At Manipur’s most important road border town with Myanmar, Indian citizens can get a day pass to spend the whole day in the market towns of Namphalong and Tamu in Myanmar’s Buddhist-dominated Sagaing Region—without a visa or passport. The same goes for Burmese citizens wanting to spend the day in Manipur. While this is no way to fully experience mainstream Myanmar, it’s the easiest way to experience the amazing cuisine and market culture of a part of Myanmar. Interestingly, these busy towns are now home to a huge number of Nepali and Indian settlers, who have adopted Burmese customs and citizenship, maintaining close links across the border.
No matter how inconsequential it might sound, crossing an international border on foot is always an inexplicably special experience for a cultural traveller. The first change you will notice is the language. The second is the food; hilariously, you will often have no idea what’s on offer and the seller often will have no clue what you want.
The first batch of food stalls you will encounter after crossing the checkpost at Namphalong are likely to be the “tho” stalls—something of a Burmese equivalent to the Indian chaat, only far superior in their highly nuanced and varied flavours and textures and the sheer variety possible in a single food stall.
Without knowing the language the safest bet is to let your chef decide what to whip up for you. You might initially happen to end up receiving a plate of Thimbodheeto—strips of steamed chickpea flour, julienned raw cabbage, chillies mixed with a whole bouquet of mysterious powders, oils, powders and sauces… Or perhaps a Lapetto—made of Lappe, an even yummier mix of tomatoes, nuts, chickpea flour, a bunch of aromatic Thai-Burmese style fish sauces and lemon juice, among other salad ingredients. Not everything on offer is mixed up, though. Starfruit is often eaten plain, while Mamandi—a flamboyantly red sour ball-shaped fruit can be eaten with just a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
The ‘Friendship Gate’ at Moreh isn’t just a gate—it’s more like a gateway to Burmese food addiction. Foodies, don’t be surprised if you stay longer than planned at Moreh, just to cross the border and try a new Burmese dish every morning!
Share van-taxis operate every morning on the highly militarised route from Imphal to Moreh (₹250-400 per seat). Last taxi back from Moreh to Imphal is at 4.30pm. Hiring a comfortable private car from Imphal to Moreh (72km) and back costs approx. ₹ 4-5,000. Hiring a rickshaw costs ₹300 per hour at Namphalong/Tamu. Shared public transport is substantially cheaper. Tip: The only way to reach Moreh early enough to maximise your time spent at Tamu is by spending the night at one of Moreh’s many hotels and crossing over as soon as the gate opens.
For Indians Crossing Without a Visa
One-Day entry passes only. Gates open at approx. 7am every morning, shut at 4pm India time. Staying the night on the Myanmar side is prohibited. To obtain a day pass, Indian citizens need to pay a very nominal pass fee and present any valid Indian ID (PAN Card/Aadhaar/Passport/ Voter ID), deposit the ID at the Myanmar border checkpost. Collect it on the way back by 4pm India time, when the checkpost closes.
For Indians Crossing With a Visa (For Longer Trips Into Myanmar)
The policy regarding this has recently been updated in a positive way. As of August 2018, Indians can now apply for a Myanmar (physical, sticker) visa and enter by land with the Moreh/Tamu border as the entry port. Earlier, entry ports were restricted to Myanmar’s airports. An online e-visa facility has been announced, but may take a while to get fully operational.
For more information: Manipur Tourism