A Test from Hollyweed


This is a test run.  From the conception of “A Radical Sabbatical I have blogged using an old Microsoft Surface.  While it has served me well, it is rather heavy to carry so on my next trip I’ve decided, depending on how this post goes to leave the workhorse at home and to try posting using only a small tablet with a portable keyboard.


As you can see I’m conducting this little scientific experiment from Hollyweed but on Tuesday I am leaving for points in Scandinavia.  Specifically I will be visiting Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Tallinn (Estonia). This will be my first trip abroad where I will be leaving from LEX vs. LAX.


Maybe it is just the learning curve but this posting already seems more difficult to create.  While the text portion of the blogging process is quite straightforward, getting photos from the camera to an online device, cropping, resizing, uploaded to WordPress, and finally inserted into a blog entry is a little more complicated. This is further complicated by the fact that my Android tablet does not have a standard USB port so all this must be done wirelessly. Furthermore, Windows has much better functionality when it comes to manipulating files.


But I am committed to trying to make it work. If this trip’s blogging experience goes badly, maybe there will be a new Surface in my future!

For those of follow me regularly please let me know in the comments if you notice anything materially different.

See you next in Amsterdam.




The Road to Ruin



The ball court at Nim Li Punit.

We took a chance to get out of Dodge yesterday. So with Cameron, our hired driver, we set out for the Mayan ruins of Nam Li Punit nearly a couple of hours south of Placencia. While I have seen more impressive Mayan ruins, I’ve never experienced one in complete solitude.  We were the only visitors and it’s amazing how that can change the experience.



Ray’s ashes at Nim Li Punit

The ruins were in a lush tropical setting and it was here that I once again left a little piece of Ray behind in this peaceful setting.



Clarity of offer.

After the ruins we headed straight to Coleman’s Café for the famous buffet.  As you can see, they are quite specific about what the don’t have.  But it’s what they do have that’s important.  Real home cooked Belizean food in a real homey environment.  It was really good and the homemade ice cream is to die for.



Lunch at Coleman’s

But perhaps the most ruinous part of the day was the time we spent at Yoli’s along about 6pm…and onward. I loved the hippie vibe there and it truly felt like you’d escaped the real world for an alternate universe.



Lori, Brian, and Ruben at Yoli’s



Ruben and Yoli



I saw this gorgeous lotus blossom that the Spice Farm near Nim Li Punit


Leaf cutter ants at Nim Li Punit provide a surprising amount of entertainment.



Nim Li Punit












Placencia, Belize


The quaint little town of Placencia, Belize

It’s not that far, only a few hundred miles south of Cancun, but it feels very remote.  Placencia, Belize sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico about 60 miles south of the capital of Belize City. The weather is tropical, US dollars are accepted everywhere, English is universally spoken, and the vibe is most definitely laid back.


There were just four passengers on the flight from Belize City to Placencia.  I sat directly behind the pilot.


The plane on the last leg of our flight.


The Placencia airport.  The whole airport.

Getting here was uneventful except the last leg of our flight…Belize City to Placencia.  It was on a single propeller plane with just four passengers. Amanda and I sat directly behind the pilot and copilot, and we had a view through the windshield.  That was particularly interesting when we came in for our landing.


Placencia neighborhood


The main drag through Placencia.  Well, the only drag.

I’m here with eight other people to celebrate a birthday.  So whatever the locale lacks in sights, architecture, and art it is made up by the charm of the little town, the scenery, and lots of good companionship.

Amanda and I have a pretty cool house right on the beach and we’re here for a week with not a lot to do. So it should be pretty laid back and relaxing.



Good morning Belize.  The view from our condo is pretty awesome!




The Streets of Colombo

Unfortunately I spent the last night in Galle and the first whole day in Columbo with Delhi Belly. While I (and those around me) was miserable for about 36 hours, I was able to get out and about today in the cosmopolitan capital of Sri Lanka.  I have another full day tomorrow before we leave late for the long journey home.

Temples and Such

We visited a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, and an Islamic mosque.  We didn’t get access into the mosque, we didn’t know until reading the guide book after we left and if we nicely asked the security guard he would have probably let us in.  However the exterior, in its own right was pretty striking.



Detail view







Paints used to paint the “third eye” (Hindu)



Pettah Markets

Perhaps the highlight of the day for me was visiting the markets of Colombo. It was a constant battle to not be run over by a tuk tuk or other forms of manual drayage laden to the max.  While all the active participants moved in a hurry and with a definite purpose, they seemed to tolerate our strolling about…to a degree.



Smile for me! (Or the mutton)






Enchanted Galle

We’ve now made our way from the wilds of Yala National Park to the antique town of Galle (pronounced Gawl). My exploration has primarily centered on the Fort area of the city which was built by the Dutch beginning in 1663. It is crammed full of little boutique shops, cafes, and hotels. The classic architecture melds with a tropical setting to create a most pleasant place to amble around the little streets. It is hot and humid however.


Sunset from the walls of the Galle Fort


We’ve now made our way from the wilds of Yala National Park to the antique town of Galle (pronounced Gawl). My exploration has primarily centered on the Fort area of the city which was built by the Dutch beginning in 1663. It is crammed full of little boutique shops, cafes, and hotels. The classic architecture melds with a tropical setting to create a most pleasant place to amble around the little streets. It is hot and humid however.



A typical street in Galle

We are staying in a beautiful and historic hotel that also dates from the 1600s.  Upon arrival the manager felt compelled to give us nearly the entire history of the building.  It was obvious he was truly proud of its restoration. It once served as an administration for the Dutch garrison that was stationed here.  Later, when the Dutch were routed by the British, they added the second story to the building. You can clearly see the difference in the architecture.



Note the second story


Galle Fort Hotel

I spent a leisurely morning strolling around the old fort area just snapping a few pictures and becoming totally drenched in sweat.  It seems everywhere I turned there were wedding couples conducting photo sessions.  Where I had the nerve, I snapped one for myself.




Several religions seem to exist peacefully in Galle.  Here you see a small Buddhist shrine with St. Anne’s Christian church in the background.


There is also a large Muslim population in Galle.  The mosque is near the hotel, and I heard the first call to prayer at 5:23am today.


Don’t you wonder what he’s thinking about?

On the drive here we, of course, passed through several little towns on our four-hour drive.  In one of them (I forget the name now) we happened upon a little parade going down the main street.  Our driver said it was something to do with the schools, and it was most children and young people.



These smiles greet you all over Sri Lanka!



Best friends



The Dutch Reform Church (circa 1640) and the tombstones in the churchyard. It being Sunday, a service was going on so I didn’t step inside.









They are crazy about cricket here.  I watched for a long time and I still don’t get it.  I’m convinced I never will.



Ella and Yala

We left Kandy bound for the little village of Ella, Sri Lanka. Our drive was to take us through the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. I had read that it was a beautiful drive, but I was not prepared for just how dramatic it could be in places.  This is the area of the country where tea is king, and often for as far as the eye could see the hills were covered in a verdant carpet of green.


Picking tea

We arrived in Ella a little road weary.  The last 500 yards was especially interesting.  Our hotel was up on a mountain and the road was under construction.  The solution was to take a tuk tuk sent by the hotel.  It was a memorable ride.  The hill was so steep that the tuk tuk could hardly make it up the steep, curvy road.  We kept stalling out, rolling backwards, and then getting another run-and-go, until we made it to the top. But it was worth it because the hotel was in a stunning location and we had the first cool weather (altitude) since arriving. It was truly a welcome respite.






But I will have to say that the highlight of the visit to Ella was the private cooking class that our driver/guide, Dinesh, arranged for us.  We prepared the entire meal and then had the best lunch we’ve had the entire trip. And that’s no exaggeration!


Preparing for our cooking class


Cooking Sri Lankan Cuisine


Coconut oil for the fried eggplant.  Simply delicious.



Sri Lankan food is a lot of vegetables and little meat.  Very healthy.

In the photos above our instructor is preparing the fresh coconut for the sambol.  It was another of my favorites and is eaten similar to a condiment.



Preparing the banana leaves that served as both a warming vessel as well as dining plates.



The rice and other prepared foods are then arranged in bowls and inverted onto the banana leaves.



Finally the food is folded into the banana leaves and placed in a steamer.

While the packets of food were warming in the steamer the popardam are prepared.  We are then ready to eat.  Traditional Sri Lankan food is typically eaten using your hands.  I gave this a try and actually succeeded for the entire meal, however it just felt wrong to a certain degree.

After we ate we continued on, driving through more beautiful countryside to our next destination called Yala and its national park. We stayed in a wonderful ocean-front resort right next to the entrance of the park where we planned a morning safari drive the following day.

“Morning” means leaving the hotel at 5am! But we were blessed with a nice sunrise and cool temperatures at the beginning.  Perhaps I’m jaded by having been on safari in Africa and Sri Lanka simply doesn’t compare to the grandeur. We searched in vain for the elusive leopard to no avail. Alas.



Sunrise in Yala National Park







Crocodile.  A big ‘in





Always one of my favorites!

And the finally, after eating dusting and bouncing around for hours I rewarded myself with a little down time.







Randy in Kandy


Making offerings to the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. Kandy, Sri Lanka


Kandy is a comely city surrounded by hills and a picturesque lack smack dab in the middle.  It is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and it bustles.  However a certain amount of calmness exists due to the lovely setting I think.

The main attraction here is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and it is the most important Buddhist site in Sri Lanka. It is purported that an incisor of the Buddha himself is stashed away in a casket which is displayed inside the main temple.  No photos are allowed.

Sri Lankan Buddhists believe they must complete at least on pilgrimage to the temple in their lifetime, as worshipping here improves one’s karmic lot immeasurably. It seemed to be especially popular with young couples with infants, but I don’t really understand what the significance of that is.


Making a fashion statement in Kandy

Like a dolt I wore shorts for the visit to the shrine (Yes, I do know better).  I was quickly and sternly informed by security personnel (military perhaps?) at the entrance that I would not be allowed entry in such indecent attire.  However an enterprising man hovered nearby and was quick to offer me the beautiful piece of 100% polyester pictured above to cover my gangly legs. At a cost of 1,000 rupees! Now I understand how women feel when they visit a mosque.  I threw my newly purchased sarong in the trash upon leaving the temple.


I thought this was a most interesting statue and it is obviously making a statement about British colonial rule.

The rest of our day was spent wondering the busy streets shopping and having lunch at the old Queen’s Hotel in the city center.  In the late afternoon we took in a performance of “traditional” Kandyan dance. The costumes were elaborate and the moves gyrating.  However I sort of felt it was not necessarily traditional but was rather directed at their foreign audience.  It was a good way to spend an hour though.




Kandy, Sri Lanka