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About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Skywatch Friday- Madurai in all its glory


 Walking through the streets, I reminisced about our life in that town, crossing the road to get to school, the family that lived below in our house and  a whole host of other memories came flooding in. I was dragging my trolley bag and walking towards the Periyar Bus stand to receive my friend who was arriving from Kochi. 

After the initial hugs and smiles, we had breakfast, freshened up at a hotel nearby and made our way to the temple. As the auto rode through the narrow lanes, all I could think of was the last time I was here. It had been a good 4-5 years if not more. And every pillar and every sculpture was etched in memory. I narrated some of the memories with my friend and also told her of the Shiva- Parvathy wedding story that is described along the walls of the temple while we waited in line to get Darshan. We were inside the majestic & renowned Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai. 

Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati (in the avatar of Meenakshi amman). There are 14 majestic Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams for the main deities.  There is also a Nandi sitting in a mandap that has been sculpted from one single stone. Apart from this, there is a hall with pillars where each one plays a different musical note. Unfortunately they have been closed off and public is not allowed to touch it these days. 

Unfortunately that day we had an hour and that went in waiting in lines and getting Darshan. Couldn't really wander through the entire temple campus. But a visit is such a heart warming thing, especially in a town that holds fond memories.. 





For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday ... 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sri Lanka- The Turtle Sanctuary

As we left for Galle, our cabbie told us there was a Turtle sanctuary enroute which is a nice place to visit. We spotted it a few kilometers ahead, and he pulled over. After 4 days in Srilanka, we knew what to expect. I hopped out and went inside to enquire what their entry charges were. A man who looked like he was in charge, came forward greeted me and said it was 500LKR per person. I went back and relayed this information to my friend, we spent a few minutes deliberating on whether to go inside or give it a miss. In the end, I kinda convinced her that we should [esp since who knew when we would get to visit such places]. And boy, were we glad to have gone ahead with it.




The man, Victor who owned the place spoke fondly about the turtles there. He has been running the place for a few years and was hoping his son/daughter would take over when they grew up. But alas, God had other plans. He lost his entire family in the 2004 Tsunami but said this sanctuary was his only pillar of strength and so he has continued his good deed. He and his team rescue turtle eggs from the shoreline regularly and they are kept in a big sand pit to incubate. There were boards with the various Turtle variety’s name on it.
Alongside the pit were big pools where we saw different kind of turtles swimming along. 

There was the Leatherhead Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle .

One of the tanks had babies, some as tiny as a 1Re coin and others slightly bigger. Each pool had a board with information about the variety, and where they are normally found. In the 2nd tank were few giant turtles and after a brief introduction to them, we were told we could hold the turtle. Gasp!! There was another group of 3 near us [they had come from Holland], one of the guys went ahead and carried the big guy. It looked heavy, but I was so excited I knew I was not going to miss this opportunity. The turtle weighed a good 15kilos. That is as much as my Floppy weighs and he is easy to carry as he flops, but the turtle has a hard shell and there was the fear of it slipping out of my hands. But what fun it was to hold the guy, even if only for a few minutes. My friend came forth and the Man in charge commented “please don’t drop it”. I had to hold the big guy ‘cos I knew she would not be able to manage on her own.







We then moved on to see the other varieties and there was a pool with one giant turtle, and it was injured, did not have a front leg. But he swam to and fro in that little pool non stop. The babies were adorable; we lifted them gently and put them back in seconds. Once they were back in the water, they tucked their hands and legs and lay still. Apparently that is their way of playing dead and making sure they weren’t picked up again.

Sand pit where eggs are being incubated


Subsequently, we made a small donation, just our way of encouraging the good deed that the man was doing. 

Address: The Sea Turtle Farm "Silver Green", Habaraduwa, SRI LANKA. 
Telephone: 0094 777 836 115

Teej Festival in Jaipur

It is nearly monsoon up north and that is what brought on this post. 

It was Aug 2013 and I was doing some reading about the places to visit in Jaipur when I stumbled upon a bit of information. It actually had me all excited and within minutes I shared the same with the friend who was travelling with me. The day we were landing in Jaipur was when Teej festival began. This is a festival that was celebrated across two days and was known to be grand and vibrant. The internet told me there would be music, procession, dancing, and the Goddess Parvathi would be brought in a palanquin. 

The Teej festival happens as the monsoon begins in Rajasthan.  Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, this festival is all about reuniting her with her husband Lord Shiva. An elaborate process began near the palace grounds inside one of the lanes along the Hawa Mahal area. We were told it begins at 5 and to find a place to sit/stand to view the procession. Friend and I spent about an hour inside the campus where all were getting ready. There was one elephant standing there all decked up, with lions and deer painted around its eyes and legs. It looked very cute. And out of nowhere another herd of elephants marched in, much to my dismay. The mahoots got busy throwing a sheet and then few other adornments over these gentle giants. Alongside came a few camels and horses as well. In another corner I noticed there were a group of women dressed in finery in black colour, and a few men with music instruments in their hands. 




 After spending some time watching, clicking and talking to the people around here, we finally made our way to the main road in search of a vantage point to view the procession in. We saw a few sitting on top, and asked the cop how to get there. He deliberated for a few minutes and then guided us up the steps. There were a row of chairs filled with Foreign tourists an their guides. We grabbed two seats and got comfortable waiting for the festivities to begin. Every now and then there would be a sudden bout of drizzles. 

Within an hour, we spotted the Elephants coming out from the gates. They looked grand and beautiful. Following them came the dancers, there were few other performers, groups of men carrying a tall pole with a decorative piece atop balanced on one hand. Then finally came the palanquin holding the Goddess Parvathy. It had a beautiful red canopy and was pulled by a few men dressed in finery. Some looked up at us and posed for photographs, while others went along... 



During this festival, married women all around pray to Lord Shiva and Parvathi blessing them for a long life together.  It is said that the Goddess Parvathi has been away from her husband for a long time and is finally going back. Any wish/prayer made on this day is known to come true! 

The sweet stories along the lanes were filled with their traditional sweet Ghevar [made with oil & flour where the batter is poured through a hole in bottle cap and then sugar syrup is poured over it]. Clothe stores were showing off the beautiful lahariya sarees [ multi coloured with wave prints] and women all around were dressed in bright colours with bangles and mehndi on their hands.  

The evening ended only after the palanquin turned around the corner down the road. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Skywatch Friday- Humannya- Blow Hole, Sri lanka

As we were driving along towards Matara, our driver announced there was a Blow Hole nearby and asked if we wanted to visit. Ofcourse we did!! We nodded our heads till it was ready to fall off our shoulders. He then drove into a narrow lane and puled into a parking lot. Now this amazing thing about Sri Lanka is that in most tourist places, the parking lots are manned by locals. There were old women standing around every corner inviting us to park in their spot. Maybe that is how they earned their living.. Here, we pulled into a lot near a small shop of sorts. We paid the parking fee to the lady [about 100LKR] and made our way down the narrow lane around bends and corners. And then came a sudden flight of steps, basically rocks put together to form steps. We climbed up about 20 of these, came to a landing and then up another 40-50 steps. And then when we stopped to check the place out, we caught the beautiful shimmering ocean beneath. 


There is a small center of sorts with pictures and posters describing the Blow hole and different sea animals around the place with seats meant for school kids[ a visitor information place]. This is also were we bought our tickets [500LKR for the 2 of us] and then went on to find the way to the Blow hole. There were a bunch of rock steps leading up into the trees and beyond. I noticed a couple come down from there and wondered how far the spot really was. And then there were few steps down to the ocean, which was just too inviting to resist. 



My friend and the cab driver went ahead and I caught up with them slowly. I dont have a few of heights, but the rounded rocks were a challenge... I finally reached the top and saw nothing but open space. There was the ocean below, and then I noticed a path of sorts had been made by the high ocean waves. There was railing all around and we positioned ourselves right in front, near the guy who worked there. Ajith has been working at the Blow Hole site for 7yrs now and he says he loves it. He is all about "wait 2 mins madam, it will come, so many big ones in morning.. low tide.. one more.. one more..." kinda guy!! We stood there for nearly an hour, watching the little squirts and a few big ones pop through the cliff . It sure was a sight to behold... 










The Kudawella Blow Hole or Humannya is a rare geological formation of nature. Situated at the southern coastal village of Kudawella, it is the only Blow hole in the entire Asian subcontinent and the 2nd largest in the entire world. The Kudawella village name literally translates to "small beach", it took quite a hit in the 2004 Tsunami  and is in near ruins today. 

The blowhole itself is a natural crack in the rocks, and when the wind blows in the right direction the water shoots up the cliff and into the air The water shoots up above the cliffs during the monsoon seasons [Ajith told us it rises over 30-40 meters]. Infact, the place Humannya [Hoo-mannya] derives its name courtesy the  wooshing sound of the water as it comes up the cliffs.  

We got down half way, went over to the Emerald ocean, spending a few minutes standing amidst the rounded rocks, collecting shells and then made our way back to the car. We felt like we had traveled to the moon and back!

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday ... 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Srilanka- An overview of our trip

Now that we had landed in Colombo, the excitement within us was brimming over. Even though we did not have a concrete plan or an itinerary, we managed to cover quite a bit in the 6.5 days we were there in Sri lanka.... Here is a quick jist of all that we did and places we went to,



  • Land in Colombo afternoon 2.45pm
  • Stayed the night in Colombo at Lafala Hotel
  • Dinner at Yaal restaurant on Welawatte beach road [ good veg food] next morning left for Dumbula & Siguriya- long drive ahead. 
  • Saw 2 temples and climbed 1/4 way up Siguriya [very hot and after a point there is only a ladder.. about 2000 steps up are few cave temples]
  • Then drove to KGalle [ to a friend's house] 
  • Moved ahead to Pinawala elephant orphanage [ spent about 3.5 hrs here.. lunch was packed by friend]
  • Do some shopping at Laksala inside the elephant orphanage [it is a govt store and very very good - masks, mugs, tee shirts etc]  
  • Headed to Nuwara elliya [ stopped at a strawberry farm enroute for a half hour, and bought a box of yumm strawberries]
  • Halted that night at Nuwara Elliay- Midky hotel  
  • Next morning drove out towards Yala, stopped enroute to see the Sita temple[ where she walked thru fire] and reached Yala around 2
  • Hopped on a safari truck for the safari - took about 3 hrs in total [ cost of safari jeep- 5000LKR and safari itself was another 5000 LKR]
  • Drove towards Kataragama and stayed at a hotel called Rasoja [very new and basic, but good]- again worked out to about 50$ incl breakfast -no wifi
  •  Morning 9am went to Kataragama temple- spent 4 hours here, saw puja and had prashad.. also walked to the Buddist temple within the complex [ about a km away]
  • Drove down towards Unwatuna- stopped at Hummanaya to see the Blow hole - it is on top of a cliff, short trek but worth it], there is also a beautiful beach below.



  • We stayed that night in Unawatuna [ on a brand new property literally above the ocean]- will recall name of place and share! 
  • Morning drove towards Galle- stopped at a Turtle sanctuary [ entry 500LKR per person] and then explored Galle fort area a bit, walked around and finally drove to Madu river [ like pitchavaram, we did a 3hr river cruise, hopped off at cinnamon island, explored the place, bought cinnamon] , held a baby crocodile, there is also a fish spa if you are interested[200LKR]
  • Had lunch at the resto there and drove to Colombo straight. Reached around evening 7. 
  • Checked into the most awesome place[ you should check this place out- Colombo haven, run by a couple who treated us like their kids and fed us amazing veg food. The galle face beach is about 20mins walk from here . there is also an ice cream place in front- carnival ice cream
  • Last day, we left to House of fashion - did some shopping[ v nice place] and headed to airport. 
Now that you know all that we did, wait for the experiences to come in the subsequent posts... :-))

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SriLanka- The Arrival

We were all set to Arrive in Colombo... 

And with a blink of an eye, the one hour flight was over and done with. We had landed in Colombo, where it was drizzling. Got out of the aircraft, into the shuttle and off at the airport. We noticed a line meant for “immigration and transfers” and followed the directions to a bunch of counters. We noticed people around a counter filling out forms and promptly went over there. Picked up a form each, and once again filled out all the info we had filled back in Madurai

Name, passport number, issue & expiry date, address in Colombo and purpose of visit.

We then stood in line, showed the form and our passport to the gentleman behind the counter who chit chatted with us a bit and sent us on our way! After a quick loo stop, we grabbed our bags and made our way out the airport. There were quite a few Cab/taxi/package tour booths, and the 1st one we approached quoted LKR 2800 to our hotel [ the guy said it was a good 35kms away esp since the airport was quite a distance from main Colombo city]. We also enquired with few others but found this guy cheapest and went ahead with them.

He told us we would get a Hybrid car, and came with us to the car pick up point. The driver then asked if we wanted to go via the Expressway, which would take us to the city faster, but there was a toll for LKR300. We decided against it, esp since we wanted to see a bit of the city and were just getting used to the whole LKR cost funda.

That is us standing in front of our car outside Midky Hotel in Nuwara Elliya

Took us about an hour to reach Welawatta Beach road and to find Lafala Hotel. But it was one beautiful drive, we passed the town, sea side, and open fields along the way! And managed to find a McDonalds where we grabbed a burger and happily dug into it [only then did we realise how hungry we were]

Once we checked into the hotel, we sorted out our bags and packed our handbags with the basic essentials. We were going to be on the road from the next morning again, exploring the country, staying at different places along the way. The one thing we knew we had to pack in our hand bag was that we carry our Passport and cash on hand always!! Here I was carrying both our passports and all the LKR money in a folder :D

Get set to travel the length and breadth of Srilanka with us... 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Prayers to Lord Rama in Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram

This is a post that has been in the drafts for nearly a year now! And what a coincidence I opened it this morning to complete it. It is only fitting since today is Rama Navami and I have just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka [ a country that is filled with stories and remnants of Rama & Sita] 

A few years ago, one afternoon a friend called asking if I would like to accompany her & her family on a trip to Rameshwaram. I was thrilled and immediately said "yes". I had been dreaming of visiting Rameswaram for years, but it was just not happening. Mom & gramma told me that "Rameswaram" and "Kasi" are two places where the more you talk about going the lesser are your chances of actually going. 

So that year I had decided to stay mum about this wish of mine and see what happens. Lo Behold, the trip was actually happening! 

We took a train to Madurai and from there a cab to Rameshwaram. Friend's uncle had booked rooms at ISCKON in Rameshwaram. After a good night sleep, we were up and ready. The handbag and a bag with change of clothes. We made our way to the temple where a man met us and took us around. First was to the ocean behind the temple, where we stood while my friend did some puja with her uncle & aunt. And then they went ahead into the ocean to take the 24dips. Following them, the others did. I went with the last batch and did about 24 dips as well. The ocean surprisingly was calm and there were no waves at all. 

After this, we walked out, picking up our bags towards the Ramanathaswamy temple where we were to go around the 22 Theerthams [wells with water from certain rivers] and enjoy the bucket full of water poured on us by the men manning the wells. Phew! we were all tired by the end of it. Managed to find a place to change into dry clothes and slowly headed towards the main Sanctum. Legend has it that it is 22 because it indicates the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver.The first and major well is called Agni Theertham and the last one Ganga Theertham. 




This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a popular pilgrimage site for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Smarthas. The Temple is also one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where God Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam meaning "pillar of light". Another story goes that in Ramayana, Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu payed to Lord Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon king Ravana in Sri Lanka. In order to worship Lord Shiva, Rama wanted a large Shivalingam. He instructed Lord Hanuman to bring the Lingam from Himalayas. But since it took very long, Rama built a smaller one here which is the main idol worshipped till date.  

A beauty of this temple is that it has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in the entire country!! And it is beautiful. As you walk along, you will see pillars on either side with intricate carvings and bright colours. Infact, if you are not sure of where you are going, you just might lose your way! Which did happen to us, one group was at the main gate where we had entered and the other was lost. God bless helpful Samaritans, if not for them we would have gone around in circles looking for each other!! 

  


And today is Rama Navami-  a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya. Lord Rama is also said to be the 7th incarnation of the Lord Vishnu in the Dasavataram. Today at home gramma makes panagam, neer mor and offers special prayers to Lord Rama & Sita... 

To know more about this temple, visit here

SriLanka- Accommodation - Colombo Haven, Kollupitiya

We came to know of this place through our cab driver and were we glad he did! We checked in the day before we were to fly out of Colombo back home. The place is tucked away in a narrow lane behind Carnival Ice cream. Once you enter, you feel as if you were home. Our room was in the basement and it was one large room- there were 2 large beds, a TV, modem with wi-fi, a huge bathroom with the works! there was also a kettle to make your own cup of tea or coffee in the room. There were 3 lights, an AC that kept us happy in the warm summer day. 

The room we stayed in is called "Banyan Den"

The front, near the entrance

Our room
 

The bathroom

 Elaborate breakfast they served us the morning we flew out

Upon mentioning we were vegetarians, John & his wife served up a feast for us- each of the dishes were divine and we ate away greedily! The room was priced at $60 dollars including breakfast and for dinner they charged $5 only. The couple were warm, caring and made our stay a memorable one. The place is about 20mins from Galle Face beach and is on the main road, so there is easy access to banks, stores, restaurants and everything else you could desire! 



I highly recco this place to anyone travelling to Colombo, Sri lanka!

Address:
# 263/6 Galle Rd, Colombo 9, 
Sri Lanka
[In the lane behind Carnival Ice cream] 
Ph: +94 11 2 301672

Website: http://www.colombohaven.com/