Tag Archives: religion

Blue Turtle Hotel in Tissamaharama: Stylish and comfortable boutique hotel in lush surroundings

The ride from Dalawella to Tissamaharama was long. We left Sri Gemunu Beach Resort: stunning location with friendly service before the noon, stopped briefly at Kataluwa Purwarama Temple: one of the finest temples in the southern Sri Lanka, did one more stop near Tangalle to check out a hotel and arrived in Tissamaharama just before the sunset. About 150 km of driving took us almost six hours. The road and traffic were ok, but things just take unusually long when traveling with a small child…

Anyway, we had shortlisted several hotels in Tissamaharama: Kithala Resort, Diyadahara Resort, The Rain Tree Hotel, Thaulle Resort, Chandrika Hotel and Blue Turtle Hotel. We chose Blue Turtle Hotel mainly for two reasons: it holds the Tripadvisor number one position, which usually means one cannot go too wrong, and they were very fast and professional in their communication (text messages).

We were more than pleased with our choice. The quality we got for approximately 50USD per night (including breakfast) was great. Rooms were very clean, simple yet stylish, came with a mosquito net and service was friendly. There was a wonderful pool we never got to use because we were the unlucky ones to get some rain (unlucky because apparently rain is not good for animal watching).  Blue Turtle opened in 2015 and everything is still very new.

Upon arrival we chatted with the Sri lankan owner who had  lived in Paris for thirty years. Being a former restaurant(s) owner means that he is serious about food, something that was proved to us at the dinner. The menu is limited (grilled meat and kottu roti), but the fact that most people only stay 1-2 nights in Tissamaharama explains it. Moreover, everything is so delicious that we didn’t mind eating the same thing twice! The only thing we regret is that breakfast was not Sri Lankan. Upon leaving I made a remark about this to the owner who explained that the reception should have asked whether we want European or local breakfast. Oh well, next time we know better!

We highly recommend staying at Blue Turtle. Most people arrive in Tissamaharama, sleep one night, go for a safari in Yala National Park in the morning and leave in the afternoon, but I would strongly suggest you stay two nights like we did and include a fascinating religious town called Kataragama in your itinerary. More about these two destinations in my next posts, so stay tuned.

PS There were surprisingly few mosquitoes wherever we visited in Sri Lanka, but most of them seem to be living in Tissamaharama, so do not forget your mosquito repellent.

Blue Turtle Hotel:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blueturtlehotel/
Website: http://www.blueturtlehotel.com
Cell.phone: +94 77 5486836 (Text messages are most likely answered by the owner’s son Oliver who will help you in whatever you may need. He speaks French as well.)

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Previous Sri Lanka trip posts (in the order of appearance):

Planning Sri Lanka: Itinerary

Sea Shine Guesthouse in Dodanduwa: spotless seafront rooms that come with a smile and delicious food

Dalawella Beach: Picture perfect and safe for swimming

Sri Gemunu Beach Resort: stunning location with friendly service

Kataluwa Purwarama Temple: one of the finest temples in the southern Sri Lanka

Kataluwa Purwarama Temple: one of the finest temples in the southern Sri Lanka

Dodanduwa and Dalawella were perfect beach destinations to recover from jetlag and wind down, but after a few days we wanted to see more of Sri Lanka. As we had decided to completely skip the Cultural Triangle, it was all the more important for us to visit those few religious sites that exist along the southern coast and Kataluwa Purwarama Temple was one of them.IMG_4463.JPGWe had a bit of hard time finding the temple as our driver had never been there before. Upon arrival only silence greeted us. All the doors were closed and apart from some school children and birds, nobody was around. Eventually our driver found a monk  who he lives in a house (monastery) below, located sort of behind the pagoda. He kindly opened the door for us (pay attention to his massive golden key featured in the photo!) and we entered a very beautiful, peaceful shrine full of Kandyan-style murals dating from the 19th century. The monk spoke very good English and gave us a private tour. For a moment it was just the monk, his eighteen dogs, Buddha statues, some Hindu gods (Vishnu, Kataragama, etc) and us. A beautiful, spiritual moment, indeed a refreshing break from the beach life.

In addition to Buddhist tales, the paintings depict the 19th life and even Queen Victoria can be found in the wall paintings. Guide books (Routard, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide) and Internet do not seem to agree on the history of this temple that some say dates from the 13th century, so I am not going to go into this. All I can say is that the temple is definitely worth a visit! And while you are in the area, stop by at Ahangama to see the stilt fishermen.

PS Naturally there is no entrance fee but donations are appreciated. We left 500 Sri Lankan rupees for the monk and he seemed very pleased.

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Previous Sri Lanka trip posts (in the order of appearance):

Planning Sri Lanka: Itinerary

Sea Shine Guesthouse in Dodanduwa: spotless seafront rooms that come with a smile and delicious food

Dalawella Beach: Picture perfect and safe for swimming

Sri Gemunu Beach Resort: stunning location with friendly service

 

Planning Sri Lanka: Itinerary

When Emirates sent out its winter offers last November, we didn’t think for a very long time before reserving the tickets: 1200€ for two adults and one child (less than two years), not bad! Hadn’t we chosen a Dubai stop-over, additional ticket flexibility and 30kg of baggage allowance per person (instead of 20kg) we could have gotten our Paris-Colombo return tickets for as low as 1000€. Flying an airline based in an oil-rich country has its advantages…

Sri Lanka had been on our travel list for a long time, and it felt like a safe yet fun option with a toddler. This was going to be our first long-distance trip with our daughter so naturally we had questions and hesitations in mind, but everyone we talked to was very reassuring. Comments like “It is not exactly Singapore, but Sri Lanka is VERY developed, clean and safe” and “Your daughter will love it; they love children over there” sealed our decision.

Loyal to our habit, there we were, planned another self-organized trip, still resisting to book an all-inclusive holiday that comes with toddler activities and clubs…

We were going to have 15 full days in the Emerald Ile of Asia. The initial plan was to do like most tourists do: get one or two nights of rest either in Negombo (where the airport is located) or in Colombo (located south from Negombo) before continuing to explore the rest of the island. I soon abandoned this idea, for the following reasons.

  1. Negombo didn’t feel like a place we would like stay: the sea is too dirty and dangerous to swim in and hotels seemed expensive for the quality one gets.
  2. Colombo, on the hand, seemed interesting, but we were just too tired to do city sightseeing, especially in the beginning of our trip. Big cities can be really tiresome with small children and our Palermo experience (http://wp.me/p35gzD-IA) was fresh in mind.
  3. Since Colombo was at least one hour away from the airport, I started to wonder “if we are going to sit in the car anyway, why not to drive a bit further to a really lovely beach destination?” Our flight was to land early in the morning, so we could also benefit from quiet roads. I was pretty sure our daughter would sleep in the car, so two hours in a car instead of one hour would make no difference.
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The Negombo beach isn’t really as pretty as this photo lets you think… The beach is quite dirty, the sea is rather dangerous, beach boys follow you around and you can smell sewage. We did eventually spend 1.5 nights there in the end of our holidays but hope we will never have to return.

So, the plan B was born: I started looking into beach destinations that were not too far from the airport. The Kalpitiya Peninsula caught my eye and it was only 2 – 2.5 hours away from the airport. The idea was to rest here for few nights and recover from the jetlag prior to intensive visiting in the Cultural Triangle where the ancient Buddhist sites are. The Kalpitiya region has only recently opened up to tourism  and is famous for kitesurfing, dolphin and whale watching, as well as for some of Sri Lanka’s best eco lodges. Unfortunately, many of the nicer hotels were not in our budget. We started to worry a bit; nobody had told us you need to spend more than 200USD/night  in order to get something comfortable in Sri Lanka!

This is when the plan C kicked in. All along my husband had kept reminding me “do not make us do too much driving, the goal of this trip is to rest”. I took a closer look at the most common circuit, which usually heads first to the Cultural Triangle and tea plantations, followed by beach time  (or the same circuit but in a reverse order). Distances seemed important… Had it been just two of us, no problem, but having a toddler sit in a car for a half day or more, several times during a 15-day holiday, started to look like a bad idea. So, sadly , we decided to entirely skip the Cultural Triangle and said to ourselves that we will just have to return to Sri Lanka another time. We decided to spend most of our holiday by the sea on the southern coast and try to include a visit to Yala National Park and some (rare!) religious sites of the south.

I started looking for a hotel around Hikkaduwa, the world-famous surf town. I purchased a print version of the Rough Guide and finally started to get a feel for Sri Lanka (I hadn’t appreciated the French Routard guide book). Beaches looked more attractive while prices started to seem more reasonable too. This is when I stumbled across a small town called Dodanduwa, just few kilometers south of Hikkaduwa, and we ended up spending first few days of our trip in a lovely small beachfront guesthouse, but more about that in the next post!

PS Sri Lanka is such a hot tourism destination at the moment so I bet many of you readers have visited this wonderful island. Do you have a perfect itinerary to suggest? Were you traveling with or without children? If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka at this very moment, congratulations on your great choice and I hope my post helps you to plan. Meanwhile, the Rough Guide has very good maps including different itineraries, see https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/sri-lanka/itineraries/

 

 

Christmas preparations: cards

Phew, over fifty Christmas cards on their way to friends and family mainly in Finland, France, the US and India.

As I was searching our closets for cards and envelopes (I keep a stock) I stumbled upon these cards that I had bought in Calcutta during our last trip to India. I was going to choose some to be sent away but fascinated by their beauty, I then changed my mind. What exquisite tiny pieces of art they are! I want to keep them! I photographed them and took time to admire the handicraft while wondering who had made them and what the stories behind are. I felt that these cards are like carpets: their ornaments tell a story; a story the person who made them wants to tell. Happiness, sorrow, hope, dreams –what else?

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Flowers and the person behind the flowers. 

Maybe after all I will frame and hang them on the baby room’s wall.

I am not quite sure which one I prefer. Maybe the holy, lime-green hand of hamsa. What about you?

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Aren’t these cards absolutely splendid? Only in incredible India!

Note: Cards made and sold by Calcutta Rescue (www.calcuttarescue.org). If you are in Calcutta, do not miss them at the Fairlawn Hotel every Thursday between 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. They take orders too!

 

No Bastille Market today

As a consequence of Friday’s tragic events the markets remain close today. This is a pity because we love going to the Bastille Market every Sunday, and would have gone also today. All those colors bring us a lot of joy. Not to mention that we bring home several bags of fruits and vegetables that last at least until Thursday –the day the market opens again.

The Bastille Market, open on Thursdays and Sundays, gives a lot of joy to us.

The Bastille Market, open on Thursdays and Sundays, gives a lot of joy to us. Today the market remains close.

Many Parisian have preferred to stay indoors since yesterday but I believe this is exactly what the terrorists want. And I don’t want to give in. I have never been good at doing what I am “supposed” to do…

Yesterday afternoon we left our secured home and wandered through the streets of Paris. First Rue de Charonne where we met with a friend, then la Place de la Nation and Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine. The 11th arrondissement  was very quiet indeed but calling it a ghost town would be far-fetched. Near Faidherbe-Chaligny metro, a few steps away from the shooting sites, we said good bye to a friend who headed home. We started walking towards our arrondissement, the 4th, and did groceries in the heart of the lower Marais, Saint Paul. Shops, cafes and restaurants were open and alive. By the time we were ready to return home it was lheure de lapéro. I paid attention to a church that was unusually full of people of all age. Hundreds of candles were lit.

In a few minutes we are going to check the market anyway. Maybe an odd vendor will be selling aubergines and grapes? Probably not. In this case we are going to have a walk. Should we stay inside and prepare for the worst, minimize the risk by skipping our usual habits? No, I don’t think so. I have never lived by fear, even in countries where I probably should have because the risk of terrorism was very high. So far my intuition and luck (or destiny if you prefer) have kept me alive and I trust they will continue to do so. Maybe I am naive but I refuse to live under fear.

PS I was going to end this post by referring to the Western values like freedom etc., but I don’t want to fall under this East (“bad values”) versus West (“good values”) thinking, which I believe is another trap, something terrorist want us to start believing too. The global situation is by far much more complex….

Golden cupolas of Kiev

After publishing photos from the eastern Ukraine I got to thinking about my one-year stay in Kiev. Today I went through my photos from the Ukrainian capital, taken between 2005 and 2006, and here are some of the best shots of the famous golden cupolas that dominate the street view.

Kiev, the birthplace of Russia, is full of old Orthodox churches. Many of them are as old as Kyivan Rus.

Kiev, the birthplace of Russia, is full of old Orthodox churches. Many of them are as old as Kievan Rus’, making them more than 1000 years old.

...usually when visiting an orthodox (or any!) church you should cover your knees and shoulders...

…usually when visiting an Orthodox (or any!) church you should cover your knees and shoulders…

Orthodox churches dominate the street view in Kiev.

Wherever you look,  Orthodox churches dominate the street view in Kiev.

Golden cupolas against blue skies.

Golden cupolas against blue skies.

More golden cupolas against the otherwise grey city of Kiev.

More golden cupolas against the otherwise grey city of Kiev.

They do love blue color! One would almost think it has some symbolic value for the Orthodox church!

They do love blue color! One would almost think it has some symbolic value for the Orthodox church!

When life gets too hectic outside, there is always a place for a candle inside.

When life gets too hectic outside, there is always a place for a candle inside.

Some previous photos from Ukraine:

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1
Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 2
The Privoz market in Odessa

and more to come! Meanwhile, come and say hello on Twitter (@Miia_Niskanen), Instagram (Pearlspotting) or Facebook (Pearlspotting).

A chapel of design

This summer I discovered something in Helsinki that I found absolutely fantastic and incredible: a very simplistic, curved-shaped chapel made of wood in the heart of the Finnish capital. Let me present you, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence! One of the world’s most stylish chapels:

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

The Chapel was completed in 2012, the year when Helsinki was World Design Capital 2012. This urban and spiritual project was designed by K2S Architects Ltd, who describe the project like this “This small wooden chapel introduces a place for silence and peace in the lively commercial centre of Helsinki. The chapel space is located in a sculptural wooden volume. The interior is warm and enclosed from the surrounding urban life. Indirect toplight enlightens the wooden chapel interior.”

My first impression was very powerful. I loved the outside design. Even if the Chapel somehow looks like nothing and could-be-anything at the same time, it is very elegant. It is one of a kind. I loved how the sun rays touched the wood (wood that was glazed with wax by using nanotechnology, says the brochure of the Chapel).

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

I was sort of nervous to walk in. Would the inside match the beauty of the outside?

Judging by these photos, I am sure you will agree with me that it did. It was at the same time imposing and down to earth. Quiet and present. Difficult to describe.

If you haven't found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

If you haven’t yet found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi Chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

During the time of my visit there were numerous tourists from France, Russia and Japan, but I could also witness young children popping in, alone, on their way from the sports to home. In some ways I felt happy that a religious place managed to attract the younger generation. Even if they didn’t come in for spiritual reasons (but what do I know, maybe they did!), they came in, stayed quiet, looked around, observed, took photos and left. It seemed like they appreciated the place and the feeling in it, and to me this represents the most powerful “recognition of success” the architects could ever receive!

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

Even if you may have very little time in Helsinki, make sure you visit this chapel only 5 minutes away from the railway station by walking. It is open from Monday to Friday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and from Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To be found on Facebook here: Kampin kappeli.

For more information:

K2S Architects: http://www.k2s.fi/
ArchDaily article: and http://www.archdaily.com/252040/kamppi-chapel-k2s-architects/
..and lastly, a photograph of the Q&A I took in the Chapel:

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!