The Prominent Cities of Sri Lanka The participation in attending the 109th Annual Sessions of Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka was over on October 18, 2015. Eight of us left Colombo and toured a few prominent cities of Sri Lanka utilizing a six days JetWings Travel excursion package which was arranged by Engr. Suhail Bashir. The tour included a JetWings Travel Coaster Van picking us up from the OZO Hotel and taking us to visit the prominent cities. In the evening we stayed in a good hotel of the city we visited. As per plan the van along with driver/guide came to the hotel and we started our package trips. The details of the prominent places we visited are as follows:
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is located in the village Pinnawala in the district of Kegalle at a distance of 90 km from Colombo. It was established in 1975 by Sri Lankan Wildlife Department in a 25 acre coconut property adjoining the Maha Oya River. The Orphanage was originally established in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. In 1978, the orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife. A captive breeding program was launched in 1982. Since the inception of the program over 20 elephants have been bred here. The aim of the orphanage is to simulate a natural habitat to these elephants. However, there are some exceptions; the elephants are taken to the river twice a day for bath, and all the babies less than three years of age are still bottle fed by the mahouts and volunteers. Each animal is also given around 76 kg of green matter a day and around 2 kg from food bag containing rice bran and maize. The orphanage which boasts to have the largest herd of captive elephants in the world is very popular and visited by many Sri Lankan and foreign tourists. The main attraction is clearly to observe the elephants bathing which is quite a spectacle. The primary purpose of the orphanage has been to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness. In many occasions, the mother of the orphaned baby elephant has been killed or an accident to the baby elephants falling into pits and being lost from the herd. There are also instances of the mother elephants falling into a pit and died leaving the baby elephant lost in the jungle. There are instances of adult elephants being killed by farmers to protect their paddy fields and crops resulting in baby elephants being orphaned. The elephants at the orphanage aren’t subjected to any form of stress, abuse or threat and are supported by a team of employees numbering to over 100 including a group of mahouts. The free movement of the herd within the enclosed land of the orphanage affords the elephants opportunities to mate. In 1984, the first baby elephant of Pinnawala was born. We all enjoyed the visit and saw all the activities at the orphanage and bathing of elephant herd in Maha Oye River. Pinnawala Entrance Ticket Fees:
- Foreign Adult – Approx USD 16
- Foreign Child – Approx USD 8
*A special 50% discount for the citizens of SAARC countries. Chaaya Village Hotel After completing our tour of the Pinnawala Orphanage there was not enough time to visit any other place. The stay that night was in the Chaaya Village hotel, an ancient British Colony house which was nicely renovated. The monkeys were freely roaming in the vicinity. The hotel had nice landscaping, an elephant ride and many other animals were also part of the hotel. The food was very good and the free breakfast and dinner were part of the package. We enjoyed our night stay at Chaaya Village.
Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla Rajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla, also known as Golden Temple of Dambulla, is located in the central part of in Sri Lanka. The site is located 148 KM east of Colombo and 72 KM north of Kandy and considered by most to be the center point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared in 1991 by UNESCO. The cave complex at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Giri-Golden Rock. Dambulla Viharaya contains an abundance of valuable material from the very earliest times till the late eighteenth century, and shows the evolution of the Singhalese Buddhist art. Such vast material in one place, combined with a long history, is a rare find anywhere. The temples contain 153 Buddha images, 3 images of kings and 4 images of gods and goddesses. There are also 4 main monasteries and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848. These 80 documented caves tell the inhabitants dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. Five main caves hold the holy Buddhist shrines. The stupa was built in the 5th century AD and the caves contain precious paintings and innumerable Buddha sculptures. Among the paintings, two of the most magnificent depict the temptation of the Buddha by the demon Mara and the First Sermon of the Buddha. We all enjoyed our trip to the temple, the climb up (300 to 400 stairs) was good and we saw many monkeys which was a great bonus. At the top we had great views of the Sri Lankan countryside and could even see Sigiriya, the Lion Rock. You must enter the temple barefoot and can leave your shoes outside paying 25 Rupees. We did not have guide but there were plenty there if you needed or would like one. At the foot of the hill facing the highway stands the modern Golden Temple, a very kitschy structure completed in 2000 using Japanese donations. On top of the cube-shaped building sits a 30m-high Buddha image in the dhammachakka mudra (wheel-turning pose). Signs claim it’s the largest Buddha in the world, but it’s not even the largest in Sri Lanka. A museum displays replicas of the cave paintings, imported Buddha images and little else; with only brief labels in Sinhala. Throughout Sri Lanka the entry tickets are on the higher side. Before climbing make sure that you purchase the tickets. There are many temples in Sri Lanka and to visit all is expensive but it is worth to visit this rock temple.
Kandy Kandy is located at the center of Sri Lanka and is generally recognized as the island nation's cultural capital. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka. Since the Kandyan kingdom came under the British only around 1815, the city still retains the living traditions of its sovereign kingdom era. Kandyans are usually proud of their heritage and most Kandyans subscribe to Buddhist values. Kandy is home to The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most venerable places for the Buddhist community of Sri Lanka and all around the world. In recent years, the city's cultural landscape has undergone some transformation with the influx of immigrants from other parts of the country. Locals bemoan the gradual disappearance of the 'honest Kandyan' as portrayed in colonial literature and visitors are advised to be careful with their belongings. Nevertheless, Kandy remains a peaceful city compared to most other parts of this island country, with a remarkably lower crime rate and refreshing climate. We visited the city and in the evening we attended a cultural show and later we stayed in Kandy OZO Hotel for the night and enjoyed our stay. Traditional Kandyan and Low Country Dances of Sri Lanka Concept of dancing in Sri Lanka originated in fear of natural power which people regarded as the supernatural building. Dance was then initiated in Sri Lanka during the 4th century B.C. for the purpose of expelling natural disasters, sickness and so on. At the end of the Polonnaruwa period (15th century A.D.), South Indian influence came into Sri Lanka and was adopted in Sri Lanka folk dancing. In the course of time, a dancing form was developed and varied from each other according to regional and local traditions. As part of our package we attended a Cultural Show in the evening arranged by Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Kandy Branch in Red Cross Hall. We reached in time and our seats were reserved in the front row. The different Traditional Kandyan and Low Country dancing were performed. The function started in the traditional manner and the dances we witnessed were as follows:
- Blowing of Conch Shell: Traditional welcome: The Orchestra has five Traditional Instruments (Pancha Thurya). Usually played three times, during the service at the Sacred Temple of The Tooth Relic.
- Pooja Dance: A dance paying Homage to the Deities and Guru (Dance Teacher).
- Panteru Natum: The name of the dance is derived from the instruments used, (Pantheru) this is a close akin to the Tambourine. The rhythm is provided by the accompanying drums.
- Cobra Dance: Depicts the movements of a Cobra and Taming of the Cobra by a snake Charmer.
- Mask Dance: Low Country (South Sri Lanka), Mask, Mask Dance showing the killing of a Snake by Garuda (A mythical Bird). This is usually performed to drive away Evil Spirits; It is still being used as a Psychiatric Treatment.
- Mayura Wannama: This is a Dance belonging to the Kandyan Vannam Tradition; it shows the graceful movements of a PEACOCK.
- Raban Dance: This dance comprises of a Rhythmic Pattern, woven to the beat of a single faced drum; which is skillfully spun in the air and balanced on sticks in a group of several Drums. It is also accompanied by balled singing.
- Ves Dance: Ves is traditional attire of the Kandyan Dancer; Sixty Four ornaments comprise the complete dress. It takes years of rigorous training before a dancer can attain the status of Ves Dancer.
- Fire Dance: Showing the power over fire.
- Fire Walking: The artistes get into a Trance and walk over burning coals. The Devoties who perform this act seek the Blessings of the Goddess Paththini before performing this ritual.
We all enjoyed the show and the Red Cross Hall was fully packed by foreign tourists. As soon as we came out the weather was very pleasant as it was raining. Sri Amajayan Temple in Nuwara Eliya The Hinduism has a long tradition in Sri Lanka. Hindus currently make up for 12.60% of the Sri Lankan population, and are almost exclusively Tamils apart from small immigrant communities from India and Pakistan such as the Sindhis, Telugus, Kannadigas and Malayalees. Hinduism was probably the dominant religion in Sri Lanka before the arrival of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. Buddhism was introduced into Sri Lanka by Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka, during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa. Apparently this was where Sita was kept by Ravaan after being captured. It was the Dashahara when we visited the temple. It is considered a religious day in the Hindu religion. On the right of the temple the foot print of the Hanuman are shown. Auton Jayasuriya Memorial Automobile Museum in a Jungle Hotel While going towards Nuwara Eliya we stopped for rest in a jungle hotel. The last thing you expect to find in calm hotel near the river in Kitulgala is a great private collection of beautiful retro vehicles. The hotel and the restaurant are nice but this museum created with so much love is what makes it worth a visit. A collection of old Rolls Royce and few other cars museum and a Porsche Tractor is also on display outside the kitchen area. Mostly tourists who come to Kitulgala are river rafting do stay in this hotel. We had a cup of green tea. The sightseeing was great. We had a nice two hours stay at the river bank side of the hotel where we enjoyed our tea.
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya I was a little agitated by the Rs.1100 entry fee for the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens, but it didn’t take us long after entering to realize that it was money well-spent. Peradeniya’s are the most fantastic botanic gardens we have ever seen. Trees the size of sky-scrapers, flower bushes exploding in incredible color, giant palm trees that bloom just once in 45 years, and cannon ball trees with heavy round fruits were just some of the highlights. We have never been so bowled over by botany. The origins of this 150-acre park stretch back to 1371 when King Wickramabahu III established a residence here, and remained part of the royal grounds until the end of Kandyan independence. But although the British destroyed the palace, they also protected the area by designating it an official botanic garden. We spent a happy couple hours exploring the park. Alone, the famous orchid house was worth a half-hour. Over 500 varieties of the fragile flower are nurtured here. Outside, we passed under trees with bending branches supporting fruit bats the size of Smart Cars. After venturing onto a wobbly suspension bridge extending over the river which borders the garden, a long avenue lined with royal palms led us to The Great Lawn, whose lone, lonely resident is a beautiful Java Fig Tree. Victoria Park-Nuwara Eliya The Queen Victoria Park is located by the Nuwara Eliya City center and one of the must visit attraction. This park was name to commemorate the 60th Jubilee Coronation of Queen Victoria in the year 1897. The park covers 27 acres of land. Victoria Park is a place to relax and enjoy the natural sights and clean mountain air. This place is famous for bird watching and there are large verities of plants and trees available. Victoria park come alive with the flowers specially during the month of April, when the city of Nuwara Eliya gets crowed with large number of locals who come here for the holidays. Kids will love the park because there is plenty of room to play.
Ramboda Falls Ramboda Falls is 109 Meters High and 11th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and 729th highest waterfall in the world. It is situated in Pussellawa area, on the A5 highway at Ramboda Pass. It formed by Panna Oya which is a tributary of Kothmale Oya altitude of falls is 945 Meters above sea level. To have a close look of the Ramboda Waterfall we went to the Ramboda Hotel and utilized their lift to go down and then took stairs to reach the platform which is specially built for the tourists to enjoy the waterfalls. Gregory Park-Lake-Nuwara Eliya Gregory Lake was built during the period of British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873. This is the most prominent attraction in Nuwara Eliya and all the visitors used to come here and spent some time by the lake and relax. This was used as a place for water sports and for recreational activities during the British time. Gregory Lake gets crowded during the April tourist season. With the recent face upliftment in Nuwara Eliya area, many recreation facilities have been introduced around the Gregory Lake area. You can buy a ticket and visit the Lake Park and enjoy your evening by the lake. If you would like to have a boat ride, there are several people who offer that service. If you would like to ride your own, there are two seater Swan Boats for hire. Kids may like to have a pony ride. Now, Srilankan Air taxis arrives on Nuwara Eliya and the sea planes land on the Gregory Lake. It will take just 30 minutes to reach there from Colombo. We hired a boat and had a good ride of the complete lake for more than an hour. The weather was great and we all enjoyed the boat ride. Mackwoods Tea Estate Founded in 1841 by Captain William Mackwood, Mackwoods has the distinction of being the second oldest Mercantile Firm in Sri Lanka. The Company remained in the Mackwood’s family until 1956 when the ownership passed on to Mr. N.S.O. Mendis, a visionary Sri Lankan entrepreneur. The family tradition at Mackwoods continued with Mrs. Sriyani Nonis, daughter of Mr. N.S.O. Mendis who steered the Mackwoods Group as Director, Deputy Chairperson, and Chairperson over a period spanning 40 years and was the only Sri Lankan female to head a plantation company. Today, Mackwoods enters its 167th year of business, with Dr. Chris Nonis, the son of the late Mrs. Sriyani Nonis, at its helm and with offices in the UK and Sri Lanka, continues to foster British-Sri Lankan trade, and is involved in Healthcare (Pharmaceuticals, Medical Equipment, Scientific & Lab Equipment); Agribusiness and Plantations (Tea, Rubber and Oil Palm); ICT Education and Software Development; Imports and Exports; Industrial Machinery and Equipment; Industrial Chemicals; Energy Sector; Leisure Sector; and Manufacturing Sector. The name Mackwoods is synonymous with the finest Ceylon Tea, as Mackwoods has been associated with tea almost since its inception. Today, Mackwoods manages 27,000 acres of plantations comprising 15 Tea, Rubber and Oil Palm estates, and brings you tea direct from the producer thus ensuring a fairer return to the local community. We had a very nice tour around the Mackwoods Tea Centre. We learned about the different kinds of tea made from the same plant, how they process the leaves after picking (or "plucking"), and about the history of Mackwoods. There's a great viewpoint with a huge, white Hollywood-esque "MACKWOODS" sign on a hill across the way. We enjoyed a cup of tea on the house in a beautiful porcelain cup and soak up the experience. We did purchase the fine Mackwoods Tea as a souvenir for the family. Nuwara Eliya We weren’t sure exactly what we would find when we made the journey to Nuwara Eliya, 1889 Meters up in Sri Lanka’s Hill country. It seemed many tourists skipped Nuwara Eliya in exchange for the tourist town of Ella, but we were intrigued by this town described as “Little England” and as having a “toy town ambience”, surrounded by tea plantations. It sounded exactly like the type of place that would be perfect for us – and it was! We stayed in Green Hotel. It is a lot cooler than the rest of Sri Lanka and a very pretty spot, very different from everywhere else we have been in Sri Lanka. There are enough attractions to easily fill a couple of days and it is especially good for people travelling with kids.
Bentota Bentota is located 64km south of Colombo in the South-western coastal belt of Sri Lanka. CMB Colombo Bandaranaike Airport at Katunayake – Negombo being 37 km north of the city of Colombo, Bentota is approximately 101km south of the airport. Just across the Bentota Bridge over the River Bentara also called the ‘Bentota Ganga’ is the coastal town of Bentota. Bentota is a very pretty rural area: the greenery of the landscape needs a special mention. Most of the land is well shaded and sheltered by tall trees with coconut palm trees dominating the landscape. Bentota is famed as the prime beach resort of the South-Western and Southern coastal belts of Sri Lanka. South of the city of Colombo, the city of Kalutara with its fine beach is the gateway to South Western and Southern bay beaches. Kalutara is the next popular beach after Bentota. The Beruwala Bay Beach that is found just before reaching Aluthgama at the Bentota Bridge and Bentota Bay Beach just over the bridge is the most popular twin beaches along the coast. The coast towards the further South too is replete with lovely topical beaches making it ideal for a perfect beach holiday with the sun and sand. Set amid nature, it is on the bank of the Bentota River and is surrounded by a Mangrove forest. Hotel Mangrove Escape is the place to go if you need a real break. Turtle Conservation Project Introducing Marine Turtles: Millions of years, before man colonized Sri Lanka, sea turtles had been coming to the undisturbed beaches of this island lay their eggs. Five out of seven species of the sea turtles come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka. All five species are critically endangered. The Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea): Olive Ridley turtles are the smaller of the sea turtles. Adults weigh less length they can be found in coastal waters of the topical part of Pacific, Indian and Southern Atlantic Ocean. They are omnivorous, eating crustacean’s fish and marine vegetable. Olive Ridley turtles are endangered because so many individuals of this species depend on the security of small number important beaches for nest. The Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys Coriacea): Leatherback turtles are largest of all the sea turtles. They can grow up to 3 meters in length and usually weigh about 600 kg. They exclusively feed on jellyfish and will travel long distances in search of their prey. They have been seen feeding on jellyfish in the waters of Arctic Circle, some 4345 km away from their topical nesting beaches. Leatherback can survive in the extreme cold, because unlike other turtle. They can regulate their body temperature. The English name –Leatherback- refers to their unique carapace. It is composed of thousand or star-shaped bones, which are covered in a tough, leathery skin. They can go depths 1500 Meters in search of deep sea jellyfish. At these depths their body is flexible shell do not break and so the turtle can feed safely. The Green Turtle (Chelona Mydas): The Green turtles have an average length of 1 meter and weight up to 230 kg. They are migratory and can be found in the tropical Indian Ocean. The English names refer to the color of fat found under their shell, which is used to make soup. Young green turtles are mainly carnivorous. The adults however are herbivorous. They are fed with only marine vegetation. Unfortunately, the green turtles are endangered. The Turtle Hatchery Project at Bentota Beach: This is another important attraction. Up to five endangered species of turtles have been frequenting a stretch on this undisturbed beach for a long time now. The turtles are allowed to hatch and thrive in a protected area before being set free. A visit to the turtle hatchery is a must for nature lovers. Entrance Fee: Sri Lankan Rupees 500 only Sri Lanka-Paramount 200 Spice Garden, Matale Visit a spice garden in Matale to see many different types of spices Sri Lanka is famous for. Just 25 km from the hill capital of Kandy, the Matale spice gardens are among the best on the island. We were introduced to different spices and shown how some of these spices are grown and processed. A processing and training unit has been set up in the area and farmers are grouped in a cooperative to ensure fair prices and you will also be able to purchase spices. Gardens are open to visitors, a delightful place to stroll in fragrant greenery and learn about nutmeg, pepper vines, clove trees and curry, cinnamon and the precious cardamom, a relative of ginger. It grows in the shade of high jungle trees and can only be harvested by hand. Visitors may buy spices, traditional remedies and cosmetics, taste an herbal brew. We stopped here and had a short tour. The manager/doctor of the garden knew what he was talking about; he explained the benefits of each plant and the products derived. Apart from the usual spices, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, we saw sandal wood trees, cocoa pods, and special varieties of pineapple. At the end of the tour we were showed the various products applying a little of each for testing. Found an herbal hair removing cream which really worked wonders. A spiced tea was offered to all tourists that was so full of flavor that we just could not resist. We had a superb experience at the botanic gardens. The whole tour was free, which includes massages as well. At this spice garden all the herbal and medical plants are grown and Ayurvedic products sold at their outlet. Overall it was a nice experience that should not be missed. The manager of the garden was a great sales man; his explanation of each item influenced the ladies to purchase lots of items from the shop inside the garden.
The spice trade of Sri Lanka namely consists of:
- Curry Leaves (Karapincha)
- Turmeric (Kaha)
- Clove (Karambunatti)
- Cinnamon (Kurundu)
- Pepper (Gam Miris)
- Cardamom (Enasal)
- Lemongrass and Citronella (Sera)
- Nutmeg and Mace (Sadikka and Wasawasi)
There are many other spices in Sri Lanka, but these are the main The tour came to an end and the Coaster Van dropped us on the Colombo Airport two hours before the departure time. With lots of good memories, we reached home safely.
Engr. Iqbal Ahmed Khan