Our first day in Shillong and we were all so excited, we awoke at 6:45; to be truthful excitement wasn’t the only reason – 8am to10am everyday there is scheduled power cut so those wanting hot water for bath would have to be bathed by 8am J
It was quite cold and we already had the room heater whirring, which was good. Outdoors it was even colder, not a sign of the Sun and there was a remote chance of a washed out holiday! But by the time we reached breakfast, the Sun was starting to play peek-a-boo.
Breakfast was tried-and-tested Bread, Butter & Omelette, with the only offbeat item on the menu being Corn, served off-the-cob, with butter & salt. And we topped off the breakfast with Tea. After the simple meal, we stepped out to the porch and the rain had reduced to a drizzle.
Raindrop on the Peach tree in the cottage garden
Rain, Rain and … Water shortage!
Talking about rain with Sharlene yesterday, I learnt that these are passing Spring showers, so aren’t quite as heavy and usually occur early morning or in the evening. In monsoon, the rains are quite heavy and apparently go on for weeks at end with no stop. Last year there was on downpour that went on for 2 weeks!
Yet there is severe water shortage in the city, I figure this is a common problem across other hill stations in India. From my discussions, I gather that this is a combination of government apathy and lack of rain water harvesting. Some independent households have adopted RWH but then they are the sole beneficiaries; fortunately our cottage is one such household. Yet the water quality is great, it’s sweet!
Friendly reminder on the water situation in the room
Don Bosco museum
Our first stop of the day was the Don Bosco museum, came much recommended as the place to get a good understanding of the North-East. Personally, am not a big fan of museums in Indian since they display more rules than artefacts!
This museum didn’t seem to be different initially; there was a designate usher who insisted that we pay the “camera fee” before taking any pictures. And as expected, the “camera fee” is different for point-and-shoot, camera-phones, SLR cameras and video cameras. I quizzed the lady at the counter, why are SLRs discriminated – the response was a smile. I didn’t even bother asking why camera phones weren’t counted as video cameras!
The museum itself is huge – 7 floors huge – with a peculiar looking entrance, which reminds me the DLF building on the Delhi–Gurgaon NH8 highway
The façade of the Don Bosco museum
While driving to the museum, we tried to recollect names of the 5 states in the North-East, until the kid mentioned that it’s actually 7 states that are collectively referred to as “7 sisters”. So me & S promptly started enumerating the 7 states, after 5 minutes of fuddling around, we embarrassingly gave up – not being able to name the 7th state!
I’ve seen comedy shows in the US, where they ask candid questions to hapless Americans in downtown NY, some of the answers were bordering dumb. That’s exactly how I felt when I couldn’t name the “7 sisters”. Once in the museum, the usher called out “7 sisters and a brother”! I was shocked to learn that there are indeed 8 states in the North-East! These are:
- 7 sisters: Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram
- 1 brother: Sikkim
Overall, the museum has done a very good job collating everything ranging from topology, origins, tribes, genealogy & evolution of the 7 states. Each floor covers one of these facets, with added coverage on the advent of Christianity in the region.
A vertigo view of the Don Bosco museum
I am unclear as to how Christianity entered & became mainstream in the region; considering this is the Don Bosco museum, I chose to ignore that section entirely, instead concentrating on the other rooms. I found the sections on warfare, agrarian & musical instruments quite informative.
A quiver (in the bokeh) and the arrows in foreground
The “top floor” of the museum is a Skywalk, quite interestingly done too – they’ve railed the roof and made a nice walk way to get to the highest point of the building and get a nice panoramic view of the city.
Panoramic view from atop the Don Bosco Museum (skywalk)
For a museum-hater like me, this museum is an exception as I learnt a few things. If you are a first-time visitor to the North-East of India, I highly recommend including Don Bosco Museum in your agenda.
City Family Hut
After the museum we had to pick a nice place for lunch and the City Family Hut Dhaba came recommended. This was apparently the only place where our group of 15 could find seating. The restaurant is nicely tucked away in Police Bazaar (aka Bara bazaar), with the most obnoxious of entrance routes that I have seen in a very long time. Coming from Bangalore, am used to one-ways and weird rules but this one beat them all. The police has blocked right turn on a roundabout, so anyone wanting to take a right turn has to drive straight into Police Bazaar, take 3 right turns to arrive back exactly at the same roundabout where now you’re allowed to take a left and proceed towards your destination!
The drive from Don Bosco to City Family Hut Dhaba took us about 30 minutes and we were famished when we arrived. Thankfully they quickly assembled a table for 15 and we ordered the usual Dal, Roti, Rice and for added excitement someone suggested veg momos. For a self-confessed foodie, I’ve never tried momos, so when the waiter asked me fried or steamed, I quickly passed the question to fellow diners.
Easily mistaken for a bed-and-breakfast in Zurich, this is the City Family Hut Dhaba!
The restaurant is nicely done up with artistic use of food items at the entrance. To actively ward away bad wishes and such. The restaurant also has a wishing well and a dedicated person doling out balloons to kids. The best part was that the same person was giving out chocolate to all kids who finished their food!
Garlic & Red Chilli danglers at the entrance to ward off “bad eyes”
We ordered for 2 veg deluxe thali, 2 portions of veg steamed momos, 5 butter naan, 2 masala naan, 1 veg jaipuri, 2 dal makhani, 2 yellow dal, 2 raita & 1 veg biryani, which set us back by ~INR 2800/- including tips. Note that this is 8 adults & 7 kids eating their fill.
The food quality is definitely good and we’ll be visiting this place again during our stay in Shillong.
After a filling meal we set out to Umiam which is a large natural reservoir about 1 hour drive from the restaurant. And we arrived in less than 5 minutes, which was baffling, as we looked out the window, we’re arrived at Ward’s Lake! Turns out that Umiam (aka Bara Pani), closes at 3:00pm, so it made no sense to head out so late. This claim made no sense to me, but Ward’s was always on the agenda so we agreed to the switch and halted at Ward’s Lake.
Ward’s Lake …
… is very nice! Just add it to your agenda.
View of bridge across Ward’s Lake from the Boat house
It a wide open lake in the middle of town, has a nice walking, jogging track. Boating is 100/- for a 4-seater, paddle boat for 30 mins. If you aren’t in great physical shape then 30 mins is about the maximum that your Quads will hold up for!
Nicely, both ends of the lake have been cordoned off to provision as Lotus Ponds, which look very pretty indeed. Makes for great photo ops and worthwhile going to lake’s end just for this purpose.
Lotus pond on south side of Ward’s Lake
After the boating affair, we took the kids on the walking path around the park. We saw the Lotus Pond on the South side once again and then turned back to visit the North side of the lake. The lake itself is neatly divided in the middle by a wooden bridge, filled with people feeding puff rice to the fishes.
The kids had a great time running around the park, climbing trees – I am so glad we went to Ward’s Lake with 3 hours in hand. Can easily spend 6 hours there, doing nothing but bonding with kids.
Now, back on the North side there is a nice water fountain and this day the wind was blowing across the lake towards the North, so when you stand on that side of the fountain you have a whole lot of spray – i.e. more fun for the kids!
And right below the water fountain are two LARGE speakers, possibly to be used as a PA system. On this day though, they were playing Scorpions! I heard them play:
- Is there anybody out there
- Rhythm of love
- Winds of Change
IMHO – it was freaking awesome!
We ended the park visit by feeding the fishes puffed rice, there were some fat fishes in the lake. It was cute to see the geese notice that it was “feeding time” and they promptly made their way to the bridge!
Bangalore so sorely misses such a fabulous hang out – I bet Ulsoor lake area can be developed to this scale & quality.
We finally left the part at 530, arriving back at the cottage for some nice tea. It was a good day, look forward to a dal, roti dinner topped with some Curd rice!
Oh and the Wi-Fi is now working, so I can write up and file my blog posts.