01.18.2008 - 02.03.2008 104 °F
If I were to describe Sri Lanka in one word, I would say "simple." Everything about it is just that, from the people to the lifestyles. With that being said, it was easy to change my 2-week trip here to 3-weeks, and now 4-weeks (that, and it took less than 5 minutes by phone and NO extra charges to change. So why not?). So here I am enjoying the simple life before my return to Delhi, India (talk about a change of pace that will be!) and then Chicago next week.
Last I left off, I was in Tangalle REALLY enjoying the simple life. Here, life consists of afternoon cricket games,
The man on a bike with small treats (which, by the way, is the view from the guesthouse/restaurant. Nice huh?),
and of course, what makes it the most special, the company!
Great friend who spends months here at a time and has made Tangalle his "1st 2nd home." He came here pre-tsunami and came back afterwards to altruistically and generously sponsor a local family to help rebuild their guesthouse and also helps another guesthouse. The world needs more people like him!
Local friends who are super nice.
One night we somehow randomly started a party and ended the night all drunk off rum and cokes. Fun!
Great fresh fish dinner with good company!
And for those of you who are sick of my sunset pictures, sorry! I'm on the beach and that is usually a highlight. This one in particular was especially spectacular. Check out the amazing colors:
It would have been easy to stay here forever, but I felt it was time to move on and next settled in Unawatuna, a beach town which unfortunately was hit pretty bad by the tsunami and the "beach" was literally about 2 feet wide. It was still pretty though...
especially having dinner practically in the water.
And once again, met these super nice Russians and we had great conversations about travel and the motherland!
Fortunately for travel, Galle happens to be a hop and a skip away from Unawatuna. Everyone talks about Galle being this big "literary capital" full of snooty people talking about all sorts of literature, but aside from that, it is really a time capsule to the Dutch colonial area, dating all the way back to the 1600's. Its not just a fort, it also has churches, mosques, temples, and even a community inside it. Although the fort itself withstood the tsunami, a lot of things were destroyed within it. However, restoration is slowly but surely getting done, and walking around the walls of the fort is really lovely with some great views...
How badly I wanted to jump in the water while sizzling in 100+ degrees!
Dutch Reformed Church
Next stop was Hikkaduwa, what is known as "surfer's paradise" and is a fun beach town with plenty of water sports. It is more lively then some other low-key places, which is a nice change of pace. And once again, beautiful views:
One day I was walking on the beach to go do a shipwreck scuba dive, which was REALLY cool, by the way, and came across this big o' turtle in the wild! It was soo cool! Someone was feeding it, and it was just soo cool being so close to it and petting it and feeding it! It was so cute!
A Canadian I met called me crazy, but being that I had an extra week to spare, I thought I would do at least something of the cultural triangle that Sri Lanka is known for. So I spent a day to travel to see Sigiriya and Dambulla, and then a day to get back. It was well worth it though!
Sigiriya, also known as either "Remembrance Rock" or "Lion's Rock," is this impressive rock that was formed by an extinct volcano and has numerous natural cave shelters and rock overhangs. A popular myth, which I understand many people still believe, is that it became a residence, both royal and military, of King Kassapa in the 5th century after he overthrew and murdered his father to come to power (hmph). But what the facts say is that it wasn't a fortress or palace, but a Buddhist monastary that was built way before King Kassapa came into the picture. Sounds like this King Kassapa has a little power problem. Anyway, it was abandoned after that 14th century and was discovered in the late 1800's. I'm glad it was because it is truely amazing! From the water gardens to the boulder gardens to the summit terraced gardens, everywhere you look, there is something amazing:
Here the entrance is beautiful and symmetrical water gardens and the view of the rock, which of course I climbed!
The boulder gardens that jut out to form other walls and columns, like the audience hall:
Sigiriya is most famous for these images of frescoes, or these images of woman figures that are well-preserved. Whatever theory you believe, the myth or the modern theory, the myth is that the women are King Kassapa's concubines or celestial nymphs. The modern theory is that the women represent aspects of Tara Devi, a divine being who helps the human reach enlightenment. Either way, it is amazingly intact with beautiful colors and design:
Just when you think you've seen it all, you come across the lion's paws, 5th century. THe lion symbolism is believed to be a reminder to devotees that Buddha was Sakya Simha, or Lion of the Sakya Clan, which means that the truths he spoke of were as powerful as the sound of a lion's roar. The staircase leads to the summit of the rock.
Me on the summit. The summit is about 1.6 hecters and is said to be a place of residence. There is even a pool (that would have been nice, huh? Too bad its all gross and murky). There are some spots that is thought to be for meditation, a throne, and ruins of dagoda's.
View from top. I don't know if you can see it, but at the top of the photo there is this gigantic buddha statue, I swear, it towers in the sky!
After Sigiriya, and really, what can top that? I went to Dambulla, known for its cave temples. The entrance is this giant golden buddha,
and from there a small hike on top of a hill to the cave temples. Yes, another climb in the blazing sun and soaring heat:
The caves' history of worship dates all the way back to the 1st century when there was yet another incidence of a king overthrowing another king, and this king took refuge in these caves and then built these amazing rock temples. There are 5 caves, and the 1st one, the temple of the King, has the impressive 15m reclining buddha:
Then the others have everything from wooden statues to of course buddhas statues, and more!
Looks peaceful, huh? Hmmm... would have been nice to take a little siesta!
So, like I said, I saw .2 of the Cultural Triangle, but I have to save something for the next time I come, right?
After a long journey back to the beach, I did a stop-over in Hikkaduwa again to watch some more surfer's action, and then headed to Mirissa, a beautiful, peaceful, and quiet beach with clear waters and nice relaxed atmosphere. I decided since my trip is coming to an end soon, might as well upgrade a little to a whopping $20USD for my own private bungalow,
A nice pool,
and dinner and breakfest included. Nice!
And now I made it back to Tangalle to fully detox and rest for a few days before I make my loooong journey back home! This has been my life,
Talk about fresh cocunut from a tree!
This is the life!
Stay tuned for my highlights and best/worsts of my almost 6-month journey! Woo hoo!!