India, and the cleanest village? You heard that right. Go to Mawlynnong, the little known hamlet in Meghalaya and find out why it deserves the recognition.
After two hours of an adventurous drive from Shillong (90kms), you are welcomed into this tiny, quaint village of 82 families nestled in a corner under the clouds.
The village is straight out of fairy tale with narrow cobbled streets meandering through the thatched houses, each sporting a colorful garden, the stream flowing behind, the sounds of thunder promising the showers of rain. Make it a day trip activity, but if you have time, stay for at least a couple of days.
The villagers try to be as self-sustainable as possible, growing their own food and harvesting rainwater in natural stone basins. But with no market to buy necessities from, they travel two hours in a rickety bus for the nearest one. And when the bus breaks down, they walk through sunshine and rain.
These enterprising villagers also came up with a great waste disposal management. As a community, they collect every piece of trash and compost them in a pit to use it for cultivation. The streets are swept every hour by the villagers themselves and strict rules are imposed for personal sanitation and cleanliness. Sound like utopia?
WHAT TO SEE
Living Root Bridges:
Instead of building bridges, the Khasis grow them! The living root bridges in Riwai (about 15 minutes away from Mawlynnong) is the most spectacular natural phenomenon. A ‘double-decker’ bridge completely formed with roots from the rubber trees, the villagers use it for their everyday commute. They say, it’s been standing strong for the past 200 years or so. There is also a lesser-known cousin – the living root ladders carefully fashioned into steps.
To see an absolutely panoramic view, climb the machan the villagers built for the tourists. 60 feet high up in the air, it is a surreal experience of looking down. On a sunny, cloudless day, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the valley of Bangladesh on a horizon.
For tea lovers, you can hang around by the tea stalls for a cup of tea and snacks and may be even chat up with the villagers – they all speak English so communicating will be easy.
You can even go picnicking by the lakes in the luscious, green jungles, swim under the waterfall or take a jungle walk by the secret groves. The landscape is dotted with such charming significances, it will dazzle you.
Look out for Henry, the guide, supposedly the best one around here who charges about Rs. 250 per day.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation will be modest here, but not without the comforts of a home.
Mawlynnong Guest House:
This charmingly built traditional home has two rooms: a large room which can accommodate 4 persons at Rs. 3300/- a night and a smaller room for two at Rs. 2200/-. It also has a machan hinged on the highest boughs of the branches of a tree.
Ask your guide to show the three homestays in the village – the rates start at as little as Rs. 350/- and go up to Rs. 1500/- a night.
WHAT TO EAT
A simple meal will be cooked for you at the guesthouse or at the homestay – rice, potatoes, green peas and pickle. But you should also ask them to cook a traditional Khasi meal for you.
Just the way to bid adieu to this mesmerizing village!
There are cabs you can hire from the airport or the city of Shillong (Bara Bazaar). Make lodging arrangements in advance if you wish to stay overnight.