Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Travel Sri Lanka’ Category

SAFARI SRI LANKA

Passekudah beach

Passekudah beach

Mare and I sip beers on a deserted Caribbean-like beach in Passekudah, northern Sri Lanka. This area has only been accessible for the past four years, after the end of the civil war. “We get along with the northern people naturally,” Dahn says. “Buddhist and Hindu both like peace, and now we have it.”

IMG_0483 (2)

Walk white sands, next to shallow blue waters, and notice the growth of luxury resorts in the distance. Fishing boats bring in catches of prawns, fish and crabs, and the cook “curry’s them up” to place onto our plates tonight. Yeah, Babe, we are finally away from the crowds. However, our short attention span kicks-in, and after four days of hot, humid beach, we want to roll.

Bring on “The Gathering.” Dahn, our driver, joins us in the safari jeep tour to witness a spectacular event, where over 200 wild elephants migrate to Minneriya National Park. They come to eat the rich grass growing in the mud. Elephants consume around 300 kilos of grass daily.

IMG_0564 (2)

Jeeps keep a cautious distance, as incidents of elephant attacks are common. We are in awe, as wolves pass near the herds. Male elephants roam alone, only allowed into the female herd for mating season. (Sounds like a pretty good system to me)

IMG_0581 (2)

We gaze at the magnificent beasts for hours, before moving on to Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock). This monstrous volcano plug, flew to flat land from an ancient volcanic explosion. Crocodiles swim in the moat around this rock. Tourists climb up rickety steps to the top, where ruins of either a monastery or a palace remain, depending on which story you believe.

In front of Sigiriya Rock

In front of Sigiriya Rock

We decide to not spend sixty bucks to climb the steps, and opt to spend sixty bucks on an elephant ride…which is a first for us. Riding on a trained, magnificent beast gives us mixed/sad feelings for the elephant.

IMG_0674 (2)

We pass a massive Buddha meditating on a hill in the jungle, exuding friendliness and peace. We can all use more of that.

The view from our balcony in Kandy

The view from our balcony in Kandy

Mare and I spend the night on a balcony guesthouse back in the jungle of Kandy, where birds sing and monkeys wrestle on rooftops.

IMG_0775 (3)

We book the Ocean Front Hotel for our final two-night stay in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Yes, this is where we have butlers. We miss them. Now, we smile and share happy feelings like old family friends. How cool is that? Thank you Abundant Universe. See you in Mumbai!

Text by Ron Mitchell.            Photos by Marilynn Windust

PARADISE AMONG PERILS IN SRI LANKA

Dahn drives us through densely populated, jungle covered mountains. His eyes beam with a smile when talking about Sri Lanka. “We have everything here, like paradise.” He stops the car while monkeys come to the road. “People should never feed wildlife. Now they get hit by cars and even attack people for food.”

IMG_0760 (2)

Let’s stop for some mangosteens, red bananas, and what our driver calls “rambutans.”

Radutan

Rambutan

Manicured fields of tea drape the crest of the mountain, and we stop for cup.

Tea Plantations in central Sri Lanka

Tea Plantations in central Sri Lanka

I recall a sign posted at the Sri Lankan airport, “Transporting Illegal Drugs into Sri Lanka Results in the Death Penalty.” Dahn confirms that it is true. “If you get caught smoking weed, you just get three months in jail and a fine. Sell or grow it, you get death.” He explains that smoking cigarettes in public is also illegal, as is drunkenness. I refrain from asking about homosexuality being illegal. Yet…these folks smile and seem so happy.

Fishing boats in Arugam Bay

Fishing boats in Arugam Bay

After a ten course curry lunch in the charming town of Ella, we finally roll on straight roads to Arugam Bay, a surfer hang out. Dahn hooks us up with his friend, Dhanuka, who has three rooms for rent. We take the cement square with no windows, but air conditioning. Realistically, the waves are not that impressive for surfing, but makes it a good place for beginners. This analysis from me, who knows nothing about surfing.

If the sea recedes I am in trouble

If the sea recedes I am in trouble

“We used to have 14 rooms before the tsunami,” Dhanuka says. He tells the story with a smile on his face. It goes like this:  Many Sri Lankan families come to the beach every Christmas, and the 26th is also a holiday. The tsunami hit ten years ago on December 26th. They had no prior experience with big waves, and were not warned. When the ocean receded after the first wave, many people thought it a wonderful gift, and went out to claim their own piece of “new beach,” and pick up fish trapped in pools. The wild animals instinctively migrated inland, but nobody paid attention. When the ocean started coming back, Dhanuka ran with his mother, through waist-high water, and made it to safe ground. The wave took his father, who was sleeping.

This is what is left of our hotel's restaurant after the tsunami

This is what is left of our hotel’s restaurant after the tsunami

Dhanuka smiles and explains that Sri Lankan women all have very long hair. The young girls wear pigtails. As they were caught in the wave and tried to escape, their hair became entangled in barbed wire fences. They drowned when the water level climbed to 20 feet high. Bodies were collected from the tops of trees also. “When we returned, we had absolutely nothing.”

Horn-billed Toucan

Horn-billed Toucan

Sri Lanka lost 30,000 people in the tsunami. Instead of bringing  the two sides together, the war intensified. Both sides fought for the foreign aid. “We lost even more people.” Dhanuka smiles, and then thanks us for the aid sent from the United States.

“Dhanuka,” I ask, “How can you tell me this traumatic story with a smile on your face?”

“Because it’s our culture to smile and be happy on the outside. Never show bad feelings. We cry on the inside.”

Sunrise in Arugam Bay

Sunrise in Arugam Bay

It has been ten years since the tsunami, and the war is over for four years now. North and south are joined, and work together rebuilding all they have lost. Smiles abound. People are grateful for better times and look forward to sharing them together. Tourism is growing, as is the economy. Mare and I are smiling too. Thank you Abundant Universe.     by Ron Mitchell

SMILES AND SPICES IN SRI LANKA

Welcome to the Ocean Front Hotel

Welcome to the Ocean Front Hotel

A man takes my backpack at the Ocean Front Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. “I am your butler,” he says. Mare and I look at each other, dumfounded. She has a butler too. They bring beers and fresh fruit to our room.

This is SO good!

This is SO good!

In the evening, they bring us prawn curry with many side dishes. The irony of having a butler lies in the stress it produces. I swear, he constantly appears and scares the crap out of me. I like him, but am trying to hide from him. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way.

Street food...Rotti

Street food…Rotti

Talk about extremes…from dusty desert in Mongolia, to Sri Lanka during the downpour of monsoon season. The food…from bland, boiled/grilled hunks of meat (Russia and Mongolia), to curry and chili that form beads of sweat on your forehead. Bring on the lentils and prawns and vegetables!

The view from our room -trains and the Indian Ocean

The view from our room -trains and the Indian Ocean

About 22 million people live in this island country of Sri Lanka. Most of them greet you with a smile and extreme friendliness. They have endured a 33-year war that ended just 4 years ago…not to mention a devastating tsunami about 10 years ago. What lies beneath those smiles?

Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green

We can’t wait to escape into the jungles and beaches. First, let’s enjoy Colombo, with waves crashing against the seawall where commuter trains roll along. Friendly people roam in a park full of stands cooking the popular kotthu rotti, which in this case is made with a spicy chopped lentil cake, fried and topped with prawns.

Buddha above Kandy

Buddha above Kandy

At the train station, many people greet us with a smile and want to help. Despite some conflicting information, we successfully hop a train to the mountain town of Kandy, where we find a guesthouse along the Mahaweli River, the longest river in the country.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic on Kandy Lake

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic on Kandy Lake

Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha, is enshrined under six golden dagoba’s (caskets) in “The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic” which sits on Kandy Lake. We opt to not visit, as you cannot actually see the tooth. This temple was bombed during the 33-year war, thus the enhanced security.

Kandyan Dancers

Kandyan dancers and drummers

We opt instead to watch the Ragahala Kandyan Dancers & Drummers, with their show of colorful costumes, gymnastic dancing, and fire walking, in celebration and devotion to Lord Buddha.

Fire walkers

Fire walkers

The next morning, while enjoying some Sri Lankan breakfast (lentil curry, string hopper noodles, and chopped coconut chili), we meet Dahn, a freelance driver who agrees to drive us around Sri Lanka. Sort of a butler on wheels. Soon, we hit the twisty mountain road that climbs through tropical jungle towards the east coast beaches.    by Ron Mitchell