The Butterfly museum at Riatsamthiah comes as an unexpected treat for the entomology enthusiast or simply any nature lover. The small entrance and unlikely location belies the vastness of the collection which guarantees that one won't leave Shillong without a new-found appreciation for the winged creatures.
The private collection, which was started in the 1930's by a Mr. Sikdar, a pioneer entomologist comprises displays of butterflies and insects collected from different parts of the world. Spend a few hours marveling at the exquisite beauty of butterflies and insects native to various regions of India and the Northeast. The largest goliath beetle from Africa, Tarantulas from South America share the space with Brush footed butterflies, leaf insects and Giant Stick Insects of Meghalaya.
Thousands of other exotic species of unparalleled beauty are ensured to leave you spellbound. Call 0364-2544473 for enquiries or to make an appointment.
The Don Bosco Centre of Indigenous Cultures is a landmark, state-of-the-art museum located at Mawlai, Shillong. An absolute, must-visit destination for any visitor to the North-east, it comes as an awe-inspiring experience to discover an anthropological and cultural display of these dimensions in Shillong.
Encompassing seven floors, the museum houses 13 galleries like the Land and Peoples Gallery, Agricultural Gallery, Costume and Ornaments gallery, the Weapons Gallery and so on. A wonderfully visualized, arranged and presented museum with beautiful paintings, craftsmanship and artistic displays that bears the mark of scrupulous planning.
The centre of the Department of Social Welfare where women in need of care and protection are imparted vocational skills for self-employment, also proves to be an interesting pit-stop within the city for those wanting to see women at work on traditional looms. The women who are trained in embroidery, knitting or weaving skills are thus empowered to go back to their native villages and start a business. Their products include shawls, pillowslips, cushion-covers, etc.
The Captain Williamson Sangma Museum stands on the premises of the State Central Library. This museum offers a glimpse into the heritage and culture of the ethnic people of Meghalaya. On the same grounds are apparent monuments to great patriots of the state like U Tirot Singh as well as Indira Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
This centrally located museum is one among many others in the city such as the Air Force Museum in Upper Shillong, the Anthropological Museum at Mawblei, and many more.
One of the most outstanding features of Shillong, something that the perspective onlooker will spot right away is the presence of betting shops on almost every street. It goes to mention that the ancient tradition and art of archery has been combined with the betting system in the state. The outcome is a gambling wager locally known as 'Teer', and aptly so for it derives it existence from archery.
Everyday, between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m. three archery clubs come together to display their dexterity in hitting the bull's eye, which in this case is a pillar-like structure made of reeds. The archers are given a few minutes to hit the target with as many arrows as possible.
It is fascinating to watch almost all the arrows whizzing past and sink into the target with unfailing preciseness. The arrows are removed and then counted. The last two digits are announced as the winning number. Those who bet on that number go home richer. Teer is an example of how Shillong has managed to keep tradition and ancient arts alive amidst changes brought on by modernity.
A mere 15 minutes drive from Shillong lies the historic and popular Elephant Falls. The Elephant Falls cascades through two successive waterfalls which are smaller-the Wei Iaplam Falls and the Wir Phang Falls. The Elephant Falls are called 'Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew' (Three steps water falls) because it descends in these three stages.
The British renamed it Elephant Falls because there was a rock located in the falls that bore semblance to an elephant. This rock is no more to be seen, having been destroyed in the earthquake of 1897, but the name stuck. Today, The Elephant Falls has been touted as a major tourist attraction, together with the Maitilang Park adjoining it. A paved pathway and a small bridge that connects Elephant Falls to the other two waterfalls makes it possible to walk the length of the waterfall and absorb its beauty. Stalls selling handicraft goods and other curios crowd the entrance to the Falls.
Of late, the Elephant Falls and Maitilang Park has also seen several festivals like 'the Wine Festival' and other events on occasions such as Valentine's Day being held on its grounds.
The 18-hole Shillong Golf Course has the distinction of being one of the oldest golf courses in the world, and one of the largest as well. Comparisons have been often drawn between the Shillong Golf Course and the Gleneagles of Scotland. In fact, it is often referred to as the “Gleneagle of the East” at the United States Golf Association Library and Museum.
Set amidst lush greens and nestled among pine trees, the Golf Course provides a beautiful panoramic view. First developed in 1898 as a 9-hole course, it was later expanded to an 18-hole course in 1924. Since then, it has stayed unchanged for the larger extent.
The Golf Course and the stately building that houses the Golf Club is a reminder of the old colonial glory that used to be Shillong.
One of the busiest shopping areas of Shillong with a heritage that can be traced back to the 19th century. Bara Bazaar or Iewduh has expanded and grown over the years to be a Pandora's Box for the visitor who wants to stock up on local products. It is a heady experience to thread one's way through the cramped lanes of Bara Bazaar, fruits, loofahs, vegetables, spices, fresh meat and a horde of other products everywhere you turn. Tiny stalls and vendors cram every possible nook and cranny.
Women from surrounding villages throng Bara Bazaar on market days to sell their produce. While shopping at the Bara Bazaar is not for the faint-hearted, it can be best described as an adventure that will leave one with the light-headed feeling of having encountered all the flavours, sights, sounds and smells of the colorful, vibrant mosaic called Shillong.
Lady Hydari Park owes its existence to the wife of a former Governor of the erstwhile Assam. It makes for an engaging afternoon to take a walk through its well-kept lawns with flower-beds blooming profusely with roses and other blooms of every imaginable hue. Tall trees provide shade and a children's playground makes Lady Hydari Park the perfect destination for parents-and children who want to take a breather.
'Animal Land'-a mini-zoo adjoins the park. Within the zoo is to be found a fascinating variety of animal and bird species, from the clouded leopard, the Himalayan Black bear, pelicans and a large deer park. It is a special treat to watch the peacocks fan out its feathers in all its glory on the customary rainy afternoon. A wildlife museum is also located on the premises.
A stone's throw away lies the Crinoline Falls and the only swimming pool in the city-Crinoline Swimming Pool.
Laitumkhrah is best known as Shillong's educational district. Throughout Laitumkhrah is apparent evidence of the Roman Catholic influence in Shillong, manifested in beautiful and stately churches, cathedrals and sculptures. The most noted of all these is probably the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians which dates back to 1895 and nestled just below this, the Grotto Church.
This Cathedral draws visitors in throngs and has striking stained glass windows and beautifully appointed interiors.
Laitumkhrah is also one of the prime shopping areas in Shillong. A number of boutiques like Cleopatra, Studio Line, Urban Daze, etc. offer exclusive shopping for the trendy. Coffee-shops and eateries like Swish Café, Flavors, Nat's Restaurant, Cafe Shillong are situated in Laitumkhrah. Also, Elephenor offers exquisitely mounted butterfly plaques and other locally made handicrafts. Laitumkhrah maintains the small-town camaraderie that Shillong is well-known for.
An absolute pit-stop at Laitumkhrah is the 'What's in Store'-an emporium with a lounge-like ambience that stocks up on exclusive handicrafts and handmade products from the North-east and other parts of India. Guaranteed to have a little something for everyone, from pottery and shawls to junk jewelry and beautiful original artwork.
It is a novel experience to walk through Laitumkhrah's little streets, taking in the sights, sounds and smells that will forever stay in your memory as a part of Shillong.
Without a doubt, Police Bazar is the commercial hub of Shillong that offers a complete shopping experience. Police Bazar is probably the place that best epitomizes Shillong's cosmopolitan culture. The market had its origin almost around the same time that Shillong became capital in 1874, with the early batch of Indian settlers, shopkeepers and traders who moved from Cherrapunjee setting up their enterprise in the area known as 'Police Bazar'.
Some of the best restaurants in Shillong: La Galerie, Ske Asia, Bombay Biites, City Hut Dhaba are all located in and around Police Bazar. Noted hotels like Centre Point line the skyline of Police Bazar. Shopping complexes like O.B. Mall, Glory's Plaza, and Cosmos and an extensive number of shops selling every imaginable product from fruits to handloom products prove that police Bazar is every shopper's delight, right here in Shillong.
Police Bazar has something for everybody. Discover good bargains and an intriguing haggling experience at the Glory's Plaza which is the destination for trendy yet relatively inexpensive clothes, shoes and accessories. Makes for a unique, 'mini-Bangkok' shopping experience. On the contrary, the bigger shopping complexes and a number of outlets have a gwide array of options for the brand-conscious shopper/.
Handicrafts and handloom products are available at the smaller curios shops and the larger India Emporium or Purbasree in Police Bazar. Police Bazar is literally where all the action is, being home to the city's best nightclubs, Cloud 9 and Tango.
Police Bazar will figure largely in the Shillong experience, be it for the wonderful shopping or nights spent in realizing that Shillong is as happening as any other destination.
Just about 5 kilometers south of Shillong lies the Shillong Peak. Local legend has it that the peak is the abode of the deity Shyllong, from whose name Shillong is derived. Located at a staggering 6,433 feet above sea level, almost forming the roof of Shillong in the clouds, Shillong Peak is known for the spectacular bird's eye view it offers of Shillong. while the forests surrounding Shillong Peak make for an interesting hiking experience; to see the city of Shillong laid out before one's vision like a replica of the real thing is a treat in itself.
Watching the clouds roll over Shillong and trying to identify familiar landmarks from the viewpoint is an experience your Shillong sojourn won't be complete without.
Adding to the charm of this scenic locale are sundry little shops that sell a plethora of goods from locally woven shawls to cane products and food.
While the less ignorant might write Ward's Lake off as one of those many typical, pretty touristy stops on the Shillong Map, it has the special note of being a symbol of the transformation of Shillong from a village to a mini-England.
Earlier known as Elliot's Lake, Chief Commissioner Sir William Ward transformed it, enlarging it and improving the landscape and most famously constructing the wooden bridge, all with the end of enhancing the 'Englishness' of Shillong.
Today, Ward's Lake is one of the most endearing symbols of the British Raj's love affair with Shillong. It makes for a relaxing afternoon to walk through the extensive, green grounds, feed the fish that swarm in huge schools when you toss fish feed from the bridge; and not to forget, boating. A cafeteria on the grounds makes sure your afternoon exploring Ward's Lake doesn't leave you hungry.
54 kms from Shillong, Cherrapunjee, the old capital of the British till 1874 affords an astounding perspective on the essence of Meghalaya, 'The Abode of Clouds'. Stemming from its repute as one of the world's wettest regions, Cherrapunjee is a kaleidoscope of winding roads that run through endless expanses of green fields only to disappear into clouds of mist; plunging waterfalls that merge into green pools hundreds of feet underneath, and a heritage that harkens back to the days of the British Raj. Add to all this weather that has the mind of a woman: within two shakes of a lamb's tail, rain-laden clouds part to hail sunshine.
Viewpoints like Mawkdok, halfway between Shillong and Cherrapunjee are an excellent vantage point where within the range of one's vision, the green hills and plateaus of Cherrapunjee drop to give way to the rolling plains and paddy fields of Bangladesh. This stark metamorphosis of the topography is a sheer delight for the senses. Riat Mawiew, the Grand Canyon of Cherrapunjee is the ultimate treat for the nature lover. Gorges drop hundreds of feet below while lush green forests cover the sides of the drop. Waterfalls like Kynrem Falls, Nohkalikai, Noh Sngi Thiang Falls and Dain Thlen Falls provide the high points of a visit to Cherrapunjee. Cascading in sprays of mist from great heights, these waterfalls are nothing less than a spectacle and living proof of why Cherrapunjee is one of the absolute must-experience eco-destinations in the world.
Adding to this backdrop of awe-inspiring display of nature at its best are the ruins, monoliths and centuries-old architecture that is testimony to the British, Welsh and rich local heritage. Obelisks that still stand in their old glory mark the road at regular intervals. At Nongsawlia, stands the church that was built shortly after the first church in the Northeast was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1897. This church and the Thomas Jones School of Mission and Evangelism nearby at Saitsohpen is verification of the years that the missionary Rev. Thomas Jones of the Welsh Calvinistic Mission spent here in Cherrapunjee. This was the same persona who is given the credit for giving the Khasi a written form of their language.
The Rama Krishna Mission also has an establishment in Cherrapunjee, and houses a museum on its premises. One can also shop to one's content from the Sohra Market where oranges and orange honey, Cherrapunjee's claim to fame, and an intoxicating variety of local products are likewise available. At Saitsohpen, a detour leads to The Green Rock Ranch, an interesting conglomeration of a horse-riding corral, an archery range, acres of green pasture land, a coffee-shop, a lounge amidst old ruins, a grove and a nature trail that leads to a view-point from where is visible an endless panorama of awe-inspiring ranges of blue hills and deep gorges. The Ranch lies on property that once belonged to the Shadwells, a family of early English settlers. A sign reads 'Shadwell's Rest', marking the family graveyard on the premises of the Ranch itself.
On the drive to Mawsmai, one can perceive the obelisk that stands as a memorial to David Scott, Agent to the Governor General on the North-eastern Frontier of Bengal. The Mawsmai Village, at around a 10 minute drive from the Sohra Market is home to the Mawsmai Cave or Krem Mawsmai. A paved path leads to the main entrance. Venture through the fully-lighted cave to discover the astounding formations of stalagmites and stalactites that have acquired their present contours over the course of thousands of years. This cave with 5 river passages is one of the longest in the Sub-continent.
Khoh Ramhah or the Pillar Rock is another must-visit destination in Cherrapunjee. It presents an incredible spectacle: that of a massive rock-formation in the shape of a giant cone. As the legend goes, this was the fossilized cone-shaped basket of an evil giant. The viewpoint nearby adds to the allure of this place and is the ultimate station to enjoy the glories of the sunset, the colors oscillating as the sun sets simultaneously over Khoh Ramhah and the plains of Sylhet.
Cherrapunjee is endowed with local shops and the Halari Restaurant that ensures no dearth of refreshments. It is not unusual to spot ropeways en route; a fascinating sight indeed for the first-timer to watch boxes of goods and supplies being transported across hundreds of feet to a village somewhere in the dense jungles that cover the hills.
A visit to Cherrapunjee and to experience all it has to offer is a must. Because it's one of the few places on earth where history and time stand frozen amidst beauty from every point of view
The renowned sacred forests of Meghalaya located in Mawphlang, a half-hour's drive from Shillong is also designated the name 'Nature's own museum'. The historical and religious significance of this forest has led to the preservation and abundance of a wealth of flora and fauna, which is a virtual treasure trove for the botanist or the naturalist.
The Sacred grove has been maintained for centuries now, in an undisturbed state. The basis for this is the belief of the local people that it is imperative to let every tree, flower or fruit grow and remain untouched, to appease the sylvan deities. From a distance is visible an expanse of flat, green pastureland, and at the end of it in sharp contrast, a thick dense forest that looks almost impenetrable on first glance. The trails that lead into the forest are hemmed in on all sides by scattered growth of oaks, rhododendrons, and other trees whose branches are weighed down by thick growth of ferns, orchids and other epiphytic species. A walk through the forest is a spellbinding encounter not just with nature, but rather one is left with the consciousness of being in close communion with the divine, for whom the sacred grove is abode. A grave silence prevails, which is broken only by the sound of the occasional bird, or by your feet sinking into the soft cushion of humus and foliage that blankets the entire forest floor. The sound of a brook gurgling adds to the unison of the symphony of the forest. Mushrooms of every color and kind and a huge variety of flowers seem to abound in every possible corner and it is easy to see why this forest has been christened 'Nature's Own museum'.
As one walks away from the forest on a rainy afternoon, a thick fog blankets the forest, seeming to signify the mystic grandeur of the Sacred Grove, which must remain above intrusion.
On the way back from Mawphlang, it is commonplace to spot the blacksmiths of Mylliem at work. This is definitely worth closer scrutiny, because the iron industry of the Khasi Hills has been recognized as having been in existence since time immemorial.
And it is most interesting to note that the ancient method of smelting iron using the hand driven bellows is still in use. It is nothing short of fascinating to watch the blacksmiths pumping the bellows and pounding on the iron to get it into the desired shape. This iron is finally finds use in implements and tools like the traditional 'dao'(a machete- shaped tool) that finds its way to the local markets. It is almost easy to believe, as you walk away from the sound of the pounding and the sparks flying that time has ceased to exist, and yesterday is today.
It is incredible to watch the hills, cascading waterfalls and plunging gorges of Mawsynram unfold like a pop-up storybook after just around a 1 hr drive from Shillong. Even more incredible is how the people of Mawsynram live as one with the land.
Villages lie in small clusters at the bottom of the jungle-covered hills, inaccessible to the outside world except by steep mountain trails that wind through thick tropical forests with an amazing bio-diversity. Trekking to villages Kenmysnsaw and Kenbah is a strenuous 2-hour affair that would prove to be an indomitable challenge for the first-timer in the beginning. However, the lush green orange and grapefruit orchards and the beautiful flora and fauna throughout the hike makes it an experience that remains unforgotten. Mawsynram is known for having the highest recorded rainfall in the world, and lives up to its repute by surprising one with quick showers at the most unexpected instances.
The sound of rushing waters greets the visitor. The sight of clothes drying on rocks as a stream rushes past and a cluster of little houses with more clothes drying on the roofs tell the visitor he's arrived. A hanging wire bridge takes one across the river and into the village. Kenmynsaw and Kenmynbah, which lie next to each other, are both craft villages. The people literally live off the land, using the cane and bamboo of the jungles to craft beautifully finished products. Occupants of every house are to be seen busy at work, weaving baskets, hand-bags, vases and a myriad other products that are stored at the nearby
The villagers greet visitors with a mixture of curiosity and warm friendly hospitality, offering you tea or 'kwai', and proffering you the shelter of their verandahs to rest tired limbs. Curious children gather in flocks to scrutinize you, leaving behind their play at what the observant visitor will notice, is with cane and bamboo, learning young.
On the climb back up to the top, it is an ethereal experience to stop halfway, look back and see the villages twinkling like fairy lights in the night while mist settles slowly over it.
The village of Nartiang confirms the fact that Meghalaya is where time stands still, while everything else moves forward. Nartiang, 65 kms east of Shillong was the summer capital of the Jaintia kings Its significance centers around this, and other existing evidence of an ancient culture and religion that is far from dying out.
The Durga Temple at Nartiang stands today as verification of the Hindu heritage of the Jaintia Kingdom, which dates back to about 1446 A.D. Although the original structure has been modified, the temple holds the same altar, idols and the swords which were used to offer sacrifices to the goddess Durga centuries back. During the rule of the Jaintia kings, human sacrifices were made but with the advent of the British, this was banned. Till date, a cast of the first British victim's face hangs on a pillar inside the temple, the contours of his face marked with blood. The hole in the ground through which the heads of the sacrifices were relinquished, and rolled out into the river Myntang through a tunnel is still present within the same temple.
The temple is maintained by a family of priests originally from Ujjain, a direct descendant of the priest who officiated during the rule of the Jaintia Kings. The Durga Temple at Nartiang draws visitors and devotees alike. As one walks away from the temple, the feeling of having visited the past hangs heavy.
A short walk away lies the Shiv Temple. Also to be seen are the remnants of the Summer Palace on a hill about 2 km from the Nartiang market. The market of Nartiang in itself has a legend connected to its history, a legend that lunks it to the huge collection of monoliths near it. It is said that the legendary hero, U Mar Phalyngki carried a large slab from the Raliang market place to Nartiang, taking on a wager from his mother-in-law. It is said that the market-place was then transferred to Nartiang to commemorate this extraordinary feat. Till date, this market place stands at Nartiang, right alongside the huge collection of monoliths.
All of these monoliths stand amidst a huge grove of trees and the grove occurs in an almost hollowed out space. The dolmens or 'female stones', which are the horizontal stones supported by 3 or more stones on end are almost all buried in shrubbery and nettled. The tallest standing stone or menhir is nearly 30 feet high, and local folklore has it that it was erected by a lieutenant of the Jaintia King to mark his victory in a battle.
All the monoliths were erected by the villagers of Nartiang “in commemoration of glorious events of the Jaintia Kings and the great hero Mar Phalanki- 1500-1835 A.D.”—as a marble slab at the entrance declares.
It is overwhelming to find oneself amidst these monoliths that have survived the centuries and will continue to intrigue future generations. En route to Nartiang is the Thadlaskein Lake, a man-made lake which legend maintains was dug by a renegade chieftain Sajar Nagli and his followers with the end of their bows before he fled the kingdom. As a matter of fact, it has recently been renamed the Sajar Nagli Lake. Boating on the Sajar Nagli Lake in the evening, with the wind blowing in your hair and the occasional migratory bird skimming the lake as it fliespast is the perfect way to say goodbye to Nartiang.
On Market days, it is an exhilarating experience to see women, men and children squatting under the tiny, thatched structures, selling everything from cane baskets, vegetables and fruits to steaming hot local delicacies, being cooked on the spot. The drive back to Shillong itself is a novelty. Leaving behind the thick tropical forests of the Jaintia Hills and its lush, green paddy fields, the twinkling city lights and the chilly night air of Shillong manifests itself within two hours. A perfect analogy of the past and the present existing in perfect harmony.
A scenic drive takes one along the most startlingly unspoiled vistas of nature compounded with occasional manifestations of the ancient culture of the Khasi, villages where modern structures share the skies with monoliths. The winding roads lead from the sleepy yet bustling town of Shillong, the countryside opening up a panorama of endless green hills, metamorphosing from the hustle and bustle of civilization to the achingly virgin beauty of the Khasi Hills.
The cultural center of the Khyrim Syiemship, Smit-Nongkrem manifests itself within half an hour from Shillong. Curious villagers chat excitedly in the native tongue, and shy children giggle and scamper away as soon as they spot a camera, proof that regular contact with the 'outside world' is not a mundane occurrence.
The house of the local priest—the 'Lyngdoh' as he is known is a study in itself. Like many other houses in the village, it stands proudly in its timeless glory—built on an elevation, with a thatched roof and wood-and-bamboo interior. A colossal-sized grain basket rests on the rafters in the porch. A stone's throw away is located the village brewery, the only legal 'bar' in the Kingdom of Khyrim. A wizened old man sits patiently stoking the fire, and with the characteristic amicable warmth of the Khasi, offers visitors a taste of the rice wine, which is surprisingly clear and gives you a mild kick seconds after you down it.
At Smit, resides the 'Iing Sad', the royal abode of the Syiem Sad, Queen Mother or High Priestess of Hima Khyrim, who is the custodian of the indigenous religion. From Smit, the road takes one past terraced green rows of vegetation and coniferous trees that flank the way past the village of Thangsniang. The hills by the road-side are covered with scattered growth of sweet wild berries, of which the traveler can take a sample. The sleepy little settlement of Nongkynrih, illustrious for its bows and arrows (archery being a traditional pastime and sport in Meghalaya) comes next. Quaint little houses, flowers blooming in abundance and stacks of firewood spread out to dry make this stop-over unforgettable. A tea-shop serving the aromatic and refreshing brew serves to rejuvenate the flagging traveler. Local women selling 'putharo' and 'pukhlien', Khasi rice-cakes in cane-baskets strapped on to their backs is not an unusual sight.
After high tea at Nongkynrih, the road takes one past even more peculiar sights, like men selling lengths of the celebrated Laitlyngkot sausages. The route then opens out to even more breathtaking manifestations of Nature at its best. While heather and wildflowers sway by the road, the view extends to lush green gorges which in turn dips down to reveal the flat, rolling plains of Bangladesh.
Pynnursla is the next stop and at this juncture, this is the place to replenish on camera film and other necessities. The next destination is Mawlynnong. The drive to Mawlynnong, a village close to the Bangla border offers one an otherworldly experience which is beyond any description. The way winds through hairpin curves while mist covers your vision and leaves one with a heady feeling of being somewhere on the edge of the world, meandering through clouds, literally. As the clouds lazily drift away, the tableau hems in to tropical vegetation of bamboo and other dense growth. The humidity in the air is justified when one spots a sign 'Welcome to Mawlynnong'. A cane garbage can sits beside the sign, a portent of what the first-time visitor is about to see.
Mawlynnong is best described as a veritable tropical paradise and a nature lover's dream destination. Houses, each with a garden of flowers of exotic variety—orchids, birds-of-paradise, lilies, etc. all blooming profusely in every imaginable nook and cranny. Little stone paths thread between the houses and the entire village is impeccably clean. Spires of two churches grace the skies, and the people are a friendly and cheerful lot who endear themselves to the visitor immediately. One can spend a holiday at Mawlynnong at the Village Guest House, a delightful little abode built in traditional style with a bamboo-and-cane interior. The back porch extends by a hanging bridge and leads out to two sit-outs over the jungle. The cacophonic symphony of the river rushing past, crickets, birds, and other sounds of the jungle here are a sheer delight for the senses.
Mawlynnong is a must-experience destination for lovers of nature and good hospitality.
Umiam Lake or 'Barapani' as it is locally known is the first presage to the visitor that heralds his arrival in Shillong, 'the Abode of Clouds'. Spread over a large area encompassing several square kilometers, its azure waters sparkling in the sun, it is a treat for the eyes. According to local folklore, two sisters from heaven wanted to come down to Meghalaya, but only one sister made it. It is said that the lake was formed from the tears that she cried at the loss of her sister.
In actuality, the lake was formed after a hydro-electric dam was formed across a stream. Stretches of pine-covered land interpose, forming little isles in the tranquil, blue-green waters of the lake. In recent years, the Umiam Lake has become one of the most popular destinations for outings. The Water Sports Complex which consists of the Orchid Lake Resort and the Nehru Park, provides a wide choice of thrilling water sports and other activities, from kayaking and water-skiing for the brave-hearted to water-cycling and boating for the less adventurous.
The Orchid Lake Resort is a beautifully appointed setting, amidst rolling expanses of pine forests, and is equipped with a restaurant and bar.
Ri Kynjai – 'Serenity by the Lake', the first spa-resort of its kind in Meghalaya is the latest addition to the landscape of Umiam. This resort sprawls across 45 acres and combines a variety of architectural designs into one cohesive whole. The focal point, however is the 'traditional village', which comprise of 'modern huts', which has its source from the original thatched huts of the Khasi – 'iing phlang' which translates ' grass house'.
While it maintains the shape of the overturned boats, which according to local legend, were the first shelter of the Khasi tribe, when they arrived by sea. These 'huts', have been adapted and developed to integrate modern amenities. Paneled with Khasi pine, each cottage encompasses a bed/living area, a mezzanine floor/bedroom, bathroom and a sit-out area that offers a scintillating view of Umiam Lake and the endless blue of the Khasi Hills beyond.
Dining at the restaurant at Ri Kynjai is an unequalled experience. The restaurant caresses the ground closer to the lake and offers a stunning full view of the breath-taking panorama. Select North-eastern delicacies, Indian, Pan-Asian and continental cuisine is served by comparatively the finest chefs in the region. A lunch at this exclusive resort is facilitated only by previous booking.
Ancient Khasi herbal massage therapy is the USP of the spa, together with other more familiar forms of spa therapy. A walk through the resort leads through tall groves of pine, along the lake to the rice fields. An organic tea and vegetable garden proffers the joys of farming to the fastidious guest. The emporium at the resort also stocks up on a variety of exquisitely carved and woven handicrafts of the North-east.
The 'Lum Soh Petbneng', the most sacrosanct peak in Khasi tradition, and similarly the 'Lumdiengie' are only a few kilometers away from Ri Kynjai, and trekking to these peaks makes for an experience you won't forget. Ro Kynjai provides the perfect culmination to your one of a kind North-eastern experience with cultural dances and folk music of the region in the evenings.
Ri Kynjai combines the essence of the Northeast- breath-taking natural beauty, an exotic and unparalleled culture and in the mix, the final and the most important ingredient-an epicurean setting to savor it all.