Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Sri Lanka

We left Bangalore on Thursday night, 20 Dec and arrived in Colombo shortly after 11pm. Sri Lanka is only 1 hour, 10 min flying time but the taxi ride from Colombo to Unawatuna took us 4 hours with a tea break for our driver at about 2am and a stop for engine oil which was more like an "oil change" LOL :-) at about 3am. This trip apparently takes a lot longer if you travel during the day which is why we decided to do it at night time.

We finally reached the Langeoog Guesthouse at 4am where our very kind hostess was waiting half a sleep on the outside sofa for us.

We enjoyed a little sleep in until about 9:30am but were to excited to sleep the day away. We got up, enjoyed breakfast and soon found ourselves strolling along the white beach admiring the turquoise sea. We were lucky with the weather and had enough sunshine between the late afternoon showers to still come home with a nice tan.

The view from our guest house balcony, approx 300 meters from the beach where we enjoyed our meals. Only a 3min walk to the Diving Centre.

Imagine: the ground floor of this guest House was damaged with the tsunami. Luckily they didn't have any guest staying downstairs at the time. A big safe that 10 people carried into the guesthouse with great difficulty was found about where the tuck tuck is parked, which gives you an idea of the force of the pull back of such a powerful wave. Fishing boats that were on the beach landed up behind the guesthouse, damaging/destroying neighbours houses. We tried to imagine what it must have been like when the Tsunami hit....Terrible! Especially after having spoken to our hosts as well as some of the diving centre employees, restaurant/guest house owners on the beach that actually survived it. Approximately 6000 people died in the Unawatuna Bay area alone.

Another dining area in the middle of the beautiful garden at Langeoog.

The lovely veranda where you can relax and read a book day or night, rain or sunshine.

Relaxing on the veranda outside our room.

We had a very relaxing 4 days in Unawatuna diving, swimming, reading, sipping cocktails on the beach, watching beautiful sunsets.

We dived with Unawatuna Diving Centre - "Resort Diving" is a very different experience to diving at Alawal shoal that's for sure....easy launches, calm smooth boat rides. The diving though is also a very different experience and not nearly as exciting but it was fun never the less just to blow bubbles again!

Marc in his element...
Now this is the life...

The view from Banana Garden right next to the Diving Centre. This is a great place, however we were happy to be a little away from the action as it got very noisy at night with the bar/disco next door.

In front of the Diving Centre where we spent time lazing on the loungers with the waves crashing by our feet.
I had an Ayurvedic massage at a small centre (Sanctuary, or something like that) next to the Neptune Bay Hotel. I was a little reluctant to get a massage from a man but it was pretty normal here as most of the massage centres had only male misuses. There are a couple of signboards up for "Massages Available" and guys also come up to you on the beach with a small bottle of oil asking if you want a massage. I wasn't keen on that of course and definitely didn't feel like lying exposed right next to a couple of guys playing with a big python, cobra and a monkey. :-0!!
The view of Unawatuna bay from the Buddhist temple on top of the hill. There are Buddhist temples/shrines on every street corner in Columbo. Some really big, white or colourful, some even with neon flashing lights.
One of the many Buddhist temples in the area.
We visited one of the turtle farms in the area, Sea turtle hatchery. They buy the turtle eggs from the fishermen for Rs.10 an egg. They keep the eggs safe until they've hatched and for a couple of days after, before they release them into the ocean. They also have big turtles which they use for breeding. They charge Rs.200 ($2) per person entry fee and accept donations which help save more turtles. Marine turtles were roaming the oceans for about 190 million years. Among the many different varieties of this species only eight reptiles are found living today. Of the eight, Sri Lanka is famous for five kinds of turtles who regularly visit the sandy beaches to nest in the south-western and south-eastern beaches.

The Hatchery.

I got to hold a day old sea turtle. They are so cute....and fast too.
Marc took this great "stilt fishing photo" - This is one of the most famous Sri Lanka scenes. The fishermen usually fish at sunrise and sunset when these stilts are apparently all occupied. They catch a small kind of fish by using seaweed (no bate) and these fish are apparently quite valuable on the market. In addition to the money they get for their fish they of course also make money by charging tourist (like Marc) to photograph them. And they are not cheap either. The one particular fisherman was getting very angry and insisted he wanted Rs.500 (which is apparently what the local wait, cleaning staff etc. earns per day. Shocking, I know!) Marc agreed to pay Rs.150 ($2.50).

A close up of the fisherman on stilts.
The Backwaters at the spice garden that we visited.

The Gardner took us around the garden, pointing out the various kinds of plants. It was very interesting to see pineapple, ginger, pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, clove, citronella, sandalwood and lots more... They also have a small shop where you can buy spices and other oils, creams, ointments, balms etc.
We watched the sunset from the top of the hill on Christmas Eve.

Marc and I, very happy with the decision to go to Sri Lanka.
Contemplating life, over looking the big blue.

Just one of the many restaurants on the beach where you can sit and stare at the ocean in the moon light.

A moonlit walk along the beach after a great Christmas Eve dinner.
At 5am on the 25th we took a taxi to Colombo. We booked into the Galle Face Hotel Regency where we spent Christmas day by the hotel pool and had a lovely buffet dinner under the stars.

The back side of the Galle Face Inn Hotel.

The pool where we lazed around the whole day.

Sipping a delicious King coconut.
This is the life...
What a great way to spend Christmas and a terrific end to 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Season's Greetings 2007!

November and December

A quick update of what we've been up to over the past couple of weeks. It's been a busy but exciting Nov/Dec....I can't believe how this year has flown by ;-0!! Birthday's, Xmas Parties, Sunday brunches, meetings, coffee mornings etc. etc.

3 November - We kicked off with a Halloween Party at the "Appel Pub". As per usual it was a great party thanks to the great hosts Martin and Jackie Appel.
Marc the pirate and I was a Fairy Godmother.

Martin and I getting into "each others" character.

Jackie the sinful nun.

Marc having his fortune told by Marylouise, the Gypsy Princess.

Dancing the night away.

Kevin and Martin behind the bar...they came as fairies too...."Drag fairies" is more like it.

Every year the OWC donates gifts to our 26 Bangalore based charity organisations that we support. Mei (thanks again for the great effort) did a sterling job, coordinating the "gift drive" and we collected goods throughout November e.g. kids toys, adult gifts (soaps, toothpaste, bed sheets, cloths, chocolate etc.), wrapped them and the charity committee delivered the gifts to the different schools, hospices, homes etc.
20 November - The volunteers (Santarina's) "gift wrapping party".


23 November - Wine tasting at Graze, Taj Residency Hotel. (One of the benefits of being an OWC EC member is that you get invited to these kinds of dinners/do's :-))

Edith (my co. VP), Rashmi (Pres. of the BEC) and I enjoying the last bit of our dessert after a terrific evening of French wine and mouth watering cuisine.


24 November - we went to Kim and Ingo's "Indian Wedding Reception" (click here to see Kim's blog entry on the night as well as their lovely "African bush wedding" in the Waterberg).

The Happy couple that tied the knot in South Africa on the 25th of October - CONGRATULATIONS!
This is just another reason why I say "time flies"...Marc (28 Nov) and I (12 Dec) celebrated our 2nd birthdays in India.
The b-day card I made for Marc.
31 November - The annual St. Andrew Ball organised by the Scottish Society of Bangalore. O, what fun! Complete with bag pipes and we even attempted the different kinds of Scottish group dancing and we had a really good time!
Our entertainment for the evening - The pipe band from the Bangalore Engineering corp.
We tried a couple of different "reels".
Charlton (Marc's South African colleague, based in Delhi) and Graham.
We had a fabulous time and look forward to the next one.

1 December - OWC Fundraiser Christmas Bazaar. This is one of the OWC's biggest fundraisers. With over a 100 vendors, kids corner, food stalls, Santa's grotto, Christmas music - piano, kids playing flute, violin and carol singers, raffle prizes etc. etc. It took a lot of people and a lot of organisation but we pulled it off and it was a big success.
I stopped to take a break and to catch up with Joice and Alan.

7 December - Doodle Den

Enjoying an afternoon of ceramic painting with the girls.

15 December - We had a Sagittarian" BBQ
Some of the girls squished onto the sofa.
Meeting Lena (Kim's friend visiting from Germany).
Smile - Nathi, Chung, Marc, Brendon, Ali and Anne (my German teacher).
In between the socialising, life in Bangalore has been carrying on as normal with work, work, work for Marc and OWC work and German lessons for me. 20 down but lots more to go....

We have been looking forward to our diving trip to Sri Lanka, since we booked our flights almost 2 months ago. And now...I can't believe our bags are packed and we're ready to go. We return to Bangalore on the 26th of December, spending New Years eve with friends in Bangalore.

I will be starting 2008 with a "bang of excitement"....counting the days to Lesleigh's arrival in Bangalore on the 23rd of January. Roll on 2008!