Even till 20 days before , I had no idea that I will land in Imphal, capital of Manipur to embark on my journey to Myanmar via land border crossing.
Just before the Covid Pandemic uproar, Nation was dealing with another crisis till about last year . The Citizen Amendment Act, which led the entire nation go ballistic on the bill which was passed. North Eastern states had a mass protest and as a result there was a huge upheaval and commotion.
I had just booked my tickets in the beginning of December last year, which was as per my plan to land in Imphal and do a border crossing by road to Myanmar just to get the experience. But, as the days passed, situation was going from normal to tensed, and all my dear ones got really apprehensive on my decision to head there . In fact, for certain time I was also under the dilemma of changing my flight tickets to Yangon instead of Imphal. But, somehow my rigid mind wanted me to believe that Manipur is still a peaceful state and that I would stick to my original plan.
You may also like to check out photo Blog on my Myanmar Experience.
So, on a chilly morning of Christmas, I landed in Imphal airport. My partner and I headed outside the airport and scene was quite like normal days.The cab and auto drivers were waiting outside to strike a deal with passengers coming out. We bargained with an auto driver and asked him to drop us at the host address which was merely few kms from the airport. Charged us 200 (not sure if the price was fair or not) but to us, it seemed OK.
-Where did I stay?
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I wanted to Couch-surf, so as to get an experience to stay with a local in Imphal as there was very little information about the place on the internet.Also, to the fact that the impending situation wanted me to stay in a more friendly and homely atmosphere. I was fortunate to be accepted by our kind host “Milan Sanji” who apart from being a Govt official was also trying to come up with a homestay of his own, to promote sustainable tourism in Imphal.
There are plenty of reasonable homestays and hotel options in Imphal, one can find from booking.com or other travel sites.
-A little about Imphal, Manipur
Imphal is the capital of Manipur, one of the seven states in NorthEast India. Manipur shares borders with Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam .It also shares the International borders with Myanmar. Infact, Moreh which is the last town in India is just about 110 kms (3 hours) from the main city of Imphal. Manipur is generally known as the melting pot of culture and tradition and is steeped in pre-Independence history. It has an untouched charm of lush green landscapes and natural sceneries. The meandering rivers which flows aimlessly passing through different regions of Manipur sources to one of the major water supply to the irrigation facilities. Manipur is also known for its famous dance called Jagoi, which has its roots from the Pre-Vaishnavites Era and often exhibits a beautiful representation of Ras-Leela , a tale of love between Radha and Lord Krishna.
“Did you know that Imphal houses the oldest polo ground in the world ?”
Yes, Manipur is said to be the home for the origination of this game. And, now it organises one of the famous Polo tournaments with much grandeur and paparazzi in the heart of the capital. The game is popularly known as Kanjai-bazee, Sagol Kangjei or Pulu by the locals is more often preferred by the elitist of Imphal.
-An outing in the largest freshwater Lake , Lohtak Lake
After I reached my host place and got freshen up , I was wondering on the places to visit in such a short span before leaving Imphal. Although, not much time was left before the sundown . So, I harped on my plans to visit Lohtak Lake . But the question was how ?
Thats when my host came up with a brilliant proposition of taking his car to drop off his extended family to their home, which was just on the way to Lohtak Lake. I picked up his jeep and we all drove off through the verdant vistas of natural landscapes. We brisked past through national highway towards Lohtak Lake.
Known as the largest freshwater Lake in the north eastern region and is located about 48 kms away from Imphal. This lake is a natural habitat for various flora and fauna. There is a tourist bungalow out there and houses a decent restaurant atop Sendra Island which is situated in the middle of the lake . Post lunch, I decided to stroll around for some more time as the view of labyrinth boat routes and colourful water plants around just soothed my eyes. Well, the tours complex also caters to the picnic and various family outing as it has boating and another water sports facilities .
Lohtak lake is also a birders paradise. But what makes this lake even more special is that the Keibul Lamjao National Park located at the south western part of the lake. It is the world’s only floating national park and is home to the endangered Manipuri brow-antlered deer, Sangai.
Infact, my suggestion would be to spend at least half a day here just to soak in the serenity of the lake.
One may hire taxi if in a group but can also fix an auto-rickshaw for a day to visit this place. Boating complex do have an entry fees along with other activity charges.
-Other places to visit in Imphal
This is an old palace in Imphal which is situated beside Imphal river and it has the most important and historical relevance with the history of Manipur and its kingdom establishment. Kangla Fort was built by King Khagemba, the conqueror of Chinese.
Being a political and religious centre, in the past Kangla grew into a formidable fortress city over the centuries. The fort complex houses the Govindaji Temple and Hijagang Temple which can be visited as well.
Imphal Peace Museum
Manipur played as a significant place during WWII .To commemorate and to understand the heroic battle that thousand of Japanese soldiers fought, one can pay a visit to witness the war artefacts and coveted wartime stories which are housed here.
INA Museum , Moirang
This one is situated in Moirang, which is very close to Lohtak Lake . The Indian National Army (INA) War Museum in the INA Memorial Complex in Moirang is the only official museum dedicated to the Second World War in Manipur today. Its focus is primarily on the rise of the INA and on the role and activities of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in particular. Relics of war from across Manipur dating back to 1944, including arms and ammunition, bayonets, helmets and bottles, among others, are also displayed here.
Ema Keithal Market
This is not just any other market but is a 500 year old trading market which is run entirely by women. Yes, you heard me right ! In a state where women has long been at the forefront of trading and political reforms. With a wide array of textiles , handicrafts to fresh vegetables , fruits on sale, this place is always bustling with activity. A must visit for all those , who wants to take a sneak peek into the daily lives of Manipuri women traders.
-How to travel in Manipur ?
Imphal has the only airport of Manipur which connects with the major states mostly in Northeast and Kolkata. It does not have any direct railway services, but the nearest one is in Dimapur. Manipur is well connected by road with all its sister neighbouring states.
I mostly spent my day in the serene Lohtak Lake and then came back ,as I wanted to spent my Christmas night with my host family as well. They were very warm and kind hearted . They also took utmost care of me and treated me with a homely Manipuri meal which was quite similar to Bengali meal consisting of Rice, lentils , vegetables etc.
Night was freezing as the sky got clearer and the temperature lowered . I bid adieu to my lovely experience by calling it a day as next day I had to leave for Moreh for my Border crossing to Myanmar.
This was just my transit visit to the capital city but I assured myself that I will have to pay a dedicated visit to Manipur sometime again because it has so much to offer that we know of so less.
Next up your read is Moreh-Tamu Border crossing experience.