The first time when I went to Meghalaya, I was on a hardcore budget. I wanted to visit Cherapunjee and nearby places that were considered very ‘offbeat’ in 2013. After that trip, I went to Meghalaya twice but more or less the itinerary remained similar thanks to fam trips and family vacation.
It was not until last year in 2017 when I got a chance to explore Meghalaya for a few more days. While I was not going to any new place but the idea was to explore what I have seen in a different way. I was going to attend Cherry Blossom festival in Shillong.
Unlike Japan, Indian Cherry Blossom season arrives in November. Late November gives the hilly areas of Meghalaya, Nagaland and even Himachal Pradesh a full bloom of Cherry Blossom flowers. But here is a reality check, you will not see anything until the last day of the season. The blooming time is predicted and there is no guarantee that flowers will bloom on the day of the inauguration of the festival.
I had no plans to visit Shillong for Cherry Blossom festival but it was Dipawali and I was on my mandatory home visit. Guwahati is 10 hours away from Patna. Once you reach Guwahati, Shillong is not too far.
I almost felt cheated when I went to the venue where the flowers were supposed to grow in abundance. I found nothing. But I was not the only one to be disappointed. A group of nature enthusiasts, photographers and journalists had arrived from different places of India and everyone left the next day calling it a big waste of time.
The local food festival was a highlight that I liked at the venue. Different stalls showcasing special food from different cultures of Meghalaya. I personally liked Rice Beer, Rice and pork cooked inside bamboo shoot along with the cute cupcakes.
But lack of management was more annoying than the lack of flowers. Government had announced a range of programs from the date the festival would start to the day it would end. The programs included traditional dance, archery and football. Sadly, finding venues without paying taxi drivers a hefty sum became a tough task for a budget backpacker like me.
After a disappointing second day, I left for Cherrapunjee and spent a couple of days. In my last three visits to Meghalaya, this was the first time I went to Nohkalikai waterfalls. I was not disappointed.
After spending seven days in Meghalaya and wandering around without a plan, the day arrived when I was supposed to reach Guwahati and catch my train back to Patna. I decided to give another chance to the event venue and went there for a quick walk.
The park was finally blooming with Cherry Blossom flowers. Trees laden with pretty white flowers adorned the entire street that lead to the venue. I clicked a few pics and left.
Overall, this was a big publicity stunt by Meghalaya Tourism. I could have gone to a local tribal festival that happened on the same date but reaching there was difficult. If the tourism department had spent similar time and energy in promoting that event, people like me would have experienced something more local in nature and not what totally looked like a PR move.
Dates of Cherry Blossom Festival 2018
Dates for Cherry Blossom festival 2018 are yet to be announced. It usually takes place during the 2nd or 3rd week of November. The prime venue is Ward’s Lake where most of the events take place.
How to reach Shillong
Regular shared cars from Paltan Bazar, Guwahati and Borjhar Airport go to Shillong. They charge around INR 300 per head and takes around 3 hours to arrive. You’ll also find shared Tata Sumo from Khanpara. These vehicles cost INR 170 but are very congested.
Additional Notes – It is a fun idea to be a part of Cherry Blossom Festival but don’t travel Meghalaya just for this event. Make an extensive plan and be in Shillong on the first day and last day of the festival.