Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Little triflings

Greetings dear blog readers!

From time-to-time I make note of things of interest or helpful tips. As you can imagine, these little tidbits do tend to accumulate over time. But, they don't necessarily "fill" an entire blog post on their own.

So, I thought I'd combine them into one blog post and ramble all over the page about a bit of this-and-that.

Airport runs are often interesting when it comes to getting to and from Bandaranaike International Airport. It can take up to two hours if you're coming to or from Colombo during traffic peak hours, though the distance is about 35 kilometers. Usually, this means you have to set off early to ensure you don't miss your flight. However, the new Colombo-Katunayake Expressway is set to open soon, which will significantly cut the journey down to 20 minutes over a distance totalling approximately 25 kilometers. This will definitely improve the airport travel experience for both locals and tourists.

I've had a few scary journeys to the airport. I'm not referring to attacks or crimes or anything of that sort. More like, travel experiences where I've run into some random event and I'm at risk of missing my flight. For example, one time I was unwittingly caught behind a perahera parade. The traffic police had not blocked off the road or turn off demonstrating their incompetence at event planning/traffic coordination. Many cars, including mine, turned into the road in question and found ourselves literally stuck - neither being able to move forward nor backwards.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Travel Monday: Exploring Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The World Heritage City of Sigiriya and its rock fortress is located between Dambulla and Habarana, past the town Kimbissa on the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya Road. Sigiriya was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.

Early accounts indicate places surrounding Sigiriya and nearby caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks around third century BC.

Sigiriya is renowned as an ancient Sri Lankan kingdom, and more particularly the historic story of the power struggle between the sons of King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura documented in the Mahawansa. King Dhatusena had two sons from two different queens - Prince Moggallana and Prince Kassapa. When Prince Moggallana was named as heir, Prince Kassapa imprisoned his father, stole the throne and, Prince Moggallana escaped taking exile in India.

Out of fear his brother would come for vengeance, King Kassapa decided to make Sigiriya his kingdom. He constructed his royal citadel, both palace and fortress, on top of the 200m high Sigiriya rock over seven years (between 477-485) and also established a new city around its base. He ruled for 18 years from 477-495.

Eventually, Prince Moggallana returned with an army from India to fight with King Kassapa in 491. In the ensuing battle, King Kassapa found himself cornered, facing capture and defeat, so he killed himself. Moggallana became king and ruled from Anuradhapura. He returned Sigiriya to the Buddhist monks, and it was eventually abandoned around 1150.

Local and foreign tourists flock to climb Sigiriya as it houses some famous Sri Lankan art frescoes and comprises a complex of buildings - royal palace, fortified town and water gardens - an example of the unique architectural feats of ancient Sri Lankans.

I've visited Sigiriya three times and climbed the rock fortress twice. The most recent climb was this year with my mother. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience as the climb is fun, there is plenty to see, and the views from the top of the rock are spectacular.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 5

It's Friday 13th today, so what better way to celebrate this than to publish another "An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly" post wink

If you haven't read these yet, but are interested in reading them... you can click on these links:

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1 on what it's like living as an expat in SL
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2 on local attitudes, dual pricing, behaviors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3 on police force, corruption and stories
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4 on garbage collection, waste and recycling

This post looks at what I call "expat fatigue". Every now and again I come down with an illness of sorts called expat fatigue.

It's something I know a lot of expats "come down" with from time-to-time. I've been diagnosing it among my friends and once I've diagnosed them they look at me in shock eek and say:

"OMG! You're dead right. I have that".

The thing is... it's lovely to live and work in another country and be adopted into a different culture and way of life. Those of us who embrace new places, people and cultures usually thrive as an expat. However, we also get a little weary or tired from these things too. Sometimes it's the constant battling through language barriers; putting up with inefficiencies; dealing with a climate your body is not used to; or missing creature comforts (food, scenery, family, friends, culture etc) from home!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Travel Monday: A stroll around Galle Fort

I enjoy weekends where I get to hang out with a friend and catch up on life, love and everything else. You know the sort where you really get to spend time together, walk, talk, browse, joke, laugh, eat, drink, relax and unwind. Connecting with our friends at this level is quite a challenge when you consider everyone's fast-paced lifestyle, especially living in a capital city. 

Often, I find it more than a challenge to coordinate diaries with friends so we can find time to enjoy a day out or a weekend together. Something always comes up or is scheduled. In Sri Lanka, this often includes weddings, birthdays, death anniversaries, alms-giving, children's tuition, sports meets, work, parents and more rolleyes

When we do eventually connect though... it's really lovely. Most of the time I catch up with friends around Colombo as it's convenient, however, if given the chance we sometimes venture out a little further for a day trip.

One of the places I love to visit for a day trip is Galle as it's relaxing, you can wander around Galle Fort and there are plenty of options for eating and drinking. It's also an easy one hour+ journey from Colombo if you take the Southern Expressway, which opened in November 2011. The Southern Expressway runs from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa (Galle) and is approximately 96km. There are plans to expand this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I watched sinhala movie "Siri Parakum" with no English Subtitles!

I went to see the sinhala movie titled "Siri Parakum" at the Savoy 2 cinema this week with a few friends. By the way, Savoy 2 is definitely not a cinema I frequent on a regular basis because it is quite a pokey little cinema, but my friends had convinced me the movie was well-worth seeing. 

I didn't realize till the movie started there were no english subtitles, but I managed to muddle my way through most of the movie, and even found the dialogue funny in parts. It ended up being an excellent opportunity to use and improve my sinhala.

FYI, I don't go to see many sinhala movies, nor do I watch sinhala teledramas on local television. Too much angst and drama for my liking. But then again, I've never been a fan of British soaps either.

Siri Parakum, directed by Dr. Somaratne Dissanayake, is part historical saga-part fairytale/Shakespearean tragedy, telling the story of a young Parakrama Bahu II, who was the eldest son of Vijaya Bahu III. The second wife of King Vijaya Bahu III is plotting to murder the first born son of the King to ensure her own son has clear passage to become the future king. The movie begins with this as the focus of the plot and as the story unfolds we see the young first-born prince smuggled away by his loyal guardian and given to a village laundry woman, in order to protect and hide him from the Queen. The young prince grows up as Appuwa after being taken in by a village family until, as a young man, the secret of his birthright is revealed and he ascends the throne. The movie's plot is based on some truth and Parakrama Bahu II did rule as king from 1236 - 1271.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recipe: Eva's Spicy Squid Fried Rice

In one of my recent posts, "Second instalment of "My Sri Lankan Food Diary": Just another average week of eating", I promised to share my secret recipe for Eva's Spicy Squid Fried Rice.

I've always loved cooking and eating seafood, but getting the freshest seafood has always been a challenge... until moving to Sri Lanka.

I think it's "an absolute must" to make the most of what's readily available where you live. Here in Colombo (or along much of the coast of Sri Lanka) you can easily purchase fresh seafood - a variety of fish, prawns, squid or cuttlefish, shark, crab and more.

If you live near the beaches where the fishermen take their boats out, it's possible to buy seafood right off the boat directly from the fishermen every morning. Or, in the mornings around those same neighborhoods, you can hear the shouts of "malu malu" as sellers carry their daily catches on a weighing device on their shoulders from street-to-street.

Sometimes, you also see sellers or touts holding up crabs and other seafood for sale along Marine Drive, which runs parallel to Galle Road in Colombo. This is quite a sight! Not a great one, if you're allergic to seafood wink

Monday, September 2, 2013

Travel Monday: Trekking in the Sri Lankan wilderness

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” ~  Edmund Hillary

The past few Travel Monday posts have been focused on places and events which are mostly known, specific and relatively easy to navigate to. I thought I'd take a walk on the wild side with week's travel post, and take you "off the beaten track".

If you haven't figured it out by now, I have an adventurous heart and I love exploring new and unknown places. Don't get me wrong, I do bite off more than I can chew sometimes, and on the odd occasion I have been known to get a little scared and find myself in silly situations. However, that said, I enjoy stretching the boundaries of comfort and pushing myself to try new things. And, I have the cuts, bruises, bites and rashes to prove it!

One thing I have done a fair bit of, over the past five years in Sri Lanka, is trekking in the wilderness. I have some pretty fit and adventurous friends who have encouraged me to explore with them, and I have not looked back since.