Visiting Fairyland on Umngot River in Dawki, Meghalaya

posted in: Asia, India, Meghalaya, Nature | 102

Just picture this – a boat that takes you along a jeweled stream that has some magical creatures floating below and stunning jewels that lie at the bottom of the bed. As you float along, you encounter sparkling cascades that drop down from stunning hills that are covered with green trees. Dotting the scene are twittering beauties and fluttering fairies. Further, you spot mysterious coves hidden between the ridges of the hills – Mesmerizing? You might think that this kind of land exists only in Fairy Tales. Hey! You are so wrong. I did visit one of these. Right here – in this life, in India. Welcome to the fairyland in Dawki, Meghalaya.

Umngot River, Dawki

Dawki is a small border town along the India- Bangladesh Border in Meghalaya. The town is a hot spot for trade between the two nations but in reality, has a lovely fairyland enclosed within. Close to the cleanest village of Asia – Mawlynnong, I managed a magical visit to this place. The magic truly lies in the gorgeous river that flows out here. Popularly referred to as the Dawki river, its actual name is Umngot River. The river is where the fairyland lies.

The Emerald stream – Umngot River in Dawki

The clear Dawki River

The Umngot River is considered as one of the cleanest rivers in India. One look at it and you will agree that it definitely is. Not just the cleanest but one stunning river. A natural divide between Jhantia and Khasi hills, this river flows into Bangladesh through Dawki. They say that on a good day, the water of Dawki river is so clear that the boats floating on it, look as if they are on a crystal glass surface. A lot of these pictures can be accessed on the internet. Having seen some of those, I really wanted to see this for myself. Sadly, it had been continuously raining when we planned a trip there and I did not see the river in its full glory. However, what I did see blew my mind!

Journey to Dawki

Waterfall along the way to Dawki

A little sad after leaving the beautiful village of Mawlynnong, we set out for our last destination in Meghalaya – the stunning Dawki river. I tried to think positive as the car set off along the winding roads that led to the border of India. The drive kept getting us closer and closer to the Bangladesh plains that I had first spotted from Mawlynnong village. The sight of the same had my little 11-year-old minx curious and she burst into a tirade of questions on how, why and what about Bangladesh. The only time she stopped was to gasp at the lovely waterfalls that lined our paths. The last one completely had her dumbstruck for it was this huge one that fell right beside the bridge we had to cross. With a quick photo op, we bundled back into the car to ride in silence for the next couple of minutes till we lay eyes on a curved emerald stream!

First Sight of the Umngot River

Flowing between two hills was a clear emerald stream.

Silent and calm, sparkling in the sun,

Green yet clear, so far yet near.

The first sight of Umngot River in Dawki

The Umngot river may not have been clear as I had seen in the internet pictures, but it sure was stunning. Even though you might have seen pictures, seeing something this beautiful in reality was just a different feeling. It really felt too good to be true. The green of the river shone under the sun and was only accentuated by the colorful boats that lined its shore. The only way I wanted to ensure that I was not dreaming was to rush down to the river and touch it!

Gliding along the Dawki River

The boating along Dawki River

Yes, it was a reality. I was in Fairyland. The transparent, emerald stream was a path through a magical land. Eager to see it, we boarded the snake boat. The boatman perched himself at one corner, high above the emerald surface and pushed off towards paradise. It is funny how the shape of the boat and the position of the boatsman added to the magical fervor of the place. It was almost as if he was suspended above the jeweled surface of Dawki river. The first few movements had my daughter shriek but soon she got enveloped in the magic of Dawki.

The Magic of Dawki River

Hidden alcoves and cascades along the Dawki River

The river bed was strewn with deep round pebbles and stones. It was evident from the surface itself that they were colorful – possibly gemstones hidden away underwater. Around the glistening rivers, we spotted mysterious alcoves – the kinds that elves and fairies hide in. Green on the outside, with a curtain of a cascade, the moist walls of these tiny grooves shone back at us – almost beckoning us to come and explore. The only sounds of the valley were the gentle swishing of the river and the melodious calls of the birds.

Along Dawki River

Sindabad’s island along Dawki

The Pebbled Island of Dawki

The boat ride took us to a small island which I fondly term as Sinbad’s Island. You might have heard of the legend of Roc in the famous One Thousand and One Nights, where Sinbad the sailor got trapped on the Island of these huge birds that had equally huge eggs. That is where he found the treasure that he carried back home. Well, looks like I landed on the same island full of Roc Eggs.

Amidst the Pebbles of the Isle of Dawki

Stunning, beautiful and unbelievable! The island was full of round pebbles that I had seen earlier in the Dawki riverbed. What made the whole scenario amazing was that they were in beautiful colors. I checked with the boatman on how did these land here. He said – They were always there! Now, if that is not magic, then I really do not know what is!

Magical isle of Dawki

Back to Reality at the Indo-Bangladesh Border

The Dawki Suspension Bridge

After the Island visit, we completed a tour of the rest of the river. That brought us back to reality as we sailed below the famous Dawki bridge, constructed by the British in the 1930s. The suspension bridge can handle only one vehicle at a time. The cross-over leads to the official India border.

The Bangladesh border at Tamabil, near Dawki in India

The end point of the Dawki river is well marked with a BSF camp on the shore. It is beyond this that we are not allowed to cross and our boat turns back. Interestingly, the Dawki river seamlessly turns blue as it enters Bangladesh

Dawki river as it enters Bangladesh

Reluctantly, I got back to reality and headed back to our car. Honestly speaking, for those few moments, I had forgotten that I was a girl from Bangalore, here on a trip with my family. I felt that we just belonged here. And even now, as I recount this experience, I feel as if I had dreamt it all. My pictures are the only proof of my visit there. Everything else does feel like a fairytale. However, after this visit, I do think Fairyland exist and that Fairy Tales are true!

Getting here

  • Dawki can be done as a day-trip from Shillong. On how to get to Shillong, refer to this post of mine. You can hire a taxi from Shillong that can take you here and bring you back.

Travel Tips

  • The best time to visit this place is from October to May. During Monsoons, the level of water is quite high and boating is suspended. The island too, gets submerged during monsoons.
  • Combine a trip to Dawki with the Living Root Bridges of Mawlynnong. You can even visit Mawlynnong village as a part of this day trip.
  • I would highly recommend a stay in Mawlynnong as it is a delightful experience in this cleanest village of Asia. A day trip does not really do justice to it. You can get in touch with North East Explorers or stay options here.
  • There are no restaurants or restrooms close to Dawki, unless you head to Dawki village.
  • The climb down to Dawki river can be steep for some – especially the aged. There are no uniform steps.
  • The boat ride in Dawki can cost you anything between INR 500 to INR 750 per boat, depending on the season.
  • When visiting the Indo-Bangladesh border, remember to stick to the rules of the BSF. Do not venture beyond the point indicated by them.


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