Exploring Manipur: A Hidden Gem
“Memories are not static, they serve as a means of communication with the ethereal. When many years have passed by, these memories are reminiscent and will develop an inner vision that will obliterate all thoughts that are sad or evil. Memories don’t leave you behind, but people do. I left a part of my memory in Manipur.”
I never thought my heart would pound more until I explored the hidden gems of Manipur. I still yearn for those days which made me feel alive and I cherish them.
“Dear passenger, your flight to Imphal is ready to take off. Please fasten your seat belts.” There was a happiness and smile on my face exhibiting glee as I reached Imphal airport.
Deep inside my soul, there was this voice telling me that this tour would be magical and very different from other places I have been to so far. Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, has many historical places to watch out for and famously known for the “Battle of Imphal” which took place between March and July 1944 during the World War II.
Day 1: Imphal
I, along with my two friends Angshuman and Cheeranjeeb, headed towards the guest house after our one-hour flight from Guwahati Airport to Imphal. We booked a cab and the driver drove us to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research Centre which housed the guest house where we halted.
Let me first talk about the streets of Imphal. There wasn’t too much commotion, so the bustling life which you might have witnessed in metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc can be escaped from. I was welcomed by the beautiful fauna and flora located near the guest house that created a vibrant aura which reminded me of the spring season.
Our next destination was to Ima Keithal also known as Ima Market aka Women’s Market. Probably you won’t find any market in the world completely run by women. Sounds fascinating, isn’t it? Its’s a 500-year-old market, blimey! I was astonished to see these women who are so passionate about their jobs and work diligently to earn their livelihood thereby setting a perfect example of women empowerment.
After exploring Ima Market for a couple of hours, we went to Kangla Fort that was in my bucket list. The distance wasn’t far from Ima market, so I took an auto which cost me 50 bucks to reach the destination. This place has much historical and archaeological significance and also has some holy sacred places inside the fort. Adorned with ruins and stone inscriptions, the palace of Kangla has its own way to charm people. As the sun dropped and the clock struck 5, I spent my late afternoon in Imphal War Cemetery, which is dedicated to those brave hearts who gave up their lives during the World War II. Needless to say, it was a tranquil evening sitting beside my friends and chit-chatting about the philosophies of life.
Day 2: Ukhrul-Shirui Peak
I woke up to a beautiful morning, the sun kissed my face and I was ready to hit the road. After having breakfast, I and my two friends took an auto ride to Ukrul bus station. This was our next destination. The distance from Imphal to Ukhrul was around 60 kms. The stare at those landscapes and valleys became relentless. Even though the journey was tiring, my eyes continuously popped out from the car window leaving me in awe. Ukhrul is a land of beautiful mountains, scattered by many indigenous tribes bestowed with rich culture.
Being an adventure freak, one of the locals suggested I trek to the Shirui Peak. I started off the trek during sundown. The trail was very steep, rocky and slippery but the view made me fall in love with the Shirui Hills mountain range. The scintillating panorama and jaw dropping sunset was something that will be etched in my heart forever. I couldn’t have asked for a perfect end to the day.
Day 3: Khanghkui Caves-Nillai Tea Garden
The next day, I realized that my legs were swollen after the arduous journey to Shirui Peak but I couldn't wait to explore more. Thereafter, I headed off to Khangkhui Caves, renowned for its limestone. It is a historical cave and has attracted many tourists from across the world. In the evening, I hiked up to the Nillai tea gardens. Amidst the greenery, the scenery there was this idyllic moment for me. Spirituality is something that confounded me. Not to forget the chirping of birds, wind sloshing up someone else’s face and tuning into nature’s voice, are all powerful assets of the environment which can heal the soul.
Day 4: Loktak Lake
A dreamy moment for me: Far away from the city life, watching the sunset and stopping time, reminiscing my childhood days, inquisitive about life, the universe and nature, I bid goodbye to Ukhrul and kick-started my journey to Loktak Lake in Imphal.
Loktak Lake is considered to be one of the largest freshwater lakes in the northeastern region. It is known as the floating island and grabbed my attention because of its serenity and poise. One of the specialties of this place is that you can camp here. It feels like one is literally camping on a floating island. How does that sound? We usually camp on the ground, but this escapade was a different one. On the moonlit night, I gazed at the stars. They are probably dead, I thought to myself. Because of the time distortion, we were looking at the past.
The road less travelled is the one Robert Frost took. We are free to choose but we really do not know what awaits us at the end. Better to be a lone ranger than to join the crowd. It’s only in nature that we discover the language of our senses, the anchor of our purest thoughts. I found myself in the lap of nature rejuvenated by the warmth of the island and the gushing of the wind. This trance like state came as a blessing and then I started packing my stuff to head back home. This was a trip to remember.
Best places to see in Manipur: Ima Market, Kangla Fort, Imphal War Cemetery, Loktak Island, Shirui Peak, Khangkhui Caves and Nillai Tea Garden.