Monday, April 29, 2019


On our third morning in Sri Lanka, we began the day with an excellent breakfast buffet at our hotel. It had lots of Sri Lankan options, which is what I ate. I noticed that most of the people in the dining room seemed to be focused on the western-style food, which baffles me. Why eat what you can eat at home when you can try out the local foods? Crazy.

Our first stop was a batik "factory."

Batik work is not a native craft, but rather was brought to the island from Indonesia. However, it has become one of the Sri Lanka's most popular tourist souvenirs.

Our guide (in the purple dress) described the process of designing original patterns and then using wax resist methods to create the beautiful cloths:

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Our perceptive guide Sanjay picked up on the fact that I have a thing for elephants and quickly arranged an extemporaneous trip to Minneriya National Park, the best place in Sri Lanka to see elephants. In fact, it is supposed to be the largest known gathering place of Asian elephants in the world.

Late afternoon is a good time to see elephants in the park because they come to the lake to drink. Apparently we weren't the only ones who wanted to watch the elephants imbibe. Luckily, a limited number of vehicles is allowed in the park. Unluckily, many of them were in front of us:

There were things to look at while we waited for the gates to open, such as this tree with really long pods--too long to be vanilla beans, but I'm not sure what else they would be:

I like this termite mound, the Frank Gehry version as compared to the ones we saw in southern Africa:

Then there was this fun sign. First of all, don't you love their writing? Everything is based on a circle. I like the advice "Do Not Fire" (you would expect a gun in the picture), "Do Not Shout" with the trumpet, and "Do Not Alight the Vehicle," something they are very, very, VERY strict about:

Saturday, April 13, 2019


So far, our second day in Sri Lanka had included climbing to the top of a mountain and walking all over a vast ancient city. We were beat and ready for some rest and refreshment. 

Sanjay gets an A+ for this restaurant choice. I never write posts about just a restaurant, but this one is worthy of the attention. 

We pulled up to the turnoff to the Jaga Food Restaurant and noted a TripAdvisor sign stating that Jaga Food is the #1 restaurant in Polonnaruwa:

At the end of the road leading to the restaurant is what looks like a California-style rambler:

The parking area is surrounded by beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens:

It turns out that much of the food served in the restaurant is grown on their own organic farm:

Thursday, April 11, 2019


After our exhausting climb of Sigiriya Rock, we crawled wearily into our wonderful air-conditioned, guide-driven car and were once again grateful for Sanjay, who took over and let us collapse in the backseat. The rest wasn't nearly long enough, however, as it was just an hour to our next destination: Polonnaruwa, the second oldest kingdom in Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura.

Along the way we saw two very different elephants walking next to the road. First, there was this poor elephant with a heavy chain looped around his neck and foot and a circus-like cloth draped across his back:

A bit further down the road we saw this wild elephant walking alongside the highway:

No shackles, no embarrassing drapery:

. . . just a plain ol' elephant. Which one would you rather be?

Polonnaruwa is a large complex of stupas, Buddhist monasteries, and Buddhist temples (a lot like Anuradhapura) and our third UNESCO World Heritage Site in a two days. Its heyday was rather short-lived, less than 200 years, ending when the city was abandoned in 1293 after a series of weak rulers and invasions. Like other ancient cities (think Machu Picchu), it was then quickly engulfed by the surrounding jungle and was more or less buried until it was excavated and restored in the 20th century.

At the center of the ancient city is the Royal Palace, which is believed to have stood seven stories tall and to have comprised 1,000 rooms:

Friday, April 5, 2019


Day #2 in Sri Lanka was even more exhausting (but just as exciting) as Day #1.  Remember that we had arrived at the Colombo Airport at 5:30 AM after 30+ hours of travel, then spent most of that first day driving and walking around Anuradhapura. When we got back to our hotel, we were totally drained. Maybe that's why we couldn't figure out how to turn out all the lights in our room without also turning off the AC. (We had one of those set-ups where you put your key in a slot to turn on the electricity in the room.) It was far too hot to sleep without AC, so we chose the lesser of two evils and left the lights on all night. Luckily, we had our eye masks from our flight, but even with that relative darkness and our complete exhaustion, we had a very fitful night of sleep.

We had arranged to meet Sanjay at 6:00 AM, and we were wide awake when our alarm went off at 5:00 AM. (We hadn't showered in almost three days and needed a little extra time to get ready.) The hotel had packed a breakfast for us of meat and cheese sandwiches and fruit, but I was feeling a little sick to my stomach (heat exhaustion? crazy traffic? something else?) and didn't really eat any of the breakfast.

At 7:30 AM we were in line to buy tickets to climb Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, our second UNESCO World Heritage Site in two days. 

Bob had left his hat at one of the stupas in Anuradhapura on the previous day, and all I had brought was a baseball cap, so when we saw vendors selling these coconut leaf hats, we bought two, forgetting that we were in a place where we were expected to bargain. I'm sure we made the seller's day.

The area around the ticket office was cool and quiet:

We just laughed at this sign. What could monkeys do to us?

Well, while the monkeys might not get us, this mountain might. We had NO IDEA what we were in for--a tortuously long and hot ascent to the top of this rock along with thousands of other pilgrims. How bad can 650 feet of vertical climb BE?

Um, pretty bad. Especially after three days with no sleep, a morning with no breakfast, and intense heat and humidity.