh are from Kerala. They joined the State Govt. service in the late eighties or early nineties as stenographers and continue to work and live here. But the sorry part is that they can’t own any land or house in the state, even though they are living there for more than 30 years. The only consolation is that, some years back, their official quarters have been made rent free. They were surprised to see a Malayali family visiting Arunachal Pradesh as tourists.
After reaching Mumbai, I met one Malayali in my neighborhood. While having small talk with him, I came to know that he retired from Maharashtra Govt. Service as Personal Secretary to IAS Officers/State Ministers. When I discussed about my Itanagar train journey talk to him, he says that the most of the stenographers joined in the eighties in the Maharashtra Govt. service also were from Kerala. As per him, that was the norm not only in Maharashtra or Arunachal Pradesh, but in so
many Indian States. The proficiency of stenography was a job opportunity at those times.
As we got down at Guwahati Station, we got a call from our cab driver, Mr. Tiwari, saying that he will be a little late due to traffic. The cab was pre-arranged through a big travel company in Shillong. As we waited outside the station, waiting for the cab, so many travel brokers have come to us asking us whether we require any help in getting hotel accommodation or transport. This is the trouble of waiting outside a railway station, airport or bus stand in any city or town in India. Sometimes it becomes troublesome to shoo away certain pestering travel brokers. However, it is their livelihood and we have to accept this pestering as a way of life and try to be polite with them.
Our cab driver came with usual complaint of traffic blocks and apologies for coming little late. It is about a 100 k. m. to our hotel in Shillong and it may take about 2 hrs. 30 minutes of journey. The road is so picturesque with all around green, so many curves and turns, sometimes we feel we
are passing through our home state of Kerala, except that after Dispur, the Capital Town of Meghalaya, there is only vegetation to be seen, no population at all. Other difference on Kerala Roads is, more than greenery, palatial houses are more prominent. Some distance after Dispur, one side of the road is Assam and the other side is Meghalaya. We are experiencing this type of a state border for the first time. Our driver says, the people from Assam just cross over to the other side of the road to Meghalaya to purchase cheap liquor. As it was nearing lunch time we requested our driver to have a lunch break. As per him, after Dispur, the famous lunch stop is at Jiva Veg, Nongpoh, about 45 k. m. from Guwahati.
Our driver’s option was a good one, the restaurant Jiva Veg, was clean, all type of Indian Food including some continental items (may be with a local flavor) were there on the menu. The toilet of the restaurant was something like an airport toilet with a unique sign board. The sign board says, ‘He Toilet’ is on the left and ‘She Toilet’ is on the right, because, “She is
always right”. Husbands all over the world will agree to the fact of life that “She is always right”.
The food was good, reasonably priced for the ambience, only service was a little late, may be due to the customer load v/s staff strength. After the customary loo visit, we were on the road again. During road travels, to get a clean toilet is a big pleasure.
Our first stop was Umiam Lake, about 15 km. to Shillong. The lakes and its surroundings are kept clean (sorry, observing cleanliness has become an obsession with me, primarily may be due to our Prime Minister’s insistent requests to keep the country clean), good tree coverage, etc. as usual, here also we could see a very few visitors. Those visitors also went for a boating trip; we went for a coffee in the calm cafeteria and were on the road again. Just before boarding the cab, I noticed a Big Citrus Fruit bearing tree, may be a lime or a lemon, I am unable to differentiate between Lime & Lemon. (Some of those who see the photo of the tree in this article may be able to say whether it is
a lime or lemon.)
On the way to our hotel, there is an attraction, Don Bosco Museum, at Mawlai Phudmuri. The Don Bosco Museum is situated in the same campus of Sacred Heart Theological College (established in 1938) and consists of 6-7 floors of north eastern exhibits of land, agriculture, history, developments, etc. The attendants of the museum are mostly from the ‘laity’, non-ordained members of the religious institutes. As there was no rush in the museum, we spoke to some nuns, presuming to be Malayali Nuns, (you may meet a Malayali nun or nurse, anywhere in the world) but they turned out to be from Vasai, near Mumbai. They were happy to meet us and exchanged Mumbai Pleasantries and told us that there are Malayali nuns too in the museum, but not at present duty time.
The terrace of the museum is having an enclosed walkway, by which we can have an aerial view of Shillong. By the time we reached the terrace, it was raining heavily with lightening and thunder; the nuns helped us with umbrellas, so we had a wet aerial view of Shillong. We decided, now we should reach our hotel at the earliest.
By the time we reached the hotel, ‘Tripura Castle’, it was pleasant weather without any rain. Tripura Castle is a heritage hotel with its old world charm; spread over 9 acres of greenery, a little away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The history of Tripura Castle is that The King of Tripura has come to Shillong in about 1920, he liked the place so much and he made a residence here. Even though it is named a castle, it can’t be compared to any European Castles. As per the hotel web site, the merger agreement in 1949 between the Government of India and the Independent State of Tripura was held here.
When I think about hustle and bustle of a city, I feel the whole of Meghalaya do not have any traffic horn noise. Here, nobody overtakes in road traffic, nobody blows the horn. We were surprised to see that even bikers do not overtake and patiently wait for the vehicle in the front to move. This we noticed in the traffic from Guwahati to Shillong itself. Our cab driver is a native of Bihar, so, we asked him how he has become so patient,
the reply was that living in Meghalaya for the last 20 years, made him a patient and law abiding driver. I told him, all the drivers from all other states are to be brought here and shown the benefits of decent driving. Once, we were behind a slow moving sand laden truck for a long time, we asked our driver to overtake. Very reluctantly, he lightly used his horns, immediately; the sand laden truck has taken to the side and given us way. We felt sorry for making the driver to do an improper act and told him sorry and never told our driver to overtake.
Before becoming dark, we thought of exploring the hotel premises and went for a walk to see The Heritage Club and other wings of the hotel. It was a pleasant walk, took some photos and after having a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant we went to bed. 23-08-2019
Getting up in a Castle Room and having morning black coffee, prepared in the hotel kettle, has its own pleasure. Watching the greenery and little birds in the morning sunlight through the window glasses of the room is refreshing. But the sad
part is the awakening of the life partner from her deep slumber and prompts to be quick in getting ready for the day.
After having a nice complimentary buffet breakfast (consisting of Continental, South Indian & Gujarati items) we set off for the day’s trip at about 9.30 a.m. After passing through the silent traffic blocks of Shillong Town, it was a pleasant journey through the scant traffic. Our journey of about 85 km. from Shillong to Dawki-Tamabil (India-Bangladesh border) is on the AH1, Asia Highway No. 1, approx. 20,500 km. from Japan to Turkey-Bulgaria border. There is nothing special about this AH1; it is a regular Indian Double Carriageway Highway, even without dividers in most parts.
stop was Elephant Falls. It is a 3 layer waterfall, for its beauty, one has to go to the lowest level, down through so many steps; it is easy for an average person. On 28-05-2016, Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi, after visiting this water falls has had tweeted - "Scenic Elephant Falls .... when you go to Meghalaya, this has to be your 'Must Visit' list. There is a photograph of Mr. Modi standing in front of the lower
most falls, on display at the premises. After enjoying the beauty of the falls, we took some photos in the Khasi Tribe dresses.
Our next stop was a view point abutting the picturesque highway, Mawjngh Lapynshongdor View point (anyone for its correct pronunciation?). Most of the vehicles stop here to have a view of the valley below. There is an entry ticket to the view point. As it was fully cloudy, we didn’t get any view. It was only a stretching of legs and a break in the journey.
As on the way to our next attraction, we noticed a broken down Tata Nano car on the road with a family of a mother and 2 teenage children, on a deserted stretch of the road. I told our driver to stop the vehicle and asked the family, whether they require any help. They were a Bengali family, a mother and two teenage children, who had come from some town in Arunachal Pradesh and the father could not accompany them in the trip to Dawki. Our driver tried his level best to restart their car in coordination with their aged driver of their car. After some 15-20 minutes, their
car started, as per our driver, the problem was with the inexperienced aged driver keeping leg on the clutch continuously. I don’t know driving, but I have noticed caution advice boards to drivers of State Transport Buses to keep foot away from the clutch. We were wondering about the courage of the lady traveling with a battered car, an aged driver & teenage children. But at the same time we thought of single lady backpackers traveling all around the world. Degree of courage and desire for travel varies from person to person. Over and above, it is very safe to travel in Meghalaya with its peace loving, tourist friendly locals and good roads.
With bye, bye to the family, we were once again on the road for our next attraction, the Living Root Bridge across the Thyllong River at Nohwet Village. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Meghalaya, very unique, anywhere in the world. The Root Bridge is constructed by intertwining of the roots of Indian Rubber Trees (Ficus Elastica) planted on both sided of the river.
As per the granite plaque erected near the root bridge to commemorate the visit of Her Royal Princess
Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, in the year 2016, the rubber trees were planted in the year 1840. The bridge is about 30 m. long, it always manned by the village committee which collects the entry fee. After alighting from the car, we have to walk down for about 5-10 minutes through a concreted pathway through a clean village consisting of small houses having flower gardens in front of most houses. After crossing the bridge, we can go down to the river and a small water fall with gurgling waters. After viewing the construction details of the root bridge through our engineers’ point of view (incidentally, both of us are Civil Engineers) and enjoying the cool waters of the river, we returned to our car.
After having a Fish Thali Lunch in the only Restaurant (the quality of the lunch was so-so, but we could not expect a good quality restaurant in a remote place like this) in the parking lot of Living Root Bridge area, we headed to the nearby Mawlynnong Village, claimed to be the cleanest village in India or Asia. It is no doubt, it is a cleanest village with good roads,
clean houses with small flower gardens, etc. There is a hut on a tree top on a private property which you can enter by paying a nominal fee. The vast and wide paddy fields of Bangladesh can be seen from this tree top hut. A “Church of Epiphany” which was founded in 1902 is also there in the village. After parking the car in the parking lot, we spent about half an hour roaming the village enjoying the tree top hut, Church view, clean village homes, etc. Here also we could not see any local people. The locals may be enjoying their afternoon siesta.
To reach this Mawlynnog village, one has to take a diversion of about 18 km. from the AH1. From the diversion point, Pongtung Junction, it is about 21 km. to reach the Dawki/Tamabil (India-Bangladesh Border), on the AH1. As we have to go about 40 km. to the border, we didn’t spend much time in the village. We were in need of afternoon tea, but no shops are seen in the whole road, even on the AH1. However, some distance before the Dawki River Boating Point, we got tea in a road side
The AH1 is good road with little traffic, other than some dumper trucks carrying rubble to Bangladesh. Even before reaching Dawki River Boating Area, there were so many people on the road blocking the tourist vehicle offering their boating services. Actually, we felt it as a little troublesome, but our driver managed to evade them by sweet talking and saying that we are not interested in boat riding. After parking the car on the road, we descended to the river bed and taken the fixed rate ticket from the ticket booth. If our driver was not knowing about the ticket booth, we would have been at the mercy of people offering the services (in cities we call them as touts, but in this remote place, I feel it is not right to use the word touts on these people). It is the same at all over the tourist places in India. That is why some tourists from the Western World say that they will never come back to India. But at the same time even with all these minor irritants, there are lakhs of Westerners who enjoy even the interior parts of India. It is all
the mindset of each individual.
The Dawki River is famous for its sparkling waters. The water is so clean; we can see pebbles at the bottom of the river clearly, even at deeper depths of the river. After taking the ticket, we were directed to the next row boat in the queue waiting for the passengers. After donning life jackets, we set out the boat journey of about 45 minutes. All the boats here are row boats and our oarsman was a nice chap with nice manners. We could see so many anglers of all ages from young kids to very old people fishing in the river. Most of them were with some good catch. The view of the Dawki Bridge from the river is fantastic. The high rocks on the banks of the river with water dripping into the river, the vegetation, etc. are mesmeric.
After getting out from the boat, I wanted to greet the huge crowd of people from the Bangladesh, (there were very few tourists from India on the river bed) on a 1 minute walking distance from the boating point, on the river bed. But there is a BSF
Sentry in a Security Cabin on the higher banks of the river who is taking a strict stance that no one will cross over the unmarked international border line on the river bed. Even before somebody reaches the border line, the sentry will blow his whistle and gesticulate to move away. As I wanted to make a little sweet talk to someone from Bangladesh, I gave a salute the BSF Jawan in the cabin and asked for his permission to cross over for 1 minute, by polite gestures. My requesting actions might have made him a little soft at heart and he has given permission for 1 minute, by gesture itself. It may be also that there were no Indians at that point of time and it will be easier for him to observe for any transgression.
It was a cordial moment to greet a huge number of people from our neighboring country at a close proximity in this river bed. (I remembered my 7th
Standard School Time of 1971, when we had had taken out several School Morchas (demonstrations) in support of the Indian army, shouting slogans against West Pakistan President Yahya Khan and in support
of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Even after a lapse of 49 years, I could remember those events through new papers at that time of 1971. It was the spirit of the 1971 India Pakistan War, and without Indian support, there would not have been a Bangladesh.)
After having a tea at the makeshift tea shop on the river banks, we headed towards the border of India & Bangladesh. As the area was so crowded with so many dumper trucks carrying rubble to Bangladesh, we parked the car at a distance and walked through the din and bin of truck filled road. We really got surprised by the huge number of dumper trucks going to Bangladesh carrying rubble, when we returned; we could see a long line of these trucks for some kilometers of road. There is an Immigration Office near the border, but, we could not see any citizens near that office, waiting for Immigration.
It was altogether a different scenario at Dawki-tamabil, compared to the hostile border of India-Pakistan at Wagah near Amritsar. Here, everything is peaceful and there are only very few security personnel at both the sides. Other than us,
Border Security Personnel and the trucks, there were only some 3-4 boys at the borderline. There is an arch shape India-Bangladesh Friendship Gate of India & Welcome Gate of Bangladesh, with about a 50m. distance between them. Usually, the Border Security Personnel do not permit any tourists to go beyond the border gate. We requested them to permit us a few steps beyond the gate as a token of memory and they permitted us with a strict warning of 3 minutes duration of stay beyond the gate. It was a photo opportunity; we clicked some photos, thanked the BSF Personnel and walked towards our car through the choke a block of rubble laden trucks.
It was getting dark by the time we crossed the beautiful Dawki Bridge. The road was deserted, we thought of having some tea somewhere. As we traveled for about an hour, we could see a small wayside restaurant, it was welcome break to have a tea after a journey through the deserted road. As we have to return to Mumbai through Guwahati on the next day, as soon as we reached the hotel, we had our dinner and slept. 24-08-2019
As our flight from Guwahati to Delhi is at about 4 p.m., we thought of visiting the Shillong/Laitkor Peak in the morning, after checkout from hotel and going directly to airport from the Shillong Peak. The Laitkor Peak is situated at about 10 km. from the city, inside an Air Force Station; the visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and all visitors have to get down from the vehicle and hand over the Aadhar Card (Photo ID Card with Address, issued by the government) or Passport to the Air Force Security Personnel, it will be returned only on our exit. Foreign Nationals are not permitted inside the Air Force Station. There is no entry fee too. But the Security Process will take some time, especially during peak hours and tourist season. Even though we reached about 9.30 a.m., there was a queue of about 5-6 vehicles.
The security personnel were cordial and we could enter the premises within a time of about 20-30 minutes. The view point is situated about a km. from the entry gate; the vehicle can be taken to the parking lot of the view point area. It
is the highest point in Shillong and we get a panoramic view of the Shillong and nearby areas. After spending some time over there we started our journey of about 130 km. towards the airport. On the road, we could see stalls selling Pineapple (state fruit of Meghalaya) and Jack Fruit, the fruits available in plenty in Kerala, too. We also bought some pineapple and had our lunch at the same Jiva Veg. Restaurant, where we had lunch, 2 days back.
The Air India Flights from Guwahati to Delhi & from Delhi to Mumbai (23.00 hrs. departure) was uneventful and we reached our sweet home at about 4 in the morning. On reaching home, as it is widely believed, we also felt the best part of the journey was reaching home. Still, memories of the journey remain forever.
(Note: - I missed to add some photos of Itanagar tourist attractions, which I added at the end of photos)
Tot: 2.816s; Tpl: 0.045s; cc: 9; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0252s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb