.All Trips / Asia / Sri Lanka

A Visit to the Old Dutch Fort in Batticaloa

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My visit to Sri Lanka this past year provided my first opportunity to explore the east and southeastern coasts of the island.  During prior visits, the area was “off limits” because of the decades-long Civil War disrupting the country (which fortunately has been resolved).  The region around Batticaloa was a Tamil stronghold in their fight with the Sinhalese government.  The region is decidedly more Hindu and Christian than other parts of the island I’ve visited.

Sri Lanka, because of it’s strategic location, has been in the cross-hairs of many colonial nations over the centuries.  In modern recorded history this includes the Portuguese, Dutch and English, all of whom left their mark on the country.  There were several dozen such old forts …

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.All Trips / Asia / Sri Lanka

Colombo’s Independence Memorial Hall

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One of the required stops when touring Colombo is this rather impressive building, situated in Independence Square within the trendy Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood.  The monument commemorates Sri Lanka gaining its independence from Great Britain on February 4, 1948.  The location is the precise site where Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, opened Sri Lanka’s first parliament, in so doing ending almost five centuries of colonial rule (the last 140 years under Britain).

The building, while mostly made of concrete instead of quarried rock, is styled after the ancient structures in Sri Lanka,  The main feature of the monument, the assembly (audience) hall, was modeled after the royal court of the King of Kandy, the last kingdom in the island nation to fall to …

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.All Trips / Asia / Sri Lanka

Gangaramaya Temple: One of Colombo’s top Attractions

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Sri Lanka is a country of many traditions and faiths, but most of its residents are Sinhalese Buddhists.  As such, exploring the Buddhist temples of the country offers a gateway to understanding the culture and traditions of most of its people.  Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo and one of the city’s more interesting sites.

This Buddhist temple is encompassed by several buildings and is situated in the heart of Colombo, not far from Beira Lake.  It includes a Vihara (temple), a Bodhi tree, an Image house, and an assembly hall for monks.  The complex also has an eclectic museum, library, residential hall and an educational hall.  The beautiful Simamalaka Shrine is nearby and a satellite …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 8, 2017: Bagpipes at Sunset, Colombo

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I’ve taken more time to relax and watch the entirety of a sunset over the Indian Ocean than anywhere else; the majority of these were at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.   And I’m not alone.  Usually 50 — at times upwards of a hundred — guests are there alongside me enjoying it as well.

During my visit to Colombo this year I discovered the hotel had added a new twist to the sunset ritual.  A Sri Lankan bag-piper playing a dirge, together with one of the hotel employees, solemnly and slowly march out to the edge of the sea at dusk.  The uniformed man methodically lowers and folds the flag as the sad tune from the pipes mixes with …

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.All Trips / Asia / Sri Lanka

Colombo’s Historic Galle Face Hotel

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I’ve stayed at many hotels in my life,  across a broad range of countries and classes of service.  Generally I’m a ‘Courtyard by Marriott’ kind of guy — reliable, clean standardized rooms.  But the Galle Face is special and a night or two stay here should be on your itinerary when you’re visiting the capital of Sri Lanka.

I was first advised to stay at the Galle Face hotel by my friend, Wayne Houser, who connected me with Sir Arthur C. Clarke.  I recall Wayne telling me all those years ago that it was a great hotel and was one of the only places you could get Arthur to leave the comfort of his home and join you for lunch or …

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.All Trips / Asia / Car Culture / Sri Lanka

Great Cars Along the Highway. Colombo, Sri Lanka

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One of the rarest cars I ever countered during my travels to Sri Lanka, in fact, the only one of its type I’ve seen in the country, is this classic Cadillac coupe.  Parked in front of the Galle Face Hotel, it was decorated for one of the many weddings held here.

It’s obviously a Cadillac, and appears to be a Coupe de Ville from the mid 1950s with some post purchase customizations.  Anyone know anything more about this car?

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos)

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“Pic of the Week”, September 22, 2017: Tufted Gray Langurs

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It was always a delight to see these wonderful monkeys on my visits to Sri Lanka. Found mostly in dry zone forests and around human habitats, they are especially common in the country’s Cultural Triangle, which includes the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Anuradhapura , but also regions further to the south.

These are gentle creatures found nibbling on leaves and some of the food people leave as offerings at the temple sites.  The are usually seen in small groups.  And they don’t mind having their photos taken.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)

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“Pic of the Week”, May 5, 2017: Yatala Vehera, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka

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Situated in southeastern Sri Lanka, close to Yala National Park, is the town of Tissamaharama.  As we were driving through this town we came across an obviously old stupa that our guide knew only as “the ancient stupa”.  We stopped and looked around it, although there was no one around to ask for further information.

When I returned I did a little research, and it has an interesting history.  The stupa is named  Yatala Vehera, and was built about 2300 years ago by then King Mahanaga, as a token thanks for the birth of his son (and it functioned as a safe retreat).  It was crafted with a wall of sculpted elephants facing in all directions, as if forming …

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