Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sri Lanka. Itinerary.


Thanks to Chandana, I already have an itinerary to start planning our trip.  He's obviously used to taking a certain class of traveler's around so I had to explain a few things to him about my travel style starting with no factory tours.  He got that down and never mentioned after the first email.  One night stay in a local village.  Yes, he will arrange.  Safari in Yala.  Check.  If possible, side trip to Horton Plains.  Maybe.  At least one night at the beach.  Done.  Stopover in Ratnapura to see the gem mines.  He'll get back to me on that. And most importantly, two nights in Kandy so we can experience the 4th and 5th Randoli.  Thumbs up from Chandana as we confirmed we have hotel and seats!

And as he keeps telling me, things can be changed.  I like the fact that he's so flexible and I will most certainly take full advantage of that!


So, time to get the plane tickets (before prices go up some more) and to hunker down on reading and planning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And I wait.

The same day I opened up this blog, I emailed my brother and two of my friends - Ayşe and Soon to see if any of them would be interested in joining me on this trip.  My brother has been with me to Guatemala and Mexico, Ayşe to Mexico and Soon to Guatemala and Morocco.

Ayşe was the first to reply back that she would not be able to come because it is Ramadan and she will be fasting.  Understandably, it's hard to travel when you're fasting.   Soon can't make it either as he has family obligations to attend to during that time.

My brother wrote back that he's interested so now I just have to patiently wait for him to reply back.  I'm not good at waiting :-(

In the meantime, I've decided to hire a local guide to take us around and am busy working out the itinerary.  I found Chandana on toursbylocals.com and so far, we've exchanged a few emails.  On Chandana's page, he has a suggested itinerary which looks like a good starting point though I already know I'm going to make one change.

Update:  Mar 24.  Finally got an email from my brother that his leave request got approved!  We're off the explore Sri Lanka together!  Woohoo!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fishing on stilts.

Fishing is not an uncommon sport or past time or means to catch food and the methods of catching fish don't really differ much from one place to another. Rod and reel or just string or a net.....not too many options. But the Sri Lankans have managed to bring a whole new twist to fishing....stilt fishing. It is a method that is uniquely Sri Lankan and it is primarily centered the region around Galle.

The fisherman sits on a cross bar called a ‘petta’ that is tied to a vertical pole planted in the coral reef. Sometimes two or more stilts are joined together to form a fence or *wata* so that more than one fisherman can fish at the same time. The fishermen hold the stilt by one hand while seated and fish, with rod and line, in the other hand. They usually sit against the wind.

This just does not look comfortable to me and I'm guessing that if you ask the fishermen, I few might tell you the same.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Leopard!

Sri Lanka has the largest concentration of leopards in the world. Who knew? Most certainly I didn't but once I learned this bit of fact, I was determined to add them to my list of things I must see while I'm in Sri Lanka.

The leopard, Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is an Asian subspecies.

The leopard is the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Golden Temple. Dambulla.

T he Golden Temple of Dambulla is the largest and most well preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.

The temple complex dates back to the 1st century BC.  What makes it unique is that it has five caves that were  built at the base of a 150 meter high rock during the Anuradhapura (1st century BC to 993 AD) and Polonnaruwa periods (1073 to 1250).

The Golden Temple of Dambulla is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient heritage landmark in Sri Lanka.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lion Rock. Sigiriya.

When I first saw pictures of Sigiriya and read the description, "a fortified palace built atop a rock", I couldn't connect the dots.  I got the rock part but what palace?? That was because the first image I saw of Sigiriya was the one that most tourists would see.....from ground level.












It wasn't until I saw the aerial image that it finally made sense. There were ruins on the summit of a very large free standing rock.  Flashbacks to Machu Picchu.  Amazing!

Ancient city. Anuradhapura.

Ruwanweliseya Dagoba
The area around Anuradhapura was first settled by Anuradha, a follower of Prince Vijaya the founder of the Sinhala race, in about the 10th century BC.

In the beginning
The ancient capital city of Anuradhapura was founded in 380 BC by Prince Pandukabhaya who annointed himself king.  According to Sinhalese history, during King Pandukabhaya's reign, the city was a model of planning. Precincts were set aside for huntsmen, for scavengers and for heretics as well as for foreigners.

There were hostels and hospitals, at least one Jain chapel, and cemeteries for high and low castes.

The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. Most of the great reservoir tanks still survive today, and some many be the oldest surviving reservoirs in the world.

But it wasn't until the 3rd century BC that Anuradhapura became a great city.  That was when a Sanghamitta, Buddhist nun and daughter of Ashoka, brought a cutting from the Bodhi Tree (*tree of enlightenment*), the sacred fig tree under which Buddha attained spiritual enlightenment and supreme wisdom.  The cutting has survived to present day and the Bodhi tree spreads out over the centre of the site from a sanctuary near Lovamahapaya which is also known as the Brazen Palace.

Friday, March 2, 2012

In honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The Esala Perahera.

Visually, the Esala Perahera festival is about drummers, fire dancers and magnificent elephants adorned in the finest of costumes, parading through the streets at night.

But as one can expect, there is purpose and reason behind the festival.

In fact, the Esala Perahera is deeply rooted in the Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka.

According to tradition, after Buddha died, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre by the Ascetic Arahat Khema and given to King Brahmadatta of Dantapura in Kalinga (the present Orissa in India) in the 3rd century BC.

A belief grew that whoever possessed the Sacred Tooth Relic had a divine right to rule the land. Wars were fought to take possession of the Tooth Relic.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

When National Geographic Traveller, Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast Traveller magazines all listed Sri Lanka as one of their top travel destinations for 2012, I took notice and had put the country on my list of places to visit.

Feeding my interest in the country, my close colleague Neil is from Sri Lanka and he's been taking every opportunity he can to show me the wonders and beauty of his homeland.  Each image he showed and article I read just fueled my desire to go.   I finally caved in when Neil,  knowing my penchant for festivals, showed me images of elephants parading as part of the Esala Perahera festival.  I had to see more so I got on to YouTube and watched one video after the next of the massive tuskers, adorned with lavish garments and lights, parading down the street at night.  I was hooked!  I have to experience the Esala Perahera for myself and so I am going to Sri Lanka!