Out of Kolkata (1,615 km)
Words AMIT GAIKWAD
Photographs T KRISHNA PRABAKAR
Tucked away in Manipur’s remote Tengunoupal district is the sleepy little town of Moreh. A scenic three-hour drive away from capital city Imphal, it’s widely considered India’s gateway to Southeast Asia. Located on the India-Myanmar border, the little town is a living testimony to a rich, cross-cultural heritage between the two countries, which lends the town a unique energy that you’ll be able to feel as soon as you step out of your car. At first, the chaos and energy of the town might feel a bit unnerving, but you’ll get used to it soon enough. It is, after all, just what one should expect in Moreh.
As you navigate its tiny lanes and bylanes, you’ll be surprised at the diversity and multiplicity – you’ll spot people from various cultures and backgrounds living right next to each other. To check out one of Moreh’s top attractions, make your way to the heart of the town, to a tiny Tamil community, where you’ll find the beautiful Sri Angala Parameshwari Sri Muneeswarar Temple. Approach the warm, friendly locals – they will be more than happy to take you on a quick tour of the temple, which is deemed to be the pride of Moreh. Don’t be surprised if plenty of other locals tag along as well.
Not too far away is Moreh’s other major attraction – the India-Myanmar Friendship Gate, also known as Gate No 2. It’s the main access point to Myanmar, from where Indians are allowed to enter Myanmar without a passport or a visa up to the small bazaar town of Tamu – all you’ll need to have is valid photo identity and 20 to pay the entry fee. Weaving your way through the market is a challenge in itself: hawkers and vendors will compete with one another for your attention, trying to get you to buy their wares and products. From clothes to electronics, you’ll find it all here, and at throwaway prices. You will, of course, be tempted to splurge right away, but save that for later – shopping is best done when you’re on your way back into India. Spend your time instead on a quick tour of the town – you’ll find at least a dozen auto rickshaws lined up near the market. Bargain well and settle for a price somewhere between Rs.400 and Rs.500 for a full tour, including fuel costs. The first things that you’ll be shown on the tour are the town’s famous temples. A 20-minute drive from the gate is the famous Photila Temple and the Tamu Buddhist Temple. Soak in the calm, serene ambience, seek your blessings and enjoy the scenic views on offer.
On your way back, set aside some time for the shopping that you didn’t do earlier in the day. Drop by the Namphalong Market – it’s right next to the Friendship Gate. Make sure you finish all your shopping before the gates shut at 4pm. Time yourself well so that you can go explore the unique Indo-Burmese culinary scene before stepping over into India. Ask locals for recommendations; you won’t be disappointed. When you do cross over back into India, post the shopping, sightseeing and eating, you’ll be taking along with you a trove of fond memories that you will be revisiting for a long time to come.