When considering where to spend your holidays in a hill station like Shillong, often referred to as the Scotland of the East, thoughts of luxury hotels with lush green vistas might come to mind. But what if you could enhance the experience by residing in a charming bungalow, featuring snug British-style rooms, a warm and hospitable host, and a private garden space? Allow me to introduce you to a traditional Assamese cottage situated in the heart of Meghalaya’s capita
l, a serene haven away from the urban hustle and bustle.
Location: When I embark on my travels, I seek out places that offer a bit of distance from the city’s commotion, while still embodying local authenticity. Clean rooms, comfortable furnishings, and well-maintained washrooms are of paramount importance to me. As for my husband, he prioritizes location and a touch of luxury. Therefore, it was an easy decision for us to choose Aerodene as our accommodation. Notably, several popular cafes and churches were within walking distance from the cottage. Additionally, key attractions like waterfalls, Marai Caves, Lady Hydari Park, and Police Bazar were conveniently nearby.
Rooms: The ground-floor rooms boasted small, private garden spaces, while those on the first floor provided captivating views. Adorned with wooden floors, furnishings, and delicate lace-curtained windows, the rooms emanated a fairytale-like ambiance. Pristine upholstery and meticulous interiors combined to deliver the comforts of a high-end hotel intertwined with the personalized services of a homestay. The bathrooms were equally well-appointed, complete with toiletries presented in charming lace baskets. Upon returning from our explorations, the rooms welcomed us with a comforting embrace, offering respite after our eventful days.
Garden: A sprawling, verdant garden greeted us, adorned with an array of flowers whose names I struggled to recall. Perhaps it was the timing of our visit, during the monsoon season, that unveiled this breathtaking beauty. Given that Shillong is renowned as one of the wettest places on Earth, the enchantment likely persists throughout the year. Orchids, lilies, ferns, crotons, palms, arucaria, rubber plants, money plants, and various other trees and potted flora graced the landscape. My mornings were enriched by leisurely tea sessions with my spouse, surrounded by the symphony of chirping birds and the alluring aroma of petrichor. Nestled in cozy cane chairs and stone seating arrangements, I found solace in the lap of nature. Notably, a substantial kitchen garden thrived on the opposite side of the property.
Services: Impeccable housekeeping was the norm, complemented by the graciousness of the staff. The dining area boasted plush sofas for waiting, accompanied by a mini library featuring an assortment of books and newspapers. Displayed on a rostrum, the history and narrative of the cottage were available for perusal. This was where I discovered the remarkable journey undertaken by the host, Sharlene, as she transformed her ancestral property into a remarkable guesthouse. The dining tables were meticulously set in the fashion of old British elegance. Remarkably, room service was not provided, contributing to the impeccable cleanliness and orderliness of the rooms. Although I initially harbored reservations about the lack of locks on the room doors, I gradually realized that the staff’s integrity was beyond question.
The Host: Charlene and her husband Ronnie served as exceptional hosts. Throughout our stay, Charlene provided invaluable guidance for our excursions. She delighted us with homemade blueberry jam crafted from berries plucked from her kitchen garden, adorning our breakfast table with this delectable treat. Beyond her role as the owner and caretaker of the property, Charlene also practiced as a yoga instructor, which accounted for her serene and composed demeanor. I also learned that she had been part of the production team of the renowned Bollywood movie “Gandhi,” a testament to her multifaceted talents and charisma.
History: The bungalow, a nearly 70-year-old ancestral Assamese residence, had been meticulously restored. Elevated on stone stilts, the main cottage stood two feet above the ground, its structure supported by wooden panels and frames. The distinctive Assamese touch lay in the wooden panels that encased dried bamboo, coated with a blend of sand and lime—an effective moisture-resistant mixture. The family’s heritage extended to the possession of a vintage 1946 Jaguar, an exquisite automobile displayed proudly in their garage.
Amidst the array of guest houses and hotels scattered across Shillong, this particular establishment exudes a certain aura that leaves an indelible mark. The room rates remain reasonable, varying based on room type and occupancy. Reservations can easily be secured through their website or platforms like Airbnb. Our stay at this delightful amalgamation of tradition and contemporary luxury was nothing short of splendid.