After Nagaland, I traveled to Manipur during my solo trip to Northeast India. I catch an overnight bus to reach Imphal (The capital city of Manipur) from Dimapur, Nagaland. It was approx. 9 hrs long ride. It cost me INR 600. Ever since my truly fulfilling volunteer experiences in Africa, I wanted to volunteer in my own country and I got the right opportunity near Imphal. Manipur is really magnificent. I had so many different experiences in Manipur ranging from being a Volunteer in a forest, Visiting an old palace, discovered a new religion, visited a neighbouring country without visa and passport, saw the place where our Indian tricolour flag was hoisted for the first time, witnessed the only natural floating lake in the world. Read On!
MY VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE WITH WAHPS
WAHPS is an environmental organisation who transformed a barren land into a lush forest. Moirangthem Loiya Ngamba was one of the founding members and the current caretaker of the Forest is Yaima O. The forest is named “Punshilok” which means “Spring of Life”. It is located on Langol Hill Range, 6 km from Imphal. It is in existence for more than 10 years. I met Loiya at the Medical store where he is currently working. He gave me a ride to “Punshilok” where I met Yaima. Loiya came across as a person who is really passionate about Environment during our brief meeting. I spend a week at “Punshilok” observing beautiful nature and helping Yaima in daily chores. He showed me the ropes and I learnt a lot from him. Yaima is a musician too. One day his friends came over and they had an amazing jamming session. He is a gifted flute player. The most thrilling experience I had while working at Punshilok was watching Yaima and other volunteers creating firelines in the forest. Fireline is a gap created in a forest that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire. These guys in their 20s created firelines in the Forest without any professional help and with such brilliant precision. It was really awe-inspiring to watch these guys at work. Yaima taught me many things like How to set woods on fire for cooking, about trees/plants, fireline, cutting bushes, burning waste, to make a bamboo gate etc. but the most important thing I learnt from him is how to be content in every situation. On my last day at Punshilok, I hiked to the hill’s summit to witness the sunset against the backdrop of the amazing view of Imphal city. Yaima is working as a caretaker out of passion without charging anything and so does Loiya. These guys are depended upon donations, volunteers and visitors’ help. If you want to help these amazing guys and their brave initiative. You can contact WAHPS here. I would insist you to visit Punshilok when in Imphal even if you don’t have time to do volunteering. To reach here you can get a shared auto(going to Jaunto Langol) from under the Flyover near to Shaheed Minar in Imphal and get down at the last stop.
A DAY IN IMPHAL
I spend a day in Imphal. The must-visit place in Imphal has to be Kangla Palace. It is an old palace and used to be the capital of Manipur in ancient times. It is a huge area full of greenery, history and culture. There are several temples and local deities of Sanamahism(Manipuri religion). You can easily spend a couple of hours here. Entry fee is INR 10. It is closed on every Wednesday. There’s a cafe in the Kangla palace. Do visit the cafe to taste Manipuri street food. After my visit to the Kangla Palace, I visited the nearby Manipur State museum. Here you can learn about the cultures, people, places, history of Manipur. I spend an hour or so here before heading to Luxmi Kitchen to eat the Manipuri Thali worth INR 180. Thali consists of 10 dishes and lots of rice! I would recommend you to visit the restaurant for the authentic Manipur cuisine. You may not like all the dishes in the thali but I am sure you will love some of the dishes. Afterwards, I visited a unique market where only women are allowed to set up the shop/stalls. The market is known as “Ima Keithel’. It is not so far from Luxmi Kitchen. The last place I visited was “Shaheed Minar”. It is a monument constructed in the memory of soldiers who fought the British Army during the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1891. A day or two is sufficient to explore the city of Imphal.
MOREH-TAMU (VISITING MYANMAR WITHOUT VISA AND PASSPORT)
Yep, you read it right. Indians can visit the Border Town “Tamu” in Myanmar without Visa and Passport for a day. So I traveled from Imphal to Moreh via Shared taxi for INR 300. It was approx. 4 hours long ride. Moreh is the town in India bordering Myanmar. There is nothing to do/see in Moreh. Visit Moreh only if you are interested in crossing the border and entering into Myanmar. Aadhar card(Indian ID card) is mandatory and you need to submit the original at the Immigration checkpoint to visit Tamu along with paying INR 20. They will provide you with the receipt in exchange. Keep that receipt safe and sound to get your Aadhar Card back while returning back to India. There are two border gates from where you can enter Myanmar. It opens at 8 am and you must return back to India before 5 PM to avoid any trouble. Gate no. 1 borders Namphalong Market which is in Myanmar. So if you just want to visit the Namphalong Market you don’t need to submit the Aadhar Card or pay INR 20. Do it if you want to visit the Tamu Town. From Namphalong Market I catch a shared auto to reach Tamu Market for INR 20. Everyone accepts INR in Tamu. After exploring the market, I visited the nearby Buddhist Monastery. It is a peaceful and beautiful place. From here you can have a nice view of Tamu. I explored Tamu on foot. Local people were really nice and friendly. I tried the local food i.e. noodles, tea, soup, biscuits, ice cream and really liked it. But the one thing I really got obsessed with was the Lychee drink. I must have bought dozen of those! One can also cross the border from Gate no.2 but most people cross from here only if they have a personal vehicle. I was lucky to get a lift to Tamu market from Gate no. 2 and again while returning back by local people.
INA MUSUEM, MOIRANG
After my visit to Moreh, I returned to Imphal. My next destination in Manipur was Moirang which is an hour drive from Imphal. Many buses and wingers ply between Imphal and Moirang. Moirang is a historical town as it used to be the Headquarters of INA (Indian National Army) headed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. I visited the INA museum in Moirang. I strongly recommend you to visit this museum if you are interested to know all about INA. This is also the place where the Tricolour flag of Indian Independence was first hoisted in 1944 by Netaji himself. The museum is closed on every Monday. Entry fee is INR 20. I also wanted to see the Headquarters of INA. I met an army officer at the museum and he told me the Headquarters of INA is not so far from here but now it is a private property of someone and hence we cannot visit.
HOMESTAY AT THANGA VILLAGE & LOKTAK LAKE
From Moirang, I catch a shared auto(15-20 mins journey) to reach Thanga Village where I stayed at Mr. Maipakchao’s Homestay. Thanga Village is surrounded by Loktak Lake. Loktak Lake is the only natural floating lake in the World! On the first day, I hiked to the nearby hill to experience the breathtaking view of Loktak Lake full of Phumdis. Phumdis are a series of small islands which are circular in shape made by floating mass of matted vegetation, organic debris, and soil. Local people make phumdis on Loktak lake to construct their fishing huts for fishing and other livelihood uses. Next morning, I did boating in Loktak Lake. It is a must-have experience. I was accompanied by a really nice local guy named Suresh who educated me about the local ways of fishing. We even walked on a phumdi and it was really adventurous. My feet keep on submerging into the water. Balance and walking fast is the key! Afterwards, I visited the Keibul Lamjao National Park which is the world’s only floating park. Here I saw the endangered Eld’s deer subspecies called “Sangai” which are only found here in the world. I also did boating here in a narrow lane that somewhat goes deep inside the National Park. While returning I took the paddle from the Boatman and reached back to the starting point all thanks to me 🙂 It was an exciting experience. DO NOT miss visiting Thanga Village when in Manipur. It is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. I guess pictures says it all. The cherry on the top was staying at Mr. Maipakchao’s homestay. Mr. Maipakchao lives with his wife, son and daughter. Apart from being truly hospitable, he is a very knowledgeable person. You ask him anything about Manipur and he will have a perfect answer for you. He makes ensure that his guests feel at home during their stay. The homemade food I ate at Mr. Maipakchao’s home was one of the best I had during my trip to Northeast India. You will get 3 meals per day during your stay at Mr. Maipakchao’s homestay. His place is usually full but I was lucky to get a room during my visit. So I highly recommend you to book a room with Mr. Maipakchao by calling/texting him directly. His contact nos. are 9856356993/7005171790.