Sri Lanka - Ginger the Tsunami Surviving Pony

The story of Ginger...

Ginger the pony spent the first few years of her life giving short rides to children at a small hotel near Rekawa beach. With her sweet temperment and social nature she was likely quite a popular attraction.  In 2004 the massive Tsunami struck Sri Lanka and specifically hit the south coast very hard.  Over 40,000 people in Sri Lanka alone were killed.

The hotel where Ginger lived was swept away taking Ginger with it.  The last witnessed sighting of Ginger was a glimpse of her nose peaking out of the water as she was swept into the dinning room of the hotel where the water came up to the ceiling.  She was then swept out to sea and no one ever expected to see her again.  About a week later Miss Ginger showed up on the property of Buckingham Place.  A little hungry but otherwise in perfect health and in no apparent distress.  How Ginger managed to survive and what she witnessed that week after the Tsunami is an adventure only Ginger knows.

She has since become the mascot and official greeter at Buckingham Place Hotel.  She now spends her days socializing with distinguished guests from all over world and plotting her next scheme to procure extra treats from them.

Ginger had a particular affinity for Kingsley and stopped by our lounge chairs often to say hello. 

Sri Lanka - Village School Update

Kingsley and I just received a very special email from the Principal of the school where we donated our computer in Sri Lanka.  This email warmed our hearts and made us that much more determined to help this school in other small ways if possible.

Dear madam / sir,
Accept our heartiest thanks for your help.
The computer you contributed us is being used by the students of our school for their studies.
Actually we owe you for your great help.
The Principal & the staff,
Ihalagoda Vijaya Junior School

Sri Lanka - Turtle Conservation

The beach next to the resort was stunning and fabulous to walk along. Unfortunately the waves were too strong for any swimming, but they made the whole atmosphere like a deserted island tropical dream. And at night the beach became the best place in the area for turtle watching.

On Rekawa beach you can see 5 of 7 worldwide occurring species of marine turtles:
- Green Turtle
- Loggerhead Turtle
- Leatherback Turtle
- Olive Ridley Turtle
- Hawskbill Turtle

The best time to see turtles is between January and April and especially evenings when there's a full moon. But you have to be patient. It's nature, so sometimes you have to wait till very late in the night, and some evenings the Turtle don't come at all. We were very fortunate the evening we went and were able to see 3 turtles come ashore to lay eggs.

As we arrived on the pitch black beach at about 10pm, one turtle had just laid eggs and was covering up the eggs while another had just begun crawling up the beach, away from sea. They leave remarkable trails as they crawl along. It almost looks as if a massive tractor has driven straight up out of the sea. It's an agonizingly slow crawl, an exhausting half an hour by a creature not as well adapted to the land.

The turtles require a sense of solitude while they make their way out of the water. If they detect a human, they’ll abandon their attempt and return another day.  We stood it utter silence and darkness quite a distance away to give her the privacy she required. The turtles eventually make their way towards the shrubbery at end of the beach, and choose a spot for their eggs which is safe from the water and (hopefully) predators. 

Once our turtle reached the top of the beach, she spent about another 45 minutes digging an enormous hole.  During that time we sat down the beach enjoying the sound of the crashing waves and the beautiful vibrant night stars.  Kingsley saw no less than 5 shooting stars that evening, I somehow always seemed to miss them...!

The silence of the night was occasionally broken by periodic thrashing and the sound of great clouds of sand being scuffed up. As she began to lay eggs, we could finally creep a little closer to watch, although all we could see was her backside with eggs which looked like ping-pong balls-periodically popping out in twos and threes. The process can take over 30 minutes, during which the turtles remain absolutely immobile and in a kind of trance which makes them unconcerned or perhaps unaware of the presence of humans nearby. 

A typical turtle will lay between 70-150 eggs in one evening.  She will then rest for a bit, fill in the hole, eventually crawl back down to the sea. It is an epic effort, the sight of which made the whole evening-long experience incredible.

Turtle tracks in the sand the next morning.

Sri Lanka - Buckingham Place

The second part of out South coast adventure was spent near Tangalle at a beautiful resort called Buckingham Place.

The hotel is about 12 km from the nearest small town and there is absolutely nothing but jungle and a small local village nearby.  Its a stunning location, nicely tucked away on a strip of land between Rekawa lagoon on one side and the sea on the other, all rooms are pointing towards the lagoon with a nice view of the water.

The rooms are individual chalets set apart from each other, resulting in a very peaceful atmosphere with lots of privacy. We were in room 5 which was beautiful. The highlight of the room was the bathroom which was spectacular. It was flooded with light from huge skylights. At one end there was an enormous sunken bath. The rest of the room was a very minimalistic design with modern fittings including an amazing open shower.

The reception, dining and lounging areas were open air which we loved. As the resort was surrounded by jungle - there were quite a few wildlife encounters. Peacocks roamed the gardens, we didnt see them but heard - a group of monkeys off in the distance.  Evidently every now and again they come to drink from the pool.  We also saw a large monitor lizard. But the most important wildlife on the grounds was undoubtedly Ginger  (she was so special she is getting an entire blog post devoted to her) the lovely tsunami rescue pony. She became a friend to every visitor but had a particular affinity for Kingsley. Lounging round the pool was a daily treat made even more memorable when Ginger appeared at our side for a cuddle and high hopes for a small treat.

The lawn area around the pool was beautiful with a gazebo and sun loungers scattered among the trees. The pool was not massive, but perfectly adequate for an afternoon dip.

Dining at Buckingham Place was excellent. The dinner menu changed daily and everything we had was delicious. I highly recommend Nicks Prawns if you ever see them on the menu!

Ginger waiting - with the occasional impatient stomp - at the dinning room entrance to be hand fed leftover breakfast toast.

Sri Lanka - Village School

A few years ago we become a Mac family.  We own so many Apple products in our house its sometimes a little crazy! Needless to say our poor PC has been a little neglected - and by that I mean almost never used- these last few years.  Kingsley (the System Administrator in our house) has been feeling a little guilty about having it just sit around not being useful.  When we booked our trip to Sri Lanka he came up with a crazy idea to bring the massive desktop computer with us to give away to someone who could use it.  For the record I was not too supportive of this idea as the screen was massive and the desktop machine alone weighed almost 50lbs.  But Kingsley was determined so we packed it in our bags and hauled it to Sri Lanka.

When we arrived at our hotel Sri Gemunu I spoke with the owner about perhaps donating it to a non-profit or local school.  He took our request very seriously and contacted one of the Ministers in Parliament to find the proper placement for our PC.  They wanted to find a remote village school with no computer but one with a power supply to be able to run the computer. It took about 2 days to find the perfect spot - I am sure lots of work went on behind the scenes to arrange everything and for that we were very grateful.  With the right political connections and using the proper channels we felt very good about where the computer would go and how it would be used.

We had no expectation of actually visiting the school but the Minister arrived at our hotel one morning with his driver, and off we went to deliver the computer to the village school.  It was a little awkward as the Minister was in formal attire and Kingsley and I were in our beach clothes, but that is just part of the adventure of traveling on the Lynn tour!!

We drove about 30 minutes to the school and received one of the warmest welcomes we could ever image.  125 kids (grade 1-5) were lined up on either side of the walkway clapping and cheering as we walked into the school yard.  It was very emotional, I was choking back tears as we walked along.  We were then formally greeted by the teachers and principle and participated in a tea ceremony.  We were told the kids were so excited to receive a computer and how helpful it will be to teach them many skills which are so vital in the world today.

Overall it was such a fantastic experience and the lesson I took away from the whole thing was that even something that seems so insignificant can have a big impact.  We were hoping to find 1 person who might get good use out of our computer and we found 125 beautiful kids who will now be able to enjoy learning new and vital skills.

An excerpt from a thank you email from the Minister:

It is indeed a great pleasure meeting both of you, and I thank you for taking all the trouble to bring the computer to Sri Lanka and donating same for students in need.

World has become a better place for humankind because of people like you. Surely we are looking forward to meeting you again and shall arrange to send the pictures earliest possible.

Trust you had a safe journey back and I remain with best regards.

English classroom

Beautiful Sri Lankan kids

The only room with electricity was the principles office which is where the computer will be kept. 

Minister, Principal, school kids, us and the PC.

Sri Lanka - Dalawella Beach

Each morning and evening Kingsley and I picked a new direction to walk along the beach from the hotel.  Pictures cant really capture the natural beauty and isolation we found on our walks.  We truly only encountered one or two other people on the beach other than that, the beach was solely ours.

Enjoying lunch on the beach by the lagoon - Sri Lankan Seafood Curry and the Grilled Seafood Platter

A short video clip of the busiest spot along the beach - the lagoon.  A natural reef created a safe calm place for people to swim with no fear of strong currents.  The spot was about a 5 minute walk to the left of our hotel.

Sri Lanka - Unuwatuna Diving

It hard to believe but it has been over a year since we did our last dive in the Similan islands Thailand. There are lots of reefs and dive sites available within a short 10 -15 minute boat ride from the beach which made it easy to do a deep dive and reef dive in the morning and return back to the beach in time for lunch. The water visibility wasnt fantastic due to heavy rains the night before but it was still beautiful and it felt so wonderful to be back in the water again.

Reef dive - Goda Gala Diyamba 8-18 Meters 
Dive time 49 minutes

Deep dive - Aluth Gala 20-25 Meters 
Dive time 42 minutes

Sri Lanka - The Art of Surviving a Tuk Tuk

After traveling over much of Asia the last 3 years one would think Kingsley and I would have become fairly comfortable driving around in Tuk Tuks. 

Links to a few of our other Tuk Tuk adventures:

But every Tuk Tuk journey somehow seems to evolve into its own unique adventure.  Over time, and after many heated discussions, Kingsley and I have finally learned the Art of Surviving a Tuk Tuk:

One hand gripped tight on Tuk Tuk, other hand gripped tight to camera, start recording and prepare to be amazed! 

Sri Lanka - Sri Gemunu Hotel

Having learned early on that the entire city shuts down over Chinese New Year, Kingsley and I made plans to get out of Singapore and head back to one of our favorite countries - Sri Lanka.  On our first visit we spent time in the mountains and tea plantations which was so incredibly beautiful. But we have heard so much about the beaches in Sri Lanka so this trip was dedicated to exploring the South Coast of the island.

Beach outside of Sri Gemunu hotel

View from our Breakfast table

During the first part of our weekend getaway we stayed at Sri Gemunu hotel which we found to be a good value. The rooms were simple but clean, the bed was comfortable and we had a beautiful balcony overlooking the ocean.  I found the mix of comfy bed and the sound of waves crashing on the beach to be the perfect combo for a restful deep sleep.

The hotel is right on one of the most beautiful beaches we have encountered in our travels.  The staff were very friendly and attentive, without being intrusive. The food was buffet style at every meal which is typically not my favorite way to dine but the quality of food was good and there were lots of local dishes available.  One of the nights we were there was Seafood Grill night (we love seafood!) where they cooked fresh caught prawns and fish over an open fire fed by coconut husks. The seafood was excellent.  At breakfast there were made to order crepes and eggs.  I also fell in love with the "curd and trickle" buffalo curd with a drizzle of honey at breakfast time - it is to die for.

 View from our balcony

Seafood dinner on the beach

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

During Chinese New Year, lion dancer troupes visit homes and workplaces all over Singapore to perform the traditional custom of "cai ching" which translated means "plucking the greens".  On Thursday we were visited by the lion dancers at the clinic.

During this dance the lion must "pluck" (AKA rip apart and throw) the auspicious green vegetable (which is usually lettuce) along with auspicious fruits like mandarins.  Why lettuce you might ask...well evidently the word "cai" for lettuce sounds similar to the word for fortune. The lettuce and oranges are then tied to a red envelope containing money and placed in front of the premises to await the lion.

Once the lion arrived it initially danced/walked through every nook and cranny of the clinic. I suspect this was either to scare away evil or to spread good fortune around.

Eventually our lion noticed the red envelope and slowly approached it like a curious cat. It then sat on the platter to "eat" the lettuce and moments later proceeded to spit out the lettuce and mandarin peels all over the clinic and us! I had lettuce all over me which is evidently very good luck. At the end of it all the lion left us an arrangement of mandarin slices which I was told said prosperity. They also left us our four lucky numbers for the year 5834.  

It was quite the memorable experience. Since the lettuce and peels are considered to be auspicious, the girls at the clinic did not immediately clear away the pieces of orange and lettuce to prevent sweeping away all our good luck.