A Trail Through Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
Sitting amid a skyful of stars (thank you, SriLankan Airlines), Ceylon tea in hand, we noticed a matutinal glow painted across the sky. This was unmistakably a good sign.

Thereafter, we landed in Colombo and drove 4 hours straight, in the warm sunlight, to Anuradhapura situated in the North Central Province of the island. The scenic countryside was a breath of fresh air, an aura of pleasantness radiating everywhere.

On checking into our hotel, Palm Garden Village, we experienced a cosmic sort of love. At first sight!

Acres of forest land, the property lined with mango orchards, lustrous blades of grass, winding pathways, birds darting from tree to tree, and among this bountiful serenity stood our cottage, garden patio and all.

Anuradhapura also the Sacred City of Sri Lanka truly enchants.

A religious magnet to visitors, we explored the Mirisawetiya vihāra built post-war, guarding the relics of Lord Buddha. After several attempts at reconstruction, it still stands in the blaze of the sun, telling its story.

This was followed, in close vicinity, by the Ruwanwelisaya stupa. We engaged with some locals about the nuances of this architectural wonder. As history would have it, another pagoda, the Thuparamaya, believed to be the first ever monument in the country, also playing a part in its formation, was the highlight of our cultural learning.

Marvels, from as ancient as the BC, that remained undiminished by the fragments of time.

From here, we jaunted around a bit more, witnessing the Mahabodhi Tree at the Maha Pirivena, a resting place for monks on pilgrimage. We were especially awed by the Buddhist temple of Isurumuniya vihāra further beautified by the Tisawewa (a pond), its carvings admirable, the panorama from its summit stunning.
As flaneurs, in the pallid light of near-dusk, we also visited the Abhayagiri dagoba. A bell shaped stupa, a fortress with symphonic intensity.

Back in our suite, a traditional dinner was served – coconut sambal and pol roti, pickled radishes, a snake gourd and mallum salad, winged beans, dhal and fish curries, amba maluwa and a bed of red rice, accompanied by pints of Lion beer.

After a hard day, the inexplicable joy this Sinhalese meal brought knew no bounds!

At dawn, we headed off, to a more central part of the country, Dambulla. First, our check in at Aliya Resort and Spa deserves some attention – a hotel overlooking an infinity pool overlooking Sigiriya Rock in the distance, and luxury tents in the midst of the melodious sounds of nature.

Literally, a phantasm in the wilderness. Favourite hotel? This one’s definitely on the list!

We worked on our suntans, in the gentle afternoon by languid waters, and got some downtime together, before routing to The Golden Cave Temple.

At the entrance, an enormous meditating Buddha towered over us. The hike up the hill to the caves, in the slight drizzle and occasional swooping gusts of wind, was indeed gratifying.

On reaching the top, we delved into the life of Gautama Buddha depicted by murals on the walls and as statues in different postures.

We chanced upon Mango Mango, a cute café serving inexpensive Ceylonese coffees and teas, and confectionaries – yes, the freshest chocolate cakes! The day ended with an aromatic bubble bath and yet another fantastic Sri Lankan meal.

As the city bathed in splashes of sunlight, the next morning, a trip to the acclaimed Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, was warranted.

A palace built in stone, decorated by frescoes and adorned with water gardens, and the remains of this ancient kingdom rising to a royal 600ft in height.

On climbing to the Rock’s summit, the vastness of the city unrolled ahead while we dwelled in discovering our new emotions.

Stopping for a kurumba or two never did anyone harm – the king of all coconuts!

Next, we proceeded on the hilly road towards Kandy, only taking a break to whiff some fragrances at a spice garden in the Matale district.

Earl’s Regent – our retreat for two nights, with a view of the evergreen shrubbery of tea plantations.

We awoke to a poolside breakfast and set out gallivanting; a touch of summer still hung in the air. We halted at the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens located just behind a river. More than 100 acres of carpets of greenery!

“Gardens are poems

Where you stroll with your hands in your pockets.”

For lunch, we chose the Honeypot Restaurant, and without a moment’s hesitation chose window seats. Lo and behold, the Mahaweli River flowing in all its might!

As fine raindrops fell on this plateau, we ambled up a hillock, took a quick look at a Batik factory and then found the most picturesque spot to stop and stare.

The Temple of the Tooth Relic, where we also learned the story of the moonstone, was most tranquil a shrine.

One of the most revered places in Sri Lanka believed to house the tooth of Lord Buddha looked gilded that evening.

We checked out of our heavenly abode, early, the following day, in the direction of Colombo. Made a stopover at the Mlesna Tea Fortress, enjoyed a cuppa Dambulla strong brew black tea and did not forget to buy at least 10 other varieties (we’re certified tea addicts!).

The capital was fiery on our arrival only to be soothed by more pekoe at the Dilmah T Lounge; we ended this journey with a walk at the Galle Hotel Greens and dinner in the Dutch Hospital area.

With this, we knew that our dalliance with this island-nation is probably going to last a long time coming.

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