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Whale Watching at Trinco

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Reading Suggestion: Moby Dick

Going out on a whale watch is like visiting a casino. You hope to hit the jackpot, but you’re prepared for the likelihood of ending up empty-handed. Along with Mirissa on the southern coast, Trinco offers the best odds on actually spotting whales, so we put our chips on “blue” and “sperm” (and, just for fun, a long-shot dollar on “killer”), and spun the wheel.

Whale Watching in Trincomalee

For the first hour of our trip, no dice. We ventured far out into the ocean, and only spotted other humans in other boats on the same fruitless search. But then… over thar! Where?! Thar! Come on, say it with me…

THAR SHE BLOWS!

Yes, I shouted this. No, we weren’t alone in the boat. No, the other passengers didn’t find me funny. No, I can’t understand it either.

Over the next hour, we saw four whales, two of them within about fifteen meters. It was exciting! One stayed above water for half a minute, allowing us to fully appreciate its size. And then it blew water. I repeated my joke. Still no laughter. We stayed out for a couple hours, saw some bottle-nosed dolphins, and went back home.

The tour cost us 4500 Rupees and, fine, it wasn’t the forty whale extravaganza which the organizer had breathlessly promised. But it was more than I expected. If you can walk away from the casino with a little cash still in your pocket, you’ve done well enough. And that’s exactly how I felt about our whale watching experience.

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April 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm Comments (3)

The Four Devales of Kandy

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Kandy Hotel List

According to popular belief, Kandy is protected by four gods, each with its own temple in the city center. These devales are special temples dedicated to a specific god, besides Buddha. Vishnu, Kataragama, Pattini and Natha. On one busy afternoon, we visited all of them. Yeah, we got that temple fever.

Vishnu Devale
Vishnu Temple Kandy

Vishnu is one of the supreme gods of Hinduism, surpassed in importance only by Brahma and perhaps Shiva. So what’s he doing in a Buddhist temple? Turns out that Sri Lankan Buddhism borrows frequently from Hinduism, because of the country’s closely-intertwined history with India. According to local lore, Vishnu is the god whom Buddha charged with guardianship of Sri Lanka. Probably not exactly what Hindus believe.

Vishnu’s devale in Kandy is just to the north of the Temple of the Tooth. Its most striking features are a large dancing pavilion (or digge) and a long set of stone steps which lead to the main shrine. Given its proximity to the Temple of the Tooth, this was a surprisingly serene and quiet place. The few worshipers present were sitting in the digge, quietly reading prayer books. We liked it.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Kataragama Devale
Sri Lanka Blog

Kataragama is another god worshiped by both religions, and his temple in Kandy is definitely more Hindu than Buddhist in appearance. He’s one of the more popular deities in Sri Lanka, for the rather shallow reason that he grants wishes.

Hey, I’ve got a wish for you, Kataragama. I wish you’d force your little acolytes to stop hounding me for money! From the moment we stepped inside this devale, we were beset by schemers, offering to lead us on tours (for cash), asking to have their photos taken (for cash), and trying to tie wristbands on us (for cash). While I was checking out the temple’s Bo Tree, it magically spoke to me, asking me where I was from! I shouldn’t have been surprised when a sneaking orange-robed monk popped out from behind the tree with a beatific smile on his face. I lost all enthusiasm, knowing what was coming. “You like make donation?” Sigh.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Pattini Devale

One of the most popular temples in Kandy is dedicated to the Indian goddess Pattini. A normal girl of humble origins, she was made a goddess after showing unwavering fealty to her no-good, cheating husband. When he was falsely accused of robbery, she protested his execution by tearing off her own breast and burning a city down with her pure, fiery rage. Today, she’s visited by pregnant women and those hoping to ward off disease.

Her devale in Kandy is found in the Temple of the Tooth, and is almost always crowded. We happened to visit during a ceremony and, maneuvering around a rooster, stepped inside. A priest at the front of the shrine was shaking a golden bracelet, while on the side, another guy was chanting like a drunk auctioneer. The place was packed full, and it was a cool experience.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Natha Devale
Oldest Temple in Kandy

Natha is the only purely Buddhist god of the four protectors of Kandy, and his temple is the oldest structure in the city, dating from sometime in the 14th century. Sri Lanka’s Natha corresponds to Avalokitesvara, who is an enlightened being that encompasses all the compassion in the world. Sounds like a nice fella, this Natha.

The Natha temple is one of the most important in Kandy, only eclipsed by the Temple of the Tooth. Because of the god’s importance, new Kings of Kandy were obligated to appear here to claim a name, before ascending to the throne. The main shrine is evidently ancient, and beautiful from the outside, though its interior is a bit of a let-down.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

More Pics from Vishnu Devale
Temples of Sri Lanka
Vishnu Stairs
Temple Boy
Vishnu God
Vishnu Kandy
Buddha Shelter
Buddha Statues
Vishnu Relic
Vishnu Fence
Vishnu Raven
More Pics from Kataragama Devale
Lotus Entrance
Peacock Temple
Rabbit Moon Buddhism
Kataragama-Devale
Kataragama-Bell
Buddhist Family
Kataragama-Devale-Kandy
Buddha Kandy
More Pics from Pattini Devale
Pattini-Devale-Bo-Tree
Pattini-Devale-Entrance
Pattini-Devale-Ceremonie
Cave Buddha
Pattini-Devale-Offerings
More Pics from Natha Devale
Vishnu
Sleeping Buddha
Natha-Devale-Shrine
Lunch
Temple Truck
Dagoba Natha Kandy
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February 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm Comments (2)

The Pettah – Colombo’s Colorful Bazaar

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Walking around Colombo’s Pettah neighborhood, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in Tehran or Cairo. A bazaar with definite Middle Eastern flair, the Pettah is where Sri Lanka’s multi-culturalism is at its most pronounced. The district has long been inhabited by Muslims, but a strong population of Sinhalese and Tamils contribute to an intoxicating mix of ethnicities in Colombo’s most colorful area.

Pettah District

We visited the Pettah on our first full day in Sri Lanka, and were instantly won over. The narrow streets are clogged with tuk-tuks and men pulling heavy carts laden with goods, while a bewildering assortment of shops clamor for business. The Pettah spreads out north from the Fort Railway station, and we walked aimlessly about for a couple hours, snapping photos and absorbing the ambiance.

Similar shops tend to be grouped together. Hundreds of jewelry stores cling side-by-side on Sea Street, then around the corner you’ll find a collection of shops selling ayurvedic herbs and roots. South of the Old Town Hall, there’s a covered market selling fruits and vegetables, some of them familiar and some less so. Vendors were happy to identify the stranger specimens, and I almost bought a jackfruit — but carrying around the giant, spiky melon-shaped fruit for the rest of the day wouldn’t have been a good idea.

Eager for a break, we ventured into the Old Town Hall. In the midst of such chaos, it was strangely deserted. On the second floor, we found a collection of dummies dressed in official uniforms, seated around a long table. Some sort of recreation of an old town meeting? I don’t know, but it was definitely bizarre. We took a seat in a room full of empty school chairs and recharged.

The Pettah is home to a wide variety of places to worship. We visited the New Katherisan Kovil (Hindu), the gorgeous red and white Jami ul-Aftar (Muslim), and the Wolfendahl Church (Christian). Anyone in the market for a new religion should head straight to the Pettah, for some convenient comparison shopping. Without a doubt, this was the most lively and exciting neighborhood we visited during our short time in Colombo.

Location of The Pettha on our Sri Lanka Map

Book your Hut On The Beach In Sri Lanka Here

Pettah Colombo
Water Transport
Strong Old Man
Street Food Sri Lanka
Chopping Coco Nuts
Sri Lanka Coco Nuts
Sri Lankan Breakfast Drink
Selling in Colombo
Sleeping In Colombo
Sri Lankan Hunk
Bus Market
Pettah Market
Fruit Market Colombo
Banana Republic
Banana Blossoms
Colored Pasta
Fish Market Colombo
Pettah
Sweet Pine Apple
Sweets Sri Lanka
Machete Guy
Market Woman Colombo
Ayuveda Shop
Old Market Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Oils
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February 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm Comments (7)
Whale Watching at Trinco Going out on a whale watch is like visiting a casino. You hope to hit the jackpot, but you're prepared for the likelihood of ending up empty-handed. Along with Mirissa on the southern coast, Trinco offers the best odds on actually spotting whales, so we put our chips on "blue" and "sperm" (and, just for fun, a long-shot dollar on "killer"), and spun the wheel.
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