With pre-monsoon showers bathing the Scotland of the East into a more lush shade of green, tourists, especially from neighbouring Kolkata are making a beeline to bask in the cool climes of Shillong.
"Oh, it is unbelievably cool out here," exclaims Sauravi Chatterjee, a tourist from Kolkata, who has escaped to the Pine City to escape the sweltering heat in her hometown.
"We love the hills out here and people are so elegant," gushes Saswati Dutta, yet another tourist from West Bengal. "We performed pujas at the Kamakhya Shrine in Guwahati before coming to Shillong," says Sudhir Dey, also from Bengal.
With the official monsoon just a few weeks away, botanists and zoologists from across the world are waiting with bated breath too to descend on the verdant Cherrapunjee (Sohra), its treasures multiplying fast with every bout of rainshower.
"Wild flowers and moss grow all over the hills in the region during the rains," says a botanist at the headquarters of Botanical Survey of India, Shillong.
Officials in the tourism department say tourist flow to the state has been rising steadily over the past few years. "The overall peaceful atmosphere and the sheer beauty of pristine nature, besides better communication, lodging and food facilities and popular annual festivals have been attracting tourists to the state," says an official in the state tourism department.
Beautiful lakes, breathtaking waterfalls set in pine forests and rolling green hills make the Shillong a popular hill station in the country.
Also reputed as the hub of western music, Shillong has emerged as an important destination for international music groups, attracting a large number of music buffs from not only the Northeast but other parts of the country and abroad as well.
Trekking, swimming, bird watching, shopping, golf and water sports are some of the activities that keep visitors engaged here. Home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna, Meghalaya has two national parks and two wildlife sanctuaries. There are also many caves, some the longest in Asia.
An added attraction for tourists here is the leave travel concession (LTC) package offered by the Centre to government employees traveling to the Northeast.
"The enhanced LTC facilities under which tourists can travel economy class on air encourages many to visit Shillong, apart from its sheer beauty of course," says a travel agent.
"The Centre is keen on luring LTC travelers to the relatively peaceful and enchanting, yet lesser visited Northeast, also to dispel misconceptions about the place," says a senior tourism official. "With direct flights between Kolkata and Shillong, the flow of tourists to Meghalaya is expected to increase," the official adds.
"Almost all hotels in the city have been booked by budget tourists," says the owner of a popular hotel in Police Bazar.
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