Pinnawela, Sigiriya and Temple of the Tooth

Trip Start Jan 06, 2006
Trip End Mar 28, 2006

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sorry everyone for not writing for ages. We have been quite busy finishing off the Resource Centre. Today we had the opening ceremony which was alot of fun. Like India, the Sri Lankans also bless a new room by boiling milk directly on the floor of the new room. After this traditional ritual, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the children. When the time came to leave, there was a rush to exchange addresses which nearly resulted in the children fighting eachother for the pen! We somehow managed to get out unharmed and with loads of addresses. By the time we reached the house, we couldn't remember exactly who they all belonged to! Anyway, i'll try and send some of them copies of the photos i took of them.
The weekend away in Kandy and the surrounding area was excellent. We left around 7am for Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage which was a 4 hour drive away towards Kandy. The orphange takes elephants that have either been abandoned by their mothers or are too agressive to live in the wild. Unfortunatley, it was quite touristy with loads of shops selling everything imaginable with an elephant on it. It also seemed abit like the elephants were there to perform for the tourists which made me feel uncomfortable. After watching the elephants bathe in the river, we headed off to Kandy through some spectacular mountainous scenery. On arrival in Kandy the drop in temperature was such a relief. It was still hot but the humidity of the city had gone.
We had another early start the next day to arrive at Sigiriya before it got too hot. Sigiriya is 200m high rectangular rock that once had a palace built on it and the ruins are still there today. It took about an hour to climb up over 1000 steps. It was very busy and at a few points we were at a standstill. Considering we were over 100m up the rock and on the smallest steps, with just a hand rail, you can understand that i started to panic abit! You will all be pleased to hear that i was in the group that made it to the top first. The views from the top were certainly well worth the hair raising climb up. The surrounding area is a World Heritage Site, so for miles and miles it's lush green trees and fields with the wonderful mountains in the distance. My photos could never do it justice. We could also see the Golden Buddha at Dambulla (19km away) twinkling in the distance.
After lunch, we visited the 5 caves at Dambulla. As we drove into the carpark, we were greeted by a Golden Buddha, apprently the largest in the world. The caves house hundreds of Buddha statues including a reclining 14m Buddha. Each cave is also painted floor to ceiling with beautiful images of Buddha dating back to 15th century. The visit was slightly ruined by other tourist groups with incredibly loud guides. I was quite amazed that they behaved like this considering it was meant to be a sacred place.
Temple of the Tooth was Sunday's visit. The story goes that Buddha's tooth was rescued and is now housed in the Temple in Kandy. As a result it is one of the most important temples in Sri Lanka. It was incredibly crowded with Sri Lankans going to make offerings. The temple itself was very noisy and not how i was expecting a Buddhist Temple to be. However, there were some beautiful paintings.
We took a train back to Moratuwa which went through amazing countryside with huge rocks and mountains in the distance. It was a shame to return back to the sticky hot city.
Anyway, we're leaving Moratuwa tomorrow for the beach at Mount Lavinia for the weekend. Then back to India on Sunday. I've decided not to do teaching in Tamil Nadu, but to travel with one of the girls i met on my Indian Aidcamp. I'll keep you posted on our plans.
lots of love XXXXXXXXXX
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