Imphal must be one of the most beautiful cities to look from the sky. Imphal valley is surrounded by hills on all sides and the city is enveloped by beautiful paddy farms on all sides. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India on his visit to Manipur termed it, the “Jewel of India”.
Imphal is the last big city on the eastern front of the country. The state shares its international border with Myanmar on the east. Located at such far-flung corners, Imphal has a rich culture and tradition, unperturbed too much by outside agents. The city is home to the diaspora of communities and tribals. A lot of people have moved from the hills to the city for work.
Imphal is not a hotspot for tourism like other North East cities. Tourists are often put off by the insurgency problems before they could even make a visit. But the scope of tourism is boundless.
Here are 10 things one could do, while visiting Imphal:
1. Visit Kangla:
This is the ancient capital of Manipur kingdom. It is also the most important historical and archaeological sites in Manipur. The history, beliefs and origins of the Meiteis revolve around this. There are many religious and historical places to see at Kangla. A visit to Kangla will give one a good knowledge of the State, which is always a good thing for travelers.
2. Boating at Loktak Lake:
Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in India, is also the only floating lake in the world. It is also home to the Sangai, an endangered animal. The Loktak Lake is known for phumdis, a floating mass where people built their houses on. Loktak Lake can be best viewed from the sky and from peak of many islands dispersed in the lake. It is around 52.2 kms from Imphal and just more than an hour journey from Imphal.
3. Watch a Theatre Performance:
Visit a play performed by the internationally acclaimed Ratan Thiyam's Chorus Repertory Theatre Production. Manipur has a rich theatre history and this group epitomizes traditional theatre at its best. They have their own theatre designed in Japanese style at Uripok Hawbam Dewan Lane.
4. Shopping at Ema Market or Khwairamband Bazaar:
The all-women run market in Imphal is the biggest of such kind in the country. You can get anything from traditional handloom clothes to vegetables. The energy is amazing. Visiting this is one of the best ways to get a good idea of the food culture in Manipur.
5. Try Local Delicacies:
Manipur is inhabited by many communities and tribals and each have distinct food habits but the most common food is the chutney called ironba. Meiteis can't do without it. Side dishes are quite popular. Manipur is also a food haven for fish lovers. Fishes from Loktak lake can be found in the market and they are a delicacy.
6. Visit Mutua Museum at Andro:
Mutua Museum is located at Andro around 21 km from Imphal. The Museum is the first of its kind in Manipur. It exhibit cultures and traditions of major tribes and communities living in Manipur.
7. Sight Sangai at Imphal Zoo:
Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only place in India where Sangai are found in the wild but it is difficult to spot because of the vast size and the inaccessibility because most of the park floats on water. But endangered Sangai, the State animal can be found at Imphal Zoo.
8. Visit the Khongampat Orchidarium:
According to the gardener there are more than 500 orchid species at Khongampat orchidarium. It is just 7 km from Imphal city. The best season to visit is during the orchid blooming season from April-June. This little place is a gem.
9. Visit Festivals and Learn People's Culture:
It is during festivals that tribals shed their western clothes for more traditional forms. Though a lot of these have changed over the years but traditions and culture are preserved and practised during the festivals to keep the past alive. Some popular festivals celebrated here are Ningol Chakouba, Yaoshang, Kut, Gang-ngai, Chumpha and Lui-Ngai-Ni.
10. Visit Hill Stations:
Imphal is surrounded by hills on all sides. Most of the tribals live on the hills. Visiting these hill stations will give a good sense of the tribal culture and lifestyle. The highest district in Manipur is Ukhrul. Ukhrul town is around 88 kms from Imphal.