Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Sri Lanka Travel Day 4 Colombo

The last day started a little early, at 8 AM as we wanted to visit both, a coral reef and Turtle hatchery. We first went to the Turtle hatchery. It is maintained by a charitable institution. They buy the eggs from the local fishermen, hatch them and release the young turtles back into the sea. There are some 20 odd varieties of turtles in the world and some 5-6 varieties are in Sri Lanka seas (Indian Ocean) The guide showed us an egg and asked to feel the texture. It is white and round, not oval. The shell is not hard, does not break on light pressure, instead dips in like a ping pong ball. Not a great size, rather small about 1.5 inch in diameter. Turtles have an average lifetime of over 200 years and the man in charge showed us a turtle aged over 150 years. The institution also nurses injured and permanently maimed turtles brought by fishermen. If one has only one eye the other has only one hand yet another is without both hind legs. They survive without one or more body part. The man in charge showed us a rare white turtle. He says white turtles are about one in 10,000! An adult turtle lays anything from 150 to 200 eggs at a time. It digs a burrow in the sand on the shore during midnight, mostly on full moon nights, lay the eggs and closes the pit with sand. The mother visits the spot every night to not only make sure that the eggs are not eaten away by predators but also to take the newly hatched babies to the sea!

After seeing the wonder of nature in the form of little turtle life, we proceeded to a Coral Reef. Sri Lanka is also called Coral Island if I am not wrong. The glass bottom boatman took us to a nearby spot where coral plants are visible through the glass bottom. Corals also grow in deep see bottom but you cannot see it through a glass bottom boat. I remembered my daughter, in the U.S. taking us to a marine life study University where they took us around in a similar but far bigger glass bottom boat. We saw two types of coral plants. One the usual type as the boatman told, and the other is mushroom shaped plant. It looks so lovely through the glass but actually the edges of the mushroom like petals are hard and razor sharp! The boatman showed us his soles full of wound scars made by these plants!

The boatman had carried a loaf of bread and constantly threw crumbs in the waters so that the colored and other varieties of fish rushed to grab a bite! It was good fun when he threw the crumbs from one side to the other of the boat so that the fish rush from side to side under our boat and visible through the glass bottom.

After coral reef we went to Colombo. In fact Bentota is a part of Colombo. We had lunch at an Indian hotel - good spicy buffet.

After lunch we went for shopping at a mall. By three we drove to the airport, a 90 minutes drive to catch our flight at 6.40PM. Reached Bangalore at around 8 PM. There ended a good Sri Lanka Travel. I wish to go again visiting northern part, Anuradhapura the old capital and other places.

The link to my on-line album:

My Sri Lanka Travel Day 3 Bentota

Third day started at around 8:30 AM on an eight hour long drive to Bentota, a beach city. The first visit was to an Elephant Orphanage and we reached by late noon. Nothing much to explain here, see the pictures. Here too there was a good eatery, a western style buffet. We ate lunch here and left to our next destination at around 3:30 PM.

We reached Bentota River boating in the evening at around 5 PM. It is a very beautiful location surrounded by a bird sanctuary, thick forests and mangroves. Here again hardluck followed us. It was no season for migratory birds, and a few kingfishers we saw are migrated from India! There were posh hotels alround the banks with a lot of water sports facilities. We also saw Buddhist monasteries in the thick of the forests, a perfect location for spiritual learning.

We were again unfortunate as the unseasonal rains started pouring forcing the boatman to raise the hood disallowing entry into mangroves! Anyway, we enjoyed the one hour boating, even though an entry inside the forests on the waters would have made it more enjoyable. After this we straight away proceeded to our lodge for the night, Induwara Beach Resort reaching just before sunset. This resort is the best of all three we stayed during our travel, with spacious rooms having a small balcony facing the sea. Again the dinner was a sumptuous western buffet.

Please visit the following link and see pictures:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Sri Lanka Travel Day 2 Nuwara Eliya

Next morning at around 8:30 we set out to our next destination on a top of a mountain, at 6000 ft above sea level, surrounded by lush green tea gardens. The area is called Nuwara Eliya. It was about
three hours drive from Kandy. First half hour drive was normal and then the climb starts. First we visited a Govt. Certified Gem Store on our way. As you may be knowing Sri Lanka is famous for Corals and Rubies. Among precious stones, diamond is not found in Sri Lanka. Apart from Rubi and Opal many more semi-precious stones are also found in Sri Lanka.
On both the sides along the serpentine road, lush green tea estates throughout the climb made the journey that much lighter, in fact, exhilarating and energising! We visited a tea factory, ( I had seen tea factories earlier too in Hassan and Chikmagalur districts). Then we proceeded a to a Water Fall called Ramboda Falls. The falls is very ordinary, but the maintenance and infrastructure was excellent, attracting a lot of tourists! If only our so called visionaries avoided putting a dam just before Jog Falls and instead developed it into a tourism center, I am sure a hundred fold revenue could have been generated than the Electricity and irrigation put together could produce! Jog Falls is the highest in the world, water falling from a height of over 1,150 Ft! There was an eatery, again a buffet with western food, facing the falls. We ate our lunch here and then proceeded further on our journey.

On way, we took a deviation to visit Hakkgala Gardens, even though the scheduled visit in our itinerary was to Botanical gardens. We thought, as we had all seen Botanical Gardens of Bangalore, we felt it better to visit Hakkgala as it is similar to our own Lalbaug of Bangalore. But it was a total disappointment as they were preparing the garden for a grand show from April onwards. The rose was pruned, entry blocked, new seasonal flower beds were under preparation and above all in addition to our disappointment unseasonal rains poured all of a sudden! We took shelter under a giant tree for about 30 minutes before we set out after the downpour weakened!

Back on the climb to Nuwara Eliya, we came across a Ram-Sita temple. The temple is most ordinary, not bigger than the Mari Gudi at the corner of our street here! But the legend goes that the spot was Ashoka Vana of Ramayana, where Sita was kept captive by Ravana and Hanuman located it. There is a scenic background to the temple with high green mountains and a stream flowing immediately behind the temple. That made it very beautiful.

The flavour of British culture was predominant thought the entire rage of Nuwara Eliya. We checked in Galways Forest Lodge at around 8 PM. This resort was good and the weather was cool, something like Mysore in winter, very pleasant.

The link to my photo album:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Sri Lanka Travel - Day 1

I have been to Sri Lanka on a four day (three nights) holiday last week. As such, Sri Lanka has nothing special to boast, but the lush green landscapes are exhilarating and rejuvenating! I felt I should share my experience with all my readers on this blog site. I am going to present it as a sort of travelogue in four parts, day wise. I bought the travel package for two families from Jet Wings Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore. Here I go with the first instalment:

Day 1: Airport to Kandy. The only airport (both International and domestic) is situated at a place called Negombo, some 35 Kms. from Colombo and called the Colombo International Airport. Our flight was of one hour ten minutes from Chennai and we reached destination at 11:40 AM. Janak, our designated driver with a Toyota six seater, was ready with the placard to receive us. Each of us got a little cash converted to Sri Lankan rupees. We had already been informed by our Agent at Bangalore that shopping in Sri Lanka is very costly except some branded outfits.
We proceeded to Kandy straightaway.Driver Janak was accompanied with a qualified and Govt. certified guide called Batu. Soon Batu advised us to pack lunch instead of wasting time at any hotel to eat lunch. We agreed and our lunch was packed at a wayside resort. later Janak stopped at a roadside Cashew Nut shop which had facilities to eat our lunch. After a sumptuous lunch complete with dessert and cut fruits, we proceeded towards Kandy, some 90 minutes drive. Visited an Ayurvedic garden on the way.

Kandy is situated at a height of 600 metres above sea level. Cool and pleasant, Kandy is a city developed by the British. Aroma of British culture is felt throughout our places of visit in southern part of Sri Lanka. And contrary to general belief, according to the guide Batu, it is also safe to travel northern part now after the Tamil terrorism is effectively decimated. But, as far as I know, no travel industry dares to take a northern Sri lankan Travel.

The name Kandy, originally known as Kandaudarata in Sinhalese which means upcountry, was first twisted as Kandau by the earlier occupiers, the Dutch, was again shortened as Kandy by the British who took over the city from the Dutch. It is predominantly a Buddhist city having one of the oldest Buddhist shrines in the world known as The Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, of the 4th century AD. It is believed that Lord Buddha's real tooth was brought to Kandy by the then King of Kandaudarata and built the Temple to preserve the sacred relic. Kandy is also the last of the capital of Sinhala kingdom before it ceded to the British in 1815 AD. Our guide says Kandy is an example of predominant Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka and this temple is not only revered as the most prized relic of The Buddha, but also revered as most sacred temple throughout the Buddhist world. 70% of the population is Buddhist. This city of Kandy, so to say, represents the entire cultural life of Sri Lanka.

Our driver took us to the highest point in Kandy from where we could see the whole city. At a far distance, at the top of a high mountain a Buddha statue was visible. After enjoying the natural scenes from the top, Janak took us to a cultural programme. Nothing much to boast about the programme, which is similar to our own Yakshagana!(Cultural dance form depicting Hindu mythology of the coast and Shimoga)

From there we visited the ancient world famous temple. Nothing much to explain; you will see some photographs in the album in the link below. The tooth relic is placed covered inside a golden cape and kept inside the shrine. It is not open to public view except for a particular week in a year when the cape is removed and visitors/devotees can have a'Darshan' from a distance. Also the tradition is each day of the year only a particular family members are having the opportunity to enter the shrine and make the offerings. This tradition was set by the King himself who built the temple. The descendants of these chosen 365 families follow the tradition and do the rituals till date.

Finally at around 8 PM the a long and hectic day ended and we were lodged at Swiss Residence, a posh star hotel. We set out from Bangalore the previous night train reaching Chennai at 4:30 AM. The Chennai Central Railway station was not only overcrowded at that our in the morning but also was stinking filth!

Kandy was a clean and beautiful city. I found, everywhere we drove, the roads (no four lane highways please!) were not only clean and well maintained without a single litter or slums, but also the users strictly observed road rules. A well disciplined populace I must say.
I now stop here and move to second day in my blog; and you may not enjoy this blog without looking at the pictures in the album, a link for which is as follows: