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Sapa and the Black H’mong

Orielle
A group shot with some of the H'mong women who walked with us.

A group shot with some of the H’mong women who walked with us.

Three beautiful H'mong women posing for us!

Three beautiful H’mong women posing for us!

These two little boys were

These two little boys were “helping” in the rice paddies!

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The rice patties were everywhere, making every bend in our hike breathtaking.

The rice paddies were everywhere, making every bend on our hike breathtaking.

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I honestly think I went into cuteness overload in Sapa! All the children were adorable.

I honestly think I went into cuteness overload in Sapa! All the children were adorable.

Naomi and I got up on stage to do a traditional H'mong Dance!

Naomi and I got up on stage to do a traditional H’mong Dance!

Our guide Sun working on her embroidery. She told her it takes her a month to finish what she was working on.

Our guide Sun working on her embroidery. She told us it takes her a month to finish what she was working on.

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Sapa and the Black H’mong

By Orielle

Traveling in Vietnam was such an amazing experience. For being there only 8 days, I felt that I got good exposure to the culture. I learned many things about Vietnam, from their eating habits (like eating dogs!), the “American” (Vietnam) war, and their communist government. The dominant ethnicity in Vietnam are the Viet people, but they also have many ethnic minorities. One of the 54 minorities is the H’mong who live in and around the beautiful mountain village of Sapa. H,mong people live in many places around the world and there is even a  community of H’mong living in Burlington today. The H’mong lived in western China before they migrated to countries like Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

We took a night train to Sapa and it was pretty uncomfortable night as you can imagine. When we got to our hotel we were swarmed by beautiful women trying to sell us their crafts. Their clothes were amazing indigo dyed tunics with hand embroidery and leg wraps. After we got settled at our hotel we met our guide and started off on our trek. Our guides name was Sun and she was a Black H’mong. We were really excited that we got a H’mong guide so we could learn more about their culture.

We walked through the village of Kat Kat and saw many beautiful crafts and people. When we entered the village we had to buy a ticket and we asked Sun if the villagers get money from tourists coming to their village and invading their space, and she said no it all goes to the Vietnamese government. This made me so sad because the only way the H’mong can make money is selling their crafts and this is why they are so pushy for you to buy things. Most of the shop owners in Sapa are Viet rather than H’mong, so buying directly from the women is really the only way to support them.

The next day we woke up early to go on our second longer trek. Along the way we were helped by four H’mong women. The first part of our hike was very slippery and muddy and they helped us out a lot. Walking through the terraced rice patties was amazing. It was great being able to talk to them and get to know them. Sun told us about how H’mong people used to get married: a man would kidnap the women he wanted to marry and then she would be forced to marry him! Fortunately this practice is changing, but they still have a patriarchal society.

After seeing the beautiful views and people I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be having this experience. At the end of the trip I also felt like I want to do something to help. Buying a craft from a women isn’t going to bring her and her family out of poverty. They live in such a beautiful place but most would gladly trade it for a life in America. Sun told us that the women living in the villages do most of the work while the men go to bars and get drunk. I’m sure that’s not the case in all families but it’s still a problem. The women of the H’mong community are so strong they raise many children, make crafts, farm and take care of the house.

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Halong Bay

Jasper

                                     Halong Bay

Halong Bay is noted to be one of the most beautiful natural occurring land formations in the world, and we were lucky enough to be able to see this natural beauty with our own eyes. Over the course of two nights and three days we got to explore this fantasy-like bay. We were able to visit local pearl farms and kayak through several giant caves to get to a jellyfish infested cove. Those are  just some of the amazing things to do in Halong Bay. Now we go to where it all started 500,000,000 years ago.

500 million years ago Halong Bay was not a bay at all, but just a mainland with dense forest and a rolling landscape. Over time the land flooded and after millions of years of flooding, the rising sea level and the movement of the earth’s plates made the land into a deep ocean. After the water receded back many many millions of years later, mass erosion started. The temperature in the area was very high which led to many droughts and erosion. It took over 300,000,000 years of wind, droughts, and sea levels changing to make Halong Bay. You might be asking yourself why is the whole area not just water (because some mountainous land eroded but the islands that are there today didn’t). It’s because almost all of the islands today are made out of limestone. So when the other rock eroded away the limestone stayed in its place because it is stronger and harder to erode than the other rocks. This is an amazing example of erosion over a long period of time.

This is the boat that we stayed on for 2 nights in the bay.

This is the boat that we stayed on for two nights in the bay.

A few fishing boats in front of a cool rock formation.

A few fishing boats in front of a cool rock formation.

The famous fighting cocks in Halong Bay.

The famous fighting cocks in Halong Bay.

A very photographed spot  in the bay.

A very photographed spot in the bay.

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This is the place where all the boats stay for the night.

This is the place where all the boats stay for the night.

Kayaking in the Bay!

Kayaking in the Bay!

This is one of the many steps that is part of producing a pearl. We got a full tour on a floating pearl  farm/ museum.

This is one of the many steps that is part of producing a pearl. We got a full tour of a floating pearl farm/ museum.

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This rock formation as called “the frog”

As you can see these amazing landforms have lots of vegetation on the tops and sides of them, and they also have barnacles on them closer to the water. This is because of high and low tide, for example for a few hours a day the barnacle part is under water, and for the rest of the day they are above the sea level. Also on the various cliffs that each island has, there is a wide variety of colors and texture. This is because other rock was wedged between these islands millions of years ago, but they eroded away in time.

As you can see in some of the pictures have boats. Halong Bay has burst in the tourism industry in the past few years. There are several similar boats to ours all over the bay with all nationalities of tourists. Man-made beaches and sometimes resorts are on the bay in the very popular tourist areas, these are made for the people that like swimming and relaxing instead of sightseeing.

Halong Bay was home to around 2000 fisherman before the government moved them out to the mainland around 2 years ago. We were told the reasoning around this relocation is that the floating villages were not healthy for the waters with pollution and overfishing. Also, our boat guide said that the Vietnamese government was giving them a better life by moving them to the mainland. I don’t really agree with the environmental argument because the tourist boats cruising through the bay are likely just as or more polluting than the fishing communities. Now many of the fisherman have stopped fishing or moved to another area. You can still see some fishing boats and fish farms around but not nearly as many as there was a few years ago. Our kayaking guide lived in one of these villages and she told us that many tropical storms hit here, some being vicious and deadly. Halong Bay is a beautiful place but definitely wild and remote.

As you can see in the pictures and and what I’ve told you Halong Bay is a truly amazing place to go with family or just solo. If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam this is a location you must go to.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, it’s greatly appreciated.

–Jasper

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The Blue City

Orielle

Our Day in Jodhpur

One of the many blue streets we walked down.

One of the many blue streets we walked down.

There were many gold smiths like this man on the winding streets.
There were many gold smiths like this man on the winding streets.

This man was making his opium. Our guide told us that many of the villagers are addicted to it.

This man was preparing opium for a ritual. Our guide told us that many of the villagers are addicted to it.

This is what most of the people in rural areas cook on!

This is what most of the people in rural areas cook on!

The women there told my mom that she has cheap jewelry!

The women there told my mom that she has cheap jewelry!  We all laughed!

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The ancient Mehrangarh Fort.

The ancient Mehrangarh Fort.

These two beautiful older women own the property. They are the ones in charge!

These two beautiful older women own the property. They are the ones in charge!

Beautiful Women.

Beautiful Women.

She's grinding the millet that the family grows.

She’s grinding the millet that the family grows.

The clock tower and the bazaar surrounding it.

The clock tower and the bazaar surrounding it.

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Some of the intricate details on some of the houses and buildings were just exquisite.

Some of the intricate details on some of the houses and buildings were just exquisite.

 

If anyone asks my family what the highlight of our trip to India was, we would all say “Jodpur!” We saw so many interesting people and places. Walking down the streets of the “Blue City” was magical! Zip lining from the ancient Mehrangarh Fort was equally thrilling and breathtaking.

Our day started off early so we could travel to the Bishnoi village. The people living in the Bishnoi village follow the words of the Guru Jambheshwar. Guru Jambheshwar said that if you harm the environment and the animals you are harming yourself. The Bishnoi people do not wear blue because the dyes come from cutting many plants down. The women dress in vibrant reds and oranges. A celebrity came to the Bishnoi village once and went hunting for deer. The people got very angry and he was arrested! The killing of animals and the cutting of trees is prohibited to do near the village. It’s amazing how these people have never strayed from their Hindu-sect religion. We visited one Bishnoi family with our guide and had tea with them, while an elder man prepared his opium pipe!

We left the beautiful village behind when we entered the city of Jodhpur. We drove up the winding road to the Mehrangarh Fort, and then walked down the fort’s path into the bustling blue city. The peoples clothes were so beautiful! Everyone’s clothes in India were so beautiful, whether they were poor or rich, there was color. There are three reasons that the blue city is blue; 1) the color blue is sacred to Brahma, 2) it keeps the mosquitoes away and 3) it keeps the city cooler. Our tour guide brought us to some of the most beautiful blue houses and even into to them to get a look at the people’s lives. We made our way down the blue streets to the clock tour. Near the clock tower we had a fun time shopping in their local bazaar.

We also got a tour of the Mehrangarh Fort. It was a Hindu palace created by Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur. During the rule of the (Muslim) Moghuls, the (Hindu) Rajput monarchy was able to stay in their palace and maintain rule of Rajasthan. I thought it was cool that the third batman movie was shot at the Mehrangarh Fort. There were some really exquisite rooms with intricate designs throughout the palace.

Then came our zip-lining adventure! We went on six fairly large zip lines around the Mehrangarh Fort and near the Blue City. We saw killer views and got a huge adrenaline rush! The zip-lining trip made a perfect day more perfect.

 

 

Artistic window screen common in Mughal buildings

The Mughal Empire in India

Jasper

During our trip to India we learned about the Mughal Empire, which ruled India since 1526. There were 6 major Mughals: Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan, and Aurangzeb. There were more after that but they were not very good rulers and did absolutely nothing for India except press for the the need for power. The Mughals ruled until the British came in 1857. The Mughals were Muslim, but ruled a land with mostly Hindus.

Babur

Babur was born in 1483 in Andijan, Uzbekistan. Babur tried to conquer many places around central Asia and eventually conquered India. Babur’s reign was very influenced by Persian culture because he grew up with Persian influence and ruled in a Persian country, Uzbekistan. He had many wives over the years, but not many children. One of his sons Humayun was the heir to the throne because many of his other sons died very young. Babar died at the age of 47 on in 1530.

Humayun

Humayun was the second Mughal ruler and was born in 1508. He ruled the area  which is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. His reign started in 1530but he lost it in 1541.  He regained his kingdom in 1555 from the conquerors that came. Humayun had many monuments built around his territory. The most well known today is Humayun’s Tomb, which was created by his wife after he died. We visited this tomb in Delhi. The tomb looks like a small Taj Mahal, but it was made 100 years earlier than the Taj. The tomb is made mostly of red sandstone and is in Delhi. Humayun died in 1556 at the age of 47 just like his father. His son Akbar took over the Moghul leadership after his death.

Huyaun's Tomb. It looks like the Taj Mahal.

Humayun’s Tomb. It looks like the Taj Mahal.

The tomb of Humayun and his wife

The tomb of Humayun and his wife

Artistic window screen common in Mughal buildings

Artistic window screen common in Mughal buildings

Akbar

Akbar was born in 1542 and was the son of Humayun. Akbar was one of the most successful Mughals because he extended their territory from northern India to southern India and finally eastern India. By the time Akbar died most of India was under the control of the Mughal Empire.  That is why he is known as Akbar the Great. Akbar was also the first Mughal to have relations with Europeans. The Portuguese came to India for trade. They had mostly friendly relations in the time that Akbar ruled. Akbar was not just known as the military and conqueror of the Mughals, he was also known as the one that adored women the most. Akbar had over 300 wives in his lifetime which put his way over any of the other Mughals! Akbar died at the age of 63 in 1605.

Jahangir

Jahangir was born in 1569 as the son of Akbar the Great. Jahangir lived many years to compete for the throne. He eventually got very bitter at his father’s ruling and started a rebellion. Akbar settled the rebellion down before it got too serious. Nine days after Akbar died in 1605, Jahangir was announced the leader of the Mughal Empire. Jahangir’s 17 here old son, Khusrau led a military campaign against his father, captured him, and rendered him blind. Jahangir had many wives but the one he loved most named Mehrunissa. She was young, strong, and very beautiful.  

Shahjahan

Shahjahan was born in 1594 and was the fifth Mughal emperor. He was most known for his building of the Taj Mahal, which he built as a memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahhal. Shahjahan built a lot of the Red Fort, which is the fort in Agra that looks over the Taj Mahal. We went to the fort and explored it. Most of it was made out of red sandstone. Some parts of it that were made by Shahjahan were made out of marble like the Taj. He also built the biggest mosque in Delhi, Jama Masjid. Finally Shahjahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in 1658. He spent 8 years imprisoned in the red fort which overlooked the Taj Mahal before growing ill and dying. Shahjahan was actually planning to make a replica of the Taj across the water that was completely made out of black marble. He couldn’t even start it because his son captured him.

Beautiful Taj Mahal in the morning light

Beautiful Taj Mahal in the morning light

We visited Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi that can hold up to 25,000 worshippers

We visited Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi that can hold up to 25,000 worshippers

Walls made of marble and gemstones in the Red Fort. The Taj also was made of white marble and gemstones.

Walls made of marble and gemstones in the Red Fort. The Taj also was made of white marble and gemstones.

Part of the Red Fort - the room where Aurangzeb imprisoned his father. At least it had a view of the Taj Mahal where his wife was buried.

Part of the Red Fort – the room where Aurangzeb imprisoned his father. At least it had a view of the Taj Mahal where his wife was buried.

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb was the last of the 6 great mughal emperors. He was born in 1618 as the son of Shahjahan. Eventually he started a rebellion against his father. In 1658 he imprisoned his father and took his place as the Mughal emperor.  Aurangzeb, like Akbar, wanted to expand his region of control. In his lifetime he expanded the Mughal empire region by 3.2 million square kilometers. Our guide told us that he was the most cruel of the Mughal emperors. He was very harsh and dominant to everyone. He executed many many people. He was also did not treat Hindus well. He always favored Muslims and killed lots of Hindus.  He started many wars and spread much death across the country. In 1707 Aurangzeb died. His sons and sons of sons continued to reign until the British took control but were not considered good rulers of the Indian people.

Ladies at small neighborhood temple in the Blue City

Hinduism in India

Erica

Krishna, Brahma, Shiva, Kali, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Kali, Parvati, Ganesh…..these are only a few of the hundreds of currently worshiped Hindu gods and goddesses in India. Hinduism officially dates back to 2,000 BC, but elements existed much earlier. In fact, it is not a religious at all, as we were told by our local guide in Rajasthan. It is a collective term applied to the many philosophical and religious traditions native to India.

We visited several Hindu temples as well as palaces with Hindu influences. Many of the big palaces and forts we visited in India were Muslim influenced, because while India is predominantly Hindu, Muslim Mughals ruled here for 400 years until the British came to power in mid 1800s.

The photos below relay some of our favorite Hindu “places.” We were not allowed to use photography in most temples, but were able to capture some of the outside areas, as well as forts and palaces.

Perhaps our favorite Hindu temple experience was the Hanuman (Monkey God) Temple, outside Jaipur. We visited with our driver Bharat, whose family honors Hanuman as one on primary gods.

Monkey Temple, with Bharat

Monkey temple with Bharat

The temple is over 500 years old

The temple is over 500 years old

Feeding the monkeys

Feeding the monkeys

We were not allowed to take photos in the Brahma temple in Pushkar, but we did get some shots after our visit there by the lake, where we received a family blessing in a small ceremony, and also watched pilgrims bathing in the waters!

Heading down to give our family's offering to the lake in Pushkar

Heading down to give our family’s offering to the lake in Pushkar

Red Bindis. By Pushkar lake

Red Bindis. By Pushkar lake

We came upon this small pink temple while we were wondering around Jodhpur, the Blue City. These women were so sweet, wanting to take photos with us, and then singing a chant.

Inside pink temple in the Blue City

Inside pink temple in the Blue City

Ladies at small neighborhood temple in the Blue City

Ladies at small neighborhood temple in the Blue City

The Fort in Jodhpur had many Hindu influences since Hindu Rajputs remained leaders in Rajasthan throughout the Mughal reign.

Hindu-influenced palace room (Jodhpur)

Hindu-influenced palace room (Jodhpur)

Temple detail with Hindu influence

Temple detail with Hindu influence

Temple elephant

Temple elephant

Had to include this one. Rajput men offered up their turbans for this pose

Had to include this one. Rajput men offered up their turbans for this pose

We did not get the take photos at the Kali temple by the Amber Fort in Jaipur, but I can tell you that it was a small but powerful blessing Chris and I received there. (Photo soon after blessing)

Just after our Kali blessing, Amber Fort in Jaipur

Just after our Kali blessing, Amber Fort in Jaipur

Between Delhi and Agra and Agra and Jaipur, wheat field's abound.  It was harvesting season.  We saw most women in tending the fields, to a woman: dressed in spectacular colors.

Indian Road Trip

Uncategorized
Couldn't help but feel the irony of Gandhi's image on the building housing the local authorities.  First picture snapped in India!

Couldn’t help but feel the irony of Gandhi’s image on the building housing the local authorities. First picture snapped in India!

Taken from a bicycle rickshaw.  Old Delhi's electrical grid.

Taken from a bicycle rickshaw. Old Delhi’s electrical grid.

We recently went on a 9 day trip to India, traveling from Delhi, to Agra, to Pushkar, to Johdpur, to Jaipur and then back to Delhi. The trip round the “Golden Triangle” and into the dessert of Rajastahn was, at times, long, but always very interesting. To kick off this round of Indian blog posts, we thought we’d start with some images taken out the car window (or from inside a rickshaw or maybe even from on top of an elephant).

We couldn’t have done the trip without our driver, Bharat, who skillfully negotiated India’s potholes, temporary barriers, endless lines of lorries and of course, “the traffic police”: the sacred cows of India who roam not only the streets, but the highways and byways of this great country. Early in the trip Bharat gave of a quiz: “what are the three things you need to drive in India? The first: good brakes. The second: good horn. The third: luck!” We thankfully had all three…!  Thanks Bharat!

Rajistahn is the center of India's marble industry.

Ragastahn is the center of India’s marble industry.

These beautiful ladies...

These beautiful ladies…

The view out Bhurat's windshield.

The view out Bhurat’s windshield.

The ubiquitous "cow in the road."

The ubiquitous “cow in the road.”

Camel's being herded on the highway.  Including some youngin's.

Camel’s being herded on the highway. Including some youngin’s.

Between Delhi and Agra and Agra and Jaipur, wheat field's abound.  It was harvesting season.  We saw most women in tending the fields, to a woman: dressed in spectacular colors.

Between Delhi and Agra and Agra and Jaipur, wheat field’s abound. It was harvesting season. We saw mostly women tending the fields.  To a woman: dressed in spectacular colors.

 

Women carrying the heavy load.

Women carrying the heavy load.

A mobile sound machine, complete with large amplification device.

A mobile sound machine, complete with large amplification device.

View taken from atop a well cared for elephant heading up the road to the Amber Fort, Jaipur.  No chains on these beings, and they only work the mornings...

View taken from atop a well cared for elephant heading up the road to the Amber Fort, Jaipur. No chains on these beings, and they only work the mornings…

A record setter. Family of six on a single motorbike. And they were cruzin’…

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Sigiriya

Orielle
The gardens around the rock were amazing with ponds and foundations. I loved trying to imagine how beautiful and busy it must have been during the time of King Kassapa.

The gardens around the rock were amazing with ponds and foundations. I loved trying to imagine how beautiful and busy it must have been during the time of King Kassapa.

I was so amazed how vibrant the colors of the frescoes were after 1,600 years.

I was so amazed how vibrant the colors of the frescoes were after 1,600 years.

Mom and I on the ruins of the palace.

Mom and I on the ruins of the palace.

Monks walking up the steps of the lion paws.

Monks walking up the steps of the lion paws.

The top of the rock had many interesting views and foundations. I don't think that anyone today would think to build on top of a rock and that's what makes it so cool. I have never heard of a kingdom on a rock until I came to Sri Lanka!

The top of the rock had many interesting views and foundations. I don’t think that anyone today would think to build on top of a rock and that’s what makes it so cool. I have never heard of a kingdom on a rock until I came to Sri Lanka!

The view was stunning! If we had been there on a clear day it would have been better.

The view was stunning! If we had been there on a clear day it would have been better.

The frescoes were painted on plaster.

The frescoes were painted on plaster.

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Us in front of the lions paw.

Us in front of the lions paw.

Me climbing up the many steps!

Me climbing up the many steps!

This mountain range is the Knuckles.

This mountain range is the Knuckles.

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The hike up Sigirya rock was very cool and the view from the top was breathtaking. We walked a ways through the gardens to get to the base of the rock. The first section of stairs was hard. The sun was beating down on us as we climbed the steep stairs. Most of the steps were quite small and Grampy had to climb and descend side ways so his feet would fit. We joked around saying that ancient Sri Lankans must not have had large feet.

About a third of the way up we took a side route to see the twelve maidens cave paintings. Experts aren’t sure whether the beautifully painted women are servants of the court or celestial beings. Some archeologists also say that they are different representations of the Buddhist goddess Tara and her attendants. The later two make more sense to me but it is unclear which theory is right.

After we saw the cave paintings we walked along the mirror wall. When King Kassapa created his kingdom he wanted the rock to look like a cloud so he painted it white. On a band around the rock he had his artists paint about 500 frescoes (cave paintings). There are only nineteen of them left. The mirror wall was once a white polished stone that gleamed in the sunshine. It was so polished that you could see the reflections of the frescoes painted onto the rock. On the wall there is ancient graffiti. Soldiers or guards mostly wrote the graffiti about beautiful women and details about the court.

Before we took the final climb to the top of the rock we stopped to admire the lions paw staircase. It once had a head and body but now only the paws are there. Parts of the mirror wall and stairs have crumbled so people have built metal staircases. When we finally reached the top it had started to sprinkle, but I didn’t mind. The view was amazing and it must be even better when the sky is clearer. Only the foundations remain of the once busy palace.

King Kassapa (477–95­) was a troubled but brilliant man. He killed his own father so he could obtain the crown. Knowing he would be next, Kassapa’s brother Moggallana fled to India. His people in Anuradhapura, for killing his own father, rejected Kassapa. He fled to create his own kingdom in the clouds because of this and his fear that his brother would come back with an army.

Moggallana did just that when he came back from India with an army in 495. After a short battle between brothers, Moggallana won, but before Kassapa could surrender he killed himself. After his brother’s death Moggallana relocated the capital back to Anuradhapura and Sigirya was abandoned.

really cool trees.

Botanical Gardens in Kandy

Jasper

The Kandy Botanical garden is a true sight to see.The Gardens officially date back to 1821 when they were formed by Alexander Moon, but the place has had gardens for hundreds of years for royal families. The Gardens have  lots of amazing trees and flowers. Almost every tree in the whole park has a marker to tell you the proper name. We saw everything from bamboo forests to bat infested trees. There were species from Sri Lanka and all over the world.

 

The Gardens stretch over 147 acres and about 1550 feet above sea level. It also hosts around 2 million people annually. Here are some photos from our day there! We did not even get to see the entire park.

This was a very round and tall tree.

This was a very round and tall tree.

Very cool flower.

Very cool flower.

These were some Monkeys we saw in a big tree.

These were some Monkeys we saw in a big tree.

A really cool bat climbing up a branch.

A really cool bat climbing up a branch.

Pretty flower.

Pretty flower.

Really cool vines on a  tree.

Really cool vines on a tree.

Closeup of bats in a tree.

Closeup of bats in a tree.

really cool trees.

really cool trees.

Biggest tree in the whole park.

Biggest tree in the whole park.

Bamboo forest.

Bamboo forest.

The Fig Tree.

The Fig Tree.

This was one of the many trees infested with bats.

This was one of the many trees infested with bats.

A tree with really cool roots.

A tree with really cool roots.

Another bat infested tree.

Another bat infested tree.

Ori and Grampy in front of a cool tree.

Ori and Grampy in front of a cool tree.

This Is a grey langur that we saw Yala National Park.

Grey Langurs

Jasper
This was a group of langurs lounging on the side of the road.

This was a group of langurs lounging on the side of the road.

This was a langur running from the eating bush to the forest.

This was a langur running from the eating bush to the forest.

These langurs were scavenging through the  trash outside one of the biggest stupas in Sri Lanka

These langurs were scavenging through the trash outside one of the biggest stupas in Sri Lanka

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A langur with its baby in Yala.

A langur with its baby in Yala.

In our family’s time traveling around Sri Lanka we have seen many monkeys. One of the more popular species we have seen are the Grey Langurs. These interesting  monkeys are spread out across Southern Asia and are most commonly found in India. Grey langurs have white stomachs and the rest of their coat is a light grey with some white mixed in. The Grey langurs face and ears are all black outlined with light grey hair. They have very long tails as well – longer than the grey langur itself. Like most mammals the males are larger than the females, males weighing 40 lbs and females weighing around 25 lbs.

 

There are 3 kinds of grey langur packs, 1 male and all females and offsprings, many males and females of all ages, all male groups. The 1 male group usually has a very large and bold male that will scare away any competitors. The alpha male mates with the other females. If the baby is a female it can stay in the pack, but if it is a male it will have to leave after it does not need it’s mother anymore.

 

The all male groups are usually rejects from other groups. like a young male in an 1  monkey alpha group. These groups are usually small and don’t always work out because many males are very dominant.

 

The male and female group usually are the biggest of the 3 groups. The females get along very well but the males sometimes don’t always get along. Like I said before male monkeys can be very dominate and adding females to the group sometimes makes it worse, but usually these groups work because they have a very good ranking system.

 

Grey langurs are very adaptable. That’s the reason they have survived for many years. They can live in almost any climate and any altitude. They could live at sea level or 15000 feet above sea level. The reason they can do this is because they have such a large diet. They can eat almost anything, needles and cones, fruits and fruit buds, evergreen , shoots and roots, seeds, grass, bamboo, fern rhizomes, mosses, and their favorite food of all is tree leaves. They also eat some bugs when they groom each other, which happens daily.

 

We have had a few encounters with grey langurs in our time here. One of the more interesting encounters was in Yala National Park. Yala is the biggest national park in Sri Lanka and is home to many Leopards, Elephants, and of course monkeys. We saw them in trees, and on the ground. They are very efficient and safe at traveling.  One place we saw the langurs in Yala was between a bush with lots of food and the forest. The bush was in a flat plains area with a watering hole. This could be a very dangerous place for a monkey. The langurs make it as safe as possible, having scouts at the bush and at the forest. They even had an outpost in the middle of the 2 were they could stop and look for predators, or just pose for the camera. They went one at a time from the bush to the outpost to the forest. This was very cool to see because it shows how smart these monkeys are.

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Temple Monkeys

Orielle
There was a whole troop in one tree at the botanical gardens eating this orange fruit and playing.

There was a whole troop in one tree at the botanical gardens eating this orange fruit and playing.

This adorable macaque was eating rice.

This adorable macaque was eating rice.

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The ultimate face-off!

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This troop of monkeys picked a beautiful place to live in the ruins of an ancient city.

This troop of monkeys picked a beautiful place to live in the ruins of an ancient city.

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This troop was  quite the playful bunch!

This troop was quite the playful bunch!

I pretty sure this is one of the cutest things I've ever seen! The funny thing was that there was a huge crowd around this mo and she just sat there not caring about the many cameras clicking away!

I pretty sure this is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen! The funny thing was that there was a huge crowd around this mo and she just sat there not caring about the many cameras clicking away!

Three female macaques sit on one of the many beautiful trees in the botanical gardens.

Three female macaques sit on one of the many beautiful trees in the botanical gardens.

Sri Lanka is home of the monkeys. On our travels throughout the beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka we saw dozens of toque macaques. You can always count on seeing a monkey when there is a historic site. These monkeys are quite smart knowing that when there are tourists and people, there will be garbage and food scraps. We came across monkeys in the mountains and temple monkeys. These adorable macaques with unique swirls of hair melt my heart every time I see one. The little rascals might be cute but they are also thieves.

Most of the locals think of them as pests because they go through the trash and steal crops.  I watched one monkey jump up and grab a plastic bag from a tourist. The macaque soon realized there was no food in the bag and his little stunt was for nothing. I’ve told my family countless times that I would happily watch toque macaques for hours.

The toque macaque is only found in Sri Lanka. It got its name because of their swirl of hair that looks like a toque or a brimless hat. Toque macaques live in troops of about twenty monkeys but can be as large as forty. They are commonly known as temple monkeys. We certainly saw many of them at Dambula Cave Temple, Anuradhapura, and at Sigiriya.

Over the past three generations the temple monkey population has gone down my 50% because of development and construction. There are three different subspecies of toque macaque’s: dry zone toque macaque, wet toque macaque and highland toque macaque. When we drove through the mountains we stopped at a waterfall and saw the highland toque macaque.

Female temple monkeys usually have pink faces while the males have tan. A troop will have one male leader who is usually the largest and many females. The troop will often sleep huddled together. They will eat fruit, insects, crops and leaves. They have a special pouch in their mouths to store food while they go foraging.