Travel Around the World Magazine: July 2016 issue
Travel Around the World Magazine: July 2016 issue
Cover page: I was sitting at the boat to see the whale. It’s been an hour since I have been sitting here. The someone pointed out his finger and said “ I saw its tail ”.
I can’t believe during the 7-day trip in the country that looks like a drop of water would fascinate this much. Besides its famous as No. 4 world’s largest tea exporter, and is a Buddhism country, Sri Lanka has much more things to explore.
The first thing I did after arriving in Colombo was adjusting my watch to be 1 ½ hours backward (from Bangkok time). I then took the meter taxi to tour around the town as it seemed to be more convenient than the public bus. The driver told me to prepare for the expressway fee (Colombo—Katunayake) which cost me Rs 300(Bt 70). It took me less than an hour to arrive at the hotel. After checking-in, I took Three-wheeler or Tuk Tuk in Sri Lankan version The difference I noticed between the Thai Tuk Tuk and Sri Lankan version was Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk was that the Sri Lankan Tuk Tuks were more colorful than the Thai. There are several colors from red, blue to yellow. Also, some were decorated with blubs, stickers or photos around the cars. The hotel person suggested me to take metered one so I wouldn’t get ripped off. the three-wheeler fee charges Rs 50 for the first kilometer followed by Rs 30 for the next kilometers thereafter.
After I got off the Tuk Tuk, I visited the 2000-year old Kelani Maha Viharaya temple which is 10 kilometers from the capital .The Buddha and 500 monks visited this temple on Visakha Bucha day. Surrounded by people and monks praying, I couldn’t help feeling calm with the atmosphere in this place. I could feel that people were into Buddhism. However, after walking around the chaitya for 3 times, I headed to the Bodhi tree, which was 1 out of 32 that came from Anuradhapura. I saw that some people bringing flowers and putting them around the tree, while others carried them, and put water before laying them before the Buddha image.
I then went to Gangaramaya temple, also known known as “ Kong Karam ” temple in Thai. The first thing that stunned me after walking down to this temple was that there were a number of Buddha images, religious sculptures and ancient objects which could sum up to 1,000 pieces in total. Each were separated inside the temple’s museum. Literally, it would take me almost a day to check all out.
Gangaramaya temple was the first Buddhist school in Sri Lanka and was the place that Buddha’s hairs located. Thus, it’s not surprising that many Buddhists visit here from time to time.
Colombo is divided into 15 zones for the purposes of postal services. For example, the governmental and rich people’s areas are located in zones 7 and 8. I took the three-wheeler to Fort, which is the central business district of Colombo. In this district, you can check out the town’s landmark such as the Colombo Lighthouse, World Trade Center Colombo ( Twin towers) or colonial-style building like the Grand Oriental Hotel, Cargills Building and old Dutch hospital which currently has become a center with restaurants where I had my first lunch.
After the lunch, I walked further from Fort to find a tuk tuk. It’s not hard to get it here unlike in Thailand that you could get a taxi rejection (haha). In Sri Lanka,the drivers are friendly . They will directly approach you, and will offer the touring package. They sometimes are very talkative,and make me think whether we have known each other for a long time. At present, there is the service called “ Tuk Tuk Safari ” , the premium day tour option in Colombo. The tour will offer the best of must-visit places in Colombo, with open air convertible rooftops and drink like a link. It was a shame that I didn’t make an advanced reservation.
I got off to zone 7, which I had 3 targeted places to visit. This includes 1) Cinnamon Garden, the large public park, is known as Colombo’s green lungs. 2) Independence Square and Memorial Hall, which was built for the commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule in 1948. The front of the square places the sculpture of Rt. Hon. Stephen Senanayake, the first Sri Lankan Prime Minister 3) Arcade Independence Square, U-shaped shopping mall. The building was built in the same period as the Independence Square before being renovated and turned into a modern shopping complex.The mall offers high-end brand name products, restaurants, bars, tea shops. Usually at 7.30 p.m., the fountain will pop up as it has become the main photography spot in Colombo. After I finished eating a Sri Lankan style chicken sandwich, I checked out the tea shop named “ Tea Time Rock ”, which offered a gift collection of Dilmah T-Series teas that are known around the world only for their excellence. I ordered hot Spice Cinnamon tea along with Mango waffles under the 80s music. I have to say, this is a sweet impressive return to Sri Lanka .
Anuradhapura lies 205 kilometers north of the current capital Colombo in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province. It’s the first capital of Sri Lanka and has been registered as a World Heritage site since 1982. The first thing I wanted to do after arriving in this city was visiting the Bodhi tree. It was believed that the tree helped protect the city from foreign countries’ invasion. It was an honor that I got a chance to come here. While walking around the tree, I tried to look for its fallen leaves. Fortunately, found 2 leaves. This delighted me as I kept them in my notebook and to bring them home to worship.
From the Bodhi tree, I followed the path way that people dressed in white walk ( Sri Lankan people usually dress up in white to show respect to the temple ). This path way led to “ Ruwanwelisaya ”, one of the world’s tallest stupas, standing at 103 m (338 feet) . The stupa was built by King Dutugemunu during 140 B.C which was the golden era of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Since the stupa area is now under the renovation, I tried to be careful with the rocks surrounded the area. There was a guy who asked me with a smile whether I brought the socks because I could wear them as a precaution from the stones laying on the ground. I thanked him and kept walking carefully.
Anuradhapura consists of 2 important stupas; Jetavanarama, the world’s highest stupa (122 meters) which made of bricks. There is a stupa located in the ruins of Jetavana in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka King Mahasen of Anuradhapura (273–301) initiated the construction of the stupa . Seeing it through my own eyes, I realize how strong of human faith is in Buddhism.Another significant stupa in this city “ Abayagiriya ” .It was a major monastery site of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. Anuradhapura is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage cities in the nation. I noticed that people would just only use flowers such as purple lotuses and white jasmines. They didn’t use incense to worship the Buddha like Thai people.
Other religious sites in my check-list are Mihintale and Dambulla golden cave temple.
Mihintale is a mountain peak, and is 12 kilometers far from Anuradhapura . It is believed by that Mihintale was the meeting point of the Buddhist monk Mahinda from India and King Devanampiyatissa, who was sent to introduce Buddhism in Sri Lanka. To travel to the peak, you have to walk 1,843 steps. I noticed that some people carried heavy sacks. So, I asked them, and realized that the stupa was under renovation and they were carrying those sandbags to help build the stupa in Mihintale. Actually, this made me feel like wanting to help delivering the sandbags too. On the way to the top of Mihintale , there was a giant mango-tree stupa, containing of Buddhist monk Mahinda’s relics. Further, the stupa is believed that venerable Mahinda and other goddesses came from India to this mountain peak for the first time. If I wanted to walk around sightseeing this area, it would take a few hours to finish the tour. I admit that I was tired of walking to the peak through having a strong intention that I wanted to check it out despite the strong wind interruption. As I arrived to the top of the mountain, I saw the 360-degree view. It was worth the attempt and risk.
Dambulla golden cave temple
It took me about an hour to travel from Mihintale to Dambulla golden cave temple . The temple is a World Heritage Site (1991) in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and Ganesha.
Spice & Herb Garden
On the way to Kandy, there were several spice &herbal gardens that tourists can stop by. In fact, Sri Lankans use herbs for food and medicine purposes like Indians. But after eating Sri Lankan food ,I realize that Sri Lankan food doesn’t have much spice of herbal ingredients as much as Indian cuisine. Inside the herbal garden that I visited, there were different kinds from lemongrass, pepper, aloe vera, ginger, cocoa to vanilla. This was surprised me, and made me think that Sri Lanka had such a good soil that can be planted anything. This garden is 100% organic, and visitors can buy the herbal products. Besides the garden, there were also massage places around there that people could experience the medicine made from herbs from this garden.
I firstly knew Kandy from tea bags that my colleague bought for me as a souvenir from Sri Lanka. With the smooth taste of the tea, I pledged to myself that someday I would visit Kandy to check out the tea plantations and savour the drink.
Kandy is 500 meters above sea level, and is 115 kilometers from Colombo. There is a big lake in Kandy, which is considered as the town’s landmark. Initially, this lake came after the King Sri Vikrama desired to construct it as swimming pool. It was informed that people who oppose the plan would be killed, and their body will be thrown in the lakes ( very brutal).
Besides its fame for tea, Kandy is also renowned for “the Temple of the Sacared Tooth Relic”. In an ancient time, a monk offered the sacred tooth to King Guhasinha of Dantapur in the 4th century.During that time, there was rival invasion in the Kingdom. To protect the tooth, he sent his daughter to Sri Lanka with the Tooth hidden in her hair to keep it safe during a time of political crisis. After the tooth was officially delivered to Sri Lanka, it was situated in Polonnaruwa before moving to Kandy at present.
If you would like to worship the sacred tooth relic, the available sessions are divided into 3 times from 0530-0730 hours, 1000-1130 hours, and 18002030 hours. I decided to go there for in the morning session because it was not too hot and crowed. After arriving at the temple, I paid for Rs 1,000( Bt 250) as for the entrance fee, which you would receive a CD of the temple history. I then bought 6 lotus flowers , took of the shoes and queued for the tooth relic worship. Fortunately, there were not many people during that time so I started praying while holding the lotuses. After I got my turn, I offered my flowers to the monk who stood by to receives them inside. Although it was a short time of seeing the sacred tooth, I felt greatly overwhelmed that I got a chance to visit here.
Every August, there will be a grand festival called “ The Kandy Esala Perahera” .This historical procession is held annually to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is housed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. the procession consists of many traditional local dances such as fire-dancers, whip-dancers, Kandyan dances and various other cultural dancers, in addition to the elephants who are usually adorned with lavish garments.
Galle is a large coastal city on the south-western tip of Sri Lanka.It is 119 kilometers from Colombo and used to be the center of Dutch colonization. Thus, there are many Dutch-colonial style buildings surrounded in this city which those of you who like vintage tourism should not miss !
Galle Fort, in the Bay of Galle. It was built in 1663, aiming to prevent foreign enemies from land, marine and air. Back then, Kaffir slaves constructed the walls using granites. I spent a full day exploring the colonial-style architecture around this bay, which started from Maritime Museum. With the museum’s charm, I was stunned ,and had to stop by to take photos. When I turned left, there was the Dutch Reformed Church nearby, built in 1755. Even though it was almost 200 years old, the attractiveness of this church still remained. It was a shame it was closed that day. So, I decided to walk back to the Galle fort, which has turned into a shopping complex and surrounded with a number of restaurants. Aside from its beautiful architecture, in the front of the fort covered with a giant tree that I could felt the green space. Then, I sightsaw the town along Front road,and continued walking up to Odel road, where I dropped by at the Heritage Café drinking lemon tea. Later on, I wandered to Leum Baan to take a photo of lighthouse by the sea before wandering to Flag Rock, at the southernmost end of the Fort. People said this was the best area to capture sunset photo. On my way here to Fort, I passed by a group of students, who were on a field trip accompanied by the teacher. They were laughing, making loud noise—seemed like they were having a good time together with the teacher. Actually, during my 7-day trip in Sri Lanka, I had never seen anyone who act badly. I found that people were friendly and always laid a smile to me.
Whale watching & Stilt fishing
Apart from seeing the beautiful colonial style buildings in this town, must-see thing in Galle are whale watching and stilt fishing, which you can see in Galle only.
Stilt Fishing is an ancient Sri Lankan fishing practice. The fishermen sit on a cross bar called a “ petta ” tied to a vertical pole and driven into the sand a few meters offshore. From this high position, the fishermen cast his line, and waits until a fish comes along to be caught. More than 500 fishing households follow this traditional practice. In 2004, the Tsunami hit the island, this old fishing style faded. But after the town was renovated, this fishing practice returned.
Stilt fishing usually takes place along Kathaluwa and Ahangama beaches in the evening and late evening. Thus, these are the best periods of time If you would like to snap a photo or experience this traditional fishing method. However, since the photos by the photographer, Steve McCurry of this practice were famous worldwide, local fishermen got together and demonstrated their fishing style. All day as the price depends on how you and the fishermen
negotiate. Well, at least it is the good way to help them earn the living.
The day before I left Sri Lanka, I booked a whale watching program which has been one of my wish-lists to do in this country. It costs me Rs 6,500, which was expensive but it would be worth to see this in exchange. I arrived at the Fishery Harbor at 6 a.m. The whale watching boat consisted of 2 floors, had many seats which were pretty convenient. The boat started moving at 7 a.m. After an hour passed, everyone glanced at something blue that resided at the Indian Ocean sea. Some people pointed finger to the sea shouting “it’s over there !!! ” . Then someone later said with excitied voice “I saw its tail !!!” . After that, I heard the sound of camera flashing the scene. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the whale jumping action. So seeing its tail was the best shot of this trip. As you know, you cannot always determine how things should be the way you want. Just seeing its tail was enough to make me happy. It was right that we should not bother the lives of whales. Instead, we should let them have their way of life naturally as they are. It was also good enough that I didn’t get to see them on anyone’s dinner dish.
There were many people asking me where I came from during my stay here. I replied them that I came from Thailand. The first words they responded to me was “Buddhist Country!”. I guess this is because both Sri-Lanka and Thailand continue to have strong religious ties since ancient times. Moreover, Thai tourists visiting here have the purpose to check out Buddhist sites, and worship Buddha statues. For me, I wanted to discover other aspects of this country through people’s way of life, through sightseeing towns. Because the stories along the journey are like a jigsaw that we gradually connect until we get a clear picture. And of course, when I think of Sri Lanka, the impressive memories of the friendly people, and other things along the trip would flash back in my memories. This is certainly one of the valuable experiences that is beyond my expectation.