Monday, March 31

Sri Lanka, Day Nine: The Beach

As a further testament to exactly how well the baraat was being treated by our Sri Lankan hosts, we were all to be taken to a beach resort in Ahungulla for a couple of days and a night in which to bond, enjoy each other's company and bid our farewells - a sort of long winded but very much appreciated goodbye if you will.

The resort was, of course, beautiful, with a semi private beach we all spent way too much of today on. The Indian Ocean (which I've never actually stepped in before) was wonderful: just the right temperature to stay comfortable while popping in and out of, while the waves were of just the right level of thrilling and calm in which to have fun in. I don't think I've spent so much time in the sea before today.

We built castles and faces in the sand, drew diagrams and messages and even buried people. It was the kind of carefree fun that only really happens during that perfect moment after a wedding while on holiday (that is to say: not too often). Sunset eventually came, and with it showers and dinners.

The late evening was spent with all of us (so around 40 odd) playing games including quizzes, charades and truth or dare: more silly stuff that took us well into the morning of the next day. It really was Sri Lanka Good Times.

(Photos of my time in Ahungulla can be found here)

Sunday, March 30

Sri Lanka, Day Eight: The Valima

Another easy going day, with lunch hosted for my immediate family at the Colombo Club at The Taj. It was yet another great meal with great company (I lose count how many I've had this trip) and yet slightly poignant as it also marked the end of the first chapter of this trip: our time in Colombo.

Tonight's Valima at the Cinnamon Grand was the last of the wedding events and a nice way to end all the proceedings. Guests and family had started to leave by this point too so it was also a chance to say goodbyes and make promises to cement the new relationships and keep in touch - as well as maintain existing ones as by yet further chance I bumped into that honeymooning couple again (I think they were getting bored of serendipity by this point).

Saturday, March 29

Yasmin and Kashif

It's definitely a blessing having so many people around me getting married, but sooner or later there was bound to be a clash - in this case a total of three couples tying the knot in three different continents, all on the same day, meant I had to miss out on witnessing the celebrations. I guess I should be thankful that it hasn't happened before till now. If there was a way to have travelled the distances involved to attend all three I would have done so.

Yasmin is one of those pretty smart chicks who has the uncanny ability of being easy to talk to - I'm sure it has something to do with intelligence or being a good listener or something - and I've had a lot of wisdom from her over the years, particularly when it came to the whole game of finding a spouse. For sure, a part of me will miss the trading of stories and advice, but it's a small price to pay to see her on the other side.

My disappointment in missing Yasmin's wedding is only tempered by knowing how happy she is to marry Kashif, but the good news is that I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to catch up with them as they begin this amazing journey of theirs.

Imraan and Zeenat

Some friendships just naturally lend themselves to analysis. Take mine and Imraan's for example: we live a continent apart, have only met once (although that "once" did involve crashing at his place for a few days) and yet when we do talk it's like we're old friends (qualification: this may be one sided, but I don't care). Of course it helps that we have some things in common - a paradoxical blend of cynicism and optimism, that level of literacy and articulation that allows the efficient transfer of opinion and idea, and finally of course the innate ability to navel gaze. Sure we don't speak as often as we should, but when we do it's always fun.

Both this friendship and commonality make his marriage today particularly striking, and not least in a "if he can do it there's hope for the rest of us" way. Seeing him happy and excited makes me happy and excited, primarily for him but also for myself, and I expect to learn a lot from seeing Imraan get on with things. As is becoming way too common I haven't yet met Zeenat, but I am looking forward to doing so and I expect it will happen sooner rather than later.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to attend - but for sure it was only a family wedding in Sri Lanka that could have stopped me from doing so.

Sri Lanka, Day Seven: The Nikkah

And so, the day had arrived, the reason so many in the family had travelled (not that anyone was complaining - we had pretty much fallen in love with Sri Lanka by this point): the wedding day.

Midday was spent at the mosque witnessing the Nikkah, after which we began the mad dash to get ready for the wedding reception in the evening.

I don't think any of us could quite believe that only a week had passed - we had managed to cram a lot over the last seven days and it wasn't even over yet.

Friday, March 28

Sri Lanka, Day Six: The Lagoon

The wedding itinerary officially marked today as a "free day", which in we, in hindsight, should have exploited a bit. Instead a lazy start to head to Jummah, followed by an even lazier lunch before a meander to the Old Dutch Hospital for tea and small shopping resulted in the squandering of what time we had today - having said that I don't think anyone was complaining too much as it appeared we had pretty much exhausted most of the things to do in Colombo over the last week.

Dinner was at Lagoon, a wonderful fish restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand - most certainly the best food we had had in Sri Lanka so far.

Thursday, March 27

Sri Lanka, Day Five: The Culture

After the events of last night we decided to focus on a being tourists again, so as we gained confidence in the street of Colombo we walked the 30 minutes or so to the Colombo National Museum where we spent a couple of hours taking in the exhibits. It wasn't a particularly amazing museum, but given the time I would have spent some more there.

The rest of the day was pretty easy going. I caught a massage at the hotel which was... interesting (more so than the ones I had in Vietnam and Cambodia which I never thought possible). Buyer beware I suppose.

The evening was spent at the Peethi of the groom where all sorts of gate, slipper and messy mendhi games were played, including some of the most drawn out negotiations for the return of chappal I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Still, the food was awesome and we got to see someone being thrown in the pool so the late ending was worth it.

Wednesday, March 26

Sri Lanka, Day Four: The Dance

Another free day, and so we went into full tourist mode and grabbed rickshaws to the Galle Face Promenade for bit of a wander and lunch. Oh a bit of a warning regarding rikshaws: although you can choose to limit yourself to metered cabs only the chances are that your drivers will compensate by taking the scenic route to your destination. Having said that even inflated rikshaw fares are dirt cheap so you might just want to gloss over the con this time. After lunching at The (somewhat overrated) Gallery Café my family were then taken to The Kingsbury for pleasant company and high tea which was a wonderful way to spend the remainder of the afternoon before the busy evening ahead.

Tonight's mendhi marked the first event of the wedding proper. It was a ladies only affair in the main, during which the men were treated to a lake cruise with dinner and live singing which I thought was a genius stroke in the recent age where men usually get left out to dry in the frivolities. It was well received and much appreciated and I something I hope becomes the norm as people choose to maintain segregation during (mainly Muslim) wedding events. Anyway, rant over.

After the majority of guests had left the remaining (mostly family) men did eventually join the mendhi proper: our side had some routines planned and they all seemed to go pretty well - I was hoping it would considering the weeks of practice we had put into it. We had a total of five tracks (including one with us wearing lungis), although I did manage to sneak one in with the bride's side too - only the two of us knew it was coming and I think everyone else was pretty surprised when we did it.

It was all a lot of fun, but sitting here thinking about the day and how it's Wednesday already makes me realise how quickly stuff is happening on this trip. We're blazing through our time here, which kind of sucks as we're having such a brilliant time so far too.

Tuesday, March 25

Sri Lanka, Day Three: The Curry Leaf

The day was left to us, so my father, cousin and I took the opportunity to meet a local family friend. Going at it alone was helpful as it allowed us to explore and observe Colombo a little more freely. Not only did we get a bit more of an idea of the geography of Colombo - most strikingly with how small the city actually was - but also the demographic and social make up of the place. Quite surprisingly halal food is plentiful and readily available in most places and between that and the availability of butt showers in the toilet (I know, right?) it became quite strikingly clear how Muslim friendly Sri Lanka is. And the best thing? Ironically that it wasn't a Muslim country and so was immune to some of the issues that brings. In short, Sri Lanka is possibly the most friendly non-Muslim country I've visited.

And yes, the women are also beautiful here which always helps.

Dinner was again a wedding related affair, although I did happen to randomly bump into a couple of friends who were honeymooning in Sri Lanka. I'll gloss over the coincidence (if only because it happens way too often to keep calling it that) only to agree with them with how good a destination Sri Lanka makes for couples.

Monday, March 24

Sri Lanka, Day Two: The Sizzle

Today was mainly family stuff - visiting the in-laws to be during the day (there were a lot of them) and also joining them at a steak restaurant for dinner. Wedding things might not give you a tourist view of a place, but it does a native one which in many ways is even more handy - knowing the layout of a place more than the centre for example, or seeing how native Sri Lankans deal with the everyday in their home town - these are insights that one might not necessarily get as a tourist.

The most striking thing I learned was how nice the people are here. Our hosts aside (who were actually wonderful), the people on the ground were amazingly smiley, polite and all round nice wihtout being overbearing - the kind of attitude that unfortunately seems to only come from a country that had been through a war relatively recently. Another shocking observation was how incredibly clean Colombo was; enough to shame those of us who call Karachi their second home. The cynical side of me wondered if these behaviours would stand the test of time, but for now I just accepted that brown people can actually do a decent job of their homes if they want to.

Sunday, March 23

Sri Lanka, Day One: The Arrival

It is a bit frustrating when any advantage a direct flight has gets clobbered before even taking off by a flat tire. On the other hand, safety considerations aside, it was quite amusing to hear that our plane had one - and since the air stewardesses were nice enough to feed us I guess I wasn't too upset on the whole. For me holidays start at the originating airport - checking in, transit prayer, cute hostesses and cabin food are all part of the experience, delays or no, and so far the epic holiday which was to be in Sri Lanka had started off relatively well last night.

I think the first thing that struck me when landing was how green the place was. Seriously, it was almost like landing in a jungle. Still, Bandaranaike International Airport is actually an hour or so away from Colombo, so it made sense that we didn't get to see our home for the next week from the air. The drive to our accommodation did build up the excitement though, even though today was mainly about settling in for the days ahead. We were here for a wedding and that in itself promised a lot, but the fact that this was the first time the extended family had travelled anywhere was also something for me to look forward to and so far it seems my excitement wasn't overstated.

(Photos of my time in Colombo are here)

Wednesday, March 19

A Softer World Click for more info

Once again, ASW says it how it is:

Lucky how contentment comes from within though, eh?

Friday, March 7

Food: Loaded Gourmet Burgers & Fries Click for more info

Gourmet Burger seems to be the in thing now, with various "unique experiences" popping up all over London. Of course, it takes more than fancy decor and a doubling in price to make a place worthwhile, so sometimes it takes a good look to figure out if a place is decent or not.

We go there early - luckily so as the take away queue soon left the building. I don't think the place had been open that long so I'm assuming this was more due to novelty than quality, but either way it's not a terrible sign. Alas the staff did seem to buckle slightly under the weight of their popularity and there was a few mix ups when it came to ordering, and I'm still not sure if I got what I wanted - and I had finished my meal before my friends had even received theirs. Oh and the milkshakes had run out. Not looking that great any more.

What I did receive was a little on the cold side and visually had seen better days, but it tasted okay. The chilli fries were a saving grace I suppose.

So overall not particularly impressive, particularly as they charged a premium - a tenner got my my burger and half share of fries which is more than GBK, and would buy two (better) burgers in other (better) places. That said, it wasn't a complete disaster and I do see myself going back if only due to its vicinity to my home. I just hope some of the teething problems would have vanished by then.