Day 3: Zokhawthar -Rih Dil Lake
The day dawned bright and clear. We had a packed schedule which included visiting Rih Dil Lake, and Chawngtlai village.The view from our Zokhawthar Tourist Lodge window confirmed that indeed we could see into Myanmar and there was the gurgling River Tiao and the iron bridge across it.
After breakfast we said our farewells to Thlinga, the very courteous manager and set off. Zokhawthar is a the last border town, of Mizoram, located on the banks of the river Tiao. This river forms the natural boundary between India and Myanmar.The immigration office is beside the bridge that spans the river Tiao. This bridge separates India and Myanmar.
River Tiao forms the international border and the bridge spanning it.
The entry point for our group, the police immigration check post is behind us.
We were all extremely excited as we were headed into Myanmar, a foreign country, to visit the Rih Dil Lake.No visas, no passports and no complicated entry formalities are required. We learnt that one can easily travel into Myanmar.Indian currency is accepted and Indian cars are allowed. We paid Rs 200 and a day’s pass was issued to us by the check post authorities. Armed with the pass, we gazed solemnly at the huge signboard, at the end of the bridge that that didn’t welcome us, but simply stated ‘Republic of the Union of Myanmar’.
We drove through the first Myanmar village Rihkhawdar.Our first impression of Myanmar was that it was prettier and the standard of living of the people seemed to be higher, judging from well-kept gardens and houses. The terrain was flat, there were more flowers, and overall it appeared greener and somehow gentler. We stopped by to chat with a few friendly locals. Just as in the rest of Mizoram, they too offered us tambul (betel leaf), their traditional offering. We learnt that the people in Myanmar are mostly Budhhist.
After about 30 minutes in which we covered around three kms of unpaved roads we reached the banks of the holy Rih Dil lake. As per Mizo belief, the souls of dead people pass through this lake. Approximately 1.6 km long, and with a circumference of nearly five kms, Rih Dil Lake is a tranquil heart shaped body of water surrounded by hills. During Independence, all land to the east of river Tiau including Rih Dil lake became part of Myanmar. It felt sad that this holy lake, an integral part of the local tradition and folklore of the Mizos, has ended up in another country. It seemed that a lot of newlywed couples board one of the several Maxi cabs with photographers and relatives in tow, head out to Rih Dil lake to capture one of the most important days of their life. I learnt that a wedding photograph at Rih Dil is of great cultural significance as it is, “the most important lake in Mizoram, except that it lies in another country.”
Adjoining the lake are some cottage type rest-houses where food and drinks, including alcohol, are available.
Alcohol is freely available in Myanmar while only wine is available in Mizoram. We picked up very cheaply Mandalay Rum and J&B whiskey. We managed to bring down the prices by 30% by bargaining. An Indian Rupee is valued at 18.6 Myanmar Kyat. While the men made non-existent space in our packed to the brim suitcases, for carrying the bottles back, the friendly lady manning the shop invited me inside. I poked around and talked with her while her husband and daughter unloaded cartons at the back of the shop.
We left Rih Dil Lake and headed back to the border crossing to be greeted by India’s warm and welcoming sign on the bridge.
Lunch awaited us at the Champhai tourist lodge. Here I must put in, that of all the tourist lodges in Mizoram that I have stayed in, Champhai tourist lodge though located in beautiful settings, was a huge disappointment, because not only were the staff cold and inhospitable, the food was too was below average.
Champhai in the distance.
Our next destination was the historical village of Chawngtlai which lies in Champhai district, in southeast Mizoram.The distance was 45 km from Champhai and we estimated that it should take us a little more than an hour.
More on that in my next post.