Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Holidays - Sri Lanka Part IV– We visited Ahungala

05 to 07 May 2012 – Festival of Vesak

As we travelled from Yala to Ahungala, one could see the entire country engulfed in a festive spirit. ‘Thrice Blessed’ anniversary of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha – ‘Poya’ is celebrated all over the country with great passion. May 6 to 10 saw Sri Lanka rejoicing the 250th year anniversary of Buddha. Visak is essentially a festival of illumination. The city centers are decorated with colorful flags which brighten the day and lanterns which illuminate at night – with a strong belief that ‘The light of knowledge dispels darkness of ignorance’. ‘Poya’ though a religious festival takes on a carnival atmospherewith people coming on the  streets dancing and making merry

They also set up food counters on these days distributing sweets, aerated drinks, ice cream, noodles and variety of food - free to the public. The event is termed ‘Dansala’ meaning free offering of food and drinks. In the hotel they had organized a special entertainment program for “Vesak Poya’. Fire dance in the pool, mermaid display and live band entertained us into the wee hours.
We were very fortunate to have witnessed and participated in the festival. 

Figure 1 - A boy distributing soft drinks

Figure 2 - Dancers wearing Hanuman – Monkey God costume

Figure 3 - Road side decoration

Figure 4 - Decoration in the city - Galle

Figure 5 - A decorated elephant

Figure 6 - Another decoration

Figure 7 - Traditional dancers at the hotel

Figure 8 - Lighted lanterns at the city center  - Colombo

Figure 9 - Buddha lit up for the occasion - Colombo

Figure 10 - A round about decorated with lighted lotus - Colombo

Figure 11 - A lotus in the entrance of 'Taj Samudra' – Colombo

Figure 12 - ' Taj Samudra’ itself lit up for the occasion - Colombo

05 to 07 May 2012 – Stay in hotel ‘Heritance Ahungala’

The drive from Yala to Ahungala is along the coast line and the sea keeps you company all along. The entire belt is full of beach resorts, hotels and home stays, maximizing sun and sand tourism. Our next stop was at ‘Heritance Ahungala’. Built on an excellent location the hotel offers all the very best a tourist desires. A stretch of absolutely clean beach faces the property, inviting the residents to go on long walks or catch a dip in the sea. The hotel has a very nice pool which is quite popular with the residents.

Travel Advisory - Gorging

Another very interesting feature of any holiday or travel is ‘Gorging’. I do not know what exactly happens with the human body and mind when on a holiday – may be they also go on a holiday and allow unabated gluttony. Take my own case – I am overweight and diabetic – I control my diet very carefully and monitor my sugar levels and weight on a continuous basis. Normally my diet is what you may term ‘frugal’. I maintain my sugar levels under control by eating less and eating right. Limited quantity of South Indian breakfast or eggs, lunch made up of either rice or chapattis and finally lots of salad, soup and no carb at dinner. I complement this diet with golf three times a week and four Km walk every day.

Figure 13 -Effect of Gluttony post breakfast

All the determination and control comes to a full stop during holidays. The sight of the different types of food displayed on the table sends confusing signals to the brain, making it slowdown and eventually shutdown. A new nexus between the eye, hand and mouth is formed hastily and the tucking in commences. Fruits look very attractive and catches one’s immediate attention – a plate full of assorted fruits is the first to go in. Thereafter the gaze falls on the table with variety of bakery items, butter, cheese and jam. Equally inviting are the cold cuts, sausages and bacon – how can any breakfast be complete without a helping of baked beans and hash browns. Just then, in spite of a dead and decayed brain, one suddenly remembers the core of any breakfast ‘eggs to order’ – once this trivial matter is attended to - one can then proceed to one’s table and sit down peacefully and concentrate on the fare for the first time. Whilst you are busy enjoying the limited breakfast one hears praises from your own table or the adjoining one – extolling the virtues of ‘Banana Cake’, Appam and stew or a rare type of cheese – not to be out done, one is left with no option but to take these jabbering seriously and revisit the table. Jai and Navin are vegetarians – one thing good about non vegetarians is their ability to taste vegetarian food without much ado - one might as well taste a little bit of grass and greens - no harm done.
May be, we feel it is our right to wolf down whatever is there on the table, just because we have paid for it. The dinners at ‘Heritance Ahungala’ were simply excellent and the gluttony that followed was sheer greed and ravenousness.

To overcome a very powerful feeling of guilt, I had to visit the beach and the pool very often.

Travel Advisory - Companions

There are many aspects to an enjoyable holiday- the place one visits, finances, the weather and more importantly the company. During honeymoon the most important criteria is take your spouse and there can be no argument about it. As marriage stabilizes and children come along, we take them with us and the holiday takes on a different meaning. A time comes when the children take flight and establish their own nest in faraway places. With passage of time they beget their own off springs and we go on holidays with our children and their children – this outing is a very private affair.
Juxtaposed In between all this, are the holidays with friends, which are generally very enjoyable – provided one selects the right people. We have been very lucky to have likeminded friends and our holidays have been memorable. All of us had a whale of a time in China, Greece, Hampi, Conoor, Chikkamagaluru etc. This time too it was most enjoyable with my soul mate Kats and Naveen.

Reasons for travelling with a soul mate or mates are very elemental. At sharp 7PM, the minds should meet. It’s time for all likeminded and able bodied people to exchange subtle glances and congregate near the source to partake elixir –firm orders having already been placed with ‘room service’ for soda and ice. The entire process of opening the urn, pouring the right measure and adding S and I should be executed with utmost precision and without attracting undue attention from the fair sex. While you are busy doing the honors, with your back facing the girls and your hands executing the task as deftly as a surgeon – the mate should engage the girls with an exciting narrative, ensuring their gaze never falls on the healing and uplifting tonic. This intricate military operation can be achieved only by soul mates with decades of experience and practice in this direction. Recharging is almost an art form. This delicate maneuver fails if either of the mates were to withdraw, quoting – blasphemous words such as ‘time for dinner’, it’s enough for me’ etc. It is prudent and far sighted on part of the mates to hold early morning conclaves and decide in advance the POA (Plan of Action) – weather to G and T or give PLD (Pre Lunch Drinks) a go by, congregation place and time for sun downers, milimeterage, recharging frequency, glass down time etc.In this context,Kats is a wonderful soul mate - on a serious note Jai and Naveen are extremely accommodative.   

Figure 14 - On way to Ahungala

Figure 15 - Sea Temple

Figure 16 - Close up

Figure 17 – Coastline

Figure 18 - The road runs parallel to the coast – shades of blue sea

Figure 19 - Dutch city of Galle from a distance. The city was very badly affected during the Tsunami

Figure 20 - Galle fort

Figure 21 - The first person I met at the hotel lobby

Figure 22 - Our room in 'Heritance Ahungala'

Figure 23 - Posing

Figure 24 - View from the room

Figure 25 - A flautist brings in the day with his melody

Figure 26 – Sri Lankan bride celebrating her wedding at the hotel

Figure 27 - Digesting the meals

Figure 28 - View of our room

Figure 29 - Simply fascinating - Sun, shade, sand, sea, sky and finally the swimming pool.

Figure 30 - Another view

Figure 31 - Sun sets in Ahungala

Figure 32 - Rugged coastline

08 to 09 May 2012 – Colombo

We spent two days in Colombo and finally bid goodbye to Diminda and Sri Lanka, after having holidayed for 14 days – city to a hill station and then to a wild life sanctuary and finally to good old sea was a heady mixture. Every one of us had a relaxing and memorable stay in Sri Lanka – thoroughly enjoyed the beauty the country offers. Sri Lankan hospitality was singularly responsible for making our trip a success and in the end Mr Duminda clinched the deal.  

Figure 33 - Warm welcome at Taj Samudra

Figure 34 - An impressive flower decoration

Figure 35 - An unusual entrance to a bar

Figure 36 - A well appointed room

Figure 37 - View from the room

Figure 38 - City centre Colombo

Figure 39 - Good breakfast and out

Figure 40 - A view of the hotel

Figure 41 - Good bye

Figure 42 - Final good bye to elephant country

Figure 43 - Big thanks and 'Ayubowan' Mr Duminda

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