Sri Lanka, a melting point of the old and new – The Hindu

There are under-construction skyscrapers across Colombo The soon-to-be opened 1,150-feet Lotus Tower and the Colombo Port City, being built by China on an enormous portion of land reclaimed from the sea, are the new symbols of the island country that desperately wants to rise from a past marred by conflicts.

In a nation with a rich history and culture, its capital Colombo, has become a melting pot of old and new, where the old nevertheless continues to define the city’s ethos.

Galle Face Green is a seaside promenade similar to Mumbai’s Worli, teeming with families, couples and food vendors. It is clean with not a sign of garbage anywhere (there are bins along the entire stretch of the promenade) and safe after dark.

Gangaramaya Temple, one of Colombo’s oldest Buddhist temples and a popular tourist destination leaves visitors enchanted with its huge golden Buddha statue and intricate depictions of his life on its walls. Beira Lake that is nearby has a huge park just perfect to spend time with oneself.

Walking around Colombo is a pleasure where vehicles wait courteously at zebra crossings and don’t honk impatiently at pedestrians and one doesn’t see the chaos and curses associated with crowded thoroughfares back home..

Heritage and culture

To get a feel of Sri Lanka’s ancient heritage and culture, a visit to the National Museum in Colombo is a must. A large 9th century Buddha greets you at the entrance which has over 1 lakh rare exhibits including the ornate royal throne made for the country’s last king, Wimaladharmasuriya II. The section which has life-size models showcasing the country’s rural life – people, culture and practices – is also special..

A trip to Sri Lanka is not complete without visiting the hill city of Kandy, popular among tourists more so for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that houses a tooth of the Buddha. Many come here expecting to see the tooth of Buddha that was brought to Sri Lanka from India (Odisha) many centuries ago. Unfortunately, the tooth lies hidden in a stupa-shaped gold casket. The 115-km journey from Colombo to Kandy takes you through endless expanse of greenery and hills.

Being vegetarians we had a surprise awaiting us at Hela Bojun Hala in Kandy where we discovered a place where we were treated to fresh and authentic Sri Lankan delicacies like string hoppers, ulundu vada, imbul kiribath, kokis, kavum, cowpea vada, manioc croquettes soup and fruit juice. These government-run food courts are operated exclusively by women.

Train to ‘Little England’

Little more than three hours from Kandy is Nuwara Eliya, often referred to as ‘Little England’. We take the train to the nearest station, Nanu Oya. Described as being one of the world’s most spectacular rides, its tickets are often sold out. Soon after the train leaves Kandy at 7.30 am, stunning views of women plucking tea leaves in lush green tea gardens on hills unfold. The train ride also gives a close glimpse of the colonial-era Sri Lankan Railways, replete with wooden track sleepers and the old signalling system.

The bungalows, hotels, post office, garden and golf course give a distinct British countryside feel to Nuwara Eliya. The misty hill town was accidentally discovered by a British surgeon who found the climate here similar to England. The stunning red post office building stands out among all the landmarks of the beautiful town. One needs a lot more than a few days to explore Sri Lanka. All one can do is hope one can come back again and see the rest of the beautiful country. Till then… Ayubowan!

Ramayana connect

The number of Indian tourists to Sri Lanka has been steadily increasing. In 2017, around four lakh Indians travelled to Sri Lanka that is cashing in on it by highlighting its connection with the epic Ramayana.

Last month, the official website of the ‘Ramayana Yatra’ was launched at the second day of the 106th edition of the ‘India International Travel Mart’ with the objective of streamlining information available on the sites and enabling tour operators and visitors to design routes and packages.

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Source URL: Travel – Google News

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