Monday, 5 January 2015

Photo-blog of Sri Lanka

We traveled to Sri Lanka during December 2014 and early January 2015, and thoroughly enjoyed the place and everything it had to offer. Due to cyclone, we faced rains, witnessed overflowing rivers, water rushed into houses, landslides, fallen trees, roads covered with water, and traffic jams. Made us wonder how bad the place would have been during the tsunami. What has to be appreciated is that the  transportation authority quickly cleared the roads, and road construction work progressed even in rains! The roads at Sri Lanka are fantastic; it's a pleasure to drive on such roads.

We traveled Sri Lanka (SL) for 11 days from Bangalore - Colombo - Sigiriya - Kandy - Nuwara Eliya - Yala - Bentota - Colombo - Bangalore. We had a car and the driver-cum-owner at our disposal. The road-trip was fun, and we enjoyed the freedom to stop wherever we desired. This brief visit gave us a glimpse into cuisine and the colonial influence, culture, and life style of SL. The countryside is stunning with lush green paddy fields, pregnant lakes and rivers, and numerous birds (local and migratory).

I wish to elaborate, but I can only summarize our travel experience.

Cuisine: That being Christmas and New Year season, almost all hotels and resorts had an interesting spread of dishes and wines; most colorful and tasty were the desserts. Aren't the photos tempting? :-)

The center photo is of curds made from buffalo milk, sold in plenty, and served with palm sugary or honey
Religious offerings and Gods: Buddhism is prominent at SL; Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity for minority. Certain temples, such as Kataragama, are both a Hindu and a Buddhist temple. Only Hindu temples have strict dress code - no shorts, no short dresses, no sleeveless clothes, and so on. No wearing footwear in any of the places of worship. Please respect and adhere to such restrictions. 

Aqua flowers and fragrant flowers are popular offerings to Lord Buddha and other gods. Water is the easiest and purest form of offering. Rice cakes, tea, and sweets are offered as well. A variety of locally grown fruits - mangoes, watermelons, pineapples, bananas, and others - form a colorful plate of offerings. Currency can also be offered. Prayer flags are tied to scared trees or at designated places.

Kataragama temple
Kataragama temple
Sri Muthumariamma Temple, Matala
Sita Eliya Temple, Nuwara Eliya
Sita Eliya Temple, Nuwara Eliya
Nature: The hill ranges, the mist, the clouds, the paddy fields, the waterfalls, the beaches, and the sunshine are serene. No pollution! Felt alive inhaling the fresh and pollution-free air. However, recommended to always drink bottled or mineral water. If possible, try to stay at Ella or at least drive through Ella; it's a gorgeous place. The roads are under repair; but it's great to trek.

Hill ranges Ella
Different waterfalls throughout our journey; center one is the Ravana falls
Wooden Furniture: Sri Lanka will interest anyone interested in wooden furniture; several furniture manufacturers and exporters are available, and some of them have online presence. The furniture design is very unique to the region.

The Sri Lankan Teak and Mahogany furniture are splendid. Other woods that have been in use for centuries are the Ebony, Calamander, Jak, Satinwood, and Nadun. For more information about the various woods used in Sri Lankan furniture, see

Wooden Masks: Three-four years ago we bought a Raksha mask (originally from Sri Lanka). During our recent visit, the other types of wooden masks fascinated us. The traditional masks are made from light Kaduru wood. The handmade masks painted using natural dyes are expensive. Chemical colors are used as well.

The masks are categorized as:
  1. Sanni masks (or Devil Dancing masks) - used to cure 18 psychological illnesses or illnesses believed to be inflicted by demons
  2. Raksha masks - used in processions and festivals 
  3. Kolam masks - used in dramas and story-telling
The Peacock mask seems to be popular among tourists.

For a detailed explanation about masks, read Wooden Masks.

I plan to cover our trips to the following places as separate travelogues:
1) Elephant Orphanage
2) Dambulla Caves
2) Sigiriya
3) Polonnaruwa
4) Yala National Park

For the list of birds and animals that we saw at Sri Lanka, please see Our Nature Friends.

For details of flora, please see Rake and Spade.