Pix and Grids 4 – Colombo and Phuket

Crossword link here.

I’m combining Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Phuket (Thailand) for the simple reason that I didn’t have enough material to devote a separate crossword to each place. I hope to return to both spots one day and to travel more extensively in each country, at which point I’ll gladly give each a more cruciverbally extensive treatment.

Pettah fruit and vegetable market, Colombo

Given these two disparate locations, I thought I’d tie this post together with pictures of food and places of worship, some of which relate to entries in the crossword. (I also like how food pictures can become abstract when they’re composed of many different colors or repeating patterns.)

Jammi Ul-Afar Mosque (Red Mosque), Colombo

Colombo:  “Just one more thing ….”  Oh, wait, that’s Columbo, not Colombo.  (And yet another obscure reference making sense only to us well-seasoned types.)  Colombo, the city, is in transition.  Once a thriving commercial center, much of it was destroyed during the Sri Lankan civil war, which lasted for nearly 26 years and ended only in 2009.  Today (Jan. 2020), the city’s old buildings, dating to the early 19th century, are a mix of windowless shells in which urban forests have taken root, and beautifully restored architectural gems – and the restoration effort was due in large part to the cajoling of our tour guide.  Mark Forbes, the son of Dutch and Scottish parents, was raised on the island, became a professional photographer, and through his activism, saved several classic buildings from destruction and persuaded the government that these relics from Sri Lanka’s past must be preserved. 

Dried fish outside the Pettah market, Colombo

Now he leads walking tours of Colombo’s old buildings, interspersing their history with tales of the civil war, the island’s emergence as a growing economic and tourism force in South Asia (tragically interrupted but not derailed by the Easter 2019 terrorist bombing), and fun facts, such as:  (1) every full moon is a holiday in Sri Lanka, (2) Duran Duran shot the music video for Hungry Like the Wolf on Chatham Street in Colombo, and my favorite, (3) after the civil war ended, army and navy forces were retrained to restore the old buildings, clearing debris, removing caked-on paint that masked stately marble and glowing teak, installing period-appropriate windows, and repairing fixtures.  Finally, now that the Civil War is over, there is virtually no crime in Colombo.  Columbo would be out of a job.

Buddhist temple, Colombo

Phuket:  Phuket, a large island at the southern end of Thailand, is a tourist mecca, jam-packed with high end resorts, beautiful beaches, 7-11s (don’t ask me why), signs in Russian (ditto), and all manner of vehicular conveyance.  In a perfect world, Phuket would be the Thai word for “traffic,” but in reality, it just means mountain or hill. 

Woman peeling cashews, Phuket

Our tour hit four highlights: First stop was a cashew processing factory, where I sampled cashews with salt, with butter, with sesame, with wasabi, with honey, with chili, etc., etc.  Yes, I tried them all, and I’d do it again! 

“Big Buddha,” Phuket

Second, we admired Big Buddha, an aptly named statue (45 meters tall and 25 meters wide) atop a mountain overlooking a boat-dotted harbor far below.  For Buddhists, it’s a site of great veneration.

Rambutan fruit (delicious!)

We next walked through Wat Chalong, a sprawling Buddhist temple complex with several impressively ornate, gilded buildings.  The main street connecting the temples is lined with stalls selling crafts, clothing, and delicacies such as rambutan (a hairy but deliciously creamy and sweet fruit similar to a litchi), and grubs and crickets (which I did not sample; being almost entirely vegetarian has its benefits from the excuse standpoint).

Crickets, sold by the bag and sprinkled with salt

Our final stop was the southernmost point on Phuket, Promthep Cape.  Our guide assured us it’s an ideal spot to view spectacular sunsets, but I wouldn’t know.  Thanks to the aforementioned traffic, we arrived around 20 minutes too late.

Too late for sunset, Promthep Cape, Phuket
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