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Shillong: Scotland of the East

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, who visited Shillong way back in 1919, was mesmerised by the ‘aka baka poth’ or the meandering roads through the striking green pine forests.

Arundhati Banerjee
Wed, Aug 21 2013

Content Photos: Rahulsankar Chatterjee, Shillong.

About Arundhati

A vagabond at heart, love of travel has taken me places and made me a wiser soul with an open mind to learn and respect the people and cultures that I have encountered along the way.
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During the Indian summer, it is a norm since British times to escape to the hills to beat the heat and the dust. At a comfortable driving distance of 100 kilometres from Guwahati, sits the alluring town of Shillong. The state capital of Meghalaya, Shillong is regarded as the ‘Scotland of the East’ for its idyllic beauty and rolling, green, scenic topography. Developed from a small village to the much sought-after British summer resort, the colonial past of this bustling city is preserved in its many Victorian structures which rub shoulders with the newer buildings with ease. Clouds and mist lend a mysterious welcome hand in this ‘abode of the clouds’ state.

 Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, who visited Shillong way back in 1919, was mesmerised by the ‘aka baka poth’ or the meandering roads through the striking green pine forests. The refreshing greenery after a rain shower, clean pure mountain air, the sweet smell of the pine jungle and the misty cloud-covered winding mountain paths left a deep imprint in his heart. In his masterpiece, ‘Shesher Kobita’, he described such surroundings. Written in 1923, the poem ‘Shillonger Chitthi’ captures Shillong’s natural beauty and is his tribute to his fondness for Shillong. This settlement has changed since Tagore’s times but even today walking around this picturesque city can be a soothing experience.

 Shillong is packed with sightseeing activities. Armed with picnic baskets, a visit to any of the numerous waterfalls like Elephant Falls, Spread Eagle Falls, Beadon Falls, Sweet Falls, Bishop’s Falls and Crinoline Falls is a great way to explore the cascading waters and the surrounding wilderness. At Riatsamthiah, the Butterfly Museum houses many rare moths and butterflies and supports a breeding programme. Named after Sir William Ward, the Ward Lake is a pretty little park with circuitous path and a lake full of coloured fishes. Lady Hydari Park along with its mini zoo is a popular destination amongst children. The third oldest golf course in India, the Shillong Golf Course, was developed in 1889. Known as the ‘Gleneagle of the East’, it is an 18 holes course. A game of golf or a stroll on the rolling turf will rejuvenate your lungs with fresh mountain air. Shillong’s Botanical Garden has on display a variety of indigenous and exotic plants, a sure pleasure to one’s senses while exploring botany. The bustling markets of Burra Bazaar and Police Bazaar are crowded with trendy and colourful artefacts which are a visual treat and tribute to the local craftsmen. A visit to Rabindranath Tagore's house, Aurobindo Ashram and Orange Garden are also popular with the tourists.

 A drive of 10kms to the Shillong Peak is well worth the effort for its captivating panoramic views. Situated at a height of 1965m, the highest point in the state, it is a favourite picnic spot. At Umium Lake or Barapani, 17Kms from Shillong, one can indulge in some water sports like sailing, water skiing or water scooter.

While in Shillong, the local cuisine in the small cosy cafes and restaurants is sure to surprise one’s tastes. Indulging in the local ‘momos’, ‘Jadoh’ (red hill rice cooked with pork), ‘Mylliem chicken’ (chicken cooked with small round Khasi peppers) or the ‘Tungrymbai’ (fermented soya bean) will give a taste of authentic Meghalayan cuisine.

There is much to explore in this dynamic, spirited and much loved jewel of the North-East. Expect warm hospitality, a vibrant city life and picturesque countryside when in Shillong.

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bullet Comments:

Kajari Guha (Wednesday, Jun 11 2014):
Every minute detail leaves you surcharged with the feeling that you are in Shillong.The wonderful snaps add to the charm and makes you spellbound.Thanks for sharing!
Arundhati Banerjee (Thursday, Sep 5 2013):
Thanks Rahul for your appreciative words. Shillong is very dear to me for I have spent my early childhood here and have been back to visit numerous times. I have spent long evenings feeding fishes in Ward Lake, my favourite place here. As for the Living Root Bridge and Cherrapunji, I have preserved my words to describe them in another write-up.
Rahul Chatterjee (Friday, Aug 30 2013):
Congratulations Arundhati for the well researched write-up. I'm Shillong bred and fed and absolutely agree with you on the highlights of Shillong that you have featured. There are another one or two spots that tourists like to visit: The Living Root Bridge at Mawlynnong and ofcourse Cherrapunjee!


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