Sri Lanka

The tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka, resting in the Indian Ocean, has been home to many peoples throughout history. Settled roughly 30,000 years ago, this "pearl of the Indian Ocean" has seen its fair share of invaders, including the Indians, Portuguese, Dutch and British. The latter referred to the island as Ceylon, and used it for the mass cultivation of tea and rubber. The island is also home to a Buddhist majority, but also Hindus, Muslims and Christians, making trips to holy sites an eye-opening experience. 

Sri Lanka recently faced dark times, as a 27-year civil war ravaged the country. Separatist Tamils in the north fought with the Sri Lankan army, leading to the deaths of more than 90,000 people (UN estimate). In 2004, the tsunami that devastated Indonesia hit the south eastern part of Sri Lanka, killing almost 70,000 people. The war ended in 2009 and the island has undergone a rebuilding process (both internally and externally), leading to amazing infrastructure developments. Currently, Sri Lanka is only South East Asian country to rate 'High' in the Human development index and has a literacy rate of 92%.

And yes, the food is amazing.

Rice and string hopper noodles join forces to scoop up as much curry as possible, made from lentils, jackfruit, coconut, fish and every other delectable item that could be conceivably added. Breakfasts include milk and cinnamon rice slathered with a curry and onion spread, while stops by the side of the road merit hearty servings of water buffalo milk curd (yogurt) and honey from the rich, orange king coconuts.

Our journey was all too short, as any adventure lasting a mere 9 days is sure to be.  In the end, we managed to traverse the tea-laden hills of the centre by train as monsoon rains drenched everything we owned. After leaving the warmth of our beds at 2 in the morning, we

summited the 5,000 steps (actually) up the holy mountain of Sri Pada flanked by pilgrims. We encountered our fair share of monkeys, elephants and egg-laying sea turtles, felt monsoon rains drench everything we owned and relax on beaches as the waves tumbled over each other onto the shore. Framed by dark clouds, we walked through walled cities left from empire-builders of a time that is now a distant memory.

In the end, Sri Lanka was a great way to celebrate my quarter of a century on this wonder-filled rock in space!

All of the shots were taken on my Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

The water source for rice-paddy irrigation can also double as a great shower! Of course, we went swimming in it!

The water source for rice-paddy irrigation can also double as a great shower! Of course, we went swimming in it!

Coconuts make for a great mid-afternoon drink!

Coconuts make for a great mid-afternoon drink!

Travelling by train is the best way to get around Sri Lanka, and the beautiful scenery is just an added bonus.

Travelling by train is the best way to get around Sri Lanka, and the beautiful scenery is just an added bonus.

We travelled during the off-season- my favourite!. It turns out its off-season for a reason. The rains pour each day, but almost always at the same time (2 in the afternoon) and stop after only an hour or so.

We travelled during the off-season- my favourite!. It turns out its off-season for a reason. The rains pour each day, but almost always at the same time (2 in the afternoon) and stop after only an hour or so.

This guy was great! He was the neighbour of our hosts in Tissa, and was always down for a photo.

This guy was great! He was the neighbour of our hosts in Tissa, and was always down for a photo.

Looking this good at 70 is pretty impressive.

Looking this good at 70 is pretty impressive.

Another reason why I love train rides.

Another reason why I love train rides.

Sri Lankan tea (often called Ceylon tea) makes up roughly 50% of world tea exports. 

Sri Lankan tea (often called Ceylon tea) makes up roughly 50% of world tea exports. 

A statue of Siddhartha Guatama Buddha marks the beginning of the path to the summit of Sri Pada. Buddists believe Buddha left his foot print on summit, whereas Christians and Muslims believe the print to be Adam's as he fell from heaven. Sri Lanka practices the Mahayana form of Buddhism, whereby they often regard him as a god.

A statue of Siddhartha Guatama Buddha marks the beginning of the path to the summit of Sri Pada. Buddists believe Buddha left his foot print on summit, whereas Christians and Muslims believe the print to be Adam's as he fell from heaven. Sri Lanka practices the Mahayana form of Buddhism, whereby they often regard him as a god.

The summit of Sri Pada, as seen from the distance. A Buddhist shrine has been built on the top of the mountain, and on weekends the path up to the top becomes choked with pilgrims.

The summit of Sri Pada, as seen from the distance. A Buddhist shrine has been built on the top of the mountain, and on weekends the path up to the top becomes choked with pilgrims.

Blurry, pixelated, but still great. The first look at Sri Pada as we began our ascent.

Blurry, pixelated, but still great. The first look at Sri Pada as we began our ascent.

Buddhists pray during sunrise at the summit of Sri Pada.

Buddhists pray during sunrise at the summit of Sri Pada.

Candles and incense sticks often adorn Buddhist temples.

Candles and incense sticks often adorn Buddhist temples.

Obligatory monk photo.

Obligatory monk photo.

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We stumbled onto a dance rehearsal in the walled city of Galle, giving us a great behind-the-scences look at traditional dancing. 

We stumbled onto a dance rehearsal in the walled city of Galle, giving us a great behind-the-scences look at traditional dancing. 

Trains plus rain? Love it!

Trains plus rain? Love it!

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The view from our hotel in Ella. Not bad!

The view from our hotel in Ella. Not bad!