|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.
We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.
Thanks for checking us out!
- Mark Twain
- Maya Angelou
Friday, November 19, 2010
On Wednesday of our vacation, we checked out of our resort and met our guide and driver at 5:00 am for a 4 hour drive inland into the mountains of Sri Lanka. Jamie and I usually take a dramamine of some sort before we take bus or van rides, especially through mountains, but we didn't have any for this trip. Luckily, we were able to stretch out and lie down in the van seats as we swerved, bumped, and jerked throughout the countryside. We arrived at our first stop 4 hours later green faced and ready for some solid land.
Our first stop was the St. Clair Tea Castle, so named because of the British family who owned the tea plantations in the area and built a castle to commemorate it. We sipped on some tea and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and waterfalls below. Our next stop took us by more waterfalls and tea plantations through what is called Little England, before we picked up some dramamine at a local pharmacy, and finally jumped onto a train that had been booked by our guide.
As our guide said... "Sri Lanka is friends to all religions, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhist." For the Muslims, this week was an espcially busy time for them, the the trains were packed with all sorts of people. Our guide bribed his way into getting us into the first class train car and where we had nice cushioned seats for the 3 hour train ride. The train only went about 20 mph and wound its way through the countryside through the various tea, rubber, cinnamon, and herbal plantations of Sri Lanka. We finally arrived at a train station in Kandy, a large city in the center of Sri Lanka and its cultural hub.
We ate a quick lunch at yet another buffet before checking into our hotel, the Thilanka Hotel, which had a wonderful view overlooking the city. We took a quick nap before meeting our guide once again and going to a gem factory and store. Jamie was able to buy some nice emerald and sapphire earrings and a ring. That evening, we enjoyed some Kandy cultural dancing. Be sure to check out clips of the video on our Picasa Photo Albums. I'll upload it soon, but it'll take some time. We absolutely crashed after the performance and dinner after a long long day of traveling.
The next morning was early yet again as we first visited the Buddha Tooth Temple, a Buddhist temple in Kandy that claims to house the actual tooth from the remains of Siddhārtha Gautama, or Buddha. There had been some bombings there in previous years, so security was tight and there were hundreds of people there early in the morning to catch a sight of the tooth. Because of the long lines, we didn't get a chance to see the tooth, but I don't think it would have meant that much to us anyway.
We ate some breakfast and checked out of the hotel before departing to the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens. It was a perfect day, and we caught the gardens at a good time where it wasn't too crowded and the flowers had not died because of bad weather. The highlight of the gardens is a 100 year old tree that covers 2500 square feet. Be sure to find the picture in the photo album. Pretty amazing.
We then went to a tea factory where they showed us how they process all of the tea we saw at the tea plantations. We picked up some tea to take home with us and will enjoy it in the months to come.
Our last stop was the herbal gardens, where a guide showed us all sorts of herbs and spices they use for a variety of home remedies. Of course, we picked up some to take home with us as they were unique and apparently pretty costly in the western world.
A 2 hour drive to the airport, a 3 hours wait there, and a 5 hour flight back home followed by a 45 minute taxi ride had us back in our villa at 11:30 that night. A long end to the holiday, but we enjoyed our stay in Sri Lanka. We hope to return in the future if our travel plans allow for it.
On November 11, Jamie and I caught a late overnight flight to Columbo, Sri Lanka to begin our next vacation. We had originally thought of going to Athens, Greece or Jordan for this holiday, but decided on a beach vacation instead. We had heard nothing but great things about Sri Lanka, so we finally decided to make it our destination for this Eid break. The reason for the break in November is for the Islam hajj, or the annual pilgrimage that many Muslims make to Mecca, one of the holiest cities of Islam.
The flight on Sri Lankan Airlines took us non stop from Dammam to Columbo, where we arrived at 6:00 am. We had pre-arranged a pickup at the airport via our hotel and he met us promptly. 3 hours later, we arrived at our resort and home for the next 5 days, the Mermaid Hotel and Club in Kalatura (on the western side of the island below Columbo). We had arranged a delux room with an all inclusive package, so we didn't have to worry about spending any money out of pocket for meals and drinks.
Each day was pretty much the same for Friday through Tuesday at the resort. We woke up, ate, relaxed by the pool or or villa with drinks, played some beach volleyball, water volleyball, ping pong, croquet, napped, and read in our Kindles. Everything a vacation should be. Jamie treated herself to a 70 minute massage and pedicure, and I worked out as best I could until my cracked rib got the better of me.
The only blemish was the constant harrisment you would recieve from the beach boys who would try and sell you packages to go somewhere on the island. We were going to do something, but it was annoying being asked all day long about it.
Each meal was a buffet which had a variety of Eastern and Western choices. Overall, it was great food for the money.
We then booked a 2 day/1 night tour of inland Sri Lanka through one a tour guide by the name of Anura (firstname.lastname@example.org). He arranged everything for us for the next 2 days, which I'll let you read about in the next post.
Be sure to check out the pictures on our Picasa Photo Album.
Monday, November 8, 2010
A productive afternoon of wiring money back to the USA brought me downtown Khobar with a friend who introduced me to a shop where I could buy my very first Saudi clothing. I was very excited and it was a marvelous purchase and birthday present for myself.
As you can see from the picture above, this is what you will see most Saudi men wear in town. Taken from a website on Saudi culture, the following explains the clothing:
"Today, as in antiquity, men wear a thawb, a simple, ankle-length shirt of wool or cotton. Traditional headwear includes a ghutra, a large diagonally-folded cotton square worn over a kufiyyah (skull cap) and held in place by an igaal, a double-coiled cord circlet." (LINK)
Great day overall as I had a record number of students wish me happy birthday and even received 3 free cinnamon rolls from Joffrey's, the coffee shop located on our school campus.
After ordering a decent hamburger from Shane's Rib Shack (yeah I know), we were invited over for a birthday celebration complete with a box full of goodies from a new friend and to play Settlers of Catan, which has quickly become our favorite game to play. Another teacher also has a birthday today and a friend of ours hosted and invited other players over for 2 games. I amazingly won the game I played (after blowing the lead 3 times), but I pulled it out for a great birthday victory.
Furthermore, my Ken Burns Baseball DVD is almost downloaded, so I hoping to start that series soon.
Thanks for all of the birthday wishes via email and Facebook. Jamie's birthday is in a couple of weeks, so don't forget about her. We are off to Sri Lanka in 3 days, so we'll be celebrating both our birthdays there too.