Monday, December 23, 2013

Travel Monday: Eva's Top Five Sri Lanka Travel Experiences 2013

As we near the end of 2013 it makes sense to look back on some of the travel I enjoyed around Sri Lanka this year. If you've been following my blog you'll be aware there has been plenty to of travel and quite a list to choose from! I suppose... when I consider all the places, people and experiences it is interesting to understand how I've narrowed the list down to my final top five. 

I've discovered it's not just a particular place nor solely a pleasurable experience that has led me to the top five. More than anything, it's been the total travel experience - my travel companions; people I've met along the way, the relative ups-and-downs; and of course, the unexpected things that arise on the journey itself.

To read all of my travel related posts, please check out my page which provides a list of my Travels.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 6

As 2013 is coming to a close (wow, only 13 days and counting!), there's an internal push within me to publish one more "Expat in Sri Lanka" blog post wink.  We're up to part 6 and there'll probably be more on the cards in 2014. It's like there are many quirky experiences or encounters by living in a place like Sri Lanka - just thinking of some of my most recent experiences brings a smile to my face, as well as a few groans. Naturally this can be a blessing in disguise, or unfortunately in some cases, a kick in the teeth. I'll let you be the judge...

Christmas is a special time for gift-giving and this usually means heavy-duty shopping, card writing and then trips to the local post office to mail items from Sri Lanka to various locations around the globe. Unlike post offices back home, the local post offices around Colombo over the festive season are relatively quiet or operating like business-as-usual. So it's nice not being faced with long lines of people at the post office weighed down with parcels and packages

There's nothing worse than lining up for an hour or more just to get your gifts sent off in time (definitely one of the things I don't miss about the UK at this time of the year!)

Unfortunately, I found there are other things to contend with as an expat living in Sri Lanka. It could be a one-off occurrence or just unique to me, but in any event, a story of vigilance when going to the post office is about to be shared.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plans for spending Christmas 2013 in Sri Lanka

I was due back home for Christmas this year, but due to travel scheduling I visited home in advance of the festive season. There was also tentative plans to try to catch the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the MCG, but I'm kind of glad these plans did not work out, what with the poor performance by England (and solid performance by Australia) in Brisbane, Adelaide and now Perth. And this is quite a thing for me to say, as there is nothing quite like the Boxing Day Test at the G! Just saying...

As you may have known, I've been out of the country for a couple of months for both work and holidays. It was lovely to go and come back - you get the opportunity to forget about some of the things that drive you up the wall living in Sri Lanka, but also receive an opportunity to reflect  on the things to be appreciated about Sri Lanka or some of the things you may have taken for granted. In many ways it feels like I got to press my "reset" button.

So I'm currently in the midst of my festive plans for spending Christmas in Sri Lanka. It's pretty straightforward... feasting at my place! I'm having sort of an "open house day" for my invited friends and colleagues to drop by, exchange gifts, feast and be merry. Of course, it will feel a little strange in the tropics instead of the wintery Christmas I'm used to back home.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Medicinal gold and rasa treatment in Sri Lanka

When you take any form of medical treatment, whether it is conventional or alternative, the importance of having faith in your chosen treatment needs to be considered. The mind and body go hand-in-hand so to speak. Quite often people may seek out alternative therapies but are skeptical or doubtful about their ability to heal. Of course, there are times you can't be blamed for having this view as there are a few tricksters out there who have no ability to heal, but charge for it anyway. Likewise, even when it comes to conventional medicine, there are challenges. Funnily, I know an old married couple in Colombo - the husband has total faith in conventional medicine, while his wife has total faith in ayurveda or alternative medicine. There's often a bit of "hoo-ha" in their household whenever either of them is unwell and need to seek medical treatment.

As you may know (or have read) from my earlier blog post about ancient alternative therapies in Sri Lanka, I have an enthusiasm and interest in this area. For me, 2013 has been a year of exploration and "taking a punt" on a variety of ayurvedic treatments available in Sri Lanka. My foray into this exotic world of herbal and energy treatments has largely been triggered through friends and other acquaintances in search of some kind of remedy or treatment from vedha mahathiyas with specialist healing skills - this has ranged from treatment of general ailments to diagnosed long term illnesses.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Travel Monday: A visit to the ancient citadel of Yapahuwa

A few years ago I had the good fortune to accompany a group of friends to visit the ancient citadel of Yapahuwa. Yapahuwa is located between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura about four kilometres from the nearest town of Maho. Historically, Yapahuwa was once the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and home to the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha during the reign of King Bhuvenakabahu (1273 to 1284).

At the time I was a little uneducated about the history of Sri Lanka. This can be defended as both a good or bad thing. Good because you can visit and observe (or experience it) with fresh eyes and no filters. And bad because you lack the information necessary to fully comprehend the historical and cultural significance of what you're visiting.

On my first ever holiday to Sri Lanka and also in my first year of living in Sri Lanka, I hadn't read a great deal on Sri Lanka, its history and culture. So when I visited many places in my early travels, I literally experienced both the good and bad. I was uneducated and relied heavily on the kindness of friends and fellow travellers to inform me. In hindsight, I wished I had "read up" or acquired knowledge to appreciate the history and culture as I visited those places. That said, I still enjoyed my travels.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An attempt at sugar detox in Sri Lanka

A few months back I made an attempt at trying a sugar detox diet. Some of you who follow me on twitter remember my moans and groans as I gave up sugar, carbohydrates, sweets etc. for three weeks. It was a definite challenge, especially living in a country like Sri Lanka where sugar is almost like its own dietary food group! Do you remember my blog post My Sri Lankan Food Diary - Just an average week of eating? Well, see my write up on "Thursday" and my little sweet note on sugar intake (or maybe it's more like addiction) in Sri Lanka lol

The average diet for Sri Lankan families has the food staples of rice and curry, tropical fruits, pastries or shorteats and sweets. I've become quite accustomed to this kind of diet over the past few years, though I've added my own favorite British and European dishes into the dietary mix. One of the things I recognized early on with the changes in my diet, was the requirement to either reduce my food portions or include a good exercise routine to burn the calories.

My intention in trying the sugar detox was primarily associated with cleansing the body of toxins as well as giving myself a break from the sweet stuff. However, I actually learnt a whole lot more about dietary food groups, lifestyle, food preparation, sleep quality and much more from the experience. It was challenging to attempt the sugar detox because a lot of the meals served by my friends, colleagues and at local establishments contained a lot of sugar or carbohydrates which convert to sugar.

For example, items you would take for granted in everyday meals, such as rice, bread, potatoes, noodles, pasta... could not be included in meal plans during the sugar detox. Do you know how hard that is? Suffice it to say, I eventually realized after a couple of days, I cooked many of my meals at home and had to reduce my visits to have dinner at friends' houses during this time. Yeah, I'm not the sort of person to dictate the meal plan and/or my dietary "issues" to people kind enough to invite me over. It's a surefire way to ensure you are never invited back for a meal again!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Travel Monday: Pilgrimage to Kataragama

Kataragama is located in the south-east of the island about 230km from Colombo. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka and holds significance for Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. The town itself is relatively small in size but receives visitors and pilgrims throughout the year. Hindus make offerings and request blessings at the Maha Devale (or temple) which is dedicated to Kataragama Deva, while Buddhists primarily visit the ancient Kirivehera dagoba (though they are also known to visit the Maha Devale as they believe Kataragama Deva is a guardian deity of Buddhism in Sri Lanka), 500m north of the Hindu temple. I've heard Muslims associate Kataragama town with the prophet Moses and visit the Khizr Takya mosque located within the sacred area.

The most popular time of the year to visit Kataragama, and also the time for the most crowds (!!!), is during the Esala full moon period (July/August). Thousands of pilgrims make their journey to Kataragama, particularly to the Maha Devale to participate and celebrate the Kataragama Festival. During this time period you will observe pilgrims coming to perform penance for sins - sometimes you'll witness people going into a trance, undertaking scenes of self mutilation, fire walking and water cutting ceremonies and more.

There is also an ancient tradition, known as the Kataragama Pada Yatra, where pilgrims make a two month journey by foot from Jaffna, in the far north of the island, down the east coast to Kataragama. Pilgrims undertake this annual journey with an intention for purification and travel very simply on this journey. More information on this ancient tradition can be found at this website.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Handy tips for making the "big move" to live long-term in Sri Lanka

The most popular question I receive by email from foreign expats is about moving to Sri Lanka to live permanently or medium to longer term. I can still recall the myriad of emotions with my own impending move to Sri Lanka almost six years ago. It ranged from feelings of anticipation, excitement, fear, anxiety, expectation and more. 

One could liken some of it to going on holidays to some exotic and far off foreign country and stepping off a plane and feeling lost in a new culture and place. Except, in this case, the huge difference is you're not on holidays, but settling into a new country for the long haul. And for all intents and purposes, it is a daunting experience as you won't have your usual safety net (i.e. family, friends, colleagues and environment) to provide support and security. However, the leap of faith certainly presents different opportunities and challenges if you're up for it...

The feeling of anticipation and excitement usually comes from an inherent sense of adventure, and a gravitational pull towards all things new and shiny. This expands to feelings of optimism and discovery - an openness to embrace new things, places, people and culture. For me, these are all really positive qualities, because if you didn't have these, you'd never feel the compunction to leave the place where you're currently living. You'd convince yourself it'd be far easier and more comfortable to stay put and never seek out anything more. I always believe the hard work you put in to move countries pays off when you realize the opportunities to grow, change, embrace, learn and tolerate. It's a truly beautiful experience…

In a similar fashion, anxiety, fear and doubt stem from leaving what you know and leaping into the unknown. This is particularly heightened when moving to a foreign country where the people, culture and language are completely different to what you're familiar with. There is nothing wrong per se with these feelings. It's natural for them to arise. Essentially, it all comes down to how you deal with these feelings and all the changes that arise with the move. My view is to take these feelings and transmute them so you utilize the energy to get things done. And, remember to take one day at a time.

I have a few handy tips for the move to Sri Lanka. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but offers up some gems from my own personal experience (and some from my expat friends in Sri Lanka).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tripping around the Globe ...

I have been M.I.A. or "missing in action" from this blog for a few weeks now... My sincerest apologies. It wasn't that I didn't want to blog. Actually, I was having too much fun tripping around the globe with my besties to jump on a computer! However, I will make it up to you because I have a lot on my mind and travel really does trigger a whole lot of stuff, especially when you meet people from all walks of life!

So...miss me much? Interestingly, the blog has been ticking over with traffic so I guess that's all good, right?

And, before I forget...

Heartfelt thanks for all the blog love. 

I have received so many emails, tweets, facebook messages, shout-outs, questions, dialogue, gifts and some really "out-there" responses. It's all good in my books!!! I appreciate the various ways we've connected.

There is a teensy weensy backlog on email questions to attend to. I'm getting to these right away so watch out for an email shortly if you're waiting on something back from me...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Little triflings

Greetings dear blog readers!

From time-to-time I make note of things of interest or helpful tips. As you can imagine, these little tidbits do tend to accumulate over time. But, they don't necessarily "fill" an entire blog post on their own.

So, I thought I'd combine them into one blog post and ramble all over the page about a bit of this-and-that.

Airport runs are often interesting when it comes to getting to and from Bandaranaike International Airport. It can take up to two hours if you're coming to or from Colombo during traffic peak hours, though the distance is about 35 kilometers. Usually, this means you have to set off early to ensure you don't miss your flight. However, the new Colombo-Katunayake Expressway is set to open soon, which will significantly cut the journey down to 20 minutes over a distance totalling approximately 25 kilometers. This will definitely improve the airport travel experience for both locals and tourists.

I've had a few scary journeys to the airport. I'm not referring to attacks or crimes or anything of that sort. More like, travel experiences where I've run into some random event and I'm at risk of missing my flight. For example, one time I was unwittingly caught behind a perahera parade. The traffic police had not blocked off the road or turn off demonstrating their incompetence at event planning/traffic coordination. Many cars, including mine, turned into the road in question and found ourselves literally stuck - neither being able to move forward nor backwards.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Travel Monday: Exploring Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The World Heritage City of Sigiriya and its rock fortress is located between Dambulla and Habarana, past the town Kimbissa on the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya Road. Sigiriya was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.

Early accounts indicate places surrounding Sigiriya and nearby caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks around third century BC.

Sigiriya is renowned as an ancient Sri Lankan kingdom, and more particularly the historic story of the power struggle between the sons of King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura documented in the Mahawansa. King Dhatusena had two sons from two different queens - Prince Moggallana and Prince Kassapa. When Prince Moggallana was named as heir, Prince Kassapa imprisoned his father, stole the throne and, Prince Moggallana escaped taking exile in India.

Out of fear his brother would come for vengeance, King Kassapa decided to make Sigiriya his kingdom. He constructed his royal citadel, both palace and fortress, on top of the 200m high Sigiriya rock over seven years (between 477-485) and also established a new city around its base. He ruled for 18 years from 477-495.

Eventually, Prince Moggallana returned with an army from India to fight with King Kassapa in 491. In the ensuing battle, King Kassapa found himself cornered, facing capture and defeat, so he killed himself. Moggallana became king and ruled from Anuradhapura. He returned Sigiriya to the Buddhist monks, and it was eventually abandoned around 1150.

Local and foreign tourists flock to climb Sigiriya as it houses some famous Sri Lankan art frescoes and comprises a complex of buildings - royal palace, fortified town and water gardens - an example of the unique architectural feats of ancient Sri Lankans.

I've visited Sigiriya three times and climbed the rock fortress twice. The most recent climb was this year with my mother. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience as the climb is fun, there is plenty to see, and the views from the top of the rock are spectacular.

Friday, September 13, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 5

It's Friday 13th today, so what better way to celebrate this than to publish another "An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly" post wink

If you haven't read these yet, but are interested in reading them... you can click on these links:

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1 on what it's like living as an expat in SL
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2 on local attitudes, dual pricing, behaviors
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3 on police force, corruption and stories
An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4 on garbage collection, waste and recycling

This post looks at what I call "expat fatigue". Every now and again I come down with an illness of sorts called expat fatigue.

It's something I know a lot of expats "come down" with from time-to-time. I've been diagnosing it among my friends and once I've diagnosed them they look at me in shock eek and say:

"OMG! You're dead right. I have that".

The thing is... it's lovely to live and work in another country and be adopted into a different culture and way of life. Those of us who embrace new places, people and cultures usually thrive as an expat. However, we also get a little weary or tired from these things too. Sometimes it's the constant battling through language barriers; putting up with inefficiencies; dealing with a climate your body is not used to; or missing creature comforts (food, scenery, family, friends, culture etc) from home!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Travel Monday: A stroll around Galle Fort

I enjoy weekends where I get to hang out with a friend and catch up on life, love and everything else. You know the sort where you really get to spend time together, walk, talk, browse, joke, laugh, eat, drink, relax and unwind. Connecting with our friends at this level is quite a challenge when you consider everyone's fast-paced lifestyle, especially living in a capital city. 

Often, I find it more than a challenge to coordinate diaries with friends so we can find time to enjoy a day out or a weekend together. Something always comes up or is scheduled. In Sri Lanka, this often includes weddings, birthdays, death anniversaries, alms-giving, children's tuition, sports meets, work, parents and more rolleyes

When we do eventually connect though... it's really lovely. Most of the time I catch up with friends around Colombo as it's convenient, however, if given the chance we sometimes venture out a little further for a day trip.

One of the places I love to visit for a day trip is Galle as it's relaxing, you can wander around Galle Fort and there are plenty of options for eating and drinking. It's also an easy one hour+ journey from Colombo if you take the Southern Expressway, which opened in November 2011. The Southern Expressway runs from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa (Galle) and is approximately 96km. There are plans to expand this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I watched sinhala movie "Siri Parakum" with no English Subtitles!

I went to see the sinhala movie titled "Siri Parakum" at the Savoy 2 cinema this week with a few friends. By the way, Savoy 2 is definitely not a cinema I frequent on a regular basis because it is quite a pokey little cinema, but my friends had convinced me the movie was well-worth seeing. 

I didn't realize till the movie started there were no english subtitles, but I managed to muddle my way through most of the movie, and even found the dialogue funny in parts. It ended up being an excellent opportunity to use and improve my sinhala.

FYI, I don't go to see many sinhala movies, nor do I watch sinhala teledramas on local television. Too much angst and drama for my liking. But then again, I've never been a fan of British soaps either.

Siri Parakum, directed by Dr. Somaratne Dissanayake, is part historical saga-part fairytale/Shakespearean tragedy, telling the story of a young Parakrama Bahu II, who was the eldest son of Vijaya Bahu III. The second wife of King Vijaya Bahu III is plotting to murder the first born son of the King to ensure her own son has clear passage to become the future king. The movie begins with this as the focus of the plot and as the story unfolds we see the young first-born prince smuggled away by his loyal guardian and given to a village laundry woman, in order to protect and hide him from the Queen. The young prince grows up as Appuwa after being taken in by a village family until, as a young man, the secret of his birthright is revealed and he ascends the throne. The movie's plot is based on some truth and Parakrama Bahu II did rule as king from 1236 - 1271.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recipe: Eva's Spicy Squid Fried Rice

In one of my recent posts, "Second instalment of "My Sri Lankan Food Diary": Just another average week of eating", I promised to share my secret recipe for Eva's Spicy Squid Fried Rice.

I've always loved cooking and eating seafood, but getting the freshest seafood has always been a challenge... until moving to Sri Lanka.

I think it's "an absolute must" to make the most of what's readily available where you live. Here in Colombo (or along much of the coast of Sri Lanka) you can easily purchase fresh seafood - a variety of fish, prawns, squid or cuttlefish, shark, crab and more.

If you live near the beaches where the fishermen take their boats out, it's possible to buy seafood right off the boat directly from the fishermen every morning. Or, in the mornings around those same neighborhoods, you can hear the shouts of "malu malu" as sellers carry their daily catches on a weighing device on their shoulders from street-to-street.

Sometimes, you also see sellers or touts holding up crabs and other seafood for sale along Marine Drive, which runs parallel to Galle Road in Colombo. This is quite a sight! Not a great one, if you're allergic to seafood wink

Monday, September 2, 2013

Travel Monday: Trekking in the Sri Lankan wilderness

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” ~  Edmund Hillary

The past few Travel Monday posts have been focused on places and events which are mostly known, specific and relatively easy to navigate to. I thought I'd take a walk on the wild side with week's travel post, and take you "off the beaten track".

If you haven't figured it out by now, I have an adventurous heart and I love exploring new and unknown places. Don't get me wrong, I do bite off more than I can chew sometimes, and on the odd occasion I have been known to get a little scared and find myself in silly situations. However, that said, I enjoy stretching the boundaries of comfort and pushing myself to try new things. And, I have the cuts, bruises, bites and rashes to prove it!

One thing I have done a fair bit of, over the past five years in Sri Lanka, is trekking in the wilderness. I have some pretty fit and adventurous friends who have encouraged me to explore with them, and I have not looked back since.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Second instalment of "My Sri Lankan Food Diary": Just another average week of eating

My first installment of "My Sri Lankan Food Diary: Just an average week of eating" proved to be a very popular read. It seems there are a lot of foodies out there... wink

I seem to be experiencing some interesting moments when it comes to food, so I thought I'd share (yet again) some of my food discoveries, delights and also some of the ordinary bits too! If you're lucky, I might even share one of my stellar recipes that never fails to impress visitors to my humble home.

If I were the "stay-at-home" type of person, I don't think I would come across even half of the stuff I come across on my wee adventures. The fact I explore is often part of the process of opening my eyes, ears, taste buds (and my heart and mind) to new and wonderful things. For this, I feel truly blessed. I would rather dislike something after trying it, than not have had the gumption to try it at all. It gives me better odds at discovering things I like, possibly even love and then some!

So, here we go again... same rules apply: this is another average week where I'm traveling for a few days of the week.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Travel Monday: Blessings from Kandy Esala Perahera August 2013 - Part 2

This is Part 2 of my Travel Monday blog on the Kandy Perahera. In this second part, I focus on the actual Kandy Perahera, my thoughts and some of the things I learnt from people speaking with various people. I have both photos AND videos to share! biggrin

Part 1 can be found at Travel Monday: Blessings from Kandy Esala Perahera August 2013 - Part 1. It sets out my overall travel experience, including the journey, logistics, preparation, and observations.

As you will have read from my first post, I had a pretty fair idea of what to expect from my research and reading. However, nothing really prepares you for nightfall, the twinkling lights around Sri Dalada Maligawa, and the sound of the cannon being fired to signal the departure of the procession from the Temple. The start usually coincides with the auspicious time.

What was astounding by the end of the Kandy Esala Perahera, was the sheer size of the procession. This year more than 1,200 performers (including dancers, drummers, whip crackers and more) and over 50 elephants took part.

Travel Monday: Blessings from Kandy Esala Perahera August 2013 - Part 1

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Kandy Esala Perahera, which was held between 11 to 21 August 2013. I received many blessings and I return from Kandy to share these with you.

I've divided the Travel Monday blog into two parts as I have a lot to share with you biggrin

The first part will give an overview of my travel experience attending the Kandy Esala Perahera, including the journey (to-and-from Kandy), logistics and what I did to prepare (yes, I really did prepare for this one, which is not like me. I'm usually more "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants"). I'll also provide a bit of background to the history, meaning and significance of the Kandy Esala Perahera.

The second part, which I will publish alongside part one, will focus on the actual Kandy Esala Perahera, my thoughts and some of the things I learnt from speaking with various people. I have both photos AND videos to share!

I hadn't anticipated going to the Kandy Esala Perahera this year. A few weeks back, I had a number of people ask me directly, as well as via the blog and social media if I'd be going. It got me thinking, and I was trying to figure out the logistics of the trip and whether to make the drive up to Kandy. And then, as fate would have it, I received an invitation from a friend of Indaka's to attend the event with their group of family and friends. They had received special tickets with seating within the Sri Dalada Maligawa compound, and there was one seat left if I wanted it. Naturally, the decision was made for me and I gratefully accepted.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What are Sri Lankans scared of... an expat perspective

A few weeks ago I was enjoying a funny debate with a few expat friends on Sri Lankan culture, modern society and then some. One of the topics that popped up was "what are Sri Lankans scared of". The list we came up with was a little peculiar. Admittedly, this is an expat view of things, though I do wonder how close we are to the actual truth of it all.

Seeing as our group of expats debated this for some time and also came up with supporting arguments to our list, I thought it'd be a cool idea to blog about it and see what people have to say on the matter.

So, let's get right into it with the list:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Travel Mondays: An impromptu visit to "Little New Zealand"

I discovered a really special part of the island a few weeks ago. As you may have noted by now (after reading my blog), I love those impromptu weekend road trips that take you by surprise... the fork in the road where you have to decide to go left, or go right. One road leads you to a known destination, and one road takes you to destinations unknown. 

I'm in tea country and supposed to be driving leisurely back to Colombo. But, I come to a turn off for Ambewela and I figure... why not? I've never visited before and I've heard wonderful things about the area. And so, I find myself taking the turn, and drive up the road toward a new destination cool (Note - if you aren't driving, you can also reach Ambewela by train via Nuwara Eliya)

Ambewela is a small hill station, located in the Nuwara Eliya region en route to the Horton Plains National Park. It is sometimes referred to as "Little New Zealand" owing to its scenic landscapes, cooler climate, cow herds and dairy farms. Ambewela is situated at one of the higher altitudes in Sri Lanka -  6,064 ft (1,848 m).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Colombo Dating Confidential: Online Dating, Affairs and Other Disasters

 "Dating is like smoking. When you quit, you can't understand why you started. And when you start again, you can't understand why you quit" ~ Anonymous

Dating is one of those activities that never fails to amuse me. It's that combination of energy and expectation directed at another human being in an effort to connect, that we call "dating". It is also sometimes referred to as courtship, which is kind of sweet, though I wonder whether this is truly an applicable reference to dating these days.

You're probably going to think this blog post is about me.

I mean why wouldn't you. This is my blog, right?

Well, I hate to disappoint you, but this one isn't necessarily about me (*cheeky wink*), but it does contain stories about some of the people in my life. I hope I haven't revealed too many closet secrets and confidential tidbits about their voracious dating lives... I may just have gone all "Sex and the City" on my Colombo buddies. As it goes, it's easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Travel Mondays: Is this the most stunning waterfall in Sri Lanka?

Dunhinda Falls is often regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka for its natural beauty. It derives it's name from the mist or vapor that comes off the spray of the waterfall. "Dun" in sinhala means smoke or mist, and "Hinda" in sinhala means evaporate.

It is located five kilometres from Badulla town, along the Badulla-Mahiyangana road. It is 210 feet or 64 metres high. The source of the waterfall is the river known as Badulu Oya which goes through the Badulla town. The Dunhinda Falls has the characteristics of both a plunge and punch bowl type waterfall. Plunge refers when the water drops over the waterfall it loses contact with the bedrock. Punch bowl refers to how the water coming off the waterfall widens as it drops from top to bottom.

Getting to Dunhinda Falls is pretty straightforward as it is easily accessible to visitors. You can't miss the entrance as it's perched on a nice bend in the road and surrounded by little stalls or shops, a small parking area (tickets cost ~ Rs 40 to park your car or van) and a lovely view of the mountains and surrounding area.

We visited on a quiet Sunday afternoon in July. In fact, it was well-past mid-afternoon when we arrived there. The good thing about arriving so late in the afternoon was the fact there were less people starting the trek at that time, especially for a Sunday; and we could easily enjoy the sunset on our trek back from the waterfall. However, bear in mind, we also had to bear with the fear of potentially having to trek back in the dark if we wanted to linger at the waterfall, due to our later arrival.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Retail therapy for intrepid travelers to Sri Lanka - Part 2

This is the second part of an earlier blog post published on 23 May 2013.
Retail therapy for intrepid travelers to Sri Lanka - Part 1 
Part 1 set out items to buy that Sri Lanka is well-known for, which includes Ceylon Tea, Gems, Spices and Traditional Handicrafts.

In Part 2 we look at other items to buy in Sri Lanka i.e. things that are made here and/or reasonably priced.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Travel Mondays: Tea Estates, Waterfalls and a stopover in "Little England"

I could easily wax poetic about how Nuwara Eliya reminds me of home, hence it's nickname of "Little England", but it is more than just the end destination. For me it is has a lot to with "the journey"... the ways and means, the to-and-from Nuwara Eliya, that really lights me up. I've visited the Nuwara Eliya region many times over the past few years and I never fail to enjoy everything to do with exploring, immersing, photographing, observing, and taking time for random layovers along the way...

On this particular road trip, we started our journey from Kandy. We had spent the previous day at the ODI cricket match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Pallekele. I don't know whether you find the same, but after a day/night match at the cricket I often need to re-connect with nature. It helps me to let go of the intensity of watching a cricket match.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My ode to stray dogs in Sri Lanka

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally the dog population is a tenth of the human population, of which 75% are regarded as “strays”. I read somewhere recently there are approximately three million free-roaming or stray dogs in Sri Lanka. 

With a population on the island of around 20.3 million (2012 Census), this equates to almost 1 free-roaming dog for every 7 humans, aligning with the WHO's estimates.

So, it is not surprising when I peruse my photo albums to find many stray dogs featuring in my life and travels around Sri Lanka!

I thought I'd dedicate this blog post to some of these special dogs (and sometimes puppies) who have inspired, protected, irritated, saddened and cheered me up over the past few years on the island... If anything, these dogs often surprise me in ways I least expect. By the time you come to the end of reading this post you'll get a glimpse of why they've been part of my experiences all along the way.

Living in Colombo you see stray dogs everywhere. There are a few near my home, packs of dogs that seem to live on or around the beach and also in and around religious places. When you leave Colombo, it's more of the same. You'll notice them sharing the road with you; using pedestrian crossings (yes, I always look twice when I witness this oddly human behavior!); sleeping in the most picturesque of places or the quietest; playing with each other; often scrounging for food; and sometimes just making you laugh.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fifty Shades of Thievery: A sign of the times for everyday Sri Lanka?

I seem to be a collector of stories. Some stories happen to be funny, while others are interesting or topical, and then there are some which make you wish for things to be other than what they are. This post is filled with the latter kind.

A perpetual theme that has caught my interest has been around everyday thievery (and dishonesty) in Sri Lanka (i.e  taking what isn't yours or hasn't been given to you freely), hence the title for this post "Fifty Shades of Thievery". The stories I'm about to share are not what you would normally read about in the newspaper or hear about on the news. Neither are they about politicians or government bureaucrats, local authorities or multinational companies.

These stories are about everyday small business or shop owners. People who live in your community and try to make ends meet, grow a small business and contribute to society. And people you might deal with in daily life.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Travel Monday: Taking a refreshing dip under the Suratalee Falls

The waterfalls in Sri Lanka... they come in all shapes and sizes: tall, spectacular, gorgeous, breathtaking, tranquil and dip-worthy! I have made some awesome treks (yes, to see some of these you will have to put in some effort!) to view and explore some of these waterfalls, and at some point, I will blog about them all.

For this post, I decided on Suratalee (or sometimes spelt Surathali) Falls. I was on one of my infamous roadtrips with a few friends and we unexpectedly found this waterfall. It was totally unplanned, and when we stumbled upon Suratalee Falls, we had been travelling from Haputale towards Belihul Oya on the A4 highway. It is close to Beragala.

Sometimes you see something that catches your eye (and this definitely applies to any roadtrip around Sri Lanka if you're adventurous like me) so you jump out of the car to investigate. That's how we found this one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Expat Sri Lankans: Negativity, quirks and silly behavior

Expat Sri Lankans are a quirky bunch - I say this in the kindest possible way. I have the pleasure of knowing quite a few from living and working alongside them in different cities abroad; meeting them through friends and colleagues on my travels and exchanging funny stories; and coming into contact via social media.

The other day I was trying to categorize them for my mother, who was trying to understand this conversation that was unfolding between a group of friends. Truth be told, most of that conversation flew over my mother's head, but it got me thinking... I tackled one particular issue regarding expat Sri Lankans in an earlier blog post on Sri Lanka's brain drain and the question of whether educated or skilled expats would ever return "home" to Sri Lanka. As fascinating as this issue is, when I consider a few questions and comments triggered by friends, colleagues and my mother, I started to ponder more about the general attitudes and behaviors of expat Sri Lankans I know and/or have come across.

I mean no disrespect, but I think it makes for interesting reading, particularly to local and expat Sri Lankans.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fiery electricity bills and short term ways to reduce the heat

Electricity is a hot topic in Sri Lanka right now. In fact, the whole power sector could be generally considered a hot topic here (and world-wide), both from an everyday cost of living perspective (i.e. energy costs make up a large proportion of household and business expenses) and an environmental one.

There have been heated debates and protests in Sri Lanka for many years, but more recently it's been bubbling up due to recent changes in electricity tariffs.

And, there was this article a few weeks ago headlined as "Sri Lanka man dies of heart attack after shocking electric bill" that sent some people into a tizzy.

The Ceylon Electricity Board ("CEB") filed cost estimates of Rs 268 billion for the supply of electricity for 2013 with the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka ("PUCSL") in late January 2013. This sparked general outcries particularly in light of the CEB recording a loss of Rs 61.2 billion in 2012 (i.e. an increase of over Rs 40 billion in losses from 2011). The CEB attributed the loss to the rise in electricity generation costs. Further losses in the same region as 2012 are forecast for 2013.

The PUCSL reviewed and published the revised tariffs on 12 March 2013, conducted public consultation in March 2013, received written submissions till 28 March 2013. The PUCSL received over 100 written submissions and numerous oral representations were made on 4 April 2013. The PUCSL issued its Final Decision on Electricity Tariffs 2013 in June 2013

There was public backlash over the revised tariffs when they were published, and then President Mahinda Rajapakse backtracked a bit amid rising opposition. This resulted in a slight revision in the tariffs.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Travel Monday: Avukana Ancient Rock Temple

Sri Lanka has many amazing ancient rock temples. The Avukana ancient rock temple is one of them. I visited a few years ago and was stunned speechless by the amazing rock carved Buddha statue.

This ancient rock temple is believed to have been constructed in the 5th century by King Dhutasena of Anuradhapura (he is also known by the name Dasenkeli), who ruled from 455 to 473 A.D.

It is located near the town of Kekirawa in North Central Sri Lanka, which is somewhere between Dambulla and Anuradhapura and close to the ancient Kala Weva man-made rainwater reservoir. It is approximately 180kms from Colombo (or 3.5 hours by car).

Pilgrims and tourists will visit this rock monastery to view the 42ft standing Buddha statue that has been carved out of a large granite rock face that is not been completely separated from the main rock boulder. The actual height of the Buddha statue is around 38 feet, however it is raised on a rock pedestal that is around 4 feet in height.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 4

People say I'm extravagant because I want to be surrounded by beauty. But tell me, who wants to be surrounded by garbage? - Imelda Marcos 
You know you're going to be getting your stinky on when the subject matter for this installment of "An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly" is all about garbage (also known as refuse, rubbish or trash).

I've had this on my list of things to write about for quite some time.

In most of the places outside of Sri Lanka where I have resided there haven't been too many issues or stories that spring to mind. BUT, since living in Sri Lanka it's been "knee deep in smelly trash" to put it mildly!

Garbage collection is a bit hit-and-miss in Colombo and it is not necessarily consistent across Colombo. Coming from abroad I am used to regular weekly bin and recycling collections, as well as dates for bulk rubbish collections. I'm also used to the local council providing me with the appropriate recycling bins to separate out plastics, papers and glass.

When I first arrived in Colombo I was living in an area where households literally dumped their garbage in a pile by the side of the road, and you would count yourself lucky it wasn't directly in front of or beside your home. The garbage attracted stray animals, emitted smelly fumes and gave the street a distinctly unhygienic and untidy appearance. At the time, I recall some of my neighbors informing me it was the only way garbage could be managed as collections were not being regularly made from people's houses.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Travel Monday: Up in the Air, Over the Water and Navigating at Ground Level

I've spent a significant portion of my life travelling... When I think back to my childhood, I took my first plane trip as a mere baby and my love of travel has literally blossomed from there!

I'm currently traveling and didn't get a chance to bring my library of Sri Lanka photos with me, so I've decided to blog about some of my thoughts on travel and favorite memories. I think it'll make for interesting reading and the photos will be whatever happens to be on my laptop.

Since a very young age I've been fascinated with how people travel, whether it's by walking, driving, swimming, hitching, cycling, sailing, flying or travelling by bus, train or some other form of transport. As a kid my family would always take a driving holiday as well as fly to somewhere warm and sunny, or do something adventurous like camping, cycling or hiking. We would immerse ourselves in the "foreign-ness" of our travels absorbing new cultures, languages, sights, smells, tastes and sounds.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Handymen Crisis in Sri Lanka: Headaches, Tricks and Dodgy Work

Getting work done around the house - everything from plumbing, home maintenance, paint jobs to refits and renovations - can be a real nightmare in Sri Lanka (and, for that matter,  probably elsewhere in the world too). I don't know what it is about this area of the manual labor workforce, but I've personally had my fill of headaches, dirty tricks and dodgy work practices to last me a lifetime. 

As it's currently the bane of my existence, I can safely tell you I've wasted hours comparing stories with neighbors, colleagues and friends (basically whoever will listen), as well as more than my fair share of time venting in frustration. So much so, I'm dedicating a whole blog post to the "handymen crisis in Sri Lanka"!

So tell me, do you know of any person who has never gotten upset with their handyman or tradesman in Sri Lanka?

No? Well, you are not alone...  Join my unhappy chappy club!

Let me start with my story...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Travel Monday: Jeep Safari of Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park ("Minneriya") is one of my most favorite places in Sri Lanka, even though it is one of the smaller national parks on the island. I think I've mentioned this in one of my previous blog posts. I think it's because I've personally had such memorable visits and I consider it on my must-do list when taking friends or family around the island.

People will often prefer Yala or Wilpattu over Minneriya, and I have no problem with that. There are certainly similarities across all the national parks in Sri Lanka anyway. I think what is special about Minneriya is the "Gathering" when more than 300 elephants come together around Minneriya Lake or Reservoir. It takes place annually around September and October. I am a humongous elephant lover so it goes without saying this is "it" for me!

It's also the way in which the national park is set out - the wide open and flat spaces, scrub jungle, the Minneriya tank and overall lusciousness - that pulls me in every time. I've also witnessed some of what I consider the most beautiful wildlife (particularly herds of elephants and amazing birdlife) and incredible passages of time while safariing at Minneriya. Wilpattu comes a close second for me, followed by Yala. I think Yala doesn't rate as highly for me because it's always so busy whenever I visit and therefore my rating on the experiential level declines.

Minneriya is about 180kms or five hours from Colombo. The park covers just 8,889 hectares including the Minneriya tank, which was built by King Mahasena (in the 3rd century AD). The entrance is along the Habarana–Polonnaruwa Road. Whenever I visit I usually stay around Habarana or Giritale (but you can also choose to stay around Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa, which are both convenient) and visit Minneriya within a broader trip that includes other adventures and delights. They say the best time to visit is between May to October.

Friday, June 28, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 3

“Police are inevitably corrupted. ... Police always observe that criminals prosper. It takes a pretty dull policeman to miss the fact that the position of authority is the most prosperous criminal position available.”
~ Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

You can't live in Sri Lanka without having a few stories to tell about the police. Some of these stories are from my own personal experience while others are from friends and colleagues. And, there are many that are reported by the media too.

I heard a funny story this week about a thief. I think the story inadvertently says a lot about the state of the police force in Sri Lanka.  Anyway, the story goes... there was this thief running away from the scene of his crime with his stolen loot and was being pursued by a policeman. After seeing the policeman in pursuit, the thief ran even faster. Just as the policeman saw that he was about to lose the thief he yelled out "Hold on. Wait! I'm not going to arrest you. I just want my cut from your stolen loot."

Now you may be laughing at the story, but I think you'll find a few people here who would say this is probably a true story or it doesn't fall far from reality.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Sri Lankan Food Diary: Just an average week of eating

"You are what you eat"

Have you heard this saying before? Mmmm... Well, I really don't know about that! 

My diet is so varied and given I now reside in Sri Lanka I wonder what it really says about me. That said, I never used to worry about my calorie intake nor about what I ate, but as time has passed I now give due consideration to what, how much and when to eat.

Anyhoo, the reason behind this particular post is twofold.

The first has to do with people wanting to know a bit about my diet in Sri Lanka (i.e. what kind of food I prefer to cook and/or eat and how I've acclimatized to local food culture). And the second is my own curiosity as to whether my normal eating habits are particularly skewed towards specific foods, whether it's healthy (or not) and the balance between eating in or out.

This post might be quite interesting (and possibly embarrassing)... Now one thing to note is I do tend to travel a few times each month out of Colombo for work and play, so for this average week I've selected a week where I'm traveling for a few days of the week.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Travel Monday: A pilgrimage to Mihintale to uncover its ancient history

This past weekend in Sri Lanka we celebrated Poson full moon poya . It is a significant day on the Sri Lankan Buddhist calendar as it commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to the island by Arahath Mahinda (son of Emperor Asoka of India) on the same day in 247 BC.

According to the history books, Arahath Mahinda arrived in Mihintale, near Anuradhapura, where he met with King Devanampiyathissa. On his arrival Arahath Mahinda was invited to preach Dhamma to the king and his people. He later resided at Mihintale establishing a monastery for Sangha.

Mihintale was partially neglected at the beginning of the 11th century and as a result of the collapse of the Rajarata civilization in the middle of the 13th century it was then completely abandoned from. Archaeological activity began early in the 20th century to restore the large monastic complex and the structures apparent today.

Buddhists make their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Mihintale during the month of June to honor Arahath Mahinda and the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Navigating the sensitive topic of sex and intimacy on the teardrop island

I was very surprised to learn from Google Trends volume index data for 2012 that Sri Lanka was the most savvy (or you could also say, excessive) country to google the word "sex" in 2012, with the highest volumes focused around Colombo. Sri Lanka was closely followed by India, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

It made me contemplate the perceptions, attitudes and, the reality of sex in Sri Lanka. To understand this it's critical to get a snapshot of the religious and cultural base of the country.

When I moved here it was apparent that things don't work the same way in Asia as they do elsewhere. There is a strong religious foundation and culture in most Asian countries that shapes the social fabric and value system of each place. Sri Lanka is not an exception in this regard, so the excessive trending of the word "sex" is highly interesting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Never under-estimate the "psychological game" of Cricket

If you're an avid cricket fan, then you won't go through a game of cricket without experiencing every kind of emotion that's available. In my case, if the game is "on", then it will probably come as no surprise to those that know me, to see me yelling at the TV, throwing my hands up, punching my pillow or ranting at a player/umpire/commentator. Yes, I've got it bad!

Most of the time, it's the psychological part of the game that has me intrigued. I mean, to play at the professional level of cricket it's a given that players have talent, skill, desire, luck and performance. However, in the match itself, there is a whole lot more going on than just the cricket action.

Let me put it like this...

We've all been curious about certain behaviors on-and-off the field, but especially on the field. And there have been certain performances by teams where we've thought, why does that keep happening?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Travel Monday: A visit to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is a popular orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for baby and adult elephants in Sri Lanka.

It is located on a 25-acre coconut plantation adjacent to the Maha Oya River and north-west of Kegalle town in the Sabaragamuwa District.

The orphanage is open daily and proceeds from ticket costs go towards maintaining the facility and caring for the elephants.

Opening hours are between 8.30 am and 6.00 pm daily.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The best things in life aren't free, the rising cost of living in Sri Lanka

My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.
~ Steve Jobs 
There is relative truth in Jobs' quote, however the human predicament means we can't live on air alone and though time is precious, it doesn't provide sustenance for us to survive.

Sri Lanka has much to offer and that's why I continue to live here. However, it is evident that the cost of living in Sri Lanka, as well as globally, is on the rise.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

National anthems, intermissions and censorship

If you haven't been to the cinema in Sri Lanka, I really must encourage you to visit one of the local cinemas. You're missing out on a unique cultural experience. I say this, with a little smile on my face, because I'm reminded of this little nugget while on a recent trip to the movies.

The cinema experience on the tiny island has definitely improved over the past few years. In my early days, I hesitated to frequent the cinemas around Colombo because they were largely run down, a bit grubby and had limited runs of a handful of the latest movie releases. These days, due to renovations (and/or expansion) and a greater distribution of recent releases (particularly the action genre), the overall viewing experience has improved.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Travel Monday: Luscious countryside, rock temples and cave treasures

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
~ Martin Buber

Sri Lanka is an island that is rich for exploration and discovering the unexpected. In my experience a simple ride in a tuk-tuk, a walk through a forest or a drive off the beaten track can lead you to ancient places, untouched natural beauty and surprising experiences.

At one extreme we can plan our travels with a set destination and mapped out journeys down to the nth degree. At another there are only loose plans attached to a general sense of direction and a feeling of adventure.

This trip was one of the latter.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 2

“Being happy does not mean that everything is perfect. It means that you have decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
~ Aristotle

I'm often mistaken for a tourist or traveler. To a local this pretty foreign face equals unlikely or not expected to actually live in Sri Lanka. This can be both a positive or negative thing.

On the positive, it's fairly good because of the warm and welcoming local attitude towards tourists and travelers. And, by nature, most locals are genuinely helpful and hospitable. I've visited remote villages and towns where they probably haven't seen many foreigners, yet they're never paranoid nor unwelcoming. It's the complete opposite and so refreshing. Most visitors are often struck by the generous smiles and open faces around the island. I know for a fact this is not often the case outside of Sri Lanka. And I also know some of my Sri Lankan friends haven't necessarily been treated that well whilst traveling abroad, especially with increased attacks around the globe and paranoia on the rise. It's embarrassing and troubling the number of times I've stood at one of the counters at immigration or border control in UK/Europe and the US/Canada and listened to my brown-skinned friends being questioned with a not-so-subtle hint of in-hospitality and sometimes fear. So, to be warmly welcomed as a foreigner in Sri Lanka is truly a positive.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Travel Monday: Sri Pada - Pilgrimage, Faith and Spectacular Sunrises

“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself”
- James Whittaker 
Sri Pada is a sacred mountain (7,360 ft), located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. It has religious significance to Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. As such, it is known by many names:
  • Sri Pada derives from sanskrit and is roughly translated as "the sacred foot", which refers to a footprint-shaped mark at the summit of the mountain. Buddhists believe it is the footprint of the Buddha
  • Adam's Peak - Muslims and Christians believe the footprint to be that left by Adam after he was thrown out of Paradise (though the Portuguese Christians later attributed St. Thomas the Apostle as having stayed or visited the mountain)
  • Shivanolipatha Malai or Shiva Padam (in tamil) - Hindus believe the footprint to be that of their deity Shiva
  • Samanalakanda (in sinhala) - It has two possible references: one refers to the Hindu deity Saman, who is said to live upon the mountain; two refers to the butterflies ("samanalayā") that frequent the mountain during their annual migrations to the region
  • Ratnagiri - the Mountain of Gems

Saturday, June 1, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: The Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1

"What is it really like living in Sri Lanka as a foreigner or expatriate*"
* An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing.

I am asked this particular question quite often. My network abroad, tourists visiting Sri Lanka, locals, expat Sri Lankans, and people I don't know but somehow find myself in a conversation with... All, eventually ask me this question.

So, I guess it makes some sort of sense for me to answer it here. Please note that these are my personal opinions, from my perspective, experiences and filtered through my lenses, cultural conditioning and biases. It may or may not resonate with you, but I kindly request you bear it in mind as you read on.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Travel Monday: A bumpy journey to the ancient Somawathiya Chethiya

We travel for many different reasons. Sometimes it's to unwind and relax. Other times, it's to seek out something new and different. And, there are times we are interested in something specific - maybe spiritual, adventurous, ancient, historical, or even just natural beauty.

My visit to Somawathi was a combination of ancient, adventurous and spiritual. It is commonly known that Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, otherwise known as the Temple of the Tooth, houses the ancient relic of the tooth of the Buddha. More specifically, it is the Buddha's left canine tooth relic.

So, I had heard of another place in Sri Lanka situated close to Polonnaruwa that enshrines the right canine tooth relic of the Buddha. The Somawathiya Chaitya is located within the Somawathiya National Park on the left bank of the Mahaveli River, and is believed to have been built long before the time of Dutugemunu (a Sinhalese King of Sri Lanka who reigned from 161 BC to 137 BC). It is attributed to the reign of King Kavantissa - Dutugemunu’s father - who ruled Magama. Somawathiya is therefore much older than Ruwanweliseeya, Mirisawetiya or Jetawanaramaya.

Reflections on Vesak in Colombo

It has been an amazingly festive, busy and eventful Vesak long weekend in Colombo. Truckloads of people from out-of-town literally descended into Colombo! And, some Colomboites had snuck away to avoid the festivities, crowds and jams.

Vesak started on Friday, 24 May 2013 with the full moon poya to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and parinibbana of Gautama Buddha. It was a day of observance for devout Buddhists in Sri Lanka, which meant undertaking to observe the eight precepts, make offerings to the Sangha, listen to Dhamma talks, chant, read or study the teachings of the Buddha and, cultivate meditation with an intention towards liberation. Buddhist practitioners would undertake these spiritual practices according to their faith, devotion or spiritual aspiration.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Retail therapy for intrepid travelers to Sri Lanka - Part 1

When people come to visit me in Sri Lanka, particularly for the first time, I usually get asked what there is to buy here.

Usually, they want to know what is worth buying:
  • for themselves (or others); or
  • is unique to Sri Lanka; or
  • is cheap because it's made here; or
  • makes for a good gift or souvenir

Part 1 kicks off with the items that Sri Lanka is well-known for.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday's Tasty Morsel: Kurakkan

This week I've selected kurakkan (also known as Finger Millet or Eleusine Coracana) as my tasty morsel...

Image courtesy of Dept of Agriculture, Sri Lanka

Since moving to Sri Lanka I've discovered the joys of introducing kurakkan into my diet. I thought I would share this with you, as you may or may not have had the opportunity to discover it yet.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Travel Monday: Hairpin bends, monkeys and the Veddas of Sri Lanka

This week I feel like I'm in Road Trip Heaven (if there is such a place)! For me, it's a little like jumping on the back of a motorcycle, the wind in my hair, and there's nothing but the wide open road all in front of me. Sheer bliss.

So here we are travelling by car from Kandy and connecting onto the A26 Kandy-Mahiyangana-Padiyatalawa Highway. This particular highway provides some of the most scenic routes in Sri Lanka with plenty to see along the way.

As always there are no set plan as to what to see, do, or where to stop. Sure, we have some idea about what sights are along the way, but no plans have been made to definitively break our journey. Our only intention is to soak in the sights, go with the natural flow, and keep ourselves open to the unexpected.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A love affair with bookshops, books and leisurely reading...getting your fix in Sri Lanka

I have a long-standing love affair with ALL things associated with books, bookshops and reading. It probably started at a very young age with my parents taking me on trips to their favorite bookshops   or our local library on the weekends. I would take my book bag and fill it up with lots of picture books and books that I'd get my parents to read to me. It was a wonderful part of my upbringing, and it's stayed with me to this day.

These days I devour books. I admit I can get fully absorbed in a book (or e-reader) and have developed a natural ability to speed read.