Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Vietnam - Saigon


Three weeks after arriving back from my trip to Sri Lanka, I was travelling again, this time flying to Ho Chi Minh (aka Saigon or HCM) for the start of a two-week trip to Vietnam.  

Although not the capital, HCM is the largest city in Vietnam, with a population of over 7 million. There are more than 3 million scooters there, and crossing the road can be a hair-raising experience. You basically just have to cross and the scooters will avoid you.

Scooters

Fruit seller

Water seller

HCM Post office

The poster is pretty similar to those you can find in North Korea :


After a couple of days we went on a trip to see the Mekong delta :



making rice wrappers

freshly-made rice wrappers drying

freshly-made rice wrappers drying beside the Mekong

Market scene

Market scene

We then headed to Hanoi and Halong Bay.


Suggested reading :
Lonely Planet Vietnam (Country Travel Guide)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Sri Lanka

Banana seller

Two weeks after our trip to the Philippines I was off travelling again, this time to meet a friend in Sri Lanka. There are no direct flights from Seoul, so I had to travel there via Singapore.

As I was travelling with a friend who writes guide-books, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay in 9 different hotels over a two-week period, gradually working our way down the south-west coast.  One of the first hotels we stayed in was the Mount Lavinia, just south of the capital Colombo.  This is the view we had from our room :



The hotel has an interesting story, as it was originally a country mansion built by the island's second Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland, in 1806.  When he fell in love with a beautiful mestizo dancer, Lovinia Aponsuwa, he lodged her not far away and an underground tunnel - which apparently still exists - connected her humble dwellings with the governor's mansion so that they could pursue their clandestine romance.

There is a railway station just next to the hotel, and Colombo is not far away by train.


Here are some street scenes from Colombo:


Jami-Ul Alfar mosque, Colombo

Cargills department store, Colombo

Further down the coast at Kalutara we stayed at the Kani Lanka resort :

hauling in the fishing net

Gangatilaka Vihara dagoba, Kalutara

mosque, Kalutara

temple, Kalutara

lighthouse, Berawala

Here is one of the ubiquitous tuk-tuks, normally seen on the roads, but exceptionally in this case on the beach !

tuk-tuk

Next was the Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort at Beruwala, where we had some ayurvedic treatments, and toured the ayurvedic treatment center.


This area suffered many losses during the 2004 tsunami.  This memorial is dedicated to the 1270 train passengers who lost their lives that day.


Tsunami victims memorial

Tsunami victims memorial

Our following stop down the coast was the UNESCO-inscribed town of Galle, staying in the The Fortress hotel - much more luxurious than its name sounds !

Galle

playing cricket

There were many fishing stilts in the sea just in front of the hotel.  The fishermen perch, holding onto the stilt with one hand and fishing with a rod in the other hand.

fishing stilts

fishing stilts

We then moved onto another Barberyn Ayurvedic hotel, the Beach Resort, from where we visited Dondra, which has two important temples and a lighthouse at Sri Lanka's most southerly point.

temple, Dondra
temple, Dondra


temple, Dondra

temple, Dondra

Dondra Head lighthouse

Sri Lanka's most southerly point, near Dondra

We also visited Weherahena temple which houses an enormous Buddha statue as well as scenes from Buddha's life.

monk, Weherahena temple

Weherahena temple

Weherahena temple

Weherahena temple

Afterwards we headed inland to Ella in the hill country for one night :


rice paddies

Ceylon tea plantations

tea pickers
before taking the train to Kandy.


tea plantations & pickers seen from the train



on the train, looking back

Kandy's (and probably Sri Lanka's) most important site is the Temple of the (Sacred) Tooth (Relic), which, as the name implies, is supposed to house one of Buddha's holy teeth. In Kandy we stayed at the Mahaweli Reach hotel.

Temple of the Tooth
One of the striking architectural features of Sri Lankan temples are the moonstones, which are semi-circular carved stone slabs.

Moonstone

 Inside the temple of the tooth :





We then took another train down from Kandy to Colombo, and from Colombo to Wadduwa, where we stayed at the lovely Blue Water Resort.

Kandy to Colombo train.

from the train

Wadduwa

kingfisher/kingfisher-type bird

Our last stop was at the Taj Sumudra hotel. The photo below was taken from our room, looking over the Galle Face Green to the famous Galle Face hotel.



Recommended reading :

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Country Travel Guide)