Boston, Massachusetts, USA

I am in Boston where I will begin a cruise to Bermuda and Atlantic Canada. I was here in the summer of 2016 when I visited the historical sights and the Museum of Fine Arts. Thursday after a very early arrival, I took a long walk to the Back Bay area passing by the Central Burying Ground established in 1754 and the Public Garden which was very beautiful in the early morning light. In the evening I went to the Institute of Contemporary Art to see an exhibit on Art in the Age of the Internet from 1989 to the present. The most interesting piece was a 3D printed piece modelled from a self portrait of the artist Juliana Huxtable by Frank Benson. The least interesting was a photo of a green screen used in TV production for special effects such as weather maps mounted on a material called Duratrans by the artist Liz Deschenes. You are supposed to use your imagination as to what you see on the screen! We will arrive in Bermuda on Monday.

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Polonnaruwa (visited after Anuradhapura)

This post is out of sequence. Polonnaruwa was visited the day after Anuradhapura.

Today we had a long day starting with a visit to the 2nd capital of Sri Lanka built between 11th and 13th c. CE. We visited the museum, the royal palace, various pagodas, including one that once had a tooth relic, and four statues of the Buddha carved from one rock. At that time an enormous reservoir was created that is the size of an inland sea. These ancient reservoirs today permit agriculture in an area that would otherwise be too dry. We had lunch at a small restaurant run by a family. Most of the food was vegetarian and it was delicious. After lunch we went on an elephant safari at one of the 3 national parks in the area, Kaudulla. We saw gatherings of hundreds of elephants in various groups. Sri Lanka has over 6000 elephants, most in protected reserves. The elephants move between parks and have protected highway crossing areas. We saw one of them crossing the road and it seemed to know to wait for the traffic to stop. The bird is a painted stork. Tomorrow we go to Kandy.

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Singapore

I have been here about 7 times but happily there are things that I have not done. I went to the Gardens by the Sea and I had planned to go to the Jurong Bird Park but today threatened rain so instead I went to the National Art Gallery which opened in 2015. The former City Hall and Supreme Court were connected and completely modernized inside. The wings of the new building are named for the former buildings and the City Hall chamber has been kept as an exhibition space. A glass roof has been installed to cover the courtyards and space between the buildings. It reminded me of the East Memorial Building in Ottawa where the atriums were glassed in. The gardens are spectacular. One hundred hectares of reclaimed land by the harbour has been developed with buildings, gardens and other structures. The outdoor spaces are free but the Cloud Dome which was closed yesterday, the Flower Dome, and the sky walkway have entrance fees. I visited the latter two. Chinese New Year is coming up so there were some special exhibits for the occasion. I took hundreds of photos and I just had to make a random choice for this post. However, I have to say that I have never seen the variety of cacti that they have here. The views from the Skyway were exceptional. The structures from which it is suspended are most unusual. There is a lot of walking though I did see some open buses that appeared to be doing a tour. The only sensible way to get there is by the MRT (metro) which is fast and clean and very inexpensive. At the gallery there was a special exhibition of Impressionist Paintings from the D’Orsay and another of two South Asian painters who painted in Europe during that period. The main collection features Asian Art. For those who wanted pics of Singapore, I have two previous blog posts in the fall of 2010 and 2013 at lesliesh.wordpress.com.

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Colombo

On arrival in Colombo, we visited the Parliament Building and the Civil War Memorial flanked by a wall containing the names of some 27000 military missing or killed during the conflict with the Tamil Tigers. We also stopped at a copy of the Memorial Hall at Kandy. It was surounded by nice gardens. We saw some other buildings such as the Conference Centre, the National Mosque, and a new Arts Centre. We had a tea stop at the Iconic Galle Face Hotel which has been beautifully restored. Yesterday was election day for municipal elections countrywide and no alcohol could be bought or served much to the dismay of some of our group. The guide said that these elections were the most peaceful they had ever had so he took this as a good sign for the country. I am off to Singapore as my last stop on the way home.

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The Beach

Yesterday we had a shorter drive. We stopped at a place called Pereliya where the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami had a major impact. It was here that a train was stopped by people running across the track to get to safety. Some of the people got on the train. About 1700 people on the train were killed within 10 minutes. The village was 99% destroyed and 2400 died. The disaster is commemorated by an 18.5 metre statue which is a copy of a Bahmian statue destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The statue is the height of the wave. There are two people standing at the base of the statue so you can see how enormous the wave was. About 50,000 people were dead or missing in Sri Lanka but nobody knows the true total because the country was in the grip of a civil war with the Tamil Tigers and there was no accounting for the dead in the Tamil area which was quite extensive. A local woman showed us through a museum and told us the sad story. Canada sent the DART here and provided extensive aid. Our guide remembers Canada’s contribution. We saw an offshore Buddhist Temple which was undamaged by the tsunami and is considered to be particularly sacred. People go there to ask for retribution against other people who have done them harm. It is apparently quite effective! We then went to a restaurant on the beach for lunch and then came to our beach hotel where we have a free day today. I have a nice view of the beach. Tomorrow we go to Colombo where our tour ends.

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Galle

Yesterday was another long trip to Galle. We had stops along the way for ocean views and lunch and then had an evening walk around Galle Fort built by the Dutch. It is a huge place and takes time to explore. The local courts operate out of the old buildings and are surrounded by many lawyers offices. As in Canada, they do not distinguish between barristers and solicitors. A walk along the ramparts gave a nice view of the sunset. There were many armed soldiers along one side. The President had arrived to address an election rally and in this country he needs a lot of security. Today we have a free day to explore the city further.

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Yala Park

We have had two very long days. Monday we travelled most of the day to get to Yala for an evening safari. En route we stopped at Ela Gap for the views and the Ravana waterfall. The park promises leopards but did not deliver on Monday. Peacocks, monkeys, boar, pelicans, deer, mongeese, buffalo and elephants were seen in abundance and most people would see that as a good result unless you had been promised leopards. The park extends to the ocean and the view is at a place where some Japanese tourists were drowned in the 2004 tsunami. The weather has turned hot and steamy and will likely stay this way.

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