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A day at the cleanest village in Asia: Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Mawlynnong won the status of being the cleanest village in Asia, in 2003
Image courtesy: Supriya Sehgal

Having lived my entire life in an urban jungle I love to get away to the mountains and staying at a village for a night was the cherry on the cake. Around 100km from Shillong there is a magical paradise – Mawlynnong – a small village which won the status of being the cleanest village (2003), not just in India, but in Asia. I could not wait to get there.

This is a time for many firsts – my first trip to Meghalaya, my first stay in a village and the first time I’m going to see one of the rare Living Root Bridges. After soaking in the beauty of Shillong for a couple of days I make my way to Mawlynnong, located in the East Khasi Hills, very close to Bangladesh.

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A traditional thatched hut.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

I reach here and I am stumped. Not only is this village spotless clean but it’s one of the prettiest ones I have seen in the country. I am greeted warmly and taken to the guest house, my home for the night. I walk on cobbled streets bordered with thatched Khasi huts and go past gardens that are full of colourful flowers. There are bamboo baskets outside every house, used as bins.

A cup of tea at the machan is bound to rejuvenate you.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

I reach the guest house which is entirely made of bamboo. Raised on stilts it almost seems as if I’m in a tree house with two tiny bedrooms, a living room, verandah and a machan which is connected to the verandah with long bamboo poles and jute. It resembles a typical Khasi hut and it is serene and calming just sitting there amidst greenery with a gentle gurgling of the waterfall in the background. I had my lunch and just wanted to laze there with no agenda, no mobile or internet (thank God). I’m enjoying every minute when it just gets better – it’s time to go and see the Living Root Bridges.

The fascinating Living Root Bridges
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

After a 15-minute walk I’m face-to-face with one of the most spectacular natural bridges I’ve seen that’s made by twisting the roots of the gigantic rubber trees. The roots make a pathway across a stream, making it easy for villagers to commute. These bridges are unique to Meghalaya. All around Cherrapunjee there are a number of such bridges fashioned by Khasi villagers who have, over decades, woven the roots of ficus trees across rivulets and streams. The hardy roots slowly grow to form a cantilevered and intertwined mesh that is used as a bridge over waterways. Many of these bridges can only be reached by hiking through the forest for several hours, so I skip those and choose to see this one instead.

Another interesting thing the villagers have constructed here is the Sky View, an 85 feet high viewing tower that’s made of bamboo. When I reach to the top I get stunning views of not just the village but also Bangladesh on the other side. It’s simply gorgeous.

After a simple meal of dal, rice, potato and red chilies I turn in early. Next day as I am leaving the children beam and wave and villagers happily see me off. That’s when I realise that it’s the simplicity and warmth of the people that makes Mawlynnong so special.

Getting there: There are regular flights from all metro cities to Guwahati. From here, Mawlynnong is 190km away. You can break the journey at Shillong, 118km from the airport.

The article was first published in 2014, and has been updated since.

AUTHOR'S BIO: A traveller and foodie at heart, Pallavi Pasricha has explored many destinations across the world. But that never seems to be enough and she’s always ready to hit the road again. Her obsession for travel is combined with a love for photography.