Sunday, December 26, 2010

End of Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 18

While the wound created a strong scar in our mind at Kalighat, most importantly the person who played the most fraudulent role (shop keeper) we bid adieu to Kolkata in the next day.

Just in case if anyone visiting Kolkata and Kali temple please see the picture below and if you happen to see this person, don't even think of stopping there.

Then there was some good moments too, I had an opportunity to catch up with a folk music performed in a popular night life spot in the city at "The Park". Man that was some fusion with western and folk combination. Before the folk fellows got in to the stage I got a glimpse of their rehearsals in a smoky room. After enjoying the music, I addressed the tour as a complete package.

I must say before we started our journey back to Chennai once again the family was taken up for a city ride on the prominent yellow taxi, to just roam.

The return journey to Chennai was fixed in a 2A/C to avoid burning in the hot summer travel, the whole day was spent in side the train without much action. The dawn set to dusk to only let us wake up at Chennai in the next morning.

Once again the same scheduled tasks and office travel right from the next monday morning, but then I was surprised to see the grey pelicans at the OMR still roaming around the lake in spite of passing their migratory biological clock, They are here right infront me.

If only I have power to stop, I will surely react to the illegal mining at Megalaya. All I can say contribute anything that you can to save the beautiful earth, avoid climate changes and save wildlife. Like me let the future generation to witness all the beauties of this wonderful country.

See you all at another travelogue, thanks for all your support. Once again special thanks to all the people who helped me getting my trip a successful one.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 17 (Kalighat Kali Temple - Never visit again)

The train journey in the next morning was already started showing the fate of our trip in Kolkata, yes early in the morning I could notice the white sun with no pleasant message, it was a fortune teller about the hot day ahead.

The rail roads reached its destination, we were about to touch Howrah station. Every one was ready and packed the stuffs.

At first I thought I will find another hotel in downtown Kolkata instead of Howrah, as staying in the city may give some opportunity to travel in the Tram. A quick taxi drive into the esplanade area showed us the most congested Kolkata city, I was spotting a concrete made tub shared by at least 30 men for bathing on the road(unfortunately I was in moving cab and couldn’t pickup the camera from bag before we passed the scene).

The taxi trip also gave a quick glance of heritage beauty the Tram network in Kolkata, We (I) for sure enjoyed seeing it. The tram(m)way in the middle of the road negotiating with cars, rickshaws and pedestrians, Great.

By then my family was already tired and wanted to go back to the old hotel itself, so the U turn to reach Howrah, once again we reached Hotel Meghdoot.

The weather god in Kolkata was very unfair with us, our summer holiday was kind of over, I watched the TV at the hotel room to understand the weather forecast and Kolkata was hotter than Chennai by 5degrees. My kids were already saying Aaiiiyooo! , seeing all the drama I decided to cancel all the plans in Kolkata and just stayed clam at the hotel room to keep the North East memory safe.

We only went to the Kalighat Kali Temple in the evening, I’m extremely sorry if my words below hurts anyone’s sentiments but I felt very much disappointing by the way we were treated in the temple by the Pandits. The Pandits (mostly) seemed well trained in day light robbery. Here is the story, we reached the temple by a taxi and a shop keeper at the temple entrance asked us to take all the Pooja items including some sweets (packed in a leaf cup), bangle like stuff (4 nos), Aroma sticks, Flowers and a Coconut. At first he was telling me 50 for bangles, 150 for sweets and rest are 10 and 15 rupees. We agreed and I was about to pay, he said I need to pay after coming back from the temple and send a guy (Pandit) with us to do the pooja.

We went with the guy and he took us inside the temple, the moment we entered another pandit inside was asking money I thought this guy and he are associated and I asked why? He told me this is thakshina, Hmm something fishy my father took some money (few 10 rupees bills) and tried to pickup one from the bunch, before even we realized the other pandit grabbed all the 10 rupees bills from my father and vanished from the scene. I was at great shock, even before I asked the other pandit who accompanied us he moved near the sanctorum and asked me to get in, but then another pandit on the entrance of sanctorum asking me Rs.200 and once again it was a great shock and I said no, he bullied and pushed me away while grabbing a Rs.20 from my hands which I was about to donate to the Hundi basket. While all these things were happening in sub one minute gap, the Pandit who walked with us went outside and took us into the hall before the Santorum, and another elderly Pandit came and started doing pooja in a corner of the hall without any statues of any god. I didn’t realize that he is doing the pooja, I thought he is taking out names etc for doing the actual pooja at the Santorum, after two minutes he completed the pooja without even breaking the coconut and asked us Rs.250 @#$%, I was out of my temper and started shouting at him, there were many other pandits came together and finally we have to pay Rs.250.

When the scene inside the temple like that, we went out of the temple and reached the shop he had a bill for Rs.950 for the items he provided. ****, I really hated the entire people around the temple, after a larger debate we have settled for Rs.600 because the useless pandit who walked with us got a price tag of Rs. 200 and the bangles in the basket was priced at Rs.50 each. I don’t want to loose my temper any more and through the money and pushed away, just because I was in an alien terrain with in my country.

I’m sure with this kind of cheap money making activities with no signs of devotedness to the Goddess the Goddess in the temple would have long before vanished and she lives elsewhere in the hearts of lovable people.

Once again this information is narrated here only for prevent anyone going through the same hurdles and not to hurt anyone’s sentiment. I’m extremely sorry if I did by posting this very unfortunate experience in here. (I’m not going to post any picture here as the entire blog will loose its charm for me)

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 16 (Eastern Railway trip)

All good so far, we reached the last day of our trip in NE, the Train scheduled to start at 12:45 and we were prompt to board into the train. The entire journey to cover 1024kms in train, and this is going to have good amount of day train trip in the very comfortable climate, what else one need to enjoy the window seat.

The trip was excellent, right from Guwahati to New Jalpaiguri and little above distance we had sun light and enjoyed all the sceneries en-route.

The major attraction to me on the train journey was the fishing nets used by villages on the sides of rail track. The technology the followed had a similarity to the larger Chinese fishing nets used in Fort Kochi.

Most of the places in Assam was flood surrounded due to the recent rains, can see many places the corps were submerged in water.

Life in village were badly affected least to mention.

As always we had a good time in the train journey and kids were happy too.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 15 (Assam Spoil Sport)

When we travelled back from Sohra to Guwahati we crossed Shillong and stopped at a village to get some fruits, obviously the fruit was Strawberry as kids really attracted by the color and shape of it.

As usual we enjoyed the whole trip through the Megalaya’s road, when reached Guwahati I had to waste little time in arguing with the taxi driver (already reported the issue in my previous posts), and checked in the same Starline hotel, but then this time the hotel didn't have 4 bedded room vacant hence I was settling for two double bedrooms in 2nd floor.

The next day morning the hotel staff provided hot water in a bucket but the cold water in the tab was as bad a ditch (complete black in color), I really had a bad time and after 5 hours of delay the hotel people shifted my parents to 4th floor in an other room. By the time we were ready at 11AM, I noticed the rain god also in tour to Guwahati. Looked like he came with his entire army and pouring like anything, we were waiting at the hotel for the rain to get over but nothing happened. It was continuously raining till 3:30PM.

We ordered our breakfast and lunch at the hotel and around 4PM we started towards the Zoo (used 2 auto rickshaws), the whole scene Guwahati was bad as knee deep water everywhere. The autos took many roundabouts and finally reached a lane opposite side of Zoo.

We had to walk on the water to reach the zoo, though I didn’t like the idea but then kids were disappointed last time also in the zoo hence we decided to walk while I was carrying Adhava in my arm.

Many vehicles sailed on the roads that were converted as water channels and we slowly reached the Zoo at around 4:45PM. You know what once again we were denied access to the Zoo stating that the Guwahati Zoo ticket counter closes at 4:30pm, My Bad @#$%&*. Kids were started crying, I got no answer to them.

Finally it was my father who took them around showing some monkeys (though enough of them are there in my home town). The mokeys in Guwahati looked little different compare to the ones seen in Tamilnadu.

I followed my father's idea and distracted the the children by letting them play with the Snails on the ground which were popping out due to the rain.

Once the kids cooled down, we closed the day and returned to Hotel, again the trip from Zoo to Hotel was not so good except a stretch were we took Cycle Rickshaw ride.

The next day noon in our plan is to travel back to Kolkata, hence Guwahati Zoo is kind impossible to visit.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 14 (Nohkalikai water falls - Sohra)

Though I liked North East food, most of the tourist locations had not much of restaurants. Options availed for the people on the move was really thin. At time I found it very difficult to find a food stop so we carried a packet of Bread, Jam and Butter as a fall back arrangement and we had to use it many times. Here in Mawsmai cave, the restaurant served wonderful food though I was settled with Maggi cup noodles only my wife tasted the hotel food and gave a very good feedback about to food served.

We moved straight to Nohkalikai falls, for some who have never heard this falls may raise eye brow. For me seeing this falls at first had the same feeling of seeing Taj Mahal first time in life.

It it it is wonderful nature; I love to spend my rest of the life infront of this place. My god no words to describe the flair of nature. The tall waterfalls and the turquoise water comes underneath the rocks around were simple awesome.

Spotting the vegetation on the mountain top and the valley just below the steep side of the hills completely looked contrasting, Just that the top portion gets rainfalls but water runs away but the valley gets all the water so the flora and founa is firm in that groud.

This place has got many watter falls one after one and the height of the falls is adorable giving a unique look to the entire area. See the pictures here to scale the height of the falls, I have tried to take pictures of the same falls in different height levels and looked like different one at every picture.

The water that is harvested from Cheerapunjee rain adds more source for the waterfalls however to our bad luck these waterfalls are actual gateway to Bangladesh for the precious Cheerapunjee water, once the water passes through the falls directly runs into the lush green forest and reaches Bangladesh.

Straight opposite to the place we were standing and admiring the beauty of the Nohkalikai falls above the waterfalls is where the Eco Park is located. So we moved to see the water before jumping into the water falls, here also the car parking, toilets were maintained utmost clean and the park itself wore a nice look with just lawn every where with the waterways crossing it in multiple places farming multiple waterfalls underneath.

There was a small well (that was what I assumed at first), when approached near to that read the board claiming it to be "Missing Waterfalls", Huh Missing waterfalls ? eagarly went and saw inside the round wall to only spot the water going down into the gap of a rock cluster and the water is not seen anywhere on the other side of the mountain, I guess it goes direct below the mountain somewhere.

You can go to the edge of the mountain to witness the jumping water that goes at least 600-1000ft height down. It was sad to see every drop of water that jumps on the edge towards neighboring nation as if some one trying to commit suicide, I know this is different prospect to describe most beautiful element of nature, I can't help it as my origin is a place most talked for water scarcity, and many of the headlines news about our place (Tamilnadu) only about rivers and water share.

While we were on the top of the mountain looking at the valley below noticed white fog formation on the lines of water way and with in 3-5 minutes the entire area was covered with curtain of fog that formed and popped up from the valley below. Then the entire area was completely inaccessible by cameras. Some one around the parking yard was telling me that they have been playing Hide and Seek with the nature for the past few hours as it shuts the beauty with fog for few minutes and again reopens many time in that day.

We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of all the gorgeous aspect of the place before the fog curtain raised, in fact that was just before we stepped out of the park.

With this spot we rolled our Megalaya schedule and zoomed towards Guwahati on the same route which we traveled a day before.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 13 (Magical Mawsmai Cave)

The most exotic and family friendly adventure spot is what I was talking about in my last post. If you all followed me in the thread carefully, you would have already understood I made this trip with 2 elders, 2 youngsters, 2 kids and a teenager hence it was my commitment to all the members that I will make the trip memorable to all the age group.

The Temples in Guwahati was for my parents, the hill stations like Darjeeling, Shillong are for self and wife, toy train, zoo are for the kids, shopping once again for my wife and niece then what was in the package for the teenager in the trip? That is it; we were at Mawsmai caves, a thrilling yet unforgettable experience for the whole family.

I have first heard good English from the ticket counter personal at Mawsmai cave, the people sat inside the counter was cool and soft spoken. They response to all your questions very politely and also gave lots of information about the cave.

After paying and collecting the ticket and camera permission fee, I was also requested by these people to leave all the footwear in the counter itself before proceeding. One more thing, don’t let kids to walk inside the caves and also be careful as the cave floor is slippery. Enough caution words from the gentlemen, I nodded my head like saying yeah and moved in the concrete path.

My parents were already tired in the travel, and asked me if they really need to be coming with me, Oh yeah it is mandatory I said. I captured their tired faces in the camera and climbed few steps to only find the huge cave entrance.

My wife took the camera and asked me to pose from inside the cave entrance for scaling purpose, that’s a good idea I said. The cave entrance looked grand, and my parents didn’t show any fear as a big corridor followed the path inside the cave.

The family moved about 25ft to only understand that the journey inside the cave will not be the same as we did till now, as the path started reducing its height and width.

We found the first obstacle (obviously not for me and the kids); where one need to climb a rock about 4ft and down then go ahead of the path.

I was looking at my parents, visibly they are worried Ohhhhssssh. I said no worries, let us experience what next, and while I was telling these words, there were two foreign nationals jumped on the rocks and went inside. I followed those people to only find them removing the shoes and carrying it with their hands to proceed next as the cave floor was filled with water like a pond.

Oh no, not only the water that makes the concern but now the caves ceiling is shrunk to only three foot height and the width of the path also narrowed to a small hole.

Though my father didn’t say anything but his jaws dropped after seeing it. Eeeerrrrrr, may be a mistake I felt inside my mind.

Just to divert all of their concerns from the narrow path, I started talking to everyone about the textures created by nature in the cave walls. I forgot to tell you all that the Mawsmai caves is one of very unique cave in India that is formed by limestone.

Wify knows my dream to visit Mulu caves in Malaysia which is the world’s largest lime stone cave and also worlds largest cave corridor, as soon as I revealed the Mawsmai cave is a limestone cave, she started telling to all of them no wonder why we are here with my plans.

We paused for few minutes on the same place finding a solution for the narrow pass, Ok that was me again to try crossing the narrow pass and come back to the family side to only covey to them that it is not so tough (but it wasn’t that way).

Little Adithya went back and forth in the narrow pass, I know he could do

The other side of the narrow path got division in the route, one towards right which looked taller and other one is towards left side that was very small and slopping downwards with completely slippery rock, I didn’t know what was in the other side. The taller side path had a board claiming that no exit and no light, hmmm we again need to do another circus, as our path is in the unknown left side. The most important part there is very little place so only one person can stand or sit in this point, so my family was still unaware of the issue.

I called my niece and wify to pass first one by one, just to send them down first so they can keep Adhitya and Adhava and I can call my mother and father slowly. This picture my wify can explain you the difficulties in passing the narrow pass.

It was tough but very interesting, not my words but my mother said after coming out the narrow pass. Smilingly I told her, you are yet to see the most interesting part now and moved a bit to show her the down slope, ha ha ha now it’s the Jaws of my Mother that dropped.

By then my wife, niece and kids were managed to reach the floor next side the left route, so my mother was. Finally my father, he had trouble in passing the first narrow pass due to his body built, but then he could squeeze to come out of the first obstacle.

What next, I told him that mother just went in this way pointing the route. Oh he didn’t show any expression in the face as I expected. But he started moving inside, what a surprise to me.

After we all reached the next side, almost unanimously everyone said this is just great. The cave walls are perfect example for the artistic skills of Mother Nature, Superb sculptures made with perfect sense of arts; we admired every single shape we found inside the cave.

Like this there were few more obstacles, one place had a metal bridge and other places had wooden boards as water crossing arrangement. There was one larger water pool which is good enough to have at least 4ft of depth. Eventually you will have rocks (slippery) to carefully cross the water without getting wet. I’m sure many would have slipped and took bath in the icy cold and clear water inside the cave.

With kids and elderly, I was much worried but they were enjoying the cave crossing experience. The ceiling of the cave is mostly close to the ground only at 4ft or 5ft tall and had very sharp structures which can easily puncture our skin and skull.

After having good time in the caves, some one in my family shouted we are reached the end of the cave by pointing to some sun light. I forgot to tell you, the cave had CFL lights in every 15ft distance which can only used for navigating the route and mostly the tunnel wore a dark theme(picture were taken with flash assist so don't get carried over by the pictures), but with the bright sun light I saw the faces of my family, one more surprise awaited for me as they were all looked fresh. I expected them to be more tired but no I was wrong. Since I carried Adhava all through the caves, my hands were in little pain so I thought everyone was tired.

Ok, now the bright light was not from end of the cave but a larger cavein that caused sunlight from top of the cave to intrude inside the cave.

Adhava wanted to take a picture in that place, I don’t know what attracted him, but he wanted to take picture of him near to that stone in the background. With the help of another tourist we all took our first family picture in the trip inside the cave.

Once again we moved in the cave to find another tunnel of light from before our path

AAAH AAAAaaaaahhhhh I know this is really end of our cave journey, yes it was the end of tunnel.

But then, the tunnel end was not like the cave entrance but very small like a Rabbit’s burrow, want to see how we came out? There you go!

Once we ejected out of the 150mts tunnel, it was all green that surrounded the burrow and I spotted a plant something similar to famous fly trap Nepenthes plant.

After clicking few pics of the lush green environment, the lovely and lonely path pushed us towards the entrance where we started.

Overall adventures and very interesting part of the trip came to end with most satisfying mask covered at everyone face in my family (I know it was time for them to go for lunch)

With Maggi cup noodles that were served in the shops in car parking area we completed our quick lunch. Driver was already in the car to go to the next location in our plan.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 12 (Cheerapunjee aka Sohra)

Pleasant weather and almost flat but winding road in a Toyota with family, there is no other reason required to say that we have enjoyed while we were on the move towards Sohra.

We crossed several Strawberry farms while we were closure to Shillong, later it was only the roads and small villages.

Most of the stretch from Shillong to Sohra was wearing deserted look and its like going on a lonely ride, but the Mother Nature always engaged us in some or other discussion about the plants, hills, sky, color and the birds we spotted.

There is a strong reason to believe in a short time the Shora or Shillong may loose its charm as we witnessed the entire road side from Shillong to Shora been looted by mining activities. Mostly the mines are for Coal or Sand or Granite, but it is in a sad condition for sure. I’m only hoping this will not remain this way for a long time, otherwise the generations to come will not be seeing the beautiful and unique part of the world.

Children from any part of the world are always an attraction and they give the most stunning pictures to my collection. I always like to record them in my camera; here is some from Megalaya kids bunch that I clicked in Shillong to Sohra trip.

We stopped at a tea shop on the way and I got this picture of Tata 407 nosed bus on the opposite lane.

One more thing which was always in my mind, how in the earth these trucks spotted in North East manage to see what is in front of them on the road? Most of the trucks are decorated with ornaments, colors and stickers and height of all many of them had too many stickers including cheap quality and too dark sun film on the windshield. See the truck below which had a combination of sun film and reflective stickers on the windshield covering the entire windshield area, adding to that there is also a Sun shade that covers a quarter of the front face of the truck.

We passed lots of the mines and reached a canal that looked beautiful with no water and a hanging bridge above it for us to cross, when the Innova passed over the bridge the driver pulled the car to park on the road side.

I saw there was lot of tourist looking at the side of the road and moved towards them to see a huge congress of mountain valley with green carpet before me.

That place supposes to be a tourist attraction with the name “Duan sing syiem view point”, it had staircases down the mountain to stand and watch the beauty. After spending few minutes in admiring the place and clicking few family pictures, our driver moved the car and that is the time I realized we were already reached Sohra aka Cheerapunjee from the view point board.

With in a short while, we have reached a road that is elevated by the mountains and nothing above us, I felt like driving in plains. Slowly the winding roads revealed clouds underneath the tyres of the car, means I could locate the thick white smoke below the ground level in the distance. Driver indicated saying that the areas covered with the white cloud in the distance are part of Bangladesh.

I also witnessed the cave-ins and water caves that is created by unscientific coal mining by local which sends all the water from this side of the mountain to Bangladesh side.

At distance I also seen a small town that is Sohra, to precisely describe the way I looked place like a town with a cloud umbrella over it as if the rain god is always read to pour when Cheerapunjee wears dry surface, when approached closely I found that there is a huge Ramakrishna Mission established in there. With a short break in Cheerapunjee we passed the place towards the most desired spot of our trip, before revealing the name I wish to describe the details of reaching that place.

The more closure we have approached that place, the more plains and water channel we found, there were some burial grounds on the ground and up the hills.

In a short while we reached a very small town and a civil construction of a bridge that made us to an uneven road diversion.

The car further moved and reached very narrow village streets but clean and neat place, I guess since Cheerapunjee is always raining all the dirt is cleaned off and making the cleanest place in the world like rainiest place in the world title.

We traveled through the narrow streets for half a kilometer distance and took a right side turn to witness a destroyed sculpture of elephants

Then once again a short lonely slow drive that ended in an entrance of that place, which had display of parking fee information.

Once we moved in the entrance of that place, we found couple of vehicles parked and my kids are already excited with the weather and jumped out of the car as soon as the ignition was set to off mode.

What is the place that excited my family the most, why did I say this place is the most desired one in the entire tour?

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 11 (Scottland Of India)

Scottland of India is a proper term to address the Shillong in all the aspects be it hygiene or climate, I loved travelling on the admirably beautiful roads with lush green on the sides of shoulders of the road greets like mother nature is in happy mood. The conifer family plants made arches across the divisions of internal roads while we approached the highly secured Airforce officer’s enclave kind of location.

One need to sign the register before entering into the Shillong peak which is inside the quarters, the atmosphere inside was excellent and I love to be part of the place now.

We reached the parking lot which was again a properly organized setup with a hut to sit and relax.

The Shillong peak had a corridor to walk around and a watch tower for the tourist to admire the beauty of the city, I had a feeling that Shillong is a small town only till I climbed up the watch tower but then my perception changed and Shillong is a full-fledged city spread across the mountain massively.

The view from the watch tower gives a panoramic picture of the entire city, only thing my tiny Canon Powershot S3IS didn’t support such a large wide angle shot.

Once again it is souvenir shops and few fruit shops on the peak with which we did some window shopping and stepped down towards our lunch break at 4:00pm. The whole family enjoyed the pine trees with in the airforce complex.

Now the driver took us to the center point of the city that showcased very familiar name such as “Chennai Central” and “Madras Café”, that was awesome I spotted fellow south Indians here. With no thinking we entered in the Madras Café just to understand no seats are available to take immediate lunch and the queue inside was really big, I met the owner of the establishment who introduced himself as Manoj of Trichy a Rtd. Officer from CPT or something else.

Since the place was over crowed I asked him if he can point to any other place, we landed in Arun Hotel next to his restaurant a Bengali one, but I did a mistake in that part as none of the food served tasted good and we were the only people sitting on the 15 tables they had. Hmmm I understood why only we were there.

The center of the city seemed always busy like T. Nagar streets in Chennai, So much of people walking on the streets around the corner and my father were asking me if there is a movie theater and the show ended now.

When we had finished our lunch it was around 6:00pm and the dawn set to dusk, that is the time I realized that I missed room booking in Shillong and started hunting the hotels for accommodation and found most of them were booked due to Bihu season, those which available are like Rs.2500 per two person and we were seven. I went to the Magalaya Transport Corporation office which had facilities for accommodation at cheaper tariff but then you need to climb three floors without lift to reach the rooms and you know with 63 year old father it was not going to happen.

I went back to Manoj and he pointed me to a gentleman next to him, who introduced himself has AB (A Bhattacharjee) and an central government employee who also runs a furnished apartment in Shillong. Thank God I met Manoj, AB had his furnished apartment in the residential area that was around 4kms away from center point of the city and it was two bedroom with on Diwan bed on the entrance and two attached bath rooms and one kitchen in it.

A neatly white painted house with good interiors, the kitchen had tea bags, whiteners and instant coffee packs. Also kitchen was equipped with Gas stove, Toaster and all the utensils. You know what all of these for only Rs.1500 for 12 noon to 12 noon day schedule.

In the morning before we checkout the place, I spoke a lady(owner of the premises) stayed in the same compound who also own a smart Chester (name of the dog) stating that this house is around 94 years old and also got some heritage value with it, The great poet Rabindranath Tagore paid a visit to this house in one of his 3 Shillong visit during his life time. I was proud that I found this place, only thing that Mr. AB didn't like the driver staying in the same place and I need to pay for driver’s accommodation elsewhere.

Mr.AB also shared information about Cheerapunjee that the unscientific illegal mining of coal makes lot of cave-ins and the precious Cheerapunjee rain water makes floods in Bangladesh a complete disaster to the environment, a pity state of administration is what he mentioned.

That was the end of our Shillong trip and the car zoomed towards Cheerapunjee aka Sohra.

Shillong furnished apartment accommodation could be booked by calling A Bhattacharjee aka AB(in the picture below) at +91-94361 02252 (, he also stated he can arrange food if pre-requested.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 10 (Elephant Falls - Shillong)

When we arrived at the parking yard of Elephant Falls, I really found amazing with the cleanliness maintained, all the places in NorthEast tourist spots had properly maintained paid toilet arrangements which is a welcome fact.

In the parking yard I saw an old lady selling some striking blood colored fruits, at first from distance I thought it was Shillong Strawberry but I was wrong after going closure I understood it is something else. The fruit had a texture that is similar to our taste buds, we had no time to think any further I just grabbed some from the lady and she offered the fruit with salt in a paper.

She didn’t know Hindi and we had to stop in another souvenir shop to know the name of the fruit that is Shofie a berry family one.

With a pack of Shofie fruits in hand I moved down the stairs to reach the water falls, the fruit had a real delicious taste. ah once again a board asking armed personals to obey the rules here!

After passing the ticket booth, we reached the first waterfalls. The water flows through three stages farming three water falls in a same place.

Some information on the board about the name of the falls here, I must admit at every 3 meters the management of this place kept dust bins and it was so much useful and I could not see any plastics spoiling the environment. Hats off to the management for maintaining the environment so clean.

After seeing the first falls, we reached the 2nd falls which again below some 10 meters, then the last one; to reach the last and larger falls one need to step down in steep staircases, my parents backed off at that stage as they couldn’t go down and climb up. So the rest of the family proceeded down and had a look at the beautiful but lean (not much of water) water falls.

While we were returning back, we noticed one of the shops that provide the traditional Megalaya custumes for rental to take pictures, hmm they had all the sizes and many took the chance to jump inside the heavy dresses, no one from my side had interest in wearing them. So I had to click a picture of some children who had enjoyed the dress (there were some adults who also wore them but I didn’t click)

Oh I forgot, while I was asking the name of fruit with one of the shops there I also requested the cute girls in the shop to pose for my camera as they were in Megalaya’s regular costume.

Finally we moved out of Elephant falls and proceed towards the Shillong city, but then my kids after seeing the Airforce establishments which had few old aero planes parked on the lawn wanted to check that out. Luckily I came to know that it was Airforce museum and the car parked at the gate, no entrance fees but one has to enter the personal information before getting inside.

The museum had good amount of stuffs on the display from rocket to helicopters and cultural pictures and statues of northeast life. We thoroughly enjoyed and found very informative while the kids spend quality time in running around the aero stuffs.

When we out of the museum everyone was completely exhausted and lunch was the immediate need, but then I only came to know from the driver that we need to visit Shillong peak before heading for lunch as it is on the way and lunch will be available only in the main city, hmmm tough call but I had to shudder to his words.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 9 (Megalaya road travel experience)

After hiring a taxi for two days, all of us started our trip to shillong from Guwahati. We estimated to start the trip at 8:00am in the morning but the taxi came only at 9:30am credits go to the bad weather and rain.

Guwahati is a better looking city compare to Kolkata in my views with a single larger high road connecting the whole city and end of the road starts with beautiful scenic mountains.

With in few minutes we are already passed Assam border and touching the most beautiful state of the country called Magalaya (House of Clouds).

I have been heard lots of people saying Magalaya is a beautiful state but the first time experience is something which cannot be described in words. The 90 odd kilometers stretch twisted road trip is awesome and green green more green is what welcomes you every other corner.

When I saw Welcome to Megalaya board was having some civil construction on the National Highway and road was pathetic contributing to huge traffic jam, we had to spend around 30mins but moving inch by inch, but never felt tired as we do in city.

In another incidents trucks parked in opposite direction almost in the middle of road again caused traffic jam, the red lighted cars also added it's part by making the jam more jammed.

Most of the places the climate was so chilled with partially drizzling all over the stretch.

During the road trip, at time we felt we are in Kerala but this place offers much more than what any other place can offer to a tourist, lots of lonely places, beautiful wooden houses which are built on a raised platform from ground level, Paddy fields, Tall trees, British time bridges, Yellow colored Mahindra commanders (taxi) and most importantly Jeeps with trailers attached(the most number of jeeps with trailers are only found in this part of the country I guess).

Our family thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip to Shillong, enroute to Shillong we had cruised along with the Umtru River and the road goes above reservoir built on Umiam Lake (Barapani), I think this lake gets water from Umtru River just before it joins hands with Brahmaputra River. I had initial plans to go to this river but while cruising over the lake we really didn’t feel like stopping over and hence passed the sight, but it was a huge lake.

The total travel took around 2 and half hours and when we entered the Shillong city we started spotting cook automobiles that are Maruti 800s serving as taxis, Tata trucks converted into buses with nose, Yellow Commander taxis and numerous SWB Jeeps.

The Shillong city is also on the hills but not like the Darjeeling where I couldn’t find a single flat surface. If only I can award a state for cleanliness I will surely present the award to Megalaya, what a clean city and state it was.

Looks like more than civilian’s settlement the Shillong hosts more Air-force and Army people, you can see lots of Cantonment around the city.

Our cab directly reached Elephant Falls before proceeding further to accommodation; the first thing to surprise me is what was seen on the ticket booth’s wall that was saying “All the armed forces are requested to obey the rules and regulations of the management”, I guess there are stories behind these sentences and indeed I believed the armed forces are more disciplined than the normal public and the board was only mentioned about Armed forces.

Lots more to be followed, stay tuned.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 8 (Kamakhya temple)

I should once again state that we were all jam packed in a Alto car to reach the foot hills of Kamakya temple, the driver stopped the car and asked me to hop on to a doorless (no interiors too) Tata Sumo (socio) taxi just to reduce some weight in the Alto :-) he he he. Look at the Socio Sumo with Mahindra Scorpio grill.

It was a short drive and we all landed in the top of the Kamakya hills, we had a fast food to feed our hungry stomachs. In the whole trip we really missed good cuisine. My parents wanted to take some curd to mix with the rice and we only got sweetened yogurt.

While the Alto was resting in the car parking we moved to the temple bay which was fully colored in red color with the ribbon kind of cloth used for pooja purposes.

Much of the shops have had either the pooja items on showcases or souvenirs for the tourists visiting the temple.

Overall the temple and its surroundings were in red color theme, be it a colored goat or the Sadhu requesting for alms at the entrance.

The temple had lots of goats inside and the entire temple was filled with lots of goat droppings, some of the goats have even entered in the Hanuman sanctorum.

Due to lack of time my family wanted to get into the temple with paid Darshan ticket, and the tickets were quoted Rs. 500 per person and Rs. 100 per person. That’s it, I backed off from the plan and searched for free Darshan entrance that’s were the miracle happened, someone pulled us into the line very close to the sanctorum entrance and with in 10minutes we all presented in front of Kamakya sanctorum. Till that second I was thinking Kamakya means the Kaman (cupid) and Pandit inside the temple revealed the goddess as Kamakshi an avatar of Uma.

I also must say that the Pandits in the sanctorum seem to be highly corrupted and money minded converting the pilgrims to pour money into their basket. I have witnessed the pandits keeping Rs. 100 Rs.500 and Rs.1000 bills spread in a basket and asking every individual to donate their part.

After praying the god to give these pandits some good grey cells I slowly moved out of the temple.

The outer wall of the sanctorum was decorated with sculptures and they were beautiful, as once again we clicked couple of pictures before ending the Guwahati city tour.

Coming up next Chill Chill Chill Shillong, Stay tuned.

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 7 (Guwahati)

We reached Guwahati on a Friday morning and straight headed towards Starline hotel for our accommodation as I booked before reaching the place. It was 4 bedded room so we all 7 members (4 adults and 3 children) stayed in the same room. The hotel do not have water geyser at the bathroom but they provide hot water in a bucket on demand, other than that I found the hotel room comfortable.

When we reached Guwahati I was told by a friend of mine that it was likely to rain but that day was sunny and we started out trip for city tour in the morning hours itself.

Our first stop is to go to Guwahati Zoo as the children were waiting for this day to come, we took a Maruti Alto (White board taxi) and reached the zoo entrance it was almost empty and with little bit of reading in the main entrance I understood that the zoo is closed on Fridays, I really had to disappoint the kids.

After convincing them that I will bring them back to the zoo in another day of the trip, we moved towards Umananda temple. Just before getting on the the river bed, under a tree avenue I found the colorful Kali of Kolkata

The Umananda temple is located in a island in Brahmaputra river, the river looked like a huge lake and if you closely notice the entire river water is so wild and running really fast.

The Assam State Water transport department runs boats from the city side to the island for pilgrims. However the boats are in a very bad shape and rust is seen everywhere in the boat, seats are also badly damaged and some places people have to sit on the poles that holds the plastic seats, I leave that issue with Umananda to deal with

The temple was located in a cool place and the steps to the temple were made by marble stone giving a classy look.

I found the design of temples in northeast is unique and had a touch to it, also every where I found that the sanctorum is below ground level compare to the south where we have our temple’s sanctorum always placed above all the ground level in the temple premises.

While coming down from the temple I noticed a heart sign engraving on the woods, I only remembered “Love is God”

After giving our prayers I took few pics and return on the boat to the city side, I should say that the chat walah in river bed of city side showcased most colorful edible item on the entire trip hence the picture below.

stay tuned, next on the series is Kamakya temple

Summer Vacation in NorthEast India - Part 6 (Toy Train Ride)

After enjoying the Darjeeling to the core and the comfort of Sir Alec’s & Bimal’s help, we were bidding adieu to Darjeeling on a Toy Train. As everyone stated no doubt the train journey was fun but only if you are not stuck with any obstacles en-route.

The station in Darjeeling was almost on the road with very minimal space(I guess it is not practical to find a flat surface in Darjeeling), the train station got a beautiful Pakoda of a Sivan mandir.

We packed all the bags and reached the station well ahead of time, I spent some in the locomotive where the steam powered old beauties are services. In fact there is no restriction to any one to enter even in the room where the tools are kept, most of the engineers seems to be understanding the enthusiasm people show around the cutie steam engine.

While I was around, I could see they were cleaning the front door where the ashes have seen and steam was out from every possible side of the engine. After this short trip to the locomotive I returned to the platform where my family was waiting for me and the train.

Then only I came to know that my journey to New Jalpaiguri will be on a Diesel engine in stead of the much awaited steam engine. I was bit disappointed but it is still ok. Initially I thought that the steam engined toy train was only to local (Batasia or Ghoom) trips but later on the same day I have seen a steam engine came on opposite direction with full of steam breaths, and the train stopped for pumping more coal in to the oven.

Out journey started around 30mins delayed schedule (just for the railways employees to prepare the 4 couches to be added to the engine, they started the work only at the scheduled departure of the train, it would have been good for them if they started bit ahead of the departure schedule)

We were at the 2nd class sitting compartment; I only came to know that there was a firstclass arrangement (2 couches) with bush back seats. The 2nd class arrangement was bit strange as the seats are setup in 90 degree sitting angle and really uncomfortable for the long journey ahead.

We have seen so many closure encounters of shops, houses and shelters almost with in 2inches gap between the establishments and the train couch. It was scary and not practical to even put you little finger outside the window for quite some distance on the travel. I was bit worried as my kids were on the window seat, I wish if some railway officials / Govt. to probe in and clear if any encroachments on the railway track clearance area.

After crossing the Darjeeling town the snail paced toy train started competing with the tourist taxis on the National Highway (9 and 55), what a beautiful day it was with so much of secnic sports on the train window, I throughly enjoyed it. The fog at times extended it's screen over the beauty denying me enjoying the sight, but it was another experience to sail through the white smoke.

Then we saw lots of ticketless travelers trying to board and hang on the sides of the train for long distances and no one was worried about it. At time they came very close to fences of houses and shops just around 5-10 millimeter gap and if even they were touched by those fences I’m sure they would have faced the fatal end.

As we had only 2 hours gap between our toy train arrival train at New Jalpaiguri and Departure time of my Guwahati bound train I was too much into looking at the wrist watch than looking outside the window.

Though I was looking at the wrist watch most of the time, I did have some good view against the beauty at places where the nature and people merged together, the wooden houses and tea gardens it was a complete WoW package.

We had nice journey till the last hour as suppose to be the scheduled arrival time, I witnessed the sky closing its blue shade with grey clouds. I also was in impression only one train to go up and one to go down between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling but during my travel I have seen atleast 4 trains on the opposite track.

Not a good symptom and as I scared the rain started and the train slowed down, after few minutes of very slow travel all of sudden the entire train was in good speed and with the slipping 90 degree seats at times we couldn’t even sit on the seat as it was slipping badly. We have heard lots of creeping sound with rattle all over the train and I felt the wheels were skidding, my god my instincts were correct and the train was sliding on the rails till we reached a point where till no slop area reached, the driver stopped the train and I was looking through the window and found one of the man from driver cabin walked out from his cabin with a bag full of sand and walking on the track leaving a small amount of sand on the rails.

Not only that the train was leaking badly and it was raining inside the couch, I had to shift the baggage couple of places with in the last hour travel in Toy Train.

I could definitely say that he walked for more than 2-3 kms distance infront of the train and the train was in slowest pace speed, the sand was sprayed on the track to create friction that is what I understood from the railway staff after reached siliguri station.

The entire drama slowed and delayed the entire scheduled and we reached around 1 hour delay in Siliguri and still need to move 2 stations on the plains to reach New Jalpaiguri. I Thought having one hour in hand to catch the next train I can stay in Toy train but I was wrong as the railway officials at Siliguri told me that the train will be stalled at Siliguri for one hour before departing its journey again.

We were rushing to catch a taxi outside the station to go to New Jalpaiguri as we need to take the Guwahati train, with little bargain I got a taxi for Rs.250 and reached the New Jalpaiguri in time and there we had our India’s far east travel started.