Tag Archive: Travel, travels



I’d rather spend a half hour here by the shore, taking photos of these stilt fishermen or just watching them, than shop in a mall. While it may seem odd to find these fellas fishing so near the shore, this fishing style is unique to Sri Lanka. In fact, this scene is one of the iconic images of this island nation called “the pearl of the Indian Ocean”.

We found 4 of them along this stretch between Weligama and Unawatuna, a small fishing village close to Galle. Genuine stilt fishermen or actors? I do not know, but they sure make a lovely picture with their fishing props called pettas, using a crossbar tied to a pole driven on the sand not far from shore.We were not accosted for tips though. Honestly? I’d understand if these men are “posers” than real fishermen. The tsunami of 2004 has changed the shoreline of this island country making it difficult to fish using this method. Fish catch must be so meager that “posing” for tourists and photography buffs must earn them more money. Still, it’s quite a sight. Contrived or not, one gets the idea of this fishing style unique only to this country. Part of their culture, though I’m not sure the tradition can be passed on to the next generation. All the more that I felt compelled to watch them, and document the experience.

(Photo Credit: Iyay I)

The morning after this scene, we woke up in our beachfront hotel seeing how the more traditional method of fishing is done. At 6am I took a video of this boat sailing off while my friends found a few fishermen with their morning catch. An assortment of sceneries that early morn — swimmers, surfers, joggers, fishermen, people just strolling by the shore, doing their morning exercises, playing with the stray dogs, etc.

. Photo Credit: Rick C
. Photo Credit: Rick C

If you’ve come to Sri Lanka for some sun, sand, surf and stilt fishing, your best bet is to stay in Weligama. Hotels by the bay offer a long shoreline and the morning activities (fishing, surfing, swimming, whale watching in nearby Mirissa) make for a great start each day. We didn’t do any whale watching but spent a lot of time just watching the palm trees by the shore from the comforts of our hotel balcony. Along the coast to Weligama, you’d even find these chintzy villas with ornately carved wooden eaves. Not too far from the capital of Colombo and neither is it as busy and frenzied as Negombo or Bentota. We loved our stay here and won’t mind heading back for a longer stay in this beachfront hotel. Weligama Bay Marriott Resort and Spa is NOT paying me for this but this hotel is FTW, no kidding. Even their buffets are TDF. 😘

Photo Credit: Iyay I.

It took 3 hours via train that meandered through mountain ranges, tea gardens and the occasional water falls.Nuwara Eliya is such a revelation. As is the entire Sri Lanka! We drove south from hot and humid Sigiriya and Kandy towards the largely Muslim Nuwara Eliya where temps dove to as low as 14 Celsius. We arrived late afternoon in this land of the Ceylonese Moors. Pretty, pretty. The lush green tea plantations blanketed this cool hill country as we zigzagged up just as the fog cleared. Swathes of lush tea bushes greet you in Nuwara Eliya. The aroma of tea gardens puts you into a mood that cocoons you off all negativity and hostility. The serenity embraces you. Trust me on this 😊

(Photo Credit of the Falls: Topper R)

We only wish we could stay longer in this rather odd hotel with so much wasted space. Not that we’re complaining, but a room for 2 with a maid’s room, a powder room, washing machine, a kitchenette, three toilets, a massive dining table and living set? It may not be as tastefully done, but we felt like royalty. And the dinner buffet which included local food and our own chicken adobo (they must have Filipino kitchen staff?) plus the inviting spread of yummy desserts sealed a happy, sweat-free weekend in Nuwara Eliya. Back on topic though (how I digress…), we could have taken the 60 km bus ride in an hour instead of the 3 hour train journey but heck, why miss this majestic scenery, pray tell? The nearest train station is Nanu Oya, just 15 minutes away. By itself, the train station provided a glimpse of life here. Many European tourists joined us on this train ride, as did school children in their starchy white uniforms. Come boarding time, we dodged our way among the strawberry vendors and the resident sleeping dogs. In the first 30 minutes as the train chug-chugged out of Nanu Oya Station, all hell broke loose. There was a frenzy to slide down train windows to get better views of the gardens and falls. It was drizzling but no one cared. The more adventurous opened train doors to literally hang out of the moving train. The view, the entire scenery has that effect on everyone.

(Thanks Topper for this photo.)

(Thanks, Iyay, for these “hanging” photos)

Those 3+hours breezed by and we found ourselves with so many photos of the train, rail tracks, tea plantations, and more. There was a break among the hills and the trees as we waited to snap more good photos but the mist fogged out all the views. Before we knew it, we were already in Ella. Warmer now, but eager for more adventures. Oh, Sri Lanka — you pulled out so many surprises for us! 💕💕💕


If you are keen about piling up a list of visited UNESCO Heritage Sites, you’d do well going to Sri Lanka. We’ve been here only 3 days and our “scoreboard” is nothing less than impressive! From the sweltering heat of Negombo, Anuradaphura and Sigiriya, we sweated our way to Kandy.

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

I am very impressed with the Dambullah cave shrines that I had to write a separate blog on it. (Just click to check the link here.). But in Anuradhapura, one finds the biggest brick structure in the world, and 2nd biggest man-made structure from the ancient world, next only to the Egyptian pyramids. Built centuries before Christ, the Jetavanaramaya followed the designs of many stupas to be found in India. The bell-shaped dagoba is claimed to have its height equal to the depth of its footing. At an original height of 400 feet and being made up of 90 million bricks, that’s colossal. Another is Abhayagiri Dagoba, which is another huge ancient stupa. Truly, Buddhism flourished here.

Anuradhapura is a pilgrimage site because of the Bodhi tree, claimed to have grown from a sapling of the same bodhi tree in India under which Buddha found enlightenment. The pilgrims are dressed in white, barefoot, and ready with their flower offerings. It was more than a kilometer walk from where we got off our bus towards the Bodhi Tree site. Maybe 3 kilometers walking to and from, combined. Not a problem except that it was high noon when we walked to the site. Along the path, there were monkeys all around. At one corner, a tent was set up with tables on which flowers were laid out. On a couple more tables, volunteers handed out free drinks to the pilgrims. Men and women and children, all dressed in white.

There are many more in Anarudhapura whose names I can’t recall now. Like the white stupa near the Bodhi Tree. And some 2 hours drive from this ancient, heritage city is that iconic rock fortress called Sigiraya. I was daunted by its height and my readings assured me that climbing it is not for the fainthearted. With my blistered right foot, it was definitely some adventure I dare not even consider.

We likewise visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic. We didn’t see the relic itself as it is housed/enshrined on the 2nd floor of this temple in Kandy. Oh yes, weren’t we brave to visit soon after skirmishes between Buddhists and Tamil Muslims occurred here? In fact, the state just declared a State of Emergency but all we found was a police-controlled/secured Kandy. Very safe. The only sad thing about it is that many social media sites were suspended!

Sri Lanka is by and large, a Buddhist state. But in Nuwara Eliya, most local folks were Tamil Muslims or Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans who practice Islam. Also called Sri Lankan or Ceylonese Moors, they comprise the majority in the cooler hills of this tea country, and are the 3rd largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. In the capital of Colombo, we missed a visit to the grand-looking Red Mosque. But not the much- and most-visited Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in the country’s busy capital where we spent a good one hour of peace and quiet. In Galle, the Galle Fort Mosque is hard to miss. We found it while exploring the ramparts here one rainy noontime. Let’s hope this happy co-existence of 2 faiths are not muddled by political issues nor threatened by calls to secession. I so love Sri Lanka and pray peace and order prevails in this land of cheerful, smiling folks.

Thanks Beth for this last photo.


Five caves. Buddha images counting over 150. Standing. Reclining. Seated. Statues. Paintings. Buddha images everywhere. On the cave walls. On the cave ceiling. All over. As in all over. This is certainly the largest, and best-preserved cave temple complex cum Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. A pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries, the caves are NOT natural caves but actually caves CARVED out of rocks. Try imagining monks working and carving these cave shrines! Over the years, arched colonnades were carved out, ceilings painted with intricate images of Buddha, some cave entrances gilded. Much were developed in stages. And present-day Dambulla is just breath-taking. I meant that aesthetically, and physically, physiologically. 😥Gawd, it’s so hot and humid in here!

You need to take off your shoes going into the cluster of 5 cave shrines. You may wrap a skirt or shawl around your shorts too. But be sure you get a fair price for having your shoes stored. The guy manning the operation seems to be quoting a wide range of storage rates. It was a good day for business for him. Then there’s the story of a king who hid himself in this cave temple where some statues and paintings date back to the first century B.C. When King Valagamba returned to his throne in Anaradaphura after a 14-year exile, he had this rock temple complex built to thank the Buddhist monks who prayed, meditated and protected him from his enemies.

Walking barefoot, I felt some discomfort walking on this hot, humid day. True enough, I went back to our hotel with a blister on my sole. And I’m sure the blister had nothing to do with the uphill walk to reach the holy rock complex. The hot and uneven ground we walked on must have done it on my delicate soles. Oh well. Meanwhile, this UNESCO Heritage Site continues to draw in curious tourists. The Sri Lankans are deeply rooted in Buddhism and these cave shrines prove it. The statues have not lost their color, and the ceiling paintings and murals are very impressive.

We were soaking, dripping in sweat by the time we were done. The downhill exit was most welcome because of the afternoon breeze. Monkeys were all around. The crowds just enough — to show homage, but without bumping each sweaty bod against another sweaty bod. Just be sure you bring wet wipes or better, a wet face towel to wipe all that grime, dust and sweat off your face and limbs. And bring a bottle of water! Having said that, be sure to wear comfortable clothes intended for a real humid afternoon. Only the magnificent Buddha images kept me from bailing out of this cave complex!

Abuela Con Nieta


Traveled with my nieta over the holidays — her first time in Europe. We based ourselves in Madrid but made 3 night trips to Paris, Barcelona and San Sebastian. Paris was at the top of her list but she ended up loving San Sebastian best and Barcelona second best. I wasn’t surprised.

She loves visits to the art galleries and spent lotsa time there. And I mean lotsa time! San Sebastian has no museos in the league of Louvre nor Prado, but she digs the vibe in this Basque city so much that I’m convinced she can live there.

Traveling as abuela y nieta, our pair must have invited some attention. Or at least we were marked. Or perhaps SHE was marked. More than once, I was asked “Donde esta la chica?” She’d always find a vacant seat on the train where she can more comfortably sit, or stray away from me while we’re in line. She’d get free admission to some museos when the man at the window would ask if she’s a student. No student ID nor passport copy, but she gets in free or at a discount while her abuela pays the regular rate. She’s out of her teens now but still acts like a child like when I couldn’t get a decent shot of her without her tongue sticking out or her crinkling her nose.

Our vacation lasted a full month. She’d tease we didn’t quarrel as much as expected and laugh. I was happy to show her around, much that museos and art galleries were coming out of my ears. She discovered she’s a good dishwasher and that she easily forgets things. I discovered I can appreciate street and urban art too. We share food preferences and love bubblies. She likewise shops like me — quick, decisive and wise. Ahem.

I am certain “art appreciation” was the highlight of this trip. I have seen how she spent for art materials and art books, more than she spent for those fashion stuff. For sure, she has set her sights on a return trip knowing how she has enjoyed this holiday.

While in Madrid, she found time to meet with her friends now studying there. It was amusing to see her playing tour guide cum photographer. Their photos speak volumes on how much they enjoyed each other’s company, sticking tongues and all 😜 She loves Spain. And judging by how she’s been painting lately, mi nieta is inspired. 💕👩🏻‍🎨🎨

Travels with #aponimamu:(Just click on the link)

Around Paris

Louvre and Centre Pompidou

Bohemian Paris

Touchdown, San Sebastian

Txikiteo in San Sebastian

The Playas of San Sebastian

Traveling Paintbrush of Anna

Museo Guggenheim (Bilbao)

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)

Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa (Madrid)

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella

To Montserrat and Back

A Pleasant Moorish Surprise

Not Segovia, But Alcala de Henares

Street Art In Spain

Some Musings and Ramblings:

Abuela Con Nieta

Happy Thoughts for Anna P


If I were traveling solo, I’d likely NOT pay much attention. But my nieta drew me closer to urban art. In my book, they are pure and simple graffiti. Except of course for the open air sculptures in brass or bronze. Not so, says my artist-nieta. So I looked closer. Yeah, there’s an element of “intimacy” in such a public art expression. A connection of sorts. Some make sense, others don’t. Like this piece in Barcelona near Parc Güell. A pair of eyes to “guard” the shop. A closer scrutiny reveals they’re Albert Einstein’s eyes. Or this piece in Zaragosa near the Mercado Central, just a few meters from the Plaza del Pilar. Shop for the bad kids? Hmmm. And it was Christmastime when we found this.

There is an area called La Tabacalera in Madrid. A venue for self-expression but we failed to visit the area as it rained, snowed or hailed the last few days of our Madrid stay. That would have been interesting. But walking home, we weren’t deprived of Madrid’s rebel spirit and creative permissiveness. The shops either sported these graffiti, or someone sneaked in to express himself while no one’s looking.

Atocha Station has some interesting artworks on display just outside the station’s Arrivals area. And there’s Tupperware — a hipster bar frequented by young locals. The bar’s front displays some artwork that changes from time to time.

In San Sebastian and Zaragosa, we found many walls, doors, defaced with graffiti. Like spray-painted Swastikas, Hitler images, or just plain messages.

I can imagine shadowy characters sneaking in with their stencils and spray paint cans, finishing the job in a few minutes lest they get caught. Mind you, my nieta was having all these crazy ideas herself to a point she had a stencil ready and a can of spray paint. Yay! Time to go home.

To Montserrat & Back


Home of the Black Madonna. Just an hour’s journey via R5 from Placa de Espanya Station in Barcelona heading towards Manresa. One must decide before the train ride whether to ride the “connecting” cable car or funicular Cremallera up to the monastery. If you’ve decided to take the cable car, you need to get off the R5 train at the Aeri de Montserrat. If you are taking the funicular, you get off at the next station, the Monistrol de Montserrat. Slightly longer but cheaper. Combined tickets (train+cable car OR train+Cremallera) can be purchased at Placa de Espanya.

Either way, the ride guarantees stunning views. Montserrat literally translates to “serrated mountains”. The train weaves through the mountains as it climbs, and the cable car or cremallera gives an even more panoramic view as the short ride transports you right on Monastery grounds. The Black Madonna sits inside and at the top of the altar inside the basilica. We waited in line with other pilgrims for half an hour to go up and touch the Black Madonna. We also heard mass where Gregorian chants were sung by a boys’ choir from the monastery’s boarding school. On Saturdays, the chants are sung by the monks. We came on a Friday and the singing was heavenly!

Either before or after the visit to the basilica, you can linger around to appreciate the stunning beauty of Montserrat. Or light a candle and say more prayers. We did both. But we couldn’t stay longer outdoors because it was friggin’ cold! We could even hardly go past the beautiful square & courtyard of the Monastery, because of the freezing weather. Then and there, I ditched plans to check out the footpaths and hiking trails. Not even a funicular ride to reach higher grounds or to check St. Michael’s Cross or Santa Cova could lure me to engage in any adventure. Besides, it’s way past our feeding time 😩

< img src=”https://marilil.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/img_8569-1.jpg&#8221; class=”size-full”>

And so we’ve decided to have our adventure inside the Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat instead. The hotel is right beside the Monastery. Other lunch options include the Cafeteria which I’ve tried twice before. Nothing fancy. But a peek into the hotel’s dining area and a browse-through of its Menu convinced us that we’re ready for a proper meal. Lamb for the nieta and pulpo for the señora abuela. And a small bottle of vino blanco between us. Purrrrrfect!

< img src=”https://marilil.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/24510024947_97d078fd03_o-1.jpg&#8221; class=”size-full wp-image-13396″ height=”3024″ width=”4032″>

< img src=”https://marilil.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/img_4635.jpg&#8221; class=”size-full”>

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella


My nieta said she can live here. She had her entire face nearly pressed on the window as we trained into Barcelona Sants Station, then hopped on the metro for Liceu Station in La Rambla. A short walk to our hotel….. and La Boqueria. We knew we won’t grow hungry in this part of town.

It was reassuring to find many policemen and patrol cars every so many meters in this part of town. We felt safe walking out of our hotel right into La Rambla. We made trips to La Boqueria for breakfast and lunch, only to find that the resto beside our hotel serves very good paella negra. I kid you not. Just don’t order the sangria which is exhorbitantly priced! We were happy with our meal till we asked for “la cuenta”. And so we justified that bill by saying we got a good discount from Museu Picasso, viewed/stepped on a Joan Miró artwork for free, and discovered the pleasure of strolling past Barri Gotic and enjoying La Ribera and El Born. Swell.

La Rambla is a strip that joins Placa Catalunya at one end with La Rambla del Mar on the other end. If you care for fountains and doves or need to get on a hop on/ hop off sightseeing bus, walk towards Placa Catalunya. If you want the sea breeze and errr, more doves, proceed towards the waters. Along the strip itself, you have La Boqueria, Liceu Theatre, and Palau Güell Museum on one side and on the other side, Barri Gotic which includes the Placa Real, and Barcelona Cathedral.

Farther on, you reach the La Ribera and the less touristy El Born neighborhood. Still part of the charming Ciutat Vella, without the hordes of tourists. Having spent time in this area, enjoying quiet dinners, one is inclined to think 80% of the tourists are either in Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, La Rambla, La Boqueria, Casa Batllo or La Pedrera.

After all, Barcelona is largely all about Gaudi. Many on every tourist’s list are creations of Antoni Gaudi. No one takes the blame here — the man’s a genius! My nieta can’t have enough of him.

From The Archives:

So Much To Thank Gaudi For


It’s a nursery rhyme I find myself humming each time I come visiting Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Sure, most people would visit to view what’s on exhibit inside the museo, while others would be quite content just viewing Guggenheim’s magnificent architectural wonder made of titanium, glass and limestone. In a sense, one can say the most significant work of art in this museo is the modern and contemporary style of the edifice itself. Designed by Frank Gehry, completed in 1997, hailed as a 20th century masterpiece. And indeed, it is! But much that I find the glass and titanium masterpiece awesome, I am particularly lured by this giant spider sculpture!

The day and time we visited, there was even some sort of a “fogging machine” around the edifice making the entire complex looking even more dramatic. Yet even without it, there is already enough drama in Guggenheim Museum with the giant spider, giant puppy topiary and the majestic red bridge. No camera whore nor aspiring photographer could miss these iconic landmarks. Unfortunately, Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” looks forlorn without the blooms. Made of stainless steel, this work of art is typically festooned with the most colorful flowers. Not in winter though. From the comforts of a sushi restaurant across the street where we nourished ourselves (a girl’s got to eat!), we viewed Koons’ giant terrier sculpture from the floor to ceiling glass window. Sad. It lost its magic from its spring version (shown here for comparison).

The not so itsy-bitsy spider by Louise Bourgeois makes up for the pup’s slack. On the other side of Gehry’s creation is this 9 meter-tall bronze, marble and stainless steel sculpture. It even has a name – Maman. If you stand underneath the giant spider, you’d find a sac of marble eggs embedded on its stomach. The artist designed it as such to honor her weaver-mom and to project the protective nature of mothers.

Lastly, let’s not forget the red bridge and row of buildings just across the river. No cam whore can possibly do wrong taking shots of these sights. But please do take the time to pause and appreciate this entire composition of works of art outside the confines of the Museo. After a few snapshots, breathe in all this beauty. I’m attached to the giant spider sculpture perhaps because the artist meant it as a tribute to his mom. Yeah. I’m a sucker for such stories.

Btw, no photography is allowed inside the Museum. Hmmm, so this explains all these exterior shots. I sneaked in a few shots though. Mi apologia.


Last of the big 3 in Madrid: Prado, Reina Sofia and now Thyssen-Bornemizsa. There are varied opinions on which is the best. I observed the older ones prefer the more academic, traditional, classical Renaissance art while the younger generation prefer the more modern, contemporary art. In Thyssen-Bornemizsa, one gets a good blend of both. I saved it for last for this reason, and because I thought my energy level would have dwindled by the nth museum and Thyssen has a very good, decent cafe where I can chill.

On a freezing afternoon, it was the perfect thing to do. No way you’d find us in some park or strolling the streets of Madrid. There were even days it slightly snowed in Madrid and the breeze just give our bones the chill. So another museum visit won’t hurt. Besides, my nieta just couldn’t have enough of it. (There’s another small, even obscure museo she wants to visit which I haven’t in the many trips I’ve made to Madrid. Well, we’ll see. )

Thankfully, there were no lines. No crowd. Most everyone must be chillin’ on bed. Hmm, the mere thought makes me want to go under a warm blanket, in a heated room. That should be comforting. Anyway, there’s this business of viewing the TB collection. And this, I must say. Thyssen I find as the most visitor-friendly museum here. Well-curated, with long benches to sit on in nearly every hall. I also think it’s difficult to “lose” someone here because the visit is so guided that one goes from hall to hall in a very orderly manner. Many times, I sat it out while nieta moved from here to there. When it was time to meet up, it was easy to find each other.

What I love about museum visits is that no matter how many times you go, you’d always find something new. Not exactly a new artwork, but more of how an old, even familiar piece can affect you. Is it one’s mood at that moment? Have we “changed” without us noticing it? Hard to explain. But there were art pieces there I found truly interesting after some visits.

As for my nieta, she was happy she can take photographs unlike in Prado. In Reina Sofia, photography is allowed but not for Picasso’s Guernika and some other major pieces. She wants to look them up more intimately and perhaps, even reproduce them. Picasso did the same. So did many others. So, why not?