In this day and age of a return to intolerance, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Hindu temple a Muslim mosque and a Buddhist temple all within 100 feet of each other and people of different faiths coexisting in peace & harmony, this was my impression of Sri Lanka. I had typed up this introduction to this wonderful place in early March, unfortunately ever since then things have grown a bit messy. All I can say that I really hope the harmony comes back to the Island!
A & I planned a trip to Sri Lanka in early 2017. The itinerary was based on recommendations from friends specially N, who hails from Colombo. The plan was to rent a car in Colombo, drive to Dumbulla and Anuradhapura the ancient capital of Sri Lanka before heading south to the hills and on to the beaches.
Having booked a car in advance I found out a couple of days before landing in Colombo that I would need a temporary drivers permit. The rental company assigned a driver to help out with this. We landed in Colombo early morning, immigration was a breeze. Once we had collected our luggage, the driver who was supposed to meet us was no where to be found , we used this time to buy local SIMS which would come in handy during the travels. After about an hour of waiting our driver ‘Nilinthe’ showed up, we first went to out hotel “Colombo House“, they were very kind to give us a super early check in, we had breakfast at the on site restaurant. I was then off to get my drivers licence, this turned out to be a very streamlined simple process, I had a temporary permit in about an hour. The hotel was near “Independence Square“, and a rather trendy strip mall “The Arcade“. After some rest we headed out and we took a leisurely stroll there, had some tea at Dilmah then dinner (where we discovered the quintessential Sri Lankan Hopper) at Elephant House restaurant before calling it a day.
The following morning we were on our way to Dumbulla, which is know for its historic sites as well as being a major hub for fruits and vegetable distribution. It was also our stop over point on our way to Anuradhapura the ancient capital of Sri Lanka.
We stayed at a very nice place “Arika Villa” in Dumbolla, turned out that this was ‘off season’ and the place was sparsely populated. We visited the town whch was a 5 min drive, saw the extensive vegetable market and the main attraction ‘The Cave Temple‘ fomr the outside as its was past visiting hours, making a note to visit it before we left the area. The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast on the patio, this overlooked a stream and headed to Anuradhapura. Right outside the city we stopped at a little kiosk for some pol roti and chutney, I really must remark how clean everything was ever the very basic set ups. The historic and holy sites at Anuradhapura are spread over several miles, we hired a guide to give us a tour. This gentleman turned out to be quite the character, after explaining the basic tenets of buddhism which includes abstinence from several things, he remarked “but tell me Mr. Adnan, what man can do all of those!!”. He was very knowledgeable and we visited several sites including the “Last living Bodi Tree” sprung form a sapling of the one under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment. It had been a long day, on the way back we stopped to stock up on the pol roti and of course some king coconut water.
Next stop which was a few hours drive from Dumbulla was another historic capital of Sri Lanka, the city of Kandy also known for the Temple of the Tooth which is reputed to have the relic of the Buddhas tooth within the premises. We had booked a room at Earl’s Regent Hotel, turns out thee are two hotels owned by the same chain. We had to drive around a little bit before finding the right one. The hotel itself was lovely, and I would definitely recommend it. After a rest we headed to the city to visit the temple, turns out you can order a rickshaw to pick you up form the hotel. The rickshaw driver turned out to be a track and field athlete who had represented Sri Lanka in International Competitions, he had visited Pakistan a decade back or an event. We got dropped off at the temple, the complex itself it very impressive, there were priests inside chanting hymns, and the air was thick with incense, it was quite an intense experience. One little issue was that some random gentleman accosted A inside the temple, from what she could understand he was unhappy with the colorful clothing she was wearing and taking her to be Sri Lankan he felt it was his duty to explain proper attire to her! After the temple visit we stopped by Balaji Dosai and had some of the best dosas ever. We called our rickshaw driver and headed back to the hotel.
The following day we visited an elephant orphanage at Pinnawala, it was quite the experience……more on this in the next post