Meghalaya on a scooter

Meghalaya on a scooter
  1. Back story
  2. Why Meghalaya?
  3. Prep and planning
  4. Reaching Shillong
  5. Local transportation
  6. Food
  7. Culture and vibe
    1. Language
    2. Music
  8. Feelings
    1. Boredom
    2. Anxiety (the Dawki story)
    3. Absolute joy
  9. In conclusion

Back story

After quitting my job at Last9, I decided to take a month off (which I'm still in the middle of, at the time of writing this post). During this time, I wanted to travel solo. The idea of solo travel has always fascinated me. Traveling in groups is fun. But the plan/itinerary becomes an aggregate of each person's wish. So, the whole experience can feel a bit diluted.

Being a professional introvert, I've typically shied away from taking the lead or contributing to plans when navigating group dynamics. So, this was a great opportunity for me to take control and enjoy a vacation like I really wanted to.

Why Meghalaya?

Originally, I wanted to go backpacking across multiple cities in Kerala. But I saw some of my friends on Twitter post pictures of India's map, marking all the states that they have visited. When I saw my map, I realized that I'd only visited the states in the south of India. And I wanted to change that.

I really wanted to go to Himachal or Uttarakhand. But at the time of planning this trip, there were a lot of landslides happening there. So, I pivoted to the northeast. I didn't want to cover all of the northeast in this trip itself. So, I limited it to Shillong and some other places in Meghalaya.

before and after

Prep and planning

While planning this trip, the inner hippy in me took over and kept the planning to an absolute minimum. I just booked the stay at Zostel for a couple of days and made a rough list of some popular places to visit there. I did not even plan when I wanted to return. The general idea was to go there, rent a bike, and just go with the flow.

I had accumulated a bunch of reward points on my credit card. So, I got a really good discount on my flight tickets. I booked my return ticket after spending a few days in Shillong. Both flights in total cost me under 6K. Which was a massive bargain.

Reaching Shillong

The adventure started before I expected. On the day of my flight, there was a strike organized by the private transportation drivers. So, no cabs, autos etc. And my flight was pretty early in the morning. I waited at the Jayanagar 4th block bus stand at 5:30AM and HOPED that the airport bus would show up. Sure enough, it did.

The private transportation strike was organized to oppose the subsidies in public transportation. But ironically, it ended up making people like me realize that airport buses are more economical and predictable than cabs. The bus ticket to the airport cost me ₹255. Whereas a cab would have easily been more than ₹1000.

I got to see Terminal 2 of the Bangalore International Airport after a while. It looks beautiful. Terminal 2 itself looks like a vacation destination.

terminal 2

My flight was to Guwahati. So, I had to take a cab from there to Shillong which is ~90 km away. This cab ride took about 3 hours and cost me ₹2800. The cab took me directly to Zostel. After reaching, I had some food, took a quick look around, and went straight to bed.

Local transportation

On the night I arrived at the hostel, I heard from my roommates that Zostel itself provided two-wheelers for rent. Bikes were not available. So, I rented a scooter. This was no regular scooter. It was a Yamaha RayZR 125 Fi Hybrid. It had a 125cc engine and even had uphill assist.

scooter picture

Roads in Shillong were very steep and narrow within the city. They were much better once you got out of the city. The highways were really well maintained. The scenery along the road was intimidatingly beautiful. There were hills, meadows, grasslands, forests, valleys, meandering streams of crystal clear water, and everything you can imagine in a place like Meghalaya.

road collage

The navigation was a little tricky though. Google Maps didn't work very well. The thing about Google Maps is, it optimizes for the shortest path. And taking shortcuts is probably the worst thing you can do in a hilly terrain. The way I navigated around was, that I saw the general direction of my destination on Google Maps and then asked around the local as I drove in that direction. This took some getting used to but it worked out surprisingly well.


I'm a vegetarian so the local food scene was not for me. So, I mostly ate at cafes. The experience of dining in a cafe was very refreshing. I had 2 meals a day. The brunch would always be during a journey in the middle of the day. So, the hunger made the cafe experience even better.

Most cafes I went to were empty. Probably because this was off-season. It could also be that nobody brunches in Shillong. This made it even better. I would just go wash my face, drink some water, sit, and relax for some time before ordering food. There was always a backdrop of rock music in all the cafes I visited. This just made everything better. I think in one of the cafes, the song "horse with no name" was playing. I felt like a proper cowboy 😂.

The quality of the food was amazing. Coming from a tier 1 city like Bangalore, I've always been disappointed by cafes in other cities. But not Shillong. The vibe, the taste of food, the customer service, the menu, etc were all amazing. Some cafes even had distinctive themes, like "Dylan's Cafe," inspired by the legendary Bob Dylan, and "ML 05 Cafe," a nod to the most common number plates in Meghalaya.

food collage

Culture and vibe

Shillong is so different! I am not sure how it is in the rest of the north-east, but Shillong is so different from the rest of India. Everywhere you go in India, people are slightly different. But there is a core Indian-ness to all of us. Across India, you'll find similarities in clothing, color preferences, architectural styles, music choices, civic habits, and even brand preferences. But all of that is different in Shillong. It somehow seems to have escaped a lot of Indian influences.

You can see a lot of Eastern influences in buildings. In some streets, I felt like I was in Japan. There were bamboo trees all around, people were wearing conical-shaped hats, roads were super clean, and more.


When you meet people in Shillong, and they know that you don't belong, they default to speaking in English. This was so comforting to me as a South Indian 😛. Felt right at home. And the best part is, EVERYBODY is fluent in English. Everyone from the hostel caretaker to small shop owners to random people I asked directions from on the street.

As for other languages, I noticed that most locals spoke to each other in their native language, Khasi. However, I also overheard snippets of Bengali and Assamese here and there. Nevertheless, the majority of people in Shillong were quite proficient in both Hindi and English, making it super easy to communicate. Shillong is the most inclusive city I've been to.


A lot of cafes and bars in the city have live music on Friday nights. Shillong is filled with talented musicians who perform there every week. And as you can probably guess, they all play rock music. Not just at these venues, rock music is playing everywhere all the time. The local radio station mostly played classic old rock and roll songs. There was absolutely no trace of Bollywood anywhere 😛

The whole city loves music. I was walking by a barber shop where the radio was playing a beautiful country song. The barber was singing along to it joyfully. I had to stop and shazam the song. It was "I'm Your Man" by Leonard Cohen.

On Friday, after a tiring day trip to Dawki, I returned to the city around 6 PM, feeling exhausted and hungry. Without hesitation, I went straight to Dylan's Cafe. Since it was Friday night, the cafe featured live music that evening. Two artists performed: a 78-year-old man and his son. Later, I discovered that the elderly gentleman was none other than Lou Majaw, a legend in the North-Eastern music scene. He had a deep, Johnny Cash-esque voice and sang beautifully.

the majaws

Lou Majaw is a big Bob Dylan fan. In fact, he is famously called the Bob Dylan of India. So, he covered some of Dylan's greatest hits and some songs from other artists. He was followed by his son Christopher Dylan Majaw, who covered some popular classics like "Can't Help Falling in Love", "Take Me Home, Country Roads". The whole evening was very pleasant. I could not have ended the trip in a better way than this.



I had decided not to take my laptop on this trip. There were moments in the evening, after the day's sightseeing, when I was bored to death. I did not want to socialize with the people in the hostel. They were the loud Punjabi music type (no judgment 😛). I also did not want to just lay on my bed and watch Netflix.

But eventually, I got used to just sitting in the garden of the hostel and reading on my Kindle for hours. Time seemed to be going at a much lower pace.

This boredom was very necessary for me to rehabilitate from the extremely fast-paced startup lifestyle I had.

Anxiety (the Dawki story)

I am generally a very anxious person. This being my first solo trip, there was lingering anxiety pretty much through the trip. But I got more and more comfortable every passing day.

On the last day, I decided to go to Dawki. A small town at the border of Meghalaya and Bangladesh. This was around 85 km from Shillong. The route was absolutely stunning for the most part. Dawki, being nearly at sea level, meant the road from Shillong to Dawki took me across and down the Khasi hills. There were times when the visibility was very low and I literally had to ride through clouds. There was a constant fear of "what if the scooter breaks down". Towards the end of the route, the road was HORRIBLE. It was basically just stones (not even mud). After reaching Dawki, there was an unbelievable amount of traffic. A narrow road wedged between the hill on one side and a cliff that drops to the river on the other side, two-way traffic, mostly trucks transporting goods between Bangladesh and India. It was jam-packed!

The local tribal people run the whole boating experience (managing the ticket counter, rowing the boats, helping people park their vehicles, etc.). One of them came to me as I was stuck in the deadlocked traffic (his name was Joy). He suggested I park my scooter nearby and then led me to a trail descending the cliff to the river's shore. After a steep hike down, I finally boarded a boat with him (the ticket cost me ₹800). The boating experience was very nice, got some really good pictures. The water was not as clean due to rain (it's usually crystal clear). One side of the river was Bangladesh, and the other side was where the 3 hills of Meghalaya met. It was a very serene experience.


While going back to Shillong, I took a different route (via Jowai) which was much better! But it was around 40 km more than the previous route. The road on this route was perfect from start to finish. After making this long journey, Shillong began to feel like home. All my anxiety had dissipated, and I felt more comfortable than ever. The rest of the evening just got better and better (good food at Dylan's cafe, live music, etc.).

Absolute joy

There were moments in the trip where I felt absolute bliss. Completely satiated.

  • Sitting on the grass at Laitlum Canyon, surrounded by nothing but smooth meadows as far as I could see.
  • Driving through lush green landscapes
  • Sitting in the garden of the hostel at midnight looking at the stars (when there were no clouds)
  • Watching Lou Majaw cover Bob Dylan's songs
  • Many more moments

In conclusion

This was a very memorable trip. I am still kind of digesting all the experiences I had there. I can sense that this entire trip has had a profound impact on me, one that will likely reveal itself in ways I can't yet anticipate. I definitely want to do something like this again.

If you've always wanted to travel solo but hesitated for whatever reason, let this post be the gentle nudge you might have needed 😄