Shillong – Scotland of East

Shillong is known as Scotland of East. I am not sure of that as I have never been to Scotland. 🙂

But yes, Shillong is a beautiful place and monsoon is a season when it is visited most. Good thing about Shillong is that you can visit it any time of the year. It is small but a wonderful town. You can spend 4-5 days covering Cherapunjee, Mawlyngnong and some other nearby sites.

Shillong from its streets

Shillong from its streets

We went there recently in April and the weather was amazing. It was pleasant through out the day and little cold during nights and early mornings. There was light showers sometime and it made the town look more beautiful with its flora and fauna.

The drive from Guwahati Airport to Shillong is not long (3-4 hrs) and the road is under construction right now, some patches are ready. First thing which you get to see on your way is the local areca nut trees.
Betelnut Trees

“Even in Heaven, people eat Kwai,” goes a popular Khasi saying. Kwai, which is nothing but a paan served with a generous dose of areca nut, betel leaf and lime, is loved by one and all in Meghalaya. In winter, there is nothing like the Kwai with a piece of ginger to keep one warm in this part of the country. Every second person in Meghalaya chews on the Kwai at home, play or office and Khasi women selling Kwai in carryall wicker baskets is a common sight everywhere in the state.

On your way to Shillong (15 kms before) you come across a huge lake – Umiam Lake and locally called as Bara Pani (Big Water). The Lake is popular for the Water Sport and adventure facilities that it offers.


We were there for Easter Sunday and the market was full with shoppers. Police Bazaar is the main area for all local shopping as well as tourists.

Police Bazaar Circle. PB as locally called.

Police Bazaar Circle. PB as locally called.

Shoppers before Easter Sunday


Glady’s Plaza is a shopper’s paradise at PB. There are lot of Tibetan Shops selling trendy apparels and accessories. Woodcraft is famous in this part of the country and there are two major shops selling these stuff at PB.

Woodcraft Emporium at PB

Woodcraft Emporium at PB

Town was lit up for Easter celebration, but still roads were deserted around 6pm.

Empty Street on Saturday evening.

Empty Street on Saturday evening.

Don Bosco's statue

Don Bosco’s statue

Although the streets were empty, but there was one place which was completely packed. Shillong Cafe. It’s a nice place to hangout. Thanks to our host who recommended us this place. We had a great time listening to locals performing there on Saturday Evenings. The staff at Shillong Cafe was very friendly and were full of energy while serving a packed cafe.

Solo performance at Shillong Cafe

Solo performance at Shillong Cafe

There are many tourist sites in and around Shillong. We started with Shillong Peak, it gives an aerial view of the town. I’ve heard that it looks beautiful at night but since it is part of the defense area, entry is restricted at night.
Shillong Peak 1

Shillong Peak 2

Lot of tourists are found dressing up in local Khasi dress. One tourist was happy to pose for me. 🙂

Man posing in khasi dress.

Man posing in khasi dress.

The other places to visit are Elephant Falls, Hydari Park, Ward’s Lake, Don Bosco Musuem and Sacred Forests. My next post will be on Sacred Forest, Hydari Park & Ward’s Lake and Don Bosco Musuem.

Categories: Cold, India, Leisure, Meghalaya, Mountain, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pamukkale – Cotton Castle of Turkey

Last year in November was our first trip to Turkey. The reason I mentioned first trip is because I will visit this beautiful country again, next time with friends or family.  Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish. It is another small town which we loved and spent few wonderful days of our Turkey holiday.

Shoes are not allowed on travertines.

Like Goreme this town is also very small. We stayed at beautiful “Melrose Hotel” owned and managed by Mehmet and his lovely wife.We spent a day at Travertines starting little late after breakfast and walked up the travertines. Lot of tour operators drive tourists to the top and then tourists walk down to get picked up.

Shoes are not allowed on travertines, you have to walk barefoot. We felt good while walking barefoot on these rocks as the water was warm and weather was good that we didn’t realize spending couple of hours enjoying this natural beauty. Thankfully it wasn’t crowded as most of the tourists / tour operators come post lunch and leave by evening. That might be a reason why there were limited hotels compared to Goreme.

Climb wasn’t steep and we walked up all the way from our hotel. You need to remove your shoes just before the first patch of white seen on the left side in the picture (below). Flow and direction of water is controlled by authorities to maintain rock’s whiteness. There is a beautiful garden and a pond developed by local authorities right below the travertines.

Looking down from where we started.

Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of ruins of Hierapolis, hot springs and travertines which are as old as first half of the 3rd century BCE.


From distance these travertines looks like snow and it is mesmerizing to see it at night. It is said that sunset is the most beautiful time to be at travertines and it looks beautiful from there. Although we didn’t stay up to view sunset but it was equally stunning from down below. Managed to capture Neha’s silhouette at that time.

Silhouette against Golden Sunset at Pammukkale

Travertines at night

Travertines look more beautiful at night with all the colorful lights on.

Travertines at night with colorful lights

The ancient city of Hierapolis was built on top of this white castle. Since 2nd century BCE this place was a thermal spa and thousands of people came to benefit from the medicinal properties of the hot springs.

Ruins of Hierapolis

It is believed that Cleopatra used to swim in these waters and there is a pool with ruined pillars which is now known as Cleopatra Pool.

Cleopatra pool

The most amazing part of these ruins which I liked was the amphitheater. The moment I saw it I was thinking of Gladiator. This amphitheater had been built multiple times in different centuries and currently also restoration is going on.


We had initially planned for two days at Pamukkale but because of some last minute changes we got more than 2 days. We took an overnight bus from Goreme and reached Pamukkale early morning. Travertines were at 10 mins walking distance from our hotel. We used our extra time in exploring Denzili which was 30 min bus ride. The locals were really helpful in guiding us to the local shopping places.

While going to Denzili, I remember how locals, passengers in bus, walked with us to make sure that we reach the exact place. In fact, I clearly remember an elderly gentleman walking with us for almost 30 minutes so that we find what we were looking for. There was some confusion when we wanted to buy Apple Tea Powder and the kind gentleman misunderstood that we wanted to drink Apple Tea. He took us to a local joint in Fruit market for hot cup of Apple Tea, we felt so embarrassed as he ended up wasting his 30 minutes on us. 😦 Language was a barrier but we found lot of common words in Turkish which we use in India and that helped us to an extent.

Although Pamukkale can be covered in a day or as most tourists do in half day, I feel that two days are must for such a lovely place.

Categories: Cold, History, Leisure, Mountain, Travel, Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuwara Eliya – Ashok Vatika of Ramayana, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya is a mountain station, is the highest town in Sri Lanka. It is also known as the “City of Lights” or “Little England”. It is one of the most beautiful city in Sri Lanka.

The picturesque drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is very beautiful.

On our way to Nuwara Eliya

The city is surrounded by lush tea plantations.

Tea Plantation

Tea Pluckers

Tea Estate

Victoria Park at Nuwara Eliya

Sita Temple at Nuwara Eliya – image source wikipedia as it was under renovation when I had visited

As per Ramayana, Ashok Vatika is a garden where Rāvana held Sita captive. This is in the area of Sita Eliya, close to the city of Nuwara Eliya. The Hakgala Gardens located at the base of the Hakgala Rock forms part of the famed Ashok Vatika.

There is a Sita Temple known as Sita Amman Temple. It is built where Sita is set to have bathed in a stream.

Inside Sita Temple

Inside Sita Temple

Sita Temple under renovation

Beside these other sites to visit in Nuwara Eliya are Hakgala Botanical Garden, Victoria Park, Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak ), Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary, Gregory Lake, Race Course, Tea Factories,

Categories: Cold, History, Leisure, Mountain, Sri Lanka, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beauty of Trishul Peak in Himalayas from Kausani

The first rays of Sun on snow capped mountains of Himalayas is a breathtaking and beautiful sight.  It is said that from this place (Kausani) you can see 300 kms of the Himalayan range. 

First ray of Sun on Trishul Peak in Himalayas as seen from Kausani

The peaks easily can be seen are Trishul , Nandakot and Nandadevi depending on the weather you get. It is also said that the range looks amazing in moonlight on a clear sky day. We missed the sight because of clouds, but have seen the pictures and it is breathtaking view for sure.

Trishul (Hindiत्रिशूल) is a group of three Himalayan mountain peaks of westernKumaun, with the highest (Trishul I) reaching 7120m. The three peaks resemble a trident – in Hindi/SanskritTrishul, trident, is the weapon of Shiva. The Trishul group forms the southeast corner of the ring of peaks enclosing the Nanda DeviSanctuary, about 15 kilometres (9 mi) west-southwest of Nanda Devi itself. The main peak, Trishul I, was the first peak over 7,000 m (22,970 ft) to have ever been climbed, in 1907. (Source: Wikipedia)

Entire range as seen from our hotel

Another look at the range during the day.

View of the range during the day.

All the hotels in this small place provides Mountain View and its no brainer to see all guests setting up their cameras 15 mins before sunrise.  And some are lucky to get a good view of Trishul during sunset.

Golden Himalayas at Sunset

We were lucky to catch this golden look of Trishul as it was a cloudy day and Trishul was visible for few minutes. It is one of my favorite pic from the entire trip.

Besides the Himalayan view there isn’t much to do here. You can visit Gandhi Ashram where Gandhiji had spent some time. One interesting place is Lakshmi Ashram, it is a center run by local women and dedicated for social service and upliftment of women. Gandhiji’s disciple, Sarlaben (Kaitherine Heileman) spent her life here doing social service. This ashram helps local girls with school education and also help them to enroll for college. Besides studies girls are trained in various vocational courses, farming and other basic chores.

Finally my two cents: Do visit this ashram and spend some time with the girls. Don’t forget to buy their homegrown items and specially their herbal/green (basil) tea.

Categories: Cold, Himalaya, India, Leisure, Mountain, Snow, Travel, Uttrakhand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Balloon Ride over Cappadocia

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Early morning view of Cappadocia from Balloon Ride.

This was one of the most memorable part of our 10 days trip to Turkey. It was freezing cold for someone from Mumbai. We were picked up from our hotel at 5am in Zero degree C temperature. But the moment we saw the balloon getting prepared, we forgot everything about cold.

It’s an hour’s ride which completely depends on the weather and air. They take you down to the valleys and close to villages. There are moments when you feel like if you stretch your arm (provided you have space in the basket) on of your fingers will touch the walls of houses.

View of fairy chimneys, valley and balloons

View of fairy chimneys, Pigeon valley and hot air balloons

There are packages available based on hour and number of people in a basket. We had opted for 24 people basket as it was cheapest and also made sense in the freezing weather ;-).

All the companies providing hot air balloon rides are same, the only difference is your pilot. If your pilot is good then you will have an amazing time on the ride.

Its a beautiful place and locals are very nice. It should be a must visit place for all the people who love adventure, history, calm, serene, food, I can literally go on. 🙂

I will visit this place again.

Categories: Adventure, Cold, Travel, Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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