Sunday, December 27, 2015

Deliciously sweet Bhapa Pitha (steamed rice cake) from Bengal

Bhapa Pitha
It is my favourite time of the year, the weather is perfect, and there is so much activity all around!

Winter is the time when you get to try out different kinds of delicious, mouth watering sweets in India, especially in West Bengal which is quite popular for its sweets. And sweet pithas are very popular during this time. Bhapa pitha looks like idli but it is not quite an idli….It is made of rice powder, desiccated coconut, milk, and jaggery. The entire mix is steamed and what comes out is delicious…The sweets are best had when steaming hot.

The origin of this sweet is in Bangladesh where they make bhapa pitha (meaning steamed rice cake) to mark the beginning of the harvest festival. Pitha can be sweet or salted depending on the ingredients used. I happened to chance upon the making of bhapa pitha at a mela in Salt lake, Kolkata. Watch this video…it is interesting… the cloth that is being used is a fine muslin fabric and the containers used are earthen pots. Even though it may not look all that exciting, it really is…

And the best part is this sweet is not high on calories since it is made of natural ingredients and steamed!

What more can you ask for…a delicious sweet that you can have without feeling guilty!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Inle lake Myanmar; some more attractions near the lake

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery
The town closest to Inle lake, is Nyaung Shwe which, is an hour's drive away from the airport (25 km from the Heho airport). Nyaung Shwe is known not only because it serves as a connecting point for tourists going to Inle lake, but also because of the beautiful, not to be missed, Buddhist monasteries that are located near this town.

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery: This 200 year old beautiful wooden monastery was a treat, it was gorgeous.

There was another, ordinary from the outside, structure near the Shwe Yan Pyay monastery. Who would know that this ordinary structure would house such breathtakingly beautiful interiors! The corridor and the glass art was absolutely stunning !

Here are some pictures from the monastery and the other structure with the most amazing interiors. Pictures are courtesy Soma Jha again:)

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery

Intricate work on the wooden Monastery
Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery 

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery

The inside of the ordinary structure near the monastery
Stunning corridor

Pagoda in the precinct of the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bird sightings near Inle Lake, Myanmar, Burma

Inle Lake, Myanmar, Burma
This beautiful, picturesque, mesmerizing, and tranquil lake has stolen my heart.

Here are some more pictures of the lake, and birds, taken by Soma in Inle.


Rufous-bellied Swallow

A resort in Inle Lake

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Inle Lake, Myanmar, Burma

Inle Lake, Myanmmar
This picture perfect lake in Myanmar, Burma, should feature in your to do list if you are travelling to Myanmar.There are so many wonderful things that will wow you about this place.

For some strange reason Inle is not as popular with tourists as the other touristy places in Myanmar, and many tourists end up not visiting Inle :(

This peaceful and mesmerizing lake has so much happening around it. The Intha tribe who live around the lake depend on the lake for their livelihood. They mostly make their living by fishing, farming (floating fields), weaving, silver-smithing, and cheroot making. They have a very simple life, all they need is simple wooden stilt houses, and boats to take them around. With no roads; the only way to navigate around is by boats, and this adds to the uniqueness and beauty of Inle.

One thing that you will never see elsewhere is the way the fishermen navigate their boats in Inle. They row their boats with one leg which leaves their hands free to fish. Another reason for standing and rowing the boat is because the lake is full of weeds and there is hardly any visibility if  you are sitting down.

These pictures were taken by Soma during her trip to Burma last year.

Leg rowing so hands are free-a speciality of Intha fishermen
Leg rowing Inle

Another feature of this lake is the floating gardens where the Intha farmers grow tomato, squash, flowers etc.

Lotus fibre extraction and weaving is something that you will find only in Inle. Lotus stems are found in abundance in the lake and that's why fibre extraction and weaving is one of the main sources of earning in Inle. Extracting the fibre from the stem is quite a laborious process and requires skilled hands. The end products are priced on the higher side but unique and worth it.

Drawing thread out of lotus stems
Long-necked woman weaving

Inle is worth every bit of your time, the beautiful green surroundings and the uniqueness of the Intha way of living, the delicious meals, boat rides, makes it so worth a visit.

Intha village Inle
Villagers Inle

Inle weavers
Cigar makers in Inle

Inle-silversmith at work
Religious objects & artefacts

Floating garden in the Inle lake 
Hotel in Inle

A restaurant that serves terrific fish curry
Inle village Post office

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tiny birds from Lava, West Bengal

Kanchenjunga peak
Lava is a small and scenic little place in Darjeeling district, in West Bengal, India. Lava is one of the most popular tourist destinations in West Bengal not only because of the scenic beauty, and the beautiful birds that can be sighted in Lava, but also because it happens to be one of those very rare places in West Bengal where you can find snow in winter.

You can reach Lava by road from NJP which is one the most frequented railhead and is well connected. A private vehicle can be rented for the onward journey to Lava. It takes around 4.5 hours to reach Lava, via Kalimpong.

I am posting pictures of these tiny little gems clicked by Soma during her visit to Lava this year. These birds are between 9 cm-14 cm in size, smaller than a sparrow.

Ashy-throated Warbler
Black-faced Warbler

Fire-breasted flower-pecker
Fire-tailed Sunbird

Red-tailed Minla
Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler

White-browed Fulvetta

Yellow-browed tit

View of Kanchenjunga peak from Lava