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Sri Lanka, the ideal place to relax and introspect

Sri Lanka, the ideal place to relax and introspect

Sri Lanka, with its serene beaches and scenic hill country, is a great place to channel your philosophical side.



By Enid Parker (senior Sub Editor)

Published: Sat 13 Jun 2015, 8:41 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:47 PM

A week in beautiful Sri Lanka is all you need to come back to Dubai refreshed, inspired, and perhaps a little enlightened too.

After a hectic first few days that included a rainy overnight stay in Colombo, a touristy, sunburned trip to Pinnawala elephant orphanage, and climbing hundreds of steps to the famous Dambulla Rock Temple, only to be disappointingly turned away from the temple itself because of a misplaced ticket receipt, me and my two travelling companions became eager for some downtime.

Which is why our next stop Ella – a popular destination in Sri Lanka’s hill country, with its extraordinary scenic beauty and a cool, rainy climate - sounded like heaven.

And when we finally arrived at the picturesque Waterfalls Homestay in Ella after five gruelling hours on the road, adventure was truly the last thing on our minds; only sleep beckoned.

But the next day – post a beautifully laid out breakfast of fresh fruit and curd, local jam and scrambled eggs – feeling remarkably, annoyingly fit, I decided to accompany a friend on an almost 8-km trek to the top of local landmark Little Adam’s Peak.

Over an hour and countless water breaks later, having encountered some very steep and rocky terrain, we arrived at the summit, inspired, exhausted and exhilarated.

For a while all you can do is stand and stare, and, of course, catch your breath. I’ve always felt there is a kind of clarity that comes with high altitudes, and being up there really did put some things (even the fiasco at Dambulla Rock Temple) in perspective.

Scaling Little Adam’s Peak was by far the most challenging and satisfying thing we had done in a long time. Back in the hotel, celebrations ensued with a sampling of some local beverages as well as the Homestay’s in-house Chef Kamal’s devilled chicken and beans curry.

After a memorable two days in Ella, it was time to hit the beach.

NEXT STOP HIKKADUWA, AND COLOMBO

Awed by the size and beauty of a marine turtle on Hikkaduwa beach, I gingerly touched its rock-hard shell, as one of my friends boldly fed it a bunch of seaweed (bought for Rs50 from an enterprising old man, who was collecting it, we found out later, from just a few feet away).

Elsewhere on the beach, other intriguing creatures lay waiting to be discovered. A hotel worker handled a large black sea urchin like a toy, as he egged us on to touch its spines.

Also swimming in the shallows along the beach were myriad schools of fish, creating patterns that grew more mesmerising the longer you stared at the water. A small brown dog seemed to be having the time of his life pawing at the fish.

The best thing about Hikkaduwa beach was its solitude; there were not many tourists about. It’s a great place for a long walk; be prepared for the heat though - an umbrella or cap will come in very handy.

Turtles are a protected species in Sri Lanka. A visit to The Victor Hasselblad Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Centre en route to Colombo revealed some interesting facts about turtle conservation in the country.

Heading back to Colombo was a sombre affair, with impending end of the holiday weighing heavily on our minds. A trip to Galle Face on the seaside cheered us up, and after sampling some unique local streetfood like prawn vadai and witnessing the daily lowering of the National Flag, there was just enough time left to pick up souvenirs at the famous Odel and Laksala stores. And as we bid goodbye to this beautiful country through the window of our Emirates flight, we knew it had given us enough reasons to return very soon.

BOLLYWOOD CONNECTION

Many locals seemed happy about the fact that we were Indian, with some immediately expressing their love for Bollywood. Gracious and friendly, a few even greeted us in Hindi, while we definitely lagged behind in showing off any Sinhalese we might have picked up from a travel guide purchased in Dubai.

SOUVENIRS AND FOOD FOR THOUGHT

When soft-spoken Srikanthi is not selling pretty elephant- and fish-motif cushion covers and bags from her roadside stall in Ella, she’s finding time to teach women the art of making them, for free. Her daughter Rashmika assists her in her work. “I need to leave a part of me behind, when I leave this earth,” she said, making us feel a bit guilty about bargaining over the already reasonably priced items we had selected.

THE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH

Visiting this World Heritage Site in Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, was a spiritually enriching experience. The Buddha’s calming influence is evident not only in places of worship but also the demeanor of many people we met over the course of our trip.

enid@khaleejtimes.com 


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