Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Old Silk Route, Sikkim

There is a lot to explore in Sikkim than a few popular tourist destinations that are always spoken about. I recently did a road trip from Siliguri to Gangtok via Rongli and Zuluk that turned out to be one of my best road trips in India. Zigzag road snaking up the hill with a spectacular view of Kanchenjunga peak, beautiful waterfalls, serene mountain lakes, quaint monasteries and temples – I was amazed to see the beauty of this little state. This route is a part of the Old Silk Route. The great explorers in the ancient times had set up this silk route that connected Tibet to some important Indian towns for trading purpose. The route passed through Lhasa, Nathu La and Jelep La and through the port of Tamluk in West Bengal from where through the sea it reached Far East. Travelling on this route exposed me to the unmatched beauty of unexplored Sikkim.

The trail I followed is: Siliguri - Aritar – Zuluk - Nathang valley – Gangtok. Below are the points of interest on this route.

This whole circuit can be done in 8-10 days. Best time to explore this region is October - November and Feb – March. Since it passes from near the sensitive border areas, you need permit that can be obtained either from Gangtok or from Rongli.

#1. Zuluk Loops

Driving up the Zuluk loops

Driving on the old silk route from Rongli towards Nathula there is a beautifully located small village Zuluk. It was a transit point on the old silk route that connected Lhasa to Kalimpong and was in use even a few decades ago until the Chinese invaded Tibet. It was an overnight base for traders travelling to Tibet through Jelep-la. Now Nathula is the official corridor between India and China.
Located at an altitude of 10,100ft in lower Himalayas in east Sikkim, the village has a population of just around 700 people who are primarily the immigrants from Nepal who settled here in the hope of a better future. The main source of livelihood till recent times for these people was construction and maintenance of border roads, but now with the tourism boom along the silk route Sikkim circuit they are prospering. In addition to the mesmerising sunrise that can be witnessed from sunrise point (10,600ft), there is a Nag Temple at Lungthung (13000 ft.) which is the habitat of rare species of like Monal, Blood Pheasant, Snow Pheasant and The Great Red Panda.
August and September are good months to visit Zuluk for during these months the whole region is covered in wild flowers. Accommodation options at Zuluk are limited to a few home-stays.

#2. Rongli 
River Rangpo

Rongli is a quaint little town situated on the banks of river Rangpo in the Himalayan foot hills in East Sikkim. It is a beautiful drive of 4-5 hrs along the river Teesta from the New Jalpaiguri railway station or the Bagdogra airport. Lush greenery, smiling people and colorful flowers welcome you to this little heaven. Take a stroll along the river or the lush green hilly pathways, chat with locals over a cup of tea to get an insight into the life of people in the foothills of Himalayas, gorge on amazingly yummy momos in a small town market or just sit back and enjoy the nature. Rongli is the place to relax specially for city tired people. It’s the trade hub of the east Sikkim region and the market is worth a visit. At night, request your hotel people to arrange for a bonfire by the banks of Rongpo. Nothing can beat sitting by the river side listening to the thunderous sound of water and watching star studded sky. I had the best time sitting by the river side at night listening to local songs sung by our guide, Sunil. There are not many options to stay. It’s advisable to pre-book your stay here.

#3. Lampokhari 
Lampokhari, Aritar

My second visit to Sikkim was in April during Lampokhari tourism festival. It is held in Aritar during March end or early April around Ramnavmi. The main attractions of the festival are horse riding around the lake, traditional archery competition, flower shows and cultural evenings. Locals from surrounding villages visit the place during this time to participate in the festival. You can also enjoy local cuisine and shop for some amazing local stuff here.
Lampokhri is one of the oldest natural lakes of Sikkim located at an altitude of 4600 feet. The lake is 1120 feet long and 240 feet wide and is surrounded by dense pine forest. A path is constructed around the lake where you can take a walk. Boating can also be done here. To get the bird’s eye view of this beautiful emerald green lake, drive further to Mankhim also called Aritar view point and climb up to the temple. You can trek down from here till the lake through the forest. It’s a beautiful downhill walk of around 2kms through pines. Many rare birds can be spotted here during morning and evening hours and therefore this trail is very popular amongst the birders. There are many options to stay in Aritar from hotels to homestays.

#4. Aritar Gumpa 
Quaint Monastery in the middle of Pine Forest at Aritar

While we were strolling in the pine forest around Mankhim top, the sound of ringing bells and drum beats attracted us to the Gumpa. The main prayer hall was locked. We followed the sound that was coming from the first floor. It led us a to a small prayer room where 3 lamas were performing their evening prayers. The elder one could easily ignore our presence while 2 younger ones smiled at us and continued chanting. We spent some time there totally engrossed in the prayer hymns. In the outside room were some carved & painted murals, treasure of rare manuscripts and artifacts. It is worth a visit while visiting Aritar especially for the monastic art that is reflected in its traditional architecture and the artifacts. The monastery nestled in the dense pine forest is often missed by tourists on their visit to Aritar. The Gumpa lies at a small diversion on the left while on the way to Mankhim Top from Lampokhari on road. The monastery is of the Kagyuapa order and is considered as one of the holiest and oldest in Sikkim.

#5. Mankhim Dara 
Mankim Dara beautifully located on top of a hill with an amazing view of Lampokhri

A little ahead of Aritar Gompa is Mankhim Dara. It’s an uphill climb of around ten minutes from the parking. The walk takes you to the hilltop from where you get an amazing view of the lake Lampokhri and the panoramic view of the valley covered in forest. You can also trek up to Mankhim Dara from Lampokhri. It is a lovely trek of around an hour through pine forest.
On the hill top there’s a temple of Rai community. I was amazed to hear the singing from a modest Nepalese family staying in the temple. Their melodious voice along with simple instrument that looked like iktara created magic in the temple and the surroundings.
The Rai is one of Nepal's ancient ethno-linguistic groups who worship nature. Twice every year, usually in the months of April/ May, they assemble here for celebration of Sakewa puja. This puja is performed when the seeds sown by the tribes bloom and the wild-life start moving up to the high hills. The colorful dance called silli is performed in the temple premises as a part of celebration. The dance mimics the movements of birds and animals during their migration. After Sakewa Puja, the community is barred from playing musical instruments until after August/ September when they have performed the harvest festival, udhowli. At this time the birds and the animals return from the high hills to the low lands and puja is completed.

#6. Thambi Viewpoint 
Beautiful view of Mt Kanchenjunga from Thambi

While driving on the the loops of Zuluk and the view, all of sudden I found myself above the clouds. My driver, a local guy informs me we are at Thambi view point. To my surprise I could see the range of sparkling mountain ranges beyond the clouds that seemed to be at my eye level. This is the best vintage point on the silk route to view the whole range of Mt Kanchenjunga as well as the Zuluk loops. This was when I visited the region in November. The beauty of the place was altogether different when I visited it again in April. The whole valley was covered in snow and we had to drive cutting through the dense fog. Thambi again was a highlight of the trip for the excellent view it offers of the Zuluk loops and Mt Kanchajunga.
It is 14 kms from Zuluk towards Nathang valley located at an altitude of 11,200ft above sea level. It can be reached through the zig zag road known as bhulbhulaiya that has more than 30 hairpin bends. Visit Thambi view point early morning for the mesmerizing sunrise. You can do that by staying either at Zuluk (14kms) or at Nathang (10kms).

#7. Nathang Valley 
Gorgeous view from Nathang

A picturesque drive from Zuluk will bring you to this small valley. Located at an altitude of 13,500 feet, Nathang is the highest place to stay in the Indian part of the Old Silk Route. Nathang was the home to traditional yak herders who came from Tibet and now is the most remote Tibetan habitations in Himalayas. Once you go into the village and interact with locals you get to know the simplicity in living and thoughts of people here. Not noticing any hospital in the area, I asked a girl how they manage when they get ill. “We do not get ill like you city people who survive on bad food like chips and burgers” she replies. Life is tough no doubt in high Himalayas, but she was right - the pure air and the pure food keeps them going.
The best time to visit Nathang is Sept –Oct just after monsoons when the valley looks gorgeous and is covered in wild flowers and the migratory birds visit the valley just before the onset of winters. During winter months, November – mid April, it’s covered in more than 5ft snow, and is extremely cold. There are a few home-stays and guest houses that offer comfortable stay and homemade delicious meals. And do not miss on experiencing the sunrise from Eagle's nest bunker, just a 20min drive from Nathang

#8. Eagle's Nest Bunker 

It is an abandoned army bunker just 5 kilometres away from Nathang valley. Located on a strategic point at an altitude of 13700ft., it gives a 360 degree view of eastern Himalayas. You need to walk uphill for around 10 min to reach the bunker to get the view. Whole range of the Mt. Kanchenjunga and some other peaks of Tibetan plateau and China, western Bhutan, plains of Bengal and River Brahmaputra can be viewed from here. The best time of the day to visit is morning hours when the sun rises. It’s very tempting to just keep cuddling inside your blanket in the chilling cold of morning at Nathang but watching the sunrise over the Mt Kanchenjunga is an out-of-the-world experience that you should not miss for anything. The sun rises from the horizon over Tsangpo River (as Brahmaputra is called in China) illuminating the horizon and spreading its golden magic over region and the snow covered Kanchenjunga peaks.
If you are getting your trip planned through an operator, make sure they take you to this point. They might charge a nominal extra amount for this but it’s totally worth it.

#9. Old Baba Mandir 

The baba mandir is built in the memory of an Indian soldier, Major Harbhajan Singh, who died in 1967 at the age of 26yrs while posted at Nathu la pass. It is said that Harbhajan Singh lost his life while carrying supplies to some remote post during wartime when he slipped on the difficult terrain he was walking on. His body went missing and was found after one of his fellow soldiers dreamt about the whereabouts of the body. Later he has said to have helped the army also by warning in advance about the enemy attacks in dreams of fellow soldiers. A shrine was then built near the place where his body was found. It looks like a replica of the bunker the soldier lived in. Many of his personal belongings have been preserved in the shrine. Another shrine was built at a lower altitude for the convenience of the devotees and is called new baba mandir. Today army men from across regiments come here to visit the shrine and pay homage to the holy soul and he is treated as an active soldier. His family gets his salary and a seat is booked every year in train to his home town that goes empty. It is located near the site where his body was found and looks like a replica of the bunker the soldier lived in. Many of his personal belongings have been preserved in the shrine. Another shrine was built at a lower altitude for the convenience of the devotees and is called new baba mandir.

#10. Memencho Lake 

As you go further ahead on the silk route, around 25kms from Zuluk is this gorgeous lake embraced by the dense pine forest. It is situated at an altitude of 12,500ft and stays frozen from January to August. It can be viewed from the road side while on the way from Zuluk to Gangtok. A picturesque trek of 4 kms through pine forest and mountain stream takes you to the lake. This high altitude lake is fed by the glacial water and is the source of the river Rangpo chu, a tributary of the Teesta River. The lake is also known for its trout cultivation center. Fishing can be done in the lake with prior permission. Though the lake can be visited while staying at Zuluk or Nathang, I would recommend staying in the forest department dak Bungalow near the lake and experience staying in the heart of jungle that inhabits rare Himalayan birds, bears and fox. You can also spot some migratory birds around November. The banks of the lake are covered in white sand and the lake changes colours with the changing time of the day. No wonder it is considered to be the second most beautiful lake in Sikkim after Gurudongmar.

#11. Kupup Lake 

Little ahead of Nathang valley on the old silk route is Kupup Lake locally known as Hathipokhari owing to its shape like an elephant. This sparkling blue lake has crystal clear water that remains frozen from January to April. It can be visited any time of the year except July to Sept due to monsoons. From April to July the valley surrounding the lake covers with colourful flowers and looks mesmerizingly beautiful. October to December is very cold. A thin layer of ice covers the lake. Very near to the lake is “Yak golf course” a challenging 18 hole course managed by the Indian Army. It is located at an altitude of 13,025ft above sea level and is apparently world’s highest golf course. It was started in 1972 and was redesigned in 1979. During winters, Ice Hockey, Ice Skating and Skiing can be done at the golf course. To visit Kupup you need to stay either at Zuluk or at Nathang. The local drivers and tour agents have the tendency to just show you the lake and golf course from distance, but take some time to spend at the lake and observe little birds that visit the lake. I visited in April and got to meet a beautiful pair of the ruddy shelduck also known as the Brahminy duck.

#12. Tsangmo Lake 
The Sparkling Tsongmo                                          Pic downloaded from net

Tsangmo is a glacial lake situated at an altitude of around 12,400ft. It is located around 40kms from the capital city Gangtok. Tsongmo means source of the water in Bhutia language. It can be visited from either side - Gangtok or Zuluk. Tsomgo lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals and a visitors permit through a registered travel agency is required to visit the lake and Nathu La pass.
A picturesque drive on rough hilly terrain with mountain streams and waterfalls on the way takes you to this beautiful lake that is positioned in the rift between two peaks and has crystal clear water. A hike up the hill gives a better view of the lake. It is said that the lake changes colour every season. You can enjoy the yak ride and Tibetan food here apart from the natural beauty. The lake is associated with many legends and is considered sacred by the locals. It is believed that Buddhist monks could forecast the future by studying the colour of the water of the lake. The lake also holds special significance for the Jhakris who gather here annually from all over the state to offer prayers on Guru Purnima.
Read More »

Friday, June 15, 2018

MEGHALAYA - The land of Green Hills, Blue Lagoons and Gushing Waterfalls

When I close my eyes and think of my time in Meghalaya, I see myself sitting on a huge boulder looking at the sprawling hills covered in velvety green sheet; I see a milky white waterfall pouring down and disappearing somewhere in the gorgeous greens; I hear the sound gushing water stream while I sit and watch fireflies dance at night and I feel the soft kiss of the cool breeze flowing over me.

In this post I am not going to tell you about must-dos in Meghalayathat everyone talks about but will take you through the collection of unique experiences that I had on my incredible trip to Meghalaya.

Trekking down to Nongriat through amazing flora...

Trek to Nongriat
Walking down the concrete steps, that I was almost sure I will not be able to due to my back problem, all I could do was appreciate the beauty of nature. Variety of wild flowers and pines on the way made the walk incredibly beautiful. It was fun crossing the suspension bridge and a living root bridge on the way.
The trek starts at a small village Lumsohphie near Tyrna. You will get a shared taxi in Rs 40 from Cherrapunji to Tyrna. There are approximately 3500+ steps that you need to climb down to reach Nongriat. My suggestion is to start the trek in the morning and walk down at your own leisurely pace enjoying the surroundings. Stay overnight at a homestay in Nongriat.

Also read: Assam - The Land of Unique Culture

Experiencing the life around Living Root Bridges, Lagoons and Waterfalls...

Walk around the Living Root Bridge, Nongriat
Down there at Nongriat, life is magical. The moment I crossed the living root bridge I knew I have made the right decision to stay overnight here. I had booked a community run homestay nearest to the double-decker root bridge. Most of my time here was spent sitting on the boulders by the side of the stream dipping my feet in the water. This was like my living room.
Some of my most memorable moments include the quiet night walk in the woods while hearing the silence of the jungle; playing with fireflies at a small field that is probably used by the local kids as a cricket ground in the day; taking a dip in the natural pools of River Umshiang; walking enthusiastically from one end to the other and from one deck to the other on the Double Decker Root Bridge; early morning walk to the rainbow falls; and talking to the locals in the morning.

Stay 2 nights here to soak in the nature. The day here can be spent going for short trails around including the one till the rainbow fall.

Also read: Hidden Beauty of Himachal - Kinnaur

Water sports and Boat Ride on clear waters of Umngot River at Village Shnongpdeng...

Boating on Umangot at Shnongpdeng
Driving through the beautiful landscapes, we reached Dawki by evening. and it was night by the time we reached Shnongpdeng. We chose to stay in the camps here. Enjoyed chatting with other travelers at dinner by the banks of river. Morning boat ride on Umangot was the highlight. Sailing on the clear waters through out-of-world landscape was surreal. The only voice to be heard was that of our Chappu.
Shnongpdeng is a small village by the banks of river Umngot around 10kms farther form Dawki. If you like little adventure go for river side camping and indulge in sports like scuba diving, boating, kayaking, cliff jumping etc. Not just water sports you can also enjoy  angling, rock climbing and trekking. There are many big and small camps that have mushroomed recently, make sure you book a professional one with all facilities and a good location. If you want to experience village life there are a few homestays as well.

Also read: The Calm in the Chaos - VARANASI

Staying in a Bamboo hut at Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in Asia...

Bamboo Hut, Mawlynnong
The impression I had of the village Mawlynnong, supposedly the cleanest village in Asia, was that it will be full of tourists and will be very commercial with many shops around. I was there on a Sunday so as expected there was a lots of tourist crowd, but what amazed me was the efficiency with which the crowd was being handled. The parking was outside the village, there were public toilets just in the beginning that were very well maintained and there was a single community restaurant that was catering to all the inflow of hungry visitors. After having a delicious sumptuous meal served by enthusiastic local boys and girls I went out to explore the village. It was more like I was roaming around in a garden which was neatly lined with well constructed houses and there was a church in the heart of the village. Staying in a traditional bamboo hut here was an experience in itself. Warm host in our homestay here made our visit even more memorable.

Also read: Common Myths About Homestays

A memorable walk in the lanes of Saitsohpen, Lower Cherrapunji...

Cute Kids of Cherrapuniji
Another fond memory from the trip is the evening walk around the residential area of lower Cherrapunji. Small kids were playing around and ladies gossiping in the varandah while the round ball of fire bade us goodbye. The cleanliness was worth appreciating. There were dusbins all around the locality and I could not see even a single Though we didn't have a common language to interact, I felt connected to each one of them. The eye contact along with a warm smile did not make me realize I am on a land where no one understand my language.

Also read:Following the Old Silk Route, Sikkim

Picking tea leaves at tea-gardens in Shillong...

Tea leaf plucking at Shillong
During all the research I did before going to Meghalaya, not even once did I read about tea gardens in Shillong. While driving back from Shillong peak and going towards the elephant falls I saw a very well maintained tea gardens. Ladies were picking up the tea and there was a stall as well where we could buy local juices, pickles and tea. A small break there turned out be one of the best experiences of the trip. Initially the ladies picking tea were very shy and were not willing to get clicked, but after a while and a small conversation we had great time chatting and clicking with them.

Also read: In the shadow of Dhauladhars

A Visit to the local Bazar...

Bara Bazar, Shillong
The real feel of being in Meghalaya came when I was running around the bara bazar in Shillong with my local friend, who calls himself a 'morning star' as he is born very early in the morning. The narrow lanes decked beautifully with fruits and vegetables, spices, local snacks, fish and meat; lively people selling and buying stuff; the smiles and the gossips being shared - all of this was worth the effort.  Most interesting for me were the variety of fruits and green vegetables, some of them I have never even heard about. I was also amazed to see the variety of dried fish on the display.

Local Market, Cherrapunji
 Also read: Pushkar Holi - Festival of Colors in True Sense

Riding a local Taxi

Ride in local cab from Sohra to Tyrna
Riding jam packed small cars while chatting with locals, mostly moms and kids, is something I will always remember about Shillong and Cherrapunji. The best way to travel in budget in Meghalaya are these small black Maruti 800 cars that play locally. They usually cost between Rs 10 to 50 per person depending on the distance. You might find them overcrowded but believe me you must experience this. Its amazing to see how comfortably and big-heartedly more than 8 people fit in this small car and without any resistance. You can use them while doing local site seeing in Shillong and Cherrapunji. For long routes also like Shillong to Cherrapunji or Shillong to Dawki you get shared cabs.

Have you ever been to Meghalaya? How was your experience?

Connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.

Also Read:
Read More »

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Destinations You Must Visit This Summer

It's the time of the year we all are looking for options to spend a cool holiday with family and friends during summer vacations. Here are a few off-beat destinations you will love to be at.


Gift your family a holiday in the land of  pristine beauty. The breathtaking view of Mount Kanchendzonga, the quietness of sparkling lakes and the gurgling of rivers make North Sikkim a destination that no one should miss. The best time to visit are the months April and May when the rhododendrons are full in bloom at Lachung and in the Yumthang Valley.

Things to do: Visit Lachung Monastary, Lachung chu, involve yourself in local farming activities, go for a village walk or just sit with locals and chat.
Excursions nearby - Yumthang Valley, Chopta Valley,  Gurudongmar lake, Katao, Zero point

How to reach:
By Air. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra which is about 196 kms away.
By Train. The closest railway station is New Jalpaigulri which is around 190 kms.
On Road: You can take a cab from Gangtok (116kms)

Where to stay: There are many homestay options available in Lachung. Stay with locals to experience the traditional life and culture of Sikkim and also get enriched by the knowledge of the host.  Recommended stay:


Mukteshwar is a quaint little hill town in Nainital district of Uttarakhand. A kiss of crisp mountain air laden with the fragrance of oak and pines welcomes you to this sleepy hamlet. Stunning views of snow clad Himalayas, fruit orchards, mountain streams and waterfalls - it's dreamland you must visit with your loved ones.

Things to do: Visit Mukteshwar Dham Temple; Try adventure Sports like rock climbing and zip lining at Chauli ki Jali; Go on a nature trail to Bhalugaad falls; It is paradise for the bird watchers; Go on a village walk.
Excursions nearby: Do day trips to Nainital, Naukuchiatal, Bhimtal, Sattal and Almora

How to reach:
On Road: Mukteshwar is 350 kms from Delhi.
Route: Delhi – Gajraula - Moradabad - Rampur - Rudrapur - Haldwani - Bhowali – Mukteshwar.
By Air: Pantnagar is the nearest Airport and is 94kms from Mukteshwar. Cabs are available from here.
By Rail: Kathgodam is the nearest railway station and is 62kms from Mukteshwar. Cabs are easily available from here.

Where to stay: Stay in the midst of thick Oak forest in a farm stay and get a glimpse of traditional village life, try your hand at farming, participate in cow milking and adopt their organic way of life for a few days. Visit in the months of June July to taste garden fresh Peach, Plum, Apricot and Apple.


If you want your vacation to be adventure filled go to Pin Valley in Spiti. Pin Valley is the most picturesque valley in Spiti. It is formed by Pin River that runs throughout its length, before merging with Spiti River. 'Pin Valley National Park' which is the natural habitat of the Snow Leopard and Himalayan Ibex is located in Pin Valley. The valley is covered in carpets of green with mountains in the backdrop. Miles and miles of isolation, stunning vast landscapes and complete silence - that's what will welcome you to the Pin Valley.

Things to do:   
The prime attraction of Pin Valley is it's wildlife that includes Ibex, Bharal, Red Fox, Marten, Weasel, Pika, Snow Cock, Beareded Vulture, Chukor, Golden Eagle, Griffon, Himalayan Chough, Raven etc. It is also home to snow leopard.
You may go for various treks:
Mudh to Barshaini via Pin Parvati Pass. Duration: 1 week
Mudh to Kaphnoo via Bhaba Pass (4850m). Duration: 4 days
Sagnam to Laurang and back to Mudh. Duration: 4 days
Other attractions:
Spiti and Pin River Confluence, Kungri Monastery and small villages.
Stay in one of the villages to get the feel of the life in Himalayas. Have long conversations with simple village people, learn how to cook local delicacies or Chang - a local liquor made from Barley, or spend time with kids.

How to reach:
Since its a remote village in Himalayas there is no airport or railway station nearby. The only way to reach the valley is on road. It is 789kms from the capital city of Delhi and 558 kms from Chandigarh. Follow this trail: Delhi-Chandigarh-Shimla-Sangla-Nako-Pin Valley
You can do a trip exclusively to Pin valley and do some treks or you can visit Pin valley on your trip to Spiti.

Where to stay: Mudh is the last village in Pin Valley that is accessible by motor-able road. There are a couple of homestays in the village, this is the one with all amenities you can think of in the high altitude village -


Located on the banks of River Bias, Raison is a hidden around 12 km from Kullu on the way to Manali and is one of the top adventure destinations in Himachal that not many people know about.

What to do: There's a lot that can done while you are in Raison. Adventure activities include River Rafting, Trout Fishing, Mountain Biking, Paragliding and Trekking. You may also do fruit Plucking if you go during the harvest season - August/ Sept. If you are not an adventure person just enjoy chirping of the birds, blue skies, butterflies in the garden and relaxing in the lap of nature.
Excursions nearby: Visit Manali, Rohtang pass and Solang vally

How to reach:
On Road - Delhi 550 kms; Chandigarh 285 kms; Mandi 85 kms.
By Train - Chandigarh is the nearest railway station which is around 260 kms.
By Air - Bhuntar is the nearest airport which about 23 kms from Raison.

Where to stay: Consider staying in heritage home made in Himachali style of architecture just a few meters away from the River Bias for a perfect summer holiday -


Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya is tucked away in East Khasi Hills and is home to several waterfalls. It is also known as the Scotland of the East. It has the old world charm with beautiful houses having slanting roofs, large number of windows and wooden floors. The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and food habits of the population. Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than in the rest of India.

Things to do: Visit Don Bosco Museum, Ward’s Lake, Shillong Golf Course, Wankhar Entomology Museum, Anglican Church, Cathedral Catholic Church, Lady Hydari Park, Spread Eagle Falls, State Museum, Elephant falls and Shillpong peak to get the bird's eye view of the city. Go to Barra bazar to shop.
Excursions nearby - Trek to stunning Waterfalls and the Living Root Bridges, Visit Mawlynnong – Asia’s Cleanest Village, Trip to  Cherrapunji and visit Mowsmai caves and Dawki.

How to reach:
By Air. The nearest airport is the Umroi Airport near Barapani, which is about 25 kms away.
By Train. The closest railway station from Shillong is in Guwahati which is around 100 kms.
On Road: You can self drive or take a cab or bus from Guwahati to Shillong.

Where to stay: Have a relaxed time with your family in some quiet homestay. We recomend staying at It is located in the residential area of Shillong away from the city noise yet within 7 minute walking distance from the local market, convenience stores, cafes and restaurants.


Read More »

Friday, February 9, 2018

ASSAM - The Land of Unique Culture

I got introduced to the land of 'red rivers and blue hills' during my recent visit to Rongali tourism festival that was held from January 19 to 21 2018 at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati.
RONGALI means amalgamation of varied colors of Assam explained Shyamkanu Mahanta, the chief organizer of the festival. It was undoubtedly a perfect platform for all tribes to come together and display their culture and talent. The highlights of the festival were music and folk dance performances, Bhaona, local food stalls and fashion shows by talented designers of Assam. After experiencing a small slice of Assam at this festival I was excited to visit this beautiful land of tribal people.

Below are a few things that caught my attention during my exploration of Assam. The exclusive art of making homespun masks and of weaving gorgeous silk Mekhlas; the simple yet delicious healthy food; it's natural heritage of one-horned Rhinos and Assam tea; and the neo-vaisvanite culture and the tradition of satras - all these things are unique to Assam and cannot be experienced elsewhere in the whole world.


Assamese cuisine is known for its simplicity and is best represented by various tribes who dwell in this beautiful land. Rice is the staple food and sides are cooked with lot of herbs, green vegetables, fish and poultry most of which is produced at home. A general Assamese meal starts with khar. It is alkaline in nature and cleanses the palate. There are a variety of lentils and fishes cooked with herbs and green veg. Another main dish is meat that varies from chicken and duck to mutton and pigeon to pork depending on the which part of Assam you are at. You must try Bodo and Mishing thali.

Also read: Pangong Lake: Out-of-the-world Destination


A quick visit to Sualkuchi, situated on the north bank of the river Brahmaputra, will introduce you to the art of weaving silk. Beautiful mekhla chadar is something every women would love to have in her wardrobe. There are three major types of indigenous silks produced in Assam—golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri silk. Muga is known for its glossy fine texture and durability. This silk can be hand-washed with its luster increasing after every wash. Pat is usually brilliant white or off-white in colour while Eri silk is soft and warm and is primarily used to make shawls and quilts.

Also Read: A Day With Gaddi Family In Himachal


Assam witnessed a great movement of Vaishnavism under guru Sankardeva in the Middle Ages. The Satra were then established by the gurus where single minded vaisnavas resided. The satras consist of a large prayer hall facing a simple shrine, surrounded by dormitories for monks. And each satra specialize in certain craft and also acts as a cultural centre for its locality. Today, there are over five hundred satras and numerous vaisnava households are affiliated to one or the other Satra. Satras are treasure troves of cultural artifacts, manuscripts and antiques.

I visited a few sattras in Majuli and found them ultimately peaceful. The prayers echoing in the huge central halls; the display of ancient artifacts, old utensils, jewelry and handicrafts; the smiling bhakats all of this transported me to a different world all together.

Also Read: Reasons You Must Visit Pushkar


Maskmaking is a well known traditional craft of Majuli mainly practiced by Chamaguri sattra. Masks are made out of bamboo, cloth, clay and colors and are used for the religious dance drams mainly raas leela festival and bhaona.


A ferry from Nimatighat, Jorhat will take you to this river island formed due to course changes by River Brahmputra and its tributaries. It is supposedly the largest River island of the world. It is the hub of neo-Vaishnavite culture and spirituality, spread by 15th century social-reformer Sankardev. But it is disappearing fast. From the area of 1,200 square kilometres at the beginning of the 20th century now it just covers around 300 square kilometres. Studies predict that the island might disappear in another 20 yrs. So you must plan to visit Majuli before it disappears.

Also Read: In The Shadow of Dhauladhars


The visit to Assam is incomplete without having seen the pride of Assam - One horned Rhino. It is one of the rarest mammal in the world and Kaziranga National park has the world's largest population of them. Go on early morning safari to witness this majestic animal in its natural habitat.

Also Read: In the Wilderness of Dudhwa


Do try the strong Assam black tea while you are there and do not forget to buy some as you won't get this quality anywhere else in the world. It is known for its strong, bold, brisk, malty flavor. The state of Assam is the world's largest tea-growing region.


I was amazed to see the traditional mishing houses known as 'Chang Ghar' that are constructed on a raised platform. Floor, ceiling and walls are made of bamboo and have thatched top. They stand on four pillars to prevent flooding in the house during monsoon. High precipitation and moisture content both in the air and in the soil is another reason to design houses on stilts. The lower part of the house is used to rear animals. You will be welcomed by a warm smile and will be offered tea and sweets.

Also Read: How to Prepare Yourself for a Memorable Homestay Experience


Your journey to Assam will be incomplete without tasting home-brewed rice beer. It is traditionally prepared by fermenting rice and is a day to day drink for local people. It is prepared in every household of the tribe. Folklore says that people of the Mishing tribe came together to drink the ceremonial beer (Apong) to put an end to all their communal conflicts and restore peace and harmony. Apong is considered a cultural heritage of this indigenous tribe of Assam. There is another variety of beer called Xaj which is made of fermented rice and a mix of rare species of herbs. Xaj is the drink of the ‘Ahoms’. It is told in the folktales that a newborn is dipped in this beer to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the child. Guests are often welcomed with Xaj served in copper vessels.

Also Read: 5 Best Himalayan Road Trip Destinations

Have you ever been to Assam? How was your experience?

Connect with me on Instagram and Facebook.

Also Read:
Read More »