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Trip March 2015  
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Our Trip to Sri Lanka

Day 1 : Thanthirimale

Here are some photos of our first day highlights. This temple site dates back to 3rd century BC, when King Ashoka of India- who converted to Buddhism sent his daughter with a sapling from the Bodi tree,  where Buddha reached enlightenment, to the king of Sri Lanka or Singhala at the time. Part of that tree sapling was planted in Thanthirimale. To commemorate the visit, a temple and Buddha was carved out of Rock, the site later became a monastery.

The bodhi tree

Rock Carving

It was used until about 9-10th century until Polonowera another site we visited became the next capital. It was covered by jungle and only uncovered about 100 years ago. Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it was well preserved.

Another Buddha carving at the site. It is so green and beautiful. Less chaotic than India, reminding us more of Thailand.

Inside a temple where the walls are adorned with stories of the Buddha, called jatakas. We remember hearing these stories when we were in some 11-13th Century temples in Bagan, Myanmar!



Day 1 Anuradhapura

An important site for Buddists of Sri Lanka (70% of population) and the rest of Asia. It is also the second largest town in Sri Lanka after Colombo and located about 250 km north-east of the Colombo International Airport.

This is the actual sapling of the original tree, it is heavily guarded, venerated and a site of pilgrimage for Buddhists. You can see on the left the gold supports for some branches. This is the oldest documented living tree in the world (3rd century BC)! Lynne studied it when living in Singapore and so grateful to get the chance to finally be there!

Remains of the monastery and first Buddhist University...with stray dogs, as plentiful as in Thailand.

Lynne was in the kitchen with Sunil the guest house owner and helped cook dinner: chicken curry, lady fingers, kankong , potatoes... All start with the same ingredients: lots of chopped garlic, mustard seeds, onions and chili flakes, saw tooth leaf and curry leaf! It was delicious!!!

Our room ($45 B/B), clean and simple

in Anuradhapura. Lynne picked it, Atle was not too impressed... It was picked because it was rated as best internet in Sri Lanka and good food, I can honestly say it was!

Day 2: Polonnaruwa
Day two had us drive to Polonnaruwa where the remains of a medieval Sri Lanka were in slightly better shape, mind you they were from the 11-13th Century so more than 1000 year newer. We passed by rice fields -as you can see the rice is ready for harvest.

Rice Paddies

This was a 7 story Royal Palace where now only 2.5 stories of foundation remain. The rest was made of wood.

Stone pillars which look like lotus stems bent over three times... Art Nouveau in medieval times!.

The Vatadage-circular relic housewhere Buddha's tooth relic could have been enshrined

Taking a coconut water break with small guide and driver.

Last Rock Buddhas at Polonnawera- the Val Gal Vihara. These were carved out of a huge granite outcrop -lovely!

Day 2: Sigarya

Our next task was to climb Sigirya- this rock butte made of gneiss rock. In the year 437 It was converted into a palace fortification- The old king had a son with a non-royal girl and this son became the new king of Sri Lanka and sent off his brother to India so he would not take over his kingdom. After some time the king got worried about his brother returning (and indeed he did) building his palace on top of the rock which must have been impossible to invade as it is a slick shear rock-face all around.

Sigirya rock seen from the underlying royal gardens.

Fresco Paitings from a cave about half way up the 1200 steps to the top: the Sigirya damsels

Approximatly 2/3rd way up this gateway leads to the last set of stairs leading to the top. Local school children, dresed in white, climbed with us.

Swimming pool and terrace gardens from top of the rock and the jungle in the back-ground. Notice the girl doing yoga, it isn't Lynne.

Day 3 Dambulla

There are just too many photos to show you, we started our morning driving to Dambulla and seeing the cave temples. There are 5 caves with frescos and statues ranging from about 89 BC to 1782 AD, the paintings are in various shapes, the newer caves are freshly painted whenever needed.

This cave was the largest and most spectacular with a more Mahayana Buddhism paintings ( incorporates gods from the Hindu pantheon)- also the type of Buddhism practiced in China with their other deities.

On our way to Matale we stopped at an Ayurvedic garden and saw spice trees and learned about their different uses. We bought an entire supply of new spices as the Sri Lankan spices are more flavorful than Indian... And the black pepper corns are completely different and spicy! Atle bought some tonic ( Made of various herbs/ spices and wild bee honey, all natural) to drink to speed up his metabolism in order to loose weight...hmmmm- wait for next month to see progress or not.

Making curry powder with fennel, coriander, cumin, cardamon seeds, clove, cinnamon stick and curry leaf. Can't wait to cook at home!

After we traveled to Avihara to see the centre where in 80 BC the Theravada Buddhist scriptures were put in writing- it was exciting to see the ola leaf manuscripts! These are 150 years old. Theravada Buddhism is the word of Buddha- for 5 centuries his sutras, behavior and philosophy was memorized and passed on orally. The original manuscripts which had survived almost 2000years were burned by the British in 1848 and these new ones were written by monks from all over Asia over a period of many years.

We then hiked up to the outcrop where a huge new Gold Buddha is seated. Once we arrived to the top which took us more than 1 hour uphill in the heat and humidity, winding up and up we followed the Sri Lankan couple and sat on a plastic mat on the ground in the small temple (at the base of the gold Buddha) and were chanted a sutra. The priest gave us his blessing by putting red powder on our foreheads. We then traveled a few Kilometers to Matale and saw a colourful Hindu temple.

We had ash on our foreheads from the Buddhist ceremony, standing in front of a Hindu temple with our Catholic driver!


We continued our ascent to Kandy. Sunita, Bianca's babysitter in Abu Dhabi, is from Kandy. The view and scenery... Oh my gosh, I am not sure why we did not come earlier...

Rice terraces on the way to Kandy

In Kandy we visited the Temple of the Tooth. Buddha's tooth is venerated and safe guarded here after much travel... Only dignitaries can see it but I can tell you the spiritual vibes of the entire complex were so inspiring....

Day 4 - Highlands
We drive from Kandy to Ella passing through Nuwera Eliya (Little England). We started at 500 meters above sea level to get to 2000 meters before descending to 1200 metres. The mountains are lush, green, gorgeous,and it is hard to capture their beauty.

Lush Green landscape and the beginning of the tea-plantations.

The factories are still using these 100 year old machines. The Blue Field factory air dries the leaves in troughs for 12 hours, they are 50% dry at this stage before fermenting, further drying then cutting. Green tea dries for only a few hours to 20% drying with no fermentation.

We drove on to Ella which is the hiking town popular with tourists. Mountains range from about 1200m and up to 2300m. Spectacular views all over.!

This was the panoramic view from the terrace outside the hotel-room.

98Acres resort with its 12 rooms. There are 2 in each hut with the restaurant and pool on top of the hill at about 1200m elevation.


At night we sat on our lovely terrace and enjoyed the Milky Way and stars above, even the Internationsl Space Station was shining bright. And in the morning we woke up to watch the sun rise from our balcony and enjoyed breakfast from there too!

Good Morning Sri Lanka

The 9 arch bridge was built 150 years ago by the British. We were lucky to see one of the seven trains that pass over the bridge daily.

About 1.5 hour drive from Ella we came back to the lowlands and another archelogical site near Wellawaya where there are the above rock carvings. Total of 7 figures with the central Budda being 17 m tall and now the tallest rock-carvng in the world following the disrespectful destruction of the statues in Afganistan by the Talibans a few years ago. This place is still not on UNESCO's world heritage list which is surprising.

Day 6 Last day. Heading back to Colombo

Our last day started early after watching the sunrise from our balcony at a "chilly" 17 deg C. We had a long drive ahead to Colombo but had to make one stop on top of the mountain to see the Dambatenne Tea Factory and the top of hill called "Lipton Seat" at 2000m elevation. Luckily we could drive all the way up although the road was highly questionable at times.
The tea factory was established by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1880. The hills are gorgeous, we'll manicured and lush.

Panoramic picture from top of Lipton Seat.

The tea-plukkers for this area were brought from South India by the British, the Tamils. They were provided with basic housing and according to our driver also some food. They have schools, Hindu temples and small product shops in the villages fitted in the hills. The pluckers work 8 hours a day in staggered times for 3 pickings a day. They are required to pluck 18 kg of green leaf ( new growth) per day. Their salary is US$3.5 per day. If they work 18 days in a row they get a bonus of $23.00 which actually gives them $5.00 per day salary. If they pick more they get an extra $0.15 per kg. Our driver said there's no way out for this group. Schooling for the kids is not the best with the teachers not even speaking English. They have no means to leave and this cycle will only continue for more generations. This is really modern day slavery which is not seen in too many places any more. The leaf pluckers at the first estate we went to in a different district make approximatly $7.5 per day.

Half way to Colombo we saw these gem mines in the rice fields. The traffic started to slow us down with three wheel motorized tuk- tuks, motorbikes but fewer dogs. Approximatly 25 meters deep shafts dug looking for Opal, Saphire and other gems.

And finally we see the ocean. We were looking forward to a nice swim in the Indian Ocean, but it was way too rough and although it looks like a nice beach on the above picture it was actually cliffs with waves hitting hard. But we did get a nice walk on the beach. Water must have been 28 degrees or more. Would have been nice with a swim....

Wave hitting the cliffs on the "beach"

We had a sunset beacg walk then dinner listening to the waves slap against the shore.  

It was a lovely week and I would love to see more of this paradise island.