Tag Archive: Ceylon

Yes. It’s a wrap. All of 8 days and 7 nights. As someone in our group said, “Sri Lanka was a revelation”. There were some mishaps, some missed sites, some meals not making the grade, a few frustrations, but this trip was just marvelous. Sri Lanka has much to offer. I do not think they’re there yet in terms of promoting their country best but it should get a lot of attention soon. Hopefully too, tourism promotion does not adversely affect the character of the people here — smiling, helpful, charming.

We feel this trip deserves a repeat. I enjoyed the safari but won’t do it again unless my family is going with me. (Birdwatchers would!) Instead, I’d return to Nuwara Eliya in time for tea harvest, do a bit of hiking in Ella to view the Nine Arches Bridge and Adam’s Peak, climb Sigiraya Rock, visit the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy’s Peradeniya (we missed it as we lacked time), take another scenic train ride, spend more time in Weligama and stay in the same Jetwing and Marriott Hotels we booked including those in Negombo and Kaduruketha! I’d also enjoy the same hotel breakfasts and dinners there and make sure to do better for our midday nourishment. πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

Thank you, Sri Lanka.

(Just click on the links)

Dambulla Rock Caves

A Sri Lankan Safari

Ancient and Sacred Cities

A Scenic Train Ride

Budurugawala Temple

Stilt Fishermen of Sri Lanka

The Ramparts of Galle

Last Day in Colombo

Travel buddies, young & old

Different folks, Different strokes

Foodies, shoppers, culture vultures

Tell me, do we hold a future?

Morning strolls, cocktails by dusk

Chatting each day’s highlights in a flash

Oh what a journey with these peeps

As we discover food, places & pet peeves.

I’d rather spend a half hour here by the shore, taking photos of these stilt fishermen or just watching them, than shop in a mall. While it may seem odd to find these fellas fishing so near the shore, this fishing style is unique to Sri Lanka. In fact, this scene is one of the iconic images of this island nation called “the pearl of the Indian Ocean”.

We found 4 of them along this stretch between Weligama and Unawatuna, a small fishing village close to Galle. Genuine stilt fishermen or actors? I do not know, but they sure make a lovely picture with their fishing props called pettas, using a crossbar tied to a pole driven on the sand not far from shore.We were not accosted for tips though. Honestly? I’d understand if these men are “posers” than real fishermen. The tsunami of 2004 has changed the shoreline of this island country making it difficult to fish using this method. Fish catch must be so meager that “posing” for tourists and photography buffs must earn them more money. Still, it’s quite a sight. Contrived or not, one gets the idea of this fishing style unique only to this country. Part of their culture, though I’m not sure the tradition can be passed on to the next generation. All the more that I felt compelled to watch them, and document the experience.

(Photo Credit: Iyay I)

The morning after this scene, we woke up in our beachfront hotel seeing how the more traditional method of fishing is done. At 6am I took a video of this boat sailing off while my friends found a few fishermen with their morning catch. An assortment of sceneries that early morn — swimmers, surfers, joggers, fishermen, people just strolling by the shore, doing their morning exercises, playing with the stray dogs, etc.

. Photo Credit: Rick C
. Photo Credit: Rick C

If you’ve come to Sri Lanka for some sun, sand, surf and stilt fishing, your best bet is to stay in Weligama. Hotels by the bay offer a long shoreline and the morning activities (fishing, surfing, swimming, whale watching in nearby Mirissa) make for a great start each day. We didn’t do any whale watching but spent a lot of time just watching the palm trees by the shore from the comforts of our hotel balcony. Along the coast to Weligama, you’d even find these chintzy villas with ornately carved wooden eaves. Not too far from the capital of Colombo and neither is it as busy and frenzied as Negombo or Bentota. We loved our stay here and won’t mind heading back for a longer stay in this beachfront hotel. Weligama Bay Marriott Resort and Spa is NOT paying me for this but this hotel is FTW, no kidding. Even their buffets are TDF. 😘

Photo Credit: Iyay I.

It took 3 hours via train that meandered through mountain ranges, tea gardens and the occasional water falls.Nuwara Eliya is such a revelation. As is the entire Sri Lanka! We drove south from hot and humid Sigiriya and Kandy towards the largely Muslim Nuwara Eliya where temps dove to as low as 14 Celsius. We arrived late afternoon in this land of the Ceylonese Moors. Pretty, pretty. The lush green tea plantations blanketed this cool hill country as we zigzagged up just as the fog cleared. Swathes of lush tea bushes greet you in Nuwara Eliya. The aroma of tea gardens puts you into a mood that cocoons you off all negativity and hostility. The serenity embraces you. Trust me on this 😊

(Photo Credit of the Falls: Topper R)

We only wish we could stay longer in this rather odd hotel with so much wasted space. Not that we’re complaining, but a room for 2 with a maid’s room, a powder room, washing machine, a kitchenette, three toilets, a massive dining table and living set? It may not be as tastefully done, but we felt like royalty. And the dinner buffet which included local food and our own chicken adobo (they must have Filipino kitchen staff?) plus the inviting spread of yummy desserts sealed a happy, sweat-free weekend in Nuwara Eliya. Back on topic though (how I digress…), we could have taken the 60 km bus ride in an hour instead of the 3 hour train journey but heck, why miss this majestic scenery, pray tell? The nearest train station is Nanu Oya, just 15 minutes away. By itself, the train station provided a glimpse of life here. Many European tourists joined us on this train ride, as did school children in their starchy white uniforms. Come boarding time, we dodged our way among the strawberry vendors and the resident sleeping dogs. In the first 30 minutes as the train chug-chugged out of Nanu Oya Station, all hell broke loose. There was a frenzy to slide down train windows to get better views of the gardens and falls. It was drizzling but no one cared. The more adventurous opened train doors to literally hang out of the moving train. The view, the entire scenery has that effect on everyone.

(Thanks Topper for this photo.)

(Thanks, Iyay, for these “hanging” photos)

Those 3+hours breezed by and we found ourselves with so many photos of the train, rail tracks, tea plantations, and more. There was a break among the hills and the trees as we waited to snap more good photos but the mist fogged out all the views. Before we knew it, we were already in Ella. Warmer now, but eager for more adventures. Oh, Sri Lanka — you pulled out so many surprises for us! πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

It’s our first time in Sri Lanka. And I confess that my personal knowledge of this country that used to be called Ceylon has been so limited before we got here. Oh sure, Sri Lanka or Ceylon evokes memories of that fragrant tea, spicy curry, and elephants. We’ve been here only 2 days but feel we’ve come to know so much more about Sri Lanka than those guide books will tell us. Like it’s a haven for bird lovers. I can only wish I knew more about birds as we spotted them in Minneriya National Park.

We just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Sri Lankan wildlife. Never mind that we didn’t expect much beyond elephants and deer and peacocks. No leopards here; the guide books say they are found in the Yala National Park. Other guide books say they are also found here, along with the sambar deer. I would have wanted to see one in the wilds, having missed this among the Big 5 in my African Safari some years back. But a big herd of elephants is good to watch. Elephants of varying sizes; the baby ellies with their moms. A couple of these huge beasts moved towards our safari jeeps and we promptly backed up. We were 3 jeeps in all. And we thought this entire spectacle is good enough for wildlife viewing today.

Formerly a wildlife sanctuary, Minneriya was declared a national park 20 years ago. It is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and is claimed to be home to the biggest herd of Asian elephants that gather on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir. Though the “gathering” peaks during the drought around August- September, we found a good size this early March. Wildlife activitists would be happy for this natural phenomenon. So would bird lovers and the environmentalists. Let’s just hope tourism advocates don’t get overboard promoting this place. At the time we visited, we were only 3 safari jeeps around The Gathering, but more such safari jeeps can block the paths of these elephants and agitate them. Speaking of which, Minneriya authorities can limit the number of visitors and safari jeeps at any one time. I don’t know, perhaps they do this already. I am no wildlife nor environmental expert. Just a happy spectator this breezy afternoon. 😊

(Thanks, Topper, for the last 3 beautiful shots!)

(Thanks for this group photo, Rick C. We had fun, huh?)

More photos (from Angel) below:

Five caves. Buddha images counting over 150. Standing. Reclining. Seated. Statues. Paintings. Buddha images everywhere. On the cave walls. On the cave ceiling. All over. As in all over. This is certainly the largest, and best-preserved cave temple complex cum Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka. A pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries, the caves are NOT natural caves but actually caves CARVED out of rocks. Try imagining monks working and carving these cave shrines! Over the years, arched colonnades were carved out, ceilings painted with intricate images of Buddha, some cave entrances gilded. Much were developed in stages. And present-day Dambulla is just breath-taking. I meant that aesthetically, and physically, physiologically. πŸ˜₯Gawd, it’s so hot and humid in here!

You need to take off your shoes going into the cluster of 5 cave shrines. You may wrap a skirt or shawl around your shorts too. But be sure you get a fair price for having your shoes stored. The guy manning the operation seems to be quoting a wide range of storage rates. It was a good day for business for him. Then there’s the story of a king who hid himself in this cave temple where some statues and paintings date back to the first century B.C. When King Valagamba returned to his throne in Anaradaphura after a 14-year exile, he had this rock temple complex built to thank the Buddhist monks who prayed, meditated and protected him from his enemies.

Walking barefoot, I felt some discomfort walking on this hot, humid day. True enough, I went back to our hotel with a blister on my sole. And I’m sure the blister had nothing to do with the uphill walk to reach the holy rock complex. The hot and uneven ground we walked on must have done it on my delicate soles. Oh well. Meanwhile, this UNESCO Heritage Site continues to draw in curious tourists. The Sri Lankans are deeply rooted in Buddhism and these cave shrines prove it. The statues have not lost their color, and the ceiling paintings and murals are very impressive.

We were soaking, dripping in sweat by the time we were done. The downhill exit was most welcome because of the afternoon breeze. Monkeys were all around. The crowds just enough — to show homage, but without bumping each sweaty bod against another sweaty bod. Just be sure you bring wet wipes or better, a wet face towel to wipe all that grime, dust and sweat off your face and limbs. And bring a bottle of water! Having said that, be sure to wear comfortable clothes intended for a real humid afternoon. Only the magnificent Buddha images kept me from bailing out of this cave complex!