A passage to the North East

While having breakfast at the Plaza Lounge at Terminal 1d, a sudden thought of Nagaland filled my heart with excitement. After all I had thought of visiting the beautiful States of Nagaland and Manipur before, but this time it was real.

My plan was to reach Dimapur, catch up with my friend Chonben and then hit the road to attend a wedding at Imphal. I had a wonderful time touring both Nagaland and Manipur. Hopefully, this article will give readers, a good perspective of the North Eastern India. I have carefully drafted the valuable information along with references to plan an effective trip on your own. Having the right information ensures that you don’t miss out anything on your trip.

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Dimapur Airport

Take off – Air India & IndiGo Airlines both operate from Delhi to Dimapur. I boarded an IndiGo Airlines flight to Dimapur so as to avoid switching planes at the Kolkota Airport. After a 4 hour journey, I was at Dimapur.

Dimapur 

The Airport at Dimapur is small and travellers can simply walk out of the Airport in less than five minutes. It is interesting to note that a helicopter ride can be booked right at the Airport through the Nagaland State Transport office. Dimapur (Nagaland) is a commercial town and mainly important due to the presence of the Airport. The only highway connecting Guwahati –Dimapur-Imphal is NH-29. You can also call it the lifeline of the State.

Cute, yellow taxis can be seen around the city; however it is best to opt for an auto rickshaw to commute locally.

Day – 1

Chonben picked me up from the Airport and we headed straight to his place in Chumukedima. Chumukedima is a peaceful, lush green town, 10 KM from Dimapur, where everyone has their own lawn with trees and fruits and veggies and pets.

The first day went in some casual photography, walking in the well maintained Cantonment area, driving around the peaceful town, and meeting some friendly people. There is NIT (National Institute of technology). We also saw the 15 IRB (Indian Reserve Battalion) with all Women Commandos. WOW!

I recommend travellers to stay at Niathu Resort, which is on the way from Dimapur to Chumukedima. This Resort is also close to Bambusa (Bamboo Emporium) https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g1162206-d5603817-Reviews-Niathu_Resort-Dimapur_Nagaland.html

Day – 2

The mornings in the North Eastern India are as early as 4:00 AM. The chirping of birds woke me up but laziness got the better of dear Chonben. We left home at 11: 00 but not before visiting the Bambusa Bamboo Emporium.

An auto ride to and fro cost us Rs.100 only. The Bamboo emporium is a clean, beautiful, spacious area where you can see the fine work and usage of the Bamboo wood. There is a nice restaurant and many beautiful bamboo structures within the premises of the Bamboo Emporium.

You can visit the factory and see the workers building lives with Bamboo. The portable Naga hut was interesting and so was the souvenir shop at the front. The nicely carved Bamboo items make nice gifts for friends back home.

The experience at the Emporium was rather funny. There was no one at the souvenir shop and when we finally found someone it wasn’t much of a help. The lady didn’t know the price of the items for sale, didn’t have change, no receipts.  So what if someone shoplifts (Who cares!). No doubt the Emporium is run by the government. I got some cute key chains, after the lady at the counter managed to guess the prices.

After a hearty laugh, we hit the road for Kohima while it rained. The monsoon showers made the hills look even prettier. You can see loads of Mango, Areca nut, Plums and other trees on the journey up the mountains. Pineapple Sellers are a common sight. Another interesting observation was the concept of “Rice Hotels”. These are local Dhabas serving rice & pork curry and are very popular with the people of Nagaland & Manipur.

It is impossible to not stop on the way to catch a glimpse of the greenery around. Nagaland is known for the hottest chilli in the world “King Chilli” or “ Raja Mircha”. The Raja Mircha has many varieties and is known by different names in the North Eastern parts of India; “Bhut Jholokia” in Assam for example. On the way we stopped at Piphema for some fresh plums, dried apples, Raja Mircha. It is a good halt for buying local veggies. Travellers should be mindful about the consumption of plums as they have a short life of 2-3 days. The Plums are a good buy and taste sweet; even the skin is sweet.

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Dimapur to Kohima

Places to see in Kohima

War Cemetery – It is a tribute to the Soldiers from India, Nepal, and Britain who fought the Japanese in World War-ll.

Kisama Village – This lovely village is a host to the famous Hornbill festival held in the month of December every year. There are 16 officially recognized Naga tribes and you can see them all together during the festival at Kisama. This festival is a treat and true insight into the Naga way of life.

Khonoma – At a distance of 18KM from Kohima is Khonoma village. It holds the first green village status in the Country. The locals have made an earnest attempt at organic farming, ban on hunting, and preserving wildlife. It is a peaceful village with a few guest houses and beautiful churches.

After a tiring but very enjoyable day, we retired to our Hotel. Time was a luxury we didn’t have and continued our journey in a Truck from Kohima at midnight.

https://www.tripadvisor.in/Attractions-g668044-Activities-Kohima_Nagaland.html

Day – 3

IMG_20160626_043515.jpgWe parked the Car at the Hotel and decided to embark on the remaining journey in a Truck. Luckily we had the ride arranged through a friend.  The Truck driver was a jolly fellow from Assam and played melodious Bollywood songs. We returned the gesture by singing to the tunes of these catchy numbers.

The Truck had ample space for us to sleep and our body movements. It was magnificent to see the beautiful terrace farms, mountains, and picturesque valley on our way to Imphal. Ironically the beauty of Nagaland and Manipur is dark shadowed by rampant corruption on roads by Police & banned outfits. An average size Truck pays Rs.15000 as bribes at various check-points to officials of State, Excise, Police, NSCN-IM, etc from Dimapur to Imphal. The brunt of these activities is faced by the common people of Manipur in form of sky rise prices of goods.

We stopped at a small Dhaba for some aloo parantha and boiled eggs for breakfast. Our next halt was Senapati , where the Truck stopped for clearance and we boarded a local bus to Imphal.

Travellers are recommended to hire a cab or board a local bus to commute and save time.

Imphal

We reached Imphal when it was nice and sunny. Our friend Bon was there to pick us up and we headed straight to his place.

Imphal’s population consists of Hindu’s, Muslims, and Christians. The Hindus are concentrated in the Valley and the Christians in the hills. Beside this several Bangladeshi & Burmese have also made Imphal their home.

Places to see

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Kangla Fort/Museum – The historic Kangla Fort, located opposite to the Chief Minister’s residence was the first tourist spot on our list. The Fort was occupied by Assam Rifles of the Indian Army and handed over to the people of Manipur in 2004. There is a small but very informative Museum at the entrance of the Kangla Fort. The sprawling green area

consists of an elegant Temple. Visitors can see a number of water bodies including a Ghat behind the temple. One can spend a few minutes watching the reflection of nature in the water. The place is frequented by students learning photography. The fee to Kangla Fort is a nominal Rs.10

Ima Market – The word Ima means “Mother”. This unique market with all women sellers offers traditional Manipuri garments along with colourful articles like bags etc. Bargaining works just like any other Indian local bazar. If you wish to buy a souvenir, this is the place to be. I got two colourful money bags as a remembrance.

Shaheed Minar – Behind the Ima Market is a small park with the Shaheed Minar built in the memory of the martyred heroes Yubaraj Bir Tikendrajit and General Thangal who were hung in public by British at this site in 1891.

Burma Market – makes available a range of clothing, shoes, and electronic goods from across the bordering Myanmar/Burma. The stuff sold is without warranty but still of reasonable quality.

By evening, we wanted to relax a bit and see the hangout places in Imphal.
Manipur is a dry State but booze is available easily. The adulterated liquor is brought from Assam. The Canteen liquor is considered much better and sells at a premium. In my opinion, the best liquor is the local one prepared from Rice. I call it the local Vodka but it’s much better than Vodka. The local Vodka is colourless, not sweet, quite like water but gives the kick. Perfect!

Visitors at local “Ahata” get seated on round stools kept around the Table. Snacks served include Pork, Duck, Chicken, Chillies, Eggs and Bamboo shoot. I enjoyed the spicy and tangy taste of the dry bamboo chips.

After meeting my old friends and a night of chatter filled with laughter, it was time to sleep like a rock.

Day – 4

Morning was just heavenly, by the time the Clock turned 8, I felt as if half the day had gone. We began our journey to the famous Loktak Lake. On the way to the Loktak, can be seen the Imphal International Airport. We then came across Moirang, where Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Flag of INC (Indian national Congress) for the first time on Indian soil in 1944. There is also a historic museum in the campus which is worth visiting.

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Keibul Lamjao National Park & Loktak Lake – The most heartful experience in Imphal can be captured at the Loktak Lake. The lake is at a distance of 50 KM from Imphal city and covers the only known floating National Park in the world. The 50 KM stretch is a straight even road unlike the rest of North East. The stretch has lovely, open grasslands on both sides of the road with a boundary of small hillocks adding to the panoramic view of the natural beauty. Paddy fields, cattle grazing, water bodies, Simply Mesmerising!

Entry to Sendra Park is a nominal Rs.15. You can also have a blissful stay in cottages at the top of Sendra Park at a very reasonable price of Rs.2750 (double occupancy).
Please note that booking can only be done through Classic Hotel in Imphal.

There are patches of grasslands all over the lake and one can reach them on a boat and click a few pics. The boating experience is a lot better than other places I have been to. The lake falls in the Bishnupur district of Manipur.

Moreh – The Moreh town is your gateway to Myanmar and trade hub for Burmese and Indian goods. There are 40 items still traded under the Barter System. The drive from Imphal to Moreh takes 3 hours for a price of Rs.300 one way. The return is Rs. 500. Indian citizens can simply show their Voter’s ID or Adhar Card to cross the border.

We came back tired and slept eagerly awaiting the big marriage next day.

Day – 5 (Wedding Day)

We had stayed the previous night at the guest room available at the Manipur University, thanks to the groom’s family. The marriage ceremony was an absolute treat for us. It was quite traditional, like a typical North Indian Hindu wedding but for a shorter duration. Ladies were dressed in beautiful  Manipuri Saris, and men in white Kurta Pyajama. Chandan Tilak could be seen on everybody’s forehead.

We left with the Barat at 1:00 PM for the venue, i.e. the bride’s place, which was very near and were seated respectfully. A musical ceremony depicting the significance of marriage was most interesting. It involved dance movements and expressive gestures by professional dancers. See the video:-

Later, in the evening, the bride and groom and were welcomed as per tradition. After a sumptuous dinner, it was time to head back to the guest house. I came back next morning with sweet memories of the trip.

Helpful Tips

 

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