May 6, 2019

Remembering Sri Lanka

The terrorist attack that happened recently in Sri Lanka is horrific
but if we are not familiar with a place or the people who experienced the horror it quickly slips from our mind.  More than 250 were killed.  John and I visited a couple years ago and our son, Jim, stayed at one of the hotel that was attacked more recently on a business trip so it felt more personal. Sri Lanka is a great destination and the people were very welcoming.

Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, an array of beaches, exotic animals, plus it’s affordable. All of this is packed in a country the size of West Virginia. One morning we toured the bustling capital, Colombo, which has many of the British colonial buildings plus an ornate Hindu temple and Slave Island. Slave Island was originally a place where the Dutch kept the slaves they brought to Sri Lanka to build the
canals they needed for transporting goods from inland to the harbor. Today it is a relaxing little island in a large pond that was once home to crocodiles that deterred slaves from trying to escape. Eventually the slaves were returned to Africa. Sri Lankan culture has been influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese, English, and Indians

I am a sucker for World Heritage Sites. I was impressed by the Golden Temple of Dambulla which dates to the 1st century BC and where a long row of saffron-robed monk statues bearing alms are heading toward the giant golden Buddha. At the iconic Sigirya, built in the 5th century, I would have liked to climb to the top the Lion Rock to see the ancient city and gardens
but it was a bit too strenuous for me however the rock that towers 600 feet over the plain is impressive as were the moats surrounding it. My favorite World Heritage site was Polonnaruwa archeological site mainly because many of 900-year old ruins are still discernible and diverse in nature with palaces, temples, statues, and murals. Especially
impressive were the beautifully carved statues of Buddha at Gal Vihara, one of which is 21-feet in height. One evening I strolled the walls of the 17th century Dutch fort in the coastal city of Galle. Within the walls there are many Dutch-style buildings, museums, and other attractions. Galle Fort is a living, functioning World Heritage Site.

Sri Lanka is a great destination for naturalists. We were at the
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage at 9 a.m. for the morning bottle feeding of the elephants. The 80 elephants were either orphaned or injured. Later in the morning they were led down to the river. It was obvious that it was one of their favorite activities. The young wrestled in the water like children dunking each other. I never associated the word “safari”
with Sri Lanka but that is the most popular activity at Yala National Park.  On safari I saw wild elephants, monkeys, wild boar, sambars, deer, crocodiles, water buffaloes, and a wide variety of birds; but, alas, no leopards for which the park is famous. 

Sri Lanka is a popular and affordable beach destination for
Europeans. John and I stayed at the beautiful Jetwing Beach in Negombo not far from the international airport. There are many fascinating day trips. My favorite was a boat trip on the Madu River where we visited Cinnamon Island, a temple, and a fish farm where I had a fish foot massage.