You remember this? No go ahead and refresh your memories. It was a trip to our southern neighbour that went down the drain with that watermelon juice.
So friend and I re-planned that vacation in November. But it was no longer a relaxing vacation by the beach with journeys through a tea growing hillstation. We decided to junk all packaged tours and go on our own to visit the cultural triangle.
Sri Lanka’s Cultural triangle is situated in the centre of the island and covers an area which includes the World Heritage cultural sites of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, the Ancient City of Sigiriya, the Ancient City of Dambulla and the Sacred City of Kandy.
Day 1: Colombo
We left Bangalore On Friday evening with our Meru cab driver almost making us miss our connecting flight to Chennai. From Chennai we left for Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport at 1 a.m. It was a one hour flight and in no time we were in SL. It has visa on arrival for Indians and visa is free of cost. SL is trying to promote itself as a tourist destination in a big way post the LTTE conflict. From there we exchanged some currency (1 INR ideally should be 2.5 SLR, we always got a lower rate though) and headed for our hotel and crashed.
The week preceding our visit saw storms, unending rainfall and what not. However next day dawned bright and sunny. We were even treated to a dance in the hotel lobby as part of a wedding reception.
From their we set off for Galle Face which was walking distance. Galle Face houses South Asia’s second tallest building – The World Trade Centre. The 40 story Twin Tower complex is the centre of important commercial establishments, situated in the Fort district, the city’s nerve center.
I was also fascinated by their autos. I cannot comment if in mannerism they were the same as BAD(Bangalore Auto Drivers) but they sure dont shy away from bright colors.
We roamed around the area for a bit-saw the Parliament under renovation and then headed for the Gangaramaya temple. This Buddhist temple includes several imposing buildings and is situated near Beira Lake .It is almost 200 years old and houses a temple, Bodhi tree and an artifacts museum.
After this we were supposed to leave for Pinnewala elephant sanctuary except that we decided to drop in by Odel. Our group had 3 women. Its easy to guess what happened next. Elephants and their sanctuaries were forgotten as we shopped like crazy. Odel really has fashionable stuff at great prices( after currency conversion back to INR!) Most of the stuff though bear the “Made in India” tag which makes me wonder why the same stuff costs thrice when I buy them at SS or Lifestyle.
We had also heard of Petah as a good shopping destination except that on reaching there I felt we had stepped into Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh. So we retracted quickly and set off for Kandy.
Colombo truly surprised me it. It was clean and pretty lined with beautiful bunglows and I did not hear a single horn the entire day. We told ourselves it could be because we were moving around in a premium locality on a weekend. I am not sure if that was the reason alone. But I definitely liked whatever we saw.Sri Lankans in general speak so softly that you can test your hearing ability by trying to make out what they are saying.
Kandy was approximately 120 kms from Colombo. A 3 hour drive we thought. Till we got introduced to the Sri Lankan highways. To call them highway is a bit of a fraud. They were like a city road. And over the next few days we understood Sri Lankans have a self imposed upper limit of 60kmp on highways, overtaking is literally unheard of and asking our driver to “let it zip”, ” burn some rubber” etc is well useless.
So over the next many hours we listened to 90’s pop as we made our way to Kandy-the cultural capital of the island.
PS: All photos except the map are mine so if you do copy you will rot in hell.