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Magical Mawlynnong: Life on Stilts

North East Chronicles: On March 19, we travelled from Shillong to the lovely picture perfect village of Mawlynnong, Meghalaya. The village prides itself on being the cleanest in Asia – and and it’s not an empty boast we discovered!

Well, I never thought I’d get to live in a house on stilts though I’ve harboured the fancy for some time. And I got my wish twice this year : in March and May. But let me tell you the March story first.

Life on Stilts

My wish came true this one night at Mawlynnong – a little village around 90 kms from the town of Shillong : very close to the Bangladesh border.

And why Mawlynnong? You have to see it, gushed a school friend. It’s supposedly the cleanest village in Asia and there’s a tree house with a machan. I was sold as soon as I heard that. Cleanest village sounded interesting too : we were soon to find out that it was a claim they took quite seriously.

I have yet to see a more spic and span and well-maintained village. Cities of today could perhaps learn a few lessons from the folks of this picture perfect little place.

Floral welcome


We meet the village headman Don Bok who helps us settle into the tree house. He also makes sure we have enough food for the night. The house we discover has 2 cosy rooms on either side and a central area. Outside is a sort of verandah, which looks onto the jungle. It’s dark when we reach so all we can see is a huge expanse of nothingness.

Connecting the verandah to the first machan, is a narrow bamboo bridge, which we tread on gingerly, lest it gives way. Of course, it has been made of sterner stuff and takes our combined weight. We park ourselves on the first machan (there’s another smaller one, beyond), and listen to the noises of the night.

It’s been a long day so it’s nice to just relax under the stars, veiled by the leaves of the tree holding you up. We spend quite a bit of time here, just relaxing till it’s time to call it a night.

Chill

The next day, bright and early, we set off to discover the village and its surroundings. We experience the true beauty of the place : little cemented pathways run through the village connecting the houses : many of them on stilts. And at frequent intervals bins (made out of the large oil tins) have been placed to avoid litter.

There are colourful flowers everywhere : each house is a delight in some way or another. A lovely moss covered wall, a bougainvillea framed gate, or a beautiful tree with bright yellow orchids falling out of its arms : the flora in the village adds a colourful and cheery touch to the whole atmosphere. Kids peep out from tiny but neat homes and look at us curiously. They’re incredibly friendly too though we don’t have a common language of communication.

Peekaboo!

Around 15-20 minutes away (the next village) our guides take us to a small structure being constructed (on stilts again!). A few enterprising village women have set about building a small structure that is going to be rented out to visiting tourists. It is poised interestingly : from the little cosy house you can see the plains of Bangladesh stretch out till the horizon. Our guides point out Dawki, which is the border town and just a few kilometers from here.

From there we go to another interesting sight : a living roots bridge. The bigger ones are near Cherrapunjee, but this one is quite impressive too. Spanning across the river, the roots of two huge trees have gotten intertwined and now form a bridge (which has since been cemented and laid with stones) and are used by villagers. There are a few local women and men washing clothes down by the stream under the bridge (a favorite pastime in the North East, we are soon to discover!).

Still waters

From the bridge, our guides (two young men from the village) take us to a waterfall : it’s not very big (no rains yet) : but it’s a pretty little spot. It’s quite a descent to reach the falls from the road through thick foliage and a stony path. The place is peaceful, with butterflies dancing around and the only sound you can hear is the water falling down the rocks. The guides leave us alone while we spend some time relaxing and dipping our feet into the cool waters.

Wings of fancy

After a while, we walk back up the slope again to the road and then back to out tree house to savour our last few moments there. The people are incredibly friendly, including the kids from a nearby school who come out to see us visitors. They’re all chattering one to a dozen and of course we can’t understand a thing.

We meet the village priest, who turns out to be a rather well-travelled gentleman and he says he’s even been to Bangalore with a few of his village folks. He tells us a little bit about the village and then it’s time for us to have our lunch and hit the road again.

Serene

A village far, far away… Nestled deep within the Khasi Hills, near the Bangladesh border : with its beautiful people, cutest kids and the cleanest roads : and a tree house to make our stay memorable. A village that will definitely live in my memories for a long, long time to come.

For details on accomodation, please contact Deepak Laloo on 09436100856\ 09863021069.

The Mawlynnong Album

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