My sister arrived at the Colombo airport around 8:30 am, and my mom, Sangeeth our driver, and I drove from Kandy to Colombo to meet her. I waited for her in the arrivals area of the Colombo airport where I was the only white woman, and the only person waiting alone. This meant I got some serious stares. There is no taboo about staring, and Sri Lankans have no problem looking long and hard at someone who stands out, something I will probably never get used to.
After Steph arrived we hopped in the car and started back up to Kandy, with a stop on the way at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. It was drizzling when we arrived so we weren’t able to see the elephants have their bath in the river. Because of the rain there weren’t many people there, and we got to see the new baby elephant, Dinuda, without too much of a crowd. Dinuda was born a week before our visit, on the morning after the end of the war in Sri Lanka. Her name means “New Dawn.” She is very cute.
The rain couldn’t keep all the tourists away and we saw one unfortunate man wearing fluorescent short shorts and jelly shoes. He was less cute. I’ve cropped out his face to protect him from further embarrassment.
After the visit to Pinnewala, we came back to my house so Steph could shower and relax after her long trip from the US and then from Colombo to Kandy.
The next morning we hopped in the car and drove north to the Kandalama Hotel near Dambulla in the cultural triangle. Sri Lanka is a small island, about the size of Ireland or West Virginia, but is very different from one region to the next. Kandy is in the hilly part of the wet zone, but just north, over the Knuckles Range, is the dry zone, where it rains about two months out of the year. This is the area where the Sinhalese originally settled thousands of years ago and set up a complex irrigation system involving huge man-made lakes, referred to as tanks. The Kandalama is in the middle of a forest preserve, and sits on a hill next to one of these tanks. It was designed by Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa, to meld with the natural setting. Our trip there was one of the highlights of my stay so far in Sri Lanka.
Everything about the hotel was relaxing and beautiful. The shower had full pressure and nice hot water, and had a view out onto the tank. There were three pools, which the hotel book labeled the most admired pool, the most spacious pool, and the most romantic pool. I swam in two of these, the most spacious and most admired. During our family swim in the most spacious pool a troop of langur monkeys came to join us, sitting by the pool, and even drinking a little of the pool water. The langurs are much bigger than the red-faced macaques we have in Kandy, and are generally much better behaved and less ugly. Eventually the pool attendant had to shoo them away because the langurs were about ready to take over our lounge chairs.
The second day of our stay at the Kandalama we took a jeep safari to see the elephants gathering at the Minneriya Tank, about an hour away from the hotel. During June-September wild elephants come from around the country to find water. We saw a group of about forty elephants, including a few babies. What surprised me was how quiet the elephants were as they grazed.
On our drive out of the park we saw many peacocks, kingfishers, and the Sri Lankan national bird, the jungle fowl, which looks exactly like a rooster. By this time it was too dark to take pictures, so you will have to use your creativity to imagine the jungle fowl in all its glory.
During our stay at the Kandalama my mother, sister, and I greatly enjoyed our meals. The restaurant in the hotel had delicious food, a mix of east and west, and very courteous but curious staff. The waiters and waitresses were impressed by my baby-talk version of Sinhala. I don’t think most of the foreign tourists can speak any Sinhala at all, so the staff at the restaurant treated me as a real object of interest, and showed me off to their other friends working at the hotel.
The last day at the Kandalama we had a big breakfast, and then Steph and I said goodbye to our lovely mother who was heading to the Colombo airport, and back to the US later that day. Steph and I went in the opposite direction, to the east coast, first stopping at Sigiriya Rock, and then to Nilaveli, a beach town north of Trincomalee.