Star Date: March 2008
Family & Friends!
(Hello - Sinhalese -Sri Lanka)
"It's easier to wear slippers than try carpeting the whole world!"
The accounts of 'Sinbad the Sailor', from the Arabian tales, "A Thousand and One Nights, told of Sinbad's adventures in Lanka or Serendib, as the Arabs knew it. He traveled in search of gems and jewels and spent time with the King, on a mountain top filled with gems, exotic plants and animals where "Adam was banished from Paradise." When returning to Lanka Sinbad was captured by pirates, made a slave, and sent in search of the hidden cemetery of elephants, or so goes the ancient Sri Lankan tale. With the help of a wise old elephant he found the ivory, returned to his master and together they sold as much of the ivory as they could carry. Sinbad returned to Baghdad a wealthy man.
Sri Lanka has a rich, colorful history with references made in the Hindu classic, the Ramayana, dating back to the 3rd century B.C. From then Theravada Buddhism was developed and flourished over the next 1500 years, until invading Hindus from the Indian continent to the north took over. Seafaring Muslims (7th century) followed by the Portuguese, Dutch, then British all had their influence on this island. Ceylon, as named by the British, was finally granted independence in 1948. Sri or 'auspicious' was added to the old name of Lanka in the 1970's. Whatever the name, the island of Sri Lanka is a fascinating place to visit.
My Month in Sri Lanka -
In Bangkok, we had flown in opposite directions around the planet, and as Joseph explored Sri Lanka for 1 month, I flew back to Hawaii to spend time with family and friends. Really the only thing I miss in our unique but exciting lifestyle on the road is time with family and visits with girlfriends. In the last year my Mom, Laverne had visited us in Vietnam and our daughter Mariah and husband Shane had explored S. Laos with us. We missed the much hoped for overseas reunion with son Kevin. Excited but tired after 28 hours flying, I was welcomed to Honolulu with loving arms by Mariah, Shane and my Mom. We picked up Kevin, our son, who flew in from Colorado the following day. Hanging out together in Mariah's apartment, up at the top of St. Louis Heights, we spent time doing what we missed, just chilling and catching up on each other's lives. We also threw a combination Christmas and birthday celebration complete with gifts and dancing, topped off with home baked goodies from 'Gami'. We cooked up international cuisine, laughed as we shared funny video clips on the internet, exchanged music and loaded Ipods. Aloha! Hawaii is an amazing one of a kind place and it will always hold a special place in our hearts. We spent hours each day tearing around Oahu stopping at beaches, fishing and kayaking at Chinaman's Hat Park and watching the enormous breakers pound the north shore, as surfers caught waves. We made an effort to share as many sunsets together as possible. After Kevin flew home my Mom & I spent a heartwarming week visiting friends on the Big Island, the first time back to our home island in almost 5 years. Mariah joined us for the weekend and we retraced steps visiting our friends and favorite old haunts. It was as if no time had passed and we were treated royally by all our dear friends. Feeling a bit between worlds with our life overseas I am thankful everyday for the constant of having all these loving people in my life. Lunches and catching up with girlfriends in Kona and on Oahu, plus quality time with family totally recharged my battery. As everyone went back to their busy lives I flew to Bangkok. Standing at the Royal Bhutanese ticket counter I was surrounded by Nepalese Airlines, Turkish Air, Uzbekistan Airways and Ethiopian Air. I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. On to Kalcutta, then Trivandrum, in Kerala, South India where I met my dear Joseph once again. It was my favorite Valentine's Day present to date!
We always go through our
annual cleanse after I return from the U. S. hauling the necessary
herbs, giving our immune
systems a flush and charge. We are motivated to maintain good health, as
poor health would mean the end to our travels as we know them.
We don't worry about how long we will live, we just want to be as
healthy and active as possible before passing on to that next exciting
destination beyond. Pulling off our 6 day cleanse in India was
a real hoot and if we can do it here - what is your excuse??
Click here to check out our health page for some ideas.
From the West
we can't even begin to understand the Indian mind set. It is
really important not to set foot on India's shores with our high and
mighty western ideals. That was done for centuries with
imperialism, and yet the basic fabric of life here remains
unchanged. The checklist of needed changes, in the opinion of
many western tourists would
be long, but aren't we traveling as guests to observe the culture of this
country? (Besides we really can't change anyone -
only ourselves and our
Exploring the 900 km. network
of backwaters is the main drawing card to Kerala. These
waterways lace their way from the coast for miles inland. Long
before roads, the people of Kerala used hand paddled boats to
navigate from village to village. Narrow palm fringed canals
open up to lakes where fishermen still use cantilevered Chinese
fishing nets, remnants of earlier days of international trade along
the coast. Long boats laden with coir (coconut fiber), copra
(dried coconut meat), fruit, vegetables, fish or dried cashew nuts
coast along. Villages of all sizes line the banks, some
homesteads no more than 12-15 feet across, literally molded out of
the river's mud. Deciding to catch a public ferry in the
morning from Alleppey we cruised with locals past mosques, schools,
farms and fishermen during the 1.5 hours to Nedumudi. When we
jumped off we followed the river banks and walked the shady dirt
paths lining the small canals behind town. Water
hyacinth, a growing problem, had created a picturesque canal of
solid lilac. This tenacious, choking weed is rapidly changing
life along the backwaters; almost as fast as the endless rows of
Christian churches. Only after jumping on a passing ferry did
we discover that the first and last boat back to Alleppey
from Edathwa was at
4:30. We ate a thali plate at a local cafe after being
attracted to a loud Christian church service, complete with rousing
music and rows of
faithful women on woven mats in a colorful sea of silk sarees. The flashing
lights surrounding Jesus on the alter, loud music,
microphones and enthusiastic sermons were definitely adapted to
local tastes. Back at the dock we made friends with a couple
of 'packs' of children fooling
around on their way home from school. After riding their
"ferry school bus" home they would jump off the boat in the middle
of nowhere. We can still see them yelling "Good Bye!", waving
and running the 100 yard dash along the bank with our boat, as we dropped each one off the ferry. We watched the sun slowly set
and light up the sky as stars emerged through the purple and crimson
after dark we were really hungry and stopped by for a tasty mixed vegetable
curry and naan at the "Hot Kitchen" before heading home. We
passed a row of luxurious houseboats with generators and TV's
blaring; groups of westerners enjoying a meal on deck. If you
decide to take this expensive tourist route make sure your houseboat
is a certified operator following proper environmental measures.
Pollution threatens the very existence of these tranquil backwaters.
What took centuries to create is being destroyed in just over a
decade. The wild waterfowl and friendly villagers need our
help. Taking a hand powered canoe is an eco friendly, serene
way to explore the smaller back canals.
It was here that we serendipitously met up with a long time dear friend, Geri, from our home on the Big Island of Hawaii. While in Hawaii I found out that she had moved overseas 4 years earlier, spending summers in Turkey & Greece and winters in Southern India. The wonder of email connected us and we spent many joyful hours with her at her Ayurvedic home stay, up along Cherai Beach on neighboring Vypeen Island and meetings for lunch back in Ft. Cochin. As our travel plans change we may even see her again in Tamil Nadu or Turkey following a journey through the Middle East. We are only an email away and are open to a rendezvous with family and old or new friends at the drop of a hat! What are you waiting for? Where will our orbits collide? See you then!
Climbing up into the verdant, green mountains of Munnar
was a welcome relief from the coastal heat. Awakening to
glorious, sunny mornings we were inspired to walk back into the green
tea-lined hills beyond our guesthouse. We were soon enveloped
in silence, awed by the spectacle of mile after mile of rich, lush
tea plantations. Not a tourist in sight during our more than
10 mile loop, we got lost in another world, sharing our time and
smiles with the tea workers and their families in this endless sea
of tea. Demand for the brew, mainly from the U.K. and Canada,
keeps these Keralans housed and fed. Although they live in
spartan rooms and attend meager company schools, etc the fresh air
and dazzling surroundings create an undeniably delightful, wholesome
place in which to grow up and live. We were invited in for tea
several times, a grand occasion involving changing into new sarees,
heating the brew, dusting off 'best' tea cups, and explaining who
everyone was in each photo gracing their walls; everyone including
Grandpa, "me 40 years ago", and even Krishna or Jesus. The
women or family groups loved having their picture taken and we
promised to print and mail photos to several homes, especially Mary
and her Mom, Mother Mary. They got a kick out of the fact that
they had invited Saint Joseph in for a visit and a photo of the
blessed couple, Mother Mary and Joseph was requested. Back at
our guesthouse we cooked downstairs nightly with the helpful visiting daughter, Saraswathy and 10 mo. old baby Aathira. We had lots of fun bathing the baby and learning how to
massage her with perfumed oil, and finally putting the cosmetic
black dots on her little face, setting them with talcum powder to prevent smearing.
The black make up, often used around the baby's eyes and eyebrows is
one of those curious beauty habits that are fun to observe.
Once used to ward off evil spirits, Saraswathy said it was now
simply for cosmetic reasons
All the girl babies also wear a silver or gold chain around their
tummies, earrings, and matching anklets. Amid great
protest a new bright yellow dress covered Aathira's wriggling body.
Mom's bright sari made for a gorgeous photo, a copy of which we
just had to send to them. The friendliness of the people
around Munnar was heartwarming and we hardly noticed cold hill-station nights.
And so it goes.........................................Next month the Southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Until then we can remember to observe those around us and allow them their path - different as it may be from our own. And don't forget to "pack those slippers!"
This website started off in 2004 as a notice to family and friends interested in our travels. Last month, with Burma or Myanmar featured, we had 12,000 hits and rising, from over 30 countries (excluding spiders). Glad to see that the word has gotten out and so many people are along on our trip. Our aim is to simply ‘Share the World’ and let everyone know how amazing people and cultures are worldwide. Also getting the word out that not only is it interesting out here in the far corners of the planet but inexpensive and safe. We feel every country or place has 95% good people and 5% ‘having problems’. Once the fear of the unknown is dissolved, it is possible for ANYONE to travel or live overseas for less than it costs back home. We offer ideas on how this can be done and great destinations to consider.
So if you feel inspired (and want good luck for the next 7 years, haha) feel free to send this notice to all your friends and colleagues on your email list. They may enjoy our writings and photos or may know of someone on their list that is in the mood for globetrotting. Help spread the word or as Louie Armstrong would sing – “What a Wonderful World”. Thanks.
We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for remembering us and keeping in touch. Take care & Keep smiling!
Love, Light &
$1.00US = 108 Sri Lankan Rupee.
$1.00US = 38 Indian Rupee.
$1.00US = in Hawaii buys less and less each year!
India: Kerala State
We found the friendly folks, Naomi
and Ken, at the African Village Guesthouse, interesting and welcoming. A great
place to hang out, especially if you like drumming. They give
classes and have a fun Reggae Sat night party with drumming and authentic
African food prepared by Ken. Worth checking out. phone
# 9895160615, more info:
firstname.lastname@example.org or www.westafricanroots.com (Down the road from
Rubybleu - away from the beach).
If the quiet room is full try the Palmy Residency (300r) for a quiet back alley room. Both hotels are near the jetty and the canal.
Villages to visit by ferry for 5-8r each. Just ask at the jetty. 1 hr - Nedumudi; 2 1/2 hours connect there for Edathwa another 1 1/2 hours. Last boat back at 4:30. Another good destination is Kainakari.
Kerala Kathakali Centre: Near Vypin Boat Jetty, phone # 2217552, a one of a kind performance. Go early to watch the intricate face painting (paint made of minerals ground with coconut oil). Each actor requires a minimum of 1 1/2 hours to complete his makeup. Quite fascinating. Makeup starts at 5pm - show 6:30 till 8pm. 150r per person.
New Ananda Bhavan - A Vegetarian Hotel: Left from the Vypeen Island ferry - on the right side. Thali plate 25r at lunch, served on banana leaf with the locals if you want and masala dosai 15r, etc. other times. They run a tight ship but the food is good.
Arches Hotel: Rooftop dining and free traditional dancing from 7:30 - 8:30 nightly. Really tasty food starting at only 40r for mixed vegetable curry & naan.
The classy restaurant next to Harbour House Restaurant serves excellent curries and rice with entrees for 100-120r. Crisp white table cloths and candle light ambience.
24 hour internet - Synchronize Tele # 91 484 6981295 good connection, across from the Enukulam jetty. Many others in tourist area but this has a 15 min backup for power outages. Friendly Muslim owners - so it's open on Hindu & Christian holidays - of which there are many in Kerala.
recommended Ayurveda Center
Dr P. S. Subhash & wife Mrs. Jancy Subhash
We had Albert try to persuade
us to stay at his private home further north up the beach.
Aaryan - Private Beach Home Stay, phone # 9947090049, is a full home
with 2 bedrooms, and kitchen. We told him we only wanted to
pay 350r and he sounded like he wanted to negotiate. Basically
off season Feb-Nov (June the high seas and monsoon start)
negotiation is the name of the game. Worth checking out if
Seaman's start building newer, more expensive units.
We stayed with the extremely friendly folks at the Durga Inn near the end of the little road, phone # 04865 - 230529. Only open 20 days the small but spotless rooms (350r) came with the usual one hot water faucet, filtered drinking water, crisp sheets and plenty of warm blankets.
Probably the best part of
staying in this area of Old Munnar, besides being quiet is that you can simply get
up in the morning and walk into the hills for endless miles. Fantastic.
Get lost in the verdant tea plantations and spend a whole day without
tourists. A much better option than rattling along for hours in a noisy
rickshaw only to stop at places where other tourists stop.
Each island has it's own sights and charm - limited camping is also available on Kauai and Molokai. Maui is busy, without good camping, but of course the beach hotels are fantastic but expensive. Inter island flights are currently $40 each direction.