Sunday, March 31, 2019


There are eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka compared to 23 in the U.S. (which is almost 150 times larger than Sri Lanka), and we were able to visit six of them. 

Our first was the city of Anuradhapura, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. It was the capital of this part of Sri Lanka from the 4th century BC until the 11th century AD. It is also one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage cities in the country. Covering 16 square miles, the ruins are some of the most extensive in the world.

After moving us quickly through the Jetavanarama Museum, which contained glass display cases full of small artifacts from the city . . .

. . . a site guide took us to visit the first of four stupas we would see that day. A stupa is a domed structure built around a relic--typically the remains of a Buddhist monk (or in some cases, the remains of Buddha himself)--and used as a place for prayer or meditation. Another name for a stupa in Sri Lanka is a "dagoba" (sounds like "pagoda").

The Jetavanarama Dagoba (Say that three times really fast) was built in about the 3rd century AD. Originally over 325 feet tall and made of 93 million (yes, million) bricks, it is the largest brick structure in the world. At the time of its construction, only the Pyramids of Giza were taller, but they are made of stone, not brick.

A sash or belt that belonged to Lord Buddha is buried somewhere in this solid hump.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


We aren't ones to sit around when we travel, and so even though we knew he would be tired after 30+ hours of traveling between Los Angeles and Colombo, Sri Lanka, we decided to hit the ground running. 


Our guide Sanjay met us at the airport at 5:30 AM with a big, welcoming smile. His energy was contagious. We stopped at the ATM in the airport for some cash, and then we were off to Anuradhapura, some ruins about five hours northeast of Colombo.  

One of the great things that Sanjay did for us was that towards the end of our trip, he gave us a map that showed all the places we had gone and how we had gotten there. This is actually something that Bob often does when we are driving ourselves and actually know our route. It is a very large fold-out map with lots of detail and a whole bunch of labeled pictures on the back that also help us identify some sites.

I am using that map to verify our routes and approximate distances and driving times on a Google map. Here is our route from Colombo (on the west coast) to Anuradhapura (northern central Sri Lanka):

We learned right away what great guide we had when he made a few stops along the way--maybe in an effort to keep us awake.

Our first stop was at a roadside stand where a woman took a big knife to a king coconut. Coconut IS king in Sri Lanka. Locals drink the milk, grate the flesh and use it in dozens of dishes, and use the shells for lots of different things. Along with tea and rubber, coconut is one of Sri Lanka's main exports. One website I looked at claims that coconuts provide 15% of Sri Lankan's calories, 70% of their fat, and 5% of their protein.  

This woman was pretty amazing with her cleaver-style knife. In seconds she had removed the outer husk and cut the the top off the coconut. She gave each of us a coconut and a straw, and we eagerly drank the coconut milk. 

Then she whacked each coconut in our half, and we scraped out the soft layer on top of the meat (with a spatula made from a coconut shell) and ate some of the coconut. It was delicious, and two cocunuts cost about 30 rupees each, or about 35ȼ total.

Friday, March 22, 2019


A few days ago Bob and I returned from an adventurous trip to the country of Sri Lanka. It all started when the daughter of a friend started Instagramming from her trip to Sri Lanka last year. We loved her pictures, and when she posted a photo of a sloth bear, that sealed it for Bob.

•  Location
To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure where Sri Lanka was.  I even asked, "Is it near Ceylon?" I was embarrassed to learn that Sri Lanka IS Ceylon, and has been since I was 12 years old. Ceylon was the name of this large island when it was a British Crown Colony between 1815-1948. In 1948 Ceylon became politically independent of Britain, and in 1972 it became a republic and adopted its new name of Sri Lanka
Google maps

I have seen Sri Lanka described as "the teardrop of India." Perhaps India is mourning the fact that this beautiful gem is not part of their country.
Google maps

•  Culture and Religion
While the two countries have many things in common, there are significant differences, not the least of which is the significant difference in religion.

                        SRI LANKA:                                                   INDIA
                    70.2% Buddhsm                                        79.8% Hinduism
                    12.6% Hinduism                                        14.2% Islam
                      9.7% Islam                                               2.3% Christianity
                      7.4% Christianity                                       1.7% Sikhism
                      0.1% Other/None                                      0.7% Buddhism
                                                                                      0.4% Jainism
                                                                                      0.9% Other

Buddhism shapes almost every aspect of Sri Lanka's culture, and there are Buddhist shrines everywhere.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


After we spent the night in Moncton at the farthest end of the Bay of Fundy, it was time to head back to the United States, send our son back to NYC, and join my siblings and their spouses for Part II of the trip.

We had one final afternoon left in New Brunswick, and our son saw that as one more opportunity to forage for mushrooms. He used his phone to do some research and directed us to the Maliseet Trail, and beautiful walk that led to Hays Falls and a pot of gold(en mushrooms).

At first we thought pictures of bear prints tacked to the trees indicated bears in the vicinity, but we later figured out that they serve as trail markers:

As usual, we seemed to be the only ones on the trail, although a couple of people were leaving the Falls about the time we got there.

Friday, March 1, 2019


Thanks to Bob's excellent planning, we hit the next spot on our New Brunswick journey at exactly the right time: low tide.

As usual, just about every step of the way was filled with fairytale forest:

I was especially entranced by the trunks of the birch trees lining the pathway. They looked like pieces of installation art: