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LOKTAK LAKE GUIDE – OFFBEAT BUDGET TRIP NEAR IMPHAL IN MANIPUR. INDIA
WHAT ARE PHUMDIS OF LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR?
Loktak Lake is near Imphal, the capital of the Indian state Manipur. You will see the most unusual geography in Loktak Lake. Loktak Lake was catapulted on the tourist map due to its unique landscape. It is still a very offbeat and uncrowded destination. In fact, we could count the number of travelers in and around Loktak Lake when we visited.
Phumdis are nothing but vegetation growing on moving soil and other organic matter. These can vary in size and can range from very small phumdis on which you can’t even stand to phumdis as large as 40 kilo meter square.
Some phumdis are given artificial shape by the locals. The popular rings of phumdis you see in the brochures and travel blogs are not natural. They have been shaped in such fashion by the locals for various purposes.
The entire economy of this place revolves around the pristine Loktak Lake. Not only does the water from Loktak Lake help in hydropower generation, it is also used as drinking water by locals and as a dependable source of irrigation by local farmers (Cabbage and rice galore!).
However, as the population around Loktak Lake is increasing, the pressure on the lake is increasing too. The lake also faces severe sewage problem but I found it much cleaner than other lakes I have visited such as Dal Lake in Srinagar.
WALK ON A PHUMDI AT LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
As we were enjoying the sunset boat ride on long canoes, the boatman deliberately bumped the boat on a large phumdi. He then asked us to walk on the phumdi for an experience like no other!
I along-with Amit and Tom gingerly stepped on to the phumdi. Elieen and other burst into peals of laughter as I ended up submerged till knee into the watery phumdi.
As I tried to balance myself on the very unstable phumdi, the setting sun painted the water in shades of purple. I walked for few minutes on water, stems and leaves before giving up. Maybe this is how Jesus walked on water! The boatman made me feel bad about myself as he walked confidently on the phumdi. You must attempt it, it is a unique feeling!
SUNSET BOAT RIDE AT LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
A boat ride for me, Amit, Eileen and Tom was arranged by the home-stay owner we were staying at. Two canoes were joined to make it one boat rowed by one boatman.
As soon as we sat on the boat, the boatman offered us 1 local hat each. The hat seemed very Vietnamese to me. I saw locals wearing similar hats in Myanmar as well.
One of my readers told me that he had hired a single canoe which was very unstable. Ours was a very stable boat; in fact Amit was able to stand on the canoe (for picture) when it was still being rowed. It was very stable even then.
So, I suggest that you ask for two canoes joined as one. Either take your friends and family to share the cost or ask other residents for joining us. This is how we managed to pay just Rs. 300 per head for the boat ride.
SUNSET FROM A HILL AT LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
The owner of the homestay we were staying at told us about a hill just behind the homestya which offers wonderful bird’s eye views of the Loktak Lake and its surroundings. Eileen had already been there the previous day, so she guided me and Amit on an easy but very steep mud track. It was like a mini hack. We paved our way to the top of the hill, through a path inundated with chest length dry grass.
Eileen suddenly stopped warning us, “A saw a snake moving there.” None of us believed it, not even the home-stay owner. No one else had seen it. We joked about it till we were together. We were told though that the harmless water snakes are often found in the Loktak Lake. You can opt for a boat ride during sun rise too. But don’t expect to see an orange sky during sun-rise, it is mostly misty here during morning with clear, sunny days. I visited in November.
From left to right – Tom (Australia), Eileen (Scotland), Boat Man, Amit (India), Me. Boat ride at the picturesque Loktak Lake near Imphal, Manipur. Incredible India!
KARANG ISLAND NEAR LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
Karang island is just 3 kilometers away from our home-stay is not to be missed. It can be accessed via a short boat ride.Spend some time exploring the floating island. It was recently in news for being the first cashless island of India.
Not just rings, I also saw phumdis in square shape. Of course, all of them are shaped by humans. Loktak Lake near Imphal, Manipur. Incredible India!
SPOT SANGAI AT KEIBUL LAMJAO NATIONAL PARK NEAR LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
The Keibul Lamjao National Park at this only floating national park of the world has a unique geography. I and Amit arrived here on a bike, which we hired from the home stay (Rs. 200 for goofing up with the bike for 3 hours) The Sangai sanctuary is very close to the home-stay where we stayed and the Loktak Lake. The route to the Keibul Lamjao National Park is very scenic, what with eco friendly huts, water bodies, and wheat fields dotting the landscape.
We arrived at 9 a.m. After patiently waiting for an hour, we finally saw 5 Sangai, far away in the park. A machaan is built for visitors. Binoculars are available for free on request. We also saw 3 Hog Deers with better proximity. Beware of bees though! It is a good idea to reach here before 8 a.m. The machaan or Viewing point is a bit far away from the Ticket Window. It is advised to carry your own vehicle or be prepared to walk for half an hour or more on a dirt track. Take along some snacks and water too as there are no shops inside the sanctuary.
The other names of Sangai are Manipur brown-antlered deer (Cervus eldi eldi) or Rucervus eldii eldii. Sangai is even more endangered than Tigers and they are found only in Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur. Other species of deer found in Keibul Lamjao National Park are sambar, hog deer and barking deer.
Keibul Lamjao National Park is rich in bio diversity. Other species found in Keibul Lamjao National Park are Indian civet Viverra zibetha, Temminck’s golden cat, marbled cat, Indian python, wild bear, wild boar, Muntiacus muntjak, stump-tailed macaque, hoolock gibbon and rhesus monkey.
It is easy to reach Keibul Lamjao National Park from the home stay I had stayed at. Check the map. Just hire the scooty from the home stay owner. It is very close. Loktak Lake near Imphal, Manipur. Incredible India!
OMBA NURATHEL GARDEN NEAR LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
A SIGNBOARD saying, “Welcome to OMBA NURATHEL GARDEN” will guide you to its direction. BUT! It is a pointless park near the Loktak Lake which you should avoid unless you are traveling with kids. Amit and I drove to the park through an inconvenient track on uneven path. We were massively disappointed when we entered the park. It was not much, except a small manicured garden. I found the natural gardens elsewhere in Loktak Lake more alluring!
Or even the cabbage fields on the edge of the gardens were more interesting to look at. There is a tourist trap near the gardens which offers joyrides and swings for kids and some shops selling snacks and soft drinks. Kids will love this place. Even elderly people will enjoy sitting at the place. But you should avoid if you are fit and not traveling with kids.
MY MEMORABLE STAY AT A HOME STAY IN LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
Staying at a home-stay with locals is always more enjoyable than staying in a clinical hotel. I enjoyed staying with a local couple. My stay was arranged by Holiday Scout, which are an expert at planning trips in the 7 sisters of North East India. You should book with them for a hassle free holiday and good services.
The rooms surrounded a courtyard with a holy Tulsi (basil) plant in the middle. The rooms had basic beds, blankets, mosquito nets and a window to the Loktak Lake. It had an attached bathroom too.
Meals were served with love by the host and his wife in their personal dining area. It was immersive travel at its best. Loktak Lake anyways slows you down. We spent a lot of time just talking to each other.
Soul Window Tip: Sangai festival is celebrated near Loktak only, usually in the month of November. Do plan and go!
I and Amit (New Delhi), Elenne (Scotland), Tom (Australia) and a lady from Germany bonded well over sweet nothings, heated debates (I was the peace maker, every single time!) and travel talk with each other and our host. We didn’t even feel like checking our phones every now and then. It felt like the sweet 90s.
VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN GUIDE FOR LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
It is very easy to remain a vegan and vegetarian in not only Loktak lake but most of Manipur, thanks to the large population of Hindus. In the home-stay arranged by Holiday Scout, where I spent 3 days, I had very satisfying vegetarian meals.
The breakfast was usually fruits or bread with jam or butter. If you want, you can cook your own food, like a lady who stayed there before me, shopped for ingredients from the Moirang bazaar and made Poha (yum!) for herself. We were also served home-made cabbage curry. They grow a lot of cabbage near Loktak Lake.
Other dishes served to us for lunch and dinner were daal (lentils) with rice, chapattis (I was happy to eat wheat after long), kofta (vegan fritters), a unique chilly chutney and the very uncommon red rice kheer sweetened with jagegry. You could also request them for a bite of hot Bhoot Jholakia. We also picked up chips and desi Swiss rolls from one of the shops in the Moirang Bazaar.
While we were returning from the Sangai sanctuary, we made a pit stop at a restaurant called Sangai Fast Food which served us vegan macaroni and fried rice. Noodles were also available. It was a nice change. I ended up ordering 2 plates of macaroni for myself alone. We were the only people dining there. We also stopped at a bakery where we had nice muffin (Rs. 10 per piece) and fresh breads (Rs. 25 for two pieces).
At some shops parathas and pooris with chola and sabzi was also available along with many sweets. Do also explore the small market in Moirang Bazaar for more vegetarian and vegan options. Of all the dishes I have mentioned above only kheer (might contain milk) and the butter are not vegan but vegetarian.
I also bought very weird (very small and black) boiled Singhada (water chestnuts) from one of the shops outside (Rs. 40 per metal container they used for measuring). We snacked on it as we looked out of the balcony at the home stay. The balcony offered us direct views of sun set and had a good collection of local books. The host also served us snacks like lalcha (red tea), popcorn, namkeen and biscuits. Stock up on some snacks for evening as most shops close after sunset.
HOW TO REACH LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
It is very easy to reach Loktak Lake from Imphal, the capital of Manipur. We paid around Rs. 60 each to arrive at Moirang Bazaar. The same route also passes through the airport and the peace memorial. You can make a pit stop here if you have the time and inclination.
BEST TIME TO GO TO LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
I visited Loktak Lake towards the end of November. It was an enjoyable time to be there. It was slightly cold. I was comfortable in a shirt and sweater.
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND LOKTAK LAKE – OFFBEAT MANIPUR!
There is a lot you can do in and around the Loktak Lake. Below is the list of all the places you can visit:
- Visit the museum dedicated to freedom fighter Shri Subhash Chandra Bose.
- Ask the home-stay owner to rent you out the bike. We paid Rs. 200 for 3 hours of biking.
- Take an early morning boat ride in mist!
- Check out the Loktak Lake from different vantage points.
- Eat at a local dhaba or road side food joint.
The views from my #SoulWindow turned me silent!
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