goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Amber Fort Wins Best Fort Prize

Ft Ti firing demoWhen I was quite young we stopped at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State on one of our family vacations. A colonial era fort, Ticonderoga stayed in my memory as one of my favorite places so much that I had my family stop there about five years ago.  Somehow, it had shrunk and my kids were not impressed.

Well, travelfans, do I have a fort for you!!! Imagine, if you will, the Amber Fort of Jaipur, high on a ridge overlooking the valley. Built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh, this palace has it all: amazing architectural details and wonderful stairways and corridors that beckon you on and on.DSCF6339

But first, let me set the tone.You should stop first by the lake and visit with the snake charmer. For a small fee you, too, can blow on the nasally sounding flute and keep a close eye on the cobra. snake Then climb aboard one of the wonderfully decorated elephants

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and ride in leisure up up up the climbing roadway to the Sun Gate.

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

Try to ignore the vendor running alongside enticing you with an ever declining price for the elephant bedspread he is hawking. Tell him it is made poorly and you have no interest, tossing it back to him continuously as the elephant takes you higher and higher. Remember to ignore the vendor to take in the view of the gardensDSCF6359and the fortress wall climbing the opposite hillside.DSCF6351 When you enter the courtyard and he is losing hope, pay the man 10% of his originally stated price and tuck the blanket away, to be used later to sew custom made bags for people who want one that has an essence of this trip.

INdian elephant blanket And then look around the courtyard.

nancye

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

And start exploring.  So much to see. The stairs beckoning you upwards DSCF6378to the plaza.

DSCF6383The mosaicsDSCF6389 all over the place, in the wallsDSCF6380, in the ceilings….everywhere.

Remind yourself that this all was built in 1592, well over 400 years ago. Enjoy the colorsDSCF6407

and the carvings. Everywhere, more detailing.

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Every ceiling different. And the passageways….follow this one…then that one.

DSCF6402Ask someone who works there how to get back to the courtyard where Arvind asked everyone to meet in 20 minutes before moving to another section of the fort.

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Meet up with the group in time and maintain your good standing. And then go again. See another section…it is a huge place.

DSCF6385Peek out of windows to view other places inside the fortDSCF6398 and the surrounding countryside.DSCF6399DSCF6418

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then down another passageway

DSCF6414through another gate

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and still more to see with huge cooking pots.

nancyk

and then out beyond the outer gate past more vendors and then a jeep ride back to the bus.

nancy h

Amber Fort……put it on your list of places to visit, but only if you like to explore.  You DO like to explore, don’t you!!

 


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Pearl of the Ocean

Guest Post by Graham Rankin

I just returned from a two week trip to Sri Lanka conducting a workshop for some of the forensic chemists at their Government Analysts Bureau.  It is part of a international program funded by our USAID.  The point of this essay is not what I taught but about my observations about the Sri Lanka, its people and, because I am a foodie, its food.  This is the first of several blog posts.

srilankamapIndiaSri Lanka is an island just east of the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean.  I was told that Sri Lanka means “Pearl of the Ocean”. When it was a British colony it became known as Ceylon and was most famous for its tea, spices and sapphires. My Sri Lankan guide told me that “Ceylon,” a corruption of “Sea Land,” named so because of its importance as a port for early sailors.

Not many Americans visit there mostly because of the distance (12,000+ miles) and long flight times.  It took me about 25 hours total travel time each way.  This is a shame because it is a beautiful tropical island with a diversity of geography and some of the most friendly people I have met.SriLankaMap

My work kept me in the capital city of Colombo most of the time. Since I had the weekend free I enjoyed a guided day trip into the mountains to the city of Kandy.  More about that trip in a later blog.

The island was inhabited for over 10,000 years by a wide diversity of people, resulting in a series of kingdoms and territorial wars for centuries before Europeans arrived.  Portuguese Jesuits set up a trading center in Colombo in the 1500s.  Of course they also began to work at converting the islanders from Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions to Christianity.  The Dutch came later in the late 17th and early 18th century, establishing a fort at the city of Galle (pronounce Gaul) on the southern end as part of the Dutch East Indies company. The British made their appearance in the early 19th century when it looked like France would conquer the Netherlands and its colonies would become French.

Ceylon became part of the British Empire in 1815.  Independence from Great Britain occurred at the same time as India in 1948, but remained a member of the Commonwealth until 1972.  There have been a series of governments in Sri Lanka including a Communist leaning one in the late 70s and 80s.

There are currently two major ethnic groups, the Singhalese and the Tamils.  Each group has its own language and alphabet. I was told that because each refuses to learn the other, English is the common language.  In fact at the local universities all classes are taught in English and theses and all papers must be written in English.

The upper is Singhalese; the middle is Tamil

The upper is Singhalese; the middle is Tamil

srilankabombMost recently there has been a very bloody uprising by a faction (ILTE or Tamil Tigers) of the Tamil minority that lasted from 1983 until 2009 when the Singhalese dominated military was able to crush the rebellion.  Numerous bombings were commonplace during this time.  Several top officials of the government and parliament were assassinated.

Although Colombo is quiet and relatively safe, a number of bombings occur in the Tamil dominated northern and eastern sections of the country each month.  Land mines planted during the insurrection are still discovered in rural areas; unfortunately when elephants or people step on them.  There are soldiers at key positions around Colombo with Chinese made AK-47s and numerous police (mostly unarmed) throughout the city.  Directing traffic seems to be the main occupation of many police.traffic

I considered taking a picture of one of the soldiers but thought it might not be a good idea.Gunboat

I thought this boat was just a fishing vessel when I took the picture until I blew it up and could see the deck guns.  It was patrolling off shore opposite my hotel.

Since 2009, there has been a resurgence of foreign capital coming into Sri Lanka with a building boom in Colombo.  There is a goal of constructing 3000 new hotel rooms over the next couple of years.  A new toll road to the airport was just opened.  A cab driver told me it is an election year so the current president is seen a lot cutting ribbons on projects.

GalleFaceHotelRestoration

Galle Face Hotel

The hotel where I stayed (Galle Face Hotel), originally built in 1864 is undergoing the second phase of restoration to be completed next year.ViewFormHotelRoom

This was my residence for the two weeks in Sri Lanka.  A historic hotel with hardwood floors, ceiling fans and an ocean view where I could watch the sun set from either my room  or from the patio bar and pool below.  As most guests stay only for a few days, my two week stay may have resulted in some of the comps (bottle of wine, fresh fruit and candies) I received, and the service was excellent.

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After a full week there I had laundry done…it was return perfectly folded in a rattan basket.MyLaugndryDelivered

I had the feeling of being in a Victorian novel where the elite made the Grand Tour of the Indies, staying at hotels like the Galle Face.  BedroomThe room had all the standard accouterments  with a very modern bath.  BAthIn addition to central air conditioning there was a ceiling fan in the room which I much appreciated especially coming in from the 90 degree 90% humidity that reminded me of summers in Houston, Texas. LibraryGalleFaceHotelThe hotel had a library,   (yes it was that yellow!) gym and spa.

 

woodcarvingDiningoomCarved wood trim everywhere including the dining room

 

ChekhovNehruLots of staff available (more it seemed that in a typical Hilton) willing to take care of any need.  The bar had photos of famous people who had stayed there including Nehru,  Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Alex Guinness and Sir Lawrence Olivier.  The general manager told me that during the filming of Bridge over the River Kwai, much of which was shot in Sri Lanka, several of the cast stayed there.  He also told me a visitor commented to him that any hotel that hosted both Che’ Guevara and Richard Nixon (not at the same time!) was his kind of place!