Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reminiscing 2014

The countdown for 2015 has officially begun. And i am here, at the same place where I was at the very beginning, when the year had just started, at Ngwe Saung, a popular beach destination just 150 miles from Yangon. But today as I stare at the majestic ocean stretched out in front of me in all its glory, I sense a strange feeling of sadness welling up within me. And I can't help but think of all the lost lives, lying somewhere hidden beneath its cool waters. 
How can the very same place that gave me so much joy, so many memories, appear menacingly eerie as though mocking at my sheer helplessness? I sit here soaking my feet in its crystal blue waters, feeling insignificant and irrelevant amidst its vastness. There shall be no resolutions this year, I say; no fireworks and no complaints. Just a quick thank you for the year that went by and a prayer for what awaits us on the other side.

Happy New Year everybody

Feeling lost in its sheer vastness

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Playing with fire

By Aswathy Kumar

Visiting the untouched beaches of Ngwe Saung, a mere four hour drive from Yangon? Make sure to check out this incredible fire show at Ume Cafe.  Situated between Yamonar OO and silver view, on the southern part of Ngwe Saung beach, this quaint thatched shack style bar/cafe is rated #4 among the top 10 eating joints in Ngwe Saung. Popular for its Asian fusion menu and the incredible fire dance show, this one is a definite must-stop while visiting Ngwe Saung.



Friday, May 30, 2014

A sneak-peek into heaven!

Exploring Ngwe Saung, a destination like no other

By Aswathy Kumar

    Ngwe Saung Beach: Heaven on earth!

'Sorry love, but we can't go now?' My husband sat beside me, a sense of sheer disappointment splattered all across his face. I lay half asleep and through our white curtains I could see that the sun had slowly started to rise. In a few hours from now we would be on a flight for our annual beach holiday. In a few hours from now we would be sun basking on the warm crystal sands of Pattaya sipping frozen margaritas out of fancy swirly straws. Our suitcases lay packed right next to us and we were ready to go.

It was only when I awoke the second time, a few minutes later to the sound of my husband calling his office to cancel our flight tickets and hotel reservations did I finally absorb it fully that our trip to Thailand had actually been cancelled due to the recent military coup. There wasn't going to be the holiday that I had so longed for. I felt sad, let down but most of all I didn't not know what I would tell my 6 year old once she woke up. I was unsure if I had the courage to tell her that she wasn't going to be able to cuddle up with her mommy in a fancy four poster bed of our lavish hotel or splurge at elaborate breakfast buffets or swim in a glitzy infinity pool overlooking the sea. I looked at my husband and immediately knew that we both couldn't do it!

    Ngwe Saung

It was then that we decided to head out to Ngwe Saung, a popular holiday destination in Myanmar. It was just a four hour drive from Yangon and fairly popular among the expats. But most importantly it had a beach and right now, that's all that we really needed.

I did have my share of fears and doubts as I exited the comfort of my lush green housing estate and into the chaotic, jam-packed and almost non-existent roads of Hlaing Tharyar industrial township. 'What if we get lost? What if our google maps don't work? What if we run out of water? Will there be any rest stops? What if the drive was too risky? I was nervous and who could blame me. I had heard my share of horror stories of people getting lost and taking 8 hours to cover a mere 150 mile distance. 

'We will be fine love,' reassured my husband. 'If we could handle the vast stretches of Masai Mara and the treacherous roads of Sikkim and Raniketh, this was going to be easy!"

And I was so glad he was right. So there were no highways and all you get were narrow roads stretching all the way to Pathen, the next big city between Yangon and Ngwe Saung and you were bound to have your heart skip a beat every time a truck hurtled at you at full speed or lose your patience every time you got stuck behind a slow-moving cycle rickshaw or unruly motorcyclists. But there was no better way to truly absorb the country in all it's rawness and charm, quite a change from the craziness of Yangon. Be it the lush green fields stretching on either side of the road, the innumerable little tea stalls embellished by their neatly aligned colorful plastic chairs selling chai and fried local savories or the quaint thatched roadside shops on stilts displaying an array of Myanmar snacks, baskets loaded with fried fish and luscious fruits like guava, papaya and mangoes, Myanmar was so famous for. The short 4 hour road trip offered plentiful for our curious eyes to feast upon. 

    A temple procession enroute to Ngwe Saung

As my little family of three kept making a long mental list of all the things we needed to pick up on our return journey including a hand woven hammock, a cane stool and a basket full of mangoes and guavas, we were amazed to see a procession of women clad in a traditional neon pink Longyi, children in colourful turbans on top of horses and men blowing trumpets aligning the sides of the road. It had slowed down the traffic significantly and definitely  added a few extra minutes to our trip. But we did not mind. Such temple processions were not rare on the culturally vibrant and pious villages located on the outskirts of Yangon, but it was our first time and it was well worth the wait. 

We reached our resort at around noon. Though the last 30km to Ngwe Saung was a bit of downer, courtesy the long winding road, we were beyond ecstatic to see the Bay of Bengal stretched out in front of us, in all it's glory. Be it the breathtakingly beautiful coastline, the crystal clear waters that almost seemed to coincide with the Azure sky above us or the gigantic waves that almost seemed to mock at the calmness surrounding it. There was something about this particular beach that made me feel almost certain that I had somehow magically found my way into some kind of scenic artwork during our short drive from home. 

    (The Emerald Sea Resort: The only one open during the long monsoon season)

I will agree, Ngwe Saung is nothing like your clichéd beach destinations. There are no bikini clad waitresses to serve you margaritas, no fancy street shops or open bar restaurants playing loud music. Here the only sound you would hear are the sound of crashing waves and the only shopping option would be a handful of stores selling hand made baskets, wooden trays, cloth bags, flip flops and shell bracelets.

But Ngwe Saung is a beach like no other, worth visiting to soak up the sheer beauty of the Bay of Bengal or devour the exquisite local cuisine served in the non-glamorous roadside restaurants in the village ranging from barbecued lobsters, grilled whole fish in  garlic sauce and Shark-fin soup to crispy fried soft shell crabs and my personal favorite the steamed fish in chilli and lemon.

   The seafood in Ngwe Saung is a must-try

 So what if it lacked glitz and the glamor of a Miami, a La Jolla or a Phuket. So what if it didn't have the noise or the sheer life that had made these a dream holiday destination across the globe, Ngwe Saung was special. She was raw, untouched, almost like a virgin. And as I dipped my feet into its warm waters watching the sky turn into scarlet orange, I knew that I had just gotten a sneak-peek into heaven!

Monday, March 10, 2014

To the city that changed me...

To DC, with love...

By Aswathy Kumar

I am a blogger or so I'd like to say every time someone asks me what I did. Maybe cos writing has always been one of my biggest passions or maybe simply because it sounded a lot cooler than a stay at home mother or even worse, a housewife.

It all started when my husband dropped this bombshell on me that we were shifting to Nairobi for three years. To be honest, I wasn't thrilled. I was to bid adieu to my home for the past 8 years and go from being a 24x7 working girl to a full time stay at home mom. 

'It will be fun,' he had promised guiltily.

And boy it was, making the next three years one of the best times of my entire life. And slowly my blog, ashwrites began to take form. There were so many places to see, people to meet, experiences to be shared and so much to write.

But very soon, it was time to move again. It was time for a new location, a new home and a whole new adventure. And though it was heartbreaking to bid farewell to our friends, I was excited for the new adventure that lay in front of me. An adventure called the U.S of A. I was ready and confident. After Nairobi, surviving the US was going to be easy...or so I thought.

But it wasn't. In fact, it was quite the opposite. My life went straight from chauffeur driven cars, uniformed nannies fussing over my little one and sipping garam chais and munching savory pakoras by the pool to sweeping, mopping, organizing play dates and scrubbing toilets. Very quickly I realized that here you couldn't just swish a wand and expect things to magically appear. And here the term, 'Hard work' took a whole new different meaning...

Two years passed by. We were only slowly learning to make peace with our cranky neighbor downstairs and see the beauty behind DC's brutal pinching winters. But it was time to move again. And this time it was the unexplored streets of Yangon that awaited our arrival. 

Life had taken a full 360 and here I was having breakfast in my lavish balcony watching sunrise with the monstrous Shwedagon Pagoda glistening in the backdrop, penning down article after article onto my blog.

'Serene, raw and spectacular city,....the land of golden pagodas,' I went on and on praising my new home. But every time I came up with all possible cliches I could think of to best describe Yangon, I couldn't help but sense a slight pinch of guilt starting to arise inside me. I stared at the pages that lay scattered around me, then back at my computer screen. It had pictures of me trying on the traditional longyi at Bogyoke market, posing with the traditional Myanmar umbrellas and amidst beautiful golden stupas. But it was hard to ignore the fact, that in my entire page, there wasn't a single word about the city that I had recently bid adieu to. There wasn't a picture...not even a tiny caption. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.

So today, I sit here in my balcony, ignoring the beautifully landscaped lush green gardens and the view of the spectacular Shewdagon towering over, but instead reminiscing about the two years I spent in DC, thinking of the right words that I could use to best describe it.

But I have no words, no adjectives and no cliches. All I have is an image of a mother and her curly haired five year old daughter walking along a beautifully paved road. The designer shops and departmental stores aligning the road though closed, hardly appeared to be so, thanks to the glaring neon lights that shone from each one of them. It was late in the night and the roads had slowly started to clear. But neither the mother nor the child seemed to be in any hurry to rush back home. They stopped by each window to simply imitate a mannequin pose or make fun of an absolutely hideous outfit on display at Neimen Marcus. 

Their house was still three blocks away and the temperature was slowly starting to drop. But they hardly seemed to care about the steep road that laid ahead or notice the little droplets of ice settling in their hair. They were happy and unafraid as they slowly hopped around, humming Alyssa Bonagura's, 'I make my own sunshine..rather loudly, out of tune and words completely jumbled up. But here no body cared. Here they were free, here they were safe...

Okay maybe DC lacked the culturally vibrancy of the raw and serene savannah or the brilliant Myanmar. Maybe it was a city of suited bureaucrats, spectacled investment bankers and sweat-pant clad soccer mommies and maybe it did after all fail to inspire the writer in me. 

But in between the tedious metro runs, long queues at Costco and trips to play dates and whole foods I had forgotten to thank the city that had changed me in a way no city ever could. In a way, I thought I never could. A city that gave me a confidence that simply refuses to leave my side even during the worst of times. A strength, I never knew I had within and savor the sweet taste of freedom, that I never knew existed. 

So here's to DC, here's to freedom. 



Monday, March 3, 2014

Caught in a different kind of claustrophobia

From high end designer haute couture and quaint boutique stores to traditional eateries and budget street shops, the Causeway Bay, is rightfully termed the shopping Mecca of Hong Kong

By Aswathy Kumar

A shopoholics paradise, a one-stop shopping destination, a must-visit and what not! These where a few cliches I had heard before I decided to head out to the highly recommended and popular Causeway Bay. It was my first day in Hong Kong and my husband was busy attending a work meeting. I was left with a fussy 6 year old, a wallet stuffed with Hong Kong dollars and a view of a fabulous city skyline waiting to be explored. I was a writer (or so I'd like to say just cos it sounds so much cooler than a stay-at-home mom) and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to tread the jam packed and pleasantly claustrophobic streets of Hong Kong.


As always, this time too I hadn't done my homework. I was in a city I knew nothing about; only seen pictures of it in fancy postcards and heard stories from globe trotting friends and there was now way I was going to spoil any element of surprise that came along with it. So you can imagine my astonishment when i mentioned Causeway Bay and my driver replied in two terms, 'Sogo' or 'Times Square.' I had no idea what he was talking about? 'Times square,' I hesitated. They name sounded familiar, option, a little safer. 

Now I had expected jam packed crowds, haphazard traffic and monstrous skyscrapers. My husband had prepared me well. What I did not expect was to walk into an enormous confusing and never ending maze of shopping malls, street bazaars, food markets and boutique stores. If you ever wondered how a shopoholics idea of heaven would look like? This was it, all stretched out mockingly in front of me. It was overwhelming, even for a pro like me. 'Hold onto mommy'' I told my daughter. 'We can do this.'

Though for a hassle free shopping experience, I could have stuck to Times Square (but I was in no mood to empty my bank account) or the more budget friendly Japanese departmental store Sogo, I decided to stick to the streets. 'Thats where all the city charm lies' I convinced my six year old as I dragged her little frame through the less crowded Paterson street that housed a few expensive, yet quaint and definitely worth exploring boutique stores in the city.

 A hidden treasure, The Jardine's Crescent houses a number of cheap street bazaars

One of the highlights of my trip to Causeway Bay was finding a hidden treasure called Jardine's Crescent, an array of cheap street shops lying hidden amidst the snootiness, glitz and glamour of the surrounding fancy malls. I had just finished a sumptuous Singaporean meal of Char Kway Teow at a food court in the nearby Hysan Place. I was a couple of hundreds down and was about to hail a taxi back to the hotel when I treaded upon this hidden wonder. 'Just what I needed,' I thought as I entered into the neatly packed roadside bazaar selling a variety of goods ranging from women's clothing, accessories to electronics and household items at incredibly low prices. Even though I hardly bought anything, it was sheer fun watching the enthusiasm in the shop owners faces as they displayed their products with great élan or watch a buyer trying his best to strike a good bargain. The market also had some decent street eats and an inexpensive flower market at the end of the road. 

From seafood, meats to spices and fresh veggies, the Causeway Food Market has it all 

One of my other favorite part of my entire visit was when I finally managed to land up in the Causeway Bay food market. I was a tourist here, my stay limited to just three days but being a homemaker, a food enthusiast and an expat wife who could shift base and land up in a home kitchen of any new country at any point in time, I get a strange sense of joy in seeing a food bazaar packed with different kinds of seafood, meats, spices and fresh veggies. 

  A prayer before the day begins

It was my first time at Causeway Bay and it was everything I had imagined it to be? Crazy, crowded and absolutely chaotic. But with all it's hidden treasures and charm, this was a kind of claustrophobia, I didn't mind getting trapped in over and over again. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bedecked in gold: The Shwedagon Pagoda

Came an atheist, left a believer

By Aswathy Kumar

It was probably the first thing I saw as I exited the Yangon International Airport. I was nervous. I had bid farewell to my friends and my home back in DC and was stepping now into a mysterious land that I knew nothing about. But something about the 325 foot golden stupa that towered over the entire skyline of Yangon told me that I was going to be just fine. And as long as this gilded shrine stood watch, no harm was ever going to come to me in its land. 

In the days that passed, I saw the Shwedagon Pagoda several times; from the glass window of my hotel room, every time I drove past it to reach downtown and even when I shifted into my new house, almost an hour away away from the Ar Za Nir street, where the pagoda was located. I saw it every single day and I could sense the strange feeling of guilt starting to rise within me. After all, it had been more than a month since I treaded it's very streets, a month since it welcomed me, embraced me and yet I had still not found time to pay homage to the shrine that epotimised the very warmth and serenity that defined the city of Yangon. I knew it was time, time for the much awaited divine rendezvous.

   The Shwedagon Pagoda at 325 feet tall towers over the entire city of Yangon

A Divine Intervention

Though the pagoda is open for tourists from 6 am to 10pm, it is best recommended to see the Shwedagon during sunrise and sunset. Because it is at these times one can see the golden pagoda glimmer in all it's glory, thanks to the 1800 carat (76 being the largest) diamond orb located at the top, comprising 4351 diamonds that captures the rays of the sun, reflecting it beautifully and making the entire stupa glisten in the light. So following my friend's advice and to save myself from Yangon's scorching heat, I arrived at its footsteps at 5.00 pm, almost an hour before sunset. I had waited too long and I wasn't going to miss seeing the shrine at it's very best; just before, during and after sunset. 

   The Shwedagon Pagoda made out of over hundreds of gold
   plates is seen glistening in the setting sun 

Just like most temples back in India, here too, the very first thing we had to do was remove our slippers before entering. But unlike temples back home, here there were no angry guards to yell at me or discard me as a mere sinner when I accidently treaded into its premises with my slippers on. (Even after living here a whole month, the locals' lack of aggression and plentiful amount of patience still seem to amaze me). There was no shouting and no angry stares, but just a polite gesture to remove my slipper and place it in my handbag before I went in through security.

The locals' lack of aggression should never be misunderstood as a sign of weakness and it should always be remembered that the pagoda is a place of worship

Despite the lack of aggression, it must be noted that this place is sacred and must be approached with utmost respect. Though it is absolutely fine to wear jeans and t shirts, one is expected to dress modestly keeping their arms and legs covered and nothing short or disrespectful is permitted. The entry for locals was free, but we had to pay an entry fee of $5 (8000 kyat) each. What was amazing was that despite being one the most visited attractions in Myanmar, seeing over 1000 tourists every day, there were no long queues, unecessary security check points or chaotic traffic jams at the entrance, making the entry as peaceful as the tiled premises encircling the pagoda. 

   With my daughter at Shwedagon Pagoda

There are several entrances to the shwedagon pagoda. If you don't mind a bit of a climb, you can chose between the over hundreds of steps on the south, west, north or eastern entrance (south being the most preferred and having the least number of steps). Though the shopoholic in me, would have preferred to take the eastern entrance that houses a number of souvenir shops, tea stalls and interesting bazaars, the mommy in me decided to stick to the easiest option of taking the elevators at the southern entrance. And though I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on all the shopping, I was glad to find myself right at the footstep of the 150 year old Bodhi tree. 

The 114 acre sprawling land also houses a number of temples, prayer halls and Buddha statues

A total of five Bodhi trees planted all around as early as in the 1926 is regarded with utmost respect and reverence by the locals and the monks alike. And I couldn't help but consider myself lucky when one of the locals handed me a leaf from the Bodhi tree. It was only once I was handed the leaf did I realise that there were hardly any fallen leaf to be found lying around. Thankfully I was able to get just about three more for my friend, my daughter and my husband and couldn't help but think of it as a sign acknowledging and accepting my arrival.

Though one might need a guided tour to completely understand the significance and the story behind each of the innumerable gilded Buddha statues and hundreds of temples spread across the sprawling 114 acre sacred land, our little group of three chose to simply walk around to absorb the sanctity of this architectural wonder and grandeur of the several Buddha idols. But despite having a detailed map of the the Shewdagon and the entire evening, it was still not enough to offer our respects to the various Buddha images (The Padashin Buddha, Saetawmu Buddha, Sun-Moon Buddha, Shin Saw Pu's Buddha, Chan-Thar-Gyi Buddha, Dhamazedi Buddha, Shin Ma Htee's Buddha, and my personal favorite the Jade Buddha carved out of one piece jade and weighing a total of 324 kgs, to name a few) housed in the different prayer halls. 

Just after sunset, one can see the thousands of oil lamps circling the shrine, glimmering to life

However what we did have time for, was to simply marvel the sight of the thousands of oil lamps circling the shrine glimmering to life, hear the silent whispers of the hundreds of monks praying in the the gigantic shadows cast by the golden pagoda that towered over them and listen to the bustling of devotees as they offered flowers and washed the statues asking for forgiveness for their past sins and wishes for a prospective future. 

I was no devotee, my knowledge of the spiritual world rather limited to a few chants and rituals passed on from my grandmother and great grandmother, yet I couldn't help notice the feeling that had begin to well-up within me as I washed the planetary post that represented the day, my daughter was born. I wasn't sure how many times I was to wash the Buddha idol, the image of the guardian angel and the image of the animal that represented the day (I was only told much later that I was to do it 9 times). I wasn't sure which mantra I was to chant. All I did know was that something changed within me as I sat cross legged engrossed in the sheer beauty that stood in front of me. I knew right away...I may have treaded into its premises an atheist, but was leaving a believer. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Treading the streets of Yangon

By Aswathy Kumar

I still remember the glee on my face when my husband told me we were to stay at a lavish five star hotel for two whole weeks. We had just moved to Yangon.The packing, the travel, the shifting and all the stress that came with a change of location was done. We were finally here and it was time to relax and enjoy all the perks that came with a big move.

I was neither a spendthrift nor a spoilt housewife. Yet I felt no ounce of guilt when I saw my husband swipe his credit card at the hotel reception. I needed it. Felt I deserved it. After all it was only a meager paycheck for all that I had to endure living in a developed nation like the USA. Two years, two long years I had spent mopping, vacuuming, organizing play dates, cooking and what not and it was finally payback time!

I no longer had to cook or make beds in the morning. Instead an extravagant breakfast awaited me every morning at the restaurant cafe. Cinnamom buns, honey glazed croissants, pecan crusted donuts adorned the baker's aisle followed by delicacies from every South East Asian country one could possibly think of. There was the Singaporean Kaya toast, a traditional breakfast dish comprising sweet coconut and egg jam spread over bread, Rice and Maldivian fish curry, Chinese pork dumplings followed by Masala Dosa and parippu vada from my very own home state of Kerala. The sumptuous breakfast was often followed by a movie session and hours and hours of lounging around at the rooftop pool sipping chilled raspberry Mojitos. Life couldn't get any better than this or so I thought.

I had done this routine for three whole days. But then something strange happened. The very same delicacies, the posh lounge bars and the glittery chandeliers began to bore me. The array of different flavored cheesecakes at the bakery, the
free flowing lattes and the mochas or the exquisite teak wood furniture in my master suite failed to excite me. I was bored of the luxury that I so yearned for in the past two years. it was time, I thought. Time to step out of the glitzy shell and explore the streets of Yangon. Time for some reality check, I thought!
    Street eats outside Bogyoke Market

Bogyoke Market

My first stop was obvious being the shopaholic that I was and it's proximity to the Traders hotel that I was staying at. It was going to be the famous Bogyoke Market.
No tourist visit to Yangon is considered complete without stopping by this famous market, also know by it's English name, Scott's market.

Agreed the Aung San Road, where the market is located was way more chaotic than I had expected. Or maybe not!  Maybe It was the clean, beautifully landscaped and snooty pavements of DC that had spoilt me. I had forgotten the noise of honking cars and overloaded buses. I had forgotten the sound of kids playing a game of ball on a lazy afternoon or the sound of an elderly vendor spitting paan on the already tobacco smeared walls.

It was no different from any of the famous shopping streets back in New Delhi, that I had grown up with. It felt nostalgic as I slowly made way through the different vendors selling various varieties of fruits, fried food, old second hand books in Burmese and little tea stalls selling biscuits stored in glass bottles along with a number of other baked delicacies. It was chaotic but I loved it.

One of the scariest part for an expat like me in Yangon was the fact that there was no proper pedestrian crossings or traffic lights and here no one was in a mood to stop no matter how long you waited. So it was a big relief to see that there was a huge bridge for pedestrians to crossover to the other side of the road, leading straight to the market.

   Trying on the traditional Longyi

 Now if it is your first time here, I would recommend starting with the central part of the market. Not only is it cleaner and a bit less chaotic than the other sections, it also houses all that a tourist would potentially want to buy in Yangon. From jewelry made out of different types of stones like jade and turquoise, hand woven lungis and colorful flip-flops to paintings by local artists to my personal favorite; shops selling exquisite lacquerware and wooden and metal religious artifacts.

Ask any woman, what you should pick up while in Myanmar and you can almost be certain that she will answer with a glint in her eyes 'the rubies'. Though there are several high-end and pricey gems and jewelry stores spread out all through the city, the locals feel that the Bogyoke market is equally a great option when it comes to buying authentic rubies. Though one can never be a hundred percent sure in either of the two cases, I would recommend going for the latter especially as I personally believe when it comes to authenticity it is all in the mind. Here you can find beautiful pieces of necklaces, bangles and earrings in rubies, jade and sapphire at a really good bargain. If you prefer, designing your own jewelry, there are several shops on the top floor selling just the stones. 

    My favorite buys! the traditional Myanmar umbrellas 

Unlike the street markets in India where shopkeepers would hover over around you and literally badger you with their goods, here there is no such thing. And I felt perfectly safe walking around in circles with my curious six year old daughter, who made it a point to touch every single artifact displayed in the front of the shops. But here people had no complaints and responded affectionately with a smile or a friendly pat on her tangled curly hair. 

Unlike India, People here are calmer, welcoming and pleasant making it a blissful experience for anyone new. So unlike in Delhi where I would recommend tourists to bring their A-game when it comes to their bargaining skills, here in Myanmar, I would advice you to be gentle and less aggressive. 

   My dream buy, Saphire, Rubi &Emerald Necklace: Vikram are you listening?

A few hours of callously longing around the market and a quick lunch of chicken curry noodles at a nearby Singaporean restaurant for less than $5, it was time to head back to the hotel. As I opened up my plastic bag, exposing a printed blue loungyi, a pair of neon pink flip flops and a sparkly spring bracelet that I had picked up for my daughter, I could see the beige colored walls of the Bogyoke Market through my bedroom window. There was nothing glossy or glamorous about the ancient building; quite unlike the brand new Parksons Mall that lay right adjacent to it. But she was unique, she was charming and full of character unlike any other shopping markets in the city. And I couldn't wait to tread its streets yet again.