Srilanka: Pearl in the truest sense!

14th Oct 2017

Kandy Lake

Photo of Srilanka: Pearl in the truest sense! by Supriya

When I moved from Mumbai to Calcutta, I missed the sea the most. Visiting Srilanka got me excited about seeing the sea after 2 months!

3 and half hours in a Srilankan Airlines’ airbus through the clear blue skies, dotted with cotton clouds did set a good precedence to the majestic views that the ‘pearl country’ had to offer. The emerald- green Indian Ocean, canopy of coconut and palm trees, stretches of farms by rivers, lakes and reservoirs, terraced farms and tea gardens on the hill slopes and vast expanse of forests were all in store for me and my friend as we landed at the Bandarnaike International Airport.

Day 1

Colombo, the capital city, our first stop, stands out for its tree-lined, clean roads that lead to open parks and grounds that host cultural functions every evening.

Photo of Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya

One of the main shopping complexes of the city set in the precincts of an old Dutch Hospital holds within the historic and architectural richness of the Dutch culture.

Photo of Srilanka: Pearl in the truest sense! by Supriya
Day 2

I was already in love with the country gauging it by the view of the turbulent Indian Ocean from our hotel room. A view intermittently blocked by a passing train on the railway tracks that runs parallel to the street on its left and the sea on its right. With a taste of crab soup, sips of Srilankan coffee and a plate of milk rice and prawn curry, we started our journey towards Habarana, looking forward to the forest safari scheduled at the Kaudulla National Park, and, a 1200 steps climb to the famous Sigiriya Rock, a UNESCO heritage site.

At Habarana, we stayed by a Lake, where elephants come to bathe and drink water.

Photo of Habarana, North Central Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya

After a sumptuous lunch comprising rice, jackfruit cooked in tamarind, beans cooked in grated coconut, a crab duped in a spicy gravy, coconut sambol and loads of poppadum, we headed towards the Kaudulla National Park. After an hour’s drive in an open-hood jeep, we stood in front of the herd of 400 elephants grazing on the greenest grass spread over a stretch of 6,900 hectare. They stroll through the vast expanse grazing, sipping and taking relaxing dips in the water bodies that dot the forest! What a sight! What an experience!

Photo of Kaudulla National Park, Polonnaruwa, North Central Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 3

Next morning, we were set to ascend 1200 stairs to reach the ruins of the palace of King Kasyapa, mounted on a Lion’s Paw! It took us one and half hour to reach the top. Whirling winds, unobstructed sight of trees and lone hills around gave us company on our way up! We sat amidst the palace ruins mesmerised by the views down below.

Photo of Sigiriya Lion Rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka by Supriya

Our next stop was one of the most popular hill stations in Srilanka – Kandy. As soon as we reached Kandy, we booked our seats for an hour-long cultural performance at the town hall. Further up, we then reached the highest view point of the town. With the last rays of the sun falling on the glistening water of Lake Kandy and swans swimming in it, and, the distant lights glowing one after another, it felt like we were looking down at an evening sky with the stars coming out in an evening sky.

Photo of Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 4

Bidding Adieu to Kandy and on our way to Nuwara Eliya, we had another climb scheduled on a flight of 400 stairs, to see another UNESCO heritage site, Dambulla Cave Temples and the Golden Temple. The detailing in the cave paintings, sombre statues of Buddha in all the five temples are steeped in artistic brilliance and showcases the historic and geographic confluence of south east Asia.

Photo of Dambulla Cave Temple, Kandy - Jaffna Highway, Dambulla, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 5

Charmed by the elegance and magnanimity of the cave temples, we travelled on the meandering roads to Nuwara Eliya. Through sun-kissed tea gardens, terraced farms, little huts by the road selling food, marigolds and banana flower lining the street, the view resembled a painting done by an innocent child defines beauty in simplicty. Nothing ever has looked so refreshing. On reaching Nuwara Eliya, we spent the evening by Lake Gregory, soaking in the view of the sun going down at the horizon of the lake, while we slurped bowls of hot maggi to beat the chilly winds of the hill station and the lake.

Photo of Nuwara Eliya, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 6

A trip to Srilanka would have been incomplete without a train ride. Thus, on a foggy morning, we waited at the Nanu-Oya railway station for the Srilankan Railways to show us the beauty of the country side from the windows of a train and take us to Ravana’s village, Ella. If there’s a tour of the paradise, I am certain it is this.

Photo of Nanu Oya Railway Station, Avissawella-Hatton-Nuwara Eliya Highway, Nanuoya, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 7

Our next and last stop was Galle. We stayed inside the Galle Fort, a fortification that starts from the Clock Tower at one end and encircles the entire Dutch settlement till the Lighthouse at the other end. An hour and a half hour walk from the Clock Tower to the Lighthouse with the sun setting into the waves of the India Ocean makes you wish for the time to stand still.

Photo of Galle, Southern Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya
Day 8

Next morning, we headed out into the sea from the neighbouring sea village, Mirissa, to see whales! It was an ecstatic morning view with the star-lit blue sky fading to make way for the sun to peep in from dark grey clouds and reflect on the midnight blue Indian Ocean. We ferried 15 miles into the ocean to see sudden fountain like burst in the middle of the sea. That’s how one tracks a whale in the ocean. Once you sight the biggest mammal on earth, you sit overwhelmed and stare at the huge, swift creature floating up to breathe in and then dives back into the ocean.

Photo of Mirissa, Southern Province, Sri Lanka by Supriya

As we drove back to the airport, I stared at the green-blue sea and thanked God one more time for this wonderful trip. I will forever be grateful to the people of the island country, who hold their culture as close to their heart as embracing tourists from across the world with their warm hospitality.

Photo of Srilanka: Pearl in the truest sense! by Supriya

This article has been originally published in Outlook Traveller, January 2018 issue.

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