Guide to Explore Imphal, Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park Local Way
“Country roads take me home to the place I belong” – played uninterrupted through my ears while crossing the lush paddy fields of Manipur. Imagine the verdant glory of nature, picturesque sunsets; countryside charm chased for aeons, floating vegetation fringed exotic lake and sampling delicious food – Manipur is all it takes to reach the zenith of offbeat and yet satisfy the yearning to wander. 🙂 🙂
Take God for Manipur without which I would not be born and writing this amazing travel Manipur blog. My mom and dad in their yesteryears met while studying at Manipur University (wink wink). The moment I told my mom about my plans to visit Imphal, a stern look with strict no followed for the fear of getting caught in the political tension of the state. Curfew and regional tension is the biggest fear of travellers but nothing could convince me to drop my plan. So, I loaded my traveller boots, packed my tiny backpack and started off for the weekend razzmatazz.
The Manipur blog has been something that I was excited to write on because of the incredible place it is. It screams of unadulterated beauty and brings experiential countryside serenity for offbeat travellers. Located in North East India adjacent to Myanmar, the state has been under constant scrutiny for its turbulent situations. Ever since I wore my travelling boots, Manipur fascinated me into its uncanny landscape. The exotic Loktak lake with floating Phumdis, lush green paddy fields, tons of fishermen waiting for their catch and countryside locale was an inevitable charmer. 🙂 🙂 I belittled every warning for my need to see this beautiful state, in a different perspective and light – Regrets, zero.
Is Manipur safe to travel?
The safety in Manipur has been a common concern owning to news flashes on extremist activities, political tension and curfews. Not denying the fact completely, there has been a lot of trouble in the past but the situation has pacified now. The city of Imphal is like any other regular city and you won’t find any traces of disturbance. Yes, it is completely safe to travel to Manipur for tourism but make sure you are not picking up a fight with anyone. Don’t believe everything the media portrays of the state because the fear of uncertainty will stop you from exploring a place worth every bit.
How to reach Imphal?
Imphal, the state capital, is well connected via flights and roadways. Of course, the roads deserve every bit of rebuke as you sit cramped in your vehicle and lose a definite amount of calories swaying left and right on the rickety roads. Flights are an option for people who want to save some time and buy more comfort.
From Guwahati – There is direct connectivity to Imphal from Guwahati but patience is very important as there aren’t butter smooth roads. The journey takes around 12 to 13 hours approximately.
From Dimapur – You can reach Dimapur from Guwahati via train. There are regular cabs that ply from Dimapur to Imphal with a journey time of around 9 hours. The cost per person is Rs 750/- but be ready for the rickety ride.
Note: If you want to return to Guwahati from Imphal, the bus leaves at around 10.00 am. If you want to leave for Dimapur, the last traveller leaves around 3 pm.
Accommodation in Imphal
There are plenty of accommodations in Imphal depending on the budget you choose. The natural beauty of Manipur, however, can be explored only after moving out of the main Imphal City.
Cheap Accommodation in Imphal – If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind basic accommodation, stay at Hotel Tampha. The charges are around Rs 350/- for a single room and Rs 550 for a double bedroom.
Budget accommodation in Imphal – There are a number of hotels near the market area with budget accommodation that offers a decent and clean room. The recommended option is Hotel Nirmala with a price of around Rs 1000/- per night.
Luxury accommodation in Imphal – The classic chain of Hotels offers luxury accommodations with the price starting from Rs 3000/- per night. However, you can opt to book Classic Hotel chains from www.ibibo.com at a lower price.
Things to do in and around Imphal
Celebrate the Power of Womanhood
Manipur – alternatively also called Land of Mothers, is unique in its culture because you see women in a very different perspective. Unlike various other states of our country, Manipur celebrates the power of womanhood as you see women in the state are more engaged in everything than men. Ima Keithel Market is a popular market run by only women and a glimpse of the market is a mandate during your trip.
The fort is located in the heart of the city and is of historical significance. The Kingdom of Manipur was established at Kangla and was a royal palace in the reign of Pakhangba. There is a lot of historical importance and the ruins of the fort are beautifully maintained by archaeology intervention. It has a channel or pond within the premises which is considered to be holy. The citadel was constructed with burnt bricks. It is ruins of the royal palace with newly constructed Kangla Sha – emblem of Meitis and lot of restoration done.
Sampling Manipuri Food
This is something that you must not miss. The sumptuous authentic Manipuri food is a push to your taste buds as you gorge on the taste of freshwater fish. I spend a lot of time sampling Manipuri food and did not miss a single chance to satiate my grumbling stomach. Being a fish lover myself, the food was a delight.
Visit Loktak Lake
A trip to Imphal without experiencing the unmatched beauty of Loktak Lake is incomplete. It leaves you in complete awe as you take a boat ride on the lake and surround self with natural abundance. It is the only freshwater lake with a number of floating island called Phumdis and is the reason that makes the lake exotic. The Phumdis are inhabited by local fisherman. It was a different experience stepping out of the boat and precariously walking on the Phumdis to chit-chat with the fisherman.
How to Reach Loktak Lake?
If you aren’t on a tight budget, you can hire a private car all the way from Imphal to Loktak Lake and beyond to explore the places. However, if you are on a tight budget there is public convenience from Imphal to Loktak Lake via Moirang.
By public transport – You will find a number of shared cabs near Ima Market that ply daily to Moirang from Imphal. It takes around 1.30 hours to reach Moirang covering a distance of 45kms. Get down at Moirang and walk straight past the market. There is a little bridge that you need to cross after the market and reach a diversion. There is a signboard with one way going towards Sendra and other towards Keibul. Hop onto a shared tempo going towards Sendra and get down at Loktak Lake. It is clearly visible as you will see an ample number of tourist boats.
Where to stay at Loktak Lake?
There are only three stay options in and around Loktak Lake. If you don’t mind spending some penny, stay at Sendra Resorts with price starting from around Rs 3000/- per night.
Maipakchao Family Homestay in Thanga village is another option if you want to explore Loktak Lake the local way. However, we could not get a room there as it was full. Make sure you call Mr Maipakchao to make reservations at +919856356993. If you are lucky enough to get a room at the homestay, don’t get down near the boats but instead go to Thanga directly. Keep an eye on the left side and you will find a large signboard marking the homestay on the way to Thanga.
The last option is night stay at Moirang. There is only one hotel in Moirang – Hotel Lake View that charge Rs 1000/- per night. If you don’t have a confirm booking at the homestay, check-in at the hotel and then leave for Loktak Lake.
Thanga and Kareng Island
Thanga is little ahead of Sendra Island and can be accessed by the tempo. You can choose to reach Thanga directly or get down at Sendra, explore Loktak Lake and hop into another tempo. It was an interesting journey to Thanga and people were surprised on how me and my friend Annie, two girls ventured solo on the trip. We met a kind lady, Tulsi Sharma who helped us explore the place. She volunteered to take us to Kareng Island but unfortunately, we could not make it. Kareng Island is on the other side of Thanga and can be accessed only by boats. Due to the blockage of the waterways due to floating vegetation, we could not reach Kareng Island. Interestingly, the water route is clear mostly in the morning and by afternoon it is jammed by floating hyacinths and plants that move with the wind. But, we indeed experienced Thanga as local as the lady took us to her home and coaxed her husband on giving us a boat ride in the backyard.
Keibul Lamjao National Park
It is one of the top places to visit in Manipur and significant being the only floating national park with a home to endangered Sangai Deer. It can be reached via Moirang and instead of taking the route towards Sendra on the diversion, take the route to Keibul. The tempos ply after it gets full but make sure you ask the driver to drop you at Keibul Lmjao National Park or else you will be driven till Keibul. The visiting hour of the national park start from 9 am to 4 pm approx and the entry requires a minimal fee of Rs 30 or 40/-. Don’t come back without taking a boat ride through the lush green grasses of the floating island, walking through the canopy of trees, and admiring the gorgeous lotus plants that double the picturesque beauty. Witnessing Sangai Deer is a matter of luck but try hard with the binoculars provided by forest guards.
The trip to mesmerising Imphal and beyond was a plethora of sunshine and abundance. It was a beautiful feeling walking through the paddy fields, hoping carefully on the Phumdis, taking a boat ride through floating Keibul Lamjao National Park, listening to stories from people, coaxing locals into local boat ride and realising the fact that the state is very much safe. Wish I had some extra time but if you do, don’t return without visiting Andro, Ukhrul and pristine waterfalls outskirts of Imphal.
PICTURE STORIES FROM IMPHAL, LOKTAK AND KEIBUL