Srilanka is a small island country in Indian Ocean with rich culture & heritage.
Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism go hand in hand in this country. They follow a three language formula throughout the country , all sign boards , names written in Sinhalese, Tamil & English.
We had been planning to visit this little country for a long time , but my time came this June 2017.
I planned my trip after thoroughly keeping in mind that I love nature, culture, and religion , so my trip included places connected with Ramayana epic, Buddhism & the natural beauty of Lanka.
Back in my mind the historical story “Ponniyin Selvan” by the famous author Kalki Krishnamurthy was fresh with lively characters & Lanka as the land of rubber trees.
So all these in mind I customized our tour itinerary with central Province & Colombo. With constraints of time we could not visit Jaffna, in Tamil Yazhpanam. But we met lot of Tamil speaking people, & I could feel their longing to visit India. I can’t forget the Sweet Tamil they spoke.
As we landed in colombo, the airport itself impressed me, clean, small, not much of formalities for SAARC countries.
“AYUBOWAN” they welcome you in different way, praying for your long life!! Similar to “Ayushman Bhava ” in Sanskrit.
Our first destination was Chilaw Muneeswaran temple and then the Maanawari temple. The first one is a Shiva temple where it is believed Lord Rama prayed to Shiva After killing Ravana, as he believed, Brahmahathi dosham was following him as Ravana was a Brahmin. Maanawari temple is Sakti temple, like our Maryiamman.
Then we proceeded to Dambulla, a town in the midst of Habrana forest area.Here I have to say that we survived a tiresome journey with fruits,like banana, robutta ,as there were not many eateries for vegetarians.
Dambulla cave temple is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. Initially with Trip advisor views we thought it would be tough to climb. But now cars reach till the Protected area and there is hardly 1 Km up to climb, but there weren’t any steps so we found it easier to reach. We had to take careful steps in between rocks. But once you reach top, the view is really awesome, huge single rock & 5 caves inside covering Lord Buddha’s beautiful postures, mural paintings, Huge sleeping Buddha in a single rock. You just stand awestruck with such natural structures, ages back to 3rd century B.C. Even skeletons of 2000 years old are found here by UNESCO.
The golden temple is down on the road with museum & history of Lord Buddha & Buddhism.
BY this time we were damn tired & checked in to Hotel Dawanna on Habrana road. Hotels are in beautiful locations and cater mostly to foreigners, so neatly maintained with wifi, variety of food e.t.c became normal for a 3 star.
Day:2 Trincomalee, or Triconamalai in Tamil,via Sigiriya.
Sigiriya again is a huge rock seen from anywhere near by which looks like a lion sitting. It was a steep climb to the top, so we didn’t go up, but took pics & proceeded to Trincomalee. Sigiriya also boasts lots of mural paintings of 2000 years old & depicts Buddhism. Enroute to Trincomalee we saw a huge lake KANTALA LAKE.
The route was so beautiful, that we didn’t feel the long journey. Enroute the chauffeur was showing us the places where LTTE hideouts were totally grounded by army. Trincomalee is a largely Tamil speaking area.
Trincomalee where sea enters land through a cliff in 3 different directions.
Koneswaran temple, Shakti pitam are very old temples found within a cave through the hills. Tamil poets Sekkizhar, Nammalwar sang about these temples in 6th century B.C. Later probably hidden by Dutch, British rulers and the temple was later renovated. While going to temple itself we can find the entrance to the fort written in Dutch.
Natural coast with green sea is a beautiful sight with cliffs around. While coming back we saw another Devi temple with beautiful architecture. Enroute back visited Marble beach , a beautiful ,clear sandy beach with shallow sea,without waves.
On our way back we instantly planned to visit Minneriya national park. We hired a open jeep with the help of Mr.Dazil our chauffer. We took an entry pass for the jeep ride. Though it was a very hot afternoon, we hoped against hope to see some animals. Initially we sighted just a few peacocks and langoors. But once we reached a huge waterbody in the forest we spotted crocodiles, and lots of cranes around. Further down we could see plenty of elephants, families and families around the water body, grazing grass nearby, drinking water, cooling themselves. It was a stupendous sight. Cute little ones following parents, mammas protecting kids, teaching them how to eat, walk, drink. What a lovely sight seeing them !!.
Had a wonderful day, on our way back a single huge elephant followed our jeep on the highway. The driver said it is usual sight there, it stopped on aside , waited for vehicles to move , then crossed the road to enter forest. !!!
We reached our hotel to find out we were the only guests that night. So we were served special menu made to order, near the pool side. It was really an unforgettable special treat.
Kandy, a journey of 3 hrs from Dambulla and the second largest city in Lanka. Well connected by road and rail. A hamlet city with multiple culture, many wooden manufacturers, gems wholesale, as Srilanka is famous for wood and gems especially Blue sapphire.
We were first taken to the gems museum, to show how the mines are identified and manually sending people to cut the mines & sieve them. Of course I ended up purchasing lots of semi precious stones. Then there was a cultural show, organised every evening in a hall with entry tickets, to depict the kandy dance, fire walk, tribal dance etc.
Next day we visited wooden manufacturers, how natural wood dusts are converted to bring colors, with the help of lime and certain leaves added to them. Beautiful natural colours are used in show pieces, furniture, but found them very expensive . Next was, the temple of tooth relics of Buddha. The temple is huge with two floors. With temple bands played at the time of opening the temple reminds similarity of Kerala kottu Vadhiyam. The temple brings sanctity to the whole town. Here , when I saw ladies wearing different type of saree to work, I was appreciating them,my over enthusiastic chauffeur took me to a saree shop , arranged a lady to show me how to drape saree in that style, I was more than happy to pose!!. It was a really lively experience.
Day-4 Enroute Nuwara Eliya.
Beautiful thick forests on both sides, the route was excellent , reminds me wordsworth’s poetry “The woods are lovely dark & deep, but I have miles to go before I sleep.”
We stopped in one of the Ayurvedic , herbal farms where cinnamon, cloves , nutmegs & many more spices are grown in natural manures. Ayurvedic practising doctors use them to make oils, creams, balms & Lanka govt helps them.
Visited tea gardens , tea factory, and it was different, Ceylon tea called orange pekoe, pekoe, etc. Black tea is famous here. After visit to tea gardens ,tasted black tea, but wanted our taste of tea with milk of course. It was like a hill station climate throughout and therefore never felt tiring. On our way we saw plenty of avocado trees, a beautiful waterfall of two tires. To reach the waterfall we had to go down at least 500 uneven steps. But it was worth it.
We reached Nuwara Eliya by the evening, and visited Victoria Botanical garden. Nuwara Eliya is known as Little England with English climate, colonial type of houses, even British times post office, bungalows are still maintained with care, beauty. Night stay at Oak Ray Summer Hills was a beautiful stay with different ambience. Situated on a steep hillock, there are cluster of rooms at different levels, adjacent to each other. We chose the higher ones which has beautiful view of terrace farms, though tough to climb stairs. But I always like to feel the beauty of a place, so I liked them.
Day -5 Excursion to Ella, via Sita Amman temple.
Sita Amman temple is around 4 to 5 Kms from Nuwara Eliya. This is the place where Hanuman met Sita, as believed. Kambar in Tamil wrote” Kanden,Seethaiyai”. Around a thick forest a Single tree stands alone , & a beautiful waterfalls set as a picture perfect backdrop. The temple must have been built later, in Tamil Nadu style . Behind the temple at the picturesque backdrop, statues of Sita, Hanuman are kept by Sri. Sri. Ravishankar recently. There are 3 small ponds near the waterfall, said to be used by Sita to take bath.
After visiting this we proceeded to Ella, 65 Kms from Nuwaraeliya .Ella is beautiful picnic spot in the mountains, a beautiful Ella falls with loud sound of water attract everyone passing by. Once we reach the falls which is a little tough terrain, it is so nice to keep your feet in full flowing water and sit there forgetting time, people…in Ella Falls, it is believed that king Ravana’s fort was once behind the rocks..
After spending half a day there we came back to Nuwara Eliya. On our way we stopped in a restaurant for tea, our chauffeur took us to a small shop full of sculptures, wooden souvenirs. We came to know that the man sitting and working is born without legs. How creative his hands are, when God has not given legs, his hands speak a lot. Bought few souvenirs & came back to hotel. By this time we were tired of lakes & gardens. So avoided a boat ride and decided to walk on the street to window shop.
Day-6: With sweet memories of Nuwara Eliya, started a long journey to Colombo. Enroute during lunch time stopped in a place called Pinnavale, again forest, river . This place is famous for elephant orphanage. One can see elephants in camps, they are taken for a bath around noon time. It was cute sight , the families taking bath together, mammas scrubbing kids’ back!!!. Lovely sight on the river. After a long bath, with police protection, they walk back to their camps. It was great sight and appreciate how the govt. helps in protecting them. Overall Srilanka itself is well organised country, good roads, well maintained, clean, people follow rules, respect tourism a lot. Though with lots of insurgency before, now they are really more disciplined than India.
We reached Colombo by evening, spent time visiting a famous monastery, Buddhas in gems, seemed to be a rich monastery. Visited the Independence square, which more or less looked like India gate of Delhi, but very large in size. Though there are traffic jams in evenings, people stay patiently following lanes, was a great sight for we Bangalore people!!. Reached Hotel Ocean. Excellent hotel, all rooms facing Indian Ocean,on the Marine drive. A rare sight, railway line along the coast, road by side, without even a barricade. Harbour was very near, so sighted few anchored ships . It was beautiful sight at night.
Our day 7 was just some shopping & a small gems museum. Reached airport by noon. Had a great a South Indian lunch at market place reasonably priced. With lots of inhibitions we started, but with lots & lots of love & pleasant memories, we left the country.
Overall a small Asian country with disciplined people , abundant natural resources, they have a promising future for a fully developed nation.
Attaching few photos taken during our trip.