Bhutan, Nepal & Sri Lanka

Trip Start Aug 28, 2007
Trip End Dec 17, 2007

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, December 7, 2007

Greetings from Colombo, Sri Lanka - the final destination in the Asian leg.  It's been an amazing few weeks since our last entry.

The Kingdom of Bhutan was our next stop.  A country of 700,000 bordered on the north by Tibet and on the south by India, it has only been open to foreign tourism since 1974.  It's a stunning place. Bhutan has adopted a premium-priced approach to tourism where each visitor is required to spend US$240 per day (60% of which goes to the government) on accommodation and food and to travel with a guide.  

The capital ,Thimpu, is a bit sleepy: witness these dogs snoozing in the middle of the city's main traffic roundabout. The weekend market is a colorful event.    The meat is from India because the Bhutanese refuse to kill any living thing although this has little impact on the boys' choice of toys.

We took in a few festivals and also came across some handicrafts that MaryAnn's sister, Carlyle, might like to import into her shop []. 

The jokers at the festivals made abundant use of these handicrafts with the primary purpose of making the tourists look ridiculous (with obvious success in our case).

We did a few great hikes and toured some of the extraordinary dzongs , immense fortress monasteries that tower over the major valleys.

We also stayed on a farm for few days - subsistence farming - but these farmers, like most Bhutanese enjoy benefits over much of the developing world with access to fresh water, free education and free health care. The king, a seemingly benevolent one, seeks improvements in GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) rather than GDP.  The local Red Panda and Druk Lager improved our GDH.

Nepal was next.  Where Bhutan is calm and orderly, Kathmandu is wild and woolly (especially during the festival of Duwalli).
Nepal tourism is coming back from a period of decline during the decades-long struggle with Maoist guerrillas which ended (sort-of) when the less-than-benevolent king was forced in April 2006 to restore democracy and significantly curtail his powers.


We stayed at the remarkable Fish Tail Lodge in Pokhara in the same room occupied by Prince Charles which might explain the mustiness as they haven't changed the sheets or mattresses since he was here in 1980 but who cares when you wake up to views like this each morning
Or choose not to wake up like some of us.

We did a wonderful trek in the Annapurna district
but had to make a "voluntary" donation to the Maoist rebels (we got a receipt) who have resumed their extortion of funds from tourists and locals in advance of next year's elections.

We then flew to Colombo where Joan Summers, Kailin and Ashoka treated us to some remarkable hospitality.   Colombo has colourful temples
and a street that on weekends has some original art hanging up for sale.

A beautiful country, Sri Lanka's countryside is greener than Ireland.  However, three decades of civil unrest show no sign of letting up and there have been several bombings in Colombo during our stay in the country.

  On the way to Kandy, we toured the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage (for injured and abandoned elephants) and then saw the Temple of the Tooth [but not the Budha's tooth which some say was long ago destroyed]

We also toured the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens with amazing Giant Java Willow
and orchids and wandered though the Dambulla Cave Temples .

We also climbed the ancient rocktop fortress of Sigiriya,
dating from the first century AD, and were transfixed (perhaps more of a guy thing) by the famous rock paintings of buxom celestial nympths .  Finally, the Rev made me insert one more animal shot: .

It's been a treat and a privilege to travel for three plus months and to share our travels with you.  We've met some amazing and dedicated people on the way who are making our world a better place including Joan with Oxfam, Sister Denise Couglan in Cambodia with the Jesuit Refugee Service, Purna Shova Chitraker  in Kathmandu with the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, Mike and Clarie Anson from the Cotswalds who are sponsoring an orphanage in India and Bob Guglielmino who was trekking to Annapurna Base Camp and told us about his Climbers for Peace.

After Kialin's birthday party later today, we drive to the central highlands and its tea plantations then head down to the coast for a few days on the beach before flying back to Toronto on December 17th for Christmas.  We fly to Santiago, Chile on January 2nd for the start of the South American leg.  We'll try to write from somewhere in Argentina.

Seasons greetings and best wishes for a safe and adventure-filled 2008.
Warm regards,
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Fish Tail Lodge
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