Living Root Bridges

Meghalaya, India

Sustainable and environmentally friendly architecture

… In 2005 during a bout of backpacking in India I heard about Megahalaya‘s living root bridges from a fellow traveler I had met in Darjeeling.  Although he confessed to never actually going there himself, he said he had heard from another person that the area called the East Khasi Hills was a fascinating and under explored place.  I clearly remember trying to conjure up an image in my mind of what a living root bridge might look like, and to be honest, the best I could muster was something akin to a log across a small brook, a sight I’ve seen many times during various jungle treks the world over.  In fact, when I think about it now, I’m amazed I ever bothered following up the lead on his recommendation, but I am so thankful that the lure of the North East States as a whole was strong enough to eventually get me on a train to Guwahati, which serves as the gateway to this part of India.

At that time there was no mention of this part of Meghalaya in any guide books.   In fact, the Lonely Planet only devoted a few sparse pages to all seven of the North East frontier States due to the ongoing conflicts in the area with a general warning for tourists to stay away.   Of course, a warning not to go somewhere is a very seductive thing to a person like myself.  Experience has taught me that an intelligent and friendly traveller can avoid this type of internal conflict quite easily, since flash points tend to occur as isolated incidences in an otherwise peaceful and welcoming place.

Gawahati train station, Assam, my entry point into the NE States

Gawahati train station, Assam, my entry point into the NE States

The East Khasi Hills, site of the many living root bridges constructed by the Khasi tribe have one quite major claim to fame.  The Guinness book of records regularly sites the village of Cherrapunjee as being the rainiest place on earth, an honour which is hotly disputed by neighbouring Mawsynram, about 10 miles to its east.  Regardless of who’s right, it’s fair to say that this part of the world gets a hell of a lot of rain, and if you are intending to travel there yourself you may be advised to take this factor into account when planning your trip, with the monsoon generally happening between the months of May and October.

Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunjee in the dry season

In my opinion, aside from the living root bridges, the main reason to come to this part of Meghalaya is to meet the fantastic Khasi people who populate these hills which sit majestically overlooking the plains of Bangladesh.  When I originally came here, I had a tentative plan to stay a week or so, but I ended up staying nearly a month and a half in all, returning on two occasions with friends.

The place I called home during that time was a lovely little village called Mawlynnong which I had heard about from a Canadian guy called James Perry who lived in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong with his Khasi wife and kids.  Back then, before guidebooks existed for the area, all my information came from people I met on the ground and James was a wealth of knowledge on the Khasi tribe, having lived there for quite a while.  As a native speaker, he was well involved in the culture of the area and gave me a list of local festivals and places of interest.  More importantly, he advised me not to travel to the better known areas around Cherrapunjee to see living bridges but instead to base myself in Mawlynnong to its east as a place to explore the hills.

James had recently helped the Khasi get funding to build a community guesthouse in Mawlynnong with the aid of a government grant but admitted that the only visitors they had thus far attracted were Khasi tourists from Shillong who wanted to visit Mawlynnong, known locally as the ‘cleanest village in India’… a title the Khasi were very proud of, but one that not much of the rest of India had heard about.

In the Khasi Hills, women rule

My first visit to Mawlynnong was a beautiful eye opener and one that, looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, I can identify as a pivotal cross roads in my life that will live with me forever.  On James’s instruction I located the yellow minibus at Shillong’s Bara Bazaar market which left for Mawlynnong and immediately fell in love with the Khasi way of life as I was packed into the back along with a handful of smiley welcoming folk who immediately took me under their collective wing.

About 4 extremely bumpy hours later (the road was still under construction) and after our midway tea stop at the village of Pynursla, we arrived at what looked to me like an exclusive garden centre from back home in the UK.  This was Mawlynnong, a village who’s inhabitants all chip in a few rupees every month to pay for a village gardener who keeps the place immaculately clean and planted up with fantastic flowers and exotic plants from the surrounding forest.  I was proudly shown to their shiny new guesthouse and taken out onto a veranda at the back that lead to a series of platforms through the forest canopy where I was offered tea.

Me editing photos high in the trees at the community guesthouse

And so began my love affair with the East Khasi Hills.

The Khasi are a matrilineal society (as oposed to a matriarchy), meaning that a family’s lineage is traced through the surname of the wife, with the youngest daughter inheriting all the family’s property.  Clothed in their traditional Dhara, you can really feel the girl power when you spend a little time with the Khasi, something that I really love about their culture.  There was a huge amount of community spirit in all the villages I visited, a fact that no doubt delighted the Welsh missionaries that first came to these hills in the 19th century from the Bangladeshi plains below.

One Sunday, after a painfully dull recited history of Welsh Baptist tradition at Mawlynnong’s one hundred year old church, I decided that I didn’t have the heart to tell them that church attendances in Wales had diminished so much in recent times that many churches had been sold off to private owners for conversion to luxury housing.  Ironically, on a later visit, I discovered that one of the congregation was about to embark on a sponsored trip to Wales to spread the word to the folks back home.

The stone foundations of the King’s Way, still very much in use today

All Khasi villages are connected by a network of stone pathways known as the King’s way which traditionally kept the local betel nut trade alive with Shillong.  Throughout this network, hundreds of living root bridges form the bridleways over the myriad of water channels that criss-cross the area.  A few minutes walk from Mawlynnong is what I consider to be the most beautiful of all the bridges in the East Khasi Hills, namely the bridge at Wahthyllong which we featured in Human Planet.

Wahthyllong.. a beautiful sight to behold

When I tell people about this part of India, I can’t help drawing an analogy with the appearance of some of the sets in Lord of the Rings.  For me, the bridge at  Wahthyllong is the antithesis of this analogy.  Uncertain of the age of the bridge, I’m estimating 60-100 years but from talking to the locals, all that I can be certain of is that it wasn’t planted by someone who is still alive today.

One of the most magical places I’ve ever been to

In the dry season, women come to this place to wash their clothes and a trip here at sunrise is an unforgetable experience.  This is certainly a magical place, augmented by the beautiful nature of the Khasi people.

Organic engineering at its best

The view from above reveals the majesty of this masterpiece.  Over the years, stones and earth have been lodged between the gaps of the banyan tree roots to form the beautiful pathway.

The view from below

… and underneath, the ancient organic mesh work weaves its beauty.

The development and upkeep of bridges is a community affair.  Initially, a length of bamboo is secured across a river divide and a banyan plant, Ficus benghalensis is planted on each bank.  Over the months and years, the roots and branches of the rapidly growing Ficus are trained along the bamboo until they meet in the middle and eventually supersede its support.  At later stages in the evolution of the bridge, stones are inserted into the gaps and eventually become engulfed by the plant forming the beautiful walkways.  Later still, the bridges are improved upon with the addition of hand rails and steps.

Creating a new hand rail

Lesser know than their cousins the living root bridges but equally as fascinating are the Khasi’s living root ladders.

The Khasi villages in this area sit atop a great plateau providing a comfortably cool climate.  However, below them in the plains of Bangladesh exists an environment that is much more suitable for growing oranges.  Consequently, many Khasi farmers have cultivated the land below them which is only accessible by traversing huge cliff faces like the ones you can see in the photo of Nohkalikai waterfall near the top of this page.  Sensationally, even here the versatile banyan tree can weave its brilliance by way of the ladders and suspended walkways that the Khasi have built in order to be able to scale these sheer faces.

A suspended walkway

Believe it or not, the pathway you can see in the photo above has been suspended from roots and branches attached to the cliff face on the left of the image.

At a few places the pathways become ladders…

Ascending the cliff

… some more elaborate than others…

A scene that HR Giger could no doubt relate to

… but carefully fashioned into steps…

A living ladder

A few days trekking around these hills will bring you in contact with some lovely people and beautiful places.  Be sure to take a guide from a village. I can recommend a great young fellow in Mawlynnong called Henry, if he still lives there.

One of the many beautiful waterfalls in the area

I went out hunting and fishing with Henry and his friends on many occasions in this magnificently wild landscape.

Hunting tree squirrels

The catch ready to cook

And the resulting barbecue

A secret fishing spot

Here are a few more pictures from the unforgettable time I spent with the Khasi people in the East Khasi Hills…

Josana brewing tea over her fire in Mawlynnong

Trading vegetables in the centre of Bara Bazaar, Shillong’s bustling market

A hand loom shawl worn by Khasi men

Elder in Thiepskai Village with teeth stained from chewing betel nut

A Khasi ceremony around the time of the queen’s birthday

A Khasi women weaving textiles with a loom

The community repair a bamboo bridge at Ringer village (not a living bridge)

The furniture stall opposite the bus stop for Mawlynnong

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When I originally went to Mawlynnong, the handful of foreigners who had previously visited were mainly missionaries.  That has definitely changed now.  When the Human Planet film crew turned up a couple of years ago they found the original guestbook that I had given to the guesthouse as a present before I left.  It was completely full and they had nearly filled another one too.

During my first trip there, I was asked by the village council for suggestions on how they could attract tourists to come to their corner of Meghalaya.  Over the weeks I did the best that I could to warn them of the potential pitfalls caused by of an influx of outsiders, but they were extremely adamant that it was what they wanted.  They are a very strong community of people and I had no doubt that they would deal with the inevitable increase of visitors in a responsible and socially acceptable way.  Of course, since I left them, my pictures have appeared in magazines all over the world and last month the bridge near Mawlynnong was seen by millions of people in the Rivers episode of Human Planet as a result of my involvement in the programme, so in a few weeks time I will be travelling back to Mawlynnong to take them a copy of the Human Planet book and find out what changes have occurred since their little village has been in the world’s media spot light.

When I get back I will tell you all about it.

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Resources for the independent traveller

Update 11/7/2011

Well, it appears that 5 years is a long time in NE India, since there have been some interesting developments in the Khasi Hills since I was last there.  Mawlynnong, the once sleepy and undiscovered place has become a little overrun with tourists during the day.  The unexpected thing for me however, is the fact that these tourists are Indian and not foreigners.  It appears that home grown tourism in India has exploded since I was last here, a fact I noticed the moment I arrived back in Shillong to discover all my usual hotels fully booked.

Nongriat on the other hand, the village containing the somewhat more famous ‘double decker’ root bridge has remained relatively unaffected by this boom in indigenous travelling, mainly because there is still no road there and 4 wheels are most certainly the preferred mode of travel for your average Indian vacationer.  Judging by the names in the guestbook of the village’s new ‘rest house’, in the rainy season they get about 2 visitors a week dropping by.

There’s no question that Mawlynnong IMO still has the best looking bridge nearby, but make sure you visit it first thing in the morning or last thing at night if you want to experience it the way I did.  I would advise you to visit Mawlynnong and base yourself there for a few days whilst you explore the forest all around on some treks.  In the evenings it’s as quiet as it ever was as few people stay over night.  After that take a trip to Nongriat, where the bridges aren’t so good, but where you get a more a peaceful experience, more interaction with the locals and better swimming pools in the rivers.

How to get there:

To see the living root bridges you must first get to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.  You can fly into Guwahati and get a share taxi all the way to Police Bazaar in Shillong for Rp400 per person.  Alternatively, rent the whole taxi for Rp1600.  If you arrive into Guwahati by train, catch a Sumo (The 11-seater jeeps that are the main form of transport around Meghalaya) from right outside the station. Guwahati to Shillong takes about 3 hours including a food stop.

To get to Mawlynnong, you must find the Khasi Hills Sumo stand at Bara Bazaar market.. it’s the first one you come to on the left going up the hill away from the market.  It looks like a 2 storey car park with a ramp up the left hand side going to the second level.  Look for the Pynursla and Sohra stands which are the first ones on your right at the top of the ramp.  Mawlynnong Sumos aren’t marked but they tend to be parked behind the ones to Pynursla and they leave at 1pm sharp.  The trip takes about 2 and a half hours and costs Rp80 including a 15 minute tea stop at Pynursla, the half way point.  On market days in Pynursla, there is no direct sumo to Mawlynnong from Shillong, so you will have to change in Pynursla which is very easy… there are loads of vehicles going both ways on market day.  There are no Sumos to Mawlynnong on a Sunday.

Mawlynnong now has 2 guesthouses and about 3 home-stay options.  Prices are Rp2000 a night for the tree house, Rp350 for the guesthouse just off the turning circle and whatever you negotiate for a home-stay.

If you need a good guide in Mawlynnong, use Henry or someone he recommends.  The going rate is Rp250 a day. Henry’s mobile is 09615043027.

Getting to Nongriat is a little more complicated.  Look for the Sohra Sumo stand (same as above) and take the first available one to Sohra for Rp50 (Sohra is the Khasi name for Cherrapunjee).  In Sohra you will most probably need to hire a small taxi to get you to Tyrna which is the village where the road ends.  It’ll be about Rp200 and takes about half an hour.  From Tyrna you have to start walking.  The path is quite obvious but get a local to point you in the right direction at first, then descend the 2004 steps (yes, I counted them myself) down to Nong Thymmai and then on to Nongriat over 2 wire suspension bridges and a couple of root bridges.  It should take you about 1 and a half hours.  The guesthouse in Nongriat is just on the other side of the double decker bridge and costs about Rp400 a night.  In the rainy season this is quite a walk and you might be advised to pay a local to carry your largest bag.  The going rate is Rp100 per trip.

The monsoon in Meghalaya is generally between May and October, but it has fluctuated recently.

Click here to listen to a piece I did for BBC Radio 4 about matriliny in the East Khasi Hills

Click here to read an interview I did about travelling in India’s North East Frontier States

Click here to see a blog written by a guy I met in Nagaland who went to Mawlynnong

Click here to see a clip from Human Planet showing the living bridge near Mawlynnong

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81 Responses to “Living Root Bridges”

  1. Apratim says:

    I have been here sometime in 2011, after reading your post. It just felt magical back then. Cut to 2019, I visited the same place again. It seemed that something had been taken away from me, even though I am not a native to this place. It may sound hopelessly romantic. But…

  2. Ronald Winsor says:

    I think the author is coming up a bit short on how long the Wahthyllong has been around there are wood block prints of that bridge from 1854 back when it was sixty to hundred years old . bridges like it take century’s to get that thick and last so long even the natives don’t know when it first was made .

    • WM says:

      Hi Ronald,
      I would be really interested to see the block prints you are talking about, are they online?

  3. steven kharkongor says:

    Nowadays it’s not xo good visiting mawlynnong.. It’s been a tourist attraction spot n its becoming more as a business.. I like the experience I got from Nongnah in west khasi hills district beautiful place wit lots of small hill tops.around…..far from humanity …..sometimes these types of unearthed spots r d best in d world……BT my dream land is d pathway inside d Sweet Fall…..try diving into it its has a blissfully experience to give you…

  4. chandu says:

    Great write up and beautiful images.

  5. Last time I was in Khasi Hills was as an infant in 1957 or so. My Dad was then in the Army, chasing head-hunters who in turn were chasing the Army. Things have changed now and there are fairly brilliant roads all over Megahalaya as well as a large amount of trucks. That’s development for you.

    We were in the East Khasi hills a few weeks ago on a family holiday and it does seem that tourists have discovered this part of India. Along with that has come up a nascent aimed at lowest common denominator kind of economy. Plastic bottled water and junk food and soft drinks are just one part.

    The Living Root Tree Bridges is still fascinating but go there before the huge day tripper tour buses land up. And I do sincerely hope that the local village people are able to figure out how to make things sustainable on their own before they get over-run by processed food and commercial alcohol.

    Is this part of India pretty? The answer is a simple YES. But go soon.

    • beth says:

      you mean your dad was chasing head hunters in meghalayas east khasi hills??cs he might be doing that in nagaland n not here in khasi hills cs we are not known for head hunting. if you mean to say that it is in khasi hills then you are a perfect example of ‘little knowledge is dangerous’

  6. […] If you want to find out more about these amazing people, I seriously recommend having a look at this post. […]

  7. Uros says:

    Hi, does anyone know any book about root, rope, vine, bamboo and other traditinal natural bridges? Thank you very much 🙂 and congratulation for this article!!! Uros

  8. sukher Mawshun says:

    I belong from Mawlynnong pure khasi and for the first I know Gupta take advantage Our khasi community. Gupta belong from mainland in not a khasi community

  9. sukher Mawshun says:

    Tim you are the man who help Mawlynnong and Peoples across the world. More than billion peoples know about Mawlynnong and its Neighbor.
    I had full detail about this roots in Riwai. Actually it is under the jurisdictions of Nohwet village.
    My Mobile +91 8258948794

  10. Monjit says:

    Once a month I go there. I live 100miles away from Shillong. Trust me if you are ever going to visit meghalaya the best thing is dawki…. Unseen beauty in meghalaya.
    My second best place is in sikkim… Yamthamg valley… Covered with snow and a warm water lake in between just awesome to look with flowers also growing there. I felt like I died and I am in heaven.

    • Embor Klamet says:

      Hallo, thank you for your visit and for more information and help for more unexplored and new places you contact me. For guidance and stay as well any touris and backpacker.
      Embor Klamet

  11. Fantastic pictures and story Timothy…I have also heard about it but never been there. Your pictures are inspiring…

  12. becca says:

    We had a wonderful weekend there while we were living in Shillong for 2 years 06-08 and sent our visitors to stay there too. It was such a beautifully peaceful place to be. The bridge a short walk from there was the only root bridge we got to see during our stay in Meghalaya. Perhaps when we visit india again at the end of the year we might revisit the place and see other bridges. Thanks for your photos and blog a journey down memory lane.

  13. […] I take some time off, go see the world and maybe do some soul searching. I also wanted to see the living root bridges with my own […]

  14. Meghalaya has rich traditional heritage but i am a shame to say that our government has done nothing to explored the rich heritage that we have. Thank to you for putting these in place.

    • I would not say that. We can not sit back and expect the government to do everything. The Root Bridges were there in Meghalaya perhaps for many hundred years or thousand years. It was taken for granted by our own people. It struck me to be different and I started promoting it calling it Living Root Bridge. There were no takers for many months. Slowly it started to catch the fancy of tourists and it has become popular. After it started attracting tourists the then Director of Tourism Mrs.C.T. Sangma wanted to come and see it for herself to see if the same can be promoted by the Government. I took her to show the bridge. She was convinced of its tourism value and the heritage it represents. She came again to see the Double Decker Root Bridge. Sent the department’s photographer to take pictures of the bridges. That is when they came to Riwai to take the picture of the bridge connecting Riwai to Nohwet. The Double Decker Root Bridge was featured in 2004 Republic Day Parade for Meghalaya Tableau which won the Second Prize, it has been featured in many Meghalaya Tourism stalls in Travel & Tourism Fairs held in the metros where I myself had participated and aggressively promoted the Root Bridges.

      I feel there are more things that can be uncovered that are special to Meghalaya. We need to educate ourselves about our heritage and then learn how to promote and market it. We participate in different Travel Fairs to promote the weather, Living Root Bridges and culture spending good amount of money. Our brochures carry lot of information about Cherrapunjee. Our website contains good interesting information about the place. Put in effort from your end to create a website and give authentic information about the place. Be an active promoter yourself and you would not have time to look what others are not doing.

  15. Sudha says:

    Hi Timothy,
    Just back from a wonderful NE India trip. Esp East Khasi Hills. Stayed at mawlynnong for a couple of nights. Simply loved it. Sorry to say but Henry is now more of a tout than guide. I had a very bad experience having trusted him implicitly. He has made it big & does not care about the nitty gritties/ ethics of it all. This is to warn you all to be wary. Large scale tourism has its pitfalls & Henry is the best example

    • Timothy says:

      I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience with Henry. He was very helpful to me the first couple of times I visited Mawlynnong. When I went back recently I only saw him briefly because he was very busy. Change is inevitable. I just hope your experience was an isolated one.

  16. James Perry says:

    Hi Timothy- hope you are doing well. I came back from some awesome hike to see about 5 bridges in one day. If a person were to give about a week and ready for roughing it a bit, could get to about 25 + bridges. Way down in valleys..

    James Perry

  17. Kaushik Sutradhar says:

    You have brilliantly put together the key aspects through words and through your beautiful pics of course.I had spent quite a few months in shillong in 2012 and fell in love with the “abode of clouds”..had visited mawlynnong,dawki,cherrapunjee among other places during my stay.
    Tourism is not yet upto the mark as we should expect from the vast diversity.Much work still needs to be done in that arena.But nevertheless the local folk are a friendly lot.

  18. Ralf says:

    I had heard that internal Indian tourism had reached Mawlynnong. I sent a couple of people there who reported back, hence my foreknowledge. I think they decided to go to the other village, because it was quieter.

    The true reason for writing this post is because the link to my blog you posted above is to my old one, which I haven’t used in year. I am surprised it still works. Anyway perhaps this link to the blog I used these days and to which I transferred those old blog posts is better, this is the one that links specifically to Mawlynnong:



    Ps and I feel honoured that you put a link to my blog post at all. We are not talking high quality blogging here 😉 So perhaps you should put a warning there as well, so people know what they are clicking on.

    • Timothy says:

      … changed the link in the article… back then, you were the only other person I knew who’d been there and written about it…. of course all that has changed now but I think it’s still relevant! See you on the road!

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Timothy,
        I first stumbled upon Ralf’s blog in 2007 when my husband and I were in Japan. I am from Shillong and had been telling my husband about this amazing village ‘Mawlynnong’ that I had visited as a kid and that we should go visit. Imagine my excitement when I read the posts and got to tell my husband that was the place I was talking about. He finally got to visit this past summer…and we both agree that we should visit there again. Am so glad I found Ralf’s blog again.
        I am really proud that such a place is nestled away in our neck of the woods and I wish the other Khasis around can take some lessons in eco-preservation from a group of people who have learnt to live it instead of just talking about it.

  19. […] Lol Living Root Bridges – Timothy Allen […]

  20. Trishan says:

    I lived in India for over a year and visited many places but Meghalaya is one of the most magical places on earth. I fell totally in love with everything about it, so much so that I named my daughter Meghalaya, in honour of that beautiful place where she was conceived. Everyone should visit there at least once in their lifetime and be absolutely blessed! Thank you soo much for this article and photos!

  21. Ryan Sickle says:

    We have just arrived in Guwahati and are about to embark on the journey down to Nongiat and (hopefully!) Mawlynnong. Excited as hell!

  22. sukher says:

    thank u bro for ur beautiful photos and ur visitng my village. nice job bro i’m proud of u.
    Sukher kharmawshun
    i’m tourist guide at mawlynnnong n meghalaya
    mobile no +919615216103

  23. Kitri says:

    Great post Timothy, I am a Khasi from Shillong currently based in Leeds and your post reminded me so much of all those beautiful places I’ve hiked to, back in the Khasi Hills. When I tell people I meet here that I come from a part of India, which is totally different from any other part of India they may have been to, I can see its something difficult for them to understand, I’m glad I can now refer them to this post. By the way your reference to the community spirit there (which I miss so much)and the cold isolated life here just makes me wonder if being so developed is worth it. All the best with your travels.

  24. vivek says:

    hi timothy,
    wonderful compilation of an otherwise obscure wonder from india.. as u perhaps know as of now, domestic tourism is picking up fast in india and many have since then visited mawlynnong (myself included).. meghalaya is one of my favorite indian destinations n i have toured it extensively.. thanks for the blog but sadly the video link at the end doesn’t work! where can i see it? any alternative link? and since u are an enthusiastic one try going to the nongkhnum island in west khasi hills.. its a river island with some amazing trek routes n majestic streams and waterfalls! good luck! 🙂

  25. Abinash Padhi says:

    Hi Tim,

    I am from Orissa (State in East India), but now in US from few years. Photography is my passion, and always wanted to visit North East. Now after seeing the story & pics… Its on my list when I go back to India. Thanks for sharing the pics to an Indian who did not know such a magical place is in our country….

    Thx Abinash

  26. Daene says:

    Fascinating place, and such amazing pictures! I’ve never been to India and had no desires of travelling there until I chanced upon this article. I never knew India had this side to it. I’d love to see the place for myself someday!

    One of the pictures on your portfolio was taken in the Philippines – it’s great that you’ve visited our country! You must come back again to see more of it – try going to Palawan and Batanes.

  27. Ajeya Rao says:

    Just returned from a trip to double Decker. It was brilliant. I hope to revisit sometime during the Monsoon to see it green.

  28. Vaivhav Todi says:


    I love the pictures and the awesome information you have provided about the Khasi people and their land. I live in Assam, and am very much looking forward to visiting the interiors of Meghalaya – where no roads go :).

    I write travel stories on Northeast India too. Would appreciate if you could drop by and leave your feedback.

  29. Joan Perry says:

    What a lovely find your blog is! I am James’ sister and just got back from a trip with him. I saw many areas I missed as a child growing up there. Your pictures are wonderful.

  30. The Living Root bridge is between Riwai village and Nohwet village,this bridge is made by a great engineer from Nohwet village. His name is Shri Nongmuna Khongthohrem from a hundred years ago. So this bridge is under the control of these two villages till now.

  31. Sir,

    I first read about the living root bridges from this post. After reading it I went here this October. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. It was a magical place.

    P.S. Would it be possible for you to take a brief look at this? I am not trying to promote my blog here, just that it would be great if you can drop by here since it was through your post that I came to know about this place.

    Thanks again for sharing you experience in Meghalaya and other places, specially the Himalayas.


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  33. George says:

    Hi Tim, thanks a lot for the post and the great work of human planet, super inspiring and I was blown away! After seeing this I have a very strong feeling of learning this way of construction (or construction is not an appropriate word in the case of a living structure), so could you give me some suggestions regarding the possiblity to go there and learn the skill and knowledge from the villagers. For example, are they even willing to share this knowledge with outsiders? and in what months in a year they usually do the job? Anyway, thank you again for such a magical post! Cheers!

    • Timothy says:

      The villagers in both Mawlynnong and Nongriat are super friendly and many outsiders now go there to see the bridges. The ‘knowledge’ as you say… is really not that difficult so grasp… just seeing the bridges might be enough to understand the process… there are many in the East Khasi Hills. I would recommend going to Mawlynnong and finding Henry… he will be able to sort you out and introduce you to people who can help with your inquiries.

      There is no set time of the year when the job is done. The bridges are repaired and nurtured continually by anyone and everyone who happens to be passing by. Some of the older bridges have been replaced with steel wire suspension bridges (esp around Nongriat). I don’t know of any new living ones that are starting to be built, but Henry would be able to help you with that.

  34. […] more content and photo’s click here LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  35. Kate says:

    Beautiful photos and fascinating article. The living root bridges are a spectacular phenomenon, the perfect example of sustainable architecture. It is amazing how nature can be manipulated to form these strong and functional structures.

  36. Ulrike says:

    This must be the most amazing thing I ever read – this article just totally captured me! The pictures are amazing, like straight from a fairy tale!

    • Shine says:

      I agree with this. Such an amazing place and your photos really captured the place and people. Nature is really amazing! So beautiful…the people are beautiful, the place is beautiful..I wish I were there.

  37. Dibya Dutta says:

    Thanks Tim for the wonderful pictures & writeup. Thanks again for promoting NE/ Meghalaya to western audience from a long period.

  38. Hi Tim,
    Excellent work! Very interesting and informative blog. luv it! Tim I m a short story writer who also writes on environmental issues. Yesterday I was at mawlynnong for second time n living roots for the first time. Tim I looked at it from a defferent perspective…. Why! Why it is the way it is n no other way? I made some interesting observations, We have a group of over 1300 Shillongites scattered all over the globe. We start a thread about anything to do with Shillong n invite comments from the group members ( two loosely divided groups ). The dicussion builds up n sometimes goes on for days…very interesting… Currently The thread started by me is Mawlynnong n living root bridges. I wish u cud c our discussion. If U wish I can add u as a friend on fb for u to c the interesting proceedings so far. I have a lot to share with u about Meghalaya n Bangladesh where I have been seven times. BTW Tim do u know Meghalya has some awesome falls which can not b seen from Meghalaya?
    Warm regards….Gangu

  39. Ankur says:

    Dear Tim
    I live in Dallas Texas with my family and have been publishing a magazine called Friends.

    The magazine is for the youths and students of North Eastern States of India ( I am orgininally from Assam and My wife is from Meghalaya)
    The magazine will be published in print in the month of December and I would like to include your article. I am seeking your permission.
    It will also be nice to have a few words of encouragement from you.

    I would also like to mail the printed magazine

  40. Nisha says:

    Wow ! I didn’t know such a place existed in my own country ! Thanks for enlightening me. 🙂

    I very much appreciate the hard work by all. A must visit place in my list now.

    I am immediately going to share all these good works with my readers.

    Once again, thanks for sharing.

  41. Anilkumar Kurup says:

    Hello, A wonderful photo journey . I appreciate your effort .My profession and work was always pulling me back from such fortunes as you experienced. Good luck

  42. James Perry says:

    Hope you are doing well, good to see you came back for a visit. Mawlynnong has changed a lot as have the people, because of tourism.. The domestic market in Tourism will have a large impact on North East India as a whole. you see it on the route to Tawang, and particularly East Khasi Hills.

    All the best,


  43. shahin says:

    This was a really brilliant article. I happen to have my roots in Guwahati, Assam, and had been unaware of my neighbors’ beautiful culture. I must thank you, and I will certainly go there for a stay the next time I go back home.

  44. Alhad Godbole says:

    Hi Timothy,
    I am a nature-lover first and journalist by profession. I have travelled a lot beyond typical tourist spots. Mawlynnong is one of them where one can experience wonder of Living Root bridges. I had been there 3 years back. I also have published info about it, when I was with Indian Express group’s daily Loksatta. Now, I am Editor of a new Marathi daily, called Prahaar. I know you by name and by your wonderfull pics. I am really impressed by your photography. Now I am writing a monthly column in my paper which highlights places like Lake of no Return (Pangsau lake), Skeleton Lake (Roopkund, Uttarakhand), Stilwell Road etc. I wish to refer your name and website as an excellent article on Living Root bridges- in my next column. And if you allow, I will publish one of your pics also alongwith that. Though I am a journalist, I believe in morality(!), That’s why I am asking your permission for it.
    Thanking you in anticipation,

  45. Michael White says:

    Wow. Very cool pictures you have posted here. Thank you. 🙂

  46. I was wondering who alerted the BBC to the living bridges! As a Khasi living in the UK, my Mum was extremely surprised to see them on the TV a few weeks before we went to Shillong to visit family! I just hope that the inevitable influx of tourists doesn’t ruin the magic of Mawlynnong.

    • Timothy says:

      I told the BBC about the bridges.

      I talked a lot about the implications of tourism with the village council in Mawlynnong when I was there the very first time. They decided to make a conscious decision to try and attract tourists to the area. However, because it is so far off the beaten track, I don’t think there will ever be a huge number of people going there. The magic will continue in my opinion. I am going back there in a few weeks, so I will be able to see for myself if there have been any detrimental changes.

      • Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s brilliant that the bridges were shown on Human Planet. In fact, in 2006 when we first saw the living bridges, we tried to pass on a documentary about the living bridges made by a member of my family onto the BBC but unfortunately nothing ever came of it.

        I was there just over a week ago and the village seemed slightly more commercialised (signs up advertising food and tea when on previous visits it felt like we were just invited into someone’s home to share their meal!) but I think they’re handling it well. Next time I go, I’m determined to stay overnight in the treehouse! As you say, the difficulty in reaching Mawlynnong will put off a large number of people. I’m glad you made it there though!

      • Lalita kalita -- champaign, Illinois, USA says:

        I really enjoyed the article as well as the beautiful pictures. I am an Assamese, living in USA. Thanks for sharing the beauty of our part of the world. Though I have travelled extensively in Meghalaya, I have never heard about the living root bridges. I am hoping to visit that bridge on my next trip to NE India. Couple of years back I went to a remote and quiet village near Dawki, called Nangthalang in the West Jayantia Hills (from that village, I could see Bangladesh). Most of the inhabitants of that village are War Jayantias (Jayantias from the border), and they are not Christians, they are Unitarians.

    • Samio Mbor says:

      Thnk u Jenni for yr wish and hope our village wont gt ruin coz i hd seen so mny chnges…
      Guide and homestay owner in Mawlynnong

    • Anonymous says:

      Ha ka jaitbynriee khasi ym.ju don gupta

  47. Andrew Newey says:

    This is my kind of place! I’ll hopefully tag on a trip to Nagaland next year after Ladakh. Let’s just hope the influx of tourists does not have too much of a negative effect on the area and that the community deals with it ok.

  48. Awesome images! Though, poor little tree squirrel. 🙂

    Your post and photos make me regret not staying in Meghalaya for longer. I went through there on a motorcycle on my way to Tripura a few years back.

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, did you ever visit Tripura? It seems that you may have photographed the same people that I photographed in 2006. There’s a shot of three (or more) Reang women in your portfolio. Did you stop in Kanchanpur by any chance? And if you did, did you ever meet a fellow called Bibash?

    Anyhow, great work, thanks for sharing and making me feel bad for not spending more time in Meghalaya. 🙂

    • Timothy says:

      Yes, I spent quite a while in Tripura. Kanchanpur was very near where I was based. I spent 1 month at a place called Naisingpara refugee camp with the Reang, although they call themselves the Bru there (related to the Bru of Vietnam). It was near the Mizo border… 30,000 people who’d fled tribal fighting in Mizoram about 9 years previously. They were stuck in no-man’s land in a time warp unable to move forward into the modern world. No, I don’t recall someone called Bibash. My contact was a guy called Elvis Chorky who was leading the Bru’s fight for repatriation. I lived with his brother and family in the camp. Such a lovely bunch of people… the camp had never had outsiders visit before. I’m going back in a few weeks time to trace some of my steps in that area. Apparently, they’ve lifted some more of the restriction permits for the NE States again. I want to explore Manipur in a bit more depth… did it without a permit last time and ended up having to keep moving too fast for my liking.

      BTW. I love the pic of the guy with the bow and arrow on your homepage. A beautiful spot to shoot a portrait.

      • I’ve been to that camp too, so depending on when you were there you’re probably not the first foreigner.:) But geez, it’s still there after 5 years? I think it might have been smaller back then. The Reang or Bru are indeed wonderful folks, very chilled out, but still as hospitable as almost everyone in India.

        Did they open up Arunachal Pradesh too? You mean all the states are now not restricted? In that case, I’m getting myself over there soon too! 🙂

        Thanks about the pic on the rock. Yes, it was a stunning place, the guy was a friend, so couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get him up there. Vanuatu is a pretty special place, might go up there again for land-diving in the next couple of months.

        • Timothy says:

          Those camps started in the 1995 and believe it or not, they are still very much there today. I just read about a huge fire in one of the camps this month. We may have visited different ones… there were 5 in existence when I was there. The one I stayed at was not near Naisingpara-proper, but a trek past the spot where the road from Kanchenpur ended. I’m going back to the NE in a few weeks time so i’ll be able to report back on the situation then.

          Arunachal has been relaxed to 30 days and no longer necessary to have 4 people traveling together apparently. Manipur and Mizoram no longer need permits. Did you know that some Indian embassy’s can give you permits in your passport before you enter India? You apply for them at the embassy in your country and they can put a stamp next to your visa that gives you permission to enter all the restricted states. Not all embassy’s do it though, but it’s worth asking before you go just in case your local one can do it. I stayed in Nagaland for a month on one 10 day permit traveling with one other person and it was no problem to get it extended in-state. I met guys there who had no permits too… it’s just a bit trickier to travel than the other NE states because there are so many more check points in Nagaland than the rest.

          Looks like everything is getting much more relaxed up there though. I’ll let you know what I can find out about Arunachal when I get back.

          • Thanks Tim, that would be great. You can find my contact on the website, if you have time, just drop me a line there. Are you gonna be in India around November? I’m planning a long trip there. Would be good to cross paths for a chai. 🙂

            I know that they used to allow married couples to enter those states, I tried to get in with my girlfriend (now wife) but the person in charge in Calcutta did not believe that we were married. 🙂

            Anyway, safe journeys!

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