Birthday Celebration in the Hidden Gem of Northeast India – Shnongpdeng

Shnongpdeng, Meghalaya
Shnongpdeng, Meghalaya

Both Shabbir and my birthdays are in the month of June - he is a Gemini and I am a Cancer. If you follow our blogs, you would know that the last that we traveled this year before the month of June was in April when we were in the best beach of mainland India - Agonda. It had been over two months and we were getting restless to travel to some place new. So, instead of taking me out for a fancy dinner and giving me some gift that I would seldom use, Shabbir decided to gift me a weekend vacation on my birthday. We could only squeeze 3 days including a weekend from our busy work schedules, coinciding with my birthday, and decided to travel during that period. It was truly a birthday celebration with a difference.

In India, June is the start of the monsoon season. After a lot of research on where to travel during monsoons, we finally settled on Meghalaya. Based on our schedule, we shortlisted a couple of places to visit in Meghalaya during this trip, focusing primarily on Shnongpdeng, which is a fishing village of the Jaintia tribes. On one side of the village is the mountain and on the other side a river - the village is set in the valley. The main attraction of this village is not only the beautiful Wah Umngot but the simplicity and authenticity of the surrounding local community.

After booking our flight tickets with Indigo at almost zero cost, using our JPMiles (yes, you read that right. Read our blog Keep Flying with JetPrivilege to know more), we contacted a lovely homestay in Shnonpdeng a week before we traveled, luckily they had an available room and they booked it for us. This was a hasty decision, something we were not comfortable with, as we are people who spend months looking for the “perfect” place to stay on our holidays, yet we proceeded as no online booking platform had any place to stay in Shnongpdeng listed on their portals. Luckily, the homestay that we chose turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Next, we wanted to book a car that would stay with us for the entire stretch of 3 days that we would be traveling in Meghalaya as a majority of our itinerary required us to be on the road. We rely and contribute heavily on TripAdvisor so, after some research found a guy named Parimal Pal to be quite popular on TripAdvisor and contacted him. This was one of the best decisions that we made for our trip in Meghalaya.

Day 1: A Day Full of Unexpected Surprises and Warmth

We took an early morning flight from Kolkata to Guwahati. Mr. Pal had arranged for a car to come and pick us up from Guwahati Airport and drop us at Police Bazaar, Shillong. The driver, Mr. Bijay, was patiently waiting for us outside the arrivals gate at the airport and was a great companion in the 2-hour long drive. The road to Shillong is in great condition and very scenic. Mid-way, we stopped at Nongpoh and grabbed a bite at the much recommended Jiva Veg restaurant. If you are prone to travel sickness or just want to grab a bite then stopping here is worth it, else just drive on and save yourself some time to explore more of Shillong.

It started raining heavily by the time we reached Police Bazar. We quickly got into Mr. Pal’s car and asked him to take us to Laitlum Canyons. But he advised us that in this weather, it would be pointless to go to Laitlum Canyons as the valley would be covered by clouds and we wouldn’t get any view. Instead he suggested that we go to Krangsuri waterfall. Krangsuri was not included in our initial itinerary, so we were a little skeptical about it. Nonetheless, we also realized that Laitlum Canyons would be pointless in this weather and decided to take Mr. Pal’s advice and headed to Krangsuri.

On the way to Krangsuri, we stopped briefly at Thadlaskein Lake. It was nothing great, but it gives you some break during the long drive to stop for some snacks and tea at the local shops nearby.

Mr. Pal took us to Krangsuri through the lesser known route and the drive was unbelievably scenic. We realized it that day that sometimes the journey to the destination is more beautiful than the destination itself.

When riding through the winding roads of Jaintia Hills, on the way to Krangsuri, we crossed the Thlu Amwi waterfall, which was a delight to the eyes. We stopped here for a while to capture some photographs before continuing on our journey. The landscape all through the journey was so picturesque that we kept stopping and got delayed in reaching Krangsuri.

Luckily for us, it stopped raining by the time we reached the starting point of the trek to Krangsuri waterfall - it requires some moderate trekking to reach the waterfall, so one should be prepared for it. The path is good and aptly marked, so beyond the distance nothing really poses a challenge to make the trek.

The trek to Krangsuri is a beautiful walk through nature crossing little streams, something you will really enjoy. So, come with some time in hand and enjoy the walk along with the waterfall.

There are 3 viewpoints during the trek to see Krangsuri waterfall. Each of the viewpoints give a completely different perspective of the waterfall and view from all of them are equally beautiful.

We were lucky to witness Krangsuri at it’s fiercest since it rained continuously for the past four days until the day we embarked on our journey. After spending about an hour, we trekked back up, which seemed more difficult than the trek down, not because of the distance or elevation but, the terrible humidity around that place. Once back up, we had some Maggi and tea at a the only shop there - this was our lunch at 4 pm in the evening. Then we headed over the the main destination of our trip - Shnongpdeng.

After about an hour and a half's drive we reached till the driveable path near Shnongpdeng. From there it was a trek of about 10 mins to reach our homestay - Shatsngi Homestay. It is one of the few homestays in Shnongpdeng which is located right on the banks of the Umngot river. The little homestay offered us a comfortable and cozy room with a porch/balcony overlooking the Umngot river.

The best part of the homestay was their simple yet tasty food. We would like to make a special mention about the young host, Massar, who goes out of the way to make your stay comfortable. One thing worth mentioning is; we checked in very late in the night but Massar ensured he calls us in the evening and find out what we would like to have for dinner and kept it hot and ready when we checked in. After a long and hectic day, we had a sumptuous dinner and finally retired into our bed. We had a good sleep listening to the sound of the river outside.

Day 2: A Great Start to the Day, but Minor Disappointment on the Way

We woke up early at 5am to explore Shnongpdeng. We reached Shnonpdeng late in the night - on a day which was preceded by 4 days of incessant rain - so we could not see much of the location, but could hear the loud roar of the river the entire night. It was only in the morning that we realized how beautiful the surrounding was. We walked to the river bank and spent some wonderful time there.

The suspension bridge at Shnongpdeng is a popular landmark. After spending some time on the banks of Umngot river we head to suspension bridge to take some photographs.

We really enjoyed standing on top of the suspension bridge and observing the locals go about their lives, with the river at the center of it. Before we knew it, minutes passed by with us standing on the suspension bridge that was swaying under the gusty winds.

After spending some wonderful time at the suspension bridge, we decided to have some tea on one of the small shops run by Khasi women called Kongs – giving these shops the name of Kong Dukaan. Upon entering the shop we realized that we were the only outsiders. It was crowded with locals, mainly fishermen, who were having their breakfast before heading out to do their daily chores. We decided to sit with them and relish on some “Ja Bad Sha” (loosely translated to “rice and tea”). It was a delightful experience.

We headed back to our homestay for some breakfast before we headed out for the day. It was a lovely spread of delicious food! When we explored Shnongpdeng at 5am, the sun was barely out and it was pretty overcast till about 8am. It was around 10am, when we were checking out, that we saw the sun rays covering the entire valley. And, what a sight that was – the foliage was lush green after days of rain and was shimmering under the bright sun. One of the best scenes at Shnongpdeng was; when we came onto the balcony/porch outside our room, we were greeted with splashes of colour on top of the otherwise monotone bank of Umngot river – the locals had laid out all their clothes on the rocks after finally getting some sunshine that morning.

We bid goodbye to Shnongpdeng and made our way to Dawki. We felt Dawki is an overrated location, but maybe we were too smitten and biased towards Shnongpdeng after spending the night there and being the only travelers there who were exploring the location the morning - making it a truly unique experience. Moreover, we supposedly visited Dawki in the wrong season. Monsoon is definitely not the right time for Dawki. People say that Dawki is best in winter, so we would give it another chance whenever we visit Meghalaya in winter. Nevertheless, we found Dawki to be a lot more commercial and touristy when compared to Shnongpdeng, so if you want to enjoy the crystal clear waters of Umngot river, head to Shnongpdeng and give Dawki a miss.

After Dawki, we headed to Riwai Village to explore the living root bridge in that village. On the way to Riwai we came across a waterfall right on the side of the road - Borhills waterfall. It is a beautiful sight, especially because it is just beside the road and gives an amazing sense of how nature and modernization are coexisting.

The living root bridge at Riwai connects the village to the main road network. In order to protect the bridge from exploitation resulting due to over tourism, not more than four people are allowed to cross it at one time, without even stopping for a bit. There is an entrance fee and it involves moderate trekking to reach the bridge. Though it was crowded, we had a good time over here and loved the systematic approach of the locals involved in crowd controlling.

Beside this living root bridge now exists a bamboo bridge, which is serving as the primary bridge to cross over the stream. To be honest, we found this bamboo bridge equally beautiful and were quite surprised to see the tourists ignoring it completely.

Near the living root bridge is a brook that flows through thick foliage. Come with some time in hand and you can explore this brook. It was something we truly enjoyed and made the trek to the village worth it.

Book Your Stay in Shillong

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On the way to our next destination, Mawlynnong, Mr. Pal made us stop at this tourist spot called “Balancing Rock”. Surprisingly we had to pay an entrance fee to see a large rock, balanced on a small rock, supported by some iron rods. Please AVOID this at all costs!

Mawlynnong - Asia’s cleanest village - was overcrowded, but that’s expected because of it’s popularity. There’s nothing much to “see” in the village. We were not at all impressed and felt that Mawlynnong may have been a lovely place once, which has turned commercial now due to over-tourism. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants that have mushroomed in the village. The food was just about average and highly disappointing as they had nothing local in the menu.

We headed to our final destination, Shillong. We stopped at a few viewpoints on the way and also asked Mr. Pal to stop whenever we found a great view to capture. The picturesque landscape of Meghalaya made us forget the disappointing afternoon that we had.

We wanted to do a bit of sightseeing in Shillong before retiring for the night. Unfortunately we were stuck in traffic for about 2 hours due to a road accident and that plan went for a toss. But, it wasn't that bad as we got to experience a magnificent view of the setting sun in Meghalaya.

Luckily for us, we have an ancestral home in Shillong. Our 98 years old ancestral bungalow is one of the only few Assam-style homes that still remain in the city, which is now covered with multi-storied buildings and modern architecture. We spent a wonderful night here after the long drive back to Shillong.

Day 3: Great Food and Goodbye

We woke up early next morning and went for a walk around Police Bazaar. After breakfast we drove to Guwahati to catch our evening flight to Kolkata, and to grab some lunch at the famous Khorikaa Restaurant before heading to the airport. We planned to visit this restaurant and try their highly acclaimed Khorikaa Special Thali the last time we were in Assam during October 2018, but unfortunately they were closed that day. This time around, we ensured we visit them and tried out their Khorikaa Special Duck Thali and Khorikaa Special Pigeon Thali. And, we were not disappointed one bit. Every dish was prepared with a lot of care and love, and the warmth of the service was an added source of happiness.

Overall, it was was a really exciting trip and a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday. We were so amazed with the beauty of Meghalaya that we visited there again at the peak of the monsoons, for a longer period, to some other locations - read about it in our next blog - Exploring One of The Wettest Places on Earth – Sohra, in Monsoons.

Transport Costs in Meghalaya:

Private Car between Guwahati Airport and Shillong (to and from, each way):
Rs. 1,500 (non-AC car with driver)
Rs. 2,000 (AC car with driver)

Private Car within Meghalaya (negotiable depending on distance travelled):
Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 6,000 (car with driver for 2 days 1 night)

Did we miss out on any place that we should have visited during this trip?
Do let us know in the comments.

If you are visiting Meghalaya and need any help booking hotels to stay in, looking for restaurant recommendations, itinerary suggestions or need to get connected to a driver, you can get in touch with us and we will help you with the bookings.

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2 thoughts on “Birthday Celebration in the Hidden Gem of Northeast India – Shnongpdeng”

  1. Hi Farha and Shabbir
    Thoroughly enjoyed your Birthday adventure and felt as if I was there too. We also recently visited Mawlynnong and would agree to skip it. We also enjoyed the ride from Shillong to the Living Root Bridge more than the actual bridge with the admission and crowd just not our style but the drive and scenery is stunning! Looking forward to your next posting as very informative and enticing!
    Loretta

    1. Hi Loretta,

      Hope you’re doing well.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. Much appreciated.

      I will email you when we post the next blog. 🙂

      Farha

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