We were back in the melee that is a city in this part of the world, though it was Sunday and the traffic was surprisingly light.
Watching people go about their daily business is always fascinating to me, and I could happily drive around for hours, just looking, observing, noticing. Perhaps that’s as well, for we seemed to drive around in circles, passing the same recognisable buildings time and again.
There were many relics of the former British administration and the city is an interesting mix of faded glory and the here and now.
Though well tended and maintained, I felt the buildings had a slightly “lost” air to them, as if awaiting some new and exciting reincarnation. Our guide explained that Sri Lanka has been passed over by tourists in recent years due to unsettling local events and security fears, but he hoped we will all return and bring our friends next time.
Having just passed the “Office of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption” our driver was stopped at a police checkpoint and fined 1000rp for driving in the wrong lane. Later, we hear that every vehicle was stopped at that point and fined the same charge.
Our next stop was Independence Square, site of the signing of the treaty in 1948. We could see how the design of this building referenced the ruins in Polonnaruwa, especially the square pillars carved with beautiful designs. It’s always good when something like that comes together, to make connections and join the dots.
From there, we drove to the former Prime Ministers house, now the National Museum. It’s a lovely building in a lush green setting, though inside it was a little dusty and old fashioned.
Nevertheless, there were some lovely exhibits, some excellent explanations (of the moonstones and features of the temple doorways for example)
and we enjoyed just exploring the cool, shady rooms for an hour.
When we emerged into the sunlight again, we found a little welcome party! The lads from the local Muslim school were out on a study visit and wanted to chat. We shared the basic information about each other: “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” and so on, and giggled when one of them produced a stars and stripes hankie, waving it in the air. Their conversation was charming, their ready smiles and genuine friendliness engaging and their teachers stood back and watched with pride as their young charges giggled and teased one another to overcome their shyness.
Whilst we were bantering with the lads, another little family stood quietly watching, amused at the hoohah going on in this quietest and most sedate of places.
Time to move right along then, past a cricket ground and
another cricket ground (note the post boxes!) Our guide explained the rules of “village” cricket – including the interesting one which said that any passer by is automatically a member of the fielding team!
We crossed over a level crossing by a suburban railway station which looked oh so familiar – I’m sure I used to travel from a station of exactly that same design when I was a child!
Eventually, we arrived at the coast road and looked at that sky! Fortunately, we were heading to another smart hotel for lunch and as we enjoyed another plateful of food (it just keeps coming!!) we watched the heavens open and the storm pass through.
By the time we have finished our meal, regrouped and driven to our next stop, the rain is over and taking our shoes and socks off to walk around a Hindu temple in the puddles was surprisingly refreshing!
As colourful and lavishly decorated as this morning’s stop, the Hindu traditions are represented in an altogether more graphic style.
Every square inch is decorated here, too, in every colour and hue imaginable. The painting is exuberant, the figures ornate and full of character. For the second time today, it was hard to know where to point my camera next and I took another hundred photographs…
I especially liked the small details, the dark corners and the overlooked parts down there at below knee level.
But I also loved the grand design; the overview too. Look at that copper chimney rising through a hole in the roof.
The temple would normally be closed today but has been opened especially for us to look around, so there is no-one to disturb. The monk who takes care of the temple is present and watches us gently as we ooh and aah at his treasure.
Thinking I’ve seen and absorbed as much as I can and noting my group gathering to leave, I take one final look upwards – this is what I see. My reward?
The day is almost done except for the inevitable shopping stop, today at a “gems outlet”. We’ve been warned that the best gems go for export, that it’s not advisable to buy unless we know exactly what we’re buying, but that doesn’t stop some! Not in that league myself, I potter about wondering how many different interpretations of elephants we’ve seen in the last few days and succumb to two small batik elephant panels, probably to be made into a couple of little cushions when we’re home.
Lynn, I can understand how Sri Lanka captivates you. We felt much the same and I feel sure that we will return before too long. I hope the storms will hold off next time, though!