When there’s so much going on in the world – from the unexpected election of newcomer Gen. Michel Aoun to the Lebanese presidency to the slow transformation of America’s ‘great democracy’ into something like an oligarchy, like those it has schizophrenically both allied itself with, while fighting against for years – and I remain so silent (dare I say indifferent), this only means one thing: that I need a vacation. And a vacation I sure did take.
Following last year’s Vietnamese and Cambodian adventure (see “Going Further East”), this year was still about the east but a bit closer. Sometimes eclipsed by its bigger Indian neighbor to the north, but like a crown on the head of the Indian Ocean, this year I discovered Sri Lanka.
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka may be best known for its tea and civil war, a 26-year conflict in the north of the country ending only seven years ago. But one doesn’t have to speak the language nor spend too much time to discover that there’s a lot more to Sri Lanka than that, obviously. The images from my beloved Canon EOS 600D will do most of the talking, but for the rest, I found friendliness wherever I went and love and respect for nature, stemming from the country’s Buddhist tradition. Colombo, like most capital cities around the world, is crowded and polluted, but step outside and automatically everything turns green, in all its different shades. Bargaining in the local markets can get as heated as the food is spicy. A democratic socialist republic that provides free education and healthcare to its citizens, wealth inequality exists but aren’t too flagrant. Religion doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue – as the country’s Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims and Christians live peacefully with one another – though history hasn’t always proven this to be the case. People complain about the high costs of telecommunications and the government’s monopoly on the sector, but appreciate that most of their energy comes hydraulic sources. A country where the vestiges of its former British colonial ruler are still apparent in its English accent and part of its services sector, but an independent republic with a strong legacy of women active in political life that have become presidents and prime ministers.
When faced with a Lebanese tourist, many Sri Lankans smiled without much to say. Others, to my initial dismay, announced they had friends or relatives that had gone to work in Lebanon. I was preemptively ashamed that they would tell me how these workers had been mistreated, but fortunately got nothing but positive feedback from their work experiences, so all was good. It seems the more tragic stories of Sri Lankan workers come from the Gulf nowadays, where many Sri Lankans are and continue to go in search of better job opportunities.
And while I wonder whether it is more fun to be a travel blogger than whatever is left to blog about these days, do stop what you’re doing for a moment, and let me take you to Sri Lanka…
The ubiquitous three-wheeler, better known in Sri Lanka as the tuktuk, ready to take you anywhere, anytime to the destination of your choice, at the best price you can bargain for. Bentota, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Give us this day our daily sumptuous tropical fruits. Bentota, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
The marvelous shoreline of Sri Lanka’s western coast. Bentota, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
There was a language barrier between us, but the smile of a child often needs no translation. Kitulgala, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
A man and his monkey, in a kayak, minding their own business. Madu Ganga Lake, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the previously fortified city of Galle, this time under stormy weather. Galle, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
It may have been raining, but security is always under control. Galle, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
From the heart of the Sri Lankan hinterland, Viva la revolución, a salute to the Che (bottom right of the wall). Matale Town, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Waiting for the train. Nanu Oya Train Station, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Late night shopping. Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
The so-called “World’s End” at Horton Plains National Park. A sign at the entrance of the park advises visitors to “kill only time, take only pictures, remove only rubbish, leave only footprints.” Ohiya, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
A public village-wide ceremony held every couple of months whereby children kneel in front of their parents, and ask for their forgiveness for their wrongdoings. Ohiya, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
A tea plantation, with work in progress. What appears in different colors throughout the fields are women picking tea leaves with their own bare hands. Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Know your Tea (from bottom right to left): white tea, golden tea, green tea, OPA, OP, FBOP (English Breakfast), BOP and BOPF. Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
These two Buddhist monks thought they weren’t being observed while taking some time off on their phones…but they took it with much humor. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Kandy, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Offering lotus flowers in front of the altar where Sri Lankans believe rests a relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Standing as tall as the trees of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Kandy, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Perfect family portraits are almost impossible to get. Dambulla, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
A not so sleeping Buddha. Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
It takes 1200 steps to reach the top of the Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress, but it’s worth every step. Matale, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
Big, determined and united. No harm to neither animal nor human was done in the taking of this picture. Minneriya National Park, Habarana, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma
The bride and the groom, in full traditional regalia, the groom dressed as old Sri Lankan Kandyian kings used to. Taken on the last day of the trip, it represents the end of my little adventure, but the beginning of theirs. Colombo, Sri Lanka. © 2016 Marina Chamma