The trip from Moreh in Manipur, India to Tamu in Myanmar is a journey one has to experience at least once.
In Moreh, the last border town en route to Myanmar, the Buddha has an unusual neighbour. A few yards to the left of his pantheon lives Pechiamman, a female deity worshipped in the heartland of Tamil Nadu. The history of the two coming to reside in the same temple complex goes back to a turbulent time in the 1960s when the Burmese Tamils were forced to leave the country. Following a military coup, their properties were nationalized overnight.
After living in Tamil Nadu as refugees for a while many attempted to return to their homes but were stopped by the Burmese Army from crossing into Myanmar. Caught between two countries, the Tamils chose to settle at the border town. That is how a small closely knit Tamil community came to live in the India-Myanmar border.
For a Tamilian, visiting Moreh would be a familiar experience. The moment one steps off the car the language one hears on the street is Tamil –the kind spoken in the heartland of Tamil Nadu. A visit to the temples there would feel no different from visiting a village temple in a sleepy hamlet in rural Tamil Nadu – that is until one spots the Buddha pantheon. Myanmar, specifically Tamu is only five kilometres from there.
Indian citizens can visit Tamu, the town on the other side of the border with a day’s pass and can stay on the other side till 4.30 pm. For this, a passport is not mandatory and any valid ID proof would do. The moment the car leaves the checkpoint, you know that you are in Myanmar as the driver swerves to the right and continues to drive on the other lane. Yes, Myanmar drives on the right-hand side of the road. This is how one feels entering Myanmar for the first time, that vague uneasy feeling you get while breaking traffic rules.
What can you see and do in Tamu?
Shopping in its markets
Tamu is a robust town with its markets full of goods imported from Thailand and China. If you are looking to buy clothes, shoes, electronics or anything that looks distinctly Chinese made, the markets are a must visit.
Visit the Buddhist Monastery
Besides these, Tamu has a small Buddhist monastery on the outskirts. It is a quiet, scenic spot with beautiful arching pagodas and a serene Buddha seated on top of Naga the snake’s coiled body while his hood protectively hovers over the Buddha. The Buddha, here, does not have any Hindu neighbours in the monastery though. Climbing the steep stairs of the watch-tower inside the complex is worth the effort for the beautiful view of the border and the outskirts of the town.
Try Burmese Cuisine in Tamu
You can also get a taste of the Burmese cuisine in the restaurants of Tamu. Chicken cooked with bamboo shoot is a local delicacy. The fermented bamboo shoot is a common ingredient in many north-east Indian cuisines as well but the pungent taste it leaves behind may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
The Tamu Moreh trip might seem a bit rushed especially if you are travelling from Imphal, the capital of Manipur, given that Indian tourists are allowed to stay in Tamu only till 4.30 pm. It is advisable to start from Imphal by 7.30 am. The drive to Moreh takes about four hours and there are a couple of Army check posts on the way as well. If you happen to be in Imphal and want a unique cultural experience in the north-east, this trip to Tamu is certainly worth exploring.
Also read: 9 things to see and do in Myanmar