Category: Musings & Ramblings



Took me a few minutes to roll out Buduruwagala without stuttering. Budurugawala means “the rock with the statue of Buddha”. It is the largest standing Buddha statue in the island’s Wellawaya in Uva Province and is actually all of 51 feet. Easily 5 stories high. It is also one of 7 rock sculptures to be found in this ancient Buddhist temple complex dating back to the 10th century. A trio of statues stand to the left and right of the 15m central Buddha. With that streak of faded orange, one can only imagine how this set of rock statues must have looked back then. Impressive now, it must have looked truly majestic then.

(Trivia: It is the tallest standing Buddha statue now after the Taliban destroyed the one in Afghanistan in March 2001)

Our bus brought us to the complex gate, after driving past a lake and through this very narrow bridge. Certainly required skillful driving and in that instant, I forgave our driver for all the times he alternated between speeding, overtaking on curves (omg!) and suddenly stepping on the brakes esp while I’m sleeeping. Pheww!

(Trivia: Sri Lanka’s crime rate is largely comprised of road accidents/traffic infractions. That plus adultery, according to our guide)

The complex gate entrance is a short and pleasant walk through a park to where one finds the 7 rock statues. Very well-maintained with a “zen ambience”. The walkways are hemmed in by full grown trees that provided shade on that otherwise hot and humid day. You hear birds chirping and find many butterflies around in this very serene complex. Two resident dogs were found sleeping just before the rock. Took a photo of the pair while my pseudo Buddhist friends paid their respects. Hmmmm.

(Trivia: Other historians have actually dated the statues to the 6th century)

To the left and right of the gigantic standing Buddha is a trio of rock-cut figures all belonging to the Mahayana school of thought. The one on the left is believed to be a Mahayana deity Alokiteshvara, flanked by an attendant and his consort, Tara. The trio of sculptures on the right consists of Vajrapani ( the Tibetan Bothisatva) flanked by Natha (the future Buddha) and Vishnu. The rock on which these were carved looks like a kneeling elephant with a head bent towards the ground. Tantric influence can be gleaned here as one finds Vajrapani holding an hourglass-shaped thunderbolt symbol of Tibetan origin. Of interest is the hole near the right foot of the central Buddha statue. Shaped like a flame from an oil lamp, it is always wet and smelling of mustard oil. There is not one explanation for this.

(Last photo: Thanks, Angel R)

Buddhists, Pseudo Buddhists, Buddhist-wannabees and non-Buddhists will all enjoy the serenity of this place. So peaceful, so quiet. You may visit way too many temples and shrines in Sri Lanka, but please don’t miss this if only for a few minutes of calming silence. Besides, you don’t need to take off your shoes here. 😊

My 2018 Travel Wishlist


I have drawn up my bucket list back in 2013 and has since struck off a few from the list. Problem is, for every country ticked off, there’s 2 more to add. So yes, it is a growing list. Wanderlust. Why fight it? Well, for one — my travel fund is fast depleting while the list keeps growing. I am also starting to feel my age 😢 though I strive to shake off any such anxiety. Keeping in mind to travel safely, comfortably but not necessarily luxuriously I need to plan my trips more wisely. And resist visiting the same favorite destinations —God help me! 🙏🏻

Like an old truck seeking new directions, I am very happy with the places I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve shared with family and friends. Finally, I managed to travel to Peru, India, Halong Bay (Vietnam), Myanmar & Finland since the list was drawn. I have also managed to do not one but 2 caminos — the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela, as well as from Viterbo (Italy) to the Vatican City. Plus the challenging first 24kms of the Camino Frances from Saint Jean Pied de Port. Not bad for an old hag 😜

Yet the unchecked list remains. Galapagos. Northern Lights. The many lovely countries now comprising the former Yugoslavia. Hungary. Iguassu Falls. Canadian Rockies. New Zealand. Exotic Sri Lanka. Tibet. Other South American and African countries. Not to mention the list of domestic destinations waiting to be struck off! And perhaps another (longer) camino.

Photos from the Net

This March, Sri Lanka is it. Come April-May, my childhood friend and grandnephew should be free to travel with me. Destination yet unknown. Before my Schengen visa expires this year, I may as well do another trip to Europe. And in October-November, another trip to Sydney to visit family and meet up with friends who’d hop from Sydney to Kiwi land. I am very, very tempted to join them for the New Zealand leg too but we’ll see. This wanderlust is making me rethink my retirement. Not in the sense that I want to go back to work but more in terms of seeking other funding sources. (How????) In the same vein, I seriously need to plot my travel calendar within my travel fund in the next 5 years. Age is creeping in, and the “bolder, more adventurous, more energy-demanding trips” seek precedence over the more leisurely, relaxing, boketto-mode travels which can be dealt with once I (sadly) turn septuagenarian! 😫 — by which time, I plan to run a blog series on “Easy Travels for Seniors”. Wish me luck, I need it. 😘🙄🤪

The Joy In My Heart


Once, I waxed poetic

Nothing grand, nowhere epic

Wordsmith, surely I am not

Just speaking from the heart.

Every morn I ponder

Thinking aloud, still sober

What countless blessings You gave

So much more than I deserve.

It’s this joy in my heart

The cheer in that sacred part

Such a gift, so precious

Stuck in my subconscious.

Not everything is on fleek

God lets happen even if you’re meek

Your gift of cheer I seek

To live life’s joys at its peak.

(Photo taken more than 30 years ago)


Eat well, laugh often, love much! This is our wish for everyone in 2018!

Who cares if you keep going back to the same “pre-loved” places? While I do have my bucket list, it can’t be more serious than being with loved ones. My family. My friends. The new friends I meet are a bonus. And my heart overflows with gratitude.

As the year ends and a new one begins, my heart is filled to the brim with fond memories that money can’t buy. What’s been, has been. You can’t go back and “create” your history. You make it as you go along. Your past is THAT. Can’t change it. So be mindful of your present, to gain a past to remember with fondness.

From my family to yours, God bless us all this Christmas Season as we remember Him who is our greatest present. Merry Christmas, everyone! 🍾🍸🥂

Happy Thoughts For You


She painted on canvas & paper,

Now on plywood and leather

Perhaps ceramic next or fabric?

So paint me something eccentric.

Varying moods, divergent themes

As night sets in and lights go dim

What inspires her, I wonder

Not so ready with an answer.

New iPhone turned out a lemon

Stirred up moods like a demon

Oh how she vented her woes

As she treated the canvas like foes.

Boards and canvas bought in bulk

To frame this much art stock

Yet inspiration made her fingers fidget

To paint Dali on her denim jacket.

Three murals and countless sketchings

Quick strokes, untutored paintings

You’ve worked hard for those 2 exhibits

I suspect a Matisse in you inhabits.

Whenever I spot paint on your hands

A palette recklessly lying on the floor

Some brushes left hanging to dry

I know you visited your happy world.

Happy thoughts, happy world

Nurture those happy thoughts

No matter how blurred or fleeting

Nurture it. Let your heart keep it. ❤️

Abu, Apo 💕


A fellow blogger once asked how many countries I have visited. A friend once “humble-bragged” by advising I should start planning to cover all 7 continents to “round up my travels”.  Unfortunately, I don’t keep count. Why do they, I wonder? Nor does it matter to me what others think I missed or should have done. I go where it pleases.  And beyond the sights, my memorable experiences are always characterized by the people I interacted with. That includes the people I traveled with. I have the good fortune of traveling with many, varied circles of friends outside of family. The foodies, the sightseers, the adventurers, the history buffs, the art and culture vultures, the hikers, as well as those who just long for some R & R. Not stuck with any single group, I relish the company of each. That includes a peculiar group I’d call the “losers” — people who don’t care getting LOST, seeing the ”mishap’ as another opportunity to explore! 






In Bhutan, I found a very admirable tour and hiking guide. My friend Beth and I “adopted” Sonam whom we referred to as our godson. We are still in touch, thanks to Facebook. We were updated with Sonam’s adventures from a young man to bridesgroom to young father, moving from Bhutan to Australia. I credit Sonam for making it possible for me to hike up to Taktshang Monastery aka Tiger’s Nest. The hike is quite dramatic considering you see the site high up in the mountain from the base where pilgrims and tourists commence the hike or horseback ride for the first 1 hour. I chose the latter to conserve my energy for the hike and met Tring, the old man whose horse is likewise called Tring. Don’t ask why. Meanwhile, I left my friend Beth with our driver who grew years older (again, don’t ask me why 🙄) accompanying my friend up to the Halfway Station. Tashi Delek!





Still on Bhutan, I have to say I’ve been so impressed with how kind and caring their people are. Whenever I stopped for oxygen breaks, there were locals eyeing me as if asking if I need some help. They’d only stop staring and got on with whatever they were doing when I smiled to reassure them I’m still alive 😊 Also, I never found a race so detached from material wealth as these Bhutanese. Sure there were poor people around, but I never once felt that money mattered most to them. I sure hope that didn’t change over the years since I’ve been there. 






Because I run a blog site, one of my followers learned I was staying in Madrid for nearly 3 months back in 2013. He messaged to invite me to a good Cocido de Madrileño lunch plus an afternoon tour of the city’s hidden gems. The best tour I ever had! Under the tourist radar sites included trespassing on strangers’ apartments to view better preserved medieval walls of Madrid. Well not exactly trespassing — Marco actually knocked on strangers’ apartment doors to view the walls from their porches!  And these locals were most accommodating. 




Because I made many solo trips in and around Spain, I met a lot of new friends and interacted with many locals. Before getting off a bus, I’d ask the driver which is the best way to reach the Plaza Mayor. Invariably, the bus driver will advise me he’d be back on that dropoff by a certain time for my ride back. Better than riding a cab! On that New Year’s Eve I was in Madrid, I jumped up and down with the locals,shared drinks with them, and even hugged them as the clock struck 12. My niece and them locals were family 😘




In Mongolia, my friends and I had a chance to visit a ger, eat an authentic lunch, and observe how a typical Mongolian family lead a nomadic lifestyle. I parted with my locally-crafted necklace to give to the “lady of the ger” who cooked and served us some dumplings and tea right inside the ger. We didn’t sleep in a ger. I don’t think I could unless one goes to the gers put up for tourists with modern conveniences 😜 






In Hanoi, I found children playing “sipa” which literally translates to kick. It’s a native game in Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and other Asian countries. I joined those kids for a game in my wedged sandals while carrying my bag. Beat that! Then in India, I strayed from our travel group and found ourselves in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple where they were preparing to feed a long line of devotees. The volunteer cooks looked tired but friendly. And locally? I remember spotting a fellow blogger in a Masskara festival in Bacolod City. I approached Enrico and here’s our photo before the parade started! Listen to the drum roll… 




For more photos and details, just click on the links/highlighted headings. 

For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/

http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/

Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration


I’ve been advised NOT to miss Port Arthur when visiting Tasmania. In fact, you can say I was strongly advised to make this trip to Port Arthur to know Australia better. Now, I’m NOT a big fan of jailhouses, penal settlements and con history, but Australia’s convict heritage is truly one for the books. In a manner of speaking, it is AUSTRALIA. 





There are over 30 buildings, ruins and restored houses spread over land some 96 kilometers southeast of Hobart.  It is Australia’s Alcatraz. Except that the convicts who settled here were non-Australians, many shipped all the way from Great Britain. Yup, them European convicts settled here in Port Arthur and pretty much “built” this former timber camp. Some of those who came were adolescents, even as young as 9 years old. What can a 9 year old do so wrong that’s deserving of this punishment away from his home? Quite a number of these law-breakers got truly harsh punishment for what may today be regarded as trivial offenses like stealing bread. As repeat offenders, they were classed as the hardest of British criminals. Here in Port Arthur, these convicts did hard physical labor. Escape is far-fetched but not impossible. But any escape attempts were punished with lashes. That is, assuming you survived the dog line in Eaglehawk Neck which connects Tasman Peninsula with Mainland Tasmania. Yet, that is nothing compared with the “silent punishment system” where they were put in solitude within a Separate Prison, and told to keep quiet. Hooded, without light and sound, many grew insane. Spirits broken. 







The preserved buildings here include the Commandant’s Cottage in the best part of the area. Overlooking the calm waters, the cottage stands in stark contrast to the Penitentiary and the Separate Prison.  For a while, it was turned into a hotel and there are reminders of such “modernity” in some corners of the former Hotel Port Arthur.








Other cottages and buildings include the Asylum, Catholic Church, Parsonage, the Medical Officer’s Cottage, the Chaplain’s House, the Accountant’s House, the Hospital, and let’s not forget the lovely gardens and jetty. The “ruins” in my book is a top attraction more than the “preserved” buildings.  There’s something about those walls, bare, roofless  and all, begging to tell some story.  The Penitentiary’s bars and brick walls. How many convicts have touched those, remembering a life they couldn’t get back to anymore?  How many have looked out from those windows, hanging on to every memory of a past life? 






This open-air museum needs a minimum of 4 hours to explore. It’s really an easy stroll but the place being so packed with dark history begs some really serious attention. And I’m not even talking about  the not-too-long-ago  Port Arthur massacre. (I leave you to Google that other dark history). No, you can’t miss this. Tons of negative vibes, I know, which typically drive me away. But this is Australia’s convict history.  So much to learn. So much to feel sad about. So much cruelty. 







For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/

http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/

Like me on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration


Richmond is only half an hour drive east of Hobart. Our guide Tassie Mark dropped us off along the main road to walk around this old Australian colonial town. We ticked off Australia’s oldest bridge, oldest Catholic Church, oldest jailhouse and wandered around the many charming Georgian buildings and cottages. If there was time, we would have lingered on the banks of the river cum picnic grounds. 







If you have a car, it would have been lovely to stay in the many B & B’s here, stepping out for brekkie in the neighborhood bakeries and just driving into Hobart’s CBD then back for the night. Less crowd. More nostalgic. Quiet. But that is not to say Hobart isn’t. Just a matter of preference. The historic bridge is very charming. Both under and above. We tried the river walk and actually met up with the rest of our tiny tour group near Australia’s oldest Catholic Church a tad late. Sorry. 





Richmond is a very popular destination for its colonial architecture and convict heritage. There is valid reason why the Richmond bridge is its most photographed landmark. Made of sandstone in 1823, built by convict labor, it is almost magical to walk under it along the riverbank. Fortunately or unfortunately, this historic town was “bypassed” with the construction of the Sorrell Causeway in 1827.  Frozen in time? Well, it seems it has remained so the last 100 years or so before it was rediscovered and gained prominence as a day destination out of Hobart. The serene ambiance adds to the charm and time’s not wasted just meandering around this colonial village. 





 

The Richmond Arms Hotel, the old courthouse, the oldest Gaol in the country, Saint Luke’s Church, the smell wafting from the neighborhood bakeries, the quaint antique and souvenir shops. If you have time, snap up some deli and pastries and lay out a picnic mat by the banks of the Coal River while gazing up the Richmond Bridge with the church spire peeping above the old historic bridge.







 

We passed Richmond on our way to Port Arthur. A good “aperitif” to a day well-spent. We were in luck joining this tiny group of only 10 pax with Tassie Mark behind the wheels rattling off historical trivia, opinions and Tassie jokes! We liked Richmond. And the coffee and quiche in this bakery is great. Trust me! 






For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/

http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/
Like me on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration


You can’t leave Donostia-San Sebastián without promising to be back. No, you’d actually be swearing and checking your calendar to mark off dates for your repeat txikiteo! How I love this Basque city and its txikiteo or Pintxo bar crawl. So lively, so crowded, so full of energy and if you don’t watch it, so full of calories. 






San Sebastián’s skyline, its coast, its Basque architecture, the mountains looking like bookends to the equally lovely playas, the many Pintxo bars and restaurante. How can you not be so enthralled by its magnificent beauty? You come here to swim, surf or just bake in the sun, toes digging into the sand. At night, you get ready to do the txikiteo and enjoy the gildas and pintxos and cheesecake and txakoli! Life is good in Donostia-San Sebastián. 






Whenever I’m asked which Pintxo bars to check out here, the following come top of mind: La Cuchara de San Telmo, La Viña (cheesecake, baby!), La Cepa (Jamon Jabugo), Bar Zeruko, Casa Urola, Atari Gastroteka, Borda Berri, all in Parte Vieja. All just a few steps apart. Plus Bar Azkena in Mercado La Bretxa.  There are more. But heading back, I had this list like it’s a mission. 😉










Last time, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment.  Plus a night in Pension Larrea right in Parte Vieja — so perfect for txikiteo nights when you take pub crawls real seriously! This time, I tried a very modern and hip hostel (they have private ensuite too) which I thought is very cool. My latest discovery here is A Room In The City. It actually costs more than a room right in Parte Vieja but it is more quiet here. Plus it is very near Buen Pastor Cathedral (which runs straight into Yglesia de Santa Maria in Old Town) and has a pretty neat sun deck and spacious dining hall and lounge. Next visit, I’d likely book here again. Perhaps spend more time in the deck or lounge. 




Check this out: http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/a-room-in-the-city-san-sebastian


For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/

http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/

Like me on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration


Well …… it’s a 7 hour layover and we’re enjoying the food, drinks and huge shower room (my favorite corner here) of Al Dhabi Lounge in Abu Dhabi while waiting for our connecting flight to Manila. Still, it’s a seriously long wait and what better thing to do? BLOG ! Yes, before those memories fade. 


Palacio Cristal in Parque de Retiro


Travels have a way of emptying one’s mind of day-to-day concerns. Perhaps to make room for our fond memories. There is that giddy anticipation over new places, flavors and experiences. I delight in the novelty, discovery as well as in the rediscovery of past delights. Cameras make great memory-keepers but our minds play out varied reactions  with each discovery and replay of happy thoughts. Priceless. When I was growing up “alone” (busy parents, older sisters in college), I learned to read a lot and write down my thoughts. I completed many diaries and even named them. Dear Betty. Dear Jane. Dear Henry. Dear Kevin. Whenever I feel seriously sad, I write. Whenever I feel happy, I write more. Life is a celebration. And it’s worth writing about. If only to remind me of the many things to be grateful for.  No handwritten diaries this time. Thank God for blogsites where I can store my journals in cyberspace while drinking my cortado!


Mi favorito, Cafe Cortado!




Mi hermana. Mi sobrina. Mi nieto. Mi amigos y amigas. All together in dear Madrid, which is home for 6 years to my dear sobrina. I have visited yearly for at least a month to nearly 3 months. Left alone in our Madrid crib in times past, I’ve learned to appreciate Madrid’s many quaint alleys, tiny squares, specialty museums, roadside taperias, and many off-the-beaten paths. No tocar (don’t touch) rule in mercados doesn’t apply in my favorite fruit and vegetable stall. There, this “suki” can enjoy touching the zucchini, potatoes, carrots, spinach, asparagus, naranja, mushrooms, etc. The vendor simply hands me a bowl or basket to fill with my chosen greens and fruits. And the cheese store where I get to taste slices of different quezos — “para probar” (to try). Or ask the fish vendor to clean the fish I buy. Mercado visits are no obligations here, they’re actually delightful adventures. And walking without maps, missing turns and getting lost? There’s always a cafe bar or Iglesia to relax in, meditate, or simply sit out and while away the time. If you chance upon a wedding in the church, it’s your good luck. Cheap thrills! 


Parroquia de San Jeronimo. Behind Museo Del Prado.


And so our Spanish Holiday with sidetrips to Lourdes and Saint John Pied de Port in France is over. Temps rise as our plane lands in Manila. Our hair still a tad limp and wet from the shower we took in the lounge. Our bellies still full from the buffet spread. Our hearts warm with the precious bonding moments. Our minds filled with happy memories. Our leg muscles reminding us we’re no longer spring chickens. And our pockets dry and burned out. Tee Hee. 😉 It would likely take a week to recover our energy to prep for another flight Down Under. From the last dregs of winter to early spring to the intense summer heat of Manila before we catch the onset of Autumn in Sydney. Phew! 


Nap Time En Parque Retiro 😴


Adios, España. Hasta luego.


For more blogs celebrating life, check out : 

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/
http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/

Like me on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration