Exploring the Wonders and Cultures of Sri Lanka and India
We spent a brief few days in Sri Lanka, starting in Galle, where 90% of the world’s cinnamon is grown and the iconic scene is the stilt fishermen – those who have no money for a boat, and so set up precarious perches near the shore from which they pursue their daily catch.
Tea also is a critical part of the economy here, and we visited the tea plantation where they grow “Virgin White Tea” – so called because the emperors drank only tea made from the tenderest part of a white tea plant, snipped by virgins using golden scissors and placed in a golden bowl. It has the highest anti-oxidant level of any beverage, although to this tea drinker’s palate, it was quite bland.
Then on to Colombo, where elephants and spectators alike got drenched at the annual Full Moon Parade. Then on to India…
Ahhh India…where to start? This is a land of contradictions – at once fascinating and perplexing.
At our first stop, Cochin, we were a little under the weather, so we weren’t able to experience everything, but it made for quieter appreciation…one evening on the terrace overlooking Cochin at sunset, as the rosy skies blued and the waters of the bay were rippling softly, the call for prayer from a distant mosque mixed with contemporary Indian music and delighted voices from passing lighted party boats. In this exotic setting, I was overtaken by a sense of wonder and contentment.
As in Sri Lanka, Indian traffic is a gigantic game of chicken – they say that they are great drivers, as the lanes follow them – and turns, traffic circles and lane changes seem to be based on nerve and cunning rather than on rules of the road. Traveling through four coastal cities, we visited both Buddhist and Hindu temples with mystifying creatures – giant blue warriors, Buddhas of every size and material, and this interesting monkey man.
And the food was at once foreign and flavorful – in one restaurant in Mangalore, we encountered the Ship’s Food & Beverage Manager, who is Indian, and he ordered up a 7-course Indian lunch that was both delectable and surprising – including beer and wine, it came to $20 per person. The dollar goes a long, long way in this country.
Then, on to Goa, where our fellow Resident and great friend has a home, and he treated us to a not-to-be-forgotten local meal…
Finally, the main event, as we flew to Delhi to board the Maharajas’ Express, the luxury train that would take us through India’s interior to seven memorable destinations. It is quite luxurious – very British in its appointments, but with lovely Indian details in the art and fabric.