What would be your ideal plan for an extended weekend? This time I chose to travel to the farthest part of India. This part of India shares its border with Myanmar. In this blog, I’ll tell you how to get the most out of this awe-inspiring land of Manipur over a weekend- an itinerary of only 3 days. Go on reading if your soul is spilling at its seams with wanderlust! There isn’t any reason for you to not travel to this gem of a land.
Manipur is famously known as the jewel city of India. Tucked away in the far corner or northeast India, Manipur is a beautiful picture of verdant valleys, languid lakes, and meadows with a hundred different hues of flowers, surrounded by bluish-green hills laced with serene streams. It isn’t crowded with tourists and makes a great destination for a solo traveler. The locals are very humble and always ready to help. The capital city of Manipur, Imphal, is brimming with the energy of people from all walks of life. The renowned Ima Market (Mother’s Market) in Imphal is the world’s only market that is run only by the women, setting a bold exemplary of women empowerment and leadership in the socio-economic and cultural front.
The rich cultural heritage and the sublime natural splendor of Manipur make it a must-visit travel destination. Much of these stunning secrets of Manipur aren’t well publicized on social media and this might lead you to underestimate this little paradise on the far corner of the country. But let me tell you, my friend, you’re robbing yourself of a heavenly experience. My backpacking experience led me to a refreshing and unique floating camp experience at Loktak Lake.
Let’s get to the details. There are direct flights to Imphal from Calcutta, which saved me a lot of time. This time I wasn’t all by myself. Bose hopped in on the plan with me. The crucial part of this plan was to hire a bike no matter what (Y’all must be familiar with my obsession with exploring new places on a bike!). This made our trip extremely budget-friendly and also made it easy to explore the offbeat places in and around Imphal. There’s only one place to rent bikes in Imphal which is Tay Rental Bikes, Chingmeirong. DM me on Instagram @SamTravelogue for their contact details. Getting this done was a huge load off our shoulder. Hereon, our journey was quite relatable to the movie ‘The motorcycle diaries of Che Guevara’.
Day 1. Although I like to keep things impulsive, this time I wanted to take things slow while camping at Loktak Lake and exploring the countryside of Manipur. We fueled up our bike and headed straightaway to Moirang. We had made a prior reservation at a homestay there. We felt the refreshing cool breeze of the countryside against our faces the moment we reached Moirang, taking the tiredness off our souls. Our host took us to the most known eatery in Moirang, Mahadevi Restaurant, where we had the most delicious Northeast cuisine- Rice, Pork, and chicken. It almost felt like I came all the way from miles away just for this delectable meal. After that, we stocked up on groceries for midnight cravings just in case!
We were told to reach the shore of Loktak Lake. We parked our bike and waited for the boatman to take us to the campsite. Boating through the world famous ‘floating’ lake as the sunset sky poured a hundred shades of orange, pink and purple upon us was an experience that can be compared to none other. It is better than your best dream! There were three other backpackers from three different continents of the world who greeted us at the floating campsite. We kicked off the good times with chilled drinks and lively conversations.
Day 2. When you’re in the Northeast, the sun greets you with its golden rays as early as 4 a.m. April isn’t the best season to trek to the Shirui Valley in Ukhrul district. So, we decided to visit the Keibul Lamjao National park, the only floating park in the world.
The park’s vaunted highlight is the indigenous brow-antlered deer, the Sangai. Besides its prized fauna, the natural beauty of this park is its own greatest attraction. It is located on the southern shore of Loktak Lake. Created through gradual natural processes over many decades, it is essentially a giant floating cluster of weeds, or phumdis covering nearly 23sqkm. We were lucky enough to spot a couple of Sangai, which are now an endangered species. Our excitement of it increased manifold when we were told it’s indeed very rare to spot one.
One thing that you can’t predict when you’re in Northeast is the weather. We couldn’t even fathom the idea of a thunderstorm out of nowhere in the middle of such a bright and sunny day. However, we were lucky enough to be under a shed at the viewpoint at the national park. The view was a gazillion times more majestic than what my shoddy camera managed to capture.
Our host told us that we would be able to capture the entire view of the village lying offshore the Loktak Lake from the viewpoint at the top of the hill. The view of these Phumids had to be seen during sunset. The phumids have grown into each other to create an ecological marvel. You don’t book jeep safaris or trek in this national park. Here, you wait for a boatman to wind the boat through the narrow riverine channels between the phumids. You squeeze into his long and narrow boat, made from the trunk of a single tree and prepare yourself for a journey of an hour or two on the water through grasses and shrubs.
Before we headed back to our campsite, we feasted on momos and chicken kebabs from the local snack stalls. I had planned to find a homely homestay or stay with a local the following day. I chose couch surfing and within minutes we found a lovely host who invited us to stay at his place in Imphal.
Day 3. We got ready to leave from Moirang, packed our bag packs and bid farewell to our host. We got our bike revving to set off our Imphal exploration. Bose wanted to shop for local garments from Moirang and our host willfully helped him out with the bargaining. Meanwhile, I got busy on my laptop to get things done on time at work back home even though I was miles away from my office.
We checked into our host’s place where we were greeted by our host, Wortam, and a lovely Alaskan furry dog, Alia. Alia had come all the way from China.
We chatted for a while and then set off on our bike to explore Imphal. Bose was very particular about not missing the Imphal war cemetery and the Kangla Fort. Wortam is into modeling and is also a remarkable vocalist. He showed us to the local eateries and turned our evenings into mini-concerts with his songs as we sang along with him with our mediocre vocal skills. Alia seemed to be enjoying our concert too. We chatted away the rest of the evening and eventually crashed into bed. The following morning we had to fly out of Imphal and the weather wasn’t getting any better, which did give us a scare about the flights getting canceled. The weather in the Northeast is as unpredictable as it gets. Fortunately, in the sky cleared up and the trip ended on a good note. This beautiful weekend will forever remain vivid in my memory.
• Loktak Aqua Marine – Contact the host (Ashok) via Instagram Handle @sangai_moonlight_camping
• No ILP Required in Manipur
DM me on Instagram @samtravelogue for any further details.