August is the wettest month of the year in India. And, we decided to visit one of the wettest places in the world in this month to experience Indian monsoons at its best – Sohra (popularly known as Cherrapunji). We were in Sohra for 4 days from August 15 to 18, 2019.
This trip was not a hastily planned one like our first trip to Meghalaya, earlier in June 2019, when we visited Shnongpdeng to celebrate my birthday. We planned this trip for about a year after we found an amazing place to stay. The accommodation was perfect indeed; set amidst greenery and far from town, it lives up to its name – Ibankordor Jungle Resort.
Deciding to visit Sohra in Monsoons was the best decision we made. The entire region was lush-green and there was not a day when we did not drive through clouds. The only caveat of travelling to Sohra in the monsoons was the fact that you can hardly get your DSLR out, irrespective of how weather-sealed it is, to capture the picturesque landscapes. We had to rely mostly on our GoPro to take photographs in this trip. Nevertheless, we got some great pictures.
We had planned this trip so much in advance that our initial tickets, which were booked with Jet Airways using our JPMiles, got cancelled after the airline stopped operating. After our JPMiles were refunded by JetPrivilege, we booked our flight with Indigo at almost zero cost using those miles (yes, you read that right. Read our blog Keep Flying with JetPrivilege to know more).
On our last trip, we had a comfortable journey with Parimal Pal, so we booked him for the entire 4 days trip this time too.
In this blog we pen down our experience during our 4 days’ stay in Sohra. We hope this blog will help people in planning their upcoming trip and also remove the fear of visiting Meghalaya in monsoons. It's one of the best times to visit Meghalaya if you love greenery and want to see waterfalls at their best.
Day 1: Kolkata – Guwahati – Shillong – Sohra
We took a flight from Kolkata to Guwahati. Mr. Pal had once again sent Mr. Bijay to pick us up from the airport. On our last trip we stopped at Nongpoh to grab some food, but this time we decided to keep driving and have some food in Shillong instead.
We met Mr. Pal at Police Bazar after reaching Shillong. With majority of the restaurants in Shillong opening late, owing to it being Independence Day (a national holiday in India), on the recommendation of our very persuasive driver, Mr. Pal, we were forced to have some North and South Indian food sitting in Northeast India. Surprisingly, we were glad we ate at Madras Café. The food was amazing, so was the ambience. The place is a hot favourite amongst locals and tourists alike. From school children to college students – everyone was enjoying the food here with same enthusiasm. This restaurant is a must visit when in or passing by Shillong.
After that sumptuous brunch, we visited a bakery and bought some titbits for the onward road journey as we didn’t want to end up hungry till 4 pm like last time!
On our last trip, we didn’t get the time to do any sightseeing in Shillong so our first stop on this road trip was Elephant Fall at Shillong. After seeing Krangsuri, we didn’t find this fall great. Mr. Pal took us to a viewpoint through a park. It is a good picnic spot for locals. You can visit this fall if you have ample time in hand or are staying in Shillong for a couple of days. In our opinion, it is not a must visit attraction.
For our next stop, Mr. Pal took us to see the pine trees at Upper Shillong Forest. This place is beautiful and serene. Worth a stop on the way to Sohra. After spending some time admiring the pine trees, we headed to our destination for the 4 days – Sohra.
Since we had time in hand, we decided to visit Garden of Caves in Sohra before heading to our resort. Ka Bri Ki Synrang (now renamed Garden of Caves) has been present for centuries, being used by the nearby Khasi tribes to hide from the British before Independence. The location has multiple waterfalls and caves, interconnected by narrow paths through dense jungle. After it was converted to a spot for tourists to visit and enjoy the waterfalls and caves up close, the paths have been improved but the rustic beauty still prevails. We loved spending time here and it is must visit when in Sohra.
The drive to and in Sohra is as amazing as the place. You travel through thick lush-green foliage and amidst clouds.
After a long scenic drive, we finally reached our beautiful accommodation in the middle of a jungle, Ibankordor Jungle Resort. We had contacted Mr. War, the owner of this resort almost a year back and placed a booking, so we were very excited to finally visit the place. Upon reaching, we were not disappointed as Ibankordor Jungle Resort exceeded our expectations. We had requested Mr. War to reserve a traditional Khasi hut for us and he took care of that, giving us the first and the best traditional hut at the property. Since the resort is far from the main town of Sohra, in the middle of a jungle, if you are coming here with a driver, the property provides free accommodation and food for the driver.
We checked in and then headed over to the resort’s restaurant for some snacks and to place our order for dinner. The restaurant offered a good menu, mainly consisting of North Indian and Chinese cuisines. We love trying out local cuisines of the places that we travel to, so we missed local Khasi food in the menu. As we had checked-in late in the 1st night of our stay, after a day full of exploring Sohra, we did not want to go off-menu and put Mr. War & his team on difficult ground.
From our travels extensively in Northeast India and Southeast Asia, there is one thing that we have experienced first-hand - there are a lot of similarities in the culture and cuisine in these two regions. With this background, we stuck to the menu but went a little offbeat after seeing everyone ordering Indian cuisine. We ordered items that had names similar to Indianized-Chinese dishes and to our surprise they tasted different from the Indianized-Chinese cuisine that we are regularly exposed to. The dishes were very low on spices, getting most of the flavors only from the locally farmed raw materials used, especially the local bhut jolokia. This dinner was a great opening to our food journey in Sohra, something we really enjoyed over the next couple of days. While the service is a little slow, the food served by Ibankordor Jungle Resort is good and has the warmth of fresh home-cooked food as they make your food from the scratch after you order it.
After dinner we went over to Mr. War and asked whether he could arrange traditional Khasi dinner for us the next day. He was a little hesitant as he must have thought whether we would like it or not, so we reassured him that we love trying new cuisines. After getting our meat preferences Mr. War promised to serve us some traditional Khasi dishes for dinner the next day. We retired in our comfortable bed and went off to sleep listening to the raindrops crashing onto the thatched roof of our cottage.
Day 2: Exploring the Caves and Waterfalls of Sohra
We woke up early at 6am and explored the area of the resort for a while. The landscape around the resort is so beautiful that it was difficult to not keep staring at it the whole day.
We grabbed some sandwiches, puri sabji, aloo paratha & coffee for breakfast at the resort and left to explore the caves and waterfalls of Sohra.
Our first stop for the day was Mawsmai cave. It is a popular cave, but unfortunately, we didn’t find it interesting. We did not go deep inside this cave as there was an odd smell. We suggest you head to this cave only if you are in the area. Otherwise, there is no reason for someone to make a trip to this place.
Our second stop for the day was Arwah Cave. This cave was our favourite spot in Sohra. There are two paths to reach this cave – one is the rugged path and the other is the concrete one. Since it was raining continuously, we thought it would be safe to take the concrete path. However, don’t be disappointed by the term “concrete” as it is a gorgeous path surrounded by trees and breath-taking views.
At the start of the trek to the cave, a board reads, "Slow! Enjoy the walk. Listen to the insects and birds. Appreciate Nature." Many more such messages followed. We were glad we paid heed to those messages, enjoyed our walk and did not rush to reach the cave. The walk to the cave was as beautiful as the cave itself, if not more.
Once we reached the entrance of the cave, a young boy named Meban approached us asking whether we would like to hire a guide. Usually we are a little hesitant to take guides, but while reading reviews of Arwah caves on TripAdvisor, I had noticed a lot of people recommended to take a guide. Even Mr. Pal had informed us that getting a guide was better than exploring alone. With this background we agreed to use the services of Meban to be our guide and this turned out to be one of the best decisions that we made. Not only was Meban knowledgeable and knew every nook & corner of the cave, but he also took us deep into the dark, narrow and unlighted portion of the Arwah cave, which would have been impossible for us to see without proper guidance.
On the way, Meban showed us stalagmites, stalactites, fossils of sea creatures like Shrimp, oysters, etc., proving that the cave must have been submerged underwater in the prehistoric times. At the end of the cave, we saw a huge octopus shaped stalagmite.
On the way back, Meban showed us something very interesting. He helped us spot some glow worms hanging from the ceiling of the cave. What is worth mentioning is that most people missed it even though they were right above their heads, literally, so we were really happy that Meban spotted them.
Meban was an incredible guide and that was his first day as a guide, so we think he did a fabulous job!
After exploring the two caves, our third spot for the day was Dainthlen fall. It is a beautiful waterfall and easy to reach, minimal walking involved. After spending some time at Dainthlen, we decided to head over to Wei Sawdong waterfall as it was close by. Unfortunately, it started raining heavily. The path of the trek looked steep and slippery, so we decided to give it a miss this time.
Next, we headed over to Orange Roots for lunch. It is a very popular pure veg restaurant in Sohra. Irrespective of your liking veg food or not, when in Sohra, a trip to this restaurant and trying out their special thali is a must.
After having a sumptuous lunch, we headed over to Seven Sister waterfall. This waterfall is close to Mawsmai cave, but in the morning, there was so much cloud cover that we could not see anything. So, this was our second attempt. This time too, the falls were still covered by thick layer of clouds. We decided to wait a little and after about 10 minutes of waiting, the clouds started clearing up. We could finally see the seven sisters!
On the way back we spotted a really good view of an old cemetery on top of a hill. We could not stop ourselves from capturing it.
The last spot for this day was Nohkalikai fall but our driver said it would be very cloudy there and we would not get a view so we should try it on the last day of our stay in Sohra, before heading to the airport. We listened to him and drove towards our resort to retire for the night and get some rest as we had a big day the next day. On the way back we drove by some really great views. The most beautiful of them was the view of Latara fall.
We had a refreshing drive through winding roads amidst thick foliage after a day full of activities.
Upon arrival at our resort, to our absolute delight, we found that Mr. War lived up to his promise and had arranged a traditional Khasi dinner for us. The food items that they had prepared for us were – Doh Sniang Syrwa with squash (pork belly cooked with squash) and Doh Syriar Nei-long (chicken cooked with sesame seeds). These two dishes were served with rice and roti. After a long tiring day, these warm, light and delicious dishes were all that we needed. We also got to know that Mr. War asked his meat supplier to get the best quality pork belly available and it did taste delicious.
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Day 3: Nongriat Trek
This was going to be a long and tiring day as we were going to do the Nongriat trek that day. We knew it would be difficult, but we were very excited. The trekking to and from the double decker root bridge took us about 7 hours and it was a trek up & down two mountains.
We started early at 8 am after breakfast and reached the starting point of the trek within 15 minutes. That was another benefit of staying at Ibankordor Jungle Resort; its proximity to Nongriat allows you to start the trek early without having to wake up very early in the morning. Mr. Pal helped us hire a guide who would accompany us in the trek. He was a young guy and we were glad we hired him as he helped us stay motivated through the entire trek.
So basically, you trek downhill at first. After an hour into trekking, we reached the single living root bridge. It is very picturesque and longer than the double decker living root bridge. There is a nominal entry fee to see this bridge. The amazing experience of crossing a living root bridge, only found in Meghalaya and no other place in the world, cannot be truly explained in words.
After some time into the trek, you must cross two suspension bridges. The first bridge was a dangerous wobbly one, but Meghalaya made us fall in love with suspension bridges (more about this love coming up soon in our Bhutan blog), so we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Don’t worry, just walk straight, it looks dangerous but, it is absolutely safe.
The second suspension bridge was in a better shape and sturdier, but quiet longer. Crossing this was an amazing experience. Earlier there used to be a very dangerous suspension bridge that had to be crossed in this stretch – it is still present but not used anymore.
After some more walking and going up and down the steps, finally we reach a small living root bridge. On the other side of this bridge was the village of Nongriat. A few minutes walk from there was the double decker living root bridge.
The living root bridge is beautiful, truly a wonder by the Khasi tribe of the region. But, in our opinion, it is also the most over-hyped location of Meghalaya – suffering from lack of management and inflow of such unruly tourists who have no respect for nature.
Riwai’s living root bridge is equally crowded, if not more, considering the accessibility, but very well managed by the villagers.
Is the trek to the double decker root bridge worth it? Yes, if you enjoy the trek amidst nature and yes, if you want to shut stereotypes judging people’s ability to trek based on body types. No, if you just want to go to see the bridge.
Hopefully the villagers of Nongriat will take note and find a solution as the sustainability of the bridge is a big question with such unruly tourists coming and abusing it. This bridge is running the livelihood of so many families in the region that they should step in immediately.
There are entry and camera fees that you need to pay at the entrance of the double decker living root bridge.
After spending a short amount of time in and around the bridge, we decided to grab some Maggi in one of the small shops and then decided to make our way back to the top. The climb up was difficult and tiresome so we kept ourselves hydrated with juices. The entire experience and trek took us about 7 hours.
We were exhausted by the time we reached our hotel and we munched on some snacks at the restaurant as we were famished.
To our surprise, we had Khasi delicacies waiting for us for dinner again. The dishes were similar to what we had the night before, the only thing that was different was, instead of Doh Sniang Syrwa with squash, they had cooked Doh Sniang Syrwa with mustard leaves (pork cooked with mustard leaves). This was comfort food for us after a tiring day.
Day 4: Bidding Adieu, Until Next Time
This was our last day at Sohra and Meghalaya as well. After breakfast, we bid adieu to Mr. War and his staff. Mr. War was an amazing host, he did not even charge us for the traditional Khasi dinner that he served us on two nights. Even after so many months we are still in touch with Mr. War and he keeps updating us about the latest additions to his property. It is connections like these that keep motivating us to travel and make new friends and connections in every location we visit.
Before heading to the Shillong Airport, we headed to Nohkalikai fall. When we reached Nohkalikai this day, it was still covered with clouds, but we decided to wait for a while. After waiting for about half an hour, finally our patience paid off and we could get a beautiful glimpse of the waterfall at its mighty best. The clouds had cleared up for just a few seconds giving us an eerie glimpse of the waterfall. Then it again got covered by clouds, but those few seconds were worth the wait. We got to see a different, eerie yet beautiful Nohkalikai.
Next, we headed towards Shillong. We decided to stop at ML05 Café to grab some lunch. The café is located inside the Upper Shillong Forest, where we saw the pine trees, which I had mentioned earlier in the blog. The location is gorgeous, and the food is delicious over here. A special mention is the hot chocolate!
Since we had some time in hand before catching our flight home from Shillong Airport, we decided to check out Umiam lake. Umiam lake is beautiful, but the grounds are more of a picnic spot than a tourist attraction. It is a good place to go if you are passing by or have ample time in Shillong, otherwise it can easily be skipped.
Mr. Pal dropped us at Shillong Airport, which, according to us, is the most beautiful airport of the Northeast. Initially we were supposed to fly out of Guwahati Airport with Jet Airways, but after all the fiasco of Jet shutting operations and JetPrivilege refunding our JPMiles, we used those miles to book an Indigo flight out of Shillong. We were quite lucky as Indigo was the only airline that operated in Shillong Airport at that time.
We love flying in short-haul ATRs, which don't only save time but also allows us to capture some amazing views from the aircraft. Another benefit of flying out of Shillong was the fact that we got to fly in an ATR. This ended our trip on a really high note.
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. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 (car with driver for 4 days 3 nights)
Special Mention: Travelling with Parimal Pal
Beyond the experiences and learning, the one other thing that really motivates us to travel is building life-long connections. Parimal Pal has driven us all across Meghalaya through these two trips of our's. From stopping countless times on the road to take photographs to taking us to and spending the night in the remotest corners of the state - he has done it all. And, the best part is, he always has a smile on his lips and his 2 cents on everything. He loves talking, showing people the different parts of his state and offering to take photographs from time to time. Only caveat with him is, he forgets that his passengers also need food and not just the picturesque beauty of Meghalaya to fill their stomach - he will keep showing you around and cover as much ground as possible, even if that means skipping a meal. There is a solution to this as well - just enforce that you want to grab a bite and he will take you to the most lip-smacking places that he recommends personally - and, as far as our experience goes they have all been wonderful.
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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