Suitcase and World: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Esala Perahera. The 4th Randoli.

Still pinching myself. I can't believe I actually got to see the Esala Perahera! What an amazing two nights!!

 Last night, Chandana took us to a viewing point high above Kandy.  With my naked eye, I could see the elephants parading by but it took a view through my zoom lens to really see well.  That was just a taste of what we would be seeing tonight and it got me so very excited!

Peredeniya Royal Botanic Gardens.

We spent this morning in a garden, in a Royal Botanic Garden known as Perediniya.  It is Sri Lanka's premier garden.

Located just a short drive from where we were staying, it was on our list of must-go-to places in Kandy.  Chandana got all four of us tickets and a map to guide us.  I left it up to Chandana and my brother to decide where to go - they are the real plant lovers so who better to read the map and figure out where the highlights are.

As they consulted the map, I looked around.  It was a very well manicured garden with lots of flowers in bloom.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Love Elephants! Pinnewala.

A trip to see the elephants at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage was always in the plans but it wasn't suppose to happen until another day or so.
Our final destination for today was Kandy and we arrived in to the outskirts of town well ahead of schedule.  There was plenty of time to go to Pinnewala - we would be there to see the afternoon feeding and bathing activities. I was so excited to hear that bit of news from Chandana!  I love elephants and I've never seen one up close - at least not any close than a zoo enclosure would allow me to get. Plus, I've never more than a few elephants at a time. At Pinnewala, they have almost 90 of them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's a lot of Buddhas! Dambulla.

From Sigiriya, it was a short ride to Dambulla and along the way, we took a break to enjoy some King Coconut juice. Though I still had water left in my bottle, it was nice to have a bit of the sweet coconut juice.

And the coconut is large - I can usually share with my brother although coconut is not on his list of favorite drinks.

Chami pulled into a small parking lot and we followed him to the temple. We had to walk alongside the main road for a bit. Though there was no sidewalk, I had no fear of being run over by cars - the drivers in Sri Lanka are well behaved i.e., they follow the rules of the road and stay in the lanes.  Even so, I was careful to not stray over to the road.

The bees are waiting! Sigiriya.

It was an early wake up call this morning. Last night, we had agreed with Chandana that we needed to be at Sigriya early as it would be at least two hour hike up and down and we wanted to avoid doing it in the heat of day. Knowing me, the slow poke, it would probably take more than two hours. :-(

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's all about Polonnaruwa!

Our day this morning began with breakfast on the balcony. 

We had ordered breakfast to be served at 7:30a and the waiter pretty much appeared on the dot with the food. It was our first taste of the string hoppers that is typical of Sri Lanka. The hoppers were accompanied by coconut sambol otherwise known as pol sambol, a green curry sauce and curried tuna. I nibbled a bit on my brother's breakfast as there was more than enough to share. The waiter soon returned with a pot of tea. I'm really enjoying the tea in Sri Lanka - they know how to brew it the way I like it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

And we're off! Anuradhapura.

I was up before the alarm went off at 5:30a. I quickly got out of bed and got ready for the day. I was so keen to get going that I rustled my brother awake the second I was out of the bathroom :-) He grumbled about being woken up so far ahead of time. What?? We only have a half hour to get going and he's wanting to linger in bed. No time for that. He can sleep in the car :-) I pushed him to get going and we were ready a few minutes before 6a.

I opened the door and saw both Marcus and Chandana chatting. I was glad to see that Chandana had arrived on time.

Chandana introduced us to our driver, Chami. He piled our luggage into the back of the mini van. Yes, it's just the two of us and the two of them and we're traveling in a mini van. I thought to myself that seems like overkill but maybe that's how they tour here. My brother and I got into the back seat and we got underway. Finally! The road trip begins!

Chami turned down the main road, in the same direction that we had walked in yesterday. I didn't follow all the turns that he took but as we drove along, I quickly realized that what we thought was Negombo town center was actually the outskirts of town. Soon, we passed through Negombo. It was early morning and the commercial establishments were not yet opened. Even so, I could imagine how lively (i.e., congested) the place would be once the day got going.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

First day. Negombo.

I woke up at about 9:30a this morning to a series of loud thumping sound just outside our window.

I crawled out of bed and peeked out the window. There was a small crew of men working on the building across from the small courtyard. Later on, we would find out from Marcus that he was building an addition to his existing property that would eventually house his home and small office on the first floor and five hotel rooms on the second floor. When done, Angel Inn would grow from three rooms to twelve!

Sri Lanka at Last!

We finally arrived into Sri Lanka this morning - landing bright and early at 1:05am!

We cleared through immigration and customs with ease and our luggage arrived fairly quickly. I think we were off the plane and out the exit door in less than 20 minutes!

I had arranged for a driver to come and pick us up and as we exited the arrivals lounge, I immediately started to scan the crowd for someone holding up a placard with my name on it. It's also during this same time that worry sets in that no one is there waiting for me. Luckily though, there was. As always, we mutually greet each other with smiles of relief.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not Off to a Good Start.

I'm writing this posting as my brother and I are sitting, well I'm sitting, he's laying down resting his eyelids, at departure gate 101 at SFO International Terminal. We're waiting for our 1:40a flight on EVA Airways for Taipei, enroute to Singapore.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Photo by bgag
It somehow seems fitting for me to close out the Research and Planning part of this blog with a post on elephants since their procession during the Esala Perahera was what inspired me to go on this trip in the first place.  Yes, I blame it all on the elephants :-)

In case you hadn't already figured it out, I love elephants.  There's something about these large, lumbering giants that really tugs at my heartstrings.  I always smile when I see images of them.  Like many people I've seen elephants in zoos but I've never seen one in the open, let alone in the wild.  In Yala National Park, we'll have a chance to see elephants roaming free.  I'm really excited about being able to see these creatures in their native habitat.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hill station. Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is a mountain station located about 180 km south of Colombo.  Situated at an elevation of 1,868 meter (6,128 ft) of altitude, the weather will be nice and cool compared to the coastal cities. 

The highland landscape and weather in Nuwara Eliya is perfect for growing the tea bushes that yield the world's finest Orange Pekoe tea.  Of course, yours truly will be bringing back at least a bag or box of the good stuff.....add to my collection of teas from around the world :-)

Friday, July 13, 2012

The countdown begins!

I realize I haven't posted up anything for quite sometime partly because I was preoccupied with wrapping up my blog for my recent trip to India and partly because of other activities taking up my time.  The main purpose of the India trip was work related but of course, I managed to squeeze in some travel time afterwards.  Had a great time!

Even with the distractions, I did manage to spend some time focusing on this trip.  I've confirmed plans with the guide I've hired; I confirmed with my uncle in Singapore that we'll be spending time with him and I'm doing the final check of details with my brother.  The last bit is the most important and I'm impressed to have found out that he had already taken of everything he needed without reminders from me!  He's becoming a very seasoned traveler :-)

A couple weeks ago, I ordered Sri Lankan rupees from the credit union and it was delivered a week later so we have some money to get us going.   At today's exchange rate of 134 LKR to 1 USD, our money will go a long way!

This past week, I had my BlackBerry enabled for international roaming so we'll have a phone to use; my brother can leave his at home.

I also broke down and got a monopod for my camera so I can better stabilize my camera for photos.  Thanks to go my colleague, Vijay, for giving me some pointers on how to use the monopod and to take better night photos.  I'm going to need it for the shots of the Esala Perahera processions.

I still need to confirm with our hotel in Negombo, get my prescription for Lariam filled, pick up a few more of the items on my packing list, call my credit and debit card companies to let them know I'll be traveling and book my seat on SuperShuttle.  Otherwise, I'm ready to go!