Monk and poya days

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Sunday, January 27, 2013

Last night there was a full moon which signified the most important of the four poya days of the lunar month. The new moon, half moon, full moon and half moon. It used to be the tradition that each stage was honoured with a public holiday, but now only the full moon sustains the privilege. It is a Buddhist festival day when followers bring offerings to the temples in the form of money and flowers.

We awoke early, around six, with birdsong and daylight silhouetting the seahorse pattern of the windows. No monkeys on the roof just now, but you can hear something in the trees. Outside we see families of macaques active in the trees, bigger than we imagined. Later on when we're walking to jungle beach, taking a short cut with our guide we hear a louder howl of a monkey, 'gorilla?', but he's just walking on. He does pause to explain about the ant hills, and checking with our friendly host we understand that the huge mounds we've seen, do house ants, but also provide homes for cobras. All the islanders we've spoken to though do say that they never see serpents and if they do it's the ones that threaten mice, not men.

We leave the jungle, pouring sweat but grateful for the clearing, our guide waves us off after haggling the fee, and as we pick up pace downhill we stumble upon 
 Rumassala temple. A litlle hesitant, we step barefoot into the hillside temple. A monk approaches and guides us round, sweating uncomfortably until we reach the bodhi tree marking the centre of the temple, a cooling breeze giving us half a minute to relax. At the end, we meet with another monk who anoints us with oils and ties a white cotten band soaked in oils around our wrist. Still not sure about the currency and what to offer, we give something and leave. 

A couple of king coconuts later we arrive at our destination, busier than we'd hoped, we can picture it abandoned and it is beautiful. We resign ourselves to a shady spot between palms, behind the throngs and wooden deck chairs, with the company of ants, I slink off for a swim. I heard somewhere that the red sea was the hottest, but maybe the winds made it feel cooler, the water here was warm, as if you barely notice the transition from air to water. Afterwards we eat, staple of vegetables and rice, and tuk tuk it back. An evening meal of delicious curries and ginger beer at local rates, it was the first day out of the city and on the coast and I think we liked it :-) 

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