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Ayubowan!

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Ayubowan! ( A form of greeting, much closer to ‘Hello’ or ‘Namastey’).

There’s a land blessed with aquamarine beaches, excellent ancient history, centuries old architectural marvels, immense natural beauty of the hills, amazing hospitality, culture and sumptuous food. On the first look this land looks puny, located in the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. But it give us more as we dive in! Yes, I am talking about Sri Lanka; the special land where ancient history blends so well with modernity without a crease!

The day began with a walk into the largest fish market in Lanka; the Negombo fish market. As the day dawned, shop owners were prepping up their little shops, displaying their catch from the early morning, cats waking up from their slumbers and a tub of live crabs being cranky, cackling to get out!

Eeek! live crabs

Eeek! live crabs

 

A bunch of big fishes are transfected to be sold

A bunch of big fishes are transferred to be sold

 

Fishing it out!

Some customers have come earlier bargaining a good price for the fishes displayed. A fisherman chops up the large tuna and packs it up into black polythene bags. Just behind him, the sea is calm, occasionally waves roaring big.

 

A find vendor sits in front of his catch

A find vendor sits in front of his catch

Moving into the town of Negombo, I stop for a light breakfast; fish dumpings, onion buns, aaloo stuff buns and fish+ egg bun downed over a pack of Milo drink, from Perera and Sons, a snackery that has a number of branches all over Sri Lanka.

light breakfast – Fish dumping and fish+egg rolls

From Negombo, we move towards one of the prime attractions of this country, that always shows up in tourism blogs and photos of Lanka; The Pinnawala Elephant orphanage. This orphanage caters to elephants who have been mistreated, injured and aims at the wellbeing of these gentle giants as they show up generously in the cultural fabric of Lanka. Spread over a vast land, this centre offers elephants a lovely loving home, with proper food, medication, the Oya river for bathing and fun, and enormous funds from well-wishers. As I look on, smaller elephants play with onlookers, seeking attention with trunks and their gimmicks! Some smaller elephants roll over in the muddy river, and defecate directly on. A few chew on palm leaves as baby elephants attract attention of every animal lover around! Just being cute as they are!

The Oya River and the elephants

 

Attention seeker

Attention seeker

Elephant galore

Elephant galore

A tiny fellow

A tiny fellow

A tourist gets up close with a tusker

 

A good one and half hours spent with these beautiful creatures gave me an opportunity to understand why Srilankan culture has such high values of this animals. And yet, we see them being rides to the tourists, being paraded for the fancy of the foreigners on many occasions. However, I hope that the condition of these animals improve everywhere in the world.

Off Pinnawala, the ancient Rock temple of Dambulla was not so far away. The rock temple is very interesting as it is said to have been built in the first century BC. With beautiful architecture, statues and paintings inside, the cave temple is a place of worship, pilgrimage, and tourist interest. A huge golden Buddha statue sits high just at the entrance. Owing to the extreme ancient art inside, photography is not allowed inside the temple.

The Golden stupa of Dambulla

The Golden stupa of Dambulla

From in front of the Dambulla Temple

From in front of the Dambulla Temple

However, the cave temple is beautifully lit with lamps, surrounded by a number of ancient paintings on the walls, apart from centuries old statues of Buddha and his disciples.

Off Dambulla, as we move towards Sigriya town, the sun lends its last few rays of the day; leaving back the twilight. Sigriya comes in, as a smaller town, with winding roads between lush green landscape and a fortress in the far, my destination for tomorrow.

Sigriya fort is a rock fort and a finest example of ancient art and architecture. This is a UNESCO heritage site as of now and the maintenance of this art is well done! The fort is built on a huge rock with grooves and cuts that serve as steps, and a treasure of ancient paintings on the inside walls. A flight of over 300 steps serve to take one to the top of the fort. Young kids to senior citizens, everyone shows equal enthusiasm to climb up the fort. The fort is surrounded by shrines amidst lust green trees and shrubs. Macaque monkeys jump on the trees and shrines, with little ones tightly hugging their bellies.

DSC_0323

Climbing atop Sigriya

Climbing atop Sigriya

Paintings in Sigriya fort – dating back to 1st BC

 

 

Paintings in Sigriya fort – dating back to 1st BC

 

Ancient fountains and great baths just like the Harappan ones are constructed on the front garden of Sigriya fortress. From atop the fortress, at a height of 660 feet from the ground, a major part of Sigriya town and Dambulla statue can be seen.  It’s a beautiful view and that’s the highlight of this enormous climb.

During the fortress climb

During the fortress climb

After Sigriya being hungry was beyond doubt. So, I head over to a cozy lunch shack for an authentic Srilankan lunch. For a meagre amount of 250/- Srilankan rupee, I get a good mount of white rice, sided by fresh vegetable curries including dal, spinach, bottle gourd and a fine slice of fish. It’s sumptuous and so nutritious, all made on a coconut base.  The food so has similar flavours as that of Malayali food, that I just feel right at home!

The yummy lunch of rice, fresh dal, bottle gourd curry, spicy fish! Mmm

The yummy lunch of rice, fresh dal, bottle gourd curry, spicy fish! Mmm

Polonnurawa ancient city was my destination after the fabulous meal as the city of the Polunnaru kingdom is much talked about for its art and architectural beauty. As a world heritage site, this city is constituted by architectural relics over an area of 10 kilometres in periphery. Stupas, minarets, palaces, halls, temples, statues and mini-fortresses make this site as impressive as it claims. Neatly manicured shrubs adorn the gardens in front of these buildings.  Monkeys thrive alongside komodo dragons who bask in the sun on the lawns.

Palace - Polonnaruwa

Palace – Polonnaruwa

Ruins- polonnaruwa

Ruins- polonnaruwa

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

 

 

Stupa ruins- Polonnaruwa

Stupa ruins- Polonnaruwa

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

Some tourists can access cycles to roam around the ancient city, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. Hawkers and shop keepers sell SriLankan masks, stone statues and fresh king coconuts. I bargain for an exquisite art piece made of clay, make my purchase and carefully toss it into my bag.

Curios on display

Curios on display

Kandy is located amidst the hills of the Kandy plateu located in the central region of SriLanka. As the second largest town, this city boasts of lakes and gardens topped with a great hill view. Slightly cold the city is, during mornings, but by the evenings, its charm just doubles. Neat roads and shopping malls, hemmed by tradition, temples and restaurants are the main attractions of this city for a foreigner.

Kandy Lake  in the evenings

Kandy Lake in the evenings

 

City of Kandy

City of Kandy

 

 

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

 

Kandy City

Kandy City

 

The sumptuous meal at Kandy Muslim Hotel

The sumptuous meal at Kandy Muslim Hotel

From Kandy, Nuwara eliya is a couple of miles away. Called the tea-garden and Little England of SriLanka, this hill town was a much coveted town for the British rulers, after they were tired of the hot climate, throughout the rest of the country. With a picturesque landscape and chilly climate, Nuwara Eliya is a sought after destination for the honeymooners in Lanka.

The hills of Nuwara Eliya

The hills of Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory Park with Swan Boats for a short ride in the waters

Lake Gregory Park with Swan Boats for a short ride in the waters

The well kept Nuwara Eliya Gregory Park

The well kept Nuwara Eliya Gregory Park

A dad takes the photo of his princess on a horse

A dad takes the photo of his princess on a horse

 

Lake Gregory park is a great place to sip up the essence and beauty of the place during evenings. Small restaurants serve the tourists on the sides of this park. Horses trot around with customers on its back, through the green lawns. A bunch of people play golf not so far away. As the sun sets, the weather becomes cooler, the lake less bustling with swan boats and Nuwara Eliya’s mountains go to sleep.

Nuwara Eliya’s famous tea plantations have been making tea ever since the British set foot on this town. The tea from Nuwara Eliya is branded as Ceylon tea, to be exported and consumed all over the world. The very expensive white tea is also cultivated on these hills. I have a cuppa fresh brew from the Blue field tea factory with a wedge of squeezed lemon, to indulge myself in some shopping of exquisite tea produce.

The Blue Field Tea factory

The Blue Field Tea factory

Hot Cuppa!

Hot Cuppa!

White water rafting at Kitugala is a not to miss adventure at Srilanka. The Kelani river is a fast moving river with frequent gush of water through wedges of huge rocks here there on the fast riverbed. A trivial fact learnt here: the movie, ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai’ was shot from over this river, the highlight being the wooden bridge over this river, Kelani!

 

After the extremely engaging and fun White water rafting

After the extremely engaging and fun White water rafting

Winding down the hairpin curves of Nuwara Eliya, moving down to the plains of Tissamaharama which hosts the huge lake of Tissa was a pleasant change. After the Tissa river comes the towns of Akuressa and the seaport of Galle. Galle calls itself the Dutch town after the colonization by the Dutch.  The famous fort of Galle is situated here from atop which one could see the panorama of the town of Galle.

Galle - Fort

Galle – Fort

The Tissa Lake

The Tissa Lake

At Hummanaya

At Hummanaya

Drying the fish

Drying the fish

... and it's fried!

… and it’s fried!

From the town of Galle, the beach town of Hikkaduwa is not so far away. Hikkaduwa is one of the most famous beaches of the world, for its surf scene, after Arugam Bay. Hikkaduwa is a clean, blue beach, much like any other beach in SriLanka. Hemmed with coconut trees, the shallow beach is a great place for enthusiasts to surf. Little kids play in the gushing waves. A few youngsters play volleyball on the beach sand.

Bentota Beach

Bentota Beach

 

The calm beach front of Hikkaduwa

The calm beach front of Hikkaduwa

 

A kid runs to fetch his treasure

A kid runs to fetch his treasure

 

Boats wades lazily as the evening closes

Boats wades lazily as the evening closes

 

The Orange of the skies

The Orange of the skies

Boats are latched to the beach by anchors. As the sun sets, the rays lend an orange color to the sky, the water, the sands silhouetting the people and boats. The aquamarine water turns into a steady red, and the wind blows harder. The beach tide rises, as though to close the day.

The boats are waiting…

During nights the same wind rushes into the beach street, lightly swaying the colourful beach- clothes on sale in the shops dotted along the beach road. Music rises with flavorful aromas of great food in the making.

Yummy tasty date lunch

Windchimes cling and drums play, welcoming the night. I swoon, looking at the moon, rising over the dark cold beach. The waves are welcoming me, I know.

The beachside shacks of Hikkaduwa

 

Oh, SriLanka! What Magic you have in your hands!

 

highly expressive, roaring appetite for books, food and design; have occasional bouts of flippancy to all things needed. Always hungry for Biryani. Nomad. Binger. Lover.

Travel

7 Travel Safety Tips You Should Know

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Travelling can be enthralling, but have you ever asked yourself what if you get robbed? What if you get kidnapped? Or you get lost? 

Leaving the comfort of your home to explore a foreign country can be an exciting experience. However, several worst-case scenarios can make you anxious when travelling overseas. From losing precious items and getting injured to theft or kidnapping, a lot can happen abroad. 

The first step is to acknowledge that bad things can happen, which is part of the adventure. With these safety tips below, you can protect yourself as a traveller and have peace of mind.

 Conduct Sufficient Research 

Research and gather a lot of information. Travel safety starts even before you board that plane. Google about your destination and know the common risks and prevalent scams in that country. Get to know the safe and unsafe neighbourhoods. 

Ensure you read reviews in the places you’ll visit or the hotel you’ll be staying in. Check if your rent property is in a safe environment. Read blogs from travel bloggers to find if there is anything written about your destination. You can watch videos on YouTube to learn a few things. You can listen to the accent, see attraction sites, and what the landscape looks like.  

TripAdvisor is also a great platform where you can search your destination before travelling. It’s great for hotels, restaurants, local attractions, and tour companies. Read reviews to get valuable information from previous clients. 

Doing research helps you feel confident and comfortable when travelling. 

Buy Travel Insurance 

A vacation isn’t a vast investment, like buying a car or house, but you still need a lot of money. Buying airfare, paying for tour guides, and accommodation needs tons of cash. The travel insurance cover protects you from lost or damaged items. 

It can be expensive to replace items like electronic devices, clothes, and medication. You might also get hurt or sick while in a foreign country. If you get hurt or sick before travelling, you’ll have to cancel your trip. With this, you’ll lose the full cost. In such a scenario, the travel insurance will reimburse the amount used. 

You may also need to get evacuated from a danger zone, and using helicopter transport can cost you a fortune. This is where travel insurance comes in. Early returns or losing a family or friend are other incidents that should motivate you to get insurance cover. 

However, ensure you get a comprehensive cover that will cater to almost every bill you might incur. Choose a reliable insurance provider to give direction and offer the necessary help. Check the reputation of the said company, their insurance packages, and don’t forget to read reviews. 

Share Information with a Reliable Friend or a Close Relative

Travelling is marred with uncertainties. Anything can happen when in a foreign land. That’s why you should let those close to you know about your whereabouts. 

In case of an emergency, you might not manage to communicate specific details. The insurance may require you to call before going to the hospital. They can help you find a reliable hospital nearby. 

It is always advisable to scan and print important documents and upload a digital cover of the insurance package.

Keep Your Money in Various Places

Never travel with all of your money in the same place. Stash emergency money throughout the luggage just in case you lose some. You can also place cash on your body but in different pockets. 

You may wear a money belt beneath your clothes or have a handy bra pocket to keep your credit cards and cash. Invest in an excellent zippered passport pocket that can hold a phone and a passport. This way, even if you get robbed, you’ll still have some cash and cards tucked away. 

More so, be mindful of purses and pockets when in a crowded place. It’s too easy to get pickpocketed in a crowded subway or bus. Criminals know their target pretty well, but you can give them a hard time trying to rob you. 

If you get into a crowded place, keep your hands-on any pocket that has your valuables. If possible, tuck the purse underneath your arm to ensure it opens towards your body and hard to access. Ensure the purse can be zipped, covered, or fastened. 

Avoid keeping stuff in your back pocket as it’s an easy target. Also, it’s recommended to ditch the purse and wallet altogether. 

Lock Your Bags

Locking your luggage can deter thieves. Zip your wallet and purse and lock your bags as well. A determined thief goes for easier targets. They know travellers carry tons of valuable items, and that’s why locking your luggage during transit is a great security measure. 

You can use non-TAS travel locks as they’re hard to break, unlike the universal TSA lock. However, you may use a TSA-approved travel lock for added security and peace of mind. 

Don’t Bring with You Your Precious Items

It’s easy to have items disappear while in transit. It could be a scarf you left in a park or sunglasses fell in the water as you were surfing. When packing for air travel, leave anything that will break your heart if it gets stolen or lost. 

For instance, leave your precious jewellery at home. Carrying education or property documents is risky. Bring cheap items like a travel-friendly necklace or wedding ring, an older smartphone, or inexpensive clothes. 

Watch Your Drinks 

When in a foreign country, you become an easy prey. No matter the circumstances, ensure you watch over your drinks. Make sure you see what’s being poured so someone doesn’t spike your drink

It would also be best to avoid getting drunk. If you usually take six drinks, reduce to two. If you didn’t travel with a buddy, go everywhere with your drink, even to the washroom.

Every day there is news of travellers who have fallen victim to several crimes while travelling. This should be your huge concern in taking the necessary measures. Don’t be too naïve or optimistic to think it can never happen to you. 

But don’t allow anything to stop you from having an enthralling vacation. Follow these travel safety tips, and you’ll enjoy a peaceful trip. 

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A unique perspective of Jamaica

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Over the last years, Jamaica has become one of the most visited destinations by tourists in the entire world. This beautiful Caribbean island with its stunning beaches, rich nature and delicious gastronomy has everything you could wish for in a holiday destination. However, if you want to experience Jamaican culture in a unique way while interacting with nature hand in hand, there is a place you can not miss during your trip: Yaaman Adventure Park.

The most original holidays

Jamaica is famous as a beach holidays destination. And who can really blame those that choose to visit the country because of this? Its white sand beaches with crystal clear waters and jungle right next to the shores make out for some breathtaking views. However, Jamaica has so much more to bring into the table. A good example of this can be found in the famous tours in Ocho Rios offered by Yaaman Adventure Park.

Ocho Rios is known as the most touristic area on the entire island. And in an area with such a wide catalogue of activities focused towards tourists, we can find Yaaman Adventure Park. Formerly known as Prospect Plantation, Yaaman Adventure Park original placement used to be an 18th Century agricultural property with a lot of history and cultural points. Yaaman Adventure Park offers its visitors the opportunity to interact hand in hand with nature in a lot of adrenaline filled adventures that will make out for unforgettable experiences. 

Do not limit yourself to simply laying on the beach, discover the beautiful island of Jamaica and its culture in a fun and original way. 

The perfect activities for everyone in the family

There are as many types of holidays as there are types of people in the world. Yaaman Adventure Park is aware of this, and that is why they offer a wide catalogue of activities in Ocho Rios that will adapt to everyone’s needs. Your age does not matter, there is the perfect activity waiting for you at Yaaman Adventure Park. Yaaman Adventure Park has a lot of fun activities that will allow you to interact with nature, as well as some more relaxing ones that will help you understand Jamaican culture better. Some of their most renown activities include:

Bird aviary tour

An activity that everyone in the family will surely love! In this aviary, you will be able to interact with exotic and local birds while they freely fly around you. The aviary is a tropical heaven for the birds that live there, and will make you feel like you have been transported to a fairytale world.

Swim with dolphins

Dolphins are some of the most beloved sea animals in the world. And in Yaaman Adventure Park you will be able to swim with dolphins in their unique shore excursions in Ocho Rios. These loving creatures are very smart and love interacting with the visitors. During these excursions, you will be able to swim with them and even hug and kiss the lovely dolphins. 

Cook genuine Jamaican recipes

Jamaica has one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. Their traditional colourful dishes are full of unique flavours that will not disappoint your palate. On the cooking tour offered by Yaaman Adventure Park, you will learn how to prepare the traditional “Jamaican Fare”. The famous chef Irie will teach you all the secrets of this dish consisting of festival, Steamed Callaloo and chicken. All of this while you enjoy some breathtaking views 1100 feet above sea level.

But these are only some of the activities you will be able to enjoy at Yaaman Adventure Park. From Mud buggies tours to tours across near stunning rivers, rides on the back of camels or a jitney ride, the possibilities at this park seem endless. So if you are looking for a fun and original alternative for your next holidays, then look no further, Yaaman Adventure Park is the perfect place to go.

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Europe

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

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malaga andalusia spain

There are plenty of reasons why you may be thinking about living in Spain: its population is friendly and kind; its climate, especially in the coastal areas, is enviable; its gastronomy is incredible… but, what about its prices? What is the most affordable way to live in Spain?

Perhaps the most important question if you decided to go: would it be better to buy instead of renting a property in Spain. Or yet living in a Spanish residence?

Spanish cities where to live cheap and well

In the geographical variety that Spain presents, we can find many differences in average salaries and the standard of living that reside there would require. The areas of Galicia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, together with Almería and the south of Alicante usually have a lower price of euros/square meter in their homes. The quality of life is really appreciable, but you should know that there are fewer possibilities for business and transports.

The autonomous community of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Madrid, which have higher than average incomes (normally more than 24,000 euros per year), also have higher prices. However, Madrid has such a wide range of rents that it sometimes makes them cheaper than other countries. 

In addition, and taking into account the tourist seasons, the areas of Valencia and Andalusia are normally a preference when it comes to living in Spain for a while or even spending your retirement. Although day-to-day life can be more expensive than in other areas of Spain, the mild climate and variety of leisure options are often worth it in the long run. 

Whatever your option is when moving to another country, especially if you don’t know its legal system, can be very tiresome. That’s why our advice is to try to contact local agencies (that speak English) to give you fair and fruitful advice. For example, to move to Andalusia, we usually recommend Tejada solicitors

I have already decided on the place. Now what?

Well, if you have already fully immersed yourself in the streets of a beautiful city that we have talked about, what should be your first step?

Decide what kind of stay you want to be in (since your future economic situation will also depend on this: taxes, permits…). You may have already chosen, for example, property conveyancing in Marbella, but it is recommended that you also think about renting a property, because it can be very profitable while you are in your other place of residence.

To sum up, before moving to a Spanish city, decide if you want to spend a little more money per month in exchange for the exceptional conditions that their precious land can give you; secondly, contact a reliable agency that will help you make the best investment and even more, apply for a Spanish residency if you are decided to stay for a long time.

And remember: a move is always a new beginning.

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