- Travel and Places»
- Visiting Asia»
- Southern Asia
Travel to Sri Lanka-The Teardrop of India
All across the globe, there are many interesting travel destinations, but none so captivating to the imagination like Sri Lanka. Surrounded by sparkling blue waters, and fringed with pristine beaches, it sits just south of India. Formerly known as Ceylon, this beautiful island nation has had many other names. Taprobane, Zeilan, and Serendib are just a few, but the romantics named it best when they called it “The teardrop of India.” Indeed, its size and shape contribute well to this eloquent title. With its colorful past and fascinating culture, Sri Lanka is a small country with many riches.
Although it is not very large, it has much to offer the adventurous traveler. With a land area of just over 25,300 square miles, Sri Lanka is roughly the size of Ireland. However, do not be deceived by its relatively small size, there is still much to see and do on this tropical island. For the more athletically inclined tourist Adam’s Peak, standing at 7,297 feet and considered one of the world’s holiest mountains, is a great climb. At the top, one will find not only spectacular views, but also the imprint of a man’s foot that depending on the point of view belongs either to the mountain’s namesake or to Buddha. Those slightly less athletically inclined will enjoy the cascading white waters of the Saint Clare’s falls viewed from either the road as one drives by or from a wonderful teahouse bearing its name that sits overlooking the falls on the opposite side of the street.
Even just driving along the road will offer many photo opportunities. One should be especially on the lookout for the expertly curved terraces of the rice paddy fields; they are indeed a landscaper’s dream and are present throughout much of the island. Unspoiled beaches also beckon to any who seek a day of relaxation in the sun and the sand. The gem city of Ratnapura is another exciting place to visit and see men actually working in the mines. Exquisite Ceylon sapphires are among some of the many beautiful gems on the world market mined here. After a day of visiting beaches or the gem city, one can escape the heat of the lowlands for the refreshing cooler climates of Nuwara Eliya and the sprawling tea plantations of the up-country.
For the history buff, this small island is a rich gold mine, opening a window into the past. There are many ancient ruins throughout Sri Lanka, found at places like Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Both former capital cities, filled with the remains of Buddhist dagobas, briefly offer an archeologist’s view of early Sri Lankan life and religion. No history tour of the island would complete without a visit to the top of Sigiriya or ‘Lion Rock’. This truly impressive monolith rises 650 feet straight out of the ground like a lone sentry, and on its peak houses the remains of King Kassapa’s palace. Once guarded by the gigantic shape of a lion completely carved in stone the only access to the palace was through its mouth, thus giving rise to the name Lion Rock.
Many frescoes of beautiful scantily clad maidens done by ancient Buddhists Monks once adorned the steep face of Sigiriya. They were painted in honor of King Kassapa, and it is unknown if they were actually royalty or were likenesses of Kassapa's concubines.These paintings could only be viewed from the mirror wall that runs along the side of the rock leading up to the Lion entrance to Kassapa's palace. Even the king could only view them from from down below. Today however, a metal spiral staricase allows visitors an up-close view of these amazing paintings. In an effort to protect the frescoes flash photography is not allowed, but one can still take wonderful photos of them. Sadly of the nearly 500 frescoes that once filled the rock face art gallery only a few still remain.
A slightly more recent view of history tells tales of just how many invasions breached the shores of Sri Lanka. The Portuguese were first and were notable among other things for building up a wall around the coastal city of Galle. Later the Dutch took control of the island and built up a fort that still stands in Galle today, in place of the Portuguese wall. Lastly, the British controlled the island until it gained its independence in 1948. Each nation has left behind pieces of its own culture.
Due largely to this colonization by several different countries throughout its history Sri Lanka has a rich and uniquely mixed culture. Sri Lankans are a very friendly, hospitable, and down to earth people. They love to laugh and have fun and even their favorite type of music locally known as Bai’la, which is a mixture of both old and new themes, is quite humorous, and makes for easy dancing. Typical Sri Lankan attire is as colorful and interesting as the people who wear it. Long, flowing, intricately detailed saris in many different shades, frequently adorn the native women. Men too sometimes wear colorful sarongs paired with dressy button down shirts. The stunningly crisp, white uniforms with navy blue ties worn by all the schoolchildren on the island are another attention-grabbing piece of fashion seen here. While their culture is distinctly Asian, it still has splashes of British, European, and Indian flavors. Tea is big part of daily life, and invites to homes, often involve the consumption this delicious beverage mixed with milk. Indeed, the culture and people of this island nation are as colorful and flavorful as the cuisine.
Finally, no visit to Sri Lanka would be complete without tasting the many rich and enticing flavors this beautiful island has to offer. Aromatic spices play a big part in the native cuisine and they range from cumin and coriander to cardamom, as well as a mixture of five, red, hot spices commonly used in curry dishes. Rice is a staple food, eaten nearly three times a day and usually mixed with curries of fish, pork, or chicken. Like every tropical island, exotic fruits are available in abundance, with everything from tiny sweet bananas to jackfruit and several different varieties of coconut sold at local markets. Vendors drive little carts through neighborhoods selling fresh breads like Kimbula banis, a long, thin, soft roll sprinkled with sugar. Restaurants and bakeries all over the island have a delectable sampling of the many rich desserts. Wattalapan, a type of thick pudding made from sweet jaggery and cashew nuts is a must have dessert at most restaurants. Apple cakes, so named for their resemblance to real apples are a lightly glazed and tasty treat any bakery will carry. After the meal, visitors will want to wash it all down with a nice soothing, locally grown cup of Ceylon tea.
With the beautiful tapestry of the natural geography, and the rich history, culture and the exotic spicy foods Sri Lanka offers, any visitor is sure not to forget a trip to this small country with many riches. Certainly, there is much to enjoy and love about this wonderful island. One taste will merely whet the appetite and will bring travelers back for more in the years to come. After all, who would not love good food, great company and a relaxing day at the beach?
Travel to Sri Lanka-The Teardrop of India by Daelyn H. Appleton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.