Meghalaya – Dawki, Umngot River, and Mawlynnong

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In an earlier post, I described the Cherrapunji and Nongriat section of Meghalaya that I visited. In this post, I”ll talk about the rest of the places that I saw in Meghalaya.

For your reference, here is the map of Meghalaya again. It outlines perfectly the routes we took and the places we saw.

In the previous post, I covered the left side of the fork. In this post, I chat about the right-side.

A map of Meghalaya

A map of Meghalaya

So, first up, let’s go to one of the furthest points we ventured into.

Dawki – India Bangladesh border

Dawki is the border crossing between India and Bangladesh, and I was pretty excited to visit this place, as this is the first time I would visit any of India’s borders. In my head, I was thinking of the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan, which is a must-visit because of all the pomp and ceremony.

However, the border crossing at Dawki seemed so very simple. There is hardly anything to indicate that this is an international border. The jawans manning the area were all relaxed. There was no border fencing in sight. It seemed more like an inter-state border than an international one. It was interesting to see because I have always heard that there is a lot of undocumented crossing that happens from Bangladesh to India. But if there is, it seems to be on pretty friendly terms – at least judging from the demeanor of the people there.

The Indo-Bangla border

The Indo-Bangla border

The lack of drama at the border was a bit of a disappointment. The drive there was beautiful though. Unfortunately, because tt was a very long and winding road from Shillong, and because the roads were so bad, we were moving very slowly. Our driver advised us that stopping for photos would really delay us.

As we neared the border, we crossed a very picturesque bridge from where we could see the river dividing India and Bangladesh. The flat expanse of Bangladesh was so different from the hilly terrain we were on.

Here too, we were banned from taking photos because of security restrictions 🙁 .

So that was the Dawki border crossing. It’s one of those places where the drive to it was more beautiful and impressive than the actual place.

Umngot River

After crossing the border crossing off our list, we made our way to the Umngot river. This river is famous for its crystal-clear, glass-like, emerald green waters. The water is so clear that you can see the river bed 12 feet below. This may not be a major thing for other countries, but considering how polluted our rivers are, this is a major attraction.

The area surrounding the river is also very beautiful and scenic – overall making it a lovely place to linger. There were hardly any tourists around either giving it a very unspoiled atmosphere.

Beautiful Umngot river

Beautiful Umngot river

Unfortunately, the lack of tourists also mean that the place is not very developed. We had to climb down to the river from the road. It’s not a steep climb, by any means, but watch your footing. Catching the boat meant climbing over rocks, and wading into the water. The pebbles in the river bed were very slippery and I stumbled and fell into the water.

I just about managed to keep my camera above my head, but after this experience, I decided it was safer to pack up the camera and just enjoy the beauty of the place for myself.

In any case, photos just don’t do enough justice to this place.

We took a boat further up the river to a beach at the opposite end, where we set camp and decided what to do. There are some options for adventure sport – kayaking and zip-lining across the river. I think if you are into fishing, you could do that as well.

We opted for the zip-lining, for which there was another climb up the hill to the zip-line point. This is my first time zip-lining and I was pretty nervous. But the experience was simply beautiful, not scary at all – though you have to remember to brake as you approach the rocks on the other side. I was zooming very fast, and I had a hard stop.

We also kayaked for a bit.

Kayaking on the Umngot river

Kayaking on the Umngot river

The kayaking was fun and perfectly safe as the river was very still. It’s a great place for novices (like me) to try out some kayaking skills.

We probably spent a bit too much time there, but it was such an idyllic place that I don’t mind that one bit.

I do regret stopping for lunch at the shack besides the river. It was probably the most awful food I ever had. We ate there because we had no other choice – there are no other eating joints on the road. However, if you are going there – take a packed lunch and make it a picnic by the river.

Note: We went to this river in early November just after the monsoon ends. The river was clear, but I believe it gets better further on in the season (Dec-Apr). The months from May to October are the monsoons. The river gets flooded, and is not suitable for sight-seeing.

Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village

The sun was starting to set by the time we finished lunch (the sunsets in Meghalaya are ridiculously early), and it was a mad rush to get to Mawlynnong before dark. We had planned only 3 days in Meghalaya and we were really feeling the pressure to complete all the places we had in mind to our satisfaction.

Mawlynnong was a full two-hour drive away and so we reached there around 4:30, well past dark. It was very hard to see anything much. It might not necessarily be the cleanest, because I wonder what are the standards set and who is scoring these villages, but it is certainly extremely clean and well-tended to. But I found this the case anywhere I went in Meghalaya. There were plenty of dustbins all through the highway. Many times, I also saw the locals cleaning up the roads – removing the trash left behind by the tourists. Apart from the village, there is a world famous living root bridge just a 10 minute hike away from the village.

Unfortunately, we were too late. We didn’t have torches or anything, and it just did not seem safe to attempt anything after sunset.

Instead, we spent some time chatting with the villagers, enjoying the tea and biscuits, and making friends with the local kids.

There were many tourists staying the night in the village. Quite a few of the villagers were running home-stays. I think it makes sense to stay a night here. Since we hadn’t planned properly, we had another looong drive to look forward to back to our hotel in Shillong.

So, this was one day in Meghalaya people! Was it a rush? Not really. If I had to do it again, I would probably have started earlier, spent a little less time at the border crossing, and spent the night in Mawlynnong. The next morning, we would have visited the living root bridge close by, and then proceeded to either visit Cherrapunjee, or go back to Shillong.

Still, I have no complaints about our day!

Coming up: A photo post with some travel pics that didn’t make it into my travel blog posts so far, and another post summing up our entire itinerary, and where we could have improved a bit.

Hope you liked hearing about my travels!

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