June 06, 2013

Sri Lanka -- lanterns, elephants, tuk-tuks and shades of green and blue

While on travel, I cherish those moments when you exclaim, "Wow...look!" As soon as we reached Colombo, we saw the spectacular paper lanterns and Buddhist flags that adorned streets and houses everywhere, beginning with the airport to the countryside, on the occasion of Vesak Poya ( the day on which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment). We were fortunate to be in Sri Lanka on this day.







Other 'wow, look!' moments included sightings of autorickshaws (tuk tuks) of different colours --  fiery reds, landscape greens, mustards and oranges, dark blues and violets, Ceylon ironwood pinks...we even found a metallic copper! Malini tried to capture quite a few of them.




We loved the tuk tuks so much that we came back with these miniatures!


It was a treat to see the elephants at Pinnawala elephant orphanage, and the babies Nilgala and Varuna stole our hearts. One of the larger elephants had one short leg because it was in a landmine accident, and it was heartbreaking to see this crippled animal. Pinnawala has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world, and is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants.



Nilgala and Varuna having a bath

Being bottlefed! Ragini had the privelege.

The elephant walk down the street to the river :)


Pinnewala gave us some gyan too, on how elephant poo paper is made...it is easy!


Before the "EAT", I would add, "BUY ELEPHANT", which I have been wanting to do since I was 4, but that's another story!

While the tooth relic temple, the gem factory, the batik making unit at Kandy were interesting in a touristy kind of way, the trees in the Royal botanical gardens, Peradeniya, took our breath away. Here are a few of them.

The Kauri pine

I don't know the name of this spectacular species

Nor this
The Ceylon Ironwood tree or Indian rose chestnut. 
This is Sri Lanka's national tree. They also call it NA.

In Nuwara Eliya, apart from the picturesque terraced tea gardens, there was a very special highlight -- we went to the Seeta temple with ancient vigrahas of Rama-Lakshmana-Seeta and Hanuman. They showed us the place where Ravana was supposed to have held Seeta captive, and the tree under which she sat, with a giant footprint of Hanuman nearby! AND, there is a hill near this temple, which looks like Hanuman's face! I want to believe every bit of this :). If they hadn't shown us this temple with all its stories, our trip would have felt incomplete! 

Hanuman...yes?!

Green and blue would be the colours of Sri Lanka, with its lush green foliage, the bright blue sky and the blue-green of the sea at Beruwala, where we enjoyed the drama of the twilight and early morning skies, with the cloud bundles and the rainbow performing a special item number, with the sea providing the background score!





If we felt stressed out, it was in Colombo, a typical growing city, complete with a White House and twin towers (+1). Odel is a shopping mall much like our Shopper's Stop, and we stepped in and wondered why Gamini (our guide) had taken us there. The Dutch hospital, converted into a shopping/eating place is charming, but is unfortunately surrounded by the eerie, spaceship-like twin towers(+1). See for yourself.


The Seema Malaka temple floating on the Beira lake was designed by Sri Lanka's famous architect Geoffrey Bawa in the 1970s after the original temple had sunk into the lake. It is elegant and serene. We spotted pelicans here.



One of the pleasures of travel is to meet friends who live in the country you visit. We met our old friend Mrs Prasanna Lakshmi who works in Colombo, and we are so glad we managed to do this.

Being one of the main economic sectors of the country, Sri Lankan tourism is well packaged. However, everything is very expensive, despite the value of Sri Lankan rupee being half that of the Indian rupee. People are simple and friendly, and Vijay sincerely practised "Ayu Bowan" (namaste) and "Istuti" (thank you) on them! I did not find the country as clean as people told me it would be, but it is orderly and people don't use the horn much. If there was one refrain we heard, it was, "Now LTTE, no problem!"

It turned out that we were at Sri Lanka when Hyderabad was at its hottest (22-29 May), and returned to a cooled down, rainy city...oh, what a kick that gave us!
  

3 comments:

sameers said...

Love the miniatures!

Kamakshi Balasubramanian said...

love this. brought back memories of my trip to sri lanka.

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thank you, Sameer and Kamakshi.