Mawsynram, Meghalaya: Two Days in the Wettest Place on Earth
I was on a Facebook video call with my mother and sister when I heard loud giggles outside my door. Two little kids appeared with possibly the biggest smiles I’d seen in a while. Then came their friends. A few minutes back, they were playing football in the garden.
I was in Emily and Sankrita’s Homestay in Mawsynram, the wettest place on Earth. Emily lives in Shillong while Sankirta, her cousin takes care of the Airbnb. While the slightly faded exteriors of the house aren’t appealing to a first timer like me, as soon as I stepped in, Sankrita welcomed me with a wonderful smile, showed me a film their first two guests, who happened to be Germans, had done about Mawysnram and its surroundings. She makes me a cup of tea and brings me a saucer full of cakes, made out of orange peels.
I was snuggled up in the blankets when the kids appeared. I asked each of them their name. It reminded me of my first day in Shillong. The random taxi driver I met. “A lot of names here are hard to pronounce,” we were in the same place for more than 10 minutes. If I were to name one thing I hated about Shillong, that was its traffic.
I smiled, slyly.
“My father is from Kolkata,” he later tells me.
“I am bad with languages. Not even fluent with one,” I tell him as I try to read the signboard of a cutesy café I just saw.
My first night at the rainiest place on earth was a rainless night. “We don’t get much rain now,” I think of the dinner conversations I had with Sankirta. She made me a full feast, grilled chicken with mashed potato, mixed with ghee, herbs, chopped onions and ginger. Another four dishes of curry, one beans, prepared in the traditional Khasi way. A big bowl of rice, a major part of Khasi cuisine, just as how it is in Sri Lanka. Our big Sri Lankan bellies love a plate full of rice.
“But you open your doors in the morning, clouds will come inside the room,” she continued her conversation while slightly eyeing at the TV in the living room. Her mum quietly watches an Indian soap opera.
It’s 8 in the morning when Sankrita takes me to her next-door neighbour, a 95-year-old, bubbly little grandma who walks better than the 23-year-old me. She lives in her small house. A mum to 14 children and a grandma and a great grandma to another 120 something kids, Sankrita tells me that it’s like a small village when they all get together.
“And she never drinks water. She only drinks tea.”
Sankirta tells her that I’m travelling on my own. She’s bewildered. Considerate. She takes my hands, lovingly. Then she laughs, says something in Khasi.
Later in the day, Khraw takes me to a small village named Mawpdai, 25 km from Mawsynram, to walk into the inside of a tree, and climb to the top. It’s 30 meters high and requires a bit of a trek from the village.
Khraw talks to a lady in a small house whom I assumed was the big momma. She was with her daughter, who was slightly amazed to see me alone. “You see…it’s rare for us to travel alone. Especially our sisters,” I was following Khraw to this infamous tree, which later became my favourite.
The first views of the nearby Bangladeshi plains were a treat to my eye. 2 days later, they became a normality that I no longer took my camera out to capture them. “You know Zinara, it’s matrilineal but it’s not matriarchal,” my mind runs back to Anne’s words. She was my host in Shillong.
I quickly forget it as Khraw begins to fill my mind with new stories. Stories of past. Stories about his childhood and the landmarks in Meghalaya. Sympathetic, mythical and legendary. I get to know that Khraw lost his father when he was 8. He’s fond memories of his father, who was a man everyone loved. He was a people’s person. He once walked to Bangladesh before the fence was built, with Khraw.
It’s six in the evening and I’m back home in Mawsynram. My camera is happy. I videochat to Nathan so I can update him on my day. I tell him about the wee kids, the old grandma and the village Mawpdai. I tell him about the pictures I didn’t click. Of faces. Of freckles on their matured faces. Of those bewildered eyes. Pictures of their smiles. Pictures of ‘kindness’ and pictures of ‘hospitality.’ Pictures of ‘simple things’ and pictures of ‘happiness.’ Pictures of strange kids which may earn me a couple of hundred to thousand dollars so I can travel to a new place, to click pictures I didn’t click.
On my last day in Meghalaya, I hop on a boat. I take pictures of the beautiful Umngot River as the boat reaches to one corner, where fishermen quietly sit by the flat edges of a massive rocky outcrop and two ladies paddle a canoe to bring them tea. They look at me and flash a smile. An unexpected guilt veils my heart as I close the lens cap back on.
Day two in Mawsyram comes to an end. It rains the whole night, and the morning the next day. Snuggled up in my fuzzy blanket, I open my doors. A thick layer of clouds seizes me. Two hours later, I bid goodbye to the wettest place on Earth.
How to travel to Mawsynram
Mawsynram is only 60 km from Shillong, but as you drive on windy roads, it takes 2-3 hours to reach Mawsynram. Shared sumos are available from Anjali Taxi Stand in Shillong and costs only 60-70 INR, however, there’re only a few (2 or 3) that run daily to Mawsynram and back.
A private taxi (Alto) will cost 1500-1800 INR for a one-way journey. Yes, it’s costly. One of the costliest sectors of travelling in Meghalaya is transport. The shared sumos will stop at the big junction in Mawsynram where there are a few shops and eateries. From there, it’s a 3-kilometre walk uphill to reach the village. If you want to organize a driver/guide for your trip, reach Khraw on +91948536684. He’s the best and I can recommend him 110%.
Where to stay in Mawsynram
I stayed in Emily and Sankrita’s homestay. It’s the only place to stay here and can be booked on Airbnb. I was told that there’s another, cheaper option, but, however, it cannot be booked online. If you sign up on Airbnb using this link, you’ll get $25 off of your first booking.
The Airbnb was organized by Greener Pastures, a sustainable and responsible travel company that organize tours in North East India. If you want an organized tour, let them know your preferences and they’ll curate an unforgettable travelling experience for you in Meghalaya.
Things to do in Mawsynram
A lot of people (see: a handful number of people) come here for cave expeditions. Mawsynram is home to world’s longest sandstone cave, Krem Puri which isn’t accessible during the monsoons. Please always listen to locals about sightseeing advice. They’ve lived here and know better than blogs and guidebooks. There was one incident where a group of foreigners did not listen to local advice and went on with their trip. A few days later, their dead bodies were found in a river.
I visited Mawjymbuin, which is often worshiped by the Hindus. It’s also named as Mawsynram Holy Cave. You have to pay 10 INR at the entrance. There’s another bluewater cave which is also wet, and extremely slippery during the monsoons. December to March is a good time for caving when the atmosphere is drier.
Mawlyngbna and waterfalls
Monsoon rains create so many tiny waterfalls in the wettest place on earth, so you don’t have to chase waterfalls. Everywhere you go, you will spot one. I visited Mawlyngbna, a village consists of a few hundred families. There’s so much to do in Mawlyngbna like kayaking in the Umkhakoi Water Reservoir and taking a dip in one of the large rocky swimming holes. Fishing, boating and other water-based activities are also popular here.
You can also visit the split rock, a massive rock which was spilt by an earthquake hundreds of years ago, just above the Bangladeshi plans. Iew Luri-Lura is an interesting place where you can see footprints of various mysterious animals. Khraw told me that the legend says it’s the place animals held their market and they traded back in the day. There’s an accommodation available in Mawlyngbna itself named Traveller’s Nest. You cannot book it online, but you can just show up and try your luck.
As explained above, I also went to Mawpdai, a village 25 km from Mawsynram to go inside a massive tree. You can climb inside this tree and reach the top which will be a 30-meter climb as you navigate yourself through its massive roots.
If you find other amazing things to do in Mawsynram, let us know in the comments below.