Day 94/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Sri Lanka day 3.
Day 95/138 too.
We had agreed to meet Gene and Margaret on the pier at 9am this morning. We were a bit early, so we waited in the Viking chairs at the bottom of the gangplank for them to arrive.
Gene and Margaret are always early and so we were walking over to our air conditioned van to meet our guide by 8:50am. I had made a list of places to see for the same guide we had the day before who took us to the golf club, as well as the Ministry of Crab for dinner. Our guide spoke excellent English and was a tour designer, who usually did not get to go along and do the guiding. I had published his contact details in yesterday’s blog.
The nice thing about making a list for the guide is that he knows what we were interested in and after reviewing the list he knew he could add a few more highlights into the tour, in the 4 hours we had the van, without compromising anything we wanted to see, even allowing us to make some unscheduled stops along the way that we added in.
Our first and unscheduled stop was to the Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka (formerly known as the Dutch Reformed Church of Sri Lanka) which is the oldest Protestant church on the island.
Wolvendaal Church located in the Pettah area of Colombo completed in 1757, constructed in the Doric style of the period in the form of a Greek cross with walls nearly five feet thick, constructed of clay ironstone with coral and lime plaster. There are five Dutch Governors buried at the church.
The first Protestant church service was held in Galle when the Dutch captured the fort at Galle in 1640. Protestantism was introduced as a missionary religion in 1658 by Dutch missionaries after the Dutch defeated the Portuguese on the island. There were already Buddhists, Hindus and Catholics on the island at that time. There are 31 Christian Reformed Churches in Sri Lanka and over 5,000 members of this denomination in Sri Lanka.
After a brief stop outside the Wovendaal Church for photos, we proceeded in our van to the next stop. Colombo was a hive of activity this morning since it was Monday, and a work day. We had only experienced Colombo on the weekend, until now, but it definitely was buzzing today!
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque or the ‘Red Mosque’ as it is known is an imposing building on the skyline of Colombo. We could see the mosque from the balcony of our stateroom and in the port talk for Colombo, Cruise Director Bruce had mentioned it was one of his favourite places to visit when in Colombo.
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Old entrance to the mosque.
Original side of the Jami-Ul Alfar Mosque
New section of the mosque.
The mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo and a popular tourist spot located in the Pettah area of Colombo. Completed in 1909 the mosque was commissioned by the local Indian Muslim community in Pettah to fulfill their required daily five times prayer and Jummah on Fridays. The architecture is a hybrid style and combines Gothic revival and Neoclassical styles. The building is a red and white ‘candy’ striped two storey building with a clock tower. Originally only 1,500 worshippers could worship in the mosque, but the mosque expanded in 1975 by purchasing adjoining buildings and adding onto the mosque. The new capacity for worship is for up to 10,000.
After visiting the mosque we had to check out a couple of the ornamental fabric and sewing notions stores which were in the same lane as the mosque.
We had sensory overload in the store! There was so much to see, it was hard to take it all in! And there was two floors of it too!
After visiting this area of Pettah, we headed back to our waiting air conditioned van to head to our next stop. We really wanted to see the Pettah Floating market which I had read so much about as a must see spot in Colombo.
Walking over the bridge to the Pettah Floating Market.
Well the Pettah floating market was mostly closed and was frankly a bust! Just a few t-shirt stores, selling a bunch of knock off t-shirts. Not exactly what the Trip Advisor write ups were all about. Oh well. We had lots of other places to visit while we had our guide for the morning, and we did see where the main Colombo train station was, on our way to the Pettah floating market.
I was not sure where the guide was taking us next, but it turned out to be a jewellery store. All guides want to take you to a jewellery store, as they receive commission from the jewellery store for taking you there! Me and Margaret went in to see what they had on offer while Richard and Gene stayed in the air conditioned van. The jewellery store had all kinds of unset gems, but the prices were very expensive. Neither one of us was interested in dropping $3,000 USD on a pink or blue sapphire this morning, so we quickly bailed on this store and asked the driver to take us to the next stop.
Our guide decided it was time for us to visit a Hindu temple so we went along with his suggestion. The temple was not on my ‘must see’ list, but hey, we didn’t know what else there was to see in Colombo, and he did.
Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam Kovil Hindu temple. Is that not impressive? This temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo, built in the 18th Century by Indians and is a sight for many matrimonial ceremonials for the Tamil Hindus that reside in Sri Lanka.
The carvings and the colourful details on this temple are gorgeous!
After viewing the outside of the temple our guide asked us if we wanted to go inside, because we would have to pay 500 rupee each. I paid our admission and Margaret had to put on a sarong over her dress to cover her knees.
Stunning Interior of this mosque. This photo reminded me of one I had taken at the City Gallery in K.L., but a lot more intricate.
Other ante rooms of the temple.
Just look at the colour and detail on the walls and the ceiling!
Ceiling in more detail. Wow!
While we were admiring the beauty of the inside of this Hindu temple, our guide motioned to us that a wedding was about to take place and we should come and watch. The groom was sitting nervously on a bench waiting with his parents standing beside him. The bride’s parents then arrived separately to stand on the other side of the bench. The musicians were playing some loud instruments and the incense was burning as the Swami led the service. The bride arrived with the groom’s sister. The bride then took her rightful place next to her groom. The ceremony proceeded with us and the other guests, watching the wedding. We did not stay until the end, but we really enjoyed the surprise addition of watching a Hindu wedding on a Monday morning in Colombo. Who knew that watching a Hindu wedding in Colombo would be in our future, when we left the ship this morning for our sightseeing tour? I love the randomness of serendipitous things that happen when we travel. It wasn’t scheduled, but we waited, listened, watched and were enthralled by what we were seeing in the beautiful Hindu temple. Is that not what travel is supposed to be about? Letting things happen and taking them all in. OM…..
Our next stop was to Independence Memorial Hall and Independence Square in Colombo which is a national monument in Sri Lanka built for commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule, with the restoration of full governing responsibility to a Ceylonese-elected legislature on February 4, 1948. The monument is the statue of the first prime minister of the country Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake considered ‘The Father of the Nation‘.
We managed to see the Memorial Hall and Independence Square just before the Viking Tour bus showed up and lots of people poured out into the monument. As we were leaving this spot we saw a snake around a guy’s neck and he was letting tourists put the snake on their necks (for a price of course). There was also another guy with a monkey who was letting tourists put the monkey around their neck. NO THANK YOU to both!
Our next stop was to go to a shop to buy some spices, masks, and teas. Sri Lanka is known for its spice production and we had yet to see any evidence of the local spices. Our guide took us to a spot he knew where we could buy everything we wanted in one spot and as a bonus, there was a jewellery store on the ground level. We shopped upstairs and found what we were looking for and then shopped downstairs at the jewellery store. Margaret got a beautiful pink sapphire which she will have set when she gets home. I bought a very pretty gemstone bracelet and also received a certificate of authenticity stamped with the official stamp of the jeweller. The gemstones are very colourful and include peridot, topaz, sapphire, ruby in a silver setting with white sapphires. I was able to negotiate with the seller and I was happy with the price I paid for the bracelet.
As our time was nearing the end of our four hours, we asked our guide to drop us at the Galle Face Mall, which was where the cruise ship shuttle bus was dropping people who wanted to go shopping. We knew we could get a ride back to the ship after we had seen inside the mall.
The Galle Face mall was a 6 level, very high end mall, with clean washrooms, a fantastic themed food court and a grocery store on the lower level of the mall. We were hungry since it was after 1pm. We walked by each food vendor’s stand and decided on some Middle Eastern food for lunch.
I ordered a chicken shawarma pita for Richard with an extra tabouli and I ordered chicken shawarma with tabouli and salad. The meal was delicious and everything was made fresh, and plated on china dishes while we waited. While we were sitting in the food court I noticed the mural that was on the side of the post. It sure looked familiar!
The exact same street art mural that was painted in Muhammed Ali Lane in Chinatown in Singapore! Is that not weird that we see the exact same mural in two spots, in two random spots on our trip, less than two weeks apart?
After lunch we browsed the grocery store to pick up some more local items for our pantry larder on the Neptune. It is always good to have the things we cannot get like light biscuits on our own shelf, for those times when we come back ravished and we don’t want to sit and wait for room service!
We left Gene and Richard waiting on a bench in the air conditioned mall while we walked around some of the shops in the mall.
I took this really cute photo of them both, which reminded me of two Forest Gumps sitting on a bench!
The shuttle bus was supposed to be coming every 30 minutes, so we went outside the mall to wait for the 2:30pm shuttle. It was really hot outside and the smart tuk-tuk drivers knew that our shuttle bus probably would be late, so they were trying to offer us the chance to drive in one of their 3 wheeler tuk-tuks back to the Neptune for $5USD. The issue was that if we did take a tuk-tuk, they could only get us to the entrance gates of the port and because we could not walk inside the port area, we would then have to wait for the port shuttle to take us back to the Neptune. That whole situation had too much ‘hair’ on it, so we waited patiently for the Viking shopping shuttle bus outside in the heat which finally arrived at 2:45pm. The shuttle also had to go to the Colombo City Centre Mall for a pick up, before we finally got back to the Neptune after 3pm.
I went to the gym when we got back to the ship, since we had not done much walking and I felt like I needed to work off the lunch we had at the mall. The gym was pretty empty with most people either still off the ship, or resting before we were set to sail away from Sri Lanka.
Our sail away from Sri Lanka was very pretty. With the city’s Lotus communications tower visible from miles away, and the davits all lit up against the Colombo skyline. I was very pleasantly surprised with our visit to Sri Lanka and really enjoyed our time there. I had no expectations of the country of Sri Lanka, so my expectations were exceeded. Definitely a country in turmoil financially and broad extremes in the standard of living for its people, but many beautiful structures to see and lots of things to do - especially in the short time we were there visiting this beautiful country.
We went to dinner at the World Cafe and we both just had a salad and ate out on the Aquavit Terrace while watching the lights of Colombo in the distance. After dinner we went to Bruce’s Brain Buster’s and our team of 4 with Gene and Margaret were the sole winners with 13/21 points! Yeah! We have won Brain Busters a handful of times now, but never have we won the 12:15pm Team Trivia. Time is running out for us to shine!
A sea day tomorrow, but not a relaxing one!
Day 95/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise
A brief overview of my busy sea day today, since it is late, and the internet is not at all cooperative tonight as I’m trying to finish up the blog on Colombo and today’s sea day.
I had to be in baking class for 9:30am this morning. We were told to meet outside Manfredi’s for the class and after signing the required release form, we were ushered inside to the 24/7 baking area of the Neptune. It was a busy place to be on a Tuesday morning with pastry chefs preparing the usual fruit tarts, meringues and other tasty treats, but that was not what we would be baking this morning. The baking class was for us to make the same focaccia bread that is served in Manfredi’s restaurant. We were given the recipe for the focaccia bread and watched as the baker put all of the ingredients into the food mixer, added pre measured water and then slowly beat the dough, and then sped up the machine for the final dough mixing. We were each then given pans, spray olive oil and dough and told to spray our pans. Next we were to roll the pieces of dough into balls and then flatten them and use our finger tips to spread the dough out. Once the dough was spread out and pressed with our fingers, we added the dough to the pan, put a scoop of olive oil on top, added cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, oregano flakes and sea salt. I saw there was extra dough, so I made a third pan of focaccia bread. The Executive pastry chef had our names written on wooden spoons and told us that wherever we were dining this evening, we could let our server know and they would find the loaves of bread we had baked, and would serve it to us. Cool! We knew we were dining at The Restaurant this evening with friends Bill and Donna, so I told this to the Chef, so they would have my three little pans of focaccia ready and warm for our 6pm dinner.
After baking it was time to try and write some of yesterday’s blog up in the Explorer’s Lounge but once up there, I spent the time socializing with Julie, our Ozzie friend, catching up on her day in Sri Lanka yesterday.
Team Trivia came next and while we did ok, we were still about 3 short of winning.
I had an appointment to have my hair cut and coloured so I had to head down to the Nordic Spa to see Oxana once again. When Margaret found out that I was having my hair done, she had to come and creep me, to take a photo! While I was getting my hair done, Richard also came by before he went to the gym. After the gym he also returned and then Linda from art class came by to tell me she would come and visit after her 3pm choir rehearsal to show me what I had missed today in art class. I told Oxana I guess my friends and family all missed me wanting to come and visit me at the Nordic Spa this afternoon!
My hair turned out great, as Oxana really is a talented hair dresser.
Linda stopped by to show me the two pieces of art that she had done in the morning and afternoon art class and I learned that to put wax on the page meant not to use pencil as well to draw the scene, or the pencil would not rub off under the wax.
The wax is meant to give the effect of the shoreline in the painting that I finished this afternoon before dinner.
My focaccia bread was a big hit at dinner, and it tasted delicious as I thought it would. We forgot to take a photo unfortunately and with this bad internet, I am not going to be able to upload anymore photos to this blog tonight. I will put photos on Facebook that correspond to the blog. Sorry. That’s the issue with having poor internet on a 5 star cruise, it just continues to be utterly frustrating!
Tomorrow we are in India. Cochin to be exact. There are so many requirements to get into India and the Viking Daily has outlined them all. Getting our Indian visas last October was a nightmare which I know I spoke about in a previous blog. We have more forms that arrived today for India that we also needed to fill out, as well as other forms which Viking has already printed and prepared. And we all must do a face to face inspection with immigration tomorrow before our included tour starts, so I think the 8:45am in the Star Theatre will be just a suggestion on when the tour will actually start. India here we all come!