Thiruvananthapuram

Our first stop back in India is Thiruvananthapuram – that’s a mouth full!

Pronounced Tee-roo-va-nan-ta-pu-ram, the capital of the beautiful Indian state of Kerala gives you an indication of the tongue-twister Dravidian place names we face every day here in the South. Even locals tend to stumble over this one, so most just refer to it as Trivandrum.

Yes, this is just one of many such linguist challenges that the regional language, Malayalam, presents us with when we show up at the bus station. Try buying a ticket to Thalayolaparambu, Purunnermangalam, or Mulangunathukavu. Not too simple!

Got “Milk”? Indians Don’t!

Apparently, the Oscar nominated “Milk” presented some kind of special threat to Indian society. Yes, there’s a little Big Brother in the world’s largest democracy. As Indians gathered to see if “Slumdog Millionaire” would take best picture, they may or may not have noticed that little bits of the Oscars were disappearing right before their very eyes.

Then again, maybe they didn’t as such censorship is quite common here, even on pay TV. Clips from “Milk” and parts of the award recipients’ speeches were cut to spare viewers the hideous ways of the West. Shiva forbid that Indians might be exposed to anything that might taint their sensitive souls. Oh, so fragile.

Why are We Going Back to India?

Well, after another epic battle at the Indian consulate, otherwise known as the palace of ass-scratching ineptitude, we finally managed to get our third Indian visa, which will allow us to stay for four more months.

After the nightmarish first visa last January and the power-tripping saga to get our second visa in July, we thought we knew what we were in for in Kandy. Oh India, you have such lows awaiting your visitors – even before they enter the country.

This time, the 8 day process tested our every ounce of anger management skills and ass kissing ability. A showcase for the highly refined art of non-thinking, the nightmare started with Continue…

Attack on Colombo

For all you news junkies, we just wanted to let you know we are OK. We have already arrived in India and were no way involved with the Tamil Tiger attack on the airport and capital.

As we have mentioned before, there is a gap between our immediate location and the blog location. Security was extremely tight as we left Colombo, and foreigners and locals were required to get out of taxis and take a special security bus into the actual airport itself.

We were very impressed with the smoothness and professional nature of the Sri Lankan military at the airport, so we were both quite surprised when we read about the attack by plane.

Just wanted to let everyone know we were OK.

Ralf His Dudeness from Holland

Our latest Contemporary Nomad is not quite royalty but certainly does have the well earned luxury of seeing a lot of the world. And, no, we didn’t give him this title, Ralf’s a self-proclaimed fan of The Big Lebowski. This guy is one dedicated traveler – perhaps, even more dedicated than we are!

Yes, his Dudeness loves to travel. So much so that he is literally using his body to finance his wanderlust. Continue…

Sri Lanka in Motion

Now it’s time to get a little taste of Sri Lanka in motion. Hear the chanting, watch the waves roll in, see the snakes slither… a little movement brings a whole lot of appreciation to the picture.

A Few “Whys” as We Say Goodbye

As our time here in Sri Lanka comes to an end, I must say I am still completely baffled by this country. Even after a month here, we walk through the streets in awe of how much more “together” this tiny war-torn nation seems to be compared to India. Every day, we ask ourselves why?

After thirty years of war, ethnic tension, religious extremists butting heads, massacres, bombings, corruption… shouldn’t this place be a wreck? Why are there so many package tourists taking their holidays here? Why does everything run with relative efficiency? Why are there so many perfectly organized grocery stores? For South Asia, this place is downright affluent.

Why?

When they made a mistake at the train station and I started yelling like I would in India, why did the station master Continue…

Cultural Triangle Pictorial

Many Westerners are not aware of the fact that Buddhism originated in south Asia. Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal and traveled widely throughout Nepal and India spreading his philosophy where he could. In the 3rd century BC, Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka where it took hold and, unlike India, never let go. It was in the great Sri Lankan cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, where the Theravada school of Buddhism was refined before the philosophy moved on to Burma and Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, many of early Buddhism’s greatest monuments are here in Sri Lanka.

But somebody was asleep during Buddhism class. After two thousand years of talking about rejecting materialism, you would think that some of that philosophy might have seeped into the super-Buddhists’ heads. But no, Theravada-land has decided to honor Buddha by charging foreigners extortionate fees to visit all the monuments dedicated to he-who-rejected-wealth. In a land where much of the population earns a few dollars a day, foreigners are charged $25 US a pop to visit each of the more famous sites. Or, you can purchase a Cultural Triangle Pass for a mere $50 US which allows foreigners to visit all the sites except those which are not included. (You seriously need to read the fine print.) I can say without any doubt that Buddha would be appalled.

However, if you follow our blog, then you know I’m an architecture junkie, and Sri Lanka is the king of the giant dagobahs. If you want to see the history, you’ve got to pay up. But don’t think I didn’t share a few thoughts of my own on Buddhism at the ticket booth. Since we payed though the nose (and since it was quite beautiful), we thought the Cultural Triangle merited a full pictorial of its own.

Sri Lankan Fried Bat

…not a national dish but an unfortunate sleeping accident. And this wasn’t just a single dimwitted fruit bat which failed to understand the danger of power lines. We’ve seen them all over the place, sometimes four or five in a row hanging awkwardly from their charred, twig-like legs.

Apparently caused by the closely grouped wires, this problem seems to be specific to Sri Lanka because we haven’t noticed toasted bats anywhere else. What a SHOCKING way to go! 🙁

Ancient Trivia and 360 Panoramas

It’s the third century AD and you are on a tour of the world’s tallest structures. You’ve already visited the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre in Egypt and you are on your way to view the world’s third tallest structure. What ancient structure are you on your way to visit? (Hint: It’s in Sri Lanka.) Continue…