Sunday, February 26, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
After many hits-and-misses, I finally made it to Sri Lanka last week. We decided to spend our limited time in the south of the country. On a rash impulse, aided by a sweet talking auto driver, we decided to take the tuk-tuk from Colombo to Galle. It turned out to be a great decision. We passed some beautiful scenery, visited incredible Buddhist temples and ate at a local dhaba type place. Like most impulse decisions this was an expensive one. The economic thing to do would be to take the bus.
|Our ride to Galle|
From the minute we entered Galle, I knew I was going to love this city. Narrow cobbled lanes, beautiful rambling old houses and a gorgeous fort that encapsulates it all - what's not to love?
The great thing about Galle is that its a living city. Seeing the rhythm of mundane daily life co-existing with the regular stream of tourists made the city so much more charming. As we sat in a cafe, reading and sipping some over-priced tea we could hear the noises from a children's birthday party next door or the evening prayer call. It made everything about Galle so much more real.
But I could already see things change. Increasingly, the old beautiful houses are being turned into smart, new hotels. Other houses were being converted into that pretentious tourist haven: the heritage house. I am incredibly thankful that I managed to catch Galle in its twilight zone where calls for the faithful to pray, the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks and hurried footsteps of kids as they rush to school are ubiquitous.
|The Galle Fort|
The fort itself is wonderful. You can climb upto the fort and walk the whole length. It's calm, peaceful and affords some breathtaking views. I spent much time just walking on the fort walls and taking the view in. Take a book, pick a shady spot on the fort and settle in - You won't regret it.
|Walking along the Galle Fort|
|Fort with a view|
We also stumbled upon a Bollywood exhibition in Galle. Run by a local woman who is obsessed with Bollywood, her two storey house is the repository of suspect Hindi movie posters. We spent one very enjoyable afternoon pouring over, and clicking pictures of, classics such as Fashionable Wife, Ek Sopera Ek Lootera and Shaaka.
Galle also houses the National Maritime Museum and the Historical Mansion.
I must admit that I spent my entire time in the older Fort area. The newer town area will have to wait till next time.
People in Galle, and in most of SL, are exceedingly nice. They are warm, friendly and always smiling. The whole time we were there we didn't hear a raised voice, a belligerent word, a loud fight. They love Indians and are always eager to chat. How people this nice managed to get embroiled in a brutal civil war for decades, I will never understand.
We stayed at the wonderful Ocean View Guest House. The owners rented us a room at a roomba reasonable rate (Rs. 750 per person per night). The house is right along the fort and they have a beautiful terrace garden where you can take refuge when the temperature soars. I highly recommend it.
|The roof garden at the Ocean View Guest House|
We also ate magnificent amounts of food. But I am going to cover that in a different post. I have a lot more to say about Sri Lanka. Watch out for the rest of the SL posts.
|A preview of the food post|
Thursday, February 9, 2012
In my head Pune has always occupied a circular, white, buttery, Shroosberry biscuit shaped spot. On this visit I decided to give the magnificent Keyani bakery a miss and look at other places of interest in the city.
I started with the Raja Kelkar museum. The museum is fairly empty, giving you lots of time to browse.
|This is how windows looked back in the day|
This is the only photo I could sneak in before they cut me off.
The museum carries with it that heartbreaking air of neglect and decay that most Indian museums do. But it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours and the museum houses some interesting displays, including the display of Erotic Nut-Cutters (I kid you not).
Walk straight across a busy, bustling market street to ShaniwarWada (it's a huge landmark so people will be able to direct you). This erstwhile palace was briefly the seat of the Peshwa dynasty. While nothing of the actual palace remains, the gardens it now houses are beautiful. The perfect place to have a little picnic, a lover's tryst or just read a book. I definitely recommend going here.
The wonderful gardens
|Ah! To be young|
Most importantly, the service was one of the best I have ever had. The waiters were warm, sweet and insisted that I eat all of their specialities. They even cajoled me into having some amarakhand (after that extravagant meal). This sweet was all about creamy, mango-ey goodness. I stuffed every last gooey-spoonful down my throat and tottering periliously made my way out.
Deciding that I couldn't leave without paying a visit to Big-B's old hangout, I headed to the Goodluck Cafe.
This dingy, dirty, noisy, crowded little cafe was my favourite place in Pune. It had so much character, it was so alive. I sat there reading my book and just soaking in the atmosphere of the place. Oh! if only more restaurants had a quarter of the life that his place had. I polished off three cups of tea and reluctantly bid it adieu.
|Iranian Tea at Goodluck Cafe|
I spent very little time in Pune, but whatever I saw of it I really liked. It reminded me of a younger, more innocent Bangalore in many ways. There is lots more I want to do there (including visiting the uber-famous Joshi Vada Pav) but that will have to wait for some time.
Huge congratulations to one of my favourite couples. Much love. And a big shout out to Shan and KK's family for being so so warm and wonderful.
|Ek thi Rani|
|Ek tha Raja|