Sunday Street Stories: Inya Lake Park

Walking by Inya Lake is among the most wonderful experiences in Yangon. There’s usually a gentle breeze blowing from the lake, you’re surrounded by a large expanse of water and lush green trees, and the traffic noise is a bare minimum.

Needless to say, like everything in Myanmar, some rules need to be followed. So there’s a list of rules for the park as well, written in Myanmar and English to make sure locals and tourists “get” them.  Written with the most serious of intentions, some of these rules state the obvious but I guess they need to be mentioned anyways, especially since couples and aspiring musicians with their friends flock the park every evening.

Yangon Inya Lake park rules

Almost all these rules are flouted, including the “no sex” one (ahem!). Amateur fishers, bicyclists, (extremely) amorous couples, guitarists,  singers, snack vendors– they’re all there! But I haven’t seen any swimmers in the lake yet.

Picture taken on: August 24, 2015

Location: Inya Lake (west side), Yangon, Myanmar

Device: Nexus 5

Sunday Street Signs is a series of images recording street signs from my travels. They could be significant in some way, funny, or have an interesting story behind them.

Sunday Street Stories: Bogalayzay Street in downtown Yangon

Downtown Yangon was built by the Brits, designed like a grid with numbered streets going north to south, crossed by “named” roads going west to east (similar to the Manhattan grid). Sometimes, the numbered series is interspersed by a “name” street. Bogalayzay Street (pronounced bo-guh-lay-zay) is one such street in downtown Yangon that runs north to south.

Yangon street sign Bogalayzay street

Bogalayzay street is between 42nd and 43rd street, and is filled with places to shop, hip restaurants, and travel agencies and offices of well-known companies. So you can go to Hola dance Club to learn salsa, get your nails done at 88 Foot & Nail Spa, sample Mexican street food at TinTin, and shop at Gamone Pwint Shopping Center (lots of beauty products and electronics!). If you’ve got the travel bug, head to Khiri Travel to book your trip to Bagan, Mandalay or elsewhere.

Picture taken on: August 8, 2015

Location: Yangon, Myanmar

Device: Nexus 5

Sunday Street Signs is a series of images recording street signs from my travels. They could be significant in some way, funny, or have an interesting story behind them.

Foodie Friday: The truth about Burmese Khowsuey

It’s been a month since I moved to Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), former capital of Myanmar (erstwhile Burma). Eager on quickly getting a hang of the local culture, I’ve insisted on learning the language, picking up a few local habits, and of course, eating at a local restaurant to sample Burmese food. But the cultural adventures are for another day. This is about my first taste of authentic and famous Burmese khowsuey.

I love khowsuey and if it’s being served at a party in India, I make sure I have a bowl. I love the noodles mixed with yellow coconut-based gravy, the cute toppings, and the taste of course. It’s a meal in itself and absolutely delicious. So when I sought khowsuey at a Burmese restaurant, I was in for a big surprise. This is what it looked like:

Burmese khowsuey dish

To start with, let’s get the word right

The correct pronunciation for khowsuey or khowshwe or khawoswe is khauk-swey (with the KH sound not too hard and the second ‘k’ almost silent). It should sound something like khow-sway when you say it quickly. (I’m going to spell it the popular Indian way to avoid confusion).

STOP PRESS: Khowsuey is not a Burmese dish. It’s an ingredient.


Burmese khowsuey noodles

Khowsuey means “noodles” in Burmese / Myanmar language, and this ingredient is versatile and used in a variety of dishes. It is cooked in a number of ways with different ingredients, depending on the region you’re in.

So, asking for khowsuey in a local restaurant is as specific as asking for say, paneer or rice in an Indian restaurant. Do you want paneer makhanwala, paneer tikka or paneer bhurji? Or would you like mutter pulao, mutton biryani or steamed rice? Like paneer and rice, khowsuey is the star of a variety of dishes, but all cooked differently. I’ve eaten khowsuey at a couple of restaurants in Yangon, and they’ve always looked and tasted different each time I ordered.

Burmese noodles can be shan-style, or coconut noodles, or served as mohinga (thin rice noodles in fish soup) etc. As for the yellow coconut gravy we have in India? Not spotted it in Yangon yet.

A mini-history lesson and a theory about Burmese khowsuey

I’ve been reading up on the history of Myanmar (history was never so interesting in school!), starting with the wonderful book The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U and the history I’ve read so far has given me a theory of khowsuey captured the Indian palate. When the British came to Myanmar in the 19th century, they opened the floodgates to trade establishing the major port at Rangoon. Thousands of Indians came to Burma to earn a living, while keeping in touch with their families back home. So the Burmese khowsuey may have made its way to India from our migrant ancestors, anywhere from the late 19th century to the early 1960s.

Burmese khowsuey is one of those early “fusion” dishes that we Indians loved and re-invented, strongly influenced by Burmese and Indian culinary traditions. So yep, we Indians made our own version of it, like we did with Chinese food! 😀 And this is the khowsuey in India!

Indian style Burmese khowsuey

Khowsuey toppings are aplenty, and they’re for real.

The Myanmar people garnish their dishes with all sorts of toppings. They love adding roasted peanuts, green chillies, dehydrated onion, chopped garlic and dried shrimp to dishes (thankfully I don’t have a nut allergy). And these are some of the toppings you see at khowsuey counters across parties and weddings. The lemons and fried noodles might be an Indian introduction, and we’re using fried onions instead.

Here’s a Burmese noodle soup with pork.

Burmese Myanmar khowsuey

Enjoy your khowsuey!

Okay, so what if the “Indian” khowsuey” isn’t 100% authentic? It’s still yum, so I’m going to eat it when I get the chance. But if you’re visiting Myanmar anytime soon, you won’t get the Burmese khowsuey you’re used to. And that’s because it’s not authentic Burmese cuisine. Or Myanmar cuisine, as they now like to call it. Instead, try the local khowsuey dishes. You’ll love them- I did!

Weekend Ride: The GenX Nano experience

Bright and sunny Sunday. Picturesque lake adjacent to a manicured lawn. Fresh, clean air. And a brand-new car. It was time to #FollowTheGenX.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT preview

It was all happening at the Tata Motors Lake House in Pune over the weekend, as we were introduced to the GenX Tata Nano Easy Shift (thank you Indiblogger and Tata Motors!). Being a car buff, I immediately volunteered to drive the car, especially because I wanted to try the Easy Shift technology or Automatic Manual Transmission (AMT).

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT Sangria Red

My team members Shubham and Lance dubbed ourselves The Nano Knights aka Team D before we hit the road, accompanied by GenX Nano project manager Pranav. As one of the few lucky ones to drive the car before everyone else, I’m grabbed the opportunity to ask Pranav a lot of questions about the car while I drove it around Pune.

First Gear

My first glimpse of the GenX Nano Easy Shift was a mini-cavalcade of red Nanos- they call it Sangria Red and it’s a brand new colour. Then my eyes fell on the front grille, made of tiny infinity loops (called the infinity grille). When I opened the car door and peeked inside, I spotted lots of infinity loops… a very cute symbol.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT grille

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT infinity grille

Since I’ve never been inside a Tata Nano before, the spacious, roomy interiors were a pleasant surprise. The instrument cluster was right in the middle and there were plenty of information and entertainment options (more on that later). And then, the most important thing- the gear box. Being powered by Automatic Manual Transmission or AMT, the gear box is unlike any other I’ve seen before and offers a variety of driving styles in just one car.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT dashboard

Soon, I strapped on my seat belt, adjusted the mirrors and started the ignition while pressing on the brake. (No brake, no start- a smart safety feature in the car.). Then I glanced at my super tall team member Shubham. He’s all of 6 feet 3 inches but sat comfortably at the front (and in the back later) thanks to plenty of leg room.

Small in size, big on features

The GenX Nano is one cute and cool car. It’s got refreshed interiors with additional performance, entertainment and safety features, along with a whole new driving experience with what they call Easy Shift (Automatic Manual Transmission or AMT).

Despite being a small car, it packs in a lot of features, such as AmphiStream™ music system with CD, USB, Aux and radio inputs, Bluetooth, two glove compartments, front power windows, central locking… even the instrument panel is rife with features you wouldn’t expect in this segment, such as distance to empty, current driving mode and gear along with trip meter.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT bluetooth and music system

On the road- How would you like to drive today?

Once on the road, Twitter peeps threw #FollowtheGenX challenges at us. We stopped a few times en route to complete some of them, right from clicking selfies to shooting a dance video to head banging in the car!

I began shooting several questions at Pranav and he patiently answered all of them. Most of my questions were about AMT- the various driving modes and how to use them. I started with Automatic mode and once I got used to it, I switched on Sports mode by simply pressing the S button on the gear box. I immediately felt a very slight “kick” as the ride became peppier, zippier and a lot more FUN. And as I floored the accelerator, I knew this was a great city ride.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT wheels

Then I switched to manual mode to get better control of the driving experience. Now while the GenX Nano has first, second, third gears and so on, you don’t need to move the shift around like you would do in an “ordinary” manual car. All you do is gently nudge the gear shift upward to go to a higher gear and tap it down to go lower.

If you’re confused at any time, glance at the instrument panel. It will tell you what the car is up to, including what mode and gear you are driving at. And if you slow down due to traffic or otherwise, the car switches to a lower gear automatically. Yep, really!

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT instrument cluster

Few of my favourite things about the GenX Nano:

New looks: The Sangria Red is just the perfect shade of red for Nano GenX. It’s close to the colour of wine and hence the name is apt! Also, there are specific matching interiors to go with the various body colours so your car looks classy!

Steering wheel: The smooth responsive accurate steering wheel is hands-down my favourite feature. There just aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe this.

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT steering wheel

Easy Shift: I absolutely LOVED the Sports mode on the AMT and the manual mode was a wonderful delight to drive as well. Still can’t believe I drove “manual” without a clutch. 😀

AmphiStream™ music system with Bluetooth™: Pairing my phone with the car’s system was easy-peasy, and I could make and receive calls and play music, yay!

Creep function: I’ve stopped at a traffic light, and it turns green. Now instead of releasing the brake and immediately pressing the accelerator to get moving, all I did was release the brake and the car rolled forward. Would make driving during Mumbai’s peak hours piece of cake.

Fuel efficiency: 21.9 kmpl (ARAI figure). Need I say more?

Infinity sign all over: The little infinity sign from our high school math makes an appearance throughout the car, like a signature of sorts and adds an instantly smart look to the car. Nope it’s not geeky!

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT infinity seats

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT infinity interiors

Tata Nano GenX Easy Shift AMT rear seat

Bookings are open for the GenX Nano Easy Shift and is due to launch in the next few weeks. Do test drive the car and share your experience!

Travel Thursday: 10 apps for stress-free vacations

I’m obsessed with travel so before a vacation, I spend HOURS looking up new destinations, hotels, flight fares, attractions, tips and advice. And on vacation, I rely on my mobile devices to help me navigate make the most of my (too short) holiday.

Planning a vacation is isn’t easy. There are too many things to do- choosing a destination, planning an itinerary, booking flights, hotels… you get the drift. It’s bound to drive anyone up the wall. But since I’ve begun using my mobile phone to plan, book and track my vacation, the whole process has been relaxed and a lot of fun! Seriously our phones are the ultimate travel tool.

Here are my top 10 travel apps available on Microsoft devices to make your holiday planning and vacations a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Note: All these apps have been downloaded and tested on the Microsoft Lumia 535.

For Trip Planning and Discovery


HappyTrips will inspire travellers with listicles and features, along with destination mini guides, hotel and attractions information and more. For example, the Berlin section includes guides on shopping, outdoors and museums in and around the city.

HappyTrips mobile app 


Can any trip be complete without reading what the TripAdvisor community has to say? TA has been my go-to app for the longest time now- I especially rely on the community to research hotels (I’m finicky about those!) and sightseeing options.

TripAdvisor windows mobile app


I’ve been relying on Burrp since way back to locate new restaurants! 🙂 Now I use the app to discover the best places to eat, party, shop, indulge or chill. Keep this app handy for trips around India.

Burrp windows mobile app 

For Trip Booking


Kayak is the easiest way to booking hotels, flights and rental cars across the world. With a slick interface, useful filters and an impressive range of options, the Kayak app is a must-download before your next holiday.

 Kayak windows phone app


BookMyTicket works as a gateway to several booking sites across India. In a click, the app will direct you to leading portals to book train tickets, flight tickets, bus tickets and taxis.

BookMyTicket Windows app 


My Trips

This travel assistant app keeps track of your itinerary- flights, hotels, appointments etc and works even when offline. I especially like that it keeps track of previous trips to help with a quick trip down memory lane!

My Trips windows app

Here Maps

Here Maps is a navigation tool and more! The most useful feature is a “Collection” which is like a bookmarks folder to save places you want to visit or remember, such as “Barcelona”, “Singapore shopping” or “Chinese restaurants”. So you can save places before your trip and let the app guide you when you’re travelling.

Here Maps windows mobile app


Sometimes your little finger to locate a restroom doesn’t work. So let Translator do the talking for you (literally). This app will translate keyed-in text, speech and image-based text across multiple languages and give output in the form of audio and text. Super useful!

 Translator Microsoft Lumia app

Currency Converter

If, like me, you’re constantly converting dollars, euros, bahts, roubles or krona into rupees or vice versa, Currency Converter will save you a lot of trouble. The app tells you the latest exchange rates to make your shopping easier and quicker.

Currency Converter on Lumia 

For Your Memories

Photo Editor Master

Picture-perfect images are possible even without a fancy DSLR. Use this app to enhance your vacation pictures and share your travel story with the world! Do I see you pouting for a selfie already?

photo editor windows phone

All apps are available on the Windows store and can be downloaded on a Microsoft Lumia phone. Handset provided by brand for testing.

Chic Picks: Hot leather travel bags for a cool summer

Summer time is vacation time, people! And every summer I get on the hunt for cool travel accessories since I believe in travelling stylishly. This season, I’ve found some great bags that will last you many many trips.

For travel, I strongly recommend a spacious, sturdy, durable bag to stash all your stuff- whether for an overnight trip, a weekend getaway, a cruise, a flight or a very long vacation. These leather bags from Viari are roomy, good-looking and multi-purpose. They even come with a shoe bag, so you can later carry them to gym or work.

For women: Soho travel bag, Rs 11,900

Lots of colours to choose from, but the tan one is an all-season classic.

Viari Soho Travel Bag Tan

For men: Camper Bag, Rs 6000

Gotta love the rugged look.

Viari Camper bag small Khaki

Happy holidays!

5 must-have dishes to try in Singapore

My husband and I had an unforgettable five-day Singapore holiday last August. From Gardens by the Bay to Universal Studio, we enjoyed every moment of the trip. The husband (Mr S) went crazy about the food he got to try in the wonderful country- it was easy on the pocket, delicious and drastically different from what we get in India (me being vegetarian didn’t go as ballistic about the food).

And here’s a meme about Singaporean food I made:

Takeaway Level Singapore meme

Here are the top Singaporean dishes we loved (the non-vegetarian ones are obviously his picks). All pictures below are clicked by me in Singapore (except for the meme):

First… my favourite- Ice cream sandwich!

Yep- desserts first! When a friend told us about Singapore’s sandwich ice cream, I assumed he was talking about the sandwich we get in India- a slab of vanilla ice cream held between two chocolate biscuits. But the Singaporean ice cream sandwich actually had bread! So a large slice of a special (sweet) bread was wrapped around a ice cream slab of our choice (we chose chocolate chip). That sandwich is among the most interesting food experiences I’ve ever had. Yummmm!!!

Singapore icecream sandwich

Singapore icecream sandwich

Spiced Prawns

This dish was a relatively simple one- prawns were cooked with oil and spices and served with a spicy paste on a leaf. S commented that the prawns seemed super fresh and the spices were a delight. BTW, we had this at the Singapore Food Trails at Singapore Flyer.

Spiced prawns Singapore

Chilli Crab

When you’re in Singapore, you cannot miss the Chilli Crab- S tried this at one of the restaurants at Bugis. He opines that the huge helping of crab cannot be finished by one person, and the sweet-and-tangy sauce is a wonderful play on your taste buds.

Crispy Duck

The Singaporean version of fried chicken, this dish was succulent and had just the right texture. After drizzling the accompanying sauce on the bird, S declared it was the among best duck dishes he’d ever had.

Singapore food menu

Singapore Sling (a no-brainer)  

This famous cocktail is Singapore’s “national drink”. Made with gin and a fix of juices, we had this drink at a local Singapore bar during Happy Hours. Needless to say, we loved it!

PS- Discover Far More Singapore on this droolicious website.