Monday, 25 June 2012

Simply Sri Lanka


I’ve been taking too many photographs recently and I’m sorry about that. You know what? I’m not sorry actually. This blog was going to be a very informal blog looking at whatever caught my fancy. But then again, as the name suggests, this is thetravellingwordsmith’s blog and it should be more about the travels than pictures of flowers and insects. If you would like to view more pictures that I’ve clicked, do visit my new photoblog and enjoy the collection there. From now on, I will be using this blog to talk about my travels, music and cooking only. Damn, forgot what this post is all about. Do read on :)

Back in 2007, I had gone down south for a holiday. Really, really far down south to the little (OK, maybe not so little) Island of Sri Lanka. I spent about almost close to a week touring various places and capturing a lot of pictures which I recently discovered hiding behind many folders of my hard disk and which I thought would make up for a great story. So, together, let's explore "Sri Lanka".


Image Credit - worldxtravel.com

I remember this trip fairly well since it was a little after my graduation.I wanted a change of place and was about to voice it out when my dad brought this place up in one of our usual "Family Meetings". Knowing that it would not be an expensive trip, yet slightly far to call it an International Trip, we decided that we would go to this place and make a holiday out of it. We landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport at Colombo and immediately set out to the first of the places in our list in the order of the trip:

Colombo -> Kandy -> Sigiriya -> Polonnaruwa -> Kandalama -> Nuwara Eliya -> Colombo 

Kandy - The last capital of the Ancient Kings' era, Kandy is one of the cooler places of Sri Lanka where the daily temperature usually ranges between 20 °C - 28 °C. There are a few places of interest in Kandy which you can ask your local tourist guide to show or refer here (insert link). Kandy is also famous for its beautiful temples of Buddha. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist colony and hence you will find lots of statues, temples and figurines in and around Sri Lanka. Local sightseeing is off the hook (pardon the slang). The first place that we visited was an Elephant Orphanage / Reserve called “Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.


Elephants being bathed at a river nearby
This is truly a sight to see as the elephants are taken for a bath at certain times during the day. You can feed the elephants and also have an elephant ride. What’s fascinating about this is the walk to the river. You can walk / see the elephants walking to the river through a village. They move about peacefully and the locals know better to not make any funny noises or movements lest a stampede erupt. The other places that we saw in Kandy were The Sacred Temple of the Tooth and a wood carving factory. The former is a temple that has been made for the tooth of Buddha as the legend stated that a tooth of Buddha was found in this place which had a lot of powers and mystical properties attached to it. 

Temple of the Sacred Tooth
The Golden Buddha











Due to some photography restrictions in the temple, I wasn’t allowed to photograph the tooth or the area around it. I still managed to do so somehow, but due to my respect towards sacred relics, I would not be showing you that picture. The tooth is shrouded in pure gold and there’s always a huge crowd of locals and tourists flocking to see this beautiful relic and pay homage to it. The wood carving factory has a lot of interesting designs mostly representing the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka. According to one of the people working in the factory, most of the items are shipped to India which is one country that provides major business in this field.

Standing next to a 11 ton wooden elephant
Sigiriya – If you are a bit of the archaeology fan like I am, then you’ll definitely love the ruins of Sigiriya. This is my favourite so it will be a long post. Once known as a king’s palace, the beautiful fort / palace of Sigiriya was supposedly one of the most happening places a long time ago. From the outside, it looks like one of the old forts that you might have seen in the movies. The entrance to the fort is surrounded by a moat. According to the lore, the moat was filled with crocodiles and unless the invading army was brave enough to sacrifice a few men to get to the entrance which could only be opened by a drawbridge, there was no way to enter the heavily fortified palace. Moreover, the moat was 15 ft deep. But that was the lore of yesteryear, and not anymore. 

Now, the fort is manned by guards and tourist guides. Once you enter the gates, it’s still a good walk till you reach the palace. There are a lot of beautiful trees all around. I remember seeing their design of a fountain and asked the guide what it was. At first I thought it was a sewage line, but then the guide told me that this was a fountain that surprisingly, was working without anything electronic machine pumping it. Not that you would have electronic equipment at that time but the design was marvellous. The water would flow down from the mountain and due to the design laid below; the water would spurt up like a little fountain and it would never spill over. Pretty impressive right? 

The Great Rock of Sigriya

Sadly, we couldn’t witness the spectacle that was being spoken about because all the water from the mountain has dried up. So we continued walking and came to the base of the palace. The other information that the guide told us about was that the steps were made of marble and it was about 1200 steps to the top / actual entrance of the palace. This was because the king said that while on his return to his palace he could come at any point of time in the day / night and hence due to the paucity of flaming torches, nobody would be able to reach the palace should they reach in the night. So he made his workmen build the steps leading to the palace in pure marble. The marble shines even today. Such was the craftsmanship. With the moonlight illuminating the steps thanks to the marble laid before them, the king, travelling on a palanquin along with his royal escorts would make their way up to the top to the palace. Yes, the king was carried for all of the 1200 steps.

There are three entrances to the palace; The Snake Entrance, The Elephant Entrance and the Lion’s Mouth Entrance. Sigiriya in Sinhalese means Lion’s rock and this was the main entrance for the king and his subjects. The other entrances were used should the king want to have a change of scenery. All the entrances however have been shaped according to their names; the pictures say so too. Climbing up wasn’t a difficult thing though as it wasn’t 1200 steps through and through. Every 20 steps or so there would be a gap and then the steps would begin again. It made it quite easy for us to get up there without panting for breath. As we climbed up the steps, the guide kept telling us about the wonders of the palace and how the king kept pushing for innovations; one of which was to install a system (which we now refer to the pre-historic air conditioners or desert coolers to be exact) which would allow them to have cool air. 

Wild Fruits on sale - Durian

Again, the water flowing from the mountain would be used for the same procedure and cuts were made in the rock and the water would flow like a small stream all over the palace and when cool water mixes with air what do you get? Air conditioned air. There were a few other things that were of interest like the large bathing place and a huge courtyard where he told a huge fair used to be held whenever the king hosted dignitaries from the neighbouring colonies. All this beauty in one place was a little too much for us and after spending a good part of the day here; we headed to the next destination on our list – Polonnaruwa.

Maharaja's Palace at Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa – The second of the palaces that we visited also belonged to an ancient kingdom. The king over here was a little more stylish than the previous one though. He had a palace to hold his wives plus a hundred of his concubines. Keeping that fact aside, Polonnaruwa has huge grounds and is kept clean due to its status as a World Heritage site. Here too you will find lots of friendly guides who will show you the place around and speak about its history. It has a lot of interesting things to see like a king’s court where he used to sit and hold meetings with his ministers, a small little colosseum to stage fights and lots of Buddha statues. One thing that adorns every place you visit in Sri Lanka is the number of Buddha statues. They have the most beautiful statues placed in every nook and corner of Sri Lanka and they are truly beautiful to gaze upon. Next stop – Kandalama.

I want to dive in that icy cold water

Kandalama – I honestly don’t remember exactly what transpired in Kandalama; however I do know that the hotel that we stayed at was made out of a rock. No, it wasn’t a rock cave but more or less like a boutique hotel. The name of this hotel is Kandalama Rock. What made me more excited was to find out that the rooms were not above the hotel, but below, allowing the people to be literally one with nature. I would wake up in the morning and step out to the balcony to see the birds chirping away and a few animals grazing nearby. It was truly a beautiful spectacle to witness and the staff took good care of us. The food is awesome and they have an impressive array of dishes; local as well as continental for you to savour. Once we had a fill of this place, we kept pushing forward as we knew that our vacation was slowly coming to an end. The last stop that we had before we reached Colombo was Nuwara Eliya.

Ring the bell if you've enjoyed the service
Nuwara Eliya – Getting to Nuwara Eliya isn’t easy. It’s a nice long drive up the hill and into some of the mountainous regions of Sri Lanka. On reaching however, the weather totally blew our minds away. Almost immediately dad and mum exclaimed – This feels like Shimla, because the way the town looks, functions and operates, is exactly like how a town would look in Shimla in one of those Hindi movies, that is, if you have watched any of the oldies. Keeping that remark aside, we reached our boarding where we were greeted with a pot of coffee and snacks. The small little boarding was overlooking a nice area and it was quite pleasant to sit out there and watch the sunset. I enquired of the owner to a name that sounded quite fictional - why was the town named Nuwara Eliya? 

He replied saying that this is because the weather in Nuwara Eliya is more or less like the weather in London – unpredictable. I was surprised at that remark and he clarified saying that Nuwara Eliya is Sinhalese for ‘Little England’. The weather is quite cool throughout the day and it is advisable to carry some woollies along because it can get quite cold in the nights. Over here, we saw a couple of falls and a massive tea estate which had a river flowing by. They had so many varieties of tea there that it became quite astonishing after a while as some of the rates were through the roof. Saying goodbye to the tea and the little cosy town of Nuwara Eliya, we headed for the last destination on our itinerary, Colombo and as promised by our ever friendly guide cum driver; shopping.

Ramboda Falls

Colombo – For more obvious reasons, Colombo is a shopper’s delight. I was quite surprised to see items made in India and Bangladesh on sale in Colombo and was wondering why we couldn’t get any of these designs back home. They weren’t factory rejects or anything. They were good items in almost every department and the four of us had sore eyes after a few hectic hours of shopping. I did get out of that place buying a whole lot of items which was quite fun and when we checked how much we had spent on buying stuff, it turned out to be way cheaper than what we would have actually spent back home. Still, I don’t regret buying anything from that place because I still wear a pair of cargos that I picked up from there with as much √©lan as the day I bought it.

Me and the small one always monkeying around

Being the capital of Sri Lanka, there are a lot of things to see, but since our plan from the beginning was to use the capital as a shopping hub, we did not have time to see the other delights that it offered us. With that, bags were packed, flight was taken and we were back in India. This was in 2007. I’m writing about it in 2012. Funny how time flies yet your memories can be instantly brought back with just a simple viewing of your photographs.

With our fantastic guide

For those of you who would like to take a trip to Sri Lanka, I found a site which offers you a nice itinerary package. For more pictures on Sri Lanka, do click here and witness all that thetravellingwordsmith clicked.

4 comments:

  1. it's an awesome place, right? those who visit Srilanka rate it very highly as a travel destination. lovely post, lovely pictures.

    i liked the title of your new photoblog. btw, why you need to write about music here? you have another wordpress blog for that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an awesome place to have fun Deb. Thank you for commenting so quickly. :)

      The other blog is on a more serious note actually and this one's an informal one. My music is part of an informal part of me which is why when I travel, I do take along my guitar and harmonica and that is why I blog about it here.

      Glad you like the pics on the new one. Will be posting more shortly. Just waiting for Indiblogger to approve that one as well.

      Delete
  2. Sheldi... Lovely write up macha.!! Keep it flowing...
    Impressed

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Vendi. Nice to hear from you after a long time.

      Hope you're keeping well and thanks for your comments. :D

      Delete

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