A Voyage Through Sri Lanka
TotalAdventure arrived in Colombo in the early morning hours of March 2,2023. It had been nearly three years since the first attempt to travel to Sri Lanka had been made, The Pandemic made travel in 2020 impossible, until late in the year when a two week quarantine was imposed – a traveller would have to spend two weeks in a government approved hotel and then be tested. Upon release, travel within the country was still restricted and many temples and other public places remained closed. In mid 2021 the quarantine was dropped and TotalAdventure booked the flights and obtained the visa. Three days before departure the quarantine was reimposed and so TotalAdventure cancelled. In early 2022 TA once again booked – only to be stopped on a false positive of a required covid test. Now – with the world once again open ( more or less) I flew from Miami to Qatar and then on to Colombo.
The Business Class upgrade was very welcome for the 5 hour DOH-CMB leg, after 15 hours in coach from Miami.
Colombo is a mix of Colonial buildings of the British Raj, modern high rises and temples dating back centuries.
The food is amazing. Go to local places like the Curry House. Stay away from tourist locations that have bland imitations and western dishes.
My lunch was very spicy, varied and delicious -everything fresh. Sri Lanka is not as vegetarian as India. The food is eaten by hand . This dish was about $ 3.
Traditional with modern – the bizarre building in the background is reminiscent of Pyongyang.
After a day and a half in Colombo, it was time to head in-country. The 4 hour train ride from Colombo to Kandy cost 350 rupees – about $ 1. On top of a country station lives a monkey family – obviously influenced by 1980s. punk fashion.
Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth – Lord Buddha’s Tooth !
Like The Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, one cannot view the actual Tooth, but just have faith that they are very close to it. It sits in a gold box in a vault behind the altar.
TotalAdventure stayed at the Queen Hotel – a charming relic of the Empire. Inside, little has changed – slowly moving fans, British food like mutton chops, cool gin and tonics at the bar.
Hotel Message – keep balcony doors closed, lest mischievous monkeys come in and steal your belongings – they love cameras and jewelry.
After a long and colorful train ride – standing room only for 7 hours,TotalAdventure arrived in Ella The train goes as high as 8000 feet, 2500m – where we viewed the high, cool misty tea plantations that stretch for hundreds of kilometers. . You can see the journey in the VIDEO at the beginning of this article. The town of Ella , at about 1900m, is warmer than the mountaintops but much cooler than sea level. 75/25 in day and 61/16 at night. The countryside is exotically amazing, while the town caters to tourists and their money.
From Ella TotalAdventure hired a car for the ride to Udawalawe National Park – home to several large elephant herds. Elephants are well protected in Sri Lanka – there is very little poaching. However elephant rides are still permitted in some tourist areas – Do not engage in this cruel practice ! The magnificent creatures suffer greatly – as strong as they are ,their backs are not built for carrying heavy loads. Since they naturally refuse this activity – they are beaten into submission to force them.
At the watering hole. A great place for a swim on a hot day – which is every day of the year in Southern Sri Lanka.
Highly intelligent sentient beings. The Hindu Elephant God Ganesh is the God of Wisdom.
Besides the National Parks – elephants live in the wild in many forests throughout Sri Lanka.
From Udawalawe the driver took me to the tranquil Indian Ocean village of Talalla. Monday,March 6th was a Full Moon – and in Sri Lanka every Full Moon Day is a Holiday ! The surfing here is fairly good ,though onshore winds make for some afternoon chop. The hotel was quite nice as you will see in the VIDEO.
As wave conditions were not optimal, and not much to see while snorkeling, TotalAdventure moved on to Batticaloa on the East Coast the next day. Finally, a town with no Westerners ! Above, Nandi the Bull.
Whereas the South and West are more Buddhist , the East and North is more Hindu. There is also a large Muslim community.
Commerce and Holiness Come Together.
Batticaloa is home to the Laughing Fish, or Singing Fish who reside in Batticaloa Lagoon, seen in the VIDEO. In reality, they probably croak, which can be heard in some tropical bottom feeders.
A delicious place even for carnivores like myself. Food is flavorful and filling ,unlike Western oriented vegan food – more bland and unvaried. The hotel was very comfortable, with a beautiful pool. There were giant ballrooms, hundreds, of rooms and a huge restaurant. I was one of 5 people there.
On the way to Trincomalee there were several beautiful mosques. TotalAdventure did visit one in Batticaloa that you can see in the VIDEO. Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, 13 % Hindu, 10% Islamic and 7% Catholic.
TotalAdventure went further up the coast to Trincomalee – where Lord Rama sits high on the cliffs looking out into the Indian Ocean at Thirukoneswaram Kovil .
Ravanna prays from atop the cliffs.
All Powerful Kali – Goddess of War.
TotalAdventure Becomes Holi.
A clifftop treat of healthy refreshing juice. About 75 cents.
Many world times – none of them right. Sri Lanka i in a half hour time zone.
In A Seaside Temple.
The final destination before returning to Colombo was Sirigiya Rock Fortress. According to TripAdvisor :
There’s a reason UNESCO ranks Sigiriya as the 8th Wonder of the World.. Sigiriya is a stunning ruins of a castle build atop a tall rock mountain. An engineering marvel, water was piped from the pools at the base of the rock mountain, all the way up to the castle.
200 Meters or 625 feet doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s half an Empire State Building at a 60 degree angle.
Ancient City high above the jungled plains.
It’s lunchtime above the pond on the fortress top.
Some similarities with Mexico and Central America.
An ancient swimming pool ?
200 Meters Below. The climb up was great practice for climbing the stairs of the Himalayas in Nepal , right after Sri Lanka. What I thought would take hours only took about 45 minutes.
The dry (relatively ) jungles spread out below.
TotalAdventure had hoped for one last train ride – to Colombo. Alas , the train engineer for the Trincomalee to Colombo run was sick that Sunday, so once again I had to hire a car – $ 80 as opposed to $ 2.
A Final Night In Colombo – And It Was Off To Nepal In The Morning ! Mini – Shanghai Tower.