Shillong

Shillong is the capital and the largest town in the North-Eastern Indian state of Meghalaya.

Understand

Police Bazar

Shillong (pop. c. 270,000) was the capital of Assam, but after the state was split as Assam and Meghalaya, meaning 'The abode of the clouds', it became the first capital of the newly-formed State of Meghalaya. The best time to visit Shillong is the rainy season - most of the famous waterfalls including those in Cherrapunji are in full flow in this time of the year. Located in undulating pine-covered hills, the city has a milder climate than tropical parts of India. The city centre is 1,496 meters above sea level. Home to several waterfalls, it is also known as the Scotland of the East. The British legacy is still visible in the architecture and the food habits of the population. The Assam-style houses with slanting roofs, a large number of windows, and wooden floors look like a piece of art (and happen to be very good idea, considering Shillong lies in a area where rains and earthquakes are very common).

Weather

Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than in the rest of India. An umbrella is therefore a necessity while packing your bags. Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when the city is clean (rains wash the streets of all garbage) and waterfalls are in full strength.

People

Most of the Shillong population belong to Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Bengali and Nepali minorities. An interesting aspect of Khasi culture is that they are a matrilineal society - the mother is head of family, the youngest daughter owns all the property and the mother's surname is passed on to the children.

Get in

By plane

Gopinath Bordoloi Airport (GAU) in Guwahati (104 km from Shillong) is connected to rest of India with regular flights. It is also connected internationally by Druk Airlines (Royal Bhutan Airlines) from Bangkok, Thailand. Shared cabs (typically small cars from the airport, and larger Tata Sumos from Guwahati town center) are available from outside airport connecting to Shillong. The rate (as of June 2007)is ₹300-₹500 per passenger from Guwahati Airport to Shillong and takes 2.5-3 hours depending on traffic. The cab drops you off at Police Bazaar from where you can get a ride to almost any part of Shillong. En route from Guwahati to Shillong, you'll probably stop mid way at Nongpoh to freshen up and get some refreshments. Nongpoh is also a good place to pick up bamboo pickles and other condiments.

Shillong Airport (SHL) is in Umroi, about 40km from Shillong (also known as Barapani Air Force Base or Umroi Airport). It is a small airport with flights via Alliance Air (operated by Indian Airlines) to/from Calcutta on certain days of the week. A bus operated by M.T.D.C runs from Airport to Shillong market.

By helicopter

The government of Meghalaya operates a twice-a-day helicopter service to Shillong from the Guwahati Airport and back. The helicopter flies to the ALG (Advanced Landing Ground) Shillong, an Air Force Heliport located around 15 km away from the city center. Tickets are modestly priced at ₹1500 (28 USD) per person. Travelling by helicopter reduces the tedious 4 hour road journey by road from the Guwahati Airport (which is the airport which you'll probably arrive at if visiting Shillong) to a pleasant 20 minute flight. Tickets can be booked from the Meghalaya Helicopter Service counter at the Guwahati airport (for details, talk to the Meghalaya Tourism helpdesk in the Arrival Lounge) and from the Meghalaya Transport Corporation counters in Shillong.

By train

There are no rail lines in Meghalaya. The nearest railway station is Guwahati. It is 105 km from Shillong (reportedly takes 5 hours via taxi) and very well connected with all major cities of India.

By bus

The main interstate bus stand is located right next to Guwahati railway station. Buses run by Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) and Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) ply every half an hour from Guwahati to Shillong. The ticket fares vary between ₹30 to ₹100, depending upon bus class (ordinary, semi-deluxe and deluxe). Many of the buses are very old, and the only visible difference among bus class is the number of people allowed to sit. Many private run buses also run between two cities but they leave from Paltan Bazar area and cost around ₹70. Private buses might be better built but are occasionally crowded and have more stops en route.

Buses usually take around 4 hours with a mid-way stop at Nong-poh.

By car

Shared taxis are quite easily available from Paltan Bazar area, which is adjacent to the railway station in Guwahati. These are generally SUV-sized vehicles (Tata Sumo, Toyota Innova and Mahindra Bolero) shared between 8 people. They take around 3 hours to reach Shillong from Guwahati. Prices in shared taxis (SUV vehicles) range from ₹150-₹250. Sleek cars (Tata Etios and Maruti Swift Dzire) are also available, at prices of about ₹1500-₹2500 (depending on the type of car).

Get around

Best way to go about in Shillong is on foot. The city itself is small and can be easily covered walking and exploring hills and people.

By bus

For places within city limits, city buses are good options. There are two kinds of buses that pass from Shillong - City bus and Bazar bus. The maroon city buses operated by the Shillong Public Transport Service (SPTS) are ideal for commuting within the city. The conductors on each bus has an electronic ticketing machine and passengers have to buy their tickets from him as soon as they board the buses.

By taxi

Black and yellow unmetered shared taxis ply within city limits. These are faster and are always shared; rates may vary from ₹5/- to ₹15/- maximum. Being shared taxis, drivers often pick up additional passengers en route to the same destination, in order to make a better fare. If one decides to negotiate the "hire" of a taxi, however, the driver will not pick up any more passengers (or stop roadside to find more) but the fare will be significantly higher than if one had just hailed the taxi as it passed by.

For sightseeing it is a good idea to hire a taxi cab for full day. The fares should be fixed before travel. Hotel staff will be able to give you an idea of reasonable rate.

Much of the infrastructure is basic and many roads outside city are in bad shape due to heavy rains and poor maintenance, but within the city the roads are quite good. Although the city traffic ranks second in the country in terms to vehicles to population ratio, Mumbai being first, it is very slow and disciplined unlike most of India.

See

The facade of the cathedral with the statue of Mary Help of Christians
Elephant Falls
Sunset at Umiam Lake
Wards Lake

Do

Buy

Iewduh is the largest open street market in north-eastern India. It has large sections dedicated to local fruits, vegetables, honey, fish etc. As a tourist, one can get a very nice picture of local life in here. Traditional bamboo handicrafts and woollen handmade shawls are most popular buys. Additionally art-crafts made of wood and bamboo funitures are popular. Bamboo shoot pickles are quite favourite of the tourists. Please visit the Meghalya Govt. Handicrafts Showroom "Purbashree" located in police bazar.

Shillong is one of the fashion capitals of India,it has innumerable number of shops selling top quality brands from India and abroad. The well known ones are RAPs Apparel in Raps' Mansion MG Road, Uncle Shop, In-Fashion, Broadway Collection, Selection Centre, in Police Bazar, etc..

Eat

There are a variety of restaurants in Shillong. Most of the better ones are located in Police Bazar area. Chinese, Indian and Tibetan foods are popular and even khun ksew.

Bamboo Hut in RAPs' Mansion MG Road is one of the famost hangout and also the CITY Dhaba near Earl Holiday Home.

One should definitely try Momos (steamed Tibetan dumplings filled with cabbage and pork/chicken) They come as small momos and big momos and are very popular snacks.

Shillong has a pre-dominantly Christian population. While pork, chicken and fish are easily available in restaurants run by local Khasis, beef isn't as abundant in restaurants. Cleanliness also remains an issue in smaller food-outlets.

Khasi and Tibetan recipes use very little spices (including salt) unlike cooking style of rest of India and emphasis is on boiling or roasting rather than frying in oil.

For Indian snacks, one can try Delhi Mistaan Bhandar in Police Bazar which in my opinion,has the best jalebis in the world. The staff is, however, notoriously lethargic, so be prepared to wait up to half an hour just to be able to place your order. In short, stick to the freshly made jelibis since they are worth it, but avoid anything else here.

Apart from these, the hotels mentioned below have restaurants that have their own charm. Ginger at Hotel Polo Towers is good, Kenmore at Hotel Knight Inn Shillong serving delectable craft cuisine, Royal Heritage has a nice restaurant. Sip & Dine at Hotel Alpine Continental have excellent restaurant.

Drink

It is the drinker's paradise.Because of the tax structure on alcohol in this state, you will be hard pressed find cheaper drinks anywhere else in India, if you are the type who buys liquor from a shop and drinks in your hotel room.

If you like pubs and clubs, then Shillong has quite a few of them.

Nightlife is generally at its peak on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays are very very dull.

Sleep

Shillong has options for all kind of travellers. Most of the hotels are located in and around the Police Bazar which is the noisy, crowded city centre of Shillong. Hotel Polo Towers and Royal Heritage have locations that are more relaxing. Backpackers might want to check the Youth Hostel near Office of Chief Telecom Officer (CTO Complex). Internet reservation is available only in few starred hotels.

Budget

Mid-range

Go next

There are many interesting places for outing from Shillong.



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