Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise, day 78, Colombo, Sri lanka

I just cannot believe how fast the weeks are flying by!  It won't be long and the cruise will be over and then it won't be long until we go on ours and I will blog blog blog everyday...I can't wait!

This morning we went to coffee as usual and had a very nice visit with Sandi and Irwin. We were waiting for my sister Judy to call.  A friend of theirs is in the hospital in Phoenix and they are coming over today to pick he and his wife up and take them back to Yuma.  Olias and Judy's friend, Bill was flown here last night along with his wife Fran.  Olias and Judy were going to visit with us until the hospital called but they were called right before they got to our house.  So we did not get a chance to see them.

Vicki and I then decided to go up to Anthem as we had to go to the Samsonite Luggage Store to pick up our free luggage!                                     
  This copper wind mill was what Vicki and I gave Tami for her Birthday.  Right now it is not standing where it is going to be placed.  When it finds a home we will post another picture!                                                       

                                            I just really liked this tree! lol!

                                          This is a nice area here at Anthem.  If it is 110 degrees out it does not work for us! lol!  We didn't do a lot of shopping but only went to 2 stores.                                            
         Buying new luggage is one of Vicki's favorite things to do....but these suitcases were this was really fun! lol! The sales girl got right into the act!                                                            
Here we are at Under Armour  Vicki picked this out in Yellow and I will take the green one.  This will be perfect for traveling.  We each got one shirt to try and if we like them we will take all Under Amour when we travel!.

                      I think Vicki looks adorable but I am not sure she is going to keep it!                                                                                                                                  
This does it....we don't need anymore luggage!  It rolls easily andthat is what is important!

                               "Rock, Chalk,  Jay  hawks, GO KU!"  says Rosine! Win, win, win!                                                                  

Where we did not go today....but the Amsterdam did!

Postcards from Paradise!

3 Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Amsterdam arrived to the largest city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, very early this warm Sunday morning. We were docked right in the middle of the commercial port, surrounded by ships and scores of containers. Also right outside our window, were a number of welcoming dancers, dressed in native costuming. Next to them was a red-draped full grown Asian elephant posing for photos with disembarking passengers. We always seem to miss this activity, since our tour began shortly after 8am.

Because of its location at the tip of India, Sri Lanka, or Ceylon, as it was known until 1948, was an important sea route for trade with the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, and the Chinese. Muslims settled this area in the 8th century, followed by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and lastly the British. This area was famous for its cinnamon crop back then, whereas Ceylon tea has taken this spot today. We would see evidence of all of these cultures within the confines of our short 5 hour tour today.

Four buses filled with members of our travel group took off on a convoy first driving towards the Pettah Bazaar area of the city. Being that it was a Sunday, many businesses were closed. However, as in most cities, the local fruit and veggie market was bustling with early morning shoppers already. It's really a maze of streets with their own specialities including clothing, shoes, and an assortment of daily household items. We were never let "loose" in this market, since there was no time we assume. And we are not sure we would have been welcomed. We have never seen so many local buses parked here. Can't imagine what kind of bargains we may have ended up with.

Independence Square was the first stop, where we wandered around the open-air complex. Many HAL buses were parked there also doing the same popular tour as us. As a matter of fact, we did this very same tour last year. This is one port where you do not want to go off on your own. It's not walkable with the ship being docked over a mile from the pier gate. You need to take a taxi to the gate, then get out and negotiate another form of transportation to wherever you wish to go. No, a tour is far better we think.

Our next stop was at the National Museum, with a huge collection of coins, weaponry, and interesting artifacts from the cave ages to recent history. Last year, we were only allowed on the first floor, because the museum had been looted a few days prior to our visit. Today, all of the floors were opened. The only thing we remember well was that the museum was dark, poorly lit, and it was hot with no air circulation. For that reason, and the fact that hundreds of other tourists were there, we chose to stay outside. Another thing we objected to was that we were not allowed to take photos without buying a special permit. We had 45 minutes to walk the grounds. Last year, there had been several feral dogs with cute puppies. We had brought some graham crackers from the Lido with us in case we saw these little dogs. However, they must have been removed since our visit, so we ended up eating the crackers ourselves. What can we say......we missed breakfast this morning. More interesting were the many paintings outside the museum gates for sale by local artists. They were way too big to buy, and so were the wood carved setees one person was pushing. They did make for great photos.

We were more than ready for the next visit to the Galle Face Hotel, built in 1864. It is a landmark of Colombo and is situated on a premium location in the heart of the city facing the Indian Ocean. Greeted by the friendly staff, we entered the lobby of the hotel, which was nicely air-conditioned. We were led straight to a huge beautiful dining room with set tables for us. In an adjacent room, a long table was complete with plates of sandwiches, cookies, and fruitcake for each of us to take. Delicious Ceylon tea or coffee was served with the snack. While we sat with friends Mel and Helen, one of the staff fellows came to us and asked if we had visited the hotel last year. Yes, we told him, it was exactly a year ago, and we recalled speaking with this man at that time. But what are the chances that he would remember us? It did indeed make us feel most welcomed here and we thanked him once again for the wonderful reception they put on today.

With about 10 minutes to spare, we toured the back of the hotel which had a very nice Verandah Restaurant facing the beach of the Indian Ocean. There were many beach combers, but no swimmers. Why, we are not sure, except for the fact that most people here are Hindu or Muslim, and do not believe in "beachwear" clothing. It's OK for tourists, but not for them.

There were three fellows out front with two baskets of cobras and one reticulated python. When they opened the lid of the baskets, the snakes rose up and flared their hoods, striking at the handlers. We can only hope that these poisonous snakes were de-fanged, but who knows for sure. Keeping our distance, we watched several of our buddies snap photos of the snakes. The handlers immediately demanded money from each of them, actually chasing down one man who thought he was sneaky, getting away with the photo. No, he paid too.

There was one more stop at the Gangarama Temple, the most famous of the Buddhist temples in this area. We chose not to go inside, mainly because we were not too happy about taking our shoes off and leaving them outside the door. Last year, our friend Sky had worn his multi-colored Nikes on this tour and was going to go in the temple, but carry his shoes. They would not let him do that, so he also did not go inside. Really, the better photos were from the outside. From the side wall on the street, we saw the young bull elephant that we had seen last time. He was chained with two of his legs secured to tree trunks. But at his feet, were piles of palms with succulent leaves for him to chew. We were told he was about 5 years old, and from what we remembered, he had grown quite a lot in one year. The temple was full of young school children who come here on Sundays for religious instruction. They were entralled with the elephant as much as we were. To use up some of the extra time we had, we walked across the road to see the small lake that has recently been remodeled and renovated for local recreation. There were boats in the shape of swans for people to rent. And a decorative shrine with buddhas sat partly in the lake. Our guide told us that this shrine was a favorite place for newlyweds to have their photos taken.

On the way back to the ship, we passed the oldest part of town with the British built colonial buildings and the 100 year old clock tower. Back at the pier, we checked out the souvenier stands, but found nothing of interest. What we did see was not really a surprise to us, but was for other passengers. In our absence this morning, the crew had added razor wire to the lower promenade deck, just like we had added last year before leaving the port of Mumbai. A letter had been delivered to our room explaining the need for the wire, which of course, is pirate deterrance. According to Captain Mercer, the likelyhood of attack is extremely low.....we are able to maintain a high speed of 25 knots if necessary, and the promenade deck is too high to breech easily. We will go into more details as we sail further into the Indian Ocean on our way to the Seychelles.

We attended the sailaway at 2:30pm, early today, since we were leaving at 3pm. It sure looked like rain, but it never did. At least the breeze had picked up, cooling things off finally. We never made it to dinner of us has come down with a mild cold, so room service sounded much better for a change. Three days at sea should be sufficient to cure the cold we think. As hard as you try to keep sanitized, too many people have this cold and just keeps going and going..........

Mary Ann & Bill

 Colombo, Sri lanka from Jeff's blog!

Had a magnificent day in Sri Lanka, just like last year.  The only thing missing this year were our friends Mike & Janet who were with us last year.  I left the ship early with Ed & Becky and after a rather aggravating negotiation process with taxi drivers, we took off in a Tuk Tuk and headed for the markets…..  These were the wholesale markets, not where the local population or tourists shop.  It is a very busy place, full of activity.  Great place to see the Sri Lankans in their everyday activities….  Then we visited a Hindu Temple as we made our way to Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, a place where Buddha himself was believed to have visited over 2000 years ago.  From there we headed back to Colombo and visited Beira Lake where we found the snake charmers by the Buddhist temple on the lake.  What fun!  Nothing like wrapping yourself in a python, especially where you are deathly afraid of snakes.  Then we went to the Galle Face Hotel where we met up with Corrine for lunch….  It was a very nice, relaxing lunch at a very lovely hotel.  Then we walked the Galle Face Green along the shore to the Khan Clock Tower where we found some shopping opportunities.  Then it was back to the ship for our very early departure at 3:00.  Now we are headed to the Seychelles……


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