Wonders of Sri Lanka

 

srpart1.j
Mihinthale

The treacherous climb to the top of Sigiriya, Lion Rock, is a tourist must.  We had told Nimal, our first-rate Sri Lankan driver and mentor, that we were reasonably fit and up for moderate hiking.  That was before I viewed this massive monolith of stone with steep vertiginous metal staircases attached to its walls: definitely more than moderate. I wanted to wimp out. My courage and determination dissolved.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was hot, very hot. There were no trees to provide shade en route to the top.  It was crowded, a single file of slowly moving bodies inching upwards on those dreadful stairs. This did not look like fun.  Was it worth it?  Could I make it?  After the Chinese disaster (See previous post:  “China II:  The Fall”) I could not risk another crash.

sl.part1.w
Nimal

“You can do it,” Nimal assured us.  He arranged a local guide.   I let him carry my camera and water and concentrated carefully on every step. Fortunately a landing with a gallery of remarkable frescoes provided a welcome break en route up.  The reward, stunning vistas atop, was well deserved.  It is generally believed that Sigiriya was a royal citadel during the fifth century, although another theory maintains that it was a monastery and religious site.   Our guide adhered to the citadel theory and told us that King Kassapa had 500 concubines, for whom he built swimming pools with diving boards.

srpart1.k
Superb views atop Sigiriya

There are many more astonishing sights in Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of India.  Although not much bigger than Wales, Sri Lanka packs a lot into a small area: glorious beaches, ancient temples, hillside tea plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, rain forested peaks, more challenging climbs.

The country’s 30-year civil war, which ended in 2009, kept visitors away. That has changed dramatically. At Sigiriya, and just about everywhere we went during our two week tour of the country in late February, we encountered lots of tourists.

We visited many other sites, temples and ruins.  The city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, is a complex of archaeological and architectural treasures.  We followed a parade of worshipers walking along a giant piece of orange cloth, 300 meters long according to Nimal.  It symbolizes Buddha’s skin, he told us, and was to be wrapped around Ruvanvelisaya, a magnificent white dagoba or shrine for sacred relics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Devotees help carry  the orange cloth which will be wrapped around Ruvanvelisaya (below).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The climb at Mihinthale, another temple complex, was beyond us:  1,843 granite slab steps with the sun blazing down on them. No shoes allowed –you had to ascend barefoot.  No way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tough feet, as well as stamina, required for this climb.

Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s medieval capital from the 11th to the 13th centuries before it was abandoned to invaders from South India.  We – and many others — toured the area by bike with stops to admire and photograph.  The major attraction is the site with colossal Buddhas carved out of rock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Reclining Buddha at Polonnaruwa

At Dambulla Royal Rock Temple, some 150 different Buddhas are enshrined in five  caves.  The Disney-like entrance to the site, with a monstrous Golden Temple and

srfone.13
Cave Buddhas

mammoth concrete Buddha, seems out of place, but the gentle climb along a wooded path to this hilltop temple complex is easy and pleasant.  Entrance to the caves is controlled with a certain number admitted for each visit. It is well worth the wait to see these remarkable statues in this dimly lit, mystical ambience.

srpart1.nBoth tourists and worshipers flock to Kandy, a lovely hill town whose magnet is the Sacred Tooth Temple where one of Buddha’s teeth is said to be hidden inside a golden shrine or casket which in turn contains six more caskets, much like a Russian box.   We joined a large crowd and patiently waited in line for a night time opening of the heavily guarded room containing the tooth shrine, and our turn to file by the relic casket.   Although there was little to see, the holy ritual and huge temple complex are intriguing.   According to Lonely Planet, Sri Lankan Buddhists believe they must complete at least one pilgrimage to the tooth temple.

ad,sr,maldives.fone 218
Worshiping at the Sacred Tooth Temple

Nimal De Silva, (ndsilva67@yahoo.com and dsltours.com)  chauffeured us around his country, made hotel arrangements, arranged local guides at many places — and taught us much about this fabulous country.  He is a delight, very patient and accommodating. We were happy with all.

st.part1.l
Gaudy entrance to Dambulla complex

More on Sri Lanka in coming posts:  flora and fauna;  food, markets and produce, beaches and hilltop retreats.  Don’t miss it.  If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared. 

Please feel free to comment – just scroll down, below following photos,  click, scroll down again and add your thoughts.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ruins at Polonnaruwa
sr.part1.m
Cave Buddha at Dambulla
The concrete Buddha surveys the landscape
srfone.5
Polonnaruwa

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

makeread2

20 thoughts on “ Wonders of Sri Lanka”

    1. Wow. Since my blog and photo mentor (an extraordnary professional photographer), is your hubby, and you think the photos are stunning, I am thrilled. Thanks so much, Mollie.

      Like

  1. A very special island! Had no sense of what to think of Sri Lanka, so it was such a wonderful introduction!
    Thanks, Leah, as always it is such a pleasure to “accompany” you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shelley. With age, we have had to slow down — not to my liking. But with those steps, it was more than the fact they were uneven and steep. Heat — it would have been like walking on fire. The bottoms of our feet, which are usually in shoes, would have rebelled. Thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another wonderful trip-so nice to reap the benefit of your experiences, your insights, and your great photographs which bring it to life, and I don’t even have to get up for my arm chair!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Flags in Mihinthale don’t look like the flag of Sri Lanka. Do you know what it means?
    It is interesting that face of Buddha in Sri Lanka always appears male. I am glad your trip was safe!
    Yoshie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry, but I don’t know about the flags. I took another look at the Buddhas in my post. They look more female to me. In Myanmar, we saw both — male and female looking Buddhas. What klnd of faces do Japanese Buddha’s have.?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s