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One of the most amazing sites in Sri Lanka is the Gal Vihara, which is located within the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I thought the Gal Vihara was unusual and interesting enough to warrant a more detailed blog. During my last visit I spent a full hour here, studying and photographing details of the carvings and just watching people.
This has long been a site of Buddhist worship and teaching. Gal Vihara (meaning ‘Rock Temple’) is an amazing collection of beautifully sculpted Buddha images carved from a massive granite boulder. The scope of the carvings and their beautiful detail never cease to amaze me. Hard to imagine the time it …
The medieval ruins of Polonnaruwa are located in east-central Sri Lanka.
During my last trip to Sri Lanka I revisited Polonnaruwa as I’d only been there on one prior occasion. During that prior visit, Polonnaruwa was at the fringes of the front in the country’s lingering Civil War, and not considered safe, so we didn’t stay any longer than necessary to visit the highlights of the ruined city.
This trip was done at a more relaxed pace. We spent two nights in the Polonnaruwa at a charming small hotel adjacent to the ruins, got to celebrate Sri Lankan New Year with the hotel owners, staff and guests, and I had a leisurely day to explore the ruins.
Polonnaruwa is part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, …
One of the most beautiful temples in Colombo — even all of Sri Lanka — is Seema Malaka. It’s a Buddhist temple situated on calm and peaceful Beira Lake, not far from Gangaramaya Temple. Seema Malaka was designed to be a place for meditation and rest, rather than worship. It’s a quiet spot from which to retreat from the hustle and bustle of Colombo.
The temple you see today is a replacement for one constructed in the late 19th century which sank into the lake in the 1970s. In 1976, famed Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa (the father of “tropical modernism” style), was hired to redesign and construct the temple. Bawa’s design was said to be influenced …
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 …
Swayambunath Temple, in Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of the most important sites in this ancient city. It is known as the “Monkey Temple” because of the large number of (mean spirited) monkeys that have all but taken over this complex (and are said to be “holy monkeys”).
Swayambhunath is an ancient complex atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley. Most approach it via a long uphill climb of 365 steps (one for each day of the year), past thousands of Buddhist prayer flags that set the atmosphere for the complex ahead. Each morning before dawn hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims ascend these steps and begin a clockwise walk around the stupa at the center of this ancient site.
The Swayambhunath complex dates to …
There are many memorable moments when one treks in the Khumbu. From flowering rhododendron bushes, to mountains that seem to stretch to the stars, to glaciers cracking and calving and feeding rushing rivers and streams. But perhaps even more fascinating than the dramatic landscapes are the Sherpa people who reside here. Living in a harsh and rugged land their lives are filled with hard work and few pleasures. But they are happy and cheerful people, grateful for small acts of kindness and happy to engage with you as best they can given language difficulties.
I was especially struck by the deep Buddhist faith of these folks, a trait shared with their neighboring Tibetan brethern, which you’ll see manifest as colorful strings …
The Sherpa people live in one of the harshest regions on the planet, the Khumbu. Their world is one of majestic steep mountains (the highest anywhere), roaring rivers, glaciers, steep trails and yaks. There are no roads, no airports, not even a swimming pool. They are poor and have little; still, they are among the happiest and friendliest people I’ve had the privilege of meeting. The Sherpa are best know for their excellence in mountaineering. From Sir Edmund Hillary on they have guided and staffed expeditions to the many tall peaks in the region, especially Mount Everest.
We had camped overnight near the village of Kumjung, close to Namche Bazaar and not far from Mount Everest. It …
Adam’s Peak (also known as Sri Pada, or “holy footprint”) is located in the southwestern part of Hill Country. It’s 2,243 meters (7,359 ft) high, the tallest mountain in this region and the fourth largest in Sri Lanka. Because of its size and distinctive pyramidal top, Adam’s Peak stands out when one is traveling through the region; on a clear day it can be seen from the ocean. The mountain is set in a region of wilderness so much of its vegetation and fauna are pristine.
I was first introduced to Adam’s Peak in Arthur C. Clarke’s book, THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE (which also features Sigiriya, hence the title). In this story a mountain bearing an uncanny resemblance to Adam’s Peak is the earthbound terminus of Arthur’s …