Monday, May 18, 2015

Travel Monday: Art, Buddhism and the Historical Significance of Aluvihare Rock Temple

Eva Stone photo, International Museum and Library Building, Aluvihare Rock Temple The Aluvihare Rock Temple is situated to the north of Matale (about 26km from Kandy) within Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle on the Kandy-Dambulla stretch of the A9 highway. It played an important part in Theravada Buddhist history, following the Fourth Buddhist Council, being the place where the Tipitika was committed to writing in Pali . Prior to this, the teachings of the Buddha and his key disciples were transmitted from generation to generation by oral tradition.

I have visited the Aluvihare Rock Temple a few times now. My first visit was quite a number of years ago and was included on my itinerary because my father had asked me whether I'd seen these special leaves on which the Buddha's teachings had been transcribed. At that time, I didn't know much about the significance of the place nor what had happened during the Dutch and British presence in Sri Lanka. More on that later. 

On this most recent visit, I was touring the Cultural Triangle with some relatives visiting from abroad. I find that many people visiting Sri Lanka miss out on visiting Aluvihare unless they're on a cultural tour of Sri Lanka or have some knowledge or interest in Buddhist history. As a result, there are less crowds here making it a pleasant place to spend a few hours or more. This is in contrast to the Golden temple or  Dambulla Cave Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and oftentimes busy and crowded.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

An expat in Sri Lanka: the Good, Bad, and Ugly - Part 14

Eva Stone photo, Buddhist pilgrims, flower offerings, circumambulation
When you embrace a new culture and country you have a choice whether to live on the outskirts, with a toe or two dipped in, or go all in. The alternative is to live in an expat bubble! I think for most of us expats we'd like to think we go all in from the outset, but in reality it's more along the lines of an unconscious-conscious progression from living on the outskirts to the edges to almost all in. If I'm honest this is how it's happened for me. I think it took me a good four years to really begin to feel at home living in Sri Lanka. 

In the early couple of years I gravitated to places in Colombo that reminded me of what I was used to, ate like I would at home in the UK, went through the motions of the daily grind, struggled with the tropical climate, kept my ear to the ground regarding the ongoing war, was hesitant about learning the local language, felt more than a bit isolated at times, questioned my choice of friends, and treated my travels like I was on holidays. That's the God's honest truth and it's a tad bit uncomfortable to admit. But, it's the reality of how it was.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Travel Monday: Chasing Waterfalls from Nawalapitiya to Talawakelle

If you're up-to-date on travel articles on Sri Lanka, then you may have noticed the plenitude of  recently published articles promoting tea estates and the beauty of the upper countryside of the island. And, what's there not to love about this region?

As you know, I love exploring this island - from its coastline of beaches to the lush mountains, diverse towns, and vast dry spaces. I recently spent some time on the waterfall trail. It's an easy day trip if you're based around Kandy, or for that matter anywhere around the hill country or up country. All you need is some form of transportation, your swim gear, and friends or family. You're good to go. Of course, depending on the time of year, you might also want to pack something to ward off the leeches - dettol works. And a picnic basket also comes in handy too - for you and your group, not the leeches!

If you haven't discovered some of these gorgeous waterfalls already, you might be interested in reading about the ones I've visited and written about previously - Travel Mondays: Is this the most stunning waterfall in Sri Lanka?; Travel Mondays: Tea Estates, Waterfalls and a stopover in "Little England"; Monday: Taking a refreshing dip under the Suratalee Falls; and Travel Monday: Scenic day tripping through Knuckles to Sembuwaththa Lake.