Sri Lanka – Part 1, Kandalama
We have been in Sri Lanka now since Tuesday, and it has far exceeded any of our expectations. Because there was a conference in Colombo this week, our itinerary was changed around so that Colombo will be our very last stop. Instead, we headed into the interior of the country into the hills. We’ve been staying in Kandalama and doing day trips from there. As I type this, there are monkeys about 10 feet away making their way through the trees. Every single person we’ve met in Sri Lanka so far has been tremendously kind and open.
On our way to Kandalama, we stopped in Pannala at the Slimline Garment Factory for a tour of their facilities. They are the world’s largest supplier for Victoria’s Secret and other well-known brands. It was very interesting to see the factory. They are a very progressive company that takes very good care of their workers, which was good to see, including health and other educational programs.
We are staying at the Kandalama Hotel, an amazing hotel that is built right into the rock and which is designed to be harmonious with nature, as well as a luxury hotel at the same time. There are corridors in which one of the walls is the natural rock face of the hill and many that are completely open to a view of a large reservoir and hills in the distance. Bats fly through the hallways at night, monkeys roam the grounds, chameleons dot the ceilings, and at dawn and dusk we’re warned to take care because wild elephants are out at that time. Two of my groupmates had intimate encounters with monkeys on our very first morning here. One had left some clothes out on the balcony to dry and ended up in a tug-of-war with a monkey over her underwear. Another came out of the shower and went into the bedroom to find a monkey inside, a teabag in one hand and packets of sugar in the other. She froze, the monkey froze, then she yelled and the monkey ran.
On our first full day in Kandalama, we drove to Mihintale, the site of a 4th century monastery, which was so beautiful and peaceful. This is the place where Buddhism first came to Sri Lanka and is highly revered by Sri Lankans. Before the monastery was built, monks lived in a series of 68 “caves,” which are really just areas where enough space was cleared out between large boulders to provide shelter.
The refectory at Mihintale
Black Water Pond at Mihintale
Me at Mihintale
Aimee in front of the pond
Thursday, we went to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, which was positively amazing. There is a temple built around the oldest bodhi tree in Sri Lanka. It was started from a branch from the original bodhi tree under which, according to Buddhism, the Buddha meditated and achieved enlightenment. Nearby, there is a magnificent stupa, the Ruwanveli Saya Stupa, which is about 300 feet tall with a circumference of 950 feet. If you don’t know, a stupa is a mound-like structure that is built around Buddhist relics. We were there in the evening, and it was one of the loveliest and most peaceful places I’ve ever been.
The Temple in Anuradhapura
Stupa in Anuradhaura
On friday morning, I rented a very poorly maintained bicycle to go around the lake here at the hotel, which gave me some much needed alone time and time outdoors. It’s so very beautiful here, with cattle grazing, beautiful birds and friendly villagers.
That afternoon, we went to the Dambulla caves, which are home to an impressive amount of Buddhist paintings and statuary. I’m waiting for other people to share their pictures with me since I didn’t really get any good ones in the darkness of the caves.
And today, we went to Sigiriya, the ruins of an ancient palace and gardens from the 5th century. There is a deliciously gruesome story behind it. Kasyapa I, the son of King Dhatusena from a non-royal consort, killed his father and took over power of the kingdom, while his half-brother went into exile in India. Kasyapa built his palace on Sigiriya rock, 600 feet over the plains surrounding it. After 18 years, his brother returned, and Kasyapa committed suicide on the battlefield.
The view from Sigiriya
Me and Jill on the Lion Staircase at Sigirya