Meghalaya – the name means the abode of clouds. There was not a moment when we did not see a cloud in the sky and this was not even the rainy season. It is the most organized state in NE when it comes to tourism. The brochures are available almost everywhere. Taxi drivers are used to tourists and so are the people. On my first day in Shillong, I just roamed around the small hill city and saw some of its popular tourist points.
Places to visit in Shillong – Tourist Attractions
Don Bosco Museum
Don Bosco Museum in the city is something that I would recommend to everyone who visits the hill town. It is a fairly new museum inaugurated only in 2010. This is the best-managed museum that I have seen around the country. The displays are well designed, the lighting is proper and synchronized with the movement of the visitors, so that neither the electricity is wasted nor the artifacts have to face the constant light. There are touch-screen kiosks in every gallery work and give quite a bit of information on the subject and the displays.
Galleries in the Museum – Showcasing the Tribes of North East India
There are about 17 galleries in the museum focusing on the various tribes of North East India. Someone guides you through the main hall as you enter the museum towards the galleries that are spread across many floors half of which are below the ground level. In the end, you can shop in the museum shop. Though I could pick up some interesting books from here, I think they can do better merchandise. If they get the price right it can be a good revenue churner for them.
From the main door of the museum as you walk through a long corridor to the reception; on both sides there are life-size models of men and women from various tribes of NE India in their traditional garb as if greeting you. There are galleries like pre-history, land and people, fishing, hunting-gathering, agricultural practices, traditional technology, musical instruments, garments, traditional crafts, weapons, religions, culture, Jewelry, costumes, fabrics, and art gallery.
Gallery of Musical Instruments and Art & Crafts
I particularly enjoyed the musical instruments and art and craft gallery. Though each gallery was well stocked and well presented. Almost everything of daily use, musical instruments, fishing, and hunting instruments made of bamboo and cane is quite interesting to see. In some places, the paintings and the artifacts have been merged to produce the perfect impact for the visitors. For example, a warrior painted on the wall holding an actual weapon, or a clay model in the war costume of his tribe stringing the bow.
Jewelry made of silver and animal bones was another attraction for me. The wide variety of jewelry and the distinct identity of each tribe through them are worth studying. Tattoos, weaving patterns for fabrics, and pottery designs have been explained through sketches.
Skywalk at Don Bosco Museum, Shillong
The roof of the Don Bosco Museum has been designed as a skywalk. From here you can have a 360 deg view of the city and its surrounding hills. The colors just complement each other; the blue sky, lush green trees, colorful houses, and yellow roof of the building. There is an auditorium where they play a very interesting video on North Eastern states with a song telling all that you can look out for while you are there. I liked the video and its spirit. Also, there was an exclusive video showcasing the dance forms of all 8 northeastern states of the region.
Ward’s Lake, Shillong
We were very happy when we discovered that our hotel is located next to Ward’s Lake. The lake looked beautiful in the evening. The first thing we did the next morning was to walk up to the lake with all good intentions of walking on its well-laid-out paths and around the various lotus and lily ponds that it has. We were stopped at the gate and told that visitors can only come after 9 AM. Till then it is exclusively for local people who come here for regular morning walks and most of them are senior Govt and Army officers.
We were disappointed. But then I think I kind of agree with the point that these kinds of places should belong to locals first and then to the visitors. We did visit this lake surrounded by landscaped gardens with a terrain that takes you up and down all the times the next day. A perfect place in the heart of the city to take a walk at an easy pace. Enjoy the various flower beds in and around the lake. Maybe do a bit of boating and walk on the wooden bridge across the lake. The atmosphere is such that your pace would slow down and you enjoy the wonder of nature.
Shillong Peak – the highest point
This peak is the highest point in this place. Located about 10 km’s from the main city on a hilltop. You get a panoramic view of the city through a veil of clouds. Most Indian hill stations have a point like this with a watchtower from where you can click pictures that cannot go wrong. The difference here is that this being Meghalaya, clouds will always be playing around you. One may have to wait while the clouds clear the view for you or rather while they constantly create new views for you.
The Elephant Falls is a small detour on way to the city’s peak or the highest point atop a hill. The British discovered these multi-storied falls. It is said that when they were discovered, the rock on which these falls fell was like an elephant’s back. Hence they named it so. The rock was broken during an earthquake but the name remains. The rock behind the falls here is black and the whitewater stands in contrast to this. The sound of the waterfalls can be heard from quite some distance. But you do not see it until you are right in front of the falls. The steps will take you some 150-200 ft down at the base of the falls, with stops at each of the multiple stories. It is easy to walk down the stairs. Remember you have to climb up as well to get back.
The day we went there were a lot of people at the falls. So there was no reason to feel scared. But if you are alone that place can be a bit scary.
Khasi Tribe & costume
This city falls in the East Khasi Hills district. It is home to the Khasi tribe. At both Shillong Peak and Elephant Falls, you can get yourself dressed in the Khasi costume and get your pictures clicked. The yellow and red costume with a round cylindrical crown on your head adorned with plastic flowers and exquisite silver jewelry makes quite an amusing picture. Yes, I did get a picture of mine clicked in that costume.
Other tourist attractions
Hydari Park & Zoo is again something that you find at most hill stations, a park with a little zoo. Good for a stroll if you are staying for some time in this place. There were a couple of other interesting things like the Entomology Museum and the state museum. And the library that I wanted to visit if the Taxi drivers were a little more flexible. They have a certain number of tourist points in the city that they would take you to. For other things, they would say they have never heard of those places. And no one goes there so why do you want to go? I failed to convince him and others of his tribe. Thus missed a few things here and there.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog posts on North-East India.