Sri Lanka, Part Two

 

Welcome to Part Two of Sri Lanka (part one here), whereupon we visit an old fort, a couple of excellent temples, a railway crossing and a bizillion palm trees (because I for one can never get enough of palm trees).

Let’s begin close to the water’s edge at Galle Fort, one of Sri Lanka’s main tourist attractions. As such, I didn’t have high hopes; as you know, I’m happiest off-piste, with preferably no one around like me (ie tourist). But after several visits I grew to like the place, especially around sunset in the area near the lighthouse where locals outnumber the tourists and a mosque’s haunting call to prayer rings out through the narrow streets and out over the Indian Ocean.

 

catching the last light :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

catching the last light :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

catching the last light :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s the day for sisters in matching dresses :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s the day for sisters in matching dresses :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

Right across from the lighthouse is Meeran Mosque (10% of Sri Lankan people are Muslim). I didn’t get a decent shot of the mosque but I did manage to snap these lovely men, enjoying the chance to chinwag in the cool of the early evening.

 

men’s business

 

 

 

 

 

While I was drawn to the lighthouse area and the locals parading along the ramparts, I also enjoyed exploring the various buildings in the centre of the fort. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1588, the Dutch took over the fort in 1649 and made significant improvements, many by the VOC (Verenigde Oostindindische Compagnie), the Dutch East India Company. Today, over 400 years later, a lot of original architecture is still in place, thanks to the restoration efforts of the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka as well as locals and foreigners renovating some of the dilapidated buildings.

 

from derelict to desirable – Galle Fort Hotel, built in 1795 by the VOC

 

 

 

 

 

at ease – Amangalla began life in 1684 as the Dutch military HQ

 

 

 

 

 

rescuing the ruins

 

 

 

 

 

will it be saved too?

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Reformed Church

 

 

 

 

 

In contrast to the fort and its very Dutch flavour is the hotel we stayed in, Tamarind Hill, about a 15 minute tuk tuk drive away, that was built in the British era in the 1800s.

 

live like a 19th century British admiral :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

live like a 19th century British admiral :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

live like a 19th century British admiral :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

Moving from beautiful buildings built for business and pleasure, to those designed for worship – Buddhist temples. More than 70% of the Sri Lankan population is Buddhist, and there must be thousands of temples around, from neighbourhood stupas to the grand Japanese Peace Pagoda.

 

neighbourhood stupa

neighbourhood stupa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Peace Pagoda

 

 

 

 

 

We only visited a handful of temples, and the two I loved were both really old and virtually empty.

The first is called Budu Raja Maha Wehera Wewurukannala, located near Dikwella. Like most Sri Lankan Buddhist temples, there are various parts to it, but I loved the first temple and its fabulous 250 year old carvings.

 

Budu Raja Maha Wehera Wewurukannala

 

 

 

 

 

temple guard and his buddies

 

 

 

 

 

giddyup, we’re off to the beach

 

 

 

 

 

please please, can we come too?

 

 

 

 

 

I have no idea of the name of the second temple I stumbled upon near Galle, but it had a wonderful air of faded grandeur about it, with a dramatic staircase and several generous landings, as well as a highly colourful interior filled with peeling frescoes. Aside from a few young monks and a temple guard, there was no one else around. Ideal conditions for the snoop.

 

sssssss! – the Buddhist Naga cobra protects the temple against evil

 

 

 

 

 

young monks at the old temple

 

 

 

 

 

plenty of patina

 

 

 

 

 

the young temple guard

 

 

 

 

 

Back outside, I spent what many (eg the two young monks) would consider a ridiculous amount of time sizing up the coconut tree palms around the temple grounds. I have always loved palm trees – the iconic shape, the way they conjure up summer, etc – so I was in flora heaven in Sri Lanka, home to Cocos Nucifera, the coconut palm. Aside from containing my daughter’s name, Cocos Nucifera is just so very clever, providing milk, water, oil and wood from the coconut itself, as well as animal feed, firewood and thatching from the leaves.

 

clever coconuts

 

 

 

 

 

even the leaves are used

 

 

 

 

 

c’mon kids, let’s go collect some coconut shells to make into kitchen spoons

 

 

 

 

 

May I just express my love for Cocos Nucifera in the following three images, and then I promise not to speak of it again.

 

palm tree love :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

palm tree love :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

palm tree love :: 3

 

 

 

 

Okay, the last thing I want to share with you is my time spent waiting for a train. Not to board, sadly (I absolutely love train trips), but just to pass through. I was wandering around a back road outside Galle when I saw a man in a lungi (Sri Lankan sari) cordoning off the crossing with a piece of string. We didn’t speak a word but I hung around and took some pics of him, while waiting for the train to come through.

 

waiting for the train to come

 

 

 

 

 

and while we wait, can we just take a moment to admire the elegance of the lungi

 

 

 

 

 

toot toot, here it comes!

 

 

 

 

 

hello Class M10, 916, you are on time!

 

 

 

 

 

I know, you think I’m weird (possible) but I thank you train-crossing guard, it was fun

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed having a squiz at Sri Lanka, a country that survived a bitter civil war and a deadly tsunami to become one of the world’s latest ‘it’ destinations, thanks to its great beauty, lovely people and beguiling beasts.

 

a guiding light since 1848 – Galle Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

running girl

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

see ya, Sri Lanka

 

 

 

 

 

And Coco? She loved it too. Especially when the hotels had good wifi.

 

teenage life continues even in exotic climes

 

 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka, Part One

 

I’m going to start a new website/blog soon (about time!) but before I do that, I wanted to finish off here with one final installment (in two parts) – Sri Lanka!

Coco and I spent a few weeks there last December, almost by accident really. We were all set to travel to northern India, but due to extra horrendous air pollution and Coco’s propensity for developing respiratory issues even in squeaky clean Sydney, we changed our plans at the last minute and headed south to Sri Lanka instead.

Lightening quick history for those curious: Way old (125,000 years), invaded by the Portuguese (1500s), then the Dutch (1600s), then the English (1800s). Population wise, Sri Lankan people are a diverse lot, but mainly Sinhalese with a large Tamil minority. These two groups didn’t get on for a while (30 years) but since 2009, when the civil war ended, things are decidedly better.

Okay, shall we saunter, very slowly, in supremely sultry Sri Lanka …

After about a four hour drive from Colombo, we arrived at our first destination – nowhere. But a very beautiful, calming nowhere.

 

the view of nothing is everything

 

 

 

 

 

touching the earth lightly :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

touching the earth lightly :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

Santani, the ‘minimalist luxury’ resort we’d landed at, is undoubtedly a beautiful place. But in my rush to book last minute accommodation after India fell through, I may not have fully understood the offering – very chilled, with a focus on health and wellness. After a day of being ‘nowhere’, I have to be honest – I needed to be somewhere.

So we went daytripping, to the nearby city of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital. As you might remember, I’m not a great tourist and I generally don’t like sight-seeing, but it was either that or more ‘relaxing’. First stop, a big deal in the Buddhist world, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. We didn’t spy the tooth of Buddha but I did meet this beautiful woman there.

 

dressed for puja at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

 

 

 

 

 

there’s always a queue to see the Sacred Tooth Relic

 

 

 

 

 

We also stuck our noses into Kandy’s Royal Botanical Gardens. A huge sprawling place full of giant, ancient trees.

 

land of giant trees :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

land of giant trees :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

land of giant trees :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

practising their English on Coco

 

 

 

 

 

above ground roots?

 

 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka has an incredible variety of flora, as the lovely Dileepa back at the resort had told us. It’s biodiversity heaven apparently, with more than 3,000 different plant species.

 

Dileepa, the 20 year old naturalist

 

 

 

 

 

After our daytripping we did a bit more relaxing (yawn), and then headed north to see the ancient rock and palace fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO listed world heritage site. We climbed up about 800 of its 1,200 stairs, forgoing the final ‘Lion Staircase’ – in the heat, dripping with sweat from the unbelievable humidity, that was plenty, believe me.

 

ancient rock fortress ahead

 

 

 

 

 

1,500 year old water gardens

 

 

 

 

 

the (slow) ascent of man

 

 

 

 

 

Sigiriya’s spiral spin-out

 

 

 

 

 

we meet again

 

 

 

 

 

the final assault up the Lion Staircase. or not

 

 

 

 

 

The other highlight was a visit to Minneriya National Park to see elephants roaming wild. While some elephant ‘attractions’ in Sri Lanka chain their star performers, these elephants are free to wander wherever they like.

captured on camera but free to roam

 

 

 

 

 

where elephants have right of way

 

 

 

 

 

mum and the two kids

 

I like to think she’s smiling

 

 

 

 

 

curl

 

 

 

elephant spotting

 

 

 

 

 

Coco on safari

 

 

 

 

 

From there, we drove south through the tea plantation hills, on our way down to the coast.

 

tea for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

lush

 

 

 

 

 

moody mountains

 

 

 

 

 

After spending hours and hours winding down from the hills through lush green forest, it’s quite something to finally reach the coast and Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches. We stayed in Tangalle, where the sand is a brilliant white and in the middle of the day, burning hot.

 

white hot :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

white hot :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

After Tangalle, we travelled west to Galle, and went on another ‘safari’, only this time on a river.

 

river life :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

river life :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

river life :: 3

 

 

 

 

 

corner shop

 

 

 

 

 

greetings, welcome to Temple Island

 

 

 

 

 

The proximity to water, from the beaches to the rivers, is very much part of Sri Lanka’s appeal. But in 2004, this proximity proved deadly when a massive tsunami hit, killing more than 30,000. People had no warning whatsoever – one minute it was life as normal, and the next, the world turned upside down.

 

before and after the tsunami hit

 

 

 

 

 

It was 14 years ago, yet you can still see signs of the devastation along the coast in the form of abandoned, ruined homes.

 

everything went underwater

 

 

 

 

 

the jungle reclaims its territory

 

 

 

 

 

The day I visited this area just outside Galle, I was on my own. It was incredibly eerie and sad, wandering around these homes, imagining them once filled with happy families and wondering what happened to them, if they managed to get out alive.

 

home, once upon a time :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

home, once upon a time :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

Just as I was going to leave, I noticed some other homes around the corner that were in much better shape and still inhabited. As I approached one, a lovely woman holding her baby came out to greet me. She was so warm and welcoming, and I felt so happy that she and her husband had survived the unimaginable ordeal – and had gone on to produce a beautiful child.

 

home, still :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

We chatted for a while, before a gaggle of kids swarmed around us. I don’t know how old they were but most of them looked younger than 14 – for them, a tsunami is something they’ve only ever heard or read about. I so hope they never get to experience it firsthand.

 

home, still :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

new life after the tsunami :: 1

 

 

 

 

 

new life after the tsunami :: 2

 

 

 

 

 

pray the tsunami never happens again

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for the second part of Sri Lanka soon!

 

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