Easter Sunday

Easter Rangoli

Easter Rangoli

A bit of a delayed blog on Easter due to illness over the last couple of weeks. Better late than never though! Enjoy,

What is it?

Easter is the day Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after 3 days lying in the tomb. He defeated death and sin. He conquered evil so that all who believe in Him may go to Heaven. It is detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and Paul the Apostle wrote about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

When is it?

The week before Easter is called Holy Week which includes Maundy Thursday when the Last Supper (the last meal Jesus had with His disciples) took place and Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon in March or April. In 2018 it was on Sunday 1st April, (which was also the same day as April Fools Day in the UK.)

What is it?

The resurrection occurred 3 days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans at Calvary and was anointed and laid to rest in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and a large rock rolled in front of it. On the third day God raised Him from the dead. The tomb was discovered to be empty when the women visited the tomb just before sunrise on the first day of the week. Angels appeared to them and told them that Christ had risen from the dead, not to be afraid and to tell the disciples. Peter, the most beloved disciple, ran to the tomb to find the folded grave clothes and the stone rolled away.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

Jesus appeared to the disciples and many people over a period of 40 days before He ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Jesus first appeared to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and commissioned her to tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead. Jesus week later He appeared to doubting Thomas who had to touch Jesus’ wounds before he would believe it was Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus was not instantly recognisable after His resurrection and it took some moments before people recognised Him. Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:24-29)

My faith

I know that because I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for me on the cross and that I have asked for forgiveness for all the wrong in my life that I will be with Him in Heaven one day. My life has a purpose. There is a reason I am here on earth and that is fulfilling God’s plan for me whilst I am here.

In the West merely using the word Jesus (in a religious rather than cursing context) makes people uncomfortable and shy away from being near you. That one word – Jesus- makes people think that you are some religious fanatic but the reality is that I am just like any other person with my successes, failings, inadequacies, skills, worries and joys and I swear (I am getting better, slowly) etc. We all have faults we try to correct and improve on throughout life. I am on a journey just like everyone else. I am the same on the outside as anybody else – what makes me different is my belief in the Son of God, that He forgives me and that gives my life a purpose.

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services were held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services were held in the morning. There was a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise.

Families gathered and have roast dinner together. I was quite jealous of some of the meals being ate by my family back in the UK; they kindly shared pictures of their feast! Chocolate Easter Eggs were exchanged and lots of chocolate eaten.

Most shops in the UK were closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.

The ‘Easter Bunny’ paid a visit in the early hours of the morning and left chocolate eggs lying around inside (or in the garden in the UK). Zahra got quite a haul. Parcels from the UK added to the fabulousness. Chocolate eggs were eaten for breakfast (as is common place on Easter Sunday).

Want to know more?

If you want to know more or, best of all, welcome Jesus into your heart take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information.

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Holy Week

When is it?

In 2018 it starts on Sunday 25th March and ends on Saturday 31st March. Sunday 1st April is Easter Sunday (and also April Fool’s Day in the UK – I can see some tricks being played!).

It is a holiday in the U.K. schools will close for (at least) two weeks over the Easter period. Businesses shut on Good Friday to Easter Monday. Retail outlets are closed on Easter Sunday, one of only two days in the year that they are required by law to be closed (the other being Christmas Day, the birth of Christ).

What is it?

Holy Week marks the betrayal, arrest, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It climaxes on Good Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion and ends with the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday 25th March 2018

The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week; the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter. On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entrance and arrival into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, where He was welcomed by crowds worshiping Him and laying down palm leaves before Him. This was a customary sign of great respect and homage at the time. The arrival on a donkey is highly symbolic representing the humble arrival of someone in peace (rather than a horse in war).

Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.

Wednesday 28th March 2018

Wednesday of Holy Week commemorates Judas Iscariot’s bargain to betray Jesus. On Wednesday Jesus left for the Mount of Olives. Here He foretold the apostles the events of the next several days, including His impending death.

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Maundy Thursday 29th March 2018

Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem. It was at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, that Jesus established the Holy Communion of breaking the bread and taking the wine and sharing it in remembrance of Him. During the meal Jesus predicts His betrayal and following the meal the disciples went with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The Temple Guards, guided by Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14–16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1–24).

Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus testified ambiguously, “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.” The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57–66).

The Last Supper has been the subject of art for centuries, including the great masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci. The cup used by Jesus is known as the Holy Grail. It has been rumored to exist throughout history with films made based on the search for the Holy Grail. There is no reason to believe the cup would have been outstanding in any way, and was likely a typical drinking vessel, indistinguishable from many others. As a consequence it is unlikely to still be in existence today.

Good Friday 30th March 2018

The next day is Good Friday on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. It is a public holiday in the UK – schools and businesses are closed. People toast and eat hot cross buns on this day. I really miss having hot cross buns – they’re delicious. I’ve ordered some this year – let’s hope they’re similar enough to the real thing. At £1.20 for 3 I am hoping not to be disappointed!

The Gospels account the final hours of Christ. In the morning following His arrest, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1–2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and carry out sentencing. The Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed, by the Romans, to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).

Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. On hearing that Jesus was from Galilee Pilate referred the case to King Herod (the ruler of Galilee) who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty of any charge. Nevertheless, to appease the crowd, Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3–16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, “Crucify him” (Mark 15:6–14). Pilate’s wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man” (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death “because he claimed to be God’s son.” This possibility filled Pilate with fear and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know where he came from (John 19:1–9).

Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he had no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24–26) (and ultimately to keep his job).

The sentence written was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And nailed to the cross. Jesus carried His cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the “place of the Skull”, or “Golgotha” in Hebrew and in Latin “Calvary”. There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17–22). Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last three hours on the cross, from noon to 3 pm, darkness fell over the whole land. Jesus spoke from the cross, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This tear signified a removal of restriction from the Temple’s “Holiest of Holies, and that God’s people could now communicate directly with Jesus Christ rather than needing the Temple’s High Priest as an intercessor.The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, “Truly this was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45–54).

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Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus and who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50–52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39–40). Pilate asked confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:45).

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Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59–60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Nicodemus (John 3:1)  brought myrrh and other spices and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39–40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because The Sabbath was starting (Luke 23:54–56).

Easter Sunday 1st April 2018

Matthew 28:1 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb”. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said……….”.(Matt. 28:6). On the third day, known as Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus arose three days after being crucified on the cross at Calvary defeating death and sin so that all who believe in Him may be forgiven and have everlasting life, a life eternal with Him. God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services are held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services are held in the morning. There is a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise.

Families gather and have roast dinner together. Chocolate Easter Eggs are usually exchanged but especially for children.
Most shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.

In India, All People’s Church have ‘Big Sunday’. A service specially tailored for people to invite their friends and family along. There are games and activities after the service and lunch is provided (usually biryani). The poster advertising the service this year is pretty awesome.

Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs or chocolate eggs given out to celebrate Easter festival. For Christians the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs and paint them. Now the custom is to have chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with sweets such as jellybeans (especially if one lives in a hot country). The ‘Easter Bunny’ pays a visit in the early hours of the morning and leaves chocolate eggs lying around in the home or garden. Children excitedly hunt for them as soon as they wake up. Chocolate eggs for breakfast is common place on Easter Sunday!

As this year Easter Sunday also falls on April Fools Day in the UK, I suspect there will be a lot of tricks played on children with Easter Eggs!

Want to know more?

This is an incredibly important week for Christians. Our Saviour was crucified but rose from the dead 3 days later. There will be much joy and celebration on Sunday.

If you want to know more or, best of all welcome Jesus into your heart, take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information.

Ugadi

Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)

What is Ugadi?

Ugadi is New Years Day and falls on 18th March (in 2018) and is a public holiday. Ugadi literally means “the beginning of a new age”. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar so signifies a change in the moon’s orbit.

How is it celebrated?

It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. The day begins with a ritual shower or ‘oil bath’ followed by prayers. Mantras are chanted and predictions are made for the new year.

What are the preparations for the festival?

Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a head bath after which their house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves (to signify good crops and general well being). People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house (can you imagine the smell!) as well as drawing colourful floral designs.

On the day of Ugadi

People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses.

There is a symbolic eating of a dish with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. It is only served during this festival.

In Karnataka (the state in which Bangalore is) there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.

Holi Festival 2018

What is it?

Holi is the Festival of Colours. This is when people spray and throw colours (powder and coloured water) on each other, dance, party and eat festival delicacies. It is the time when everyone puts the gloom of winter behind them and celebrate the colours and life of Spring.

When is it?

It is the Hindu spring festival at the full moon (Phalgun Purnima) and is on Friday 2nd March in 2018. The parties started on Friday and carried on throughout the weekend.

How is it celebrated?

With a lot of coloured powder, water guns and a lot of fun!

It’s a party atmosphere and people party with friends and family. People who don’t normally drink will have one or two. People partake of ‘bhaang’ (made from cannabis leaves) – although I’ve not seen this myself so I’m guessing it’s kept away from expats. Non veg people have a great and eat mutton and chicken curry whilst the veg eat spicy ‘katahal’ jackfruit.

The night before is Holika Bonfire with religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil is destroyed on the bonfire.

We just had a big powder and water throwing party. It’s was such fun.

Bangalore 

There is a still a water crisis here but that has not deterred a lot of Holi parties being planned. There was a formal program arranged in our complex but we just a got together on the street with the children – powders and water guns at the ready for a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in front of the house then we went in search of others celebrating. We knocked on one of our neighbours door on the way and wished him a Happy Holi with a lot of colours too! He took it in good humour (thankfully!) and then joined in the fun. We moved on in a group and then we went in search of our other neighbours to get them. We also encountered other groups we took full part in their celebrations with a lot of water bombs, water pistols and powders being liberally shared. It was such fun and a great atmosphere.

Afterwards

After enjoying the colours and water (a welcome relief to have a water gun fight in 36C), we headed for the shower and the clothes to the washing machine. The dye had gone through everything and has dyed my skin. Scrubbing hard has only faded the colours. I am going to be technicolour for some time. The pink and purple is particularly difficult to remove and I have a purple back and pink chest!

Happy Holi everyone!

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal is the harvest festival celebration. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India on 13th, 14th and 15th January this year.

What is it?

Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means movement. It traditionally coincides with the beginning of the sun’s northward journey when it enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to the sun, which coincides with the completion of the harvest season and is celebrated with much joy – usually.

Pongal

Pongal is the three day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in honour of the rain god Indra as well as the sun god and the holy cow. ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is the first day of Pongal and the lord Indra is worshipped. Sisters also pray for the welfare of their brothers. On the second day the sun god is worshipped for imparting heat and energy to the fields. The third day is Mattul Pongal and cattle is worshipped. A portion of pudding is kept aside in the open to feed birds and insects. A special dish called Pongal is prepared by ladies to commemorate the festival.

Jallikatu

Jallikatu is a bullfight organised by every town and village on the third and last day of Pongal. This ‘game’ is traditionally ‘played’ by young men who try to grab the money tied to the horns of the bull. It is a centuries old tradition. It is a bull taming event which is supposed to preserve the indigenous breeds of cattle such as the Jellicut. The untamed bull is used for breeding. The event can be traced as far back as 400-100BC.

Lohri

Lohri is the North Indian harvest festival on 13th January each year, usually observed in Punjab and Haryana. It is celebrated to bring good luck to celebrate to obtain a better harvest and to prepare for the next sowing season. During the day children fly kites. Mainly though it is an evening festival with bonfires upon which sugar cane and parched rice goods are thrown. Both men and women wear bright clothes and dance around the bonfire. The men perform Bhangra and the ladies perform Gidda. Everyone exchanges gifts of peanuts, popcorn, prodded rice and other sweets.

Hong Kong

As the Christmas holidays approached the thought of three weeks off altogether was welcome relief. We flew out as soon as we could after Rez arrived back from his work trip to the UK, laden with Christmas presents (and Birthday presents for me).

We arrived in Hong Kong after an overnight flight from Bangalore with Cathay Dragon, which was delayed a few hours. Whilst leaving us exhausted it did have the benefit that we were able to check into the hotel as soon as we arrived.

Day 1 in Hong Kong involved a long hot bath whilst watching a film; lots of food and some shopping. It was soooo good to have a little bit of ‘normality’ back.

Rez’s Review: “Crowne Plaza Hotel: The stay at the hotel was good though we could not get the room temperature high enough for us to remain warm in the room, as the AC thermostat didn’t seem to respond. We also ended up missing out on the breakfasts as the prices were high and the room booking inexplicably only covered one person!”

Day 2: The City

People, everywhere; Lots of people.

We saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the first viewing of the day.

These really rather expensive souvenirs are clearly for those with more money than sense.

A shopping trip to buy warm clothes resulted in a queue that took Zahra nearly a minute to walk the length of it.

The metro was like the Tube in rush hour, constantly.

A quiet moment in the Metro

The markets were overcrowded with lots of bumps and knocks from the shoving.

Ladies Market

A Street were every shop seems to be selling live fish, like this.

The contrast between the smart shops at ground level, and the miserable looking apartments above, is stark.

Another very crowded market.

The Harbour Lights were pretty.

We walked at total of 6 miles in a mad , bustling, crowded shopping frenzy. We were all very tired. Try not to visit these areas at the weekend or on the last Sunday before Christmas – it was just unpleasant.

Day 3 A day at Disneyland.

Arrived 10:15am. Departed 9:15pm. It is thankfully a relatively small Disneyland so walking the length and breadth of the park wasn’t too much of a trek. We managed to go on all the rides Zahra wanted to, and some several times. The Disney characters eluded us but Zahra wasn’t bothered by that, I think she has become too cool for that sort of thing at the age of 11! It was a good day and thankfully the food and snacks were much better ( and healthier) than Paris or California Disneylands. (We appear to be becoming Disney aficionados by mistake rather than intent.)

Family photo on the taxi to the castle.

The closest we got to any characters and the only ones we saw all day!

The Christmas decorations at dusk were beautiful.

Main Street at night with Christmas decorations.

Day 4: After a tiring and long day we decided on a lie in and a leisurely stroll to the water followed by a late lunch at a Korean barbecue. A relaxing and enjoyable day.

Day 5: A tour of Hong Kong Island with Big Bus Tours

Rez’s Review:

“As with many of our city visits we chose to take the open top bus tour of Hong Kong offered by Big Bus Tours.

This offers an excellent way to get around the city quickly taking in lots of different things which you can then go back to look at in greater detail should you wish.

Our first bus was the Green route which went to the south of Hong Kong Island, Aberdeen, Deepwater Bay, Repulse Bay, and Stanley.

Our next bus was the Red route through downtown Hong Kong island and included a trip up the peak tram to the then ended back at the Star Ferry terminal. A ride across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry is included in the day ticket price as is the blue route around downtown Kowloon.

Definitely recommend the Big Bus Tours.”

A view across the South China Sea.

A Sampan with the floating Restaurant behind.

A Sampan drying fish

A Sampan in the harbour contrasts the Old with the new.

The City of Hong Kong

A view across the city from The Peak

A view of the South China Sea from The Peak

The Harbour Mall busy with Christmas shoppers.

Zahra’s facts and figures from the tour:

  • Largest civil marine force in the world to combat South China Seas piracy. Editor’s note: The Marine Region with about 3,000 officers, and a fleet of 142 in total, made up of 70 launches and 72 craft is the largest of any civil police force.
  • The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a non profit making organisation and also the largest tax payer in HK and donates over 1billion a year to charity. Editor’s note: The organisation is also the largest community benefactor. The HK Jockey Charities Trust donated a record HK$3.6 billion in 2014 to support the different needs of the society and contribute to the betterment of Hong Kong.
  • 26 June 1843 HK was established. HK means ‘fragrant harbour’ and where they exported incense.
  • Kowloon alone has 2.1m people.
  • Massacre of 1M residents in 1941-45 by the Japanese Governor. 25th December 1941 is known as Black Christmas as surrendered to Japanese after 2 weeks of occupation from 6th December 1941. Editor’s note: The Battle/Defence/Fall of Hong Kong from 6th -25th Dec 1941 was one of the first battles in the Pacific in WWII. During the 3.5 years of occupation the Japanese executed 10,000 HK residents and many others were tortured, raped or mutilated.
  • Traditional boats are called Tam Pan boats
  • Uni of Hong Kong has 28000 students and are taught in English.
  • It was a Crown colony from 1842 to 1997.
  • It is one of two special admin regimes in China. Editor’s note: The other is Macau.
  • The number 4 shares the same pronunciation with the word for Death therefore there are no 4th or 14th floors in hotels.
  • Time square market is a popular place for locals to go, as is the SOLO store.
  • Traffic lights change every 58 seconds to let many taxis, buses and pedestrians cross.
  • Hong Kong is a very crowded city with many major attractions, like Disneyland and Ocean Park. There are many malls in residential areas. Almost all residents live in small apartments, sometimes the size of a hotel room. This means that they mostly depend on the malls for shopping and lunch.
  • Whenever there is a typhoon warning issued all the boats go into a designated area to shield them from typhoons.
  • Gloucester Road is one of the busiest roads in Hong Kong.
  • The Ladies Market and the Night Market on Temple Street are popular shopping markets for tourists, with lots of souvenirs and gadgets.
  • Southorn Playground is a popular playground in the heart of Wan Chai . Some business men waited for their interviews in the park but now it’s mostly used for sports and for the elderly to meet.
  • There are many high rises in Hong Kong and some are used in movies, like Batman flew from a building to another in The Dark Knight.
  • There are many malls in the centre of Hong Kong filled with many well known brands
  • Hong Kong park has a flagstar house which once belonged to a British general . Now it is a museum which promotes tea and ceramic pots.
  • The Peak Tram – the scrum would embarrass London commuters. Editor’s note: Zahra really did write that!
  • Human activity in Hong Kong dates back 5000 years even though there is not much evidence.
  • Hong Kong’s 5 clans used to live in walled villages to protect themselves from bandits and wild animals.
  • Cheap bus services all day long.
  • When waiter pours tea to say thank you , you tap the table twice with your index and middle finger. This is considered as a bow and comes from Japanese culture. Also if you want your tea pot refilling you take the pot top off , this also comes from Japanese culture.
  • Old Market is surrounded by modern buildings ‘brings you back to the old days’ and gives you a break from all the modern Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong in the old days was addicted to opium which spread like wild fire. Editor’s note: By 1838 the number of Chinese Opium addicts had grown to between 4-12 million.
  • Lin Zexu was sent to stop opium trade. He burnt the opium. Editor’s note: A total of 1016 tons was destroyed. A process which took 23 days. The First Opium War with Britain resulted. The Treaty of Nanking in 1848 – in exchange for British withdrawal from northern China, Britain would own Hong Kong.
  • Possession street records the arrival of the British. The British came and planted a flag and stayed there for more than 100 yrs
  • Very thin tall apartments buildings.
  • The Man Mo Temple has a traditional Chinese festival feel to it and is filled with bright colours.
  • Soho is famous for art galleries and bars also restaurants. Soho is called Soho because it means South of Hollywood Road . SOuth HOllywood.
  • There is a bridge that stretches all over Hong Kong with many escalators. There is one escalator which runs all the way up a hill in the morning and down in the afternoon. This is famous for its length and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • The climate of Hong Kong is influenced by Monsoon and winter. You can get many typhoons near or in Hong Kong.
  • The former Hong Kong police Station was used very often due to bandits and robbers. This meant that Hong Kong was a very dangerous place before the police force came around.
  • The Fringe Club was formerly a coal warehouse in 1890. Now used by and for young artists .
  • Dudley Street has gas lamps Hong Kong China Gas Company 1840. First permanently lit city.
  • Club lucagano gathering Portuguese community many designer shops locals like this.
  • Harbour Light Show is on buildings each evening and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • we went on the famous Star ferry.

Day 6 Ocean Park

Rez’s Review:

“Get to the park early as there is a lot to see and do!

The park offers fast pass tickets at around £25 per head which is a little steep. They do offer to let you buy it once in the park if the queues for the rides are indeed long. We didn’t bother and apart from one ride didn’t really need them.

Started the day at the Grand Aquarium (very impressive) and then made our way up the hill to the Summit theme park on the Ocean Express funicular railway.

First ride was the Flying Swing (fast but tame) then onto The Dragon, an old roller coaster with a few thrills but an exceptionally bumpy ride. Next up was The Crazy Galleon (a basic swing ride) and then onto The Abyss. This is a vertical drop ride which is short but good fun, specially the first drop.

We then went down the hill to Adventure Land via the veterinary centre where we got to see dolphins being cared for. This was lovely to watch and they seem to  be well cared for.

In Adventure Land we tried the Raging River (not too wet, but good fun!) then took the escalator system to get back up the hill to Thrill Mountain were we queued for about an hour for The Hair Raiser. This is by far the best roller coaster at Ocean park (and newest it seems) and has an excellent combination of rolls, loops and negative G manoeuvres which really throw your stomach out. A great ride but we just didn’t fancy another hour of queuing.

We took the cable car down the hill to Aqua City with a view to seeing the Giant Pandas. Sadly we were too late as the lazy beggars had gone to bed! 😉

There are plenty of other rides and activities to take part in but one day just isn’t enough!”

Day 7 Clearwater Bay Beach

We took a local bus (using the Octopus card) to the beach, from the bus station at the base of the hotel. It is a small but well serviced beach. Three lifeguards in towers were on duty. Recorded messages advised of flag changes, rules and regulations when someone was blatantly flouting them and when life guard were going off duty. There was a large building containing changing rooms, toilets and first aid facilities. As it was out of season the beach shops were closed. There were hardly any people there so it was delightfully quiet and peaceful. Zahra played in the sand and paddled in the cold sea whilst we sat and relaxed on the rocks.

It was a lovely end to a lovely holiday.

Holiday in Sri Lanka 

I am so busy with college work these days that I am struggling to squeeze in blogposts. We recently holidayed in Sri Lanka for the Diwali holidays (which coincide with the UK half term holidays). Our Travel Period was From 16th – 23rd Oct 2017. Rez has helped me compile this blog with his review of places from his Trip Advisor posts. We can all highly recommend Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful country with lovely people, weather, food and infrastructure.

Day 01:

We were met on arrival at Columbo airport by our wonderful guide and driver Charmalla. It was around 9pm when we arrived (the only direct flight with out an overnight flight) so we transferred directly from the Airport to our hotel in Katunayake.

There were a few things we noticed immediately; the roads were smooth, there was no rubbish on the roads and the autos were Red, green,  blue, black and cream.

 

Other villas from the villa veranda

Rez’s ReviewTamarind Tree Hotel, Katunayake
Pleasant hotel with large colonial style rooms grouped in lodges. The hotel has a pool and has ponies wandering the grounds. Breakfast was split into veg first then non veg next. Self service tea and coffee.

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Day 02: Transfer from Katunayake to Habarana

Dambulla is a large town in the Matale district in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is the centre of vegetable distribution in the country.

It is also the location of the largest and best preserved temple complex in Sri Lanka.

Sungreen Resort and Spa, Habarana

Rez’s Review

Lovely hotel with rooms arranged around a central pool. Food was delicious and the hotel was ideally placed for such attractions as the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple complex, the Sigiriya Lion Rock and the elephant safari in Minneriya National Park. The staff are very friendly and welcoming.

Rez’s Review

Dambulla Golden Cave Temple, Dambulla

It’s a bit of a climb
Inside the biggest cave temple
Walkway between temples
Set into the overhang of what can only be described as a ridiculously large boulder, the Dambulla Golden Cave Temples are accessed up a steep set of stairs – elderly and unfit beware.

The temple comprises of 4 individual temples created at different times. Inside are ornate paintings on the cave ceilings as well as a large variety of state representations of Buddha in various poses including sleeping and deceased.

The guides are knowledgeable help you get through quickly and then allow you to return to each cave temple to get the photos. Be warned though flash photography is not permitted.

 

Back to the hotel for a 7 course  Dinner was amazing and delicious. Comfortable and tranquil overnight stay at the hotel.

 

View from the balcony at the rear of the room
Day 03:

Transfer from Habarana to Sigiriya. Climb Sigiriya Rock & Visit The Fortress.

Rez’s Review 

Sigiriya (Lion Rock)

Looking at the challenge ahead
Described locally as the eighth wonder of the world and recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, it certainly is a very imposing granite rock which has had a royal palace and a monastery on top. Your entry fee gives you access to the full Sigiriya complex… be warned entry fee is pricey.

Be advised, this is a bit of a hard climb. My phone tells me I climbed the equivalent of 69 floors! The steps can be a bit hit and miss at times so watch your footing.

There are spiral staircases that take you up to visit some murals painted high on a seemingly inaccessible face of the Sigiriya monument… yes it’s amazing they managed to paint the murals in this location but was it worth the climb? Not in my opinion.

View from the top down
Not for the faint hearted!
Lion Rock conquered
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Also be aware there are wasps nesting around Sigiriya and if agitated they will swarm. This happened when we visited when a group of typically loud Chinese tourists decided to disregard the advice to keep quiet and proceed to go directly to one of the wasp nests and ended up causing them to swarm.

Let me tell you, seeing people running around frantically trying to swat away dozens of wasps on their face and arms is not a pleasant sight, not least because there is nothing you can really do to help them as you yourself are huddling down to avoid the attentions of the wasps.

The staff at Sigiriya are very well trained for such incidents and even have a large first aid tent at the midpoint plateau where wasp stings can be administered to. When such events take place they climb the rock to the top armed with large nets and take the victims down under cover of the net to safety and if required first aid treatment.

Another thing to watch out for are the numerous “guides” dotted all over the place. As you make your way up the steps if you look even remotely tired / old / unfit then suddenly you will get a “helpful’ push in the back to “help” you up the stairs. They tried it on with us on several occasions (I’m the first to admit I need to lose a few pounds!). Initially we were able to reject their help with a firm but friendly No but the last one just wouldn’t take no for an answer. To be honest I was curious to find out what help he was going to offer as he looked to be about 70 but to be fair to him he was also as thin as a racing snake. His “help’ comprised a very gentle push in my lower back… so not really much help at all if I’m honest!

Overall I’m very glad that we visited… the views from the top are stunning and it was good to get some exercise in on the holiday… Could have done without the trauma of the wasp swarm though.

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Evening Jeep Safari at Minneriya National Park.

Rez’s Review 
Our elephant safari was booked at one of the many roadside vendors but ours came recommended by our trusty driver. The Mahindra Bolero 4×4 picked us up from our hotel and took us to the Minneriya National Park where our guide was very quickly pointing out exotic wildlife to us… kingfishers, Peacocks, Crocodiles, water buffalo, monkeys and of course the Elephants.

Zahra is awestruck
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The Elephants were the highlight of the tour, initially seeing a solitary bull elephant and then shortly thereafter seeing a herd of around 70 elephants of all ages travelling down to the waters edge of the Minneriya reservoir. After taking hundreds of photos of this magnificent herd in brilliant light conditions we moved to find a smaller family group of 5 elephants and then later a mother large herd of around 60+ elephants.

It was an absolutely awe inspiring sight seeing these magnificent creatures up close in the wild like this. Be aware though that yours is not the only jeep on the safari… at one point the number of 4x4s exceeded the number of elephants! The drivers are all aware of the issues this poses and do their best to avoid driving into one another shots.

Day 04: Transfer from Habarana to Kandy.

Rez’s Review

Nalandia Gedige (Centre point of Sri Lanka)

This was described as the absolute centre point of the island of Sri Lanka though when you go there very little suggests this to be the case. What you do find is a Buddhist temple which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nalandia Gedige reservoir by building a platform onto which the temple was moved stone by stone.
The highlight was what the guide described as “Giant Squirrels” and he wasn’t kidding, these things were the size of terriers!


Spice Garden, Matale
We stopped here on our way south to Kandy. A very friendly guide shows you around the spice garden where you can revel in the exotic plants and herbs. For some (my wife and daughter) this is really interesting and a real joy to learn about. For an engineer like me… not so much.

Rez having his arm hair removed
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The guide describes in great detail the medicinal, cosmetic and healing properties of each of the plants and herbs and even gives a demonstration of the natural hair removal cream which after 7 minutes saw a 1/2 inch square of hair from my arm removed… effective then!

Tiny pineapples used to aid weight loss

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Following the tour of the gardens we offered a massage demonstration which was very relaxing and only required a tip to pay for. Following this we had an opportunity to purchase some of their produce. Be careful it is very easy to get carried away with the purchases. (Deb’s note: we did – and it was great,if expensive!)

Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden,Kandy

Rez’s Review 
I’m not really a fan of the green stuff but even I have to admit this was a pleasant walk around the botanical gardens. The gardens are very well maintained, and separated into distinct sections.


One shame was how many mindless vandals feel it is appropriate to carve a name or a word into a tree or a cactus, scarring for ever.

Cultural Dance, Kandy Red Cross Hall



This was pleasant enough but with no real explanation other than faded photocopied sheets handed out ahead of the performance it was a little difficult to follow.

The drumming… well it really felt like just a loud banging noise with no sense of rhythm about it and seemingly no agreed timing between the four drummers.

The dance itself was well done by the ladies and there were some visually stunning costume changes along the way. The male dancers… well more acrobats really as their dancing wasn’t really up to much… at one point I thought they were doing the early 90’s “big Box, Little Box” dance.

One interesting discovery was that this sort of dance recital appears to be a key ingredient in the search for immortality… time certainly seems to pass a lot slower when watching this sort of thing!

 

Swiss Residence, Kandy

A very friendly and pleasant hotel set on a very steep hillside overlooking stunning views of the valley in which Kandy is nestled.

Our room had been recently renovated and looked very good for it. Spacious bathroom with shower and bath, large bedroom with the wardrobes and bed forming an island in the middle of the room. Our room had large bay windows giving us a stunning view of the scenery.

The buffet dinner and breakfast offered a good selection thought they could have done with having some soya milk in to help with a dairy allergy.

Day 05: Transfer from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

Pickers at work in the tea Plantations

Rez’s Review

Store Field Tea Factory

This was a short stop on the road up to Nuwara Eliya where we found out all about the process for taking freshly picked leaves through various rolling, fermentation drying and sieving processes to arrive at the various grades of Orange Pekoe tea. Turns out the strong tea favoured by the British aka ‘builder’s tea’ is nothing more than the dust residue left at the end of the process! The obligatory factory shop yielded some fresh Ceylon tea for the larder.

Tea types

Araliya Green Hills Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

A very pleasant hotel set in what is colloquially described as ‘Little England’. Nuwara Eliya is at an altitude of 6000ft which means the climate is one the British can relate to very easily and goes a long way to explaining why the locals are all dressed in jumpers, fleeces, jackets, hats and earmuffs!
The hotel is modern and well appointed. We were greeted on arrival with a hot chocolate and shown to our room. The hotel has a small indoor heated pool which is needed as an outdoor pool would be a bit nippy.

We found strawberries at the local market

Day 6: Transfer from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota.

Rez’s Review

Centara Ceysands Hotel, Bentota

Early morning beach walk

We stayed the last two nights of our holiday here and were very glad for it. The hotel is reached via boat across the Bentota Ganga river where you are greeted by friendly courteous staff for a very smooth check in process. The rooms are of a high standard, ours was on the first floor and had a view overlooking the pool and the sea. The pool was a good size and pool toys (inflatables) were available. There was maintenance ongoing to the outside of the pool. My daughter and I had fun finding loose tiles and leaving them for the maintenance crew.
The food at the Café Bem buffet was excellent with a wide choice of foods available to suit most palates. Our arrival coincided with Oktoberfest so the array of German foods was greatly appreciated.

The poolside changing rooms are a little cramped and offer only toilet and shower cubicles with private / dry area available for changing in.
To get to the beach you will cross a sand track and there it is, a long flat sandy beach, great for playing on, and exercising on. You need to go a long way out to get to any real depth so good for paddling around in. Be aware of the beach flags, and take their advice.

 

Day 07:

Rez’s Review

Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Centre, Kosgoda

3 day old turtles


This was an excellent visit with informative staff guiding us around the work they are doing to ensure the turtles have the best opportunity for getting to the sea.
Sadly a bus load of Chinese tourists arrived right after us and began to barge around talking very loudly and frankly abusing the turtles with their rough handling and flash photography despite signs everywhere telling us in pictograms not to. We elected to let them blow through before continuing with our tour.
I’ve read a lot about people being upset at the rescue turtles swimming around small concrete tanks. Yes, they’re not too big but these are blind or deformed turtles since birth. The alternative really is release and then becoming dinner for another sea creature… is this a better alternative?

Resident Disabled turtle

Deb’s review:

Zahra loved this place and listened intently to the volunteer guide. She asked questions and got to handle the baby turtles. She was so gentle with them. We stayed for quite some time and saw a few tour groups going through whilst Zahra took it all in. It was a small place but a great project. They buy turtle eggs from scavengers and pay higher than the black market rate for them, ensuring the species thrive. Releasing them on the beach(at night) will hopefully also ensure that they return to the same beach in 30 years time and lay eggs again.  Zahra declared she wanted a job there. We then spent a fortune in the gift shop (all proceeds go to support the conservation effort). They gave us their business card and told her to return soon!


Maduganga Boat Captains, Maduganga

Mangroves

Rez’s Review

This was a guided boat ride around the Maduganga Lake, exploring the flora and the fauna this wetland has to offer.
We made several stops along the way including a refreshment stand on stilts in the middle of the lake, Cinnamon island to see the locals preparing cinnamon sticks and a Buddhist temple.


The trip culminated in 20minutes with our feet being nibbled by fish which was an interesting and ticklish experience!

Fish Therapy

Lunch at a fabulous fish restaurant suggested and recommended by our guide.

We ended the day with a short boat trip out to sea to see the coral reef and fish swimming over it. It was a bit turbulant to say the least and after a substantial lunch it didn’t take long for me to feel sea sick. whilst Rez and Zahra fed the fish with ice cream cones I tried not to feed the fish with my lunch!

Feeding the fish
Ready to rock the boat

Day 08:

We were supposed to have a day in Colombo touring and shopping in the city but as we had bought gifts and souvenirs whilst we were touring there was nothing left we wanted to buy. Also, Zahra was keen to have some more beach and pool time. She was up at 6am dragging me to the beach for an early morning paddle before breakfast. Straight after breakfast was a dash to the pool.Thankfully as the morning progressed she made friends with some other children and the hotel events person organised a water polo match which went on for some time. we finally left the hotel at 2.30pm to get to the airport on time for our check in and departure.

As is traditional in Sri Lanka we gave our guide / driver a tip in an envelope as we departed ways at the airport. Once inside we met another expat family from Bangalore and we knew at least another two families wete holidaying in Sri Lanka at the same time. it is a popular destination for good reason and I for one cant wait to return.