Friday, March 20, 2009

Weekend in Colombo

Downtown Colombo
1,500 year old Banyan tree
National flower of Sri Lanka
'Flying foxes', a very large type of fruit bat
On a field trip.....
Roadside lunch sales...
Flipping roti
I (Leann)spent the first weekend of March visiting Colombo, Sri Lanka. The visa I'm on here in India mandates that I have to leave the country after 180 days, so in order to comply I headed east. Naively, I assumed that Colombo would look and feel pretty much like any big Indian city. I was rapidly proved wrong in this, for there were many notable differences between Sri Lanka and India. For example, the streets were wider and less congested, with sidewalks that you can actually walk on. On strolling through Colombo's largest park I was startled to see dozens of young couples holding hands, hugging and kissing (quite passionately, it seemed). India is quite conservative, and PDA's are pretty much taboo (I hasten to add, however, all the couples in Colombo were male/female - Sri Lanka isn't that liberal)! Most women I saw were wearing western clothes, many fewer saris and only a few salwars. Instead of roadside tea stalls or 'tiffin joints' that are omnipresent here in India, the fast food option of choice in Colombo seems to be 'packets'. Each day people drive into the city and then set up card tables with dozens of lunches they have made that morning at home, all individually packaged and wrapped in newspaper. The going price, 800-100 Sri Lankan rupees - or 80cents - 1 USD. The other major easy to note difference in Colombo is an eerily creepy security presence, particularly in the downtown. In a twenty minute walk along the beach promenade, I counted 67 armed military personnel (plus dozens of what I presumed to be army recruits out for their morning jog). Despite this, I enjoyed sightseeing, shopping and some delicious food. Above I have posted some photos of the Lankan flora, from the Viharmadevi park, as well as some food photos - of one of the street corner lunch sellers, and of the chefs at the wonderful Sri Lankan restaurant at the Hilton making roti - I'm posting these especially for my friends Liz and Carlene. Liz, they make their roti different in Sri Lanka - they flip the dough onto the table with both hands until it's stretched out very thin - they were happy to let me try, and it's harder than it looks!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Travels in Tamil Nadu

Hey mom, we found out this plant is called 'Crown of Thorns'
Shore Temple in the background
Nana and Grandpa at the five Radha's
More of the five Radha's
Arjuna's Penance
Krishna, milking a cow
Sunset, Mahabalipuram
Pondicherry Promenade
After returning to Chennai with Nana and Grandpa, we soon set off again, but this time for travel nearby. We headed south along the coast of Tamil Nadu to the seaside village of Mahabalipuram, famous for its ancient stone carvings. The Shore Temple there, a World Heritage site, dates to the seventh century, AD and the 'five ratha' carvings date to the fifth. We were struck not only by how beautiful the carvings were, but how well they had stood up after 15oo years. After that, we were on to the Union Territory of Pondicherry (now, unfortunately renamed 'Puducherry'). Pondi was formerly a French Territory, and it has a definite colonial feel to it, with wide shady boulevards, and cafes that serve croissants and french bread. There we shopped, walked the lovely seaside promenade, and Leann was able to take Naren and Don out to dinner as an early celebration of their 35th wedding anniversary.

Monday, March 9, 2009

We Interrupt this Travelogue

Priya has lost another tooth! This time, a top tooth. It came out last week, and once again, the tooth fairy managed to find her and left a 100 rupee note under her pillow. Congratulations Priya!
We thought that Room 8 from Asa Adams Elementary School, who have been following the blog, might like to see what a 100 rupee note looks like. All the bills here have a picture of Gandhi on them. Currently, the exchange rate is about 50 rupees for each US dollar.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lazy Days on the Backwaters

The last several days of our trip around India with Nana and Grandpa (or 'Gramps', as Priya likes to call him) were spent relaxing in the backwaters of Kerala. We were on the shore of Lake Vembanad, the second largest lake in India, and adjacent to a large bird sanctuary. At the lovely Taj Garden Kumakaron (where, fortuitously we were upgraded three times - first to a luxury villa, then a luxury villa with private pool, then right off the resort onto a houseboat), we enjoyed fishing, bird watching, swimming, playing cards, biking, and just kicking back and relaxing.