3/15/2011 to 3/17/2011 | India , Manipur

Ukhrul: Escape to the Hills

We were all excited to finally get out of Imphal into the surrounding hills.  We had chosen the destination of Ukhrul a town in the northeastern hill region of Manipur inhabited primarily by friendly Tangkhul Nagas.  Few foreigners make it to Imphal and even fewer to Ukhrul.  Three foreigners hopping off a bus in Ukhrul is bound to generate a bit of local interest, and it did.  Despite having a church with a passing resemblance to the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho, we found Ukhrul to be a friendly place.  Never mind that several people from Imphal warned us that we should be careful when heading up to the hills of Ukhrul, conversely several people in Ukhrul warned us we should be careful in Imphal.  I found neither place to be particularly threatening though each area has had its problems in the past.    Ukhrul was a nice enough town; spread across a long ridge, its cool climate was refreshing after a week in the much warmer Imphal valley.  The tasty naga pork and beef was also a plus for two of the three in our party.  Sarah, a vegetarian, was less in enthused with the limited, nonexistent, vegetarian options in the town.  It didn’t help matters that she was battling what she later would learn was giardia.  I’m not going to draw any conclusions about the prevailing wisdom of sticking to vegetarian food as a way of staying healthy in India, but in a sample of three, two avid carnivores, and one vegetarian.  It was the vegetarian who came down with giardia.

In Ukhrul we had the good fortune of meeting Stilwall, a Tangkhul Naga curiously named after the American general Joseph Stilwell who fought in the region during the Second World War.  He graciously helped us organize a trip to nearby Siroi Hill.  The 8500 ft (~2500 m) Siroi hill is most famous for the Siroi Lily a unique species lily that is found nowhere else in the world other than on the hill’s upper slopes.  Unfortunately it was too early to see the lilies in bloom, as they typically bloom in late May.  Dispite the absence of the famed lily, it was still a pleasant hike to the summit and there were a handful of rhododendrons in bloom on its high slopes.  Though a storm rolled in on our way down and we were pelted by hail the last 20 minutes of the hike.  In the evening Stilwall kindly organized some vegetarian food for Sarah, and a Naga style meat orgy for Robin and I.

There is not a whole lot to do in Ukhrul after 6:00 pm.  Like everywhere in the northeast hills shops close down early, but in addition to early closures, the lack of more than 2-3 hours of electricity per day means nights are far from lively in Ukihral.  To quote a former resident of Ukhrul, “Ukhrul is good for counting stars.”  Maybe not so good for an evening of night club hopping.

2 comments to Ukhrul: Escape to the Hills

  • shok

    Its been many years since I left home and who would have thought that I would be reading a blog about my hometown from a foreigner,a white guy no less :)Its unfortunate about the power shortage and lack of night life but I,am glad you liked your stay in my hometown.I wish you well in your future trips and do come visit again.


  • Thanks, despite the lack of power I did enjoy the place and great people.

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