This floating homestay on the Loktak Lake, Manipur, is a magical experience

If you are planning a trip to Manipur, keep a day aside just to experience what it feels like to stay in a floating hut. We did too and chose Loktak Aquamarine to spend a day.
Loktak Aquamarine
Loktak AquamarineDharitri Ganguly

We often talk about exotic staycations up on the hills and even underwater, but have you ever heard of a floating homestay, which is easy to travel, budget-friendly, and an experience worth remembering? And no, we are not talking about houseboats or cruises. This unique concept of floating homestays is built on the Loktak Lake, situated in the Moirang district of Manipur.

The picturesque sunset
The picturesque sunset

Staying afloat aesthetically

The largest freshwater lake in Northeast India, the pristine Loktak Lake, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Manipur. Known for its floating circular swamps or land masses (phumdis in the local tongue), the lake invites tourists from far and wide for its ethereal beauty. If you are planning a trip to Manipur, keep a day aside just to experience what it feels like to stay in a floating hut. We did too and chose Loktak Aquamarine to spend a day.

After a simple Manipuri lunch at a roadside kitchen, comprising rice, iromba (a mixture of boiled vegetables, fish, and chillis), dal, salad, and a fish stew made with a few sliced onions, loads of tomatoes, chilli, and coriander, we took a short, picturesque, afternoon drive from Imphal to reach the banks of the Loktak Lake and waited for a fisherman’s boat to take us to our homestay.

The long and slim wooden boat, carrying not more than two to three people at a time, submerges almost fully when it carries people, and you might feel that it will topple, but it won’t. Reaching the homestay was one of the most surreal experiences ever, as a traveller. As you get down from the boat and try to balance yourself on the thin wooden slabs leading to the land mass, it feels as if you are walking on velvet. You must be a little careful not to step directly on the landmass, but even as we did, our feet didn’t touch the water. That was a strange feeling indeed.

Snail curry
Snail curry

A string of floating huts

Loktak Aquamarine has a string of huts — a double-storeyed hut, two one-storeyed huts, a separate kitchen and store, a boatman’s hut, and a shared washroom. There is also a hut for those who are looking for a day out and not a staycation. We chose the double-storeyed hut and it was the best decision ever. Keeping our bags on the wooden deck, we took a tour inside the bamboo hut with a thatched roof. The double-storeyed hut can accommodate at least six people, perfect for a group of friends or cousins. The ground floor had two double-beds on the floor, one on each side of the room, done up beautifully before we arrived. We climbed upstairs using the bamboo staircase to find another nicely done bed, overlooking the window, through which we enjoyed the setting sun over a glass of peach wine.

Water lilies
Water lilies

In the evening, we chose to unwind by flipping through a few pages from our favourite book. The dinner was served soon after, and it boasted a comfortable meal of rice, roti, dal, veggies, and a hot and spicy chicken curry. We also packed some snail curry for the road as we headed to Loktak. The simple, flavoursome curry and the meaty snails were quite enjoyable. We wrapped the day early as we had early morning plans the next day.

The morning after

The first streak of light hits the huts by 4-4.30 in the morning, and you are bound to wake up, as the dark rooms suddenly light up. As we freshened up, we had a cup of tea and headed out on a similar fisherman’s boat to explore the lake. The lake, mainly surrounded by fishing families, starts early in the morning and spends hours sitting on their boats to catch fish. As city dwellers, we are used to seeing a rush all around us, always, but the morning view of the lake, the chirping of the birds, and the fishermen and women quietly sitting in their boats humming their favourite tunes or speaking to each other in local languages, felt like a different level of tranquility. Our boat swayed into the vibrantly bloomed purple water lilies and pink lotus gardens, which was something that we never experienced before. The local songs played on the small radio in the boat made every moment worthwhile. We tried plucking a few flowers, and the fisherman was kind enough to make a DIY bouquet of lilies and lotus and give it to us.

Lotus
Lotus

We returned to our hut only to be welcomed with our breakfast of eggs, bread, bananas, bowls of Chak-hao kheer (Manipuri black rice pudding), and another round of hot tea. We soaked ourselves in the sunlight, sat on the bamboo deck for a while, and got ready to move towards our next lap. We headed towards Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating national park that houses Manipur’s Sangai deer, birds, and butterflies, and spent some time enjoying the amazing natural creations. As we headed back to Imphal, we realised that this was one of the hardest goodbyes!

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