Expedition to Sri Lanka 2008
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Expedition to Sri Lanka 2008
My trip: Katunayake-Colombo-Kelaniya-Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia-Kandy-Peradeniya-Nuwara Eliya-Horton Plains National Park and World Ends-Bandarawela-Kubalwela-Ella-Badulla-Dunhinda-Hatton-Delhouse Waterfall Pada) -Maskeliya-Dambulla-Sigiriya-Inamaluwa-Polonnaruwa-Anuradhapura-Trincomalee-Uppuveli-Nilaveli-Puttovil-Arugam-Matara-Mirissa-Televijaya-Unawatuna-Galle-Hikkaduwa-Bentota-Aluthgama-Kosgoda-Negombo-Katunayake.
Colombo and around
Road to Colombo
After nearly fifteen hours of flight with a two-hour transfer in Kuwait, I reached Katunayake Airport-30km from Colombo. Just after leaving the plane, the guy in the toilet threw a piece of paper and reached out for a few rupees. I thought this would be the place where I start my new Sri Lankan adventure. Then I got a free stamp entitling me to a 30-day stay in this country and went outside. The first thing that struck me was a beautiful exotic and tropical warm climate. There were high coconut palms and banana trees around and it was not as hot as it was in Dubai a few months earlier. This was a pleasant warmth.
Right after leaving the airport I was met by people offering expensive hotels and expensive taxis to Colombo, but as usual I chose a cheap option. I got to the free shuttle bus to get to Katunayake town about 10 minutes from where I had to take another bus to Colombo. The views were a little disturbing to me because apart from the palm trees the country looked like it was prepared for war. There were a lot of armed troops and their barracks covered with sheet metal and sandbags on all sides. Some of the streets were blocked and cars were stopped for inspection. Even at the children’s playground there was a guard tower with an armed soldier in the middle, and the army was walking along the square.
After a few minutes I reached the village of Katunayake, and at that moment I remembered an earlier trip to the Subcontinent. At the train station or rather at a cluster of old lumber called buses when they saw a white man they did not know how much to think up prices for a ride to Colombo. They wanted 200 rupees but learned that the ticket cost only 80. When I agreed the price they wanted 80 rupees for me and 80 for my backpack but I did not pay. I have been in many developing countries but I never knew people who would be so hungry for money. The road to Colombo was pleasant.On the way I saw many coconut palms and coconuts selling 20 rupees of art, many banana trees, river and poor people – often walking barefoot.
Although Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, on the way I also saw many Hindu temples and Catholic churches. Only 30km was over for an hour as the Sri Lankan transport was so bad and the bus stopped every time someone wanted to get in. Sometimes the bus only slowed down and people jumped in. I remember that the key ticket was the ticket salesman who was standing in front of the door and shouting people in, yelling “Colombo.” Finally after more than an hour’s drive I got to Colombo where I paid my 80 rupees and got off at Fort. I was happy because it was just this “beautiful different” world I am looking for in my expeditions.
When I left the bus I took my backpack and walked towards the hostel. I walked through the busy station, nearby bazaar and many coconut traders – 100 ways to use coconut On the way I passed a few beggars and I sat down for a moment at the juice seller. As usual, he wanted to count double but I figured out what the real prices are. I tried the fruit juice that I drank for the first time in my life. Translating from English it was a wooden apple and the fruit of Jack. I immediately understood why the apple was wooden. The shell was so hard that it had to be splashed with a hammer and in the middle there was a delicate fruit that I did not like because it was too sour. The juice was very good. As for Jack’s fruit, it was a large, green and spiked tuber that I had seen earlier growing on tree trunks. In the middle of it was to throw away but the yellow parts in the pits area were good.
The juice itself was delicious too. After a moment I went to the hostel and through the colonial building belonging to the police today, a line of rickshaw drivers and of course many military barricades I got to the YMCA, the cheapest hotel in Colombo. There for 440 rupees I had a room for myself which was very poor. I had a sprawling wooden bunk, a sink and luckily a windmill under the ceiling, which turned out to be salutary in this climate. The bathroom was out and although everything worked well, it was in a terrible condition. The water was cold and cold and the walls devoured the mushroom. The kible itself was nothing. But before I started to explore, I had to sleep a few hours after a long flight and the city was only about four in the afternoon. On the way out, I had an interesting meeting with the police chief who was asking me where I was from, why I came to Sri Lanka and how much I was going to stay. He was nice but the conversation looked a bit like an audition. From what I learned, the police come to the hostel regularly and ask the visitors for the purpose of their visit and searches the luggage. However, foreign guests are treated very gently. It is clear that this country is set up in combat readiness.
Even here in the Fort area there were many bombings organized by the Tamil Tigers. Having missed some beggars sleeping on the street under the hostel and drinking coconut from a garbage-out shop I went to explore the Fort area. This district of the name may suggest that it is a beautiful, magnificent fort from several centuries as it is in India. But there is no such colombo in the fort, and the district itself carries only such a proud name. Fort in Colombo is a small area surrounded by the ocean where there are a couple of modern World Trade Center buildings and several colonial homes such as Cargills, which is now converted into a shop.
There is also the great Intercontinental Hotel and as always the clock tower in Sri Lanka, which is a visible memorial to the British colonialism. Lack of traffic allows for quite a quick transition of the entire area but unfortunately I could not get wherever I wanted because most of this area was protected by the military. I had to walk only the designated streets because there were barricades and military posts surrounded by sandbags. I was admitted to some areas after checking the documents and answering a few questions but there was nothing interesting. Many buildings have not been rebuilt after the last bomb explosions, and those that were in their own hands were in terrible shape. I wanted to get to the ocean this evening, but unfortunately the military forbid me, because on both sides it was an area of increased combat readiness.From what I’ve seen, the army and the police have always been very nice and trouble for me. They stopped and searched only local people with an emphasis on Tamil because it was the violence of the national minority.
That evening, in addition to the overall impression of the Fort, I was able to see the Buddhist temple of Sambothi Chaitiya with her large white dagoba. At the entrance stood a large, golden statue of the sitting and meditating Buddha and next to it was a white dagoba with small buddha sculptures in the windows. The area was also pretty vegetation and the whole facility was new to me in this country, although many similar places I have seen in other parts of Asia. When it started to dim I went back to my beautiful hostel where on the way I made some photos of the poor and then talked to a funny manager. I noticed that Sri Lankan also has a habit of shaking his head, which means “yes”, “no” or “I do not know what you mean” and it is a gesture that is very misleading. It was the same in India and Nepal, but since then I’ve had the time to clean up. Late at night I went for a walk near Fort Railway Station. On the way I passed several beggars and homeless dogs, a few barbed wire and a barricade of roads to get some nice smiles from the army armed to the teeth to get close to the station. Until late night the place was full of life. You can eat roti, dal and paratha in one of the many obituary pubs where the waiter throws food with dirty paws on the table. I was tempted because I was hungry and as the only one I ate with a fork because all the rest of the rice curry and buryani were eating with their hands. Coconuts, sweets and fruits were also nearby, where the bananas hung on the branches and the apples were tied behind the laces to the ceiling. Before the station itself, unfortunately, many beggars slept in tragic conditions.
Then the same way I returned to the YMCA hostel where I took a shower in a tragic bathroom and fell asleep on my bunk after turning on the windmill. The next day I got up at six in the morning to get to see everything. I left the hotel and first had a drink from the coconut and after passing the army, the beggars and the banana salesmen headed for Fort Station. On the way I noticed the great propaganda posters of the Sri Lankan President Rajapakse.In every photo he gave his hand to the presidents of other countries, though his photos are full of Sri Lankan and always look whiter than the rest of the Lankans. The second important thing I noticed was the name Ceylon in many parts of the city. Although the official name of the country was changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka in 1972, the old name is still alive. For example, some bars are called Ceylon, Ceylonta is tea, and Ceylon Tea is always written on all others. One of the largest banks in Sri Lanka is the Bank of Ceylon. I also saw the Ceylon insurance company and the colonial hotel. That day my first goal was to see the famous Pettah district.
Fort Pettah is one of the oldest districts in Colombo and the most ethnically diverse in Sri Lanka. Pettah is a great bazaar where you can buy everything from coconuts of course, to vegetables and fruits and all the rest. If the crowd and resistance to the encirclement will allow you to reach here many interesting religious buildings, which for me were notable and have an interesting mood. How easy it is to think Pettah is also the home of many poor people and merchants who look like mischief but without doubt this is a very interesting place. My walk with Pettah started with Budhi Raje Mawate Buddhist Temple. It was a small but very interesting temple. Inside was a tree and many chapels with Buddha and praying people. There were also many interesting paintings on the walls depicting the Buddha and the mood of the temple itself made a nice impression.
Then I started walking down the main street full of mud and loud buses. People have pulled great fruit carts that were a lot heavier than they and they often did it on barefoot. Among the noise, dirt and chapel with Buddha were sold fruits and vegetables and I sat down near one coconut seller and watched the show in Pettah. I went to temples that were in the area but nobody could manage me or speak English and the streets were badly labeled. Finally, I hired a rickshaw drivers who took me to all the places I wanted to see, and by the way, it gave me a broader picture of Pettah. First I visited the Wolvendaal church of 1749, which is the most important Dutch building in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, it requires renovation like the vast majority of buildings in this country but its historic value is important.Besides, I was not able to see it from the inside because it was closed and I tried twice that day. The small church of St. Anna is worth mentioning. He is all white and in very good condition and as I was told he was built by the British but I do not know in which year and no one was able to answer this question.
Then the rider drove me to two mosquitos I wanted to see here. The first was the Great Mosque, which is the most important mosque center in Colombo. Personally, I think that for such an important moslem place it should be renovated because it is in a terrible condition. There is a large, in the middle there are several shallow pools as always and there is also a large hall for prayers but I expected more. Especially after seeing the magnificent, great mosques in Delhi and Lahore this definitely did not impress. Interesting in this place was the contact with people, for example my visit to a simple fried roti (pancake with different stuffing sharp or sweet) and people taking a shower in the street. It is clear that in Sri Lanka people are more relaxed in certain matters. Among the many mosques built in Pettah, a small but very interesting mosquito-lined mosque, painted by Jami-Ul Alfar in 1909, deserves special attention. This time I spent most of the time, first out from the outside I looked at his white red walls and then spent time with the Muslims inside. From the inside it was also necessary to renovate, but this was not important. I had a good time with people, the mosquito itself was very interesting and the rest of the people washed my face in the pool. On the way I drank coconut drinks, spent the time with the poor people who were here a lot and gave them a couple of rupees.
Then I saw the ever colorful Hindu temples (kovils), whose richness of ingenuity and color of sculpture I had the opportunity to admire while traveling in southern India. (I’m referring here primarily to the temple complex of Sri Meenakshi in Madurai). Being in Pettah I visited them many but the three most famous temples in Sea Street deserve the attention. This is New Kathiresan Kovil and Old Kathiresan Kovil devoted to the god of war Skanda. In the same street there is another shrine dedicated to Geneshy-god with elephant head, son Shiva. Just as before in southern India, as well as here in Sri Lanka, these temples consisted of tall, upwardly covered roofs with Hindu gods and sacred cows. To me, the most interesting was Ganesha-with the face of an elephant and Hanuman-with the face of a monkey. When I went to one of the temples, Indian music played in such a great way that it raised the pressure in the temple that this adventure took on a sharper image for me. On the way I visited other Hindu temples. This was an example of the Murgan Temple where before the entrance were sculptures showing the fight of people with lions. I also had the opportunity to enter one of the settlements where ordinary people lived.
Of course it was poor. The gate was quite impressive because it was in the style of the temple, but in the middle were poor-looking houses, food was carved with wooden carts and women bathed their children in a bowl of water under palm trees. At the end of the day, I wanted to visit the Dutch museum, but the Wolvendaal church was closed. Well, at least I saw a building from the outside, which had a great historical value. It was built in 1780 and has historically served as the Dutch city hall, orphanage, private home, police station, post office and hospital. Today, like most of the buildings, it definitely requires renovation. After another interesting conversation with the local people and after another coconut I got to the rickshaw and soon my trip was over. My ranger blew up near Fort Station where eating paratha and roti in a dirty pub planned further exploration of Colombo. Pettah was very interesting as it captures the realism of this country and I recommend it to anyone who is in Colombo. This is a very good experience.
Galle Face Green and Galle Road
To get to Galle Face Green I could go from the Fort area along the ocean however military blockade thwarted it. So I had to take the city train one stop and get off at the slave island station. As I could guess the trains and stations were far from luxurious but as the standards of the developing country were pretty good. (I think at this point about Varanasi in India, which may be a shock even for an experienced traveler).From there, after about 10 minutes, I reached the place on the way past the blockades and military posts surrounded by sandbags. I also passed a large and located in a beautiful garden full of palm trees, Hotel Samudra. I went to his place because the garden was really nice. Palms and waterfall were a quiet part of town compared to the busy Pettah.
Across the street and just before my destination was the famous Sri Lankan Galle Face Hotel and before him stood a row of rickshaws and a fruit stand. I asked the racers for a photo on the background of their vehicles and palms and then with wrapped mango I went to Galle Face Green. The place is a very quiet walking area where on one side there is a well-kept lawn and several palm trees and another Indian ocean. This is a very popular place in Colombo among walking families, picnics, kite amateurs, fruit sellers and young couples who come here to cuddle. The only pity is that the police are bothering them by identifying anyone they encounter, but that is the country. It was a pleasure to spend time talking with people, walking the pedestrian street and pier and eating mango. Next to it was a well-known street called Galle Road called some of Colombo’s spine. I was only there for a while because I was not interested in a noisy street filled with shops where I could barely breathe and the buildings were very uninteresting. There are a couple of embassies and the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka but I donated to myself. Galle Face Green and ocean view were definitely worth more than another busy, polluted street.
With Galle Face Green I went back to the Slave Island Station again, passing the hotel Galle Face and Samudra. But I did not come because once again the police blocked the road because somebody important from the government and reportedly threatened by the Tamil Tigers is the largest. The police treated me very gently, asking me to wait five minutes. One policeman asked me all the standard questions, or where I am, whether I first came to Sri Lanka and how much, but also whether I have a wife and children and whether to give him some money from his country because he collects. Several times I have met this kind of “collectors”. Rupees do not like it, they want mostly euros and pounds and then dollars and the rest. One of the policemen showed me five Slovak crowns and asked how many dollars it was. He was happy when I told him that about 2.5. Then he asked me to take him to Poland or to England or anywhere in Europe and to get him a white woman because the Lankijki does not like him. After unlocking the road I said goodbye and was pleased because it was another fruitful experience of my trip.By the way, I would have to go crazy to fulfill his wish.
On the way to the Slave Island station I passed many palm trees, a turquoise river and the Buddhist temple of Sri Nigayabode with the monument of the great golden Buddha. Here I rested in the shade and wiping sweat from my brow, I drank another coconut for only 20 rupees. I was also the attraction of the day wherever I went because I had torn trousers on the front of both legs and people until they stood and pointed me. They were surprised that a white rich man like me (in their opinion) could not afford to wear trousers. Shortly after, I went on and around one of the many colonial buildings I reached the church of St. Rosary and then to the nearby, large Hindu temple of Sri Shiva Subramania Swami Kovil, located on Kew Road. Also here was a rising roof, tapering up with elaborate figures of saints of the Hindu religion. This was much higher than the temples in Pettah and also here at the main gate were sculptures of men fighting or rather controlling the lions. As I walked on the same street I came across the mosque of Akbar and although the mosk was definitely not the most impressive I had another informative meeting here. One Muslim was nice enough to offer me photos and advertise as a good photographer. It turned out that I met another “collector” of foreign currency, who asked me if I have a euro because it is his favorite.
It is true that no one collects foreign currency here. If I gave him a gift of 1 or 2 euro then such a “collector” would attract tourists from Europe and asked him to exchange for the rupiah because they are so euros need. Euro is currently around 130 rupees, many of which are not seen here quite often. I have had so many cases here, and naive tourists are picking up. My next destination was Lake Beira and two temples of Sema Malakaya located on the islands near each other. These temples were quite new and nicely located, and what I liked most about it was the statues of the Buddha around and the rest of the sculptures ie the larger Buddha and the relatively small, white dagoba. The temple was nice and interesting but it was more interesting to contact the caretaker. He was delectable and he took pictures of me whenever I wanted and even said that he knows where he will be the best because he is a photographer. He said he got a Nikon camera from one tourist and earned it, but lost it and now works in the temple. Of course, I did not believe in one word because I was getting used to Sri Lankans and I was waiting for him to offer me a temple subsidy. When he took a few photos of me and told me about his life story, he let me sit in his chair and then went to the topic I was waiting for. He said he wanted to donate to the temple (not for him of course) and foreign guests usually give 2,000 rupees. He pulled in a dirty, broken basket and his gaze was so hungry for money and so he lied, looking me straight in the eye that the meeting was more and more interesting.
The truthful conclusion is however that the entrance to all the temples is free and there is no obligation to pay so he just wanted to launder a lot of money and look for a naive one. I gave him 20 Rupees for coconut, thanked for the photos and left Sema Malakaya Temple. I barely left this place, but another scoundrel caught me. This was elegantly dressed and after asking standard questions he pulled out several forms with pictures of the children and asked for a subsidy for the school-that is, to himself. In a few paragraphs he wrote the same pen and the same character of the letter even up to 5000 rupees. He said that so many tourists from Europe, but I told him to look for naive elsewhere. Then he turned quickly on his heels and disappeared. When I was alone I stopped for a while and watched the trees that are in Sri Lanka are beautiful. In addition to many interesting species of palm trees are trees with very thick trunks but also braided with branches that grow into the ground creating a beautiful view and make it look like a tree was even bigger than it is in reality.
All of them lined up. I walked along the shore of Lake Beira and after crossing the bridge I reached another island, which is a quiet and pleasant meeting place of the Latvian families but now also tourists from Poland. As usual in Sri Lanka, there are many couples to celebrate in the long grass, and fortunately there are no police. After some time I left Lake Beira and went to the nearby Buddhist temple Gangaramaya. This temple was large and I loved it. In the main part there were many statues of Buddha and other figures painted in very colorful colors, and in addition there were paintings on the walls with the same content. At the exit stood a large elephant eating leaves, which was definitely an ornament and next was a shallow pool with koi carp. In the same area there was also a library, a museum and a shop with paintings and sculptures. In the center of the square grew a large tree around which the stairs to the museum were built, and its thick boughs and lilies hung almost to the ground giving even better effect and mood to this place.
There was a large, white dagoba on the raised platform, and around it were posters of temples, thanks to which my memories woke me up. I remembered my trip to Burma because the posters depicted the Shwedagon Pagoda temples of Rangoon and Kyaitkiyo, or Temple on the golden rock. As usual in Sri Lanka I had my guide, who was taking pictures of me and also begged me for a couple of rupees, though I had only a big banknote and I didn’t have the money to give him 10 or 20 rupees for a favor that should be basically free. At the exit of one of the outer walls there were many interesting sculptures depicting not only Buddha but also a warrior and slim women with narrow waists and big breasts. The whole temple was the best I have ever seen in Sri Lanka. Both exteriors and interior were beautifully finished. Additional advantages were calm and elephant.
On the same day I went to the richest, most expensive and purest district of Colombo or Cinnamon Gardens. This name comes from the plantation of cinnamon trees, which grew in this area about 100 years ago. Today there are many embassies, galleries, rich and influential residences and several sports facilities.Actually, it is the name of the street where beautiful trees grow with lions and boughs to the ground although in this chapter I will place a few objects in the vicinity. I first went to the Viharamahadevi park, which was once called Victoria Park, but changed its name immediately after regaining independence (then by Ceylon).
This park was quite large and I was happy walking here among the palm trees and massive trees with lions but as I could foresee, I was soon attracted by the intrusive gardener, who necessarily wanted to earn.Everywhere he wanted to show me, show me everything and of course everything for free. At first I ignored him but he was pushy and when he asked what I was doing in England I said I was a gardener to make him nice but it made him even more excited to act. First, I went to the city office called a white house and I made some pictures at the statue of the great golden Buddha. On the way back, however, my gardener was waiting for me. First of all, he wanted to know my name, where I am from, how many children I have and whether I am married and how much I earn. It did not surprise me at all when he said that he also collects money and preferably if it were euros or pounds because he likes most of all. He showed me around the park and showed me some interesting plants. In addition to the palm trees, the mango and banana trees showed me a lemon tree, then broke the leaf and wanted me to try it. I actually felt the taste of lemon but it was no news to me as I was already in the lemon field in Bangladesh. He also showed me some beautiful flowers and he asked me every time how much a flower would cost in London. He could not be surprised when I said that for him such a common helicopter cost in England about 3 pounds, or even about 500 rupees.
Interesting was the cinnamon tree, especially since the gardener scraped off a piece of bark and gave me a try. When I said that I knew most of the plants in the park, the gardener led me to a tree on which the branches were hung with huge bats and then with their colleague hit the tree stalk to start flying. Everything for me to see how big they really are and I probably would then give them from 10 euros. After a short conversation they wanted me to stretch for 20 euros and said that this is their favorite currency and they are gathering. But when I wanted to be nice and gave them 50 rupees they were offended and said that the rupees did not want only the currency of my country or euros and pounds. In addition, I am a gardener so I should help him. I said no problem, I thanked and left.
As far as I know, Sri Lanka has no thievery, but everyone is a potential harlot and a crook. I was also surprised when the lurid caretaker from the Gangaramaya temple, a kilometer away, came to the park, because I had not had a few before, and I was supposed to give him 20 rupees. I thought that Sri Lanka was really a country of very poor people, very hungry for money. They do not show on postcards! After Victoria Park (the old name is easier for me) I went down the Cinnamon Gardens and stopped in front of the National Museum. It was a large, white building built in colonial times, set on a large green field and what does not always happen in Colombo was in very good condition. Unfortunately, before I got inside I had to have a talk about money. As in most Asian countries in Sri Lanka, the “white man price” is approved by the government. The Lankans pay only 20 rupees for the entrance of the museum while the tourists are 500. I paid for it and went inside. Inside I liked it very much because it was my first contact with the ancient cities to which I was following.
On the ground floor there was an exhibition of primitive people and sculptures made in the rocks, coming from different periods in the history of the island. There were, among other things, Buddha sculptures and religious reliefs from the early capitals of this ancient country, from Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. On the first floor there were tools from the space of history, clothes, dishes and to my surprise the doll from a country that is no longer-Czechoslovakia. There was an exhibition of wicker bags on rice several hundred years ago and various types of kitchen utensils made of coconut.The skeleton of the blue fin with hanging bells on the ceiling was also interesting. The whole area of the museum loved it but unfortunately it was a bit pricey. Then I went to see the Independence Monument, which was as easy to imagine was built in 1948 to commemorate the return of Independence (then) by Ceylon. The Monument of Independence consisted of a square on which the monument of the then prime minister of Ceylon was laid on the tower and surrounded by lions. The second part is a building that consists of a roof and many carved pillars and below is a well-kept park.
Also here I met a poor man who sold used stamps of Ceylon and Sri Lanka for only 100 rupees. My return to the Fort area was also very successful. As usual there was a police blockade and people were being reviewed. However, when I talked to the police they were so nice that they stopped the bus for me in the middle of the road, then got on and got a few rupees to get to the Fort. Impressions from the bus also have very pleasant. We have to admit that so far in Sri Lanka I have been treated with all the honors. They all turn to me “sir”, they are nice and the police are very helpful and smiling at my sight. The first impressions after arriving in Sri Lanka, ie the blockade with sandbags, the army and a lot of guns can be a cause for concern but there is no reason to worry. It was a very successful day during which many saw it.
When I saw what I wanted in Colombo I went to the village of Kelaniya, 7km to the east of the Fort. True, it is only 7km but in Sri Lanka it is 7km. I got there by city bus and after about 40 minutes, overcoming the traffic jams of dirty city I got to the place. I hoped it would be worth it. In Kelaniya there is the most important Buddhist center in the vicinity of Colombo and one of the most important in the island. There is a temple of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, which according to the beliefs of Buddha spoke 2000 years ago.Before the temple I was refreshing the coconut and then passing through the line of rickshaw drivers and sellers of lotus flowers, I began to climb the high stairs to soon understand that my drive here was not wasted. (According to legend, under the feet of Prince Sidharty – afterwards the Buddha, Lotus flowers rose every time he took a step).
At the entrance of the temple I had to take off my shoes, of course, and then I could go into the temple. There stood the rear wall of the main part of the building, beautifully decorated with reliefs, and to the right was a square covered with sand. In the middle of the square grew a huge tree with branches covered with flags for prayers. Around it was an ornamental wall with stairs leading to the statue of the golden Buddha, and around the wall were people praying and carrying gifts for the Buddha in the form of bananas, coconuts and lotus flowers. (In the middle of each Buddhist temple grows a tree because, according to legend, the Buddha attained nirvana status just meditating under the tree).
Near the people lit candles on specially prepared for this place and others sat with folded hands and prayed to the Buddha. I felt happy in this beautiful place surrounded by palm trees and would happily continue to visit. Well, I could witness such wonderful religious buildings and at the same time a paradise for a traveler of my kind or an ambitious psychologist for whom this place would definitely be a great research center. Moving further, I reached the front of the temple, whose entrance was set on pillars and was curiously decorated with elephant sculptures. In the middle, there were paintings of saints and people associated with Buddhist culture, but at this stage of my knowledge I can not precisely define their meaning. But all were beautiful and certainly worth seeing.
There was also a huge white dagoba which I had seen many times in Burma, and next to it stood a statue of a large standing Buddha. I have done many interesting pictures of objects and people who have always been willing to cooperate. Also a sculpture of the emaciated Buddha depicting him during the fast was also interesting. The entire temple was beautiful and despite the bus ride from Colombo I count it obligatory. There is also one sign in Buddhism that I often see in temples and sometimes in homes. This is a sign that at first glance looks like a Nazi swastika only that it is reversed. In Buddhist and Indian traditions, it means happiness and is often placed in homes to attract happiness. On the other hand the Nazi party adopted the swastika as its sign in Salzburg in the 1920s and as we know from history this kind of swastika has not brought happiness. I am referring to this sign in order to learn to distinguish the message of this symbol in different cultures. I will add that one of the first swastikas was painted about 10 thousand. years ago in a paleotolithic cave and this sign is found on the coins and ceramics of ancient China, India and Greece.
After all, I got into another nice bus to come back to Colombo accompanied by young monks. I noticed that monks are so respected in Sri Lanka so much that when even several-year-old boys with shaved heads and dressed in orange traditionally enter the bus, people in the blink of an eye are starting to give up their seats.
On the same day I took a city train to Dehiwala to visit the zoo. The road was nice because the railroads were very close to the shore, and so that 10km south of the Fort Station, I was watching the ocean, beaches and palm trees. When I left the station I walked about a kilometer, but then I took a bus that took me to the zoo gate. Here I had to get very upset because when my turn came to buy a ticket it turned out that the “white man” price for the entrance was 1000 rupees while the Lansians paid only 50. That is, the Sri Lankan zoo is only half cheaper than it is in London. This is another proof that the Latvian government is losing its tourists to the maximum which is normal here. In Sri Lanka there are two prices – local price and tourist price. I pay where I have to pay for entry, ie in places where I get tickets approved by the government, but for a few days in this country know what cost and I do not get fooled. In the end, after a good talk and then after a big fight, I paid 1000 rupees and everyone around me was tired.
I remembered when I unleashed a scare in front of the Lahore zoo in Pakistan and they were so tired that they let me in for free. In Sri Lanka, however, it is different than in Pakistan because here the government and people are so hungry for money that it does not fit in our heads. The standards of the developing country of the Dehiwala Zoo are awe-inspiring and they treat their animals very well, although one European country may boast of it. The first beautiful thing I saw at the entrance was the vegetation, especially the species of palm trees that are not in the streets. On the left side there was an aquarium, flamingos and a seal jumping over the water while the trainer was holding the fish. On the right side there were large cats, then ornamental and predatory birds, and my favorite reptiles. In this herpetarium I saw, among other things, a white lantern, some interesting vipers and gawlals, which I had the opportunity to admire more in the Daka zoo – in Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, his water was very small and he shared it with reddish turtles. Most of the whole herpetary liked the green anaconda, which I saw for the first time live. It was not as great as this species because it was about five meters long and was wide enough for a large dog. Still, it was still an impressive snake, though not as pretty as the one I kept in my bedroom at home. Very important animals here were elephants, which are reproduced here and are of various ages, from several years to several dozens. Many of them are here working on moving trees to build new farms, eating for other animals and for elephants but they are also used for demonstrations. The highlight of each day is the performance of about five in a specially built arena where the elephants walk by holding the trunk of the neighbor’s tail, passing in small steps, standing on the hind legs and foreheads and doing various poses in groups for several animals.
The monkeys, especially the orangutan male, stared at me with sadness because he was alone. The zoo was very interesting and beautiful, but unfortunately the humor spoils the insolence of the Sri Lankan government because of over-extraction of tourists. When I left the zoo I went to Dehiwala Village for a coconut and a handful of rice with vegetables and then to the station. Unfortunately I was told that there were no trains so I took the rickshaw and for only 400 rupees I got to the Fort area under the hotel itself. As usual, the police stopped us two times and the mechanic had to resign but when they saw the white man in the back seat they just smiled and let go. I also noticed that the head of the hotel probably liked me because he started joking with me and asked if my family lives in the zoo. Then he said that if I want it I do not have to pay 440 rupees for the room and I can go to the dormitory with 16 beds but for only 150 rupees. I agreed without hesitation because it was something in my style. Besides, I had a beautiful view of the houses ruined by the bombing. It was so moody …
After a few days of exploring Colombo I wanted to finally get in touch with the wonderful, warm Indian ocean. I got on the local train and after half an hour I was there. On the way I had nice views of the ocean and palms and armed troops and barricades. I also had an interesting conversation with one man about living in Sri Lanka. He told me that the average salary is about 15tys rupees although many in other parts of the country earn only 5tys and much of the society has no job at all and lives from what he grows. (As of today 1USD = 108LKR). From here there are so many banana sellers, mango and papaya though many open up small stands where they also make tea and fry eggs. In tourist places, many people make their own souvenirs, mostly from what they have plenty of coconut and shell. He said the pension is only for the police and the army, and the rest is as much as he earns and can not count on the government’s help though it is getting more expensive. He said that for example three years ago the bread cost 15 rupees and now it’s already 40 and everything is getting more expensive although living conditions and payouts are the same. I thanked him for this informative meeting and got off at my station.
To get there I went through a luxury hotel and finally saw a beautiful beach overgrown with coconut trees. There was also the World Trade Center in Colombo, which gave me the feeling that I was still close to my base. But I did experience more than just the beach. As soon as I touched the feet of the sand came to me a boy who wanted me to sell shells beads, and when I refused to offer marijuana, which sells here every ranger, the bead seller, though I heard that even the police. He followed me for a long time and did not give me any peace. He said he was poor, that there is no job because he is a fisherman and lately he does not go to the deep water because no one takes him. So it is on the beach and trying to sell to tourists what can only. He also wanted to show me a crocodile and a warrior for 200 rupees but I donated to him. He sat next to me for about half an hour and was tired of the story of his life but left when he understood that he would not get anything.
Then at last I plunged into warm waves and sailed. That was exactly what I came here for. The ocean was very warm and raised me on the surface and in the distance there were palm trees. It was beautiful. I also went for a walk on the beach where I saw fishermen who had just returned with their fishing and as usual did not go without pictures and many personal questions about me. I also went to the village where the fishermen lived in their homes destroyed by the tsunami.
Two of them wanted to stretch me as usual, and as usual they were looking for a naive one. One wanted to take me on a boat ride for 5tys rupees and the other pretended to be a pilot because he had a suit. This was the best because he introduced himself as a fighter pilot who visited his fishermen’s military plane and said he parked several palm trees on. After a while he gave me the business card of his insurance company and said that he and his colleague can do everything for me. The second began to speak to me in German because the cruise had so far taken Germans and this language was very well known, but when I said a few sentences my limited German, he again went to English. They were definitely looking naive but could not even lie well. Anyway it was nice because I was a bit amused and besides, I made good pictures of people on the background of the village destroyed before the tsunami. I thought I was in peace, but after a while came the beads traders. They gave me another tragic story and wanted to sell something but they preferred alms. Out of curiosity I went with them to their village and I was really sorry. Around them were demolished concrete buildings and they lived in a tent under palm trees in a few people. They said that when the tsunami struck four years ago and everything was destroyed, the Sri Lankan government promised to build a new house within six years, but after four years they still sleep in a tent. They have no job and no prospects and they ask for any money. They were really poor and desperate, so I gave them a few kilos of rice so they could feed their families for some time.
These kinds of stories and events are in Sri Lanka everyday and you have to get used to it. Then I was still swimming in the ocean, which was as usual great and I sat in an elegant, air-conditioned hotel to write postcards. I wanted to eat but the prices were crazy so I went to the town of Mt Lavinia where in a regular pub accompanied by average Lankers I ate fabulously cheap roti with different fillings and I drank Ceylon tea. It was very nice, realistically and cheaply as I like. On the way back to the station the rickshaws wanted to take me where I wanted for a huge money and the gift shoppers came out of my sight. But they did not know my cheap nature and the strong sense of savings. So I got on the train for only 10 rupees and went back to Colombo to Fort Station. Mt Lavinia for most tourists is just a small town with a beautiful beach and luxury hotel but I will always remember this place as the beach of poor people who were victims of the tsunami and above all the tragic place where they were born. Besides, it was lovely.
Road to Kandy
After seeing everything I was interested in in Colombo and its surroundings, I went to one of the main tourist centers, the town of Kandy. At Colombo Fort, I met the great and suspicious courtesy of one man who took me to my car, pointed the seat (as if I could not), helped with luggage, and even flushed dust from the seat. I asked how much she wanted for this overwhelming help but he said nothing. After a while he pulled out a notebook to show me how many foreigners they gave to schools and pictures of poor children and wanted 5000 rupees. I said I would not and politely left. It was a classic example of how it is in Sri Lanka. The road to Kandy passed me nice because on the way I had beautiful views of mountains and palm trees and banana trees. I also visited many stations where the armed troops were always stationed.After two hours and forty minutes I reached my destination.
Sri Lanka – the Hill Country
Kandy is a popular tourist destination on the island and as many believe it is the only one in Colombo city because there is even some traffic. Kandy is worth visiting mainly because of the Temple of Tooth and the pretty lake around which the most beautiful part of the city is concentrated. After getting out of the station I went through a chaotic, dirty bazaar and a busy street where the buses much older than I was hitting the city. I bought a few mango pieces for only 50 rupees to half give away to the poor and went through the center of Kandy where the trade flourished. Then I got to the lake where it was much cleaner and where the mango stalls were and walked around the shop. I spent a few minutes here to enjoy the scenery. While visiting the mango, I saw people feeding fish, beggars pulling their hands to the ground, and in the distance there was a famous temple of the tooth.
There were also a lot of crooks who wanted to find me a hotel for a double rate, and they were extremely pushy, and that’s why I had to be very rude for them so they could give me a break. In the end I got myself a YMBA hotel but it was the most expensive one ever. The head of the hotel was so disgusting that it cleared me up 690 rupees because it was a tourist price and for the Lankans it was only 460 rupees. Although it was uncomfortable I did not want to worry about less than two pounds and went out to explore the city. First I went along the lake to talk to a few sellers and look around. This lake was constructed in 1807 and houses a few islands.
One of them is a building that once served as the harem of one of the kings and was later used by the British to store weapons. After a while I got to Kandy’s biggest attraction and one of Sri Lanka’s biggest attractions, the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Tooth Temple). This temple is one of the most important places for Buddhists all over the country because of the holy tooth of Buddha. The story of the tooth itself is quite complicated because, as the legend says, it was taken while burning the body of Buddha. Then he was smuggled to Sri Lanka in the Princess’s hair so he could return to India again. In the 16th century the Portuguese burned him in the Indian state of Goa but as it turned out it was only a copy and the real tooth was intact. Personally, I think that the Buddha’s tooth displayed today is also a copy, and true (if any) is hidden and accessible only to the elite of Buddhist monks. Especially in times of civil war it would make sense, but these are only my guesses. Today’s Teal Temple was built at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, although after the bombing of the Tamil Tigers in 1998 the part was destroyed and reconstruction was taking place.
When I reached the temple gate I was thoroughly searched and then went towards the object. I had a wall of the same kind as the lake, and behind it stood a characteristic cream tower and the walls of the temple with many buildings, a place to light candles and a roofed bell. It was very interesting but I lost my humor after getting to the cash register. Here the entrance cost 500 rupees while for the Lankans it was only 50 rupees. But I gave 100 rupees to the cashier and let me in without a ticket. I left my shoes in the storage room, I was once again thoroughly searched and finally got into the temple. After walking through the main courtyard and taking a few photos, I went to a small museum where a stuffed elephant, a decorated elephant, and many nasty pictures of a dead elephant hung. This place is popular but for me it was the death chamber. Much more interesting and in a good mood was the square where candlesticks and a large bell under the roof used for religious ceremonies.From here, there was also a view of the other temples surrounded by palm trees outside the temple of the tooth.
At this point, when I did not finish the tour, I was able to take the last photo with my new Canon camera. I was a little broken because the most important thing that kept my memories broken. In London, they will pay me or give me a new camera, but it was important for me to take pictures now. I walked out of the temple and spent the next few hours in the company of mango dealers, desperate for every 40 rupees for portions. Watching the lake and feeding birds I thought about what to do next because here the cameras were twice as expensive than anywhere else in Europe.
The reason for this is that in developing countries there is a very high tax on electronics imports but anyway I had to remedy this. After a lot of headaches, after a complete loss of humor and seeing a lot of outdated but very expensive models, I paid £ 450 for the Nikon D40, which cost about £ 250 in London. Hardly, I had a camera on which I would unfortunately lose a little but when I sell it on my return and give it back. I forgot Canon, will not come out so bad. Besides, this model was the only one in Kandy that I liked (I think it was enough about photography). It was dark and on the street they were only beggars so after a cold shower I lay down to sleep, hoping that the new camera would lead me to the end of this trip. The next morning I returned to the Temple of the tooth, but I did not want to be robbed at the entrance, so I said I was here yesterday but broke my camera and now I just want to take pictures. The guards searched me again and let me in for free.
After a second walk in the courtyard and seeing what I had yesterday, I went to the main part of the temple where there was something like a Buddhist altar with a painting of Buddha and elephant blows in the center. When I asked someone for a photo, the guard warned me that I was offending Buddha with his back. To Buddha should be facing forward or possibly sideways. Inside was a part that was not covered and another part was a separate building in this large temple and had its own nicely finished roof. At the back was a museum, which was also very interesting. On the ground floor were many monuments of Buddha and one of the largest in the main part of the museum, and on the upper floors there were canvases, sculptures and household items from the time of the kandy kings who built this temple. Also a collection of photos showing the destruction after the bombing of 1998, which was organized by the Tamil Tigers, was also interesting. I saw pictures of sculptures and many other objects that today look perfect but only because they were either reconstructed or replaced with new ones. The monk who showed me the museum also showed me a famous Buddha’s tooth (or rather his copy) but it did not look like a human tooth, but rather a dog’s tooth.
The monk also let me in on the balcony from which was a beautiful view across Kandy. I saw a part of the temple of the tooth, many other Buddhist and Hindu temples (kovils), a lake and a white statue of the Buddha standing on the top of the highest mountain. From the temple of the tooth I went to the nearby temples – Natha Devale, Pattini Devale and Vishnu Devale. All of them lie near each other, surrounded by a tall wall and, unfortunately, a guard tower. There is a white stupa and holy trees, and in the middle there are Buddha’s paintings and many statues depicting him.
Natha Devale is the oldest since it dates back to the 14th century. I have noticed that in Sri Lanka many Buddhist temples have a chapel with Hindu gods; eg Ganesha (god of elephant) and in Kandy, where most of them are Buddhists, one of the temples was devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu. Vishnu is a Hindu god and a defender of Sri Lanka but my humble opinion is that on this island, the presence of Hindu gods in Buddhist temples is part of the political correctness of the Tamils, which is meant to alleviate the long-standing conflict. The entire temple complex is definitely worth seeing and the fact that Kandy is a small distance between them are not big. An interesting addition in the temples was the presence of elephants, which during the special ceremonies are dressed, painted and are an important part of religious parades.
I visited many other temples, including Catholic churches and mosques, but I also deserve my attention Kataragama Devale slightly away from the Temple of the tooth. This is a very colorful painting of a Skanda (god of war) with many pairs of hands and a dressage peacock. After leaving the temples I went to the city center where I was able to go to a meal at a Muslim restaurant. Here I was given rice on a banana leaf with vegetables seasoned in many ways. It was an interesting culinary experience. Then I went back to the lake to spend time with the mango and fanatics, and then started the second part of exploring Kandy.
I went to the National Museum but sadly “the price of a white man” was 500 rupees again, while for the locals it was 50 rupees. My requests did not help, so I went in the pretext of talking to the manager and although I was told where his room was, I walked the whole museum and to the manager I reached the end of course without paying for the ticket. I wanted to pay 50 rupees but they wanted to rob me because they did not earn anything. The museum itself used to be the home of royal concubines and today there are many interesting things from the period before the European. Among them were armor and maps, although a copy of the 1815 document on the transfer of Kandy Province to British administration was also interesting.Then I went to the archaeological museum and I had a look around for about 10 minutes and then I was asked for a ticket I did not have.
As before, I wanted to pay a fair price because I did not want to be robbed. Inside there were sculptures discovered in Kandy but the museum was not as interesting as the national one. On the way from one museum to another I met someone who showed me something very interesting. It was a 5 rupee bank note from 1945 and was issued by the Bank of Ceylon, with a photo of the British monarch. The banknote was for sale for a magic sum of 200,000 rupees but I managed to take a picture for free. On the same day I was in the British garrison cemetery where British soldiers lay. One of the gravestones I photographed was from 1909. The cemetery itself is not in the best condition and the long grass was eaten by the horse. In the evening, the last attraction of this city was the popular dance of Kandy.
The show organized by the hotel, which made me a further 500 rupees lighter, was very interesting.The dance was very spontaneous and the dancers and dancers were dressed up in colorful costumes and had many silver decorations. There were salts, overturned, gymnastic figures, all in the rhythm of loud drums. Finally there was a walk around the burning coals and overall it was fun and I loved it. This presentation was a great opportunity for the doorstep shoppers and that is why I bought a Sri Lankan cricket shirt for only 550 rupees although I wanted 1200. I was able to realize that Sri Lanka especially compared to neighboring India is unfortunately much more expensive. It was the end of my adventure in Kandy, a city that is definitely worth a visit. I especially recommend the Temple of the tooth, although the lake, other temples and traditional dance also make a lot of fun. I wish I had bad luck with the camera, but it is so. Kandy is definitely a good and mandatory experience in traveling around Sri Lanka.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
6km to Kandy in the direction of Colombo is the Peradeniya botanical garden, the oldest in the whole island. I hesitated to avoid this place because I was not particularly interested in the botanica but it was good that I went there because it was another interesting experience on this beautiful island. These gardens occupy 60 hectares and there are many interesting tree species that I have seen for the first time in my life, although I have traveled the world from Iceland across Europe and most of Asia. This was also a special price for tourists and it was another 500 rupees but I was able to convince the cashier that I was a student and bought a ticket for 300 rupees. Right at the entrance was a garden with spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and many more. Interesting was the alley of very high palm trees planted here in the 50’s and trees without bark with roots up to a few meters around the tree. There were those that consisted of only a tall trunk and no branches and had a small crown set very high.
In the garden of Peradeniya there were many bamboo and palm trees of different species. Some had the shape of an umbrella, others had long leaves growing in line parallel to the trunk, and others had trunks so that they looked like a bunch of palm trees twisted together. Each tree was beautiful and interesting in its own way. Also worth mentioning is a fig tree occupying 1600m 2 and looking like an umbrella under which you can hide in the sun. I was also in a place where a large colony of bats were hanging on the trees. It was amazing when they were flying over my head spreading their big wings. I thought I would spend an hour in the botanical park but it took me a few hours because it is a very interesting place where you can walk all day and do not get bored.From Peradeniya I returned to Kanda just as I got here. I took the local bus for 8 rupees although rickshaw drivers wanted 400.
Road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
The first half-hour drive was not exciting, especially since I had to get out of the always very dirty and chaotic Kandy train station. Nevertheless, it was interesting because the sellers of mangoes, candies, pineapples and other delicacies were popping into the bus every now and then. This time I took a small private bus, so it wasn’t shaking and we only covered the 80 km ride in three hours, which in Sri Lanka is even a good result. After about half an hour of driving, we started to climb higher and higher and the higher it was, the more beautiful it was. From Kandy to Nuwara Eliya we had to climb about 1400m above sea level. narrow and winding mountain roads. I watched palm trees, banana trees and mountains and valleys covered with tea bushes. It can be said that during the entire ride I had tea fields and other peculiarities of Sri Lankan nature on both sides.
We often came across monkeys and jackfruit trees, i.e. large green tubers hanging from tree trunks. There were also several tea factories and Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as bamboo and rubber trees that Sri Lanka is also famous for. The whole road made me happy, if only because of the tea fields, but it was not the first time for me. Before that, I had been to Darjeeling, India, and Srimangal, Bangladesh. Before reaching Nuwara Eliya, I also saw lakes and people riding horses. Here it was cooler than any other because I was at an altitude of 1889 m above sea level.
This small mountain town, located at 1889mn.pm, is a very interesting place of the mountainous land and in its expression it seems more English than today’s England. There are many well-groomed golf courses, rose gardens, Victorian park and horse racing track. In addition, the town is surrounded by tea fields and numerous factories. Just outside the city is the highest peak of Sri Lanka, Pidurutalagala (Mt Pedro, 2524m), and is also a good base for Horton Plains National Park and World`s End. As soon as I got off the bus on a nasty train station but surrounded by beautiful mountains and inhaled fresh mountain air I went to seek peace. On the way, of course, many of the connoisseurs who wanted me to make a room for 1000 rupees, but my perseverance and patience made me find a room in a nice cottage for only 500 rupees per night (about 3 pounds).
Although the townhouses say that everything is occupied and they are the only chance to find a room, there was no problem as the guest houses are full and most of them are next to each other on Haddon Hill Road. There was about one and a half hours left until sunset, so I went to the village and went to the Victorian botanical garden. In this beautiful, natural place I spent about an hour walking on the grass and enjoying the view of beautiful trees and flowers. Although it was nice and the whole garden was very well maintained, it was not as exotic as the Peradeniya botanical garden in Kandy. I was lucky because I met a group of young Lukers who always talked to the tourist and to cheer him up. When I asked the best way to get to the Horton Plains National Park and World`s End, they said that the drive there is complicated, long and quite expensive but they are going there tomorrow and can take me for free. I thanked him sincerely and agreed to the next day.
By the way, Victoria Park was a nice, green place where you could relax. Already after dark, going through the town and having golf courses on the left I met an increasingly interesting city. I went to the night bazaar, visited some mosques, church, saw the highest peak of Sri Lanka and went to various kinds of shops filled with rice and coconuts to reach the murder where they drank for the dead. Next to it was the restaurant where the conditions were very “traditional” for the country but the food turned out to be very good. The waiter washed the cutlery for me, put it in boiling water and served the rice with vegetables on a plate covered with a disposable foil. The dish was delicious and cost 140 rupees or about 80 pence. When I asked about the toilet I pointed it out and it was also a nice experience. I walked through a sort of shelter where in the darkest damp kitchen they cut the vegetables at one candle. The hedonized chickens lay on a dirty, clay table. I sensed a few meters away, but everyone was pacing in the corridor.
After an unforgettable visit to the back, I sat down again in the pub and drank some tea and then took a picture with a waiter who really needed a shower and a shave. Anyhow it was very cheerful and the food was delicious and so far I felt good. When I returned home, I sat in the guest room with my tea and watched television. They again showed the struggle of the north of the island between the government troops and the rebels, and the boss of the house told me some things about the hard life in his country and the constant lack of money.
That evening, for the first time in Sri Lanka, I had hot water, but only for about half a minute. The next morning I went to the gate of Victoria Park and waited for my friends. They were 20 minutes late but finally arrived and we were on our way to Horton Plains and World`s End. (Horton Plains and World`s End in the next chapter). After returning from the national park, I first rode a horse and then walked around the very non-touristic part of it and reached the local bazaar. Everything from coconuts and bananas through spices and meat to household items and tacky toys was sold here. I was most interested in the vegetable market. From the point of view of a traveler of my kind, it was an interesting experience for me, but I was glad that I was only an observer and not a part of the show.
I have eaten many exotic fruits here, such as jackfruit, mango, papaya and rambutans. I also bought a whole backpack of small bananas because it was at a great price and I gave most of it to the poor. In all the confusion and loud haggling of sellers over a pound or two, one man selling bananas asked me to take him to Poland and he would be my servant in return. It was sad but during my travels I got used to it. Once in Burma they wanted to give me a child for adoption because there was no future for him there. Leaving the house in Nuwara Eliya, I said goodbye to the polite hotel manager, who bowed very officially and called me “sir” and goodbye I gave his son a teddy bear. Nuwara Eliya was a nice mountain station and another interesting experience on the island.
Horton Plains National Park and World’s End
The Horton Plains National Park and World`s End are one of the most visited national parks in Sri Lanka because of its unique location. The park is located on a plateau lying at 2000m asl and is located about 20km south of Nuwara Eliya. This is where you can see the second and third highest turn of the island, and you can also admire the natural and terrain-specific nature of this part of the world.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter, I was taken by a group of young Lukers, and as the transport and road to Sri Lanka were in a terrible state, driving around 20km took us about two hours. Pursuing this beautiful island with a stunning speed of 10 km / h I had the opportunity to see many peculiarities of nature. We were climbing the winding and bumpy road all the time, and sometimes we had to get out of the car as well, otherwise he would not be able to handle it. It was a great opportunity to see rice terraces and tea fields covering entire mountains and valleys. There were also palm trees and banana trees, jackfruit trees that I climbed and monkeys that were part of this landscape. On my way, the Lans were singing and playing drums and then talking about customs in Sri Lanka and Europe. They said that their dream is to go to a European country but that is not possible because they have no money for it.
I asked what was the matter of marriage in Sri Lanka and they said that they might meet with a boyfriend or girlfriend as a friend and maybe they will sometimes kiss them but premarital sex does not even come into play. Although they are the partner they are, and so the parents have very often the final sentence. Then they wanted me to sing so I had to agree not to go out to people without a sense of humor. I sang “perfect day” and they played drums and even with my vocal skills did not come out so bad. Soon after, we reached the park but we had to climb and we reached the main gate waiting for a price shock. It was here that the Läkiyan government was trying to get rid of tourists. The Lankans paid 40 rupees and I 2800 or about 15-pound. At first I was very upset because people from the Indian subcontinent in England are many millions and often get benefits and free housing for the poor and I had to pay more. Interestingly, everyone was happy to see that I was paying more and the moment of giving money was an event for them.
I said that I see that since the times of the British Empire nothing has changed here, because white people are still worth a dozen times more. They were not laughing at that moment, but they kept cold blood. We finally crossed this magic gate and after parking my car, I went for a walk. My plan was to cover the loop of 9.5 km, which, as I predicted I would be able to cover in about 3 hours, although some of them take even 4 hours or longer. I also wanted to go with everyone I came here with, but they were slow and could not organize themselves. Luckily, one of them kept up with me and took pictures along the way.
Of course, everyone was thoroughly searched first, but no one moved me. I only have to pay for guided tours, but only for 1000 rupees to show me what a tree looks like. We quickly realized that this park consists mainly of flat land covered with tall grass where trees grow. Many of them seemed burnt although they were quite healthy. Perhaps that is why they looked so much because they had a dark bark and had sharp, sharp branches without leaves. The route was interesting because often the roads were uneven and rocky and sometimes the streams flowed through them. One of the roads was so profiled that it looked like a row of natural red stairs. From time to time we had to climb to the tops of the mountains and from there, of course, was a better view of the whole area. Each time we were surrounded by silence and curiosity, another world than I have seen before. It is worth mentioning here about three very characteristic places for this park. The end of the world and the end of the world (World`s End) is different only because the little is not so high and so it is not so spectacular.
The Wold’s End is located in one of the highest points of the plateau to be earned. After a few hours of walking, often in the heat and at high humidity and after passing flat grassy terrains, we suddenly reach the edge of the plateau, which is the end of the world. Here one of the most interesting geological formations of our planet is here because the plateau ends and before us there is only a sudden drop, ie a vertical wall of 880m. Unfortunately the beautiful view is often spoiled by the fog that floats here most of the day and so was this time. It is said that there is a “foggy forest” and my interest in geography makes me want to explain in a nutshell what that is. Now the foggy forest is formed when the hot air in the valley begins to rise and is already higher up in the mist when cooling in the highlands. To me it meant that I was standing at the end of the world and had only a white wall in front of me. Another place on my route was the small waterfall named Baker. This is a nice, relaxing place located in the jungle where you can listen to the sound of falling water accompanied by monkeys.But after the great waterfalls in Laos or even in Norway, Baker’s waterfall was not extraordinary.
Soon, over the empty grassy space we reached the parking lot. But I came back with someone else because my friends were going to Hatton. When I left the park, I saw a deer standing near the road and waiting for us to throw food on him. The return journey took me shorter than before because this time we drove down. Again I observed tea fields and rice terraces and by the way I talked with people in the car who had me free. These were young people who wanted to get out of Sri Lanka and asked me to write an invitation to England because going there was their biggest dream. It is interesting that wherever I go, England and the whole of Europe seem paradise and everyone thinks that once they get there we throw money in their face. No effect does not give a translation that money is not lying on the street, and that especially for them can be very hard.
They are misled by the fact that 1 pound or euro costs as much as 170 rupees, but no one is aware of the cost of living in Europe and the translation does not arrive. Anyway, it was nice because they gave me a lift to the house for free and on the way they invited me to a dairy where they bought me strawberry milk and yogurt. (Very good dairy products are sold all over Sri Lanka.) Horton Plains and World’s End National Park was an interesting and beautiful place to visit but unfortunately much too expensive and compared to other places of its kind in the world it was also a bit overrated.
Bandarawela is a small town that you must come across from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. For me it was just a place to hang out, but you can spend the day here, especially since it is warmer than in Nuwara Eliya and there is also a bank and a train station. This makes the town a good place to plan further travel, rest and financial affairs. As is usual in such places, the central point is the great bazaar, although it is also a pleasant temple and you can walk in the mountains.
Coming from Bandarawela, I had to get off at the Kubalwela junction as this bus was going to Badulla (about that later). The Kubalwel crossing is only 3km from Ella and although it does not seem interesting, for me it was another nice experience in this country. On the side of the road there are some dirty and primitive but charming cafes. I drank tea here and ate some veggie roti that rolled and fried for me. Sitting here and chatting with people I watched tea and banana fields. When it stopped raining I took my backpack and went 3km up the winding road, both sides having tea fields.
There were buses on the way and some people wanted to take me for free too, but I liked my lonely walk too. I walked slowly and stopped to take pictures among the tea bushes and when it was raining I hid under the banana trees. After a while I got to Ella, a very small settlement situated among the mountains and tea fields, waterfalls and several temples.
Ella is a small village in Sri Lanka, which has the biggest advantage of beautiful views. You can spend a few days walking through the mountains, among the trees and tea fields along the way passing waterfalls and temples. Unfortunately the town is typically a commercial and locals exaggerate with prices. There are a lot of expensive pubs and one luxury hotel and the internet is more expensive than in London. Fortunately, there are still places where you can spend a cheap night and eat at the local pub. As soon as I reached, after drinking the coconut content I went to seek peace. Many wanted to make me a fortune, but I found a room in a nice tourist resort located in the forest. For only 350 rupees per night I had a very large room with a double bed, a mosquito net and a private bathroom. That evening I went for a short walk but quickly got dark and spent most of the time with locals with tea, perhaps even ripped from the surrounding fields. I went to sleep fast and outside my cottage under palm trees insects “sang” all night.
The next day I got up in the morning to spend all day looking at Ella or her neighborhood, which is the most interesting. I went for a walk through rice paddies and stayed for a while when I saw one of the many beautiful places. I came across an old and dilapidated Hindu temple located near the pond and between the tea fields. I thought I was alone, but the poor Tamil family lived in the temple. Outside, they had a tent attached to the wall, and in the middle there was a dirty bunk of their own and primitive cooking utensils. They said they had lived in these conditions for many years with three children but were fairly well-off because they did not know a better life. One day I saw a group of Tamil women gathering tea leaves. The field was upstairs, and they had to climb up all the time and holding bags on their backs on their heads tossing the leaves in. All were very skinny and at my sight they immediately started asking for money. When I said I did not want sweets or a pen.
In their eyes I was a rich man so they wanted anything. They said that for collecting 10kg of leaves they received 290 rupees which took almost all day. I also broke some leaves and threw them into the bag, of course they laughed. On the way I met many beggars and always asked for something. Some tried to make money by making corals from what they could find and selling them to tourists. But the natural beauty around Ella was why it was worth coming here. After a meeting with tea pickers I climbed the Adam’s Little Peak. To get there I had to go through the tea fields as usual on this part of the island and then climb up the stairs to the top of the mountain. In this area, it was the highest peak from which I saw the town and the Ella Rock, which I was after. I walked alone for a few hours between tea bushes and listened to the silence.From time to time I sat down to drink a coconut or break a papaya from a tree. It was beautiful. When I reached the town I ate roti in the company of locals and talked with a young boy who worked in a restaurant. He said he earns 5000 rupees a month, about 25 pounds.
Whilst traveling to Sri Lanka and enjoying its charms, I forget sometimes about the realities of life, but it is impossible to avoid them crossing this beautiful country on my own. The next day I went for a walk early this morning and this time I went to Ella Rock. It was a pleasant walk through the winding, mountainous roads. On both sides I had tea and banana boxes and sometimes I sat in the bamboo stables and settled over the chasm to drink a coconut and eat some mangoes. Especially here was a good opportunity because the mangos were for only 5 rupees and the big papays for 10 rupees but once I managed to break one straight from the tree. I enjoyed the environment and the delicious fruit, I talked to people and every time I had a nice time. At last I got to the railroad tracks from where I started climbing on Ella Rock.
This hike was definitely more demanding and time consuming than at Little Adam’s Summit but it gave me satisfaction when I got there. It took me about three hours and on the way I passed by a small waterfall Ravana. Unfortunately it was raining and it started to fog but the visibility was good and the higher I was, the views were more beautiful. On the way back I noticed how clever the local farmers are dealing with the irrigation of vegetable fields and rice. Now they use a waterfall, which, when it enters its basin, enters the trough, which flows water, and so it watered all the fields in turn.
As before, when I was traveling in China or Vietnam, the terraces in the mountains, which cost a lot of hard work. After a successful walk and a few more coconuts and papayas, I reached the village of Ella after dark. I talked to local people, drank tea, showed me a bakery and a coconut shelf and then returned to my pretty room in the forest garden. I had to spend another night here, but I thought I would not waste my time and go on the nightly route and probably a very slow train. On the way I stopped for mandatory tea and after a little delay I left beautiful in every Ella. Ella was indeed a beautiful mountain village with splendor of tea fields, waterfalls and temples. I spent a few days here on mountain walks and I will always remember this small settlement as a very pleasant, relaxing place. The great advantage is the bars on the slopes of the mountains, where many times I sit on a fruity meal.
While in Ella I made a trip to the nearby waterfall Dunhinda and Badulla was the town to which I had to go first. I spent here less than an hour from the busy train station, I was at the bazaar and saw children playing cricket on a big pitch. For me it was a place of change and not interesting enough to spend more time.Shortly after, I got into one of the very old government buses and drove to the Dunhinda waterfall about 5km away. I also add that Badulla is a good place to exchange because here is not only rich bus transport.In Badulla there is a pull line leading from Colombo across the whole of the Mountain Region and it is a good starting point for the east coast.
The Dunhinda waterfall is 60m high and is considered to be the most beautiful in Sri Lanka. So in Ella I could not pass it. After about a 15 minute bus ride from Badulla I reached the gate of the park where I first tried some of the Latvian sweets and then paid 50 rupees for the entrance. Now 1km walk through the jungle accompanied by monkeys and birds. The road was very uneven, beautiful views and along the way there were many food stalls. I also crossed over the bridge suspended on iron ropes. By the end of the road there was a concrete terrace with a waterfall, a river and the mountains surrounding me. There were also monkeys fighting for food left here by tourists.
By the time I arrived here it was advertised only as a waterfall but a walk through the jungle, the views and the company of the monkeys were trumps equally important. On the way back I was lucky because I was brought up by a group of people who came here with a work trip. On the way, of course, they asked a lot of questions about Europe and I was Sri Lanka and it was nice. At last they gave me a cup of tea as a gift and blew it at the junction of Kubalwell. From there I went 3km up the hill to get to the tea fields by the free walk to Ella.
My next goal after Ella was to get Adam’s Summit (details later). For this I had to get to Hatton and then to Delhouse. My ride was very slow and the time was very unattractive but I thought I would save one day.But I forgot that I was traveling by train in Sri Lanka where the distance of about 80km took me almost 4h. I arrived at Hatton around 2 am and found a depopulated city. Writing a city I mean one intersection and a bus station. Fortunately there were two pubs open where I asked for a room but one room was not in the second place they wanted 1000 rupees because they saw white. Then they offered 700 rupees for just a few hours but I did not want to give them this satisfaction and I did not want to invest in this hole. I also did not want to wait all night at the court or barely drink tea all night. So I hired a rickshaw driver who took me 16km to Delhouse for just 1000 rupees. On the way there were some checks as the route was blocked for anti-terrorist reasons and it was dark and we had only one light in front of us and as we entered the bend on the mountain trail, we finally reached Delhouse.
The only advantage of this small village is the summit of Adam and everything that surrounds it and the town is a very good accommodation and restaurant. But I got here on the third morning and at this time there was nothing but darkness. At that moment, I was experiencing the hardest moments during this expedition because I was standing on the “end of the world” in the middle of the dark night and there were mountains and no living soul. In addition, I have not yet narrowed my eyes. Luckily, there was a lightbulb near the bus station, where the police station and police were sleeping there. I knocked on the window, explained my situation and luckily allowed me to wait for the sunrise. Another 2.5h I sat in the cold stool for interrogation but in the end I could not stand it. I left my backpack at the station and went to the top before sunrise.
Adam Peak (Sri Pada)
Adam’s summit is one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka that has been a pilgrimage destination for over 1,000 years. As with every sacred place, there are also legends associated with several religions. The Catholic says that it was here that Adam first set foot after he was kicked out of paradise. The Buddha here Buddha left his footprint when he was on his way to paradise. The same name used in Sri Lanka or Sri Pada means holy trace. Although the season starts here in December I arrived in November because only then did I have time for it. In the season there are reportedly open lots of shops along the way where you can replenish your water supplies and the whole road is backlit as climbing is usually done at night to make it to the sunrise. Apparently since December, the sky and the valley are the cleanest because it does not cover their fog, but I climbed in November and I was lucky. I left at 5.30 am, afterwards advising and passing through the tea fields, the standing and lying statue of Buddha, the great white stupa, and several Buddhist and Hindu temples, I had the sun rise.
At first it was not hard. I was fascinated with the views, the river, the mountains, and I stopped at the pictures. I had no idea that climbing the summit of 2243 meters above sea level would be so hard since I was already under Everest at an altitude of over 5200 meters. Here it was different because it was hot and humid and climbing was climbing steeply. For the most part, I had to climb the concrete stairs, and to be precise about 5200. In some parts it was so steep that I had to hold onto the handrail and walk on all fours without having a drop of water. I made up for it, because I probably missed this summit a little. When I thought it was over, it turned out to be just a turn behind which were a series of steep and high stairs.
Getting to the top took me 2.5 hours. I was tired but proud of myself and I realized that when it comes to climbing it is not always about height but also the kind of approach. Perhaps in the season when the lights are on and you can go with other people it is easier to mentally but I as usual had only myself to company and it was very heavy, lonely 2.5h. At the top was a Buddhist temple with monks living there where I spent a few hours. From the top the view was beautiful and fortunately there was no mist. Hence I have seen the whole neighborhood; lakes, fields, and a great white stupas that looked tiny.
Adam’s Peak – conversation with monks about Buddhism
I was going to enjoy the views and go down but a nice surprise awaited me. The monks who lived here gave me a very good dinner and then after the conversation they gave me a passionate lecture on Buddhism. As for the dinner itself, it was mainly rice and vegetables and spicy fish. I also tried Sri Lankan sweets new to me and everything was delicious. We all sat down in Turkish and asked me first about my religion where I was from and asked some personal questions. Then they tried to teach me Buddhism and explain why it is the best. I thought that after a monk’s lecture in Tibet, I already know a lot about Buddhism, but it turned out that I did not. Among other things, they said that the main idea of Buddhism is the rejection of violence and all rule and will to possess. Therefore, among other things, they are not interested in women and throughout their lives they meditate and study Buddhism in order to have clear minds and thus achieve perfection. The conversation was long and many arguments were made on both sides, but one of mine was that living on the top of a mountain in a temple and surrounded by beautiful nature, food and no worries, they have perfect conditions to explore their soul.
I said that they do not mind what it is like to live in a big city like London, where you have to work, pay for everything, drive in a crowded subway and have unpleasant and pissed people around. I wonder if then they would be able to delve as much as here where they are now. They frowned for a moment but said that they were rejecting it all in favor of Buddhism because they don’t need to live in my world to have their minds absorbed in other things. Then the conversation relaxed and they explained to me what I had just eaten (a separate report on food in Sri Lanka). We took souvenir photos, thanked for the dinner and conversation, and at the end I advised that maybe they have a few women monks here and then their meditation can take on a new dimension. They just laughed and said goodbye to me, saying: “so this is how you meditate in Poland”, and I replied: “exactly like this”. Now there were still 5,200 steps to go down.
As I have heard the road down, it is even heavier than the mountain, and it can crush even the hardest knees. But it went easy and in less than two hours I reached down. Almost at the bottom I met a nice guy who made me some pictures with tea pickers and Buddha statues and then invited me home for a cup of tea. When I left Sri Padi last time during this trip, I had the opportunity to break tea leaves with smiling women in my view. Also they asked me for money and sweets. At home of this man I rested a little and was very tired because in addition to such a great effort all the previous night spent on the journey. The people I met here were so nice that they brought me to Maskeliya from where I went on the way.
Adams Peak is definitely what one should experience when in Sri Lanka. The biggest adventure is climbing alone, which many can not go through and surrender on the way. The 5200 stairs on this steep mountain and beautiful views and Buddhist temples at the top are great satisfaction. This place is unique and I do not think you should listen to the locals who say it is out of season. You can climb every season so much that the season is as it should be, that is, it is lit up the road at night and off-peak climbing takes place in solitude and can fall. For me, every element of this trip was very successful.
This is a small changeover place surrounded by tea fields where buses run and where you can shop on the road, but definitely without luxury. I was here on the way to the Ancient Cities but Maskeliya is better known as a settlement between Hatton and Delhouse, through which you have to cross the road to the summit of Adam.
My transport to the Ancient Cities
In this chapter I am going to describe my journey from Delhouse to Dambulla, my first point of interest in the Ancient Cities. I think, however, that this chapter will be a great example of how Lanzarote looks and travels through this country. Well, the first part of the trip, from Delhouse to Maskeliya, went smoothly because I was picked up by a jeep. Then I took the bus to Hatton and the 16km ride took us about two hours. I drove through the tea fields, the bus was decorated with flowers and was able to feel the homely, lanky atmosphere but 16km in two hours is a bit overdone.
When I got to Hatton after a hard drive, there was no direct bus, so I had to go to Kanda first, which I already knew. I waited there for half an hour at the train station, which was more like a combination of the old litter, the bread and the public toilet at the worst. From here I took a bus to Dambulla and when I left the Mountain Region where the average speed was 20km / h the bus drove into the lowlands where we were driving at a speed of 30-40km / h. I do not know exactly how many miles it was, but a maximum of 80, and a heavy and boring ride took me all day because I left early in the morning and got to my seat at about eight o’clock. No matter how great the adventure is in Sri Lanka, public transport can discourage travelers to such an extent that they will have seriously enough palm trees, coke, tea fields and even the ocean.
The Antient Cities of Sri Lanka
After arriving at my first stop of Antique Towns I found one of the cheapest rooms so far because I paid only 300 rupees and had a double bed, windmill, mosquito net and cold water shower. At last I was able to bathe and sleep so much I was missing lately. That evening, however, I played with the dogs and talked to the young Lukers who came to visit. It turned out that each of them complained about how bad they were there and gave him a number of reasons and each of them wanted to get out wherever he could. One learned Korean and hoped that he would soon emigrate to South Korea. Indeed a pretty country (I was) but I doubt that he would see it that way. Another young man wanted to emigrate to the Middle East and would not be the first because many of the Indian subcontinent I have seen in Dubai and Kuwait. After the conversation I went to bed and the next day I went to explore. In Dambulla itself, there is nothing interesting, but there are caves from I BC with the richness of Buddha statues in many positions and sizes.
Literature sources tell of one of the kings who after being thrown out of Anuradhapura, settled down in Dambulla and ordered them to build statues that survived to this day. There are five caves, each one different, and each was created in another period and was sacred to another god. Many of the paintings on the walls were built in the 18th century. The entrance was done in great style because the museum was a huge statue of the sitting Buddha, and after I paid 10usd, I started climbing which was a nice part of this trip. Unfortunately, the tropical climate of the island made itself known because it first rained and then became hot and humid. On the way there were many souvenir dealers and necklaces and the ones I climbed the higher views were more beautiful. In addition to open areas covered with lush vegetation, you can see from here the 22km Sigiriya rock, which I will cover in the next chapter. After a short walk I got to the entrance behind which were the caves. The first was small and there was a statue of 15m lying Buddha.
The second cave was the largest and most spectacular because there were many statues of Buddha with the main altar made of statues. On the walls were painted frescoes depicting scenes from battles.In other caves pattern is the same or Buddhist statues and frescos on the walls, but they are not as great as the second temple. Interestingly, some of the Hindu caves are the motives which I think is an element of political correctness a Sri Lankan government against the Tamil minority. Caves from outside were also very interesting to me because it was a big rock in some places were specially prepared, painted white input. Dambulla Caves were beautiful and definitely worth seeing and every tourist should stay here. An interesting adventure are not only caves but also the views from the top, climbing souvenir sellers and snake charmers. Also, access is very easy because you can visit the Dambulla on a one-day trip to Kandy or on the way to Sigiriya.
Dambulla – meeting with cobra
On the way back to the caves, in addition retailers mango boy stood with two cobras, and of course I could not go past them indifferently. I am alone at home three beautiful snakes and therefore taking the opportunity I played with them. I already have experience with cobras in India and Nepal and I was curious how it is in Sri Lanka. These were not deprived of a cobra venom seemed aggressive and loud hissing. It is however not possible because the cobra only look ahead. So I took one by the tail and she was all the time trying to look menacing. However, when it lasted a little in this way he began to calm down. The second was a cobra in a basket and was distributed fairly high with a hood. So I grabbed a basket by lifting it from the rear waist height and then grabbed the back of her neck, and thus kept for a few minutes.This was also the combat readiness but seemed quieter than the other and hissed. It was another great experience this trip though others rather not recommend. The reason is simple-to die for. More on this in the article Fri.“Snake charmer” .
Sigiriya is one of the biggest attractions of Sri Lanka as there is a large fortress built on the rock. There are also famous in the world of the fifth century frescoes painted in one of the caves, which are among the many attractions. The town itself is located near the object is not interesting. It is one, a small street full of shops and very expensive hotels because the whole village is alive with tourists. I decided that I will not be overpaid and therefore left the backpack in one of the expensive hotel and went sightseeing.
Unfortunately, I had to buy a ticket government, which cost up to 25usd. Sigiriya is covered by the “cultural triangle”, which costs 50usd and allows entrance to many facilities in the island, but I was paying separately for each input. After dropping the backpack I went in the direction of Avers great rock over the area to check the exact ticket to enter the area of the gardens. On either side were the royal gardens and water pools and many brick, low buildings seemed foundations for houses. The whole environment was an interesting introduction to what I see on the rock. As I walked away I walked through the narrow streets with one another over large boulders and always accompanied me monkey. On the way to the rock I had to refuse many souvenir vendors but also met the Irishman,with the change did take pictures and with whom I could talk about travel. Finally we reached the foot of the fortress and now waiting for us to climb the steep stairs to a height of 200m (377m asl).
In the middle of climbing the long, winding staircase reached the frescoes of the V depicting half-naked women. They are the only non-religious frescoes from that period, which was about 500 and to have survived only 22. I must admit that I liked, because they were nicely preserved, the colors were vivid and at the same time each of them had large, shapely breasts. Each of them was decked with jewels and flowers and all different from each other though they were painted in profile. To protect the whole cave with frescoes curtain was protected from the sun and I could not take pictures with flash.Near the frescoes of half-naked women was mirrored wall with a height of about 3m. It was coated with a special material to give it the appearance of equality and shine. However, about 1,000 years ago Sigiriya guests, visitors, after seeing the frescoes felt the need to shed their feelings on the wall and that is why today it is all covered with comments on women in the cave.
I found that it gave the opportunity to the flowering of Sinhala language but more interesting to me were the same comments. Men wrote about women’s jewelry chest and the breasts themselves and the women complained that their men stared at frescoes and not at them. Moving further up, I stayed a moment to look around the beautiful surroundings. I saw the big green spaces around, the white Buddha in the distance and water terraces in front of the rock.Another interesting step climbing were “lion’s foot” from V.
A rock in the Sigriya is also known as Lion Rock because of these paws. Once under the feet, up the stairs you can go to the same jaws made of bricks or rocks and then to the top. To this day, however, they survived only because the rest of the foot almost did not survive the sixteenth centuries. Another part of the climb was very difficult, and someone who has a fear of heights would not give advice. Fortunately, there were metal stairs with handles but they were very steep and wet in the rain. After a few minutes I reached the summit, which was once covered with buildings, but today only the foundations remain. He was also here a rather large pool or body of water and the whole peak (according to experts) looked more like a palace than a rock on top of the fortress. After enjoying the beautiful views and taking some pictures I went down downcarefully watching all the time rock and its surroundings.
Near the exit was another object or “cave cobra hood” having its name from the rocks arranged in the shape. At the same output in addition to the herd of monkeys they grabbed us memorabilia dealer who really wanted us to push the product for a very high price. My Irish friend gave to stretch to two things and I forgave myself this time because it was obvious that there will be the most expensive. After a while I got to town, picked up his backpack from the hotel and I wanted to get to the next place but I was told that no buses today. So I had to either spend the night in a very expensive hotel, or take a very expensive rickshaw. Anyway, as usual, everyone wanted me to stretch. So I stood on the road with my large backpack and simply waited, watching the high rock and enjoying the rain.
After about half an hour the bus arrived and I left Sigiriya for only 20 rupees. Both the hotel manager and rickshaw drivers were very dissapointed. Sigiriya was an experience for me and another beautiful place that must be on every traveler’s list. I liked the element of climbing here and the stops during which there are unique monuments with their history and legends. The summit itself was not the most interesting, but the views from it were beautiful and it is a nice ending that gives satisfaction after reaching the summit. I definitely put female frescoes in the first place.
I try to be very precise in their reportage and therefore I am describing everything that may come in handy next travelers. There are always those things that can save time and money and do not put the tourist in the position of a victim exposed to the greed of the locals. Inamaluwa intersection is small and secluded place with a bar, which is located 9km from Sigiriyi and often do not have it on maps and is very useful. The thing is, that Sigiriyi are direct buses to Dambulla and from there you can only take a bus to Polonnaruwy. In order not to lose time, I got off at the intersection of Inamaluwa and after a couple of teas and bananas in the only bar I stayed here bus going to Polonnaruwa. I think this is useful information that saved me most of all a lot of time but also a few rupees.
Polonnaruwa was the royal capital of the Chola dynasty and Sinhala and has about 1000 years old. The city is beautiful is another remnant of the ancestors of the island. There are the ruins of cities, Buddha statues, palaces, swimming pools, harems, temples and many other buildings left behind in the jungle. The ancients kings left here as a water reservoir parks and a huge 2,500 hectare. I got here about eight in the evening and found a cheap room for only 300 rupees. How could I guess in the town itself there was nothing. Interesting was what was beyond it or antique cities and beautiful nature. The first night I went to the local pub where he became acquainted with the locals and asked about the type of food that is given to me. I went into a new and interesting monument of white,Buddha sitting where people prayed even late in the evening and then I had an interesting meeting with two rykszarzami. First he offered me that will take me on a tour of the ancient city for 2300 rupees but cost input 2700. The second one occasionally bought a ticket collecting all the antique city, whose value was 50usd but for me it was only 40usd.
After all, it made sense because some tourists do not watch everything and therefore sell your rykszarzom partly used tickets. I still going to see this and other city and was wartoby save 10usd though I thought that this time how much I should pay. Rickshaw driver, however, did not give up. He said,apart from that I lease a bike for free and will drive me to the station when his rickshaw and I want to give me a ticket and collecting everything about 10usd still cheaper than if I had bought in the government’s hand. We were to meet the next morning in a hangar or bike to strike a bargain.
The next day I went to pick up a mountain bike but not agreed to the arrangement. Simply I drove away but he got into a rickshaw and chased me from holding a ticket and very advertising its advantages. I shouted that 10usd is a flimsy opportunity for me but this desperado said forget about the fact that I come from a rich country with a very poor and asks me to help him. Moreover, he did not want money from me immediately but only if will drive me to the station. I took at the end of this ticket, he smiled broadly and I drove away on the bike. I saw a lot that day, but I will tell only about the most interesting items of my cycling tour. The first building we saw were the ruins of the royal palace on the 31m high. The walls have a thickness of 3m and today it is a huge building, but unfortunately without a roof.Today, they are just massive columns with hollow holes in the beams under the floor. It is presumed that there were once 50 rooms supported by 30 columns. Before the palace is square and the lawn. Nearby there is also a small palace audiencyjny. To this day, leaving only the lower part or stairs and the sides are elephants and in the upper part of the two lions. All these rock sculptures are well preserved.
In the meantime, I was not bored because the souvenir merchants kept me company, who were very eager to take pictures, and monkeys, which were full. No wonder because I was in the jungle. Below were the royal pools with carvings of a crocodile face, and these were also reasonably well preserved. In the vicinity of the palace and swimming pools, there is also a network of ruins of ancient city buildings, which mainly consist of religious ruins. It is the most densely built-up area of the ancient city, and many have a style borrowed from India and Cambodia, according to archaeologists. As for many, their purpose has not been guessed to this day and there are disputes about this. It was my first experience with ruins in this part of the island and after I finished I got on my bike and headed north through the jungle. Riding a bike itself was an adventure because I was stopping at the ruins all the time and herds of monkeys standing on the road meant that I had to slow down. On the way to the next ruins, I saw two Shiva Devales, very well preserved and as the name suggests, they are Hindu temples dating from the 13th century.
Soon after, I parked his bicycle under the tree, and after drinking the contents of coconut went down the stairs to a small, concentrated collection of temples and buildings whose purpose has not yet odgadniono. Building, which amazed me the most was the “Vatadage”. Unfortunately, the roof did not survive the test of time but as a whole and was very interesting. I walked up the stairs to a small increase, and then there were the same columns and circular room with a centrally positioned, seated Buddha. On both parts of the staircase they were also reliefs. Each step was carved and in front of the entrance was often visible “moonstone”. It is a half-round, flat stone on which are carved, among others, horses, elephants, lions, cows and ducks.With the flourishing of the art of that period “moonstone” became more beautiful shapes and patterns and gained mystical significance. To sum up, “moonstone” is a boulder that is used in modern temples to pray and clean the feet before entering the temple. I mentioned earlier about the reliefs on both sides of the stairs. Characters carved on these rocks is the guards, who are supposed to protect this holy place.
The Vatadage Temple was very interesting (especially if we understand its meaning) but the Hatadage was just opposite. Slightly simpler in its implementation, consisting of several rooms, and in the last one there were three Buddha statues. Unfortunately, also here there was no roof and the statues and the whole temple were destroyed by time. Nearby was also the Satmahal Prasada, which resembles a six-story pyramid. Unfortunately, nothing is known about its destiny. In this part of Polonnaruwa, these three buildings interested me the most, although there were others, also noteworthy. Then I got on my bike and kept going. I sat down at the fruit and souvenir stalls for a while and had a good time here too. I talked to people and got a coconut again. My next sightseeing object was Rankot Vihara. It is a great dagoba (Buddhist sacred building), which has a round shape and a point at the very top. Although Rankot Vihara is 55m high, it is still only the fourth, largest dagoba in Sri Lanka. There were small rooms all around, which I took as chapels with Buddha statues inside. Their condition varied depending on the specific art.
This temple is an obvious imitation of the great Dagoba in Anuradhapura, which will tell in the next chapter. My attention was also Lankatilaka that is 17 meters long, arranged in parallel, carved walls. Inside was a long corridor and finally became a headless statue of Buddha. Next to the lake and was right next to him, perhaps the biggest attraction of the whole or Polonnaruwy Gal Vihara.
It is a temple that today presents perfectly preserved, large statues of Buddha. Both are made of granite and, for safety reasons, they have a roof that protects them from sun and rain. At this point of my trip it started to rain but I think it’s good because the statues were wonderful. The standing Buddha is 7m high and is considered to be the best of all, although I personally liked the two next ones better. Maybe because I have seen so many of them in many countries in Asia. The standing Buddha, however, is unique due to the arrangement of his hands and the sad expression on his face. It symbolizes (according to art experts) the Buddha’s sorrow for the departure of the Buddha master into nirvana. Next to it, I could admire the statue of a 14-meter lying Buddha. I believe that this one was perfectly made and the pillow with the symbol of the sun on which he has his head rests also deserves attention. There is also another, wonderfully preserved statue of a seated Buddha with folded arms resting on his legs. He has closed eyes and is in a meditative state. I think I liked this one the most, although from what I know in the opinion of scientists, the other two are better. The sitting Buddha was distinguished not only by the perfection of workmanship, but also by the clean and fresh color of the rock, which is amazing considering that it comes from the end of the 12th century and is up to 6m high.
After the beautiful and one-of-a-kind Gal Vihara I went on, but unfortunately I was unlucky because the rain was falling for good. There was such a heavy downpour that by the time I could hide under the tree I was soaked and my shoes were full of water. I remember this moment as a time spent alone in the ancient jungle where I could observe the great dagoba Rankot Vihara and the monkeys gathering on the branch above me and the deer running. Soon after, completely soaked but happy, I went on but not far away because my chain fell off. I pushed myself off the empty road for quite a long time until I reached a small lake made in the shape of a lotus flower. The lotus lake is about 8 meters in diameter and 5 storeys deep into the ground in the shape of the petals of this flower. It is well preserved and I believe served the monks. With an effort to push myself off, I got to another interesting building called Tivanka. I think that my stubbornness was admirable because first I had to march up the hill with my broken bike and before entering the temple I took off my shoes and poured water out of them. There are also beautiful sculptures and of course the Buddha statue, but in poor condition and frescoes, which is rare in Polonnaruwa. Being here, I saw much more than I described because in Polonnaruwa there are more dagób and isolated ruins lying deeper in the jungle. However, my reportage is not a lecture on the history of art, but only a collection of my observations, which shows the desire to describe the best preserved and most impressive objects.
Thus ended my first part of the visit, which was to take me about two hours and took me up to five because I was so interested in everything. At the exit I was still strongly urged by souvenir sellers to buy another elephant and another Buddha statues in Sri Lanka which happens to me constantly. Hence, further pushing off, I got to the asphalt road and got out for about 3km on the straight route. It was very tiring and when I reached the town of Polonnaruwa, my friend rickshaw driver was waiting for me and gave me a new bike. But he was unhappy that it brought a broken chain. He said that in Poland the rich spoiled chains throw but Sri Lanka is poor here and repaired everything we can.Wasting no time I got on the bike and this time pedaling normally going about 2km on the other side of the ancient cities. Though it was rainy, I was happy.
On one side was a large lake and across rice fields and tall palm trees. There were also characteristic of the Sri Lankan tree with an abundance of lianas and branches stuck in the ground. The whole time it was raining but I was no longer as indifferent and so I was all wet. In the second part of the ancient cities Polonnaruwy (South) also contained several interesting ruins, stupa and pools but this time I’ll tell only one building, which is the symbol of this part. It is 4m sculpture seated on a rock, depicting standing, bearded man holding in his hands and a long, curved object. I know my description is not clear, but there are many theories on the subject,Who is this character and what really keeps. First of all, this sculpture is a rarity because it represents the Buddha but an ordinary man. One theory is that this is an Indian religion teacher holding an open book. Second, it is król Parakramabahu I lived in the twelfth century.
There is also a theory that the object in those hands is just a piece of papaya. It was a large and interesting figure and definitely worth pedaling through the flooded rice fields. After leaving the facility, I ate ice cream at itinerant ice cream makers and made my way back to my last place of interest. It was a museum where there was a collection of sculptures recovered from the ruins and their models that I saw that day. They were presented as they could have looked in their heyday, with roofs. In each of the rooms there was an exhibition devoted to a different part that was clearly presented to laymen.
All of my trip the day after the ancient cities Polonnaruwy was beautiful and gave me the opportunity to see and although superficial understanding of the history and architecture of that period. Despite the repulsion of the road, broken bike and soaking, I felt that it was a trip worth my time and money. Then I gave the bike rykszarzowi, who barely knew me because I was in such a state and then returned to her house cheap. First things started to dry but when the humidity is not much dried up. Then I took a cold shower and kept their societies me geckos and spiders living on the walls. I went for a meal where I was given too narrow rice but applause greeted me as I had a T-shirt representation of Sri Lankan cricket. In the meantime, a light went out in the whole village which reminded meI’m in a developing country. Luckily I had a flashlight. That night I was very tired and fell asleep right away, despite the fact that frogs and insects urządziły my concert.
The next day early in the morning my rickshaw driver picked me up from the hostel and drove to the station as promised and I gave him his first 40usd. I drank more tea and went to Anuradhapura. As a curiosity for the adventurous traveler, I add that the tickets do not necessarily have to pay. The ruins are arranged on such a large area surrounded by barbed wire short, it can be successfully jump away from the booths guards and then go out the same way. It is very easy and I strongly urge this, especially that the government of Sri Lankans every year it gets more and more greedy in relation to tourists. For the saved money can hire a guide,who knows many interesting stories about the ruins and to do so in this way we can help the poor people and not the government, which spends money on endless war. But this is at your own risk.
My journey to Anuradhapura was quite short and on board a bus eaten by rust had a nice time because the whole time playing local music and the way traders often jumped nuts and fruits. When I arrived, the location was the same thing everywhere so far. No one knew where the hotel is, and no one spoke English well, but they wanted to get me a room for 1,000 rupees. In the end, he came and paid only 400.
I lived in a nice hostel surrounded by tall palm trees and the roofs of monkeys running around. After a while I got on the bike and went to explore the beautiful Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura is one of the most important ancient cities because it was the first capital of the Sinhalese kingdom. The city was founded in BC and 380R for over 1000 years was ruled by kings Sinhalese and South Indian invaders. Today Anuradhapura is very important because of the beautiful temples, huge Dagoba (sacred Buddhist building built in a specific style), and the remaining ruins of the ancient city in the jungle. On the way to the ancient cities I rode a bicycle through the town and after passing the stand of coconuts got there. Before me were let into the temples, at first I was thoroughly searched because of the threat of terrorism.
Then I left the bike in the parking lot and went to the first temple that is the Sri Maha Bodhi. It is a holy place for all Buddhists as it is here the sacred Bodhi tree. Inoculants that tree was brought from Bodhgaya in India by the princess, whose sister introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Today this place is a big tree next to the temple, prayer flags are hung around the whole area is a place of pilgrimage of the faithful. Apparently this is what inspired the sacred tree of ancient rulers to build all the wonderful buildings that are located nearby. In the middle there was always a specific atmosphere of the places of this type, there were few monks in orange suits and men bringing gifts to the Buddha. Before entering the course, I had to take off your shoes so I sat at the spot to light the candles in order to better observe the whole place.
Next to it was the Bronze Palace, or rather what was left of it, built about 2,000 years ago, although the last reconstruction took place in the 12th century. It is named after the roof, which was made of bronze and has long been gone. To this day, there are only 1,600 pillars that used to support a huge palace. It is said that it once had nine floors and housed 1,000 monks. Today, however, this building does not resemble what it used to be. For me, it was just a row of pillars on my way to the next facility. Together with thousands of the faithful, I walked the narrow road, watched people meditating on the side of the road and watched herds of monkeys. They were dangerous because everyone on their way was the enemy, especially those who had food. They rushed, for example, at lotus flowers, which people brought as gifts, so the guards threw stones at them. Before entering the next facility, I was thoroughly searched again, but here the guard wrapped a towel around me from the waist down because I was wearing short shorts. It was necessary not to offend the Buddha and his followers with your nakedness.
In Anuradhapura there are many monumental, magnificent buildings but this is her wizytówką- is huge Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba. This is probably the largest Dagoba on the island, which reaches 55m height and its shape resembles a huge soap bubble with the point at the tip. Dagoba is in blue color and its construction began in BC 140R All Dagoba made a huge impression on me and I do not mean here only its size. Its shape, color similar to the color of the sky and the surrounding her big square where there were several other buildings. She stood there and Dagoba small chapel with statues of Buddha, from the floor and pillars protruded from time to time there were also places for submission of gifts. These were usually part of the coconut and lotus flowers, and then devoured by monkeys. Along with me,dagobas people walked around with folded hands and the whole place was amazing in a specific mood. Just before the entrance there was a wall with hundreds of carved elephants, standing next to a set of candlesticks and all around were the remains of joints, pillars and other details and sculptures by besieging hungry herd of monkeys.
The most important however, was Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba, which could be seen from afar. The whole place was a wonderful experience. After a while I got on the bike and riding through the green areas with palm trees got to Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest temple in Anuradhapura and perhaps the whole of Sri Lanka. This Dagoba was small because it was only 19m height but was worth seeing. It was built on a platform so I had to take the stairs, past the first reliefs guards.Thuparama was shaped like a big bell around and become a great high pillars tilted in all directions. Probably once they based on their roof, but he did not survive the test of time. As always, there were also chapels with statues of Buddha where the offerings. Always walking a few monks here which gave me a chance to take some interesting pictures. After this property, I felt that I miss because I went on a bike kilometer walk toward the parking lot to the rest of the touring combined with driving. However, there was some nice because I spent time with the locals. I drank tea in the pub under a tree surrounded by a withered plate and ate roti and chilli. It was not gourmet food, but for that in a very real environment and in good company.
After this nice break I got on the bike and avoiding the monks and armed military,I got to Abhayagiri Dagoba of I in BC once she reached the height of 100m, but today it is 75m. It is also in the shape of a giant bubble and has a brick color. While I was here around the scaffolding they were set. Just before the standing pillars Dagoba also interesting though was also a large chapel with a statue of lying Buddha. It’s also a nice place to rest, the more that there are souvenir shops and ice-cream vendors obwoźni.especially since there are souvenir shops and ice-cream vendors obwoźni.especially since there are souvenir shops and ice-cream vendors obwoźni.
Then, while driving through the jungle, I came across many other interesting objects and I had meetings with people. Wherever I was, I found the ruins of ancient cities, of which today only the foundations and low walls and pillars standing in a crooked way remain. It only gave a superficial idea of what this city might have looked like in the past. I have met people here who picked very small mushrooms from the vicinity of the trees and said they were very good when cooked. Another boy was catching fish in one of the reservoirs and said that this was the only source of his living. So I gave him some sweets because he asked for them. This is what Sri Lanka is like. A beautiful country with a beautiful history and beaches, but also a country of very poor people. Being nearby, I saw the Samadhi Buddha statue from the 1st century, which is considered one of the best preserved in Sri Lanka, but in my opinion it was not as beautiful as the Buddha in Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa.
Soon after, I went to the Mahasena Palace, which was nothing like the palace we imagine. Again, these were ruins, which at first glance did not look attractive, but there is one of the best-preserved “crescent stones” (I explained in my report about Polonnaruwa) but unfortunately it was surrounded by bars for protection. Small bas-reliefs on the stairs are well-preserved in this building. I mean the small dwarfs and lions that are characteristic of the Mahasena Palace. Of course, the crescent stone itself was also an object of interest. Nearby, there were several marinas under the trees where I could rest on bamboo benches. I was served a very good fresh orange juice and then a wooden apple, which was unfortunately too sour. Anyway, I had a good time here and all the sellers had a lot of fun when I told them that they should treat me to me for free.
After a while I got on my bike again and while driving through the jungle I got to Kuttam Pokuna, which is two twin ponds. They are very well preserved and although they are called twin, one is longer than the other by 12 meters. I had an interesting meeting with souvenir sellers at this place. First, they wanted to squeeze everything they had for a “great opportunity” but I explained that their prices are not competitive with those in India because it is much cheaper there. I said a lot of people have already bought everything in India and they don’t feel like overpaying in Sri Lanka. They agreed with me, but then they asked me to write them commercial slogans in Polish because, as they said, Poles come to Sri Lanka with whole buses and always have thick wallets. I think they exaggerated a bit but I wrote phrases like “50% discount” and “great deal” etc. It was very fun and I bought a bamboo spoon as a souvenir.
Driving further through the jungle, I stopped for a moment at 70m Jetanavarama Dagoba, which resembles not only in shape but also in color and manner of execution, the previously described Abhayagiri dagoba. I saw a few other ruins and palaces, but I will mention that at the end of my bicycle trip I got to the archaeological museum. This museum is housed in a nice old building and there are many statues from Anuradhapura, a relic from nearby Mihintale and a model of one of the temples as it might have once looked with a wooden roof. After dark, I left the ancient cities and traveled around the town of Anuradhapura.
I wanted to organize a rickshaw trip to Mihintale, the place where Buddhism was born in Sri Lanka and where the wolf Buddha stands, but it was raining a lot and I had to avoid it. Besides, there would be climbing involved, which would be dangerous in the rain. So I sat down in one of the bars, ate a parhat and talked to people, then went to sleep. The next morning, the monkeys woke me up. Then the rickshaw driver picked me up from the hotel and drove me to the bus station. Here, after a cup of tea, I got on the bus and left Anuradhapura. The ancient cities of Anuradhapura were admirable and I would recommend it to anyone. Especially Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba and all its surroundings were especially spectacular.
The road to Trincomalee
The rainy season began in earnest at a very slowed down my journey. Even as the Sri Lankan driving conditions would take only it lasted 3h 4h but because within a radius of 30km through the city were continuous checks on passengers. Everybody had to leave the luggage and were legitimized. I also had to show your passport, but I felt that rather curious. One young soldier asked me what the money is in Poland and that’ll take him there. The ride was long and monotonous and in addition it was raining, but when I saw the ocean mood improved.
Sri Lanka – East Coast
Trincomalee (Trinco often called) in my opinion in itself is not interesting. The main advantage of this small town is that it is a base for the best beaches on the coast of north-east. These are the beaches of Nilaveli and Uppuveli. From what I noticed in the Trincomalee, it is a small town with several Hindu temples and moskami but I have not seen a single Buddhist. This area is a large population of Tamil (Hindu) and Muslims but few Syngalczyków. This is evident also in the interiors of buses where photographs are replaced with Buddha images of the gods hinduistycznych.
Trincomalee is quite close to the area controlled by the Tamil Tigers because getting into or out of the city in many obwituje control what I could already see. Also the fact that there is a large Tamil community gave me the feeling,bags that are checked more thoroughly here. But she gives me this was another contact with stormy ocean, and it mattered to me. On the way out of town, I noticed that here on a heap of garbage deer come running out of the forest to feed themselves. It is interesting that they are not afraid neither people nor buses.
Uppuveli and Nilaveli
Uppuveli and Nilaveli are famous towns on the North East coast for their long white sand beaches and turquoise waters. First, I went to Uppuveli because it is closer to Trincomalee and despite the fact that it is only 6 km away, the drive took me half an hour. Every now and then we stopped and drove as slowly as we could and at the end I had to pay 20 rupees instead of 10. The whole bus was happy that they cheated the white man for the whole 10 rupees. The road on which I got off was almost empty and I saw only armed soldiers surrounded by sandbags and a primitive shed with vegetables and hanging banana branches. I was expecting a town here but miscalculated.
Instinctively, I went towards the ocean and, walking along the beaten road full of puddles and broken coconuts, I reached the barracks under construction called the guest house. It was raining all the time and a strong wind was blowing, so I did not imagine my stay here in an interesting way. Nevertheless, I wanted to spend a few days here and experience new experiences. Besides, I had a rain suit with me and always walked under a palm umbrella. I was standing in the rain between the barracks with the rough ocean in front of me and the barracks looking abandoned around me. After a while, my grandfather came out of the house and rented me a room with a bathroom, a mosquito net and a fan for only 300 rupees a night, although he wanted 500. Soon after, I went to swim despite the fact that the ocean was very restless, it was raining and there was a gale. Sri Lankans was cold but I liked it.
That day I had the whole ocean to myself and despite the weather the water was still warm. When it started to get dark I talked to a few people and as I could expect in this part of Sri Lanka they were all Tamils. The grandfather I rented the room from said he was 87 years old and he had spent his whole life on this beach. I ordered a handful of rice with spicy vegetables and a few sprats and went to sleep. Throughout the night I heard the ocean and sometimes even coconuts falling. The next day I was swimming in Uppuveli and then I went to Nilaveli. It was a distance of 9 km, so after an hour of walking through an empty road and with flooded fields on both sides, I took a crowded bus that took me to Nilavela. Here, too, I was a bit surprised because the town of Nilaveli itself consisted of three shops on both sides of the road. I ate an omelette and roti here, then walked towards the beach again. As before, it was raining all the time, but I thought that no matter if I stood in the rain or swim, I would still be wet. So I left my things under the driest palm tree and threw myself into the waves for a couple of hours.
Again, the entire ocean was mine. I also went for a walk along the beach, met a fisherman complaining about the catch and found some interesting shells and corals washed up by the ocean. As I was walking the other way, I came across a military base and had to turn back. After another bath, I returned to the pub I already knew to eat dinner in very modest conditions and went for a walk to Uppuvela. Sometimes I saw brick houses, but most of them were very primitive. They were wooden huts covered with sheet metal or thatched roofs, and the farms were made of palm leaves. From time to time I was accosted by children looking for contact and asking for sweets or pens to go to school, but also by rickshaw drivers who offered transport. However, I was walking in the rain, and although I was wet and looking like a pauper, I enjoyed my surroundings. In the end, the workers picked me up from the back of the truck and we drove on bumpy roads for several kilometers. It was raining in my face and the local people had fun seeing a white one in such conditions.
After returning to Uppuveli, I threw myself into the waves again until dusk, and then, after a very modest supper, I went to sleep. The next morning I took a very slow bus to Trincomalee to get to the Southeast coast from there. Uppuveli and Nilaveli at this time of year were very depopulated because of the weather, but I had a good time anyway. Besides, it was another nice experience for me because I could see how people live in these parts of the island, which was different from what I have seen so far.
My tiring trip to Arugam Bay
I think this will give the best coverage of the realities of a Sri Lankan transport. It was a real ordeal during which visited many filthy bus stations in several uninteresting holes.
That day I got up at 5:45 and got on a small bus that took me to Trincomalee only 6km away. It took me half an hour and the driver took 20 rupees from me because he was not supposed to spend it. I got on the bus at 7 a.m. and it did not go along the bank (shortcuts) because this road was closed due to clashes with the Tamil Tigers. So I had to go inland first and then go back to the ocean again. Along the way, there were many military checks with luggage searches which wasted a lot of time. In addition, completely unnecessarily passed by such settlements as Habarana, Polonnaruwa, Kalkudah, Batticaloa and finally Kalmunai. I know that these names do not say much, but for example it is like going from Poland to Germany through Hungary. In addition, Sri Lankan roads, the condition of the bus with its snail pace and numerous checks and tea breaks meant that I was seriously fed up.
When I got to Kalmunai, I almost immediately boarded a crowded bus going to a small hole called Akkaraipattu. When I got there at 17.40, it turned out that the last bus had already left at 17.30. However, this was not a problem. One rickshaw driver said he could catch up with the bus for me if we left now. So I threw my backpack into the rickshaw and we started chasing it. I was not even surprised when we caught up with him because this bus was the slowest of the slowest and there were numerous military controls on the way. I could see from a distance that it was not going straight because it was packed to the brim from the inside and people were stuck on the edges of one side. When we got closer, it turned out that the bus was full of soldiers armed to the teeth, but I still fit with my big backpack. The soldiers helped to throw me and my backpack by the driver and I moved a few rifles and so it was really the last place.
In such conditions, after a few hours of driving through the beaten and flooded road in places, I reached Puttovil, located only 3 km from the Arugam Bay. Of course, there were no buses, which is why I covered the last 3 km of this journey as a passenger on a motorcycle. To sum up, I drove about 300km that day, which in a normal country it would take about 3 hours, but in Sri Lanka it took as much as 13.5 hours. In addition, I will say that when it comes to traveling by train in Sri Lanka, these also do not go crazy. They are very slow and not punctual and the seats never fold down. Let this report be a warning to those who wish to travel long distances on this relatively very small island.
Pottuvil is a small fishing village only 3km from Arugam Bay, a famous tourist destination. It is a very good place to do banking, eat a little cheaper and do cheaper shopping. From the Arugam Bay you can take a walk here and it will not be wasted time because you can stop many times and admire the nature. Alternatively, you can get here by bus for about 8 rupees, although none of the rickshaw drivers who have lived here since birth has never heard of the bus. Arugam Bay rickshaw should cost no more than 50 rupees one way, although they try to take even 200. On the way from Trincomalee I stopped in Pottuvil for a few minutes to rest, eat parhat and drink tea.
In a pub where everyone wanted to sell me something or give me a lift somewhere, I met an elderly Englishman with whom I had a nice time talking. He told me about his travels and that he never wanted to return to England again. During this conversation, I took the opportunity to exchange my last £ 20 on the black market. I returned to Pottuvil two more times. I had to do a little shopping and go to the bank. The bank rate was better that day than on the black market, but sometimes it pays to get less and save the nerves and questions that no one answers. The bank in Sri Lankan was a terrible mess and a huge bureaucracy, but still compared to the bank in Bangladesh, it was still at a good level.
Arugam Bay is a small fishing village but recently more and more popular holiday resort where some of the best conditions for surfing. For several years, this is one of the best places on the southeastern coast of the island. I was lucky because I came here out of season and I was able to spend three nights for only 1000 rupees. I got a very nice room with a separate bathroom, fan, double bed and a mosquito net. Throughout the first day I swam in the ocean and enjoyed the beautiful weather and nature. The beach fishermen worked the nets and I was finding it more and more beautiful corals and rare fish that were not fit to eat. One of them was, for example. Echidna, which can inflate the developing spines. It is not suitable to eat because it is poisonous but still cooks are specialistswho can prepare it so as not to poison. It is especially popular in Japan, where people are looking for “meal with a thrill”, which many do not survive.
I spent the whole day swimming and walking along the shore of the ocean. In the evening, however, I met a fisherman on the shore who was fishing and asked if I could help him. He agreed, and it was a lot of fun for me. There were three hooks on one fishing line with one hand and in this way I was able to catch two fish with one throw. I saw that an Englishman was standing nearby, doing the same as me, and Sri Lankan fishermen were sitting leaning on the boats and smoking cigarettes. It was a great pleasure for us and they had a rest. The fisherman was so pleased with my catch that he invited me to his home and fried the caught fish for me and his family. It was a great opportunity not only to spend time with a Sri Lankan family but also to eat fresh fish, which were very expensive in restaurants. He received me nicely and then we talked for a long time about Europe, about money and what I had already seen in Sri Lanka.
I also liked the fisherman’s house and how it lived. He had his house, brick and painted green, he had a large garden but unfortunately it was sandy and in its area grew mango trees, coconuts and papayas. Every evening he went to the ocean to catch his dinner and he had the fruit at his fingertips. He had a lot of space for himself, he lived in beautiful surroundings and he didn’t have to worry about shopping, bills etc. I told them that they all thought that life in Europe was better but I said it was not true. It is only more stressful and much more expensive. Living in Sri Lanka without money, you can survive on fish and fruit, while in Europe without money it would be tragic. The next evening I met the same fisherman again, I fished for him again and he invited me over again. This time, however, I brought sweets for his children.
After a very nice time, the next day I started swimming and jumping in the waves and then I organized a trip. All the rickshaw drivers offered it to me and the competition between them was huge. I went to the lake, many kilometers away, behind the village of Panama. I was able to see a few crocodiles and interesting birds there, but once again my opinion was confirmed, which says that if I want to see the animal I dream of, it is best to go to the zoo. Nevertheless, I was pleased because the whole trip was pleasant. Crocodiles, however, were very skittish and could not be photographed up close. On the way back, we stood in a small tea booth, but also many times so that I could see grazing buffaloes, birds patrolling the fields in search of frogs and insects. Once I also saw an old man washing his team of buffaloes in a flooded field. All these views were not described in the guidebook and it proves that it is always worth getting outside of human settlements to see the countryside and nature of this exotic country.
On the way back, my rickshaw driver dropped me off about 3 km from the town of Arugam, at the Crocodile Rock. From there I walked along the shore, dripping from time to time and throwing myself into the waves, then taking pictures of palm trees against the ocean. I was also swimming in a standing, salt lake on the other side of the beach, and fortunately someone warned me that there might also be crocodiles there. For the rest of the day I swam, ate fruit, fished and had a great time. It was my last evening in the beautiful Arugam Bay.
Sri Lanka – South Coast
On the way Mirissa
This relatively short section, but still very long as Sri Lanka defeated in more than 10h. I fled to the bus in Monaragala, I had a few breaks for tea and parhata and as usual there were several military control, once even with a dog. The closer to the coast was the views were beautiful. Quite a long time I watched from the window charming beaches and palm trees and from time to time on the bus jumped seller pineapple and mango. My penultimate stop was Matara where he began to clear and where the next bus arrived to Mirissa.
Matara is located at the end of the train to the south of the island, among other leading here from Colombo. For me it was just a town you interchange on the way to Mirissy but I noticed a few things. On the one hand it is larger and noisy town, especially around the bus station and on the other hand, there is a beautiful coastline with turquoise water and the quiet beach to stroll among the palm trees. Across the street from the train station there is a Buddhist temple on the island on which you enter the modern bridge. Nearby is a coral reef. Matara is a good place for transport and is well stocked. Just before the city saw fishermen catching fish log is penetrated into the bottom of which is one of the flagships of Sri Lanka.
Mirissa is a popular resort famous for its wonderful beaches, palm trees and warm turquoise waters. It is also a quieter neighborhood than other centers of this type known for a long time. When I got off the bus I went looking for a room and was very unpleasantly surprised by the prices. Luckily I was able to find a very nice room with a double bed, fan and mosquito net. There was also a very nice bathroom and a small office all for only 500 rupees a night. I had a view of the beach and monkeys were sitting high on the palm trees. The time I spent in Mirissa was fabulous. I was walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, eating fruit and so on for two whole days. One evening I treated myself to a very romantic dinner, but unfortunately alone. I sat down in a restaurant on the beach where the tables were on the sand and the ocean was washing my feet. For this there was the glow of the moon, stars and palm trees.
I ordered a steak of fish with salad and finished pancake. Everything was excellent, of course, although quite expensive but on the other hand, I spent a wonderful time and certainly was not as expensive as in Europe. On the last day I did not jump in the waves but longer swam in the lagoon and watched underwater life. I accompanied the children and their dog, which, unfortunately, he began to ask for money and pens. It was wonderful. Once swam then dived or sitting on the truncated palm observing surroundings. Mirissa is unfortunately a little way as the natives we no longer know how to take money from tourists. But it is output. You can live on the other side of the road and not from the ocean and eat in local pubs on the road because it just for the beauty of the ocean, after not paying. Anyway, it was great and I would recommend anyone who is in Sri Lanka.Here you can feel why Sri Lanka is famous for its paradise beaches.
Televijaya and the snake farm
While in Mirissa I took a short bus trip to the snake farm. Being a great lover of these beautiful animals and having a few large constrictors at home, I couldn’t miss it. The journey from Mirissa took me about half an hour with a change at the busy Weligama. When I got to Televijaya, people pointed out the snake farm to me even when I didn’t ask for it and that way I quickly got there. It is a pity that the owner of the farm was very adamant about the price, so I had to pay 500 rupees which I did not regret afterwards. He led me to a separate room where he kept snakes. He had a large collection of cobras and vipers, and a small tiger python. He also said that he has Sri Lankan mamba but I found it very suspicious, because he has been interested in snakes for many years and I am sure that mambs live only in Africa. They looked more like vipers than mamba because they did not have the characteristics of mambals that I know.
As for the cobras, there were, among others, the white cobra, the king cobra and the Indian cobra. They hissed very loudly when disturbed. Their guardian took them out of the terrariums for me, but unfortunately did not let me hold them. Instead, he showed me bite marks. He said he had become immune because he injected himself with a very small amount of their venom every now and then. After all, I was coming back along the asphalt road to have time to observe nature without rushing. On both sides of the road I had rice fields, buffaloes soaking in mud, and white birds patrolling the area in search of small animals. Once I also managed to see a large dragon that made an impression even on the locals. I stopped here for an omelette and tea in a local pub and then also returned to Mirissa through Weligama.
It was only one hour’s drive from Mirissa to Unawatuna and it was very nice. The whole time I had views of palm trees and the ocean and during the break I stopped for a delicious coconut ice cream dessert. Unawatuna is a better known and also very popular resort on the south coast. I liked it right away, although it was very commercial. The main and at the same time the only street was filled with more expensive and cheaper pubs, souvenir shops and workshops where very interesting sculptures were created. Of course, I was noticed by rickshaw drivers hungry for their commission, who wanted to take me to the hotel of their choice. One got me a room for 2000 rupees a night while I arranged for myself for 400 rupees. Here it confirms my old opinion about rickshaw drivers all over the subcontinent, not only in Sri Lanka. As usual on this beautiful island I had a very nice room with separate shower, fan and mosquito net. Each time I enumerate all these things because each time I compare the Sri Lankan conditions to the Indian ones where I lived in many hotels from horror stories.
Being in this paradise, I did not want to waste time sitting in the room. After a while, I left my room and reached a beautiful beach. I’ve been to many in different parts of the world but here it was exceptionally beautiful. But Unawatuna was different from Mirissa. There were restaurants and hotels built on the beach here while Mirissa was undeveloped and peaceful. At Unawatuna the shore was very shallow for a short time and then there was an immediate downward drop. But most importantly, the ocean itself was warm and had the most turquoise color I have ever seen. For long hours I was just swimming, lying in the water and diving for shells. Once a sea turtle swam near me, and there are quite a few of them here. After many hours in the water, I went out on the coconut and papaya and saw the turtle again and then dived again. This is how the whole day passed and it seemed to me that I could do it all the time.
In the evening however I went for a walk down the main street and spent most of my time in sculpture studios. In addition to the statues of Buddha and elephants, there were also cobras, many masks of the strangest shapes, boxes that opened by the principle of levers and much more. Wherever I went, the choice was huge. Then I bought a huge papaya again, then went ashore with it, sat down in a restaurant with banana juice and watched the ocean until late. The next morning I was doing roughly the same, although I had the opportunity to try something new. After swimming in the ocean, I went ashore and saw that fishermen standing on the shore had noticed a shoal of sardines. They quickly jumped into the boat and cast their nets around them and I followed the boat and dived a few meters to observe everything closely.
Sardines were trapped in the net and bumped against it, and some jumped out of the water to freedom even by about half a meter. In shallower water, fishermen hauled their nets ashore and sardines (very small and agile) often jumped out, hitting their faces, although the most interesting was their struggle for a life under the water. After some time, they fished a net with a large catch, although it was not only sardines. Poisonous spike fish also got here by accident (I described in the report about Arugam Bay). After this interesting experience, I went to the end of the beach to swim in the shallow lagoon. Here I was just diving and watching the fish swimming below me. It was a lot of interesting, colorful species of small fish that would not be ashamed of any marine aquarist. I swam for a long time, walked the shore and from time to time jumped into the warm ocean to dive in the hope of seeing another sea turtle. It was wonderful. I also met some people who advised me how to live cheaply in Sri Lanka, but I will tell about it in another chapter.
Walking down the main street, I saw many interesting phenomena and I’m not just talking about my favorite sculptures. Once a large dragon passed through the road, and another time I saw a bird that grabbed a lizard from in front of my legs and flew with it to the young to a nearby tree. Sri Lanka is full of such phenomena and I was lucky to witness many. In Unawatuna I also found a man who cooked for me because it was very expensive everywhere. For 100 rupees I got a whole plate of rice with vegetables and curry, sardines and coconut flakes, while elsewhere I would have to pay a minimum of 250 rupees. Besides, as usual in Sri Lanka, I seasoned the rest with coconuts, mangoes and papayas, although I also ate a lot of other fruits. After a few days, I left Unawatuna and wished I could stay longer. I was in paradise and lived in paradise. I sincerely recommend it to every traveler.
Being in Unawatuna I made a trip to the city located near Galle primarily to see the Dutch fort. As soon as I entered this port city immediately I saw the boat and fish markets, rich in many species of fish. I went on a vegetable bazaar where he stared at cheap fruit. There were pineapples, papayas, mangoes, bananas and watermelons small but still the most interesting was the fish market. Galle is a historic town and one of the largest ports in Sri Lanka but lost its importance when the much larger port was opened in Colombo. For tourists it is an attractive city mainly because of the Dutch fort built by the Dutch 1663 years. When I entered through the main gate immediately they threw me in the eyes old Dutch streets.
Even some street names still had Dutch names. This does not mean, however, that the Dutch fort was built only by the Dutch. The Portuguese contribute here, then the Dutch improved what they started, and after the departure of the Dutch, the British also contributed to the construction. For example, the main gate was built by the British in 1873, although there are many examples of this type. Right after entering, I entered several museums. In one of them there were maps, plates, dishes, decorations and many other things left here by the colonizers. There was also a jewelry store with a wealth of precious metals and stones. The seller really wanted to pull me over the famous moonstone in Sri Lanka and wanted to push it for as much as 70 pounds, while on the beach I could buy a similar one for 300 rupees. As I have already noticed in Sri Lanka, you have to watch out for tricksters who, in a very nice way, smiling from ear to ear and speaking very nice English, squeeze any amount of money.
In addition, I saw the Dutch church, several other museums but rather moderately interesting and the best of all was a walk on the thick defensive walls. On the one hand, I had the old buildings of the fort, and on the other, the Indian ocean bumping against the fortified walls. I had a Scot and a few Australians here, and walking together we could exchange travel experiences. The Scotsman was dressed in the national Sri Lankan costume or “sarong” – one piece of linen wrapped around his hips, which I think works for this climate. We started our walk from the lighthouse, stopping in the fortified squares on the shore of the ocean to observe the surroundings from there. We couldn’t enter some places because they were occupied by the army, but it was enough. When it was getting dark, accompanied by stray dogs, we reached the clock tower, one of the important points of the fort. From here there was a nice view of the ocean, the city of Galle, the cricket fields and another clock tower. This one was in the city and was not historic or attractive like the one inside the fort, but there was some history associated with it.
When Sri Lanka was hit by the Tsunami in 2004, many buildings were destroyed but this tower still stands intact. Apart from the fact that the time has stopped on it and it is not repaired in remembrance of this event. My time in Fort Galle was very educational and it was another valuable experience. I believe that it is a very important stop for a traveler for a few hours, which proves that the southern coast of Sri Lanka is not only heavenly beaches but also history and remarkable architecture. Besides, the fish markets and the very atmosphere of this small port city is also very interesting.
West Coast of Sri Lanka
The ride to Hikkaduwa was short and pleasant and as before all the way I had beautiful views of the ocean.On the spot I quickly found a very nice large room with a double bed and all I needed for only 400 rupees per night. Before I managed to get acquainted with the surroundings, I went to the beach I had just before my room. First came a palm tree rising parallel to the water mirror and then dived and rushed into the waves. Being on shallow water I once saw a sea turtle. Hikkaduwa is a famous town in Sri Lanka because of its beautiful beaches and good diving and surfing conditions. As you can easily guess the part for tourists is very commercial and therefore within a radius of about 4km there are hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops geared towards every budget. My first moments spent on the ocean but then I became interested in the main street. Especially the souvenir shops I liked very much because they were like art museums. I spent many hours admiring canvases and sculptures. Especially masks were very ingenious because they depicted human faces and their caricatures in a very sophisticated way.
It was unfortunately more expensive than in Unawatuna, but I was able to find a few cheaper shops and cheap local pubs where the locals were. It was another opportunity to eat roti in many variants and to drink another Ceylon tea. After another swim in the ocean and walking the beach until dark, I went to a luxury hotel where I was allowed to swim for free. The next day I wanted to do something else because Hikkaduwa is not just beaches, ocean and shops. Inside the town there is also a lot to offer and I went for a one-person bicycle tour.
First, I went to the town of Hikkaduwa where there are local people who buy at normal prices. It had a great charm. I passed a small port and saw a fish market where large pieces were displayed and then stopped for breakfast in the most ordinary pub for another roti and Ceylon tea. It was poor and ordinary and at the same time so natural. I traveled inland and first saw a Buddhist temple on a hill. Outside there was a white dagoba and nearby there was a huge statue of a sleeping Buddha and interesting paintings. There were palm trees around and very nice monks told me a few things about their temple. On the way by bike, I watched nature, the children accosted me asking for change and pens. Then I went to Lake Hikkaduwa, which is home to dragons and numerous birds, but that day I was very unlucky because I traveled around the lake and only saw stray dogs. Anyway, I had a lot of fun cycling among the palm trees and with the dogs.
At the crossroads, I stopped for a while in a wooden hut from which fruit was sold. I drank the contents of two coconuts and for dinner I bought papaya and a few small bananas. The fruit was delicious as usual and very cheap. I had a nice day on my bike and was happy to be doing more than just spending time by the ocean. That day I was still diving, then swam in a luxury hotel and at the end I admired art. I also chatted for hours with the sellers over sweet papaya. Here I was able to buy a wooden bas-relief depicting a woman from a 5th century fresco on a rock in Sigiriya. I thought it would be a proper souvenir because beaches, ocean, elephants and tea fields are in many countries and the fresco of the ancient city of Sigiriya is only in Sri Lanka. Hikkaduwa was a pleasure and I had a nice time here, but unfortunately it ended quickly. The next day I got on the train to reach another beautiful place, i.e. Bentota, after about an hour’s drive.
After a nice train ride of just one hour, I reached the town of Bentota. However, I could not find any rooms here because they were all too expensive. Everyone wanted at least 1500 rupees a night and, having no more ideas, I made an exception to the rule and let the rickshaw driver take me away. This one, of course, knew the area very well and got me a room where I paid 1510 rupees for two nights. It was more expensive than anywhere before but I had to get over it. Bentota is another oceanfront tourist destination and, as I have noticed, way too expensive. There are a lot of expensive hotels here prepared rather for tourists with thick wallets than for independent backpackers. I also noticed that there are a lot of tourists from Germany and England and often many places have inscriptions in German. As soon as I dropped my backpack in the dirty room, I first went to the ocean. Here it was different than before because the beach was very wide and the entrance to the water was very shallow for a long time. I got here by walking through a luxury hotel with a beautiful pool set against the rocks and a large garden with palm trees. Older men with big bellies and stuffed pockets sunbathed here, and I, thin and rather poor, took advantage of the hospitality of this hotel for free.
For the next two days I liked the luxury so much that I spent most of the day here. I suited my surroundings because I was white and no one asked for my documents. I went in and out when I wanted to. Then I began to understand why Bentota is the most expensive. When I was on the beach, I sat under the palm trees with young men who immediately contacted me to do business. In addition to the standard questions, they tried to sell me marijuana and a pretty young girl for 5,000 rupees. They said that my life in Sri Lanka is a paradise but for them there is nothing interesting here. They have no job and therefore spend all day on the beach trying to sell grass or a girl and the row of palm trees near the “rich hotel” is the best for this. I also had a proposal to buy a coconut for 100 rupees and a papaya for 150 rupees, although in the city I would pay maybe 40 for both. I spent that day until dark in a beautiful hotel where I swam, sat under palm trees and watched the ocean.
At the end of my trip, and especially after the Sri Lankan transport, I treated myself to a bit of luxury – the more so because it was for free. After I broke through the auto rickshaws selling everything, I also went to dinner at a cheap, local pub. It was nice and the traditional dishes were tasty but the best was my conversation with the polite waiter. First he served me as a king and then he sat down with me and wanted my contact and invited me home. Of course, he wanted to sell me my girlfriend and whatever I wanted, but at the end he admitted that he was bad here and that he wanted to emigrate to Oman. Wherever I’m in this country, everyone wants to get out of here. I made a few trips with Bentota, which in my opinion were much more interesting than the Bentota itself.
Alutghama is only 1km from Bentota, so I got here over the bridge after about 15 minutes. Alutghama has nothing special about it and that is what it is worth seeing. It is a small, dirty town with chaotic traffic, a bazaar and everything that always has a small Sri Lankan town of this type. I came here to settle banking matters as it is not possible in Bentota and I did some shopping. I was tempted by mangoes for 5 and 10 rupees per piece and a few papayas.
There was also a fish stall where I could laugh with the locals and see some interesting species of fish. For example, there was a flying fish that had fins transformed into wings, there was an 80 kg tuna and many other interesting species with different shapes and colors. Aluthgama definitely reflects the realism of this country, which cannot be said about Bentota and this is what is so attractive here. For example, I found a nice place where good rice was served, roti with vegetables and coconut flakes, and fruit with ice cream for dessert. Plus all at local prices.
Kosgoda was by far one of the most enjoyable experiences in Sri Lanka. There are breeding grounds for sea turtles, which are open to tourists for a fee of course. At the beginning it was a non-profit organization, but very soon more hatcheries were opened as poor people smelled the American dollar in the air. I don’t know if it has more to do with earning or protecting species today, but if many more turtle eggs turn into baby turtles instead of scrambled eggs, it is definitely something good. I went to the hatchery, which supposedly has the only albino turtle, and on the way I was accompanied by a man who wanted to be nice, but the truth is that each of them takes a commission for bringing a tourist. I met a polite guide with a fake smile on his face who sold tickets for 500 rupees, but for Americans and Swiss they were 1000 rupees. In other hatcheries, the entrance cost only 200 rupees and I paid that much.
First, I saw the sand turtles’ nests, which said how many eggs were in each of them. The way it works is that fishermen dig up the turtle nests and sell them to the hatchery where they are buried back. After hatching, the young are transferred to a sea water tank where they are fed until they reach a specific size, which guarantees them greater safety. In addition, older turtles are less likely to suffer from certain diseases. Then I went to the pools where small turtles were swimming, and then to the larger ones where adults were already swimming. I could touch them all and even hold them in my arms. When they were too big and heavy, one boy helped me and another took photos and recorded videos. In this and all other hatcheries, there were several species of sea turtles such as green, loggerhead, olive and tortoiseshell turtles, but no one had a leatherback one. I was told that this species would require a much larger tank and a different temperature that they cannot provide. They had a young leatherback turtle, but unfortunately dead, in formalin. It was beautiful and the turtles made me a lot of fun and the people were very helpful.
There were also sad moments and, as always, it was about poverty. One man sang me a song about the tsunami and although I didn’t understand the words it was a sad song. His father died during the tsunami. Another man had a son suffering from epilepsy and he did not treat it because there was no way. The head of the hatchery suggested that I come here with my family, but he wanted 3500 rupees from me for a room. When I told him directly what I thought about the price, he dropped to 1500 rupees, but the price was at least three times more expensive than the normal price. You can see that they were desperate for money because when I bought a postcard, the head of the hatchery threw himself at 15 rupees. Anyway, it was a very interesting place and I recommend it to everyone.
On the way to Bentota, I was walking along the beach and, apart from the beautiful open air, I saw fishermen curling their nets and arranging their catch. They said they caught around 2,500 fish of 15kg each that day. I also saw a monitor lizard that quickly escaped and children asking for money, sweets and pens. For the last money I returned to Aluthgam so that I could choose the money and 5 minutes outside the town the driver took a tea break for everyone.
My trip to Negombo
While still in Bentota, I overslept on the train so I had to rickshaw to Aluthgama where I got on a small bus. At the beginning it was even nice because I was driving along the ocean but the atmosphere broke when they told me to pay for my big backpack. In the suburbs of Colombo, my journey lasted forever because there was a traffic jam and then I saw the already known muck, i.e. the Fort and Pettah districts in Colombo. I bought new flip-flops for 200 rupees because the old ones just fell off my feet and then I got on the city train. I was going to Negombo, my last stop before the airport, and I was happy because it was not far from here. However, I was happy too early because, sitting on hard, plastic seats, I traveled 40 km in the entire 2 hours. The train stopped in all the small holes that I didn’t even have on the map, but on the way people sang and traders sold mangoes and pineapples. The portion cost 20 rupees but at the sight of me the price increased to 50 so I had to get upset again and I bought it for 20 rupees. It was like that all the time and I was slowly losing my mood. Finally, after two hours, I got to Negombo, although it also took me a few minutes to push my way through the crowd.
Negombo is my last stay in Sri Lanka. I deliberately chose this small fishing town as my last one, as it is conveniently located from the Katunayake International Airport. Transport to the airport here is much shorter than from Colombo and is also much cheaper. Negombo is the first Sri Lankan beach resort and from what I noticed it is not able to offer as much as other charming towns in the south of the island. After leaving the station, I took a rickshaw and went to Lewis Place, which is the street located by the ocean where the entire tourist base is located. They wanted me to rent a room for 800 rupees a night but I managed to find it for 400. On the first day I went to swim, although it was raining a lot and there was a strong wind. At first it was nice and the waves lifted me very high but I had to give up when the ocean started to carry me to the rocks. It was getting dark that day, so in the evening I only walked down the main street to be satisfied with Sri Lankan cuisine and art for the last time.
The next morning I wanted to visit the area because Negombo has a lot of historical value. I tried to do it on a bicycle, but here they wanted to rip me off without mercy, so I did it on foot. It is worth mentioning that Negombo is heavily dominated by the Catholic Church and has the highest percentage of Catholics in Sri Lanka. There are also the largest number of Catholic churches and the largest percentage of Catholics. As I walked to the city center, I saw a different church almost every now and then. One of the largest is the Church of St. Sebastian, although the Church of St. Maria looked older and had nice paintings. Consequently, Negombo is sometimes referred to as “little Rome”. On the way, I also passed through an interesting local market where you could buy all the necessary things for a normal price. These were, among others, fruits, vegetables, household items also made of coconut. It was also a good place to observe what Negombo really is today. I bought traditional Sri Lankan sweets here, a few mangoes and bananas, and a spoon made of coconut. I also sat down in a nasty pub where I ate a disgusting meal in the company of poor port people. Then I went to see the Dutch fort, or rather what was left of it. It was not a huge and impressive fort like I had seen in Galle before. To this day, only the gate with “1678” and a small clock tower have been preserved, and the building inside the fort has been transformed into a prison.
Next to it, there was also a cricket ground in need of renovation and a lake, which is today a harbor for fishing boats. There was an interesting fish market nearby, where there were many interesting species of fish for sale, but unfortunately I came on Sunday and there was no such choice as there is during the week. It’s a pity because, as one man said, it happens that they catch real monsters that would be very interesting for me. From there I went towards the center of Negombo and passed, among others, through the port where I tried to get in touch with fishermen repairing nets. I also crossed the Dutch canals, which in this part of Sri Lanka are very extensive and their length reaches 120 km.
In Negombo you can see a significant influence of Dutch colonization because in addition to Dutch buildings and a Dutch fort, the Dutch also developed their love for the canals here. When I was in the center, I sat in a few pubs to drink a coconut and then returned to Lewis Place where I once again walked on the street full of art and souvenir shops. On the same day in the evening at 12 am I left the ordered rickshaw to the airport. After about 20 minutes of driving, including a few military checks, I got there. This is how my beautiful trip around Sri Lanka ended.
Summary of Sri Lanka
As I suspected Sri Lanka was beautiful and worth every moment spent here. I mean not only beaches, palm trees and a turquoise ocean, but also tea fields, ancient cities and all the rest that make up the beauty of this country. There are also bad things like transport, raising prices for tourists, and the civil war itself. Compared to, for example, neighboring India, it is a bit more expensive and, unfortunately, the Sri Lankan government is pushing tourist prices to the maximum, which may disgust tourists to this wonderful country. For me, however, it was above all a beautiful, exotic island worth exploring.
I spent a month in Sri Lanka and I thought it would be enough, but I could stay here much longer and I would definitely get to know more and still have a great time. For example, I did not manage to see the Sinharaja National Park and the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, so I would like to come back here again and see these two places. But I will wait until the civil war is over and maybe finally there will be a ferry from India to Sri Lanka. It would be much more convenient and cheaper. Anyway, it was beautiful, although Sri Lankan people can really test the patience of white travellers.
- ancient cities of Sri Lanka
- Arugam Bay
- Dambulla caves
- Dehiwala zoo
- Dunhinda waterfall
- Dutch Fort in Galle
- Hikkaduwa beach
- Horton Plains National Park
- Nuwara Elliya
- Sri Lanka Adam's peak Sri Pada
- Sri Lanka beaches
- Sri Lanka Buddhism
- Sri Lanka Indian Ocean
- Sri Lanka scams
- Sri Lanka sea turtles
- Sri Lanka South Coast
- tea fields in Sri Lanka
- Tooth Temple in Kandy
- transport in Sri Lanka