5 Year Anniversary

Five years ago Kingsley and I were walking down the aisle...what a magical day that was. It many ways it all seems like a blur now that I look back on it. It doesn't feel like it was only 5 years ago. It feels like it was just yesterday that our friends and family were gathering to celebrate our union as we said "I do".

Here we are 5 years later and our love has continued to grow stronger as each day passes. It's been an amazing adventure - getting married, buying a house, changing jobs, moving to Singapore, exploring the world. Life together has certainly never been dull.  There have been a few rough times, but nothing we haven't triumphed through and they continue to make us stronger. We've made so many amazing memories together. I can't wait for our journey to continue in the many years to come.

Fullerton High Tea

When I think of high tea, I imagine of a group of ladies with wide brim hats sitting in a garden taking small bites of their cucumber sandwiches or dropping a dollop of cream on their warm scones while sipping freshly brewed hot tea served from the finest china.  Such a fabulous way to catch up on what is happening in each others daily lives!  Thanks to the British colony, the tradition of afternoon tea continues today in Singapore and I had the pleasure of enjoying this traditional english afternoon tea with Bonnie, Kim and baby Lucas.  

I very graciously allowed Bonnie to have the first cuddle with Lucas.  

Look at these tasty bite sized morsels, how could anyone not enjoy afternoon tea? Everyone gets a standard 3 tier service, and you can have free refills of your favorites...which we did several times. You also get the choice of 2 different tea drinks per person but I loved my green tea choice so much I didn't even considering trying anything else. 

As you can see in the photo below.  We certainly enjoyed our afternoon tea - we arrived at 3pm and left at 6:30.  Such a wonderful afternoon!  

Sri Lanka - Ella

Ella is located in breathtaking setting high in the hills, and has earned a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful villages. With its views over the Ella Gap, amazing waterfalls and some incredible nature walks, the town has become a very popular destinations in the hill country. We spent a night at Waterfalls Homestead, and had a wonderful time.

One of our main reasons to visit Ella was to check out the rumors we had heard that there might be paragliding here.  Sadly it appears that the last time anyone flew here was over 5 years ago. 

Enjoying the beautiful view from the patio with a cup of tea and chatting with some new friends from China.

Sri Lanka - Kandy

Kandy, is an anglicized word from the Sinhalese word, “kande,” which means hills, in which the place is located. The Sacred City of Kandy, Sri Lanka is regarded as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, because of its religious and cultural sites.

We spent one night in Kandy so we could visit some of the sites including the Buddha tooth relic temple.

Our quaint hotel had a beautiful location on the side of a mountain outside of Kandy town with a view into the surrounding valleys.

The were some good and some bad things about our hotel.

The good:
- we were the only guests
- the views were stunning
- the staff were very helpful
- very quiet - only sound was the chirping of birds
- clean modern rooms

The Bad:
- communication was a problem  - as seen in above photo where we received 3 rounds of bread (garlic buttered, garlic toasted, plain wonder bread) with dinner.  None of which were requested!

But for a Bed and Breakfast that is $30 a night I certainly think it was good value.

Sri Lanka - Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Kandy is home to the Tooth Relic Temple, which houses the tooth relic of Buddha. It is a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists all over the world.

We explored the temple grounds shoe-less, as it is considered sacred grounds.  This elephant belongs to the temple and is used during ceremonies - the most important of which occurs once a year when the tooth relic is placed on the elephants back and taken around the city of Kandy.

Enshrined in this stuppa is a plate that the Buddah used to eat food.

A painting depicting the tooth relic being carried around the city.  Evidently it is a very big ceremony and people come from all over the world to witness it.

Buddha's tooth is kept behind the curtain inside this shrine.  It is not exposed to the public, as it is eternally displayed inside 7 golden caskets ( in each one getting smaller and smaller ), with the shape of a stupa. It is taken out once a year and carried around the city on the back of an elephant.

The tooth is said to have been snatched from the flames of the Buddha’s funeral pyre in 543 BC, and was smuggled into Sri Lanka during the 4th century AD, hidden in the hair of a princess. At first it was taken to Anuradhapura, but with the ups and downs of Sri Lankan history it moved from place to place before eventually ending up at Kandy. In 1283 it was carried back to India by an invading army but was soon brought back again by King Parakramabahu III.
Gradually, the tooth came to assume more and more importance as a symbol of sovereignty; it was believed that whoever had custody of the tooth relic had the right to rule the island. In the 16th century the Portuguese, in one of their worst spoilsport moods, seized what they claimed was the tooth, took it away and burnt it with Catholic fervour in Goa. ‘Not so’, is the Sinhalese rejoinder; the Portuguese had been fobbed off with a replica tooth and the real incisor remained safe. Even today there are rumours that the real tooth is hidden somewhere secure, as it has been so many times in its past, and that the tooth kept here is a replica.

Sri Lanka - Dambulla Rock Temple

The Cave Temple complex at Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage site, that has been used for meditation dating back to the 1st century BC.

This complex claims to be the most impressive cave temple in Sri Lanka and Kingsley and I have to agree. It has five caves under a vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interiors dry. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images (mostly of Buddha) following the contours of the rock. 

Within these shrine rooms is housed a collection of one hundred and fifty statues of the Buddha. One cave has over 1,500 paintings of Buddha covering the ceiling.  

A bit of history:

The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka.  King Walagambahu is traditionally thought to have converted the caves into a temple in the 1st century BC. Exiled from Anuradhapura, he sought refuge here from South Indian usurpers for 15 years. After reclaiming his capital, the King built a temple in thankful worship. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century, the caves had become a major religious centre and still are. King Nissanka Malla gilded the caves and added about 70 Buddha statues in 1190. During the 18th century, the caves were restored and painted by the Kandyan Kings.

Sri Lanka - Sigiriya Rock

I first heard about Sigiriya while hastily planning our spontaneous trip to Sri Lanka.  It was described as the eight wonder of the world, an ancient fortress of a paranoid king, who had built himself an impenetrable capital city on the top of an extinct volcano in the very center of Sri Lanka. Hmmmmm....sounds like it's worth a visit, right?

Kingsley and I spent the better part of an afternoon climbing Sigiriya's 1202 steps to its stunning summit, and we both realized about halfway up that this was clearly one of the the coolest place either of us have ever been... 

It's not just the scale of this rock that impresses you. It's the ingenious design of the city it housed, with it's highly evolved irrigation systems (they were able to pump water from bottom to top), it's elaborate defenses, and beautiful pools and gardens. 

The history of this amazing fortress goes something like this:

around 477 AD, Kashyapa, the illegitimate son of King Dhatusena, killed his father with the help of some well-placed relatives in the army, and seized control of the kingdom. King Dhatusena's legitimate son Moggallanna fled to India, leaving the new King Kashyapa in full control. The new king was worried that he couldn't defend the traditional capital of Anuradhapura, so he moved his entire kingdom to the barren rock fortress of Sigiriya and built a city around and atop it. He was beset with guilt from killing his father and also feared that his brother would return at the head of an army and depose him. So he dug in, literally, and fortified his position. Unfortunately, even though he commissioned great works at Sigiriya (which translates as "the Lion's Rock", and is meant to honor Lord Buddha), he ultimately committed suicide in battle (or was poisoned by a concubine, depending on which version you believe), and the royal city he constructed was abandoned when Moggallanna returned to reclaim his rightful place on the throne. His brother did not want the fortress on a hill, and gave it to Buddhist monks who turned it into a monastic center, which it remained for hundreds of years. But even though it was a monastery, the frescoes remains, and the place still carried the marks and legacy of King Kashyapa's manic desire to ensconce himself on the highest, safest ground around, where people could only climb up to meet him in single file... 

Legend says that 500 wives joined King Kashyapa on this rock, and he built glorious gardens and pools to house his entourage. He commissioned decorative paintings to be layered on the rock 600 feet above the ground, on narrow ledges, and these paintings have survived against all odds and are considered to be among the world's oldest surviving paintings. They were painted on walls constructed of egg white, honey, and polished lime. I found the images unexpectedly stunning. 

We climbed a somewhat precarious iron spiral staircase to find ourselves face to face with large images of beautiful women and attendants, scattered across a rock face in such a way that made me wonder how people ever managed to get to these high and isolated spots. 

After winding our way around the rock, and up multiple staircases and narrow passes, we found ourselves at the ledge before the final summit, which contains the remains of two gigantic Lion's paws. Apparently in the old days you had to climb stairs through the Lion's mouth to get to the top, but today only the paws remain. They are awesome!

The summit has a magnificent view that could not be fully captured through pictures.  For me the most incredible part was the realization that I was walking amongst the ruins of King Kashyapa's original city. Swimming pools, stone storehouses, and the foundations for buildings are all in place.  The place was laid out with meticulous detail. 

Kingsley and I were incredibly impressed with the experience and both felt that Sigiriya alone was worth the trip to Sri Lanka..

Sri Lanka - Heritance Kandalama

The drive from Negombo (the beach) to Dambulla (the jungle) was long and somewhat bumpy. 4 ½ hours spent in a private car, jerking down a crowded 2 lane road that wound down hills and around curves through progressively thicker greenery, until the landscape grew wild and untamed.  Kingsley and I felt very thankful to have such an excellent driver, Menaka (vipulamenaka@gmail.com), who was such a competent driver even Kingsley felt comfortable dozing off. 

Kingsley and I stayed at the Heritance Kandalama in Dambulla, an award-winning hotel designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lankas finest architect. The entire building is constructed into a huge rock face, and is integrated into the jungle in a completely original way. Monkeys roam the surrounding areas and in the distance, Sigiriya Rock looms. It's an ecological landmark and just astonishing in all respects. 

Kingsley chilling out in the cave like entrance to the hotel. 

Sri Lanka - Elephant Orphanage

The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya river. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed. In some instances the baby had fallen into a pit and in others the mother had fallen in and died.

Around 80 elephants have found homes at Pinnawala, including some small babies who have been born into the herd.

I had a chance to bottle feed this naughty boy.  He has some problems swallowing so although he is three years old he still gets a few (15) bottles of milk a day to help him grow.   Evidently he was quite hungry and grouchy when he arrived at the feeding bay because he immediately stole someones umbrella and stood on it...refusing to move till his milk was brought in!

Elephant on the left Sama, lost her front right leg to a land mine about 5 years ago.  Such a sweet elephant and sad story. 

Sri Lanka - Hindu bus ceremony

We stopped in to see a beautiful Hindu temple and were lucky enough to witness a bus blessing. 

Sadly you are looking at a very unlucky bus. We don't know the full history of bad luck - perhaps an accident?  perhaps frequent breakdowns? All we know is that it is unlucky enough to need a hindu priests intervention.

Step 1 - pay the hindu priest

Step 2 - limes are placed under every tire.

Step 3 - light a coconut on fire and walk around the bus 3 times.

Step 4 - hand the coconut back the priest who then smashes it on the ground.

Step 5 - drive over the limes and crush them.

With that you now have a lucky bus.

Sri Lanka - Tea Factory

Being quite the tea drinkers we found it very cool to take a tour of a tea plantation and factory.  All of the tea plantations in Sri Lanka used to be coffee plantations it is believed that the coffee was introduced by the Dutch but cultivated massively when the British took control.  However in the 1860's a fungus (coffee rust) came through and killed all of the coffee plants.  By accident they discovered that the tea tree was immune to the fungus.  Thus all of the coffee plantations became tea plantations.
Tea is hand picked (mostly by Tamil Indian woman) then transported to the factory where it is processed.  First the tea leaves are dried on a massive trough which has a huge fan under it that blows warm air on the tea leaves.

Next the leaves are chopped, sorted, heated again by warm air from a kiln for 21 minutes.  It is then placed in these massive brown paper sacks to be taken to the tea auction.  Companies like Lipton then buy the unbranded tea, rebrand and package it and put it on the shelves.  An amazing process to witness.

Kingsley (ever the gentleman) helping out with shoveling the tea.

Beautiful landscape of tea plantations.  The very tall trees you see in the photos are Eucalyptus tress which are known for their deep roots.  They are planted to prevent erosion.