Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back to San Francisco!

I'm quite behind on my blog posts so I thought I'd fast forward to my reflections... More recent updates on Instagram and Facebook.

Hello SF!! What an amazing journey to Sri Lanka. I feel very fortunate I was able to explore the country with ease and meet wonderful people from all over the world. I took every mode of transportation, ate plenty of curry, saw beautiful beaches, elephants roaming free in the wild, crazy jungle monkeys, climbed 650ft to the top of an ancient rock palace dodging hornets, saw magical UNESCO Buddhist ruins, went river rafting where a 1957 Oscar winning movie was filmed, experienced Ayurveda massage and cycled through lush green paddies. I completed my visit by contributing my graphic design skills to the launch of a non profit for girls empowerment and education - Malini Foundation which inspired this entire adventure. A trip well done if I do say so myself! And I wonder why I'm paralyzed with jet lagged!? Time for a nap,lol. "Living passionately and taking the road less travelled is not a luxury... its a choice." -Anonymous

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Located in the wet zone rain forest, Kitulgala gets two monsoons each year and is a very wet place. I experienced the rains first hand during a hike which went from dry to wet within an hour. Some fun trivia was the Academy Award winning film The Bridge Over the River Kwai was filmed here in 1956. River rafting was a huge highlight, loved it!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kandy and The Buddha's Tooth

Kandy is the 2nd largest city in Sri Lanka after Colombo. In the center of town lies the Temple of the Tooth, the most important shrine in the country which houses a relic of Buddha’s tooth taken from his funeral in 543BC. The tooth is locked up within 7 caskets in the temple and shown only to the most important visitors. We attended the evening ceremony at 6:30pm but there is also a 9:30am daily ceremony. Vistors come to offer the tooth food and flowers daily. It was magical at night to see all the lights and candles but I’ll be honest the crowds were overwhelming. 

The next day Jackie and I decided to skip the mountain hike due to more driving. We needed a break from the bus! We walked up a winding street to the white Buddha in the hills to see magnificent views of the city followed by a hike in the Kandy forest where there were monkeys galore.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sigiriya and Minneriya National Park

Today was definitely a highlight in Sri Lanka. We started the day climbing Sigiriya Rock, a 650ft high ancient rock fortress and palace. Inhabitated for over 5,000 years, first as a magnificent palace in the 5th century then as a Buddhist Monestary. I can only imagine how beautiful the place gardens and ponds must have been. Half way up our climb along a narrow and winding brick staircase, we came upon the Sigiriya Damsels mural. An outstanding mural of 21 women painted against the bare rock which at one time may have been considered the larest picture in the world covering a wall. The next level of the climb was quite a scare... a hornet outbreak had just occurred on the stairs so everyone was warned to wear a hornet proof suit! Too much noise makes the hornets angry and they fly out of their hives along the rock to attack, yikes. Despite being 95 degrees, I was determined to climb to the top so I put the uniform on. Let me tell you I think I lost 5lbs in sweat in that suit after the remaining climb but the views were well worth it! Such a cool accomplishment to look at photos of the rock and know I was on top. 

After the climb we drove to Minneriya National Park to see wild elephants on a jeep safari. Since August is considered the dry season in this region, we were able to see about 100 wild elephants along a small pool of water. This mass meeting of elephants is called “The Gathering”, the largest of its kind in Asia.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Trincomalee is a remote seaside village. You will find local fisherman bringing in the daily catch with stray dogs and an occasional herd of cattle while children play outside their thatched roof homes. Its an interesting mix of Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims where everyone seems to get along. Rather deceiving since the village has such a rocky past with war/terrorism and the 2004 tsunami killing more than 850 people the day after Christmas. Today locals just seem to be grateful for peace in the community.

Upon arrival I found the village to be so remote and deserted I thought how can we spend three days here but when I left I realized it left a special place in my heart. Three of us decided to walk down the beach and soon became friends with the locals. A group of five children full of smiles came running out of virtually nowhere simply asking if we had pens! Note, they only knew a few words of English. Of course we gave them what we had and decided we'd come back the next day with more. We joked who knew santa was a blonde lady?! We played with the children and took photos before returning to the hotel. The kids absolutely loved seeing themselves on iphones and swiping through the photos.

The next day our group climbed a hill behind the military base Fort Fredrick to visit the Hindu Temple Konesvaram on Swami Rock. Lovers Leap had beautiful ocean views. Legend says its where the daughter of a Dutch official allegedly threw herself off the rock after her lover sailed away. Good thing she survived and married years later... never give up ladies ;) We also visited the Kanniya hot springs where locals go to heal themselves by dumping buckets of water on each other and ended the day walking through the center of town where basic necessities were sold - food, shoes (flip flops) and hardware.

Returning to the hotel with pens, paper, and cookies we made our way down the beach for a special delivery! The kids saw us from a distance and came running down the beach with what seemed to be the ring leader Mary and some other mothers grateful to see us. What a sweet memory. Not once did anyone ask us for money. Day three we rented bikes and went for a ride. We took a detour and found crystal clear waters and a local man who saved the day when my bike gears broke. All of a sudden I couldn't peddle, paused and a man came to the rescue who didn't even speak English. He simply took his butcher knife and fixed the gears, yikes. Once again kids came outside full of excitement to see what all the commotion was about. I had to insist on giving him a few rupees as a thank you.

The hospitality continued... a local fisherman we kept passing on the beach was outside his home and insisted we come inside and meet his family. They brought us sliced oranges with sea salt (delicious, who knew) and some green juice. Being a bit paranoid about the water I declined the juice although the others drank the kool aid and survived ;) Families here stick together. His mini gated compound consisted of a home for his brother, mother and self.

What a special place Trinco was. I can only imagine how it will be in the coming years with the rise of tourism. Good for the economy but sad to see the innocence lost. Very few places like this are left in the world. Grateful for the up close and personal glimpse into another way of life where family seems to mean everything.


Traveling solo before my volunteer project I decided to book a group tour with Intrepid Travel because it would be the easiest way to get around the country. Plus its a fun way to meet new people. I happened to be the only American, majority were British and Australian. I found transportation rather slow and difficult otherwise. Train service is available but trains do not go to the eastern coast which is very underdeveloped. Hiring a driver is another option besides local bus routes.

Our tour started with a visit to the sacred city of Anuradhapura where I visited the Avukana Buddha Statue. The 40ft tall Buddha was carved from the granite wall face in the 5th century. Afterwards we went to the Bodhi Tree Temple which is the second most sacred place in Sri Lanka, Temple of the Tooth being first. The Bodhi Tree is allegedly a cutting from the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and has been continuously guarded for over 2000 years, making it the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. The sapling was brought from India to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism. The temple complex is surrounded by walls, and is quite busy with monks and worshipers. Note, most temples in Sri Lanka require you to cover your shoulders and knees and take off your shoes. 

Clockwise: A Dagoba (Buddhist monument) and praying monk. Sitting on
the steps of the Bodhi Tree Temple. Avukana Buddha statue.