Tag Archive: Travels



I just realized I didn’t do a blog summary on my 2017 trip to Peru. Specifically, on my adventures ticking Machu Picchu off my bucket list. Instead, I lumped my blog links on Peru, Miami, Utah and San Francisco, California all together. Not very neat. Especially for a trip where I honestly worried I could die. And so, this blog summary which I can now share with you.

Machu Picchu

Sacred Valley

Cusco

Lima

Andean Delights


Yes. It’s a wrap. All of 8 days and 7 nights. As someone in our group said, “Sri Lanka was a revelation”. There were some mishaps, some missed sites, some meals not making the grade, a few frustrations, but this trip was just marvelous. Sri Lanka has much to offer. I do not think they’re there yet in terms of promoting their country best but it should get a lot of attention soon. Hopefully too, tourism promotion does not adversely affect the character of the people here — smiling, helpful, charming.

We feel this trip deserves a repeat. I enjoyed the safari but won’t do it again unless my family is going with me. (Birdwatchers would!) Instead, I’d return to Nuwara Eliya in time for tea harvest, do a bit of hiking in Ella to view the Nine Arches Bridge and Adam’s Peak, climb Sigiraya Rock, visit the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy’s Peradeniya (we missed it as we lacked time), take another scenic train ride, spend more time in Weligama and stay in the same Jetwing and Marriott Hotels we booked including those in Negombo and Kaduruketha! I’d also enjoy the same hotel breakfasts and dinners there and make sure to do better for our midday nourishment. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

Thank you, Sri Lanka.

(Just click on the links)

Dambulla Rock Caves

A Sri Lankan Safari

Ancient and Sacred Cities

A Scenic Train Ride

Budurugawala Temple

Stilt Fishermen of Sri Lanka

The Ramparts of Galle

Last Day in Colombo

Travel buddies, young & old

Different folks, Different strokes

Foodies, shoppers, culture vultures

Tell me, do we hold a future?

Morning strolls, cocktails by dusk

Chatting each day’s highlights in a flash

Oh what a journey with these peeps

As we discover food, places & pet peeves.


It was nearly a chore coming back to the city. We enjoyed the beach and countryside so much we had to brace ourselves for the humidity, traffic, heat, crowds, noise and chaos to be found in the metropolis. Colombo is no exception. The city is a mixed bag of modernity amidst remnants of colonial rule. Upon arrival, I felt disoriented but not disheartened. Colombo is very clean despite the “clutter”, and culturally rich. The temples and Buddha statues compete with highrise buildings for attention. The old and the new, stand side by side. There is an eclectic variety of foreign and local elements present in the many parks, lakes, monuments, districts, structures around the city.

. Independence Memorial Hall

A young republic, yet it is the oldest democracy in Asia. Two rival political clans represent the 2 biggest political parties in the country. In 1960, the world had its very first elected woman head of government. Sri Lankans are very proud of their first woman Prime Minister, serving twice, Sirimavo Bandaranaike from 1960-65 and 1970-77. She was the widow of Ceylon’s 4th Prime Minister. Among South Asian nations, Maldives and Sri Lanka rank highest in terms of Per Capita Income and Human Development Index. As visitors to this island nation, we see it in their infrastructure projects and high literacy rate. The road network is impressive, young Sri Lankans get free university education and heritage sites are well-maintained. Beat that!

A Government Hospital

The attractions being far apart, we only managed to get off our bus to visit the Independence Memorial Hall and one temple. The Hall is in Independence Square, built to commemorate independence from British rule in 1948. A statue of its first Prime Minister — deemed Father of the Nation — stands at the head of the monument. Our motley group of travelers found it apt to have our picture taken here. If the Hall looks familiar to you, you may remember it being used as a pitstop in the popular “Amazing Race” series. Well, it wasn’t a race for us. But it was amazing!

πŸ‘£πŸ‘«πŸ‘¬πŸ‘£

Gangaramaya Temple

While it was difficult adjusting to the city noise, we found refuge in 3 places. One is the temple. The 2nd is our hotel’s roofdeck bar. And the 3rd our last lunch in this island nation.

Gangaramaya Temple is both a Buddhist temple and education center. There are traces of Sinhalese, Chinese, Thai and Indian elements in the architecture of this most-visited temple in the capital. This was the last time we’d shed our shoes to enter a place of worship. A piece of Buddha’s hair is enshrined inside. Many locals were there to worship. Oddly, we also found donations in the form of dining furniture and vintage cars.

The old Victorian Cargills Department Store

If there are hostels, there must be a lot of backpackers

Being our last day, we were on the last few bars of our energy meters. Having found this refuge, we took comfort in the peace and quiet provided by this temple. We wished we were able to visit the Red Mosque as well but the guide said our bus cannot negotiate the narrow alley leading to it. And we weren’t really up for walking in the city heat.

Entrance to Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

2nd refuge: The roofdeck bar of Jetwing Colombo Seven with a panoramic view of the city is exactly what we needed upon reaching the last leg of our journey. There was a lap pool on the deck but who’d like to go swimming? Cocktails seem to be a better idea. Best time? Sunset, of course. There were other hotel guests and locals with us, but we seemed to be the only ones agog over the sunset. Well, we’re tourists πŸ™„

Photo Credit: Rick C

Photo Credit: Annabelle C

On our way to the airport to fly out of Sri Lanka, we decided on having lunch in 4-month old Shangrila Hotel’s Table One. Our last refuge. Located in Galle Face, the hotel has a commanding view of the Indian Ocean. Table One’s buffet spread offerred everything we wanted for a last decent meal in Sri Lanka. Crabs, prawns, lamb, curries, cuttlefish, squid, steaks, hoppers, noodles, dimsum, salads, soups, and an assortment of sri lankan desserts. I had a few pieces wrapped to eat on the plane as I wasn’t hopeful about the inflight meals. I brought them all the way back to Manila instead. And that coconut cookie with cashew nut was my morning upper! Swell 🀀


It’s been over 400 years yet the fort in Galle still manages to enchant its visitors. The Portuguese started it (16th century) and the Dutch fortified it (17th century). The old town of Galle and its fortifications – more commonly called Galle Fort – lying on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. The ramparts made of granite stones and corals are its biggest attraction, along with its lighthouse, which unfortunately had too many scaffoldings at the time we visited to render a good photo.

The old town within the walls has the charm of an old European village combined with East Asian architecture. One finds multi-religious and multi-ethnic influences with robed men roaming the streets and locals sneaking in and out of mosques and churches. The settlers include Portuguese, Dutch, British, Sinhalese and Moors. All these add character to the Old Town of Galle. I can spend an entire day here walking aimlessly — on ramparts and along the narrow alleys — sneaking in and out of museums, quaint restaurants, cafes, the art galleries, handicraft and gem stores. If only we had time πŸ˜”

(If i knew we’d have a lousy lunch, I could have skipped it and walked around town instead, maybe while licking an ice cream bar)

Photo Credit: Annabelle

The signages I found were enough to intrigue me about living here. I’ve read half the population are Moors. The mosque I passed walking towards the lighthouse is most charming in its all-white exterior. So are the structures in Mediterranean colors with interesting wood carvings all around town. So colorful, just like its history. I can only feel thankful that this town was restored and preserved even after it was badly hit by a tsunami on that Boxing Day in 2004.

Art and culture, as well as religious traditions, flourished here. Peaceful co-existence and harmony. I would love to stay a few days here. Perhaps meet anew that crazy jumper who poses for a buck. Free if you’re a young, charming lady. Ahem. Walking mindlessly, enjoying the seascape and the colonial houses with gables and verandahs. The streets have very curious names : Lighthouse, Church, Pedlar (peddler?), Hospital Streets. For sure, it would be very hard to get lost here. I even read that dining here can be a foodie’s adventure. (Not our luck) The mixed bag of hotels, coffee shops, jewelry stores, tea shops is an enchanting medley of European, Moorish and Asian influences. No wonder this town attracted many artists, photography buffs, designers and literary figures.

If Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s “Little England”, this must be their “Little Holland & Portugal”

We spent way too little time here, methinks. We’ve seen many monuments, the former moat surrounding the walks, the drawbridge, clock tower, Dutch Reformed Churches, and more bastions — on a bus. The bygone colonial era flashing across bus window panes in an area small enough to be walkable. 😭 A few likewise went for a stroll but had to head back to where we had our unforgettable lunch. Oh, Sri Lanka. I’m NOT done with you. Not just yet!

Not done! Not yet. 😭😭😭

No, he’s not one of the Crazy Jumpers. Just one photography nut. Can’t blame him. He’s married to one.

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! πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•


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.


It’s our first time in Sri Lanka. And I confess that my personal knowledge of this country that used to be called Ceylon has been so limited before we got here. Oh sure, Sri Lanka or Ceylon evokes memories of that fragrant tea, spicy curry, and elephants. We’ve been here only 2 days but feel we’ve come to know so much more about Sri Lanka than those guide books will tell us. Like it’s a haven for bird lovers. I can only wish I knew more about birds as we spotted them in Minneriya National Park.

We just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Sri Lankan wildlife. Never mind that we didn’t expect much beyond elephants and deer and peacocks. No leopards here; the guide books say they are found in the Yala National Park. Other guide books say they are also found here, along with the sambar deer. I would have wanted to see one in the wilds, having missed this among the Big 5 in my African Safari some years back. But a big herd of elephants is good to watch. Elephants of varying sizes; the baby ellies with their moms. A couple of these huge beasts moved towards our safari jeeps and we promptly backed up. We were 3 jeeps in all. And we thought this entire spectacle is good enough for wildlife viewing today.

Formerly a wildlife sanctuary, Minneriya was declared a national park 20 years ago. It is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and is claimed to be home to the biggest herd of Asian elephants that gather on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir. Though the “gathering” peaks during the drought around August- September, we found a good size this early March. Wildlife activitists would be happy for this natural phenomenon. So would bird lovers and the environmentalists. Let’s just hope tourism advocates don’t get overboard promoting this place. At the time we visited, we were only 3 safari jeeps around The Gathering, but more such safari jeeps can block the paths of these elephants and agitate them. Speaking of which, Minneriya authorities can limit the number of visitors and safari jeeps at any one time. I don’t know, perhaps they do this already. I am no wildlife nor environmental expert. Just a happy spectator this breezy afternoon. 😊

(Thanks, Topper, for the last 3 beautiful shots!)

(Thanks for this group photo, Rick C. We had fun, huh?)

More photos (from Angel) below:


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. πŸ˜₯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!

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! πŸ™πŸ»

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. πŸ˜˜πŸ™„πŸ€ͺ