A perfect place to relax

What is your favorite landscape? Mountains? Desert? Or how about the beach? Well, if you like beaches the most, then you will probably like Sri Lanka. (Who doesn’t like beaches?) Being an island, it is circled by sandy beaches and blue-green water. But don’t let the beauty of the ocean fool you. Sometimes the ocean can be quite rough. We had to be careful because of currents in the ocean. But despite the minor danger, Sri Lanka’s beaches are still wonderful places to de-stress.

Sri Lankan Sunset

This is a sunset from the beach. There were a lot of thunderstorms while we there, resulting in beautiful sunsets.

One unusual thing we saw on the beach by our apartment was fish. Because Sri Lanka is famous for fishing, the beach was littered with dead fish and other sea life. We even saw an eel! We also saw quite a few pufferfish or blowfish. We could also see lots of fish floating on the waves.

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This is a dead eel we saw on the beach during one of our walks.

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This is another fish we saw on the beach. This fish is called a blowfish.

If you are staying in Colombo and are looking for a good place to have a cup of coffee or a delicious meal, there are a couple places in Colombo that i suggest you try. For a cup of coffee or a pastry, try the London House of Coffee. They serve pastries, breakfast foods, coffee, and much more. The waiters are very nice and do a good job, and the coffee house is a nice, cozy place to just relax and hang out.

London House of Coffee

This is the front of the London House of Coffee.

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My sister decided to warm up the seat for whoever it was reserved for, and pose for a cute picture at the same time.

If you are looking for a good place to have a delicious meal, then the Barefoot Garden Cafe is the place to go. When we were staying in Colombo, we went there at least three times. (Which should tell you how good it is.) For lunches, they have excellent sandwiches and milkshakes. They also serve “Full English Breakfasts”, coffee, and many more food items for any time of day. They are a good place for families, and even though the restaurant is outside, they are able to beat Sri Lanka’s humid heat with fans and umbrellas. Besides the restaurant, they also have a store where you can buy everything from any household decorations like table runners and pillows to souvenirs like postcards and little-stuffed toys and dolls. The shop owns a loom, so they make the fabric items like the tablecloths and stuffed toys themselves. Also, in case you have kids who like animals like my sister does, there are turtles in a pond by the store and a cat who wanders around the courtyard.

Barefoot Cafe

Here is a part of the large seating area at Barefoot Garden Cafe. It is open and perfect for kids who like to run around.

Also, if your family is looking to have some fun, then there is a park I suggest you go to. It is called Vihara Maha Devi Park and has a large playground with swings, slides, and a small area with fountains. And if one of your family skateboards, then they might enjoy the twisty paths and rails perfect for skateboarding.

Sri Lanka was one of my favorite places to visit, and not just because of the good food or beautiful beaches. The Sri Lankans were very friendly, and it was a fun place to vacation. Because of our apartment near the beach, we were able to go down to the beach frequently, or just hang out in our apartment. And if your family is in need of a vacation, in need of delicious meals, or just wants to spend some time at the beach, then Sri Lanka is definitely the place to go.

 

 

Tomb of a beloved wife

How big is the Taj Mahal? Would you believe that it took 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants to complete it? Or that the construction took workers twenty years to finish? (I wonder how much was left of Mumtaz Mahal by the time her tomb was finished.) Well, believe it or not, that is all true. Although, once you hear how intricate  the mausoleum was, you will probably understand.

Built for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, Arjumand Banu, the Taj is a beautiful building meant to represent paradise. The name might have come from Arjumand Banu’s name, Mumtaz Mahal, or it might have come from the meaning in Hindi, Crown Palace. It is made entirely out of white marble because, in India, white not only stands for purity, it also stands for mourning. However, the workers also put designs in the marble to give the white marble a little beauty.

From far away, it looks like the designs were painted on, but once you get close, you can see that the designs were actually set in the marble. The flowers, Arabic letters, and other designs were actually made of other stones, such as lapis lazuli, agate, jasper, and turquoise, to name a few. There are four water channels leading from the gate entrance to the Taj Mahal with a fountain sitting half way between. The water channels were supposed to represent the Islamic paradise. Also on the grounds of the Taj Mahal are two other buildings, a guesthouse and a masjid (mosque in Hindi). A cool fact about this beautiful building is that it is symmetric. All the sides are exactly the same.

To enter the area where the Taj Mahal is in, there are three different gates you can go through. All of these entrances lead into one courtyard where there is another larger gate that leads into the area with the Taj Mahal. The railing right after this gate is one of the most popular places to take pictures of the Taj Mahal. In order to get to the front of the crowd, you have to push your way through or people will take advantage of the empty space and push ahead. I was only able to take a few photos before I was shoved out of the way.

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This is the gate where you first see the Taj Mahal.

Being one of the most famous historical buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal was incredibly busy. My dad, my dad’s friend, and I went to the Taj Mahal at about six in the morning to get some good photos of the Taj and it wasn’t really busy, but it certainly wasn’t empty.

Later when we went back in the afternoon with the rest of our families, it was much busier than before. Inside, where the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife are (not the real tombs, the real tombs are in a underground burial chamber beneath the Taj Mahal), we had to push and shove just to stay together.

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This is the line onto the platform where the entrance to the tombs is. When my dad, his friend and i went in the morning, there wasn’t even a line.

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This is the line stretching around the building to enter the Taj Mahal.

When we went inside where the tombs were, the noise everybody was making echoed and made the large room seem almost sacred, or holy. It might have been the tombs too that made it feel that way. One of the tombs was larger than the other. The larger one was the king’s tomb, and the smaller tomb was the queen’s tomb. At first we thought the larger tomb was for the queen since the Taj was built for her, but then again, the king was the most important person in the kingdom.

Destined to become one of the king’s favorite companions, Arjumand Banu (She was renamed Mumtaz Mahal later after her marriage) was only a teenager, when she was married to Shah Jahan in 1612. (Shah Jahan himself was only fifteen!) Imagine, you are only about thirteen or fourteen years old and your father tells you that you are to be married to the most powerful person in the kingdom. The person who could order you killed if he is not pleased with you, or could make you the most envied person in the kingdom. You are probably a daughter of one of the noblemen, but still, being married to the king is kind of intimidating.

The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and for good reason. The construction took massive numbers of workers, and many years to finish, and is one of very few wonders still standing today.

A lot of the information in this post comes from interactions with a tour guide we hired. However, here are additional sources I used as well. 

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