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Shillong

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Shillong (िशलांग) is the capital and the largest town of Meghalaya.

Understand

Shillong was the capital of Assam, but after the state was split as Assam and Meghalya meaning 'The abode of the clouds', it became the first capital of the newly formed State of Meghalaya . Located in undulating pine covered hills, the city has a milder climate than tropical India. The city center is 1496 meters above sea level. Shillong currently has a population of around 270,000. Home to several waterfalls, it is also known as the Scotland of East. The British legacy is still visible in architecture and food habits of population. The Assam style houses with slanting roofs, large number of windows and wooden floors look like a piece of art (and happen to be very good idea, considering Shillong lies in a area where rains and earthquakes are very common). Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than rest of India. An umbrella is therefore a necessity while packing your bags. Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when city is clean (rains wash the streets of all garbage) and waterfalls are in full strength.

Most of the Shillong population belong to Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of Khasis are that they are a matrilineal society - the mother is head of family, youngest daughter owns all the property and mothers surname is passed on to children.

Get in

By plane

Shillong Airport (SHL) is in Umroi, about 40km from Shillong (also known as Barapani Air Force Base or Umroi Airport). It is a small airport with flights via Alliance Air (operated by Indian Airlines) to/from Calcutta on certain days of the week. A bus operated by M.T.D.C runs from Airport to Shillong market.Taxis are also available. However, flights to Umroi are only from Calcutta and generally are cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather. Guwahati airport which is 4&1/2 to 5 hours from shillong is a preferable option.

Gopinath Bordoloi Airport (GAU) in Guwahati (104 km from Shillong) is connected to rest of India with regular flights. Shared cabs (typically small cars from the airport, and larger Tata Sumos from Guwahati town center) are available from outside airport connecting to Shillong. The rate (as of June 2007)is INR 300 per passenger from Guwahati Airport to Shillong and reportedly takes 5 hours. The cab drops you off at Police Bazaar from where you can get a ride to almost any part of Shillong. En route from Guwahati to Shillong, you'll probably stop mid way at Nongpoh to freshen up and get some refreshments. Nongpoh is also a good place to pick up bamboo pickles and other condiments.Please note that the road from Guwahati to Shillong is being widened and is prone to traffic jams (upto 18 hours delay) mostly in winters. So plan your move accordingly.

By train

There are no rail lines in Meghalaya. The nearest railway station is Guwahati. It is 105 km from Shillong (reportedly takes 5 hours via taxi) and very well connected with all major cities of India.

By bus

The main interstate bus stand is located right next to Guwahati railway station. Buses run by Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) and Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC), ply every half an hour from Guwahati to Shillong. The ticket fares vary between Rs.30 to 100, depending upon bus class (ordinary, semi-deluxe and deluxe). Please note that many of the buses are very old and only visible difference among bus class is number of people allowed to sit. Many private run buses also run between two cities but they leave from Paltan Bazar area and cost around Rs. 70. Private buses might be better built but are occasionally crowded and have more stops enroute. Buses usually take around 4 hours with a mid-way stop at Nong-poh. Shared taxis are available from Paltan Bazar area which is adjacent to the railway station. These are generally SUV sized vehicles (Tata Sumo & Mahindra Bolero) shared between 8 people. They take around 3 hours to reach Shillong from Guwahati.The cost for a SUV vehicle is Rs.150 as per 2011.

Get around

Best way to go about in Shillong is on foot. The city itself is small and can be easily covered walking and exploring hills and people.

By bus

For places within city limits, city buses are good options. There are two kinds of buses that pass from Shillong - City bus and Bazar bus. City buses is what tourists should use. Bazar buses are for villagers coming to Shillong to sell their products. Most of times they carry vegetables, fruits, poultry etc. along with people. City buses are notoriously slow. Drivers move their buses from bus-stop only when the bus gets packed or another bus arrives. Many times you will find that walking will take you earlier to your destination. Bus tickets are at most Rs. 5 for one journey.

By taxi

Black and yellow unmetered shared taxis ply within city limits. These are faster and are always shared; rates may vary from Rs 25/- to Rs 100/- maximum. Being shared taxis, drivers often pick up additional passengers en route to the same destination, in order to make a better fare. If one decides to negotiate the "hire" of a taxi, however, the driver will not pick up any more passengers (or stop roadside to find more) but the fare will be significantly higher than if one had just hailed the taxi as it passed by.

For sightseeing it is a good idea to hire a taxi cab for full day. The fares should be fixed before travel. Hotel staff will be able to give you an idea of reasonable rate.

Much of the infrastructure is basic and many roads outside city are in bad shape due to heavy rains and poor maintenance, but within the city the roads are quite good. Although the city traffic ranks second in the country in terms to vehicles to population ratio, Mumbai being first, it is very slow and disciplined unlike most of India.

See

  • Umiam Lake, meghalaya (north of shillong). A beautiful lake north of Shillong, which resembles the 'Lochs', or lakes of Scotland, and is a must-see for all tourists. This lake is man-made and is better known as 'Barapani' (big water) for its sheer size. There is a water sports complex. There is a garden ( Lum Nehru park) by the side water sports complex.
  • Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous North East Culture. Run by the Salesian order of the Catholic Church, the Don Bosco Museum is a truly amazing repository of information on the entire North Eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Located within the precincts of the Sacred Heart Church, Mawlai, the edifice iteself is shaped like a spiral and its distinct form is discernible from quite some distance away. It has an amazing collection of attire, accoutrements, weapons, ornamentation and rare photographs. This is also the largest cultural museum in the whole Asia. Fr Sebastian is the priest who has taken up the cause of preservation of art and culture with 'missionary zeal!
  • Wards Lake. Wards Lake is an artificial lake surrounded by a fairly large garden. Boating facilities are available in the lake. It has a wooden bridge at the middle. Lots of lotus plants with leaves are there on either side of lake. One can find lots of colourful fishes in the lake. A cafeteria is there to provide refreshment.A fountain dancing to the tunes of song is also there.
  • Lady Hydari Park. The park has variety of local flowering plants and orchids. It also has a small zoo within it. Children wiil like it as there are few swings, sea-saws, slips for them. It is a famous picnic spot for local population. This park is named after the Lady Hydari, the first lady of the state, wife of the Governor of Assam. This park has a mini zoo and a deer park, which is spread over more than one kilometre.
  • Sweet Falls. Located in Happy Valley, it is a very steep fall. Extreme caution is advised as there are no barricades and rocks are nearly always slippery (due to rain or dew).
  • Bishop & Beadon Falls. Located in Suna valley,these two are very beautiful falls. Suna is the home to wild animals such as deer, leopard,langurs,wild cats and numerous bird species.
  • Elephant Falls. It is in Upper Shillong area which also houses the Eastern Air Command of Indian Airforce. The scenic fall is not continuous and more of collection of smaller falls. It has footpath leading to bottom fo fall where it reaches a small lake. Its name elephant falls was given by British. Because there was a rock by the side of fall which resembled elephant. The rock was destroyed in earthquake.
Elephant Falls
  • Shillong Peak. Shillong Peak is the highest point in state of Meghalaya (1965 meters above sea level). There is a view-point where you can get breathtaking view of Shillong city. The city view during night is a scene to remember. It is host to a radar station for Indian Air force and tourists are advised to declare their cameras while reaching view-point and not to take pictures of radar facilities.
  • Butterfly Museum. There is a huge collection of different types of butterflies. Students of zoology will find them interesting. This place is also attractive for adults where they can see the natural beauty and play with the beautiful and colourful butterflies. This museum presents some of the finest and rarest species of butterflies.
  • Golf course Shillong golf course is located at an altitude of around 5200 ft. This is the first golf course of India which has 18 holes in it. This place is like a dream come true for the putters. This golf course is so beautiful and located at the unique location that some time it is compared with the “ Glen Eagle Course” of the United State.

Do

  • Take a walk through Iewduh (Bara Bazar)-Iewduh means Big Market - It is one of the biggest market in North-East India. There are separate areas dedicated to vegetables, fruits, iron works, fish, beef, betel and so on.
  • Visit the State Central Library - it was started at the time of British Raj and holds many rare books and almanacs. For British searching for clues about ancestors in this area, it is a gold-mine. Unfortunately with time and poor management many books are being lost.
  • Explore the forest around Shillong peak - There are no large or dangerous animals and forest is full of rare and exotic plants - orchids, pines and others including the famous insect eating pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana).

Cave exploration

There are many naturally beautiful caves in Shillong, Meghalaya. Tourists can explore the caves, where they will have to pass through dark and murky interiors.

Buy

Iewduh is the largest open street market in north-eastern India. It has large sections dedicated to local fruits, vegetables, honey, fish etc. As a tourist, one can get a very nice picture of local life in here. Traditional bamboo handicrafts and woollen handmade shawls are most popular buys. Additionally art-crafts made of wood and bamboo funitures are popular. Bamboo shoot pickles are quite favourite of the tourists. Please visit the Meghalya Govt. Handicrafts Showroom "Purbashree" located in police bazar.

Shillong is one of the fashion capitals of India,it has innumerable number of shops selling top quality brands from India and abroad. The well known ones are RAPs Apparel in Raps' Mansion MG Road,Style Craft, Uncle Shop, In-Fashion, Broadway Collection, Selection Centre, in Police Bazar, etc..

Eat

There are a variety of restaurants in Shillong. Most of the better ones are located in Police Bazar area. Chinese, Indian and Tibetan foods are popular and even khun ksew. Service is poor in most places except those that are professionally managed. Besides, most eating places close early (before 9PM) so don't be caught hungry.

Bamboo Hut in RAPs' Mansion MG Road is one of the famost hangout and also the CITY Dhaba near Earl Holiday Home.

One should definitely try Momos (steamed Tibetan dumplings filled with cabbage and pork) They come as small momos and big momos and are very popular snacks.

Shillong has a pre-dominantly Christian population. While pork, chicken and fish are easily available in restaurants run by local Khasis, beef isn't as abundant in restaurants. Cleanliness also remains a issue in smaller food-outlets.

Khasi and Tibetan recipes use very little spices (including salt) unlike cooking style of rest of India and emphasis is on boiling or roasting rather than frying in oil.

For Indian snacks, one can try Delhi Mistaan Bhandar in Police Bazar which in my opinion,has the best jalebis in the world. It should be mentioned though, that Delhi Mistan has been in the local news several times in hygiene related incidents, notably when a patron found a cockroach in her food. The staff is also notoriously lethargic, so be prepared to wait up to half an hour just to be able to place your order. In short, stick to the freshly made jelibis since they are worth it, but avoid anything else here.

Apart from these, the hotels mentioned below have restaurants that have their own charm. Ginger at Hotel Polo Towers is good, Kenmore at Hotel Knight Inn Shillong serving delectable craft cuisine, Royal Heritage has a nice restaurant. Sip & Dine at Hotel Alpine Continental have excellent restaurant.

  • Foodplus, Laban Last Stop Taxi Stand, 091-9863083167. A fast food joint Cum lodge
  • Chef's Multi Cuisine Restaurant, M G Road- Opp SBI, Shillong (5 minutes from City centre on foot), +919436332977, [1]. Great food at reasonable prices
  • Sesame, Laitumkhrah. Serves South-east Asian cuisine including traditional tribal food. Newly opened and offers an interesting menu including the Jaintia thali.
  • Madras Cafe (Police bazar). 7AM to 10PM. This small but busy place in polica bazar serves some authentic south Indian dishes like idlis, dosas, vada etc.. Dosas are their favourite and are crispy and hot. They also serve some south Indian rice dishes. 100 for a meal.
  • Munchies, laitumkhrah (near don bosco square), 8974087724. 11:30 Am - 9:30 PM. Munchies Cafe Awesome location & outdoor eatery with parking space.Friendly setting for some truly good comfort food. Lively, chilled out atmosphere with music. Everything is simple, homemade & fresh.
  • Sharma Bhojanalaya, Near Police Bazaar (Enter from Iewedeh, near roop kala sarees). For all those who look for vegetarian food. Serves decent food, marwari thali priced at Rs.40. Good food for veggies
  • Bombay Bites, near SBI evening branch Police Bazar.
  • Delhi Mistan Bhandar, Police bazar. Vintage sweet shop in Shillong,famous for its jalebis.
  • Lamee Rastaurant, G.S road, police shillong, 03642501277. Fantastic place for casual and fine dining with a tasty multicuisine menu

Drink

It is the drinker's paradise.Because of the tax structure on alcohol in this state, you will be hard pressed find cheaper drinks anywhere else in India, if you are the type who buys liquor from a shop and drinks in your hotel room.

If you like pubs and clubs, then Shillong has quite a few of them.

  • Platinum, Hotel Polo Towers.
  • Cloud 9, Centre Point.
  • Picadilly (English Pub), Hotel Polo Towers.
  • Tango at Police Bazar in O B Shopping Mall.
  • Cocktails at Hotel Alpine Continental.

Nightlife is generally at its peak on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are very very dull.

  • Swish, laitumkhrah. Swish Cafe which is opening soon after undergoing renovation, is the first cafe in Shillong and is a favourite haunt of youngsters and anyone who wants a good cup of coffee and some tasty snacks. Its a cute little coffee shop with a lot of character!
  • MOT (Matter of Taste), Laitumkrah (turn left at the junction). Matter of taste, MOT is an amazing coffee shop which serves pastas, sandwiches and pizzas too. Irish coffee is a must try. After a hard day of travelling around shillong, it refreshes you like anything

Sleep

Shillong has options for all kind of travellers. Most of the hotels are located in and around the Police Bazar which is the noisy, crowded city centre of Shillong. Hotel Polo Towers and Royal Heritage have locations that are more relaxing. Backpackers might want to check the Youth Hostel near Office of Chief Telecom Officer (CTO Complex). Internet reservation is available only in few starred hotels.

Budget

  • Hotel Knight Inn Shillong, Demseniong (Opposite Neepco Shillong), +91-9402594025, [2]. Also includes Kenmore Restaurant, which serves mouth-watering food from Chinese, Indian and other cuisines. (25.581272,91.897159)
  • Hotel Rainbow Shillong,GS road Police bazar Shillong Tel :+91-9436731482 [3]
  • White Orchid Guesthouse,Lachaumiere Shillong Tel :+91-9774012129 [4]
  • B&B, Rosaville Cottage,[5]
  • The Majestic Hotel, Polo Road, [6]
  • Lake View Inn, MG Road, [7]
  • Shillong Club Guesthouse near Police bazaar
  • Rohit Guest House, Near Shillong Times Building, Tel:+91-9864506161
  • Hotel Yalana, Laimukhra,Shillong Tel:+91-9954364952 [8]

Mid-range

  • Hotel Centre Point (+91 364 222 0272/ 222 0480 Email: centre_point91@rediffmail.com)
  • Royal Heritage Tripura Castle (+91 364 250 1111/49 Email: rh_tripuracastle@rediffmail.com)
  • Hotel Alpine Continental,3 Star, Shillong [9]email: alpineshillong@gmail.com
  • Hotel Polo Towers, Shillong`s Only 4 Star Hotel, [10]
  • Luxury, Ri Kynjai Resort, (+91 98624 20300/01 Email:rikynjai@yahoo.co.in), [11]

Get out

There are many interesting places for outing from Shillong.

  • Cherrapunji (or Sohra as called locally) is around 60 km south of Shillong. It holds the world record for the highest rainfall ever in a calendar year. It is famous for its various waterfalls (most famous of all Noh Kalikai Falls) and limestone caves. The Monsoon is the best time to enjoy thundering waterfalls. Limestone caves are full of stalactites and stalagmites and you will find many adventurous souls venturing deep into them.
  • Umiam is a water sports complex, developed upon the reservoir of the Umiam Hydro Electric Project, around 20 km north of Shillong. The campus consists of a lake resort and a park. It also offers many water sports activities.
  • Sacred Forest (or Mawphlang as called locally) are groves around 25 km away from Shillong. These are considered sacred by Khasis and people were forbidden to enter them earlier. This ensured protection of a dense growth of several kinds of trees including the Khasi pine. The heavily covered grounds around the forests facilitating growth of ferns and orchids most of them endemic.
  • Mawsynram is 56 km from Shillong and is known for the Giant Stalagmite formation shaped into a "Shivalinga" and found inside a cave known locally as Mawjymbuin. It also gets the heaviest rainfalls in world in recent years.
  • Jakrem, 64 km from Shillong, is a hot-spring of sulphur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties.
  • Jaintia Hills This is not a hot tourist spot but one can find a beautiful lake, a 700 hundred years old Durga temple and a rock garden.



This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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