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.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Travel Mondays: Colombo - Jaffna by bus, train, boat and coach

A wise person once told me to never take exactly the same trip to and from a destination when travelling for leisure. 

Since following that advice I have been fortunate to experience some extraordinary adventures around the world. This trip from Colombo to Jaffna is one of them.

For some strange reason the journey began with a bus to Fort station. As they say, all journeys in Colombo somehow lead to and from Fort or Pettah.

It was your usual Colombo bus ride, somewhat fast, slow, sweaty and with plenty of people hopping on and off. Fort station is usually a bustling place, heaving with people during the peak hours, and a little more relaxed other times.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday's Tasty Morsel: Bitter Gourd

I have to chuckle at my very first Tuesday's Tasty Morsel post... because, I've selected bitter gourd a.k.a karawila, which is definitely not usually associated with tasty morsel in the usual sense of the phrase!

But it also happens to be a favorite of mine since moving to Sri Lanka, and I wanted to share some of it's positives (if you hadn't known already).

Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel Mondays: Road trip from Yala to Trincomalee

There is nothing I enjoy more than an adventure, especially if it's a road trip. The key ingredients being car, cash, free time, map, and a general idea of where you're heading (but no detailed travel plans)

I thought it'd be cool to share one of my favorite road trips taken three months after the war ended in Sri Lanka in 2009. It was along the east coast from Yala to Trincomalee.

Previously, it had not been possible to travel to most of these areas for obvious reasons. I was particularly excited to visit having heard amazing things. Also, a part of me wanted to see these places before development plans were put into place, and to see it "raw" and "untouched". Some of the places I visited have since been developed and the natural quality has changed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turning negative into positive... surely it's not that hard, right?

It's so easy to rant and be negative about a place, person, situation, or issue.

All you need to do is start with one little bitsy thing and it just spirals from there.

Or, you pick up a newspaper, watch the news on television, go on twitter... and, it's more of the same.

Why the f*ck are we so bloody negative?

Yeah, the irony is not lost on me with the question/statement I made above.

So, I've decided I'm going to turn this around...

This post is going to be positive. I'm going to challenge myself today... Yes, I am not going to take the easy road... the one where if someone asked me what my list of negative things about living in Sri Lanka is, the answers would be right on the very tip of my tongue. Oooh, I am so dying to start this list, but no. No, no, I'm not going there.