The insatiable urge to explore the unknown and travel uncharted routes took me to destinations closer home this time. A trip which had to be shelved six months ago despite most reservations, kicked back to life with the onset of the vacation time. A trip to Chennai, Sri Lanka and Maldives had set the pulse racing and in the wee hours of the morning we set off on 2nd June. Our baggage was through checked in till Colombo so armed with our hand bags we walked out to the waiting air condition bus to the CMVT bus station in Chennai. Thanks to Jet airways who played havoc with itinerary we had a full day in Chennai which we used fully to visit Kanchipuram located 80 km from the city.
|At Kanchi Kamakoti temple in Kanchipuram, Chennai, India|
Next morning, once again we hit the streets after a nice breakfast .We had missed the local by a whisker so we went to explore the Food City / Cargill store. We finally reached Kollupitiya which was a very small station that overlooked the Indian Ocean.
We were booked to leave for Kandy the next day .The hotel arranged a drop to the station, so in 20 minutes we were there. A flurry of activities was witnessed en route with the hawkers offloading huge cache of coconuts, pineapples, newspapers for onward sale. Precisely at 9 AM the train moved out of the station. We were lucky to have got seats in the Observation Saloon which offers some of the most spectacular views of groves of lush green jungles, flora and fauna and endless view of coconut, jackfruit and banana plantations.
|A lovely view of scenic route from train to Kandy from Observation Saloon|
|Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy|
|Different types of grass at Botanical Gardens in Kandy|
|Colorful masks being hand made at Wood work factory in Kandy|
|Kandiyan Dance- at Kandy|
The previous day was a very hectic one and hence it was decided to visit Dambulla known for the Rock cave and carvings. We had our breakfast and headed to the bus station which to our utter surprise was not too far. A short pleasant walk down the slope brought us to the bus stand adjacent to the lake. The lake is pristine with a thick foliage of trees around it . The best thing about the lake is the spotless cleanliness which immediately lifts the spirits. Just near the bus station is yet another towering statue of Buddha . The bus station `is a busy place and soon we headed towards Dambulla!
|At the Golden Temple at Dambulla|
Next day we decided to explore Nuwara Eliya, a hill station located 80 km away from the town of Kandy. It is said that if one wants to see Sri Lanka, one must step out of Colombo and this is very true. Every nook and corner is steeped in history culture and mystical natural charm. The route to the destination is a treat itself with never ending tea gardens on either side of the narrow road.
|A heritage building of Post Office at Nuwara Eliya|
A torrential downpour started past midnight and continued for the day. The constant banging of doors due to the winds that struck with force kept me wide-awake most of the night! When I got up it was still raining so decided to make the best out of the weather by enjoying a hot cup of tea in the verandah and watch the rain dance of nature! Later we decided to brave the rain and walked down the hill to the lake. We came across a new wed couple who had come down to the spot for getting photographed dressed in the wedding suit and heavy Sri Lankan saree! We too requested them for a picture and later wished them happiness in their wedded life! After returning to our room we had an early lunch and packed up to check out! We left for the station and finally bid good bye to Kandy at 3 PM as the train chugged out of the platform. The journey of 2 hours and 45 minutes was a pleasant one with constant lashing of the rains! At 5.45 PM we arrived at Maradana station and the hotel being just at a walking distance reached there in a few minutes! Another day in Sri Lanka had come to an end and not before I ventured out in rain one more time to the market before calling it a day.
Next morning we decided to have a day indulging in shopping and meeting a blog friend Asamptha and her family. We headed first to the shopping mecca of Colombo, ‘The House of Fashion’ located at Bambalpitiya which opens each day at 10 AM and closes by 8 PM except on Sundays when it closes early at 5 PM. I am yet to see a place which has people milling at the gate even before the opening time as if the items are being sold for free! Next one hour was spent in the fascinating store and picking a few items. We next headed for Colombo Swimming Pool, located just opposite the Temple Trees, official residential palace of the President, at the Galle Road. It is a high security area but the traffic passes on as usual without hindrance to general public. A huge shopping complex called ‘The Crescat’ which houses all the major brands and a supermarket were a pleasant place to walk around. We spent an hour here too buying some small items and treating ourselves with chocolate fudge which was just superb! Around 1 PM we crossed over to the Colombo Swimming Pool a sprawling place which kisses the Indian Ocean with just a wall separating the two. It has a colonial past and has all facilities of Swimming pool, Squash, Lawn Tennis and even a lavish restaurant. Soon, Asampatha came with her husband Anil and their two small children aged 6 and 9 years.
|Anil and Asamptha and Self and my wife( L to R)at Colombo Swimming Club|
Next two hours the time flew as we exchanged thoughts and no wonder ‘the face behind ‘Thoughtsof PAPS’( Blog of Asamptha) was more charming than the blog itself. This was the first time I along with my wife had met a blog friend on a foreign soil! The family was extremely hospitable and knowing we were vegetarians left no stone un turned to make us feel completely at home. It was a wonderful experience, not very easy to express in words. They later showed us a Buddhist temple and dropped us at ’The Paradise’ a specialty store that sells art ware ranging from ceramics, handmade paper, wood carvings, even fruit replicas created from cement! It was virtually seeing all the creative genius of Sri Lanka under one roof! Just across the street is ‘The Odel’ shopping complex! Unable to resist the temptation, we indulged in more shopping to calm the itching feeling on the purse. A day of achievements of sorts filled with happiness of meeting a nice friend, lots of eating and splurging came to an end. Next evening we were to leave for Maldives so the final night at Srilanka before bidding adieu!
PS: A recent break from work and blogging took me to some exotic destinations. I share the journey with you in two parts ! A huge thanks to blog friend Asamptha in Sri Lanka, who I happened to meet during the trip and was a perfect host.