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Monday, May 06, 2013 - 06.18 GMT
Heavenly Sri Lanka: Rocks, sands and herds of fun
- Daily Express of UK


The emerald isle of Sri Lanka is working to cast off the dark shadows of the war that blighted it for decades, states the Daily Express newspaper of the UK in a report published yesterday (5 May).

Nowhere is that more apparent than in its largest city. The Old Dutch Hospital is one of Colombo's oldest sites but became a no-go area after it was damaged in an attack in 1996. Today it is one of the brightest venues in the city, the writer Gerard Henderson states.

Built in 1677, the colonial complex has been rejuvenated and now bustles with a collection of shops and restaurants, including the Ministry of Crab, a joyous celebration of seafood, he further said.

“Tuck into a fiery pepper crab, even fiercer chili crab with pol sambol, coconut ground on a traditional "mirisgala" stone, and tasty clay pot prawn curry served with wood-fired kade bread,” he explains.

A stroll along the Galle Face Green will soon work off the calories. This Indian Ocean promenade is a popular meeting place.

Sweet Kandy

Sitting amid lush mountains, the Royal City of Kandy is home to one of Buddhism's holiest shrines. Here is kept the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha, taken from his funeral pyre.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth the sound of drumming and chanting fills the evening air, heady with incense.

Pilgrims are lost in prayer amid statues of the Buddha and elaborate paintings depicting the story of the relic and its arrival on these island shores, smuggled there in the hair of a princess.

I am allowed inside the inner sanctum, a rare privilege. Seven shining golden caskets adorned with precious gemstones encase the relic. A stunning golden canopy sits over the shrine, while monks stand in silent attendance.

The writer explains that whatever your beliefs, you could never doubt this is a place of immense spirituality.

Get a bird's eye view of this green and oh-so pleasant land with an exhilarating air taxi ride.

Sri Lanka's beauty unfolds on a 45-minute chartered seaplane flight from Dambulla to Koggala. The small, twin-engined plane ploughs its way across the water before climbing into the air. A lazy audience of cattle, half-immersed in water as they try to counter the fierce midday heat, are suitably uninterested by our take-off.

Below us, lush mountains topped with temples and giant statues of the Buddha give way to the well-manicured tea plantations and bungalows of Little England.

This is a thrilling way to see the country; watch the altimeter clock up the ascent, feel the prop engines rev and marvel at the view.

Historic Gem

Step on to the streets of Galle Fort, a town surrounded by imposing walls, and take a stride back in time to when empires were forged.

The Portuguese and the Dutch were here before the British. The Dutch influence is still around every corner, no more so than in the striking Reformed Church.

Galle Fort, with its colonial villas, has old-world charm. Explore quiet side streets and intimate shops offering fine jewellery and artwork.

Tea taken on the veranda of the elegant Amangalla hotel is another step back in time. Known during British rule as the New Oriental, empire-builders seeking their fortune passed through its Great Hall. Today it caters for travellers seeking rest and relaxation.

Elephant Memories

The Daily Express writer advises travelers not to get up close to the elephants of Pinnawala but be careful, a swish of an ear can give you a playful slap around your own ears.

Elephants have a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankans. This 24-acre refuge was set up in the Seventies to care for orphaned or abandoned animals.

Large crowds gather by the river to see the herd relax in the cooling waters and young and old are equally entranced. There are about 70 elephants here, the youngest just weeks old.

Find a good spot on the cool terrace of the café overlooking the river. Try king coconut; islanders swear by it as a health drink, he further said.

Jungle Fortress

The sheer size and scale of the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya will take your breath away. So too will the trek to the top of this mystical, ancient edifice.

Stroll through the remains of pleasure gardens and water features engineered in the 5th century. Then climb, slowly and surely, over well-worn steps that ascend the huge monolith.

Along the way there are frescoes of bare-breasted damsels to admire and a pair of giant lion paws, part of the original entrance. The verdant jungle stretches out below.





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Last modified: May 06, 2013.

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