Flanked by endless mountains and cocooned by impenetrable stretches of forests, Shillong the abode of clouds has always been on every wandering soul’s bucket list. To make the most out of its capital city, here is a thought-out trip that covers the best of the place on a shoestring budget.
Day 1, Saturday:
6:00 a.m. – Board the bus at ISBT Guwahati for Shillong. You’ll reach your destination within three hours, leaving you with ample time to catch a few winks on the way. Buy your ticket online at Rs. 150.
9:00 a.m. – As the bus reaches the heart of the city, Police Bazaar, disembark and take a local taxi to the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) Youth Hostel in Lachumiere. As most of the local taxis in Shillong are shared, you’ll reach your destination within Rs 20.
9:30 a.m. – Check in into your room. The Youth Hostel has a range of rooms to choose from – dormitories for Rs. 425 a night to Triple Bed Rooms for Rs. 2168 a night. From the lot, move in to a dormitory with a single occupancy. Well furnished, airy and comfortable, these rooms provide well for a backpacking trip.
11:00 a.m. – After settling in, set out to explore the city. While walking is the best way to do so, a few rides on the taxi don’t hurt the wallet either. Walk around the city at your own pace, by the lakes, into the hustle bustle of the bazaars, discover peace and quiet at St. Paul’s Church, and go back in time at Don Bosco Museum. Before you wander off on an empty stomach, indulge your tastebuds to the finest rolls in a hole in the wall shop at Police Bazaar. The damage done to your pocket, a mere Rs 25 per roll. Pick up a few trinkets in Police Bazaar, this is thrift shopping at its finest. These costs, you’ll have to bear notwithstanding your travel budget. But not to worry, you’ll find the best of things at the cheapest rates.
1:30 p.m. – After strolling through the charming city with its quaint buildings, take a short detour and walk through Polo Ground and the Golf Links enclosed within it. The well-manicured greens and beauty of the place is indeed a treat for the eyes. As the clock ticks to lunchtime, walk back to Police Bazaar and treat yourself to an authentic Khasi meal comprising Jadoh and delectable meat preparations, which are unique to that part of the globe. Your bill would come to approx. Rs. 200, a value for money meal at that.
3:00 p.m. – Take a taxi back to the hostel for a quick siesta, following which a stroll alongside Ward’s Lake and a short visit to Lady Hydari Park are some tourist attractions that deserve a visit. Quite a moment of bliss, boating in the lake is yet another activity amidst the soothing pleasant breeze. Including the taxi fare and tickets to the park, the total cost comes to Rs 100.
6:00 p.m. – As evening sets in, make your way down to the renowned little cafe tucked away in Laitumkhrah called Cafe Shillong. Known for hosting Lou Majaw and several local talented artists, this cosy little place has a warm and welcoming ambience that keeps drawing back its crowd– both young and old. Savour a cup of coffee as you tap your foot to some lovely tunes being belted out. Get your drink at Rs 75. Take a cab to Police Bazaar and enter Trattoria, one of Shillong’s best restaurants and treat yourself to a plethora of delicacies prepared with local condiments and spices. After eating to your heart’s content, take a taxi back to the hostel and call it a day, since the next morning will dawn bright, clear and early. The cab and the meal would come to a total of Rs. 200.
Day 1 expenses come to a total of Rs. 1195. Rs. 3805 to go! (Hurray!)
Day 2, Sunday:
6:00 a.m. – Take a local taxi to Sohra, and stop to visit the famous Elephant Falls and the picturesque Shillong peak for a quick detour. Since taxis are a very convenient and cheap alternative, the drive down to Sohra is one worth witnessing through the passenger seat. With its winding roads and the drive that is a little over an hour and a half, you’ll be there in the wettest place on the earth before you know it.
7: 30 a.m. – Make your way to the Sohra Plaza and check into your room for the day. While the cab fare comes to a rough estimate of Rs 270, the tariff for the room is Rs. 600 a night, inclusive of breakfast. Dig into the hotel breakfast which is highly recommended by several tourists wandering across its turf, because a packed day awaits.
9:00 a.m. – Take a cab from the hotel and make your way to the Arwah and Mawsmai Caves that have various stalactites and stalagmites and witness the beauty and the serenity of the place that has been painstakingly maintained. After that, a short visit to the various beautiful waterfalls is on the charts. Flowing with torrential speeds amidst the flora and jutting rocks, these falls are ideal places to sit back and relax or to have a picnic by oneself.
12:00 p.m. – After the several waterfalls, a trip to Cherrapunji would be amiss without a look at the living root bridges; one of nature’s greatest marvels fostered in Meghalaya. Clamber through the double decker living root bridges in Cherrapunji that grow due to the perennial rainfall which sustains this wild but exquisite specimen. Sheltered in the undergrowth are several creatures that may venture out to greet tourists. You may even witness a few feathered beauties who preen themselves in the sunlight. After this strenuous activity, it is time to go back to the hotel for a late lunch.
3:30 p.m. – Tuck into some delicious fare whipped up at the hotel and choose amongst the wide array of dishes ranging from steaming soups to meat pickles, pork curries to sticky rice. The meal and the taxi come to a total amount of Rs. 300. As your pocket feels significantly lighter, you can choose to take a short stroll around the hotel or to take a siesta, after which the evening will be filled with activities.
6:00 p.m. – Sit before a blazing bonfire and enjoy the best of local music and food under the open sky as the stars sparkle above. With varieties of barbecued items to choose from, you can make your own dinner as you roast the meat on a stick. As the embers burn low, call it a day as you retire back to your room to face another eventful day. The meal would come to a total of Rs. 350.
Day 2 expenses come to a total of Rs. 1620. Rs 2285 to go!
Day 3, Monday:
7:00 a.m. – After a quick breakfast at the hotel, take a cab to Dawki. A distance of about 2.5 hours, Dawki is a pristine, untouched haven amidst impenetrable forests and bounding ranges of Meghalaya. At the Indo–Bangladesh border, this place is worth a visit for adventurous souls or for some much needed rest and relaxation. The cab fare is Rs. 500.
10:00 a.m. – Set up your tent beside the Umngot river and your little adventure spree begins. You can choose from a wide range of activities, be it kayaking, snorkelling, zip lining, you name it. Each activity has its own rates, but limitations pertain for solo backpacking trips. Riding a boat across the river is a thrilling experience. As the boat cuts through the crystal clear water, witness some of the most breathtaking views. Fishing in the river follows as you have to catch and cook your lunch. An open flame, some fresh catch and a view to die for. That is the best part of living it out.
3:00 p.m. – Post lunch, a short trek proves to be just right to walk off some of the lethargy. Keep an eye out for different kinds of fauna that inhabit the dense jungles. The chirping of birds pervades throughout, thus, this will keep you company along with the lapping waves.
6:00 p.m. – After it starts getting dark, set up a merry little bonfire and warm yourself as you rest in this tranquil paradise. Take a little stroll, stretch your legs out and look at the stars or sit back and listen to some music, this moment will linger in your memory for a very long time.
8:00 p.m. – Begin preparations for dinner as you set up another open flame to cook on. When opting for camping, you will be provided with your basic amenities, so make sure you mention all the things you would be needing. If meat is the way you want to go, roasted meat on a spit couldn’t get any better than this. After you’re done cooking and eating, settle into your tent and you’ll fall asleep while listening to the gentle sounds of the river.
Day 3 expenses including the camping paraphernalia, along with boating and cab, comes to Rs 1200. Now you have Rs 1085 to go!!
Day 4, Tuesday:
7:00 a.m. – Rent a car or take a cab back to Guwahati. While the latter is more expensive, the drive is worth it. You’ll be back in the city in about five hours. Taking a bus is also an option, as you can enjoy the picturesque view at half the price. You’ll be back in the city without a huge dent in your budget, of which barely Rs. 85 will remain if you choose to drive, while about Rs. 100–200 if you take a cab and approx. Rs. 500 if you board the bus. But what’s most important is that at the end of this trip, you would have seen some of the most incredible sights of Northeast.