Since 2003 a little village in the north east of India has held the very prestigious title of ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’. Mawlynnong, 90 kilometres from the capital of Meghalaya, Shillong, received the award from a travel magazine for having a zero litter policy, helped with pretty bamboo bins scattered around the village. As well as that all the villagers have access to a toilet and everyone is literate. It seems (from my limited research) that no other place has taken their crown in the intervening years so Mawlynnong is still the King of Clean. If anyone is not sure where we’re talking about, the pink dot on the map marks the spot, it’s very close to the Bangladesh border, but high up in the Khasi Hills.
Getting to the village isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The nearest major international airport is Kolkata, which is an hours flight over Bangladesh to Guwahati in Assam. From there it is almost 4 hours to Shillong and then the final 90km to Mawlynnong takes about 3 hours. You might think that is a long way to go for a clean village, but that’s not all you get after travelling this far. You can also witness a big rock balancing on a small rock:
If rocks balancing on other rocks aren’t your thing, Mawlynnong also boasts a tree with roots that spread across a river, connecting the two sides and creating a living root bridge. If this was in a more accessible place, it would definitely be one of India’s top tourist attractions. The Taj Mahal might have taken over 20,000 people to build – but this took no one, just nature. The local people just use some betel tree trunks to guide the roots in the right direction. Within 10-15 years the bridge becomes strong and stones are placed on them to make walking on them more comfortable.
The tree that is used for this is called Ficus Elastica. The roots of this tree can be used because it produces secondary roots further up it’s trunk that can be grown and spread across a river.
That’s not the only engineering marvel the Khasi people have created in Mawlynnong. This tree house is so far up in the trees that I couldn’t get the whole thing into one photo:
By the time I got to the top I could barely breathe. I was up higher than the trees with nothing but bamboo and some rope to support us. One of my colleagues reassured me that the Sky View treehouse had been there for years and it hadn’t collapsed yet, so we were probably going to be ok.
At the top there was a little platform on which we could rest a moment and get our breath back. From the top there is a great view of Bangladesh (but we went mid-monsoon and so had to catch quick glimpses between clouds).
Mawlynnong is only 4 kilometres from the Bangladesh border so when the clouds step aside for a minute there are some great views.
Back to the amazing tree house….I want to live in this thing!
With the balancing rock, living root bridge and ridiculously high tree house, it’s easy to forgot the main attraction; the very clean village. So here is some more Mawlynnong:
Mawlynnong is an amazing, peaceful place. It is well worth the many rocky roads it takes to get there. Just bring sandwiches if you go! There aren’t many places to eat and the place thats sign reads: ‘All kind of cool drink’, actually only sells tea.