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Meghalaya (literally meaning ‘Adobe of Clouds’), one of the Northeastern states of India, is endowed with incredible natural beauty. The state is famous for its high rainfall, subtropical forests, biodiversity & native tribal culture. Among several fascinating places, Dawki (or Dauki), a small border town in the West Jaintia Hills, is a must-see. The Indo-Bangladesh border is only a 5 mins drive from the town.
The major attraction of Dawki, however, is the Umgot River, which is one of the cleanest rivers of Asia. The river also acts as the border between the two countries – India and Bangladesh. So, this is the place, where you can enjoy the chats & chai of Bangladesh while you are in the Indian waters. Dawki is around 80 kms from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. We made a single day trip to Dawki hiring a cab from our hotel in Shillong. We also planned for Mawlynnong (Asia’s cleanest village) on the same day, so, first we went to Mawlynnong followed by Dawki in the afternoon.
A 2-hour drive from Mawlynnong took us to Dawki. It was April end, but the weather was so pleasant in Shillong that we booked a non-AC cab for the trip. That was, however, a mistake. Unlike Shillong, Dawki was hot & humid with temperature close to 35 °C. Dawki is only 80 kms away from Shillong, but the weather conditions are poles apart.
The irritation caused by the weather conditions just got vanished when we saw the mesmerizing view of the Umgot river flowing at a great depth. On one side, the river creates a natural boundary between Ri Pnar (Jaintia Hills) and Hima Khyrim (Khasi Hills). On the other side, it has the Indo-Bangladesh border. Dawki Bridge, a suspension bridge across Umgot river is the road route that connects the two boundaries. This bridge was built by the British in 1932.
In social media, you will find hundreds of pictures of colourful boats floating on the crystal-clear water of Umgot river. The boat ride for 2 hours cost us 800 bucks (after bargain). The ride was rejuvenating. The river water was clean but not like the pictures available in Google. The river was deep enough with a visibility up to 8 meters (as informed by our boatman). We reached Dawki around 3 pm. So might be because of that the visibility was not that great. Therefore, to experience the true beauty of the river, it’s better to be here around 11-12 when the sun would be at the top.
First our boatman took us to a small rocky island. The location was nice, surrounded by the hills and the Umgot River. Here we spent around 20 mins. The river is full of fishes. Throughout the ride, we came across a number of local people who were busy angling. Our boatman then took us to the other side of the river, where we were allowed to do cross-border transaction of chats & bhel puri without entering the Bangladesh border. You may also choose to get down from the boat on that side and spend 5-10 mins in foreign country without visa! There is also a small market area which allows people at both borders to share business connections.
On the way back we noticed a big rock. It was overlooking the river with a number of natural holes. From the structure, it was evident that during the rains, water would flow through those holes making it look like no less than the fancy hills shown in Disney movies or adventure series. Though Monsoon is the best time to visit Shillong and Cherrapunji, Dawki might not be a good option that time. Boat ride might be suspended due to rain.
After the fascinating boat ride, our next destination was the Sylhet Border, which was a 5-10 minutes’ drive from Dawki. During the partition of India, Sylhet was separated from Assam and was included in East Pakistan, which subsequently became independent Bangladesh in 1971. Many of the Bengalis were forced to leave Bangladesh during the partition. My Nani (Grand mom) left Bangladesh in 1948 when she was a kid. However, till now she becomes nostalgic about the time she spent there playing in the mango and litchi orchards, diving in the lakes etc. Sylhet is blessed with beautiful landscapes, but at the border, we could only view the “Welcome to Bangladesh” board.
There was not much to do at the border, other than taking a few snaps. It was 6 pm - time to call off the day, head towards chilled Shillong and just relax in the cozy room of Tripura Castle, our hotel in Shillong.