Day Six in the North East: Mawlynnong & Riwai

On Day six, my first stop was Elephant Falls. It was en route to multiple other destinations, but Kolita decided he was going to take me there only on the final day of sightseeing.

Barely any distance away from Shillong, Elephant Falls cascades down in three steps, and this was probably why the locals call it, wait, I think I can remember this, the Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew (The three-step falls). Before getting to the falls is a little parking area with a few little shops selling handicrafts and woollens (and yes, Maggi!) but the women at these stalls were ridiculously rude and refused to bargain. I still picked up a fridge magnet and a Khasi souvenir though.

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The first step of the falls didn’t look very impressive, though I do believe it gets prettier during monsoon. The tourism department of Meghalaya has made access to the second and third steps very convenient with grab rails and rock steps. I believe for the elderly the steps might be tough, seeing how big they are, but it was nice to get down. Unlike the other water falls in Meghalaya, the Elephant Falls is the only one you can get pretty close to. Here’s a photo of the second step:

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And here’s the third. Part of it was ruined by a raucous crowd, but it was still a pretty sight:

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From here, Kolita drove me to Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village. I was interested, yes, because I didn’t know how such monikers are made, or how such villages are awarded. The parking lot was a dampener – too many vehicles, too many people, and a few stalls that sold lunch. The lunch though was nice – a full plate of dal, rice, a potato fry and an omelette – extremely fulfilling.

Following lunch, I went to explore the village. Now there’s a pathway that looks like it’s going somewhere, but after 15 minutes, it just ended randomly. I trudged back and then promptly got lost – and that is when I discovered the real part of the village. And some very pretty flowers.

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But honestly, my interest fizzled out in a minute. I don’t know what they mean by Asia’s cleanest village, because quite honestly, I have seen equally clean, if not cleaner villages in Sikkim and other places. The streets were clean and obviously, no plastic zones, there were pretty flowers, but barring that, I didn’t think it was exceptionally clean. I mean, it was clean, yes, but Asia’s cleanest? I thought like a generic hill village – not exceptional, and eminently missable.

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I saw a notice plaque there that said each dustbin was installed at a cost of Rs. 1,00,000. I took a photo so you’d see – do you really think this dustbin is worth a hundred thousand? Siphoning much? I don’t know, but the whole exercise seemed a little futile.

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There’s a Skywalk though, and it takes you up a tree from where you can see the pancake flats of Bangladesh. That was for me the only good part of Mawlynnong. And funnily, I saw barely any locals in the village. It was all tourists!

The next stop was Riwai, where I would get to see a living root bridge. Riwai is just the neighbouring village, but you can see it is a poorer place. It probably didn’t get the funds that “Asia’s cleanest village” got to make everything look bright and shiny, but it somehow felt equally clean, minus the outward trappings of a government sponsored tourist trap. Or cleaner even. The people were nicer too.

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A long walk down rock steps got me to the Living root bridge, and it was fascinating. Truly a marvel of Khasi bioengineering, this was a smaller bridge, and there is one in Cherrapunji that is longer and even double-stepped. But this was magnificent too!

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I got off the right side of the bridge and hopped skipped and jumped on rocks over a dry river bed to get far from the crowds and their selfie sticks. This side of the bridge was nicer because no other tourist braved the jumping over rocks to get this far. The other side was an easier climb, and had fewer broken rocks, so naturally, it was more crowded. It was nice to sit there, and I had to get back only because it was getting close to nightfall.

Like I said, the village was poorer than Mawlynnong but cleaner. I bought a pineapple from the cutest little girl I had seen in all of Meghalaya!

And so there, that was it. My Meghalaya trip. Kolita’s bad driving and adamant refusal to follow my directions meant I wasn’t left with a day to explore Shillong so all I could do was explore the city on Christmas evening. But that was it.

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Shillong was nice in the evening. It was Christmas day, so Police Bazar was all crowded. I managed to buy some pork fry and a candy floss and walked around for a bit. It was a happy holiday, but one too short. I’ll go back, that’s for sure!

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