Sri Lanka-challenge for senses and relaxation for mind and body

I have been dreaming for years to visit Sri Lanka. Country that is famous for its Ceylon tea was attractive for me because I wanted to find out why I am not a “tea person” and why tea comes to my mind only when I am ill and have to cure myself, like most people in our culture. Rice, which is main food on this island, especially if it is simply cooked, (“klot”, as we would say), is something that, in my country, is also recommended only if you are convalescent. Not exactly a dream country for people from Serbia, one would say, but still, to someone who is adventurer and nature lover like me, stunningly beautiful landscapes woke up burning desire to push off to this magic island – Sri-means “sacred” in their language, and Lanka is the name of the island.

Sri Lanka wins your heart with its contrasts-on one side, everything around you breathes peace and tenderness, and on the other side, liveliness in colors and gleam in the eyes of its inhabitants. This country, that has a lion on its flag and whose banknotes of all denomination have picture of butterfly on them, “bought me” on the very first day of my stay. Designers of these banknotes were probably inspired by the fluttering ease which represents understanding of life here, and also numerous butterflies, whose refuge is on this island. So, to the inhabitants of Sri Lanka, money is something that changes hands easily, and just like a butterfly, flies into their hands and fly away again, because he finds his happiness and joy in other things.

In Kandy, the most famous place in the heart of the island, everything that is happening is centered around The Temple, in which Buddha’s tooth is kept, and where you can enter only barefoot, and with clear and open heart, with the flower as a present. Kandy was the capital of the last rulers of Sri Lanka and Indian princess brought Buddha’s tooth hidden in her hair, in a bun, which was left after his cremation, because, as the legend says, Buddha’s wish was that his remains rest forever in a place of his enlightenment.

Buddhist monks you meet on every step attract your attention with their orange robes and proud countenance, proud, because they were chosen for that path in life, a path to God. Life path of Buddhist monk is predestined and decided right after his birth, based on astrological predictions and personal horoscope of the boy. That is common practice there, widely spread, up to the highest representatives of the country.

Their traffic is completely chaotic and their main mean of public transport is the vehicle called tuk-tuk, which gives special flavor to it. It is a real adventure to drive in it and try very hard not to fall out on some bend on the road. They drive on the left side of the road, which is the remainder of British colonial influence, and although the roads are not too bad, going from one place to another, even the shortest destination, takes you at least twice the time you expected. When they are in a hurry, they take it slow, and all that is the part of their philosophy of life.

Eighth wonder of the world

 For someone who loves lions as much as I do, it is unimaginable to miss the spot called Lion rock, in spite of 2000 steps which you have to climb in order to reach it. Even looking at them from below induces you to subtle reconsideration in your mind-how to endure this climb when the temperature is over 30 degrees? Additional reason is that Lion rock in Sigiriya is considered eighth wonder of the world, and the remains of the palace on its top are one of seven cultural monuments of the country, which is under protection of UNESCO. It was made in fifth century and it was a palace of one of the two brothers, who fought fiercely to rule the country. Kasyapa, who loved comfort very much, as well as all kinds of pleasure, adjusted the palace to that kind of life. Frescos of beautiful, naked young women have great value, but only a few of them are preserved, because after cruel and wanton ruler was murdered, his brother turned Sigiriya into complex of monasteries. As these kinds of frescoes disturbed monks in their meditation (logical), tar was painted over them and most of them were destroyed. Few which remained are forbidden for photographing.

When you reach the top of Lion rock, feeling of freedom and magnificent view makes you forget all effort, doubts and reconsideration. You feel as if you are on top of the world. Wind, clouds and rain that started soon after that cooled us all, (because here, the weather changes suddenly), making the picture of this unreal place completely perfect. If I could choose, I would stay there until sunset…even longer, because of the feeling I had there-as if I was at home.

Where water flows upstream

What makes Dambula special is complex of five caves; where there are over 150 Buddha’s statues (there are over 80 caves in that area). The longest and the greatest of all is the statue of sleeping Buddha, 14 m long. It is no doubt miraculous and holy place, because in one place water flows upstream through stone ceiling and flows out into another cave – how is that possible, remains riddle…

 Elephant asylum
           on our way to Hikaduva holiday resort, magical experience of making friends with elephants in Pinnawala asylum awaited for us. Great number of elephants live in this asylum, they are very well taken care of and they even bath in the river every day, which is very interesting to all the visitors and numerous tourists who gather on that very place.  We had an opportunity to feed the elephants with fruit and watch them while they are playing happily in red dust or bathing in the river. The chance to make direct contact with the elephant and bath him is one of the most touching experiences in my life. Contact, touch, exchange of energy with this peaceful giant, that memory will always be engraved in my heart.

        We satisfied our thirst with coconut water, which is very healthy. As we have saying in our country that one apple a day will make you healthy, so is with coconut in their country.  There was a great variety of freshly squeezed fruit juices, which made me happy every morning anew and try some new combination.
           Golden-yellow sand and green and blue waters of Indian Ocean, whisper of the waves, palms, wind that cools you down and disperse the moisture, make you feel so relaxed and drunken with pleasure that you don’t want to leave the beach, even at night.
          At this time of year, the sun sets rather early, and every sunset was different. Colors, shapes, water reflections, are absolutely magical on this, south-west side of the island. Several times I felt as if I am not on the planet Earth at all, but on Mars, because of intensive red color of the sunset.
            There is a tragic and sad story connected with Hikaduva, when in 2004, tsunami, huge wave 18,5 m high, took away almost 40.000 lives in just one day. Statue of Buddha, of the same height, and museum with photographs of this enormous tragedy cast a shadow on all easiness that we felt up to that moment. The question remains if this tragedy could be avoided if Sri Lanka was not in civil war at that time, which lasted for 26 years, and information system was seriously at fault.
          Cinnamon island, fishermen with their specific way of fishing, turtle farm, mines of semi-precious stones, Moonstone being the most famous, are all beautiful places which show generosity and beauty of this island country of peaceful and smiling people.

Gol city is famous for its fortress, built under Holland colonial influence, so there you can visit church, old ships museum and museum of recent history of Sri Lanka. In this last museum, I also found Yugoslav banknotes with the picture of President Tito, as one of the proofs of connection of our countries through Non-Aligned Movement, by the end of last century.

 Inspired by great artists

It is little known fact that one of the most famous science fiction writers, creator of scenario for famous Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey 2001, Sir Arthur Clarke, lived here over half a century, in other half of his life, in Colombo, on Sri Lanka. He was a passionate sea diver, explorer of sea depths, as well as the explorer of the wideness of the universe. The mere fact that such a man of vision chose this paradise island for home can only be additional reason to explore why this island is so special and absorb with all our senses everything that Sri Lanka can offer.